Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jets vs Packers Preview

Green Bay Packers (4-3) at New York Jets (5-1)
October 31, 2010. New Meadowlands Stadium. 1:00 PM
Line: Jets -6

Two weeks after his worst outing since week one, Mark Sanchez looks to rebound and keep the Jets' five-game winning streak intact as the Green Bay Packers come to town. The Packers are coming off an emotional home victory over Brett Favre, just after they lost back-to-back overtime games. Both teams come in tied for the division lead, but the 5-1 Jets will have an edge in health and rest.

When the Jets have the ball...
The Jets' offense sputtered a little against Denver, needing a late pass interference call to help secure a victory. When they're good, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene are running all over the place, Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes are stretching the field, and Dustin Keller and Jerricho Cotchery are getting open on third down conversions.

The Jets' offense has as much talent as any in the NFL, as long as Sanchez plays like he should, and the Jets protect him. Clay Matthews may be the most dangerous pass rusher in the NFL. He's coming off a hamstring injury, but D'Brickashaw Ferguson and company will need to keep him away from their franchise quarterback.

The Packers' defense still has a lot of talent on it. Charles Woodson is the defending Defensive Player of the Year, while A.J. Hawk and Cullen Jenkins are dangerous players at linebacker and defensive tackle. However, this is not an elite unit, especially without Nick Barnett's presence at linebacker. The Packers allow 4.7 yards-per-carry, and the Jets will try to take advantage of that with their two-headed rushing attack.

What the Packers can do defensively is cause turnovers, particularly in the passing game. Matthews and Woodson are elite playmakers, and they are large reasons behind the Packers' 10 interceptions this season, tied for 4th most in the NFL. Sanchez needs to be careful and not force passes. The Jets have enough playmakers to exploit the Packers' lack of depth, but if Sanchez doesn't have time to throw or doesn't make the right decisions, he could run into trouble.

The key is which Sanchez shows up. The one making poor decisions in Denver or the one who didn't turn the ball over for the first five games. Coming off a bye week, coming back to the friendly confines of the New Meadowlands Stadium, and facing a team that is coming off three consecutive tough games are all factors in his favor. Expect a big performance by the Jets' offense, starting with the running game.

When the Packers have the ball...
Aaron Rodgers has come into his own as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But without RB Ryan Grant and TE Jermichael Finley, all the load is put on Rodgers's shoulders. His receiving corps remains strong with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson, but the Jets boast one of the best sets of cornerbacks in the NFL. With a supposedly 100% Darrelle Revis across from Antonio Cromartie, this secondary will be tough to throw against.

The run defense for Gang Green hasn't been a problem. Sure, Denver was able to move the ball a little bit on the ground, but not enough to make much of a difference. And the Packers' run offense is almost as bad as the Broncos'. Brandon Jackson is not a starting-caliber NFL runningback. He has some talent, and he can catch the ball, but there's no reason that he should be much of a factor against the Jets' stout run defense.

On paper, this looks like a mismatch in favor of the Jets. Without Finley, the Jets should believe they can guard anyone on the Packers one-on-one. While Jennings will probably draw some deep help, the Jets match up well with the Packers' receivers. Jones may be able to get deep on Kyle Wilson, Dwight Lowery, or Drew Coleman, but not often enough to change the outcome. Rodgers is a good quarterback, and when he has time to throw, he'll move the ball, but this offense is too reliant on him making big plays, and against an elite defense, the Jets should be able to find a way to slow him down.

One thing the Jets will need to watch for is Rodgers taking off and running. Both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kyle Orton were able to move the chains a few times against the Jets on third down, and Rodgers is just as, if not more mobile than both of them. If the Jets' secondary covers like it can, Rodgers may take matters into his own hands. The other key is stopping Green Bay on third down, particularly third-and-long. The Jets have been too vulnerable in third-and-long situations, and Rodgers is a good enough quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly and get the ball to his playmakers quickly. But will it be enough? Probably not.

The Jets and Packers are on the opposite ends of the health spectrum. Green Bay has been riddled by injuries all year. Now flying across the country, after three hard games in a row, the Packers are set to face a fresh team that was playing like one of the best in the NFL. Sanchez must play better than he did in his last game, but coming home, he should be able to do that. But most importantly, Tomlinson and Greene will both be able to pound the Packers' defense. The Jets hold the advantage in the trenches and in many of the skill positions. As long as Matthews and Woodson don't go nuts, the Jets should be able to win this game.
Jets 31, Packers 17

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Week 8 NFL Picks

Time for this week's NFL picks! I'm posting this from my phone, so I will add my record later. Last week, my computer was infected by a virus and I couldn't post my picks. I did tweet them, for those of you who follow me at @MackNova on Twitter.

Anyway, to this week's picks.

Houston + 6 over Indianapolis

Indianapolis is simply too banged up to be almost a touchdown favorites on an improving Houston team. The Texans slapped the Colts around in the first meeting. Now, Indianapolis will show up without Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, and several other players. Houston has some legitimate talent on both sides of the ball. While Peyton Manning will get his yards, the Texans will be able to run the ball well and hit enough plays in the passing game to make this close. Both teams have had an extra week to prepare. This should be a great Monday night shootout.

