Do or Die
Andy Reid’s days as Eagles head coach appear to be numbered. His team desperately needs a win on the road in New Orleans to turn things around.
Thursday Night Football, November 1 8:20 PM ET – TV: NFL Network
Kansas City Chiefs 1-6 @ San Diego Chargers 3-4
Both coaches, San Diego’s Norv Turner and Kansas City’s Romeo Crennel face an uncertain future if they can’t get things turned around soon. Kansas City’s offense has been sloppy across the board turning over the football, and San Diego, after blowing a 24-0 lead against Denver in game 6, had a dismal offensive performance at Cleveland last week, losing 7-6, dropping to 3-4 on the season. Kansas City is clearly out of the playoff picture being 1-6, but San Diego only trails Denver by a game in the AFC West. If Norv Tuner’s gang wants to get back on the winning side of things on Thursday, the offensive line will need to negate Kansas City’s talented outside pass-rushers, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Look for San Diego to try to establish the run between the tackles and use an extra blocker on the right side of their line, a vulnerable part of it on passing downs. Pick: Chargers 31, Chiefs 20.
Final Score: Chargers (4-4) 31, Chiefs (1-7) 13
Sunday, November 4
1:00 PM ET
Denver Broncos 4-3 @ Cincinnati Bengals 3-4 – TV: CBS
The world knew that if Peyton Manning would fully recover from neck surgery, he’d be ready to improve any team in his post Indianapolis career. It’s no surprise what he’s doing with receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. Here’s what is mostly impressive about the greatest signal caller at the line of scrimmage, it’s the impact he’s has on the entire offense and the running game, helping Willis McGahee, in his 10th season become the best Willis McGahee we’ve ever seen. Pick: Broncos 33, Bengals 24.
Baltimore Ravens 5-2 @ Cleveland Browns 2-6 – TV: CBS
The return of Terrell Suggs at linebacker didn’t make much of a difference as the Ravens defense continued to struggle, losing to Houston 43-13 before their bye week. Both defenses between these two clubs have been horrific against the run, and primarily, Baltimore’s defense isn’t the same without Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. The Browns offense has added a deep threat at receiver with Josh Gordon who’s averaging 22.3 yards per catch. And I like Brandon Weeden in his first year as an NFL quarterback that isn’t afraid to throw the deep ball. Ultimately, look for Baltimore to get back to the basics on offense feeding the rock to Ray Rice between the tackles, and having him work Cleveland’s linebackers on screens. It’ll be an all-purpose day for Ray. Pick: Ravens 26, Browns 17.
Arizona Cardinals 4-4 @ Green Bay Packers 5-3 – TV: FOX
With a banged up receiving core, Aaron Rodgers is still putting up MVP type numbers completing 69% of his passes with 21 touchdown passes and only 4 interceptions. As for Arizona who’s still thirsting for a running game that can help them win on the road, have a difficult task not only on the offensive end, but defensive end. Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, known as one of top coordinator’s in the game will have to find the right scheme to get after Rodgers and the Packers prolific passing attack. Horton’s defense is physical and can get after the quarterback, but with Rodgers playing at the level he is playing at, I don’t see anyone cooling him of at the moment. It’s sort of like a red hot shooter that can’t miss kind of thing with him. Pick: Packers 30, Cardinals 17.
Chicago Bears 6-1 @ Tennessee Titans 3-5 – TV: FOX
As we’ve entered the halfway point of the 2012 season with me searching for the best coaches from head coach to assistants, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice is on the A+ list for me. With a bad offensive line that’s sacked quarterback Jay Cutler 25 times, Tice has found a way to shorten up the offense, getting Cutler to get rid of the football quicker with slants to the big and physical receiver, Brandon Marshall. Marshall’s stats through his first seven games: 51-receptions, 675-yards and 4-touchdowns. What a great trade Chicago made in the offseason, reuniting Cutler and Marshall. And with the defense creating turnovers each week, it gives Cutler and the offense a more comfortable approach knowing the defense will give them extra possessions. Pick: Bears 27, Titans 16.
