Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills
The Bengals have had an up and down season so far. They beat very good Packers and Patriots teams, but lost to the Browns (who were admittedly a very good team with Hoyer at QB). The tape on them tells that teams will continue to make Andy Dalton beat them while limiting AJ Green’s touches. The Bengals will need to continue to find new weapons and beat what the defense throws at them.
The Bengals defense will continue to be good up front. I’m kind of concerned as Geno Atkins hasn’t been as dominant as he was last year. He looked good against the Patriots and was a major reason that the Bengals won that game. Leon Hall may not play which hurts but the Bengals are deep on defense and Mike Zimmer is good enough to scheme around it.
The Bills offense won’t have EJ Manuel and this will be to their detriment. Thaddeus Lewis is not an NFL QB at this point and the Bills will have to scheme heavily around that. I would expect Fred Jackson to have a lot of carries today as long as the game is still isn’t too far out of hand.
The Bills defense could have enough ammo to keep the Bengals offense at bay. They’ll need to keep this game under 20 points to win and they actually have enough personnel and a good enough coach to do that.
If EJ Manuel were playing, I would pick the Bills to win this game. But he’s not and I can’t exactly make myself comfortable with picking Thaddeus Lewis. The Bills have the potential to keep this game close. I’ll take the Bengals by 6.
Detroit Lions at Cleveland Browns
This is one of those games that’s hard for me to pick because there are so many unknowns. The Browns now have to adjust to having Brandon Weeden back at QB and the Lions’ defense is hard to pinpoint on a week to week basis. Not to mention we’re not sure if Calvin Johnson will play or not.
Without Calvin, I think the Lions offense has too much to overcome to beat a very good Browns defense. The Browns’ D will make Stafford work hard to decipher what it’s doing and send pressure in multiple ways and multiple places. I’m not sure Stafford is good enough presnap to handle that. Though the offense has become more strict in how it designs it’s plays – less downfield, more controlled short to intermediate stuff – the loss of Calvin removes a major element to allow it to do what it wants to do. If he plays, this is a completely different offense. The Lions have tried to do the same things without Calvin but it just doesn’t work as well.
On defense, I’m getting a little better feel for the LBs. I think this front line is so good that it’s allowing the LBs to work freely behind them and in the holes. Having Glover Quin at safety behind them also makes up for some of the mistakes that they make. They’re still beatable in the backend but the pressure up front covers up a lot of those flaws (think Giants in their Super Bowl run).
On defense, we know what the Browns are: multiple, variable, fast, physical, and well coached. To me, that’s perfect. That’s exactly what I want out of a defense. CB Buster Skrine has played incredibly well the last few weeks and is really emerging as a very good CB opposite shutdown CB Joe Haden. The safeties have played solid as well and I think those were the 2 positions I was most concerned about with this defense. The LBs and safeties will get tested today by the presence of Reggie Bush.
On offense, the Browns take a step back to Weeden from Hoyer. Hoyer’s benefit was that he got the ball out incredibly fast and that gave the offense rhythm and structure. Watching the game as Weeden came in it was such a stark contrast between each QB’s time to throw. Weeden holds onto the ball incredibly long and has issues deciphering coverages. He stares down his 1st read and takes forever to look for another option. The run game has to be good with Weeden or else the Browns offense will be all or nothing and will rely on big plays to move the offense down the field. Unfortunately, Norv Turner is okay with that so he may just allow that to happen.
If the Lions are missing Calvin, I think the Browns have enough to win this game. With Calvin, I’m not sure they do. Reggie Bush should see a lot of Craig Robertson today and that will be a fun matchup to watch. Robertson can run with just about anyone.
My gut tells me the Lions win this because Weeden isn’t a very good QB. My head tells me that the Lions are still prone to big mistakes and the Browns defense will make them pay for that. I’ll take the Browns by a FG or less if Calvin doesn’t play. If he does, I’ll take the Lions by less than a TD.
Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are still struggling mightily on offense. They still have no identity. They would like to be a running football team but an average offensive line won’t let them be great. Flacco has been inconsistent but the offensive scheme exacerbates that issue.