Colts 31, Texans 27

Buffalo +7.5 over Kansas City

The Bills stink, but they're playing hard, almost beating Baltimore on the road last week. The Chiefs aren't good enough to lay more than a touchdown. Buffalo wants its first win, and they have enough weapons on offense to put up some points. The Chiefs will run the ball, but they aren't the best red zone offense. But the bottom line is, dont pick Kansas City laying more than a touchdown. They have a lot to prove.

Detroit -2.5 over Washington

Despite their 1-5 record, the Lions have played fairly well this year. While their road woes have been well-documented, losing 24 straight games away from Ford Field, they are a competitive home team. Meanwhile, the Redskins can't be trusted on the road, having lost to St. Louis. With Matthew Stafford returning to the lineup, the Lions will score some points. Jahvid Best and Calvin Johnson are big plays waiting to happen, and the Redskins can be thrown on. Give me the improving Lions at home, against a mediocre Washington team.

Lions 27, Redskins 20

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jets stun Broncos 24-20 after controversial call

For 47 minutes, this game was shaping up to be another forgettable trip out west for the New York Jets. But on 4th and 6 with the game on the line, Santonio Holmes drew a pass interference call on a bomb by Mark Sanchez, setting up the Jets for the easy touchdown and the win.

This was a sloppy football game in a hostile atmosphere for the Jets, who had a short week to prepare for a hungry Denver team. The Broncos were challenged to be tougher this week by coach Josh McDaniels, and they were, keeping the Jets' run game in check for most of the afternoon, forcing Mark Sanchez to win the game for the Jets. For most of the game, that didn't look possible, as Sanchez struggled, throwing his first two interceptions of the season. His most important play wasn't even a completion, it was that valiant heave to Holmes, drawing the penalty that essentially won the game for the Jets.

The Broncos showed up to play in this one, playing the Jets equally throughout. Kyle Orton threw for 209 yards without throwing an interception, but the Jets held him to complete just 14 of his 34 passes. Nothing was easy for Denver's offense all game, but Orton and his receivers made enough plays to have the lead with under two minutes left.

Denver even was able to run the ball with a little bit of success, especially from their quarterbacks. Tim Tebow had the first rushing touchdown of his career taking direct snaps, and Kyle Orton converted a couple of third downs with his feet.

For a little while in the 2nd half, it looked like the Jets were in trouble. Demaryius Thomas beat Darrelle Revis for a touchdown to give the Broncos a seven point lead heading into the 4th quarter, and the Jets' offense just kept shooting itself in the foot. But the Jets then went on a quick five-play drive to tie the game up. Matt Prater answered with a 48-yarder with 3:55 left, and the defense was one play away from getting off the field with a win.

While the penalty will garner a lot of debate, it was a legitimate call. Renaldo Hill had his hand in Holmes's facemask and prevented him from making a real play on the ball. Plus, the Broncos had several questionable penalties go their way in the second half. It seemed like karma.

Now, the Jets will head into the bye week feeling great about themselves. Gang Green is the first team in the NFL to five wins, and they've won all of them in a row. The team did not play to their capabilities this week, but they got out of a tough environment with a win. That's all you can really ask for. 

NFL Picks - Week 6

A 1-2 week last week dropped me back to earth, but I've still been doing great this year at 11-4. I like this week's card a lot, here are my 3 best picks.

Eagles -2 over Falcons
Atlanta has its second straight road game against an Eagles' squad that is undervalued a little with Kevin Kolb at quarterback. The receiving corps still has playmakers and LeSean McCoy is very dangerous in the backfield. The Falcons' defense is good, not great, and on the road, they're not nearly as strong a team. They can be beaten through the air, and that's exactly where the Eagles will expose the Falcons. This could be a close game, but give me the Eagles at home.
Eagles 31, Falcons 21

49ers -6.5 over Raiders
Taking an 0-5 team giving almost a touchdown is tough to swallow, but I have to. At first, I wanted to pick Oakland, but there are too many reasons to back the 49ers. With Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore, the 49ers have plenty of offensive playmakers to put up points. The Raiders are a tough team to back coming off a win, especially one in which they got pretty lucky. Their top playmaker in Darren McFadden is still banged up, and San Francisco will be plenty motivated to finally get their first win. I could see a blowout here.
49ers 34, Raiders 17

Steelers -13.5 over Browns
Hard to take Pittsburgh giving almost two touchdowns in a rivalry game, but Colt McCoy is not an NFL quarterback. The Browns will run all the time to protect McCoy, but it won't get them points. The Steelers will score on defense at some point in this game. The Josh Cribbs factor is worrisome, and Ben Roethlisberger could be a little rusty. But this is all about the Steelers' defense. Cleveland will be lucky to score 10 points. I'll take my chances on Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace, and Hines Ward finding a way to put up 24 points.
Steelers 24, Browns 6

Jets at Broncos Preview

New York Jets (4-1) at Denver Broncos (2-3)
Sunday October 17, 2010
Invesco Field

The Jets will look to continue their four-game winning streak and stay on top of the AFC East as they head west to Denver to take on Josh McDaniels's Broncos. This is a gut-check game for Denver for they could ill-afford to go 2-4. The Jets are coming off a short week after playing Monday, and they will get a bye week next week, so it's up to Rex Ryan to keep the team focused against one of the more dangerous passing attacks in the league.

