Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 11 - A November Chill in the Air as Races Heat Up

That the Ravens did not play their best football en route to a 16-0 shutout is not that big of a concern. If the team played to make sure they had things under control to secure the win and played with something in reserve in anticipation of the next three games that’s fine. Joe Flacco might be suffering some of the “sophomore jinx.” Some of his moves appear a little tentative in recent games. The absolute outrage is that after tossing an interception, Browns local kid and former Notre Dame Quarterback threw a cheap shot, chop blocking Raven defender causing a substantial knee injury that has him out against the Colts and possibly longer. The league took action, fining him, but it indicates just how desperate and out of control the Cleveland Browns franchise is. The Browns are a unit with no class, no sense, and no plan for where they are headed. Does anyone expect coach Mangini to be around next year? He’s another one year wonder, here today, gone tomorrow just as the Lerner group ditched their last GM and Phil Savage before.

Is 2009 the season of the terrible team? It well could be. While Ravens fans could take enjoyment in watching the Baltimore team win, it was bad football. How’s this for pathetic? Cleveland moves on to play the Detroit Lions with the Lions favored to win. St. Louis, Oakland, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay are teams, as we’ve lamented before simply don’t have much to allow locals to feel any encouragement, at least not yet.

On the other side, are teams like Indianapolis and New England who fought like warriors in Sunday night’s classic only to have such a hard fought game be lost to New England coach, Bill Belichick’s decision to go for it on fourth down buried deep in his own territory, falling short, giving Payton Manning a short field to pull out the win. Few games have gotten so much attention over a call like that one.

This week has some powerful matchups, as playoff contenders begin to materialize. Starting with Thursday night’s contest with Miami versus Carolina, teams with 4-5 records urgently need wins and some luck to keep their hopes alive with the 5-4 teams must build momentum because while it’s okay in the NFC, AFC teams will have to go beyond Pittsburgh and San Diego with 6-3 records.

The games:
Miami at Carolina (-3)
Carolina has been playing better since their horrendous start. Miami shows flashes of last year’s playoff team at times, but have had their difficulties. Carolina is just a wee bit better than the Fish.

Indianapolis at Baltimore (-1)
The book opened with the Ravens a one point favorite in Vegas. How can this be? We’re picking the Ravens because we don’t have enough sense not to be homers.

Washington at Dallas (-11)
Washington does have a decent defense despite their horrible offense. Dallas must play well to overcome their unexpected loss at Green Bay. Dallas needs to win or else fall back in the pack and a possible three way tie with Philadelphia and the Giants. It’s hard to see Washington pull the upset.

Cleveland at Detroit (3 ½)
The hapless Detroit Lions might look cool and professional at home against Cleveland. Monday night’s loss against Baltimore had all the markings of a team just whose offense just stopped playing. Detroit will obliterate Cleveland sending them floating back to Cleveland down Lake Erie in body bags.

San Francisco at Green Bay (-6 ½)
San Francisco’s early promise has deteriorated into misery as Coach Mike Singletary searches for the right buttons to push to be a winning team. Green Bay is another inconsistent team but should win handily at home against the 49’ers.

Buffalo at Jacksonville (-8 ½)
Perhaps the Bills belong on the list of dreadful teams having fired their coach Dick Jauron earlier this week. Meanwhile, Jacksonville is a team few believed would do anything sports a winning record they will increase by one victory after they go Buffalo hunting.

Pittsburgh (-10) at Kansas City
Here’s a chance for the Steelers to get well after their embarrassing loss to Cincinnati last week.

Seattle at Minnesota (-11)
The Vikings will roll along with a strong win over Seattle.

Atlanta at New York Giants (-6 ½)
Here’s a battle between two 5-4 teams needing to prove themselves as worthy contenders in the playoff hunt. Atlanta has shown they still need to grow to move beyond their surprise success last year. The Giants now show weaknesses easily exploited especially for their passing game. A Giants’ win by a touchdown makes sense.

New Orleans (-11 ½) at Tampa Bay
New Orleans will smash the Buccaneers in the battle for Gulf of Mexico NFC leadership.

Arizona (-9 ½) at St. Louis
Arizona is definitely looking like the leader of the NFC west perhaps stronger than the team that snuck into the Super Bowl last season.

San Diego at Denver (no odds yet posted)
The odds makers make sense. This is a tough one to pick. The Chargers can look tentative and underachieving at times while the color, orange, comes to mind thinking of the Broncos who appear to have turned back into a pumpkin in Cinderella lore. Here’s the battle for the lead in AFC West. With QB Kyle Orton beaten up, San Diego wins.

New York Jets at New England (-10 ½)
New England has work to do. After their embarrassing loss last week and having lost to the Jets in their house in week two, they need a solid win to keep the AFC East from becoming a race again. This one has to be the Patriots.

Cincinnati (-9 ½) at Oakland
The Bengals can have victory celebration as they live it up stomping on the miserable Raiders.

Philadelphia (-3) at Chicago
Philadelphia needs this game to keep pace with the other possible wild cards while Chicago needs to win to get back in the contest. Both teams are erratic to be sure; however, the Eagles are more multidimensional with deeper talent.

Tennessee at Houston (-4 ½)
Houston is a competitive team this year at 5-4 trying to advance into the playoff picture. This will be a key test for the Texans since Tennessee seems to have escaped from their miserable opening of six straight losses. Houston’s time to shine has arrived as they should win against their divisional rivalry.

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