The defense is a defense that’s still feeling it’s way through this season as well. There are a lot of new pieces and some weeks they’re on the same page and some weeks they aren’t. They will play a ton of nickel and probably a lot of dime today as well and that digs into the depth of their DBs. It will be interesting to see if they go with a 3rd safety or 4 CBs. I also think Arthur Brown, Jr. could have a big game today as he should see significant snaps.
The Packers’ offense will make the Ravens defense work for everything today. Any communication issues the Ravens have will be accentuated by Aaron Rodgers and company. I’m interested to see how the Ravens match up against Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley. Do they trust their LBs enough to matchup on them?
The Packers’ defense plays a ton of man and needs their defensive line to play better. They’ve been average at best and in limited snaps, rookie Datone Jones hasn’t lived up to his predraft hype.
The Ravens have to find ways to get their guys in open space against man coverage today. Green Bay will play a ton of man and will probably force Flacco to go somewhere other than Torrey Smith. I don’t think the Ravens get the run game going this week and that will make it even harder. If Aaron Rodgers continues to hold onto the ball too long the Ravens will eat him up. If he’s efficient and gets rid of the ball quickly then the Ravens probably have no chance of keeping up.
I expect the Ravens to do some random things on defense that we haven’t seen on film from them yet. They’ll try to find ways to get to Rodgers and confuse him but that’s something that’s hard to do. Rodgers could take a lot of sacks today but will still throw for a significant amount of yards in the middle of the field.
This could be a blowout by the Packers but I will take them by 6.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
For as good as the Chiefs have been, they have played one of the easier schedules in the league so far. But the issue that I think people miss is that they have beaten a very diverse set of teams. They’ve held up well against the Eagles, Titans, and Cowboys who are all incredibly different in their schemes and personnel. This is a very good sign for the Chiefs.
The Raiders aren’t as good as they’ve seemed. I know everyone wants to jump on the Terrelle Pryor bandwagon but I see some serious flaws in his game that leaves the Raiders vulnerable on offense. A good defense (like the Chiefs) is likely to expose that Pryor doesn’t throw the ball downfield and he is still not great at reading defenses when they drop 7 into coverage. Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson has done a fantastic job of scheming the offense to Pryor’s strengths and hiding his weaknesses.
The Raiders’ defense is suspect as well. They don’t get a pass rush and they don’t cover well, which is a bad combination. This is actually a game where I’m interested to see if the scheme really helps them out because the Chiefs’ offense could play into their strengths.
No one has pressed the Chiefs up close and forced Alex Smith to make the deep throw. Dwayne Bowe hasn’t looked good this season. It’s not just he’s not catching but he doesn’t look fast or fluid. Maybe some more targets will get him going. The way to beat the Chiefs’ offense is to stop the run and force the deep ball. If this happens, and the Raiders can tackle, they can cause some serious trouble for this offense. Dennis Allen is a very good defensive coach and I think he probably sees this.
I think the Chiefs have too much personnel and too many good coaches for them to not win this game. Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton will probably rush 4 all day and will make Terrelle Pryor prove he can read complicated coverage schemes.
Chiefs win by more than a TD.
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Mike Glennon era continues in Tampa. Last week he faced a solid Arizona defense and this week he’ll get a whole different scheme to look at. The offense absolutely needs to help him out today. Doug Martin has to find room to run and to keep the Eagles’ offense off the field. This game can’t be a shootout for the Bucs.
Even against a very good Buccaneers’ defense, the Eagles’ offensive tempo will find some big plays. The Bucs have problems communicating on defense at times and the speed of the Eagles’ offense will make this problem so much worse. The Bucs won’t be able to run their stunts up front that they love to run so much based on the speed as well. They’ll really have to adjust their gameplan and the on-field adjustments will be incredibly important.
The Eagles’ defense is not very good but they can force some turnovers if teams have to start throwing the ball just to keep pace with the offense. They could make Glennon look like a superstar or a goat today. They must first stop Doug Martin. The clear blueprint is to load the box, stop Martin, and force the QB to beat you. The problem is that the Eagles don’t have anyone good enough to cover Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.
So what do they do to protect the CBs? Load the box, play a combo cover 3 zone. The safety drops in the box while the CBs play off coverage to prevent the deep ball. The LBs play outside zone coverage that rolls underneath the outside receivers. The safety in the middle of the field has to be disciplined to the slot or TE in one on one coverage deep. The middle of the field will be open but that’s not something the Bucs have used much at all to this point.