When the Jets have the ball...
Since Ryan took over the head coaching job before last year, the mandate has always been to not let the offense get in the way of the defense by not turning the ball over. This year, the Jets have heeded the call, by not committing any turnovers in each of the last four games. If they do it again, they will tie the record for least turnovers after six games.

That's a remarkable turnaround, particularly for Mark Sanchez. A turnover-prone rookie a year ago, now he's been playing as well as almost any quarterback in the league. He takes care of the football but is willing to take some shots down the field with Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. This week, Champ Bailey will shadow somebody, but Sanchez has enough weapons where if he's patient and has time to throw, he should find somebody open. Look for Holmes to get much more involved this week, especially if Bailey guards Edwards.

Still, the main philosophy of this team is to run the ball first and foremost. LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene have made the Jets forget about Thomas Jones, as they are the number one rushing offense in the NFL so far. LT looks like his old self, and Greene is a bulldozer in the middle. While the Broncos bottled up Chris Johnson when they faced him, the Jets' multifaceted running offense against the Broncos undermanned defense is a big advantage for the Jets. Denver will miss five defensive starters in this game, and that will take its toll primarily in stopping the run.

The Broncos' defense will have a lot of trouble against the Jets' attack. Denver has just five sacks all year and only three interceptions. The Jets come in at full strength offensively, and unless Sanchez regresses, it's hard to see the Broncos consistently keeping the Jets from moving the ball. The crowd could be a factor, but if the Jets can dominate at the line of scrimmage and take the crowd out of the game, this could be a big day.

When the Broncos have the ball...
The Jets have yet to live up to their defensive pedigree so far. They've shown flashes, but there have been too many blown coverages. The run defense has been stellar all season, but the Jets have struggled in third-and-long situations. That almost cost them the game last week. Kyle Orton is a smart quarterback who should be able to recognize the blitz packages and get the ball out quickly.

Containing Orton will be key for the Jets. His receivers are a collection of once highly touted prospects in Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, and Eddie Royal. Royal plays the slot, Gaffney is the possession receiver, and Lloyd, perhaps the NFL's biggest surprise this season, is the big play guy. Orton has thrown for at least 295 yards in every game this season, and it's no secret the Broncos will throw a lot.

The Jets will likely have to stop this high powered passing game without the full services of Darrelle Revis. Revis has been sore all week after playing last week on his strained hamstring. Don't expect the Jets to push him too hard, but if he could play, it would be a big help for this secondary. Kyle Wilson has been a little disappointing as a rookie, so Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman would have to take on bigger roles, as well as Wilson.

The other key is getting to Orton and disrupting that timing. The less the cornerbacks have to cover, the better, and Orton has been sacked 12 times this season, so it can be done. Calvin Pace looked good last week, and you bet the Jets will blitz a lot.

Denver's running game has been almost non-existent all year. Knowshon Moreno can be a playmaker, but he's been limited by a hamstring injury this year, so he won't be 100% even if he does play. As a team, Denver averages less than three yards-per-carry on the season, and the Jets are at the top of the league in run defense. There's no reason the Jets shouldn't be able to make the Broncos one-dimensional and tee off at Orton.

This is going to be a major test for this Jets' defense. For most of the game last week, they looked dominant. But on the road against a hot pass offense, communication needs to be improved, and the Jets need to show up for all four quarters. Orton has a lot of pressure on him with the running game likely a non-factor. The home crowd should help, but the Jets' defense seems to be getting close to putting it all together.

This game will come down to two things: how well Kyle Orton plays and how well the Jets protect the football. If the Jets don't shoot themselves in the foot, something they haven't really been doing this season, they should be able to move the ball very well. Red zone offense needs to be better, but the Broncos' defense isn't as strong as Minnesota's. For the Broncos to win, Orton either needs to have short fields a lot or to play out of his mind. Orton is good, but he's not a major playmaker. He'll need to sustain long drives and keep the Jets off balance to win. That doesn't seem particularly likely, at least to put up enough points to beat the potent Jets' offense.
Jets 27, Broncos 20

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jets hold off Vikings 29-20

It wasn't pretty, but the Jets got a big home win last night, beating Brett Favre and the Vikings 29-20.

The first part of the game was all Jets. Gang Green led 9-0 at halftime, and it really should have been more. The Vikings were a mess offensively, unable to get anything going, but the Jets' redzone offense failed to get touchdowns twice, instead settling for short field goals.

In the second half, the previously dormant Vikings' offense suddenly woke up when Favre hit Randy Moss down the right sideline for a long touchdown pass on a 3rd and 17, and suddenly, it was a 12-7 football game. The Jets added another field goal before Favre found Harvin on another third-and-long for a 34-yard touchdown to make it 15-13.