Miami Dolphins 4-3 @ Indianapolis Colts 4-3 – TV: CBS
Looking into the league schedule back in August, I never would’ve thought the Colts and Dolphins would be playing in a meaningful midseason game that could weigh in on playoff implications. This matchup would be more interesting if Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill (quad) will get the go against Andrew Luck. Either way, we’ll still get a great game if Tannehill doesn’t play, because backup Matt Moore has proven he can run Miami’s offense efficiently. The Colts offense has done well at balancing their offensive attack with the run and pass. Miami’s defense has stopped the run, and I think they’ll be able limit Vick Ballard and Donald Brown from running the football effectively. That means Miami’s defense will force Andrew Luck to throw more than he has all season. Key matchup: Miami’s Cameron Wake rushing off the edge on Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Wake deserves more credit than he gets. Anthony, buckle your chinstrap, seriously. Pick: Dolphins 19, Colts 16.
Carolina Panthers 1-6 @ Washington Redskins 3-5 – TV: FOX
I’ve been attacking Carolina’s offensive strategy for weeks, do you blame me? There’s a big reason why Robert Griffin III is having more success than sophomore Cam Newton. RG III has a coach that gives his quarterback a running back to hand the ball off to, Newton does, but the system he’s in doesn’t believe in the swift feet of DeAngelo Williams, for whatever reason, I just don’t get it. And that’ll be the big difference maker in this game. Washington will attack Carolina’s interior defensive line with running back Alfred Morris between the tackles, and then use RG III on pass-run option plays, and then strike Carolina’s suspect secondary over the top. Get my drift? Washington, unlike Carolina has a plan in the works. Pick: Redskins 31, Panthers 20.
Detroit Lions 3-4 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-6 – TV: FOX
This is a perfect week for Detroit to move back to .500 against the struggling Jaguars. Defenses have been limiting Calvin Johnson by keeping safeties deeper than usual and rolling coverage towards him at all times. Key factor that could help unleash Megatron: With Nate Burleson (leg fracture) placed on injured reserve, 2nd year receiver Titus Young, a speedster that can get open over the top will get more attention if he continues to catch deep balls. Not saying losing a player due to injury is a good thing, no one wants anybody to get hurt. Aren’t some things so strange the way they shape out? We can’t forget the simple fact that an injury to Drew Bledsoe unleashed Tom Brady. Titus has a golden opportunity to showcase his talent, something that can free up Megatron. Pick: Lions 34, Jaguars 17.
Buffalo Bills 3-4 @ Houston Texans 6-1 – TV: CBS
If Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey wants to protect quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick from Houston’s J.J. Watt, he better have a game plan that involves both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller to establish an effective running game. Fitzpatrick won’t be able to stay upright in the pocket against Houston’s dominate pass-rush, if they’re forced to throw often with the lack of a running game. That’s what Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ defensive game plan will be. Stuff the run, and we’ll put the nail in the coffin quick. Pick: Texans 37, Bills 20.
4:05 PM ET
Minnesota Vikings 5-3 @ Seattle Seahawks 4-4 – TV: FOX
Without a shadow of doubt, Minnesota needs Adrian Peterson to have a super game if the offense is going to do anything to negate the loudest crowd on the face of the earth, underneath the pacific northwestern sky. Seattle’s physical style of play on the back end frustrates receivers in their routes by their constant banging and hammering hits on receivers. I’d expect Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to have Richard Sherman follow Percy Harvin, Minnesota’s only threat at receiver. Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave needs to be super-duper creative to try to form a favorable one-on-one matchup that’ll favor Harvin to get the ball in open space after the catch. Advantage Seattle here, a defense that’ll swarm tackle Peterson and make sure Harvin doesn’t break free. Pick: Seahawks 20, Vikings 10.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-4 @ Oakland Raiders 3-4 – TV: FOX
As the weeks go on, the better Tampa’s offense gets. Rookie running back Doug Martin has provided a spark to the offense, and receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are starting to get separation from defenders for quarterback Josh Freeman to get them the football. I have a much clearer outlook on Tampa unlike Oakland, a team that also stands at 3-4, but never has really played good football this season. And defeating Jacksonville and Kansas City, two of the leagues basement teams, isn’t anything spectacular. The Bucs have been a lot more battled tested, and have what it takes to win on the road. Pick: Buccaneers 25, Raiders 19.
