Last Week: 11-2
Overall: 79-41

Bengals @ Dolphins

When the season started, everyone was riding the Bengals bandwagon—championing Cincinnati as this year’s sleeper team. While the Bengals have a very good defense, I wasn’t buying into them from the beginning because their offense has been uneven and inconsistent for as long as I can recall. They’ve proven that they’re just a bit more than a middling NFL franchise, and the Ginger Gunslinger probably isn’t the one to lead them out of the muck. With that said, I went along with Cincinnati this week in the Sloppy Night Football match-up because the Bengals simply have more talent than the Miami Dolphins. While the Dolphins were throwing money at problems this offseason, they failed to address the offensive line woes, which has now come back to haunt their playoff chances. Miami’s offensive line has in fact been so offensive to one another that they (allegedly “lead” by the annual All-Asshole team nominee Richie Incognito) bullied Jonathan Martin—causing him to throw down his food and abandon the team. Despite all this dysfunction, Miami managed to pull off the home win in overtime while the Bengals suffered a potentially fatal blow when Geno Atkins was lost for the rest of the year. Ouch.

Win: Cincinnati Bengals

Chiefs @ Bills

Reid

Regardless of who has been behind center, the Bills have inexplicably been able to keep games close and even pull off the upset on occasion. With Thad Lewis injecting some life into Buffalo, I was seriously considering taking the Bills at home to knock off the undefeated Chiefs. But the news of Jeff Tuel starting at QB with Thad Lewis injured ruined any of those hopes. I’m not drinking the monster pitcher of Chiefs Kool Aid like everyone else, but the Bills are not winning this game unless Alex Smith goes down with an injury. It seems the real acid test for Kansas City will come when they face off against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. For now, the Chiefs are the paper champions due largely in part to the way the NFL rewards bad teams by providing them with a schedule for success the next season.

Win: Kansas City Chiefs

Vikings @ Cowboys

Last week, I sounded the alarm for a classic Cowboys road loss. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow through despite all the signs pointing to a typical Dallas meltdown because I was hoping the Cowboys would finally be able to exit the roller coaster. No such luck. I watched the horror unfold with my own eyes at the end of the game when Matthew Stafford was carelessly lofting passes downfield just hoping Calvin Johnson would catch them. As I’ve argued before, this is the strategy that the Minnesota Vikings should have employed with Randy Moss. If you have a receiver who is so fast and dominant at the point of attack, you need to just throw it up a handful of times each game because connecting on one or two of those passes could potentially change the outcome. And if the receiver can’t come down with the ball, then there’s typically an opportunity for them to prevent the defender from completing the interception. Most NFL teams lack balls. At this moment, the Minnesota Vikings are one such team, but for different reasons than what I suggested. Minnesota seems poised to waste Adrian Peterson’s career—similar to what the Detroit Lions did to Barry Sanders. Even with Peterson, the Vikings don’t have much of a chance to pull off the upset against the Cowboys. Minnesota should have been sellers at the deadline, but imagine what return they could receive (especially in this year’s draft) if they wisely swapped Peterson for an overwhelming package. That’s what Vikings fans have to look forward to at this point.

Win: Dallas Cowboys

Titans @ Rams

St. Louis’ passing game with Kellen Clemens was as inept and predictable as everyone thought it would be, but the Rams were still able to keep pace with the Seattle Seahawks for most of the game last week. Personally, I think that’s more of an indictment of the Seahawks offensively away from their home stadium than the grit of this Rams team. Jeff Fisher has always been a great coach, but it’s tough to see his tenure with St. Louis turning out all that well after trading out of the spot to draft Robert Griffin III last season. As a football decision, it was a defensible transaction because St. Louis needed and needs all the help they can get. But the Rams have not seemed long for St. Louis as their permanent home, and drafting a quarterback as dynamic as RGIII could have reinvigorated the fan base. Instead, I envision the Rams moving back to Los Angeles at some point in the near future. This game against the Titans should showcase why St. Louis is so doomed with plenty of empty seats and lackluster support for the below-average product put on the field.

Win: Tennessee Titans

Saints @ Jets

Wasn’t it so sweet to see the Jets finally get obliterated? Maybe that was just me. But expect this trend to continue this week as the New Orleans Saints might just be back to the elite level of NFL teams. While the N’awlins defense has shown some signs of life, New York could win this game if their defense plays perfect football—an unlikely task, but I wouldn’t completely rule it out of the picture. I wonder how well the New Orleans offense would perform without Jimmy Graham. Although the Saints would seem to be a shell of themselves without their dynamic, game-changing TE, New Orleans should still take care of business on the road against a pretender like the Jets who are short on talent and big on ego.

Win: New Orleans Saints

Chargers @ Redskins

Most NFL fans probably want Washington to be good so they can once again experience the cultural revolution that is RGIII. However, 2013 looks like it will be a wasted year after RGIII has shown he tried to come back too soon from injury. People are now questioning his passing ability and progression as a quarterback. I don’t doubt that doubt will be washed away once RGIII is healthy and rejuvenated throwing crisp passes downfield to no-name receivers. Washington needs to surround Robert Griffin III with more weapons capable of exploding for big lays, which would help open everything up again. Without the read-option being a serious threat, expect San Diego to take away Alfred Morris and try to creep up to pick off some RGIII passes. Although I’ve never liked the Chargers and I hate Phillip Rivers, San Diego could be an interesting Wild Card team if Ryan Mathews finally turns into a lead RB. If Washington comes through with the victory, it will likely be behind big games from Roy Helu and Jordan Reed.