However, the Jets answered back. With 7:06 left in the game and the ball, the Jets marched down the field and finally scored their first touchdown of the game. Up by 2 points at the time, Shonn Greene's touchdown gave the Jets a two score lead that should have iced the game. But after Percy Harvin returned the kickoff 44 yards, Favre orchestrated a 5 play, 54-yard drive culminating in Harvin's second touchdown reception to make it a game again.

The Jets got the ball back, needing a few first downs to win the game. They got one on a Braylon Edwards catch. But then clock management woes reared their ugly head. With a two-second difference between the play clock and the two-minute warning, the Jets decided to throw the ball, hoping to end the game right there. It was a smart idea, but when Sanchez snapped the ball with 5 seconds left on the playclock and the pass fell incomplete, the Jets needed to run another play before the two-minute warning. This gave the Vikings about 40 more seconds to potentially get a game-winning field goal.

Fortunately, Favre overthrew Harvin on a deep ball and then he threw his first interception of the game, which Dwight Lowery returned for a touchdown to make the 29-20 final score.

Mark Sanchez's final numbers don't look great. He finished 21 for 44 for 191 yards. He didn't put the ball in the endzone, but he didn't turn it over either, even as the rain poured on the field. His receivers didn't help him much either, as there were a number of passes that hit receivers in the hands that they couldn't bring in. The Jets were conservative for most of the game with the lead, part of the reason drives kept ending in Nick Folk field goals instead of touchdowns.

Darrelle Revis, Santonio Holmes, and Calvin Pace all returned to action with mixed reviews. Pace made his presence felt with 1.5 sacks. His return is key for this defense to apply pressure the rest of the year. Holmes was targeted 9 times, but he only came down with 3 catches and didn't get a chance to flash his playmaking ability. He and Cotchery took turns as the no. 2 receiver, with Edwards clearly the no. 1 for now.

Revis, however, struggled. He recovered a fumble and helped out in run support, but in coverage, he clearly wasn't himself. Percy Harvin burned him across the middle for one touchdown, and even Greg Lewis burned him on a double move to the sideline. After the game, he was very sore and swollen, so it's unclear if he'll be available against Denver on Sunday. The Jets may hold him out with the bye week coming up one week later.

This was a big win for the Jets against a talented Minnesota team. But this game showed a few chinks in the Jets' armor. Two of Minnesota's touchdowns came on third-and-long situations when the Jets sent multiple rushers and the safeties weren't there to help. Most teams don't have playmakers like Moss and Harvin, but the Vikings caught on quickly to burn the Jets on blitzes. Revis's play is also a bit troubling, especially when the Jets are about to play a pass-happy Broncos team, but he will have a week off next week.

The good news besides the win is the Jets didn't suffer any new injuries. The Jets are remarkably healthy at this stage of the season, especially compared to their next opponent. But the defense needs to gain some consistency. After dominating the first half, the defensive lapses in the second half almost cost them the game. And if the offense scores touchdowns instead of field goals early in the game, the Vikings' late comeback might not have mattered. Still, a win is a win, and with the Dolphins and Patriots both having bye weeks, the Jets are now alone on top of the AFC East.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Jets vs Vikings Preview

Minnesota Vikings (1-2) at New York Jets (3-1)
Monday, October 11, 2010. 8:30 PM.
New Meadowlands Stadium

After back-to-back division road wins, the Jets will come back home underneath the bright lights of Monday Night Football. Joining them will be old friend Brett Favre, who will hope a bye week and the addition of Randy Moss can fix his team's offensive woes. As Minnesota adds Moss, the Jets have some reinforcements of their own, as Calvin Pace, Santonio Holmes, and Darrelle Revis will all return to action tonight. It's scary to think how good this Jets team can be now that their top pass rusher and cover corner as well as the Super Bowl MVP from two years ago will add to a team already playing extremely well. But the Vikings are a very talented veteran group, and with an extra week to rest and prepare, this could be a difficult game for the Jets.

When the Vikings have the ball...
Brett Favre has been in the news all week for off-field issues, but when he's between the white lines under the white lights of Monday Night Football, he's right where he belongs. Favre's career is a fascinating one, but the way he has played so far seems to indicate he might be at the end of it. He's thrown just two touchdown passes to six interceptions this year after having perhaps the best year of his career last season. A lot of that has to do with his receiving corps missing Sidney Rice. His receivers have failed him all season, leading to the acquisition of Moss.

The Moss-Revis battle should return this week, but with the improved play of Antonio Cromartie, Rex Ryan may mix it up a little more. Percy Harvin is what makes this Vikings' offense go through the air, as he is a big play waiting to happen. His elite speed and shiftiness make him a tough matchup, so the Jets may try to jam him at the line of scrimmage. Moss probably won't know the playbook, and he's never played with Favre, but you can bet they will try a few deep shots with Moss, just to test out their newest toy. Moss is as good a receiver in the NFL at getting a jump ball. And facing a cornerback who has called him out numerous times in Revis for a brand new team, Moss should be motivated to show he's still got it, just one week after he didn't catch a pass on Monday Night for New England.