4:25 PM ET
Pittsburgh Steelers 4-3 @ N.Y. Giants 6-2 – TV: CBS
Despite concerns from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the game goes as scheduled. The Steelers changed travel plans because the hotel they booked in New Jersey did not have power. Because of this, the team will fly in Sunday morning and leave immediately after the game. It’s crazy how Mother Nature plays a big role in the works of both coaching staffs preparing and planning for both teams outside of what will take place on the field. Speaking of planning, the Giants defensive front will play a key factor in getting after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh has developed a solid ground game, but with Jonathan Dwyer (right quad) and Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) both out, the Steelers will be missing two running backs they’ll need to establish an effective running game. The Giants defensive front will have a much easier task stuffing the run with Isaac Redman carrying the football for the Steelers offense. This will force Roethlisberger into third and long situations, a favorable pedigree for Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul to do what they do best, and that’s make key stops for the defense in the fourth quarter. Pick: N.Y. Giants 24, Steelers 20.
Sunday Night Football in America 8:20 PM ET – TV: NBC
Dallas Cowboys 3-4 @ Atlanta Falcons 7-0
It’s frustrating when your defense plays good, but ends up on the losing side of things. The Dallas defense held the Giants offense to mostly field goals last week in their 29-24 heart breaking loss. The Cowboys turned the ball over six times, a problem the Cowboys have had losing the turnover battle. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is hoping that his defense doesn’t get another solid performance cut short, as the Cowboys are looking to get back to .500 by giving the undefeated Falcons their first loss. “We got to win this week,” Ryan said after Friday’s practice at Valley Ranch. “We know it and we’re going to. We need to win now. That’s what we’re going to do. I know the record (3-4) is not what we want it to be, but the ball is bouncing strange ways. When that thing starts evening out, we’re going to be great, and we’re going to keep playing.” The ball bouncing strange ways is due to lack of discipline, mainly on the offensive end. Tony Romo is off to a sluggish first half of the season start leading the league in interceptions with 13. On the opposite side of the ball, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, another quarterback that hasn’t won big on the grand stage, appears to be turning the corner with 17-touchdown passes and only 6-interceptions. Atlanta’s running game hasn’t been a bright spot of the offense as Ryan has connected big with Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Rob Ryan’s defense needs to provide constant pressure on Ryan to disrupt the timing of Atlanta’s prolific passing attack. Atlanta’s defense needs to do the same to Tony Romo. If running back DeMarco Murray (foot) was ready to get the go for Dallas, I’d like their chances of coming out of the Georgia Dome with a win. Since he’s out, that’ll force Romo and the Dallas offense to be one dimensional without a running game, a key factor the Falcons defense will take advantage of. Pick: Falcons 30, Cowboys 27.
Monday Night Football, November 5 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
Philadelphia Eagles 3-4 @ New Orleans Saints 2-5
Both Eagles head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Michael Vick are playing to save their jobs. Another sloppy performance by Michael Vick, in comes Nick Foles. After getting bashed by the Falcons at home, the city of brotherly love’s faithful has been calling for a change. I think Reid made the right decision to keep Vick under center. Yes, Vick has been awful, but until the season looks like it’s getting out of hand, you can’t assume a player of Vick’s caliber won’t turn things around. The Eagles have been known to have sluggish first half of the season starts. And in the NFC, an 8-8 or 9-7 finish may get you in the playoffs. Clearly, holding the Saints offense under 20 points in their house is almost impossible, but the Eagles offense has the perfect matchup to get their offense in gear to beat Drew Brees and the Saints in a shootout. Reid and Vick both save their jobs. Eagles 34, Saints 30.
Bye: St. Louis 3-5, New England 5-3, N.Y. Jets 3-5, San Francisco 6-2