Win: San Diego Chargers

Falcons @ Panthers

Tony Gonzalez must be pissed. Maybe he’s too nice of a guy to be overwhelmingly frustrated with finishing your Hall of Fame career on a shitty team going nowhere fast. All the pieces were in place for Tony Gonzalez to return to Kansas City on a mission for one last chance at a championship. Atlanta should have facilitated the deal for anything. If not Kansas City, then I’m sure some other potential playoff contender would have surrendered a late round draft selection. Tony Gonzalez will continue to be the good guy he’s always been and toe the company line. Hopefully, Atlanta at least releases him and allows him the opportunity for some playoff hopeful to claim him. More losses like this week’s against the Carolina Panthers should help grease the wheels. Atlanta has not shown they can be a consistent threat this year, and the injury bug has ensured the Falcons will not be flying anywhere any time soon.

Win: Carolina Panthers

Eagles @ Raiders

Talk about a Shitfest. As I stated last week, “an immobile Michael Vick is not a good Michael Vick.” I was kicking myself for not knowing how injured Vick was playing against the Giants. Philadelphia knew they would get nothing from Matt Barkley so they started Vick to see what he could give while going on 60%. Even though Nick Foles is expected to be healthy this week in Oakland, it’s difficult to support Philadelphia because you cannot trust them. But I’m giving the Eagles one more opportunity against an average Oakland defense and Terrelle Pryor who could throw for 300 yards and run for 100 more against an ailing Philadelphia defense. Perhaps I’ll kick myself again, but Philadelphia should still entertain the idea of running the Wildcat with LeSean McCoy if it means that Matt Barkley won’t take a snap in this game.

Win: Philadelphia Eagles

Buccaneers @ Seahawks

Seattle could have their second units start this game and still win handily against the horrible dumpster fire that is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Why hasn’t Tampa Bay fired Greg Schiano already? It’s a move that everyone knows will happen. Inexplicably delaying the inevitable is not a hallmark of a competent franchise. Would the Buccaneers give all the money in the world to have Jon Gruden back?

Win: Seattle Seahawks

Ravens @ Browns

Cleveland looked much better with addition by subtraction last week. It turns out that not everyone is as bad at football as Brandon Weeden. Actually, I like the odds of a brownout by the Browns in this match-up against a middling Baltimore team. At some point, the Ravens will come to their senses and realize they have the Black Mannequin coordinating their offense. Baltimore is a disjointed mess. But you can also say the same thing about Cleveland since it took them so long to turn to Jason Campbell—who should have been the backup behind Brian Hoyer since the start of the season. Cleveland’s defense is better than Baltimore’s unit, and the Browns could win with significant contributions from Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. I’m trying to talk myself into Cleveland as I type, but I don’t think Baltimore is going to completely fall off the map and they need to win this one to get to 4-4.

Win: Baltimore Ravens

Steelers @ Patriots

New England is no longer an elite level team. The return of The Gronk has helped the New England offense regain some life, but the Patriots sorely miss Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead. Without those constant, reliable players capable of moving the chains, too much of the burden has been placed on Tom Brady. In order to remain a perennial Super Bowl contender rather than pretender, the Patriots need to add more dynamic weapons to support and accentuate what Brady can still do—the Peyton Manning Model, if you will. It doesn’t help New England’s chances that they’re suffering catastrophic injuries on the defensive side. However, the Patriots have still shown signs of being spry and this is a tasty match-up against the Steelers. This figures to be a close game because of the familiarity between the teams, but it’s tough to foresee how Pittsburgh can pull off the upset.

Win: New England Patriots

Colts @ Texans

Could Case Keenum really turn into quality starting QB? I’m not sold on it, but you have to imagine the Texans are hoping the hometown favorite (Keenum played college football at Houston) can correct the team’s course for the season. Keenum might be a competent, no mistakes type of quarterback, which would be phenomenal if the Houston Texans were completely healthy with game-changing players on both sides of the ball. But Arian Foster and Ben Tate are attempting to play hurt while Andre Johnson might also be slowing down and incapable of the same dominance in previous seasons. With more needed from the QB position, Houston needed Matt Schaub to take a step forward instead of sprinting backwards in his progression. Starting over with Keenum or someone new will result in the Texans being lapped by the Colts—who are very good now and poised to be great for many years. In a game that Houston must win, I’m guessing Indianapolis and Andrew Luck will put the nail in the Texans coffin.

Win: Indianapolis Colts

Bears @ Packers

Chicago will surely miss Smokin’ Jay Cutler. I understand that Marc Trestman thinks he can coax a competent performance from one of the McCown QBs (does it really matter who?), but Jay Cutler was an important factor in the Bears success this season. Chicago’s Monsters of the Midway defense hasn’t been so monstrous, and the team needs Cutler to compete in games that turn into shootouts. This match-up against Green Bay is a prime example why the Bears need a big-armed gunslinger to get the ball to Brandon Marshall and company. Anticipate the Packers packing the line of scrimmage to shut down Matt Forte and dare McCown (I think it is Josh, not Luke) to beat them downfield.

Win: Green Bay Packers

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