While Moss is the flashy new name, the motor of the Vikings' offense is still Adrian Peterson. He's a bona-fide superstar with a power-speed combination matched by no one in the NFL. He's averaged 130.7 yards-per-game so far and 5.6 yards-per-carry, so he is a force the Jets will have to stop. However, the Jets have the best defense in the league against the run so far, so if anybody can stop Peterson, it's the Jets. Look for the Vikings to try to get the ball to him and Harvin out in space, trying to put the ball in two of their best playmakers and take advantage of the Jets' blitzing.

When the Vikings get into the redzone, Visanthe Shiancoe becomes a major factor. He's been one of the most prolific touchdown scorers over the past few years, and Favre loves throwing to his tight ends. Through three games, Shiancoe is the Vikings' leading receiver, although he was held to just one catch in his last outing. Bernard Berrian, who started before Moss's arrival, is solely a deep threat, and he hasn't developed chemistry with Favre so far.

The key will be whether the Jets can get pressure on Favre and not let Peterson dominate the game. Favre has been sacked six times in the first three games and turned the ball over seven times. With Pace coming back, and Revis helping out in coverage, the Jets' pass rush will be as vicious as ever, and it could knock Favre around and force him to make mistakes. If the Jets shut down Peterson and put Minnesota in third-and-long situations, it could be a long day for the Vikings' offense. But Favre has pulled magic on Monday night in the past, and even though Moss might not know the playbook, that might not matter the way Favre likes to play football. Moss also should open things up for Harvin underneath and possibly even for Peterson. Unless, of course, the Jets are confident Revis is in fact 100%, and put him one-on-one against Moss a lot.

Just how much the Vikings' early offensive struggles were on Favre and how much they were on him having nobody to throw to remains to be seen. So does exactly how the Vikings will deploy Moss. The Vikings should be able to move the ball, but look for the Jets to create some turnovers, as the Vikings shoot themselves in the foot as much as any team in the NFL.

When the Jets have the ball...
Has Mark Sanchez arrived? We will find out a lot about Sanchez this Monday night. Minnesota has one of the best run defenses in the NFL, led by tackles Kevin and Pat Williams. But their secondary is vulnerable, and their pass rush has been non-existent. Jared Allen remains one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL, but he has just one sack this year. D'Brickashaw Ferguson is one of the best pass blockers in the NFL, so that battle will be one to watch, as Sanchez has clearly become the Jets' most indispensable player.

The way to beat the Vikings is through the air. Dustin Keller has been Sanchez's number one option, but that may change as Santonio Holmes comes back from a four game suspension to make his Jets' debut. Back in training camp, Ryan called him possibly the best player on the field offensively, so the Jets will definitely want to get him involved. Braylon Edwards has also played well all season, providing a big, physical presence at receiver and avoiding the drops that have plagued him throughout his career.

The Jets still want to be a run-first offense, and with LaDainian Tomlinson playing with fresh legs, the running game has been great. Look for the Jets to try to run the ball outside with Tomlinson, avoiding the Williams Wall. Brian Schottenheimer will also get him involved in the short passing game. The Jets' offensive line has been strong in clearing running lanes this season, but the Vikings may provide their toughest test. Shonn Greene may struggle finding places to run to inside, but if the Jets get ahead in this game, he will probably be the guy they use to wear down the Vikings' front seven.

And, of course, Sanchez needs to be smart with the football. With 8 touchdowns and 0 turnovers this year, he's defied all expectations so far. That needs to continue, as the Jets' attack needs to remain balanced to beat a tough team like Minnesota.

The Jets will throw more often on first down this week to try to create easy third downs for Sanchez. With Holmes in the fold, Minnesota will have a tough time defending Keller, Tomlinson, Edwards, Cotchery, and Holmes when the Jets decide to throw the ball. It's tough to find a passing offense that can match those weapons for a quarterback. If Sanchez is truly arriving as one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, the Jets have more than enough playmakers to be one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, including on Monday night. Minnesota has too many good players on defense for the Jets to go crazy, but aided by some good field position from potential Favre turnovers, the Jets could put up some points in this one.

The Jets' offense is firing on all cylinders and is adding another great player. They will put up points, even against a good defense like the Vikings. The only problem could be pass protection if Slauson can't handle the Vikings' tackles or if Jared Allen has a big game. The question is what will Minnesota do offensively and how Moss will do. An offense with Moss, Harvin, and Peterson is dangerous, but how will it do less than a week after acquiring Moss? And with Favre's struggles, the Vikings just have too many questions. Coming off a bye week could help, but the Jets come in well-rested after destroying Buffalo last week combined with the extra day before a Monday night. Bottom line, the Jets should win the turnover battle, and that will give the Jets enough to win.
Jets 27, Vikings 21

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Week 5 NFL Picks

Unbelievable run for me in picks. 10-2 this year. Not as confident with this week's picks as this week's lines appear really sharp, but I need to keep this streak going!

