Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 10 -- Big Matchups

Are we ready for some football on Thursday? Well, here it comes. Since the establishment of the NFL network, their coverage of games keeps expanding. It was supposed to be the playoffs chase from Thanksgiving forward. Now, it starts the week after the World Series is off the calendar. Thursday night had been the domain of college games, now ESPN shoots it out with college ball versus NFL Network broadcasting Thursday night games.

Not all cable systems carry the NFL Network while others make it part of a premium package that costs cable subscribers higher cable bills. Comcast puts it in a special sports package which has the various college networks. At least the NFL provides the feed to the local markets for the two teams involved so as long as the game is sold out for home team viewers, the game would be seen over local television stations.

This week the Thursday night games begin with San Francisco hosting the Chicago Bears. How do Fox and CBS feel that NFL Network could be mining their games for the best matchups for Thursday night?

Certainly the San Francisco/Chicago matchup is a good one though with the recent boom in new stadia, to the extent that the television audience can see the facility, is not Candlestick Park one heck of an obsolete field? Note the movable seats that are put into place for football games that would have been on the baseball playing field before the Giants moved to greener pastures. The 49’ers were once the model NFL franchise. Recently, they’ve been a struggling team playing in a real dump. This year under Mike Singletary, they’re showing much more potential. They’ve won some important games, but they are 3-5 at the halfway point, a long shot for playoff action. The Bears are one game better at 4-4, a mark shared with Green Bay for second place in their division. Atlanta and Philadelphia at 5-3 would be the NFC wild cards while the New York Giants are 5-4. The playoffs remain clearly in reach for the Bears, but they have been dreadfully inconsistent this year further setback by losing their anchor on defense, Brian Urlacher.

This writer feels a bit queasy about picks this week. For the second week in a row, we picked seven out of thirteen games correctly. This week there are fifteen games with one last bye round giving Houston and the New York Giants the weekend off. Naturally, that everybody was picking the Ravens to whoop the Bengals hurts. Who would have seen Tampa Bay upsetting Green Bay? San Francisco losing to Tennessee also surprised us making this week’s pick tougher.

The Games, The Picks
Chicago @ San Francisco (-3 ½)
Both teams are capable of explosive football but are equally noteworthy for their gaps. San Francisco has the advantage in this one especially given the banged up shape of Chicago.

Denver (3 ½) at Washington
Denver got off to that beautiful 6-0 start before getting undone by the Ravens then humiliated by the Steelers. Amidst chants of “here we go again” witnessing how the team faded down the stretch last year, the Broncos will get suddenly well against the hapless Washington Redskins, a troubled, chaotic organization in search of a minor miracle.

Atlanta (-1 ½) at Carolina
Battling for the heart of Dixie, Atlanta should have the slight advantage over the decaying Panthers.

Tampa Bay at Miami (-9 ½)
Hardly the kind of Florida rivalry staged by the top college teams, Miami fans can at least feel they have bragging rights for Florida’s NFL trophy far superior to Tampa Bay.

Detroit at Minnesota (-16 ½)
The odds makers give Minnesota a 16 ½ point edge, yeow! Still, when looking at the breakdown of these two teams, what improvement Detroit is showing this year it’s largely buried in growing pains and Minnesota can win by more than two touchdowns for sure.

Jacksonville at New York Jets (-6 ½)
The Jets recent skid will end with a healthy win over Jacksonville.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-7)
Pittsburgh looked vulnerable early in the season, but have they ever looked tougher than in Monday night’s win over Denver. They are the best team in the AFC North and will prove it at home against the Bengals.

New Orleans (-13 ½) at St. Louis
The New Orleans Saints will float upstream to where the rivers divide clobber the Rams and ride the Mississippi Queen back to New Orleans feeling saintly after this mismatch.

Buffalo at Tennessee (-6 ½)
Feel for Ralph Wilson in his 90’s wanting so badly for one last triumph from his Bills, but this year is turning into a bloody nightmare for the Buffalo Bills. Whatever happened to T.O.? Tennessee is picking up some wins now. Here’s one they should pocket without much difficulty.

Kansas City at Oakland (-1 ½)
Yuck, a matchup between two awful AFC West teams, but one appears to be getting its act together while the other spirals out of control still committed to the most embarrassing quarterback in the business. Kansas City will win this one.

Seattle at Arizona (-9)
Has anyone noticed Arizona’s quietly putting things together and could have a convincing winning record and not just slip into the post season by being the last team standing in a poor division? They’ll prove it defeating a divisional rival hosting Seattle.

Dallas (-3) at Green Bay
Oh, the history of this famous rivalry, the Ice Bowl, Favre versus Aikman… Dallas is getting lots of positive hype these days but how much of it is there’s some silly inclination for Dallas to get the glamour press as if they were Hollywood’s team not America’s team, a title that a lot of Americans would dispute. Green Bay needs a good win and Dallas should be just the team to provide it at good old Lambeau field. We’ll call for Green Bay to beat the odds.

Philadelphia at San Diego (-2 ½)
Here are two strong teams that both appear to be underachievers at times making this a hard game to handicap. In what’s virtually a toss up, the intangibles favor San Diego.

New England at Indianapolis (-2 ½)
Here’s the big one, Payton Manning versus Tom Brady. Indy’s undefeated and looking strong. New England continues to pull loose ends together excluding the coach’s hoody to look like the dynastic sensation of earlier in the decade. With Pittsburgh waiting in the wings, this could be a battle for which team gets a bye in the playoffs. The Colts have been the most unstoppable team in the AFC so far this year. Give Payton the edge over Tommy.

Baltimore (-11) at Cleveland
Usually, the Ravens arrival is a big deal in Cleveland. Their hatred for losing their Browns to Baltimore made beating them a matter of pride for northern Ohio. However, this year, the front office is in such turmoil and the Man Genius has stirred up so much ill feelings, the dog pound is more interested in pounding anyone they can blame for the New Browns failures. Brady Quinn will start after being yanked from the game when the Browns played the Ravens in Baltimore. The Ravens cannot take this game too lightly. Not only must they win, but they’ll have to look convincing in this prime time special. The Ravens should dominate as long as they avoid mistakes.

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