I think the Eagles win this game in a close one, but if they get up early and force the Bucs to throw a ton, this becomes a blowout.
St. Louis Rams at Houston Texans
The battle of the embattled. The Rams defense is having serious problems on the back end of the defense but the Texans can’t get consistent play out of their QB.
The Rams defense has some serious issues. They rush the passer as well as anyone but bad LB and CB play have rendered it a moot point. They can’t stop the run. The Texans’ offense could find it’s stride today but I really think the Rams’ defense isn’t as bad as it’s looked. There have been discipline problems and the emphasis on the pass rush has taken away from the ability to play against the run. The Texans’ style of offense will force the Rams to play run first. Courtland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins will have their hands full on the outside and may not receive a lot of help.
If Houston and Matt Schaub can overcome some seriously identifiable tendencies on offense, they aren’t that bad. Schaub isn’t anything special but he can make all the throws and he has good enough receivers to bail him out when he makes a bad decision or poor throw. The running game is the key to the offense and as long as that gets rolling, the Texans should be fine.
The Rams offense and Sam Bradford miss too many open opportunities in the pass game, but the scheme doesn’t help him out at all. It’s uncreative and doesn’t help to get the playmakers the ball. Austin Pettis looks like a solid receiver, Chris Givens is a good deep threat, and then there’s Tavon Austin… I would love to see what he could do in a real offense. Zac Stacy is the new starting running back and will probably continue to get the majority of the touches when Daryl Richardson returns. Stacy doesn’t look like a superstar but he’s solid in just about everything he does.
The Texans should win this based on previous play but I think the Rams can compete if they fix some discipline issues. This should be a very close game that goes down to the final drive. Texans win a close one.
Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings
The Panthers go as Cam Newton goes. He still misses too many reads for a player in his 3rd season. It doesn’t help that when he does hit receivers they drop the ball way too much. The front seven on defense is one of the best in football and protect the secondary.
The Vikings are going through some changes. We won’t see new QB Josh Freeman this weekend but I have to believe he’s the eventual starter this season. Matt Cassel will start and we’ll see a lot of Adrian Peterson again. The offensive line is getting better but Peterson is really happy that FB Jerome Felton is back. He provides a much better option in the run blocking game.
The defense has actually been the problem at this point. Last season, the defense lived on the ability to stop the run, rush the passer, and tackle – the definitive fundamentals of a cover 2. This year, all of those disciplines have slipped in execution and it’s causing them major inconsistencies.
The Panthers are the better team here with the better QB. Unless Adrian Peterson runs for 200 yards, I don’t see the Vikings taking this one. The Panthers win by more than a TD.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets
The Steelers have to have a great performance out of Ben Roethlisberger every week to keep themselves in games. Unfortunately for him the Jets are remarkably good up front on defense. The DL is tremendous in all facets and they’re deep enough to withstand the loss of Antwan Barnes to injury. Le’Veon Bell looked solid in his 1st performance coming off of injury and may be a spark to this offense. They’ll need him to be perfect today.
The Steelers defense is relying too heavily on Troy Polamalu to do too much. He and Lamar Woodley have been the glue holding together a lot of slow and ineffective pieces on defense. William Gay has played decently but other than that, the DL, LBs, and DBs haven’t played well. They give up big holes in the run game and they’re not very good in coverage this year.
The Jets seem to be surprising a lot of people but this team is actually similar to the team they had last year. The difference is having a competent QB who can move the chains. The defense is good enough to hold anyone to low point totals and that lessens the pressure on the offense. They are free to try to run the ball and Geno Smith has been effective throwing the deep ball. I tend to disagree that he’s been highly accurate on deep balls. Sure they’re getting completed but I see a lot of deep throws that are underthrown, but that seems to be only me seeing that so I’m probably wrong.
The Steelers should be overmatched in this game. They’ll need good protection of Big Ben (which I don’t see anyway that they can get that without going maxpro on deep shots) for them to have a shot. Ben still likes to hold onto the ball and try to make things happen with the play breaks down. He won’t have that option today as the Jets are very good at chasing and tackling.
Jets win by 10.by