Detroit -3 over St. Louis
What better place to start than with an 0-4 team laying points? But Detroit is a much better team at home, and their record doesn't reflect their effort. The Lions have played 3 of their 4 games on the road, against Chicago, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Green Bay, and they've been in all four games. Coming back home, the Lions have more weapons than St. Louis and could give rookie Sam Bradford some trouble. Bradford is good, but let's face it, the Rams aren't going to win three in a row. The Lions are motivated to get their first win, and they face a big step down in competition. Look for Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best to have big games for Detroit who wins by double digits.
Lions 28, Rams 17

Buffalo over Jacksonville, pickem
You can't be afraid to pick bad teams if you want to make money. That said, even I'm a little worried about taking the Lions and the Bills. If you follow me, just convince yourself you're betting against the Rams and Jaguars after wins on the road. The Bills are 0-4 and won't have many chances to get wins, so they will play hard here. Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller are a couple good runningbacks, and the Bills' receivers might actually be able to make plays against the Jaguars' weak secondary and pass rush. Maurice Jones-Drew is dangerous, but after the Jets gashed the Bills' running game, Buffalo will be more motivated not to be embarrassed. But really, this is just a play against Jacksonville after a huge home win against Indianapolis. After beating their arch rivals, in a bit of a fluky game, now they travel to face a Buffalo team. Jacksonville is the type of team that will come out flat after a big win. Two teams with opposite motivation, give me the home team.
Bills 17, Jaguars 13

Texans -3 over Giants
Houston's offense is rolling right now. Arian Foster leads the NFL in rushing and has been hard to stop all season. And if Andre Johnson plays, the passing offense is extremely dangerous as well. The Giants have nobody who can match up with Johnson, and they won't be able to get pressure like they did last week against Chicago. And defensively, while Houston can be thrown on, the Texans will bring back Brian Cushing, their best linebacker, who will be a huge addition to this defense. This could be a high scoring game, but it's hard to see the Texans losing this one at home.
Texans 31, Giants 23

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Darrelle, Stop Talking So Much

It was one thing when you were calling Randy Moss a "slouch" after shutting him down last season, when you ruled Revis Island and were the King of New York.

It's another thing calling him out now, when the last time we saw you, you were limping off the field after Randy Moss burned you for a touchdown.

Today Darrelle Revis called out Moss for the way he played against the Jets in week 2. "In the second half, you could tell he was putting his foot on the brakes," he said.

While Moss may have slowed down a little, Revis had his parking brake on as he strained his hamstring chasing Moss at the end of the first half on a long touchdown pass. Since that play, Revis hasn't been seen again, missing the last 2.5 games with that hamstring injury. He insists he won't play until he's 100%, and the Jets agree. Neither side wants to risk him reinjuring himself.

Until then, he looks bad in the eyes of Jets fans. After holding out almost all of training camp looking for the biggest deal any cornerback has ever received, he lost some fans who perceived him as greedy. Getting injured in a way that probably could have been prevented had he shown up to camp hasn't helped either.

But Revis can't call out Moss for slowing down when he wasn't even on the field and might not even play on Monday. Not playing until he's 100% makes all the sense in the world, but in a sport that glorifies players who fight through injuries, it doesn't cast Revis in the most positive light.

However, if Revis plays and does what he usually does against opposing receivers, all will be forgiven. How well he plays will ultimately determine how he's perceived. If Revis Island returns, and Moss is shut down again, then it'll be called swagger. But until then, he's not helping on the field, and he's not helping much off it either. 

I'm a huge Revis fan on the field. I want to like him off the field, and he seems like a genuinely good guy. But this season, he should just let his play do the talking.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Jets win over Bills cements them as best in AFC East

The New York Jets did what the Dolphins and Patriots could not: blow out the lowly Buffalo Bills. Sure, both New England and Miami beat Buffalo, but the Jets dominated them like an elite team should, winning 38-14 in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Jets outgained the Bills 444-223 and were able to bench their starters for most of the 4th quarter with the game out of reach. Save for a disappointing drive at the end of the first half, when Buffalo went right down the field in the two-minute drill to score a touchdown, the Jets' defense smothered the Bills' offense. Buffalo did not convert a single third-down all game long, finishing 0-10, and the Jets held the ball for over two-thirds of the game, as predicted Saturday.

The Jets dominated the line of scrimmage. Defensively, Ryan Fitzpatrick was under a ton of pressure all game long. Offensively, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene had massive holes to run through all game long, and Mark Sanchez was kept upright all game long.

But it was Tomlinson who stole the show. It's amazing the difference an offensive line can make. Tomlinson looked like his old self, finishing with his first 100-yard effort in 26 games. Tomlinson showed the speed, cutting ability, and vision that made him an elite runningback for so long, finishing with 133 yards and two touchdowns. Greene also finished with over 100 yards on the ground.

Mark Sanchez didn't need to do much in this game, but for the fourth consecutive game, he did not turn the ball over once. He finished 14-24 for 161 yards and two touchdowns, one to Dustin Keller and one to Braylon Edwards. Keller finished with two touchdowns on the game, as Brad Smith came out of the TigerCat formation at the goalline, finding a leaping Keller in the back of the endzone for his first score.

It's hard to take too much out of this game because the Bills were terrible. But elite teams should dominate bad teams, and that's exactly what the Jets did. Both Miami and New England beat the Bills, but not the way the Jets did. Miami struggled offensively in week one, only winning 15-10. Last week, the Patriots put up 38 in Buffalo, just like the Jets did. But New England was at home, and they allowed 30 points.

Instead, this game was never in doubt, and now the Jets sit at 3-0 in the division. Rex Ryan has stressed the importance of divisional games this season after the Jets went just 2-4 last year, and it's paid off. They will be in a tie for first after tonight's Miami-New England Monday night game while holding the tiebreaker for the division.

A few final notes:

*Shaun Ellis gave the Jets a scare when he left the game clutching his knee. However, it appears only to be a sprain, and Ryan expects him to be fine going forward.

*Joe McKnight got his first NFL action, gaining 12 yards on 4 carries. Not great, but everyone in the stadium knew the Jets were running at that point, and at least he didn't fumble!

*Fellow rookie Kyle Wilson wasn't so great. Demoted in favor of Drew Coleman heading into the week, Wilson was burned for the Bills' second touchdown as he bit on a double-move by the immortal Steve Johnson. He's only a rookie, so he will get better, but the Jets can't get Darrelle Revis back soon enough.

*Speaking of Revis, there's a chance he plays Monday night against Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. The extra day will give him and Calvin Pace an extra day to rest. Pace is closer to returning to game action, but Revis is right behind him. The Jets just want to make sure Revis is 100% before returning because they can ill-afford an injury that prevents him from playing in more important games.

*Santonio Holmes returns on Monday to Jets' practice. While the passing game has been doing just fine without him, adding a former Super Bowl MVP in the middle of his prime can't hurt, can it? This team is scary.

*While I'm happy with the win, I wasn't too pleased with Brian Schottenheimer's goalline play calling. For a team that relies on its offensive line to overpower opponents, I couldn't understand why they didn't just line up in goalline and smash the ball into the endzone. Schottenheimer instead returned to the "Cutesy" moniker that many Jets fans derogatively call him. Sure, Brad Smith's pass ended up as a touchdown. But did the Jets really need to run that risk? Just run it down their throats.

*The one other place the Jets' defense looked vulnerable was against mobile quarterbacks. Fitzpatrick ran for 74 yards on 7 carries. The Jets blitzed early and often, and Fitzpatrick responded by taking what the defense gave him and picking up yards scrambling. Fortunately, the Jets aren't really facing any other mobile quarterbacks this season, save perhaps Seneca Wallace, so this probably won't matter much.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week 4 NFL Picks

After a 3-0 week, I sit at 7-2 on the year. Can't ask for games to be going much better right now, so follow me, and hopefully I keep picking winners.

Broncos +7 over Titans
Tennessee and Denver are too evenly matched teams to have this much of a discrepancy. Their 29-10 win last week was partly a mirage as they were outgained in total yardage and the Giants kept self-destructing. Denver can throw the ball, and Tennessee can be beaten through the air, especially without CB Jason McCourty playing. Chris Johnson will get his yards, but unless he goes crazy, this should be a close game.
Titans 24, Broncos 20

Giants -3 over Bears
I admit, Matthias Kiwanuka's injury worries me a little, but this is a great spot for the Giants. At 1-2, their backs are against the walls. They've been embarrassed the last two weeks, and it's time to put up or shut up. The Bears are 3-0, but coming off an emotional Monday night win, they will be a little flat against a desperate Giants team. The Giants can throw the football, and the Bears secondary is vulnerable. If the Giants can pressure Jay Cutler, he will turn the ball over, and the Giants will win this game.
Giants 31, Bears 21

Chargers -8.5 over Cardinals
I almost picked the Jets -5, but I didn't want to jinx it. San Diego is a team I usually fade early in the season, but coming off an embarrassing loss to Seattle, look for them to right the ship in a big way at home. Arizona is not a good team, and their secondary is ripe for the picking by Philip Rivers. The Cardinals lost their other road game 41-7. This won't be quite as lopsided, but it'll be close. Derek Anderson won't be able to keep up, and the loss of Steve Breaston as his underneath option will be big.
Chargers 31, Cardinals 13

Saturday, October 2, 2010

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills Preview

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
October 3rd, 2010, Ralph Wilson Stadium.

After back-to-back divisional wins over New England and Miami, the Jets look for an early season sweep of their rivals as they take on the Bills. Unlike the Patriots and Dolphins, Buffalo does not have high expectations for this season, and their 0-3 record and quarterback switch proves that. Ryan Fitzpatrick engineered the Bills' offense to 30 points last week, but the defense allowed 38. Simply put, Buffalo is a bad football team that the Jets should win. But crazy things tend to happen in this series: just look at last year's game where the Jets ran for 312 yards and still lost because of five Mark Sanchez interceptions. That game is sure to be fresh in Sanchez's mind, but after consecutive stellar performances, he'll try to keep the offense rolling against a defense that has allowed over 30 points in each of their last two games.

When the Bills have the ball...
Fitzpatrick isn't a great quarterback, but he is willing to throw the ball down the field, something Trent Edwards was too shell-shocked to do at the end of his tenure. He has a few weapons at his disposal, but the poor offensive line typically prevents much from happening. Lee Evans is one of the best deep threats in the NFL, but he's barely been heard from in years because of the Bills' offense. Still, with Drew Coleman starting opposite Antonio Cromartie, look for the Bills to try to move Evans around to get him matched up with Coleman and take some shots down the field.

The rest of the receiving corps is unproven. Steve Johnson has good size, but his best performance of his career was last week's 66-yard effort vs New England. Roscoe Parrish can make plays once he gets the ball, but he's not a great route runner and his hands are average at best. He's more dangerous on special teams, even though he's been held in check this year.

However, the most explosive player on the Bills is rookie CJ Spiller. The 6th overall pick in the draft has elite speed and is a big play waiting to happen. But on this offense, there aren't enough other weapons out there, so every time Spiller is in the game, opposing defenses take note. He's more of a threat out of the backfield in the passing game than getting handoffs, however, as both Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson have gotten more carries. Spiller did have a 95-yard kick return for a touchdown last week, so he's a major threat back there. The Jets' special teams is annually one of the best in the NFL, but Spiller will test them.

Most people assumed Lynch was on his way out of Buffalo when Spiller was drafted, especially after he was outplayed by Jackson last season. But lo and behold, Lynch is the de facto starter, averaging 4.7 yards-per-carry this season. He has a good history against the Jets, so he's someone to watch for, especially early in the game. Still, the Jets have the best run defense in football so far by a wide margin, so it's hard to expect Buffalo to consistently get yards on the ground.

If the Jets' offense struggles, the Bills may be able to have some success. Fitzpatrick is a smart quarterback who can get out and run a little bit if he has to. Lynch has given the Jets problems in the past, and Spiller and Evans are big plays waiting to happen. However, if the Bills get behind, the Jets will be able to tee off at the quarterback and the Bills will have a tough time keeping up. The Bills are 31st in the NFL, averaging 139 yards per game through the air. The only potential problem for the Jets is they have had some communication issues on defense. The Bills have enough speed on offense to take advantage of that. But if the Jets can shut down the run and cover like they're supposed to, they should be able to handle the Bills' offense easily.

When the Jets have the ball...
The Jets are rolling offensively. In the last 6 quarters, the Jets have posted 49 points, and now they face a Bills' defense that has been picked on the last two weeks. Last year, the Jets were able to run all over the Bills. Their defense was ravaged by injuries last season, but this season has been no different. Three starters, CB Terrence McGee, LB Andra Davis, and DL Marcus Stroud will all miss this week's game. However, linebacker Paul Posluszny, the Bills' best playmaker in the front seven, will return after missing the last two weeks with a knee injury.

The Jets rolled up 567 rushing yards in two games against Buffalo last year, so there's a good chance the Jets return to their ground-and-pound roots of a year ago. The attack has been more balanced this season, but against an inferior opponent, the Jets may play not to lose offensively. The passing game has been effective for the last two games. While the running game has worked, it hasn't been as dominant as it was at times last season. Look for the Jets to try to get Shonn Greene going. Greene had high expectations going into this season, but LaDainian Tomlinson has usurped a large number of carries. That won't change, but Greene hasn't had his breakout game yet. Sunday could be it.

Passing the ball also shouldn't be too big of an issue. The Sanchez-Dustin Keller connection should continue this week. Tight ends have tallied 210 yards the last two weeks against the Bills' defense, and Keller should continue that trend. Match him up against a linebacker, and Keller will get open all game. Match him up against a defensive back, and the Jets will punish you with the running game. He's become a force in the passing game, living up to his first-round billing.

Buffalo's defense has been bad lately. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a 109 QB rating against the Bills' defense. With just four sacks all year and zero interceptions, Sanchez should be able to have a field day when the Jets do throw. Despite his DUI and four penalties this season, Braylon Edwards has been very good when called upon in the receiving game. The Bills will miss top cornerback McGee so Leodis McKelvin and Drayton Florence will get the start. McKelvin was a rising star before a leg injury ended his season after three games last year. The safeties are solid with Jairus Byrd and Donte Whitner, but their playmaking ability is severely hampered by a front seven that rarely provides pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

The Bills are a better team at home, as they only allowed 13 offensive points to Miami in week one. That was mostly because the Dolphins didn't take many shots down the field and the Bills got 3 of their 4 sacks that week. However, the Jets' offense is playing much better now than Miami's was then. Don't expect the Jets to put up 30 points, but they should dominate time of possession at almost a 2:1 clip.

On paper, this looks like a potential trap game. The Jets just played three straight physical games against high quality opponents in rivalry-type games. Now, they have a road game against one of the worst teams in the NFL, one week before hosting Brett Favre and the Vikings on Monday Night Football. But Rex Ryan has stressed all week the importance of divisional games, and you can bet Sanchez still remembers throwing five interceptions last season against the Bills. He won't underestimate the Bills. Buffalo's best chance to win is on big plays. They have the skill players to do so but not the quarterback or the offensive line. If the Jets tackle like they should, the Bills won't be able to score. And unless the Jets' offense completely self-destructs, they should win handily.
Jets 27, Bills 10