- Clean water under attack in the U.S. Congress
- Man faces charges following attempted armed robbery
- Discovery Center experiences record public attendance
- Pet Talk: Probiotics for your pets
- Illinois home prices climb 3.7 percent in December
- Supreme Court and gay marriage — U of I expert weighs in
- More than 6,100 residents of Winnebago County enrolled in Marketplace
- First large U.S. delegation to visit Cuba since opening of relations
- Merger complete for Illinois Bank & Trust, Galena State Bank
- Crusader welcomes Dr. Maria Lozano Vazquez
Week 9 NFL picks: Packers will top banged-up Bears
By Doug Halberstadt
Several NFL teams are now halfway through their 16-game schedules. The Kansas City Chiefs remain the surprise team of the league. Last year at 2-14, they were abysmal. This season, they are off to a perfect 8-0 start. This week, they are on the road to face the Buffalo Bills. I don’t think the Bills will be able to put a blemish on that record. I say the Chiefs will continue to amaze the professional football world.
This week, the Monday night game (Nov. 4) is obviously the one with the most interest to fans in this area. The Chicago Bears go north to face their division and longtime rivals, the Green Bay Packers. Both teams have suffered a slew of key injuries. The Packers have lost several of their starting receivers. Their defensive standout, Clay Matthews, is sidelined with a broken thumb.
The Bears are without their starting signal-callers on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jay Cutler will miss the game with a groin injury, and middle linebacker Lance Briggs is out with a broken shoulder. That’s really not good for Chicago. Even with Cutler and Briggs, the Bears haven’t beaten the Packers in Lambeau the last few years. I don’t look for that to change with their replacements. Green Bay will improve to 6-2, and the Bears will fall to .500 at 4-4.
The Bengals sit atop the AFC North division with a 6-2 record and have a Halloween night game against the Dolphins in Miami. I think the Dolphins will be the ones tricked in their own stadium. A 7-2 record will be a nice treat for the Bengals.
A few other teams with impressive records are the 7-1 Denver Broncos, the 6-1 Seattle Seahawks and the 6-1 New Orleans Saints. This week, the Broncos have their bye, and the Saints have a road game against the New York Jets. When the Saints leave New York, they’ll have another win and have the same 7-1 record as Denver.
The Seahawks are the lock of the week. They are perennially one of the toughest teams in the league at home. This season is no different. They haven’t lost yet in front of their hometown fans. That’s really bad news for the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have to come in to Seattle and try to do the almost impossible. The Seahawks will improve to 7-1, and Tampa will fall to 0-8.
Another team that is surprising fans around the league is the Atlanta Falcons. They’re doing it for all of the wrong reasons, though. They keep losing games they are expected to win. They have a 2-5 record and have yet to win a game away from Atlanta. This week, they’re on the road again to face the resurgent Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton has led Carolina to three-straight wins, and they are 4-1 in their last five games. The Falcons are 1-4 in their last five. Look for the Panthers to stay hot and for the Falcons to continue to struggle.
The Dallas Cowboys host the Minnesota Vikings this week. Both teams are coming off losses last week. The Vikings haven’t won a road game this year and won’t change that this week. The Cowboys will prevail on their home turf and keep the Vikings winless away from home.
Elsewhere around the league, the San Diego Chargers travel to D.C. to take on the Redskins. I’m taking the Chargers. The Rams have a home game against Tennessee. Both teams have identical 3-4 records. I’ll take St. Louis simply because they are at home.
Another team I’m taking based on home-field advantage is the Oakland Raiders. They host the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have dropped their last two. Oakland managed to upset the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor continues to show improvement and will get the Raiders another win and improve to 4-4.
After a slow start last week, the New England Patriots got things on track and beat the Dolphins. They lead the AFC East with a 6-2 record. This week, they take on the cellar-dwellers in the AFC North, the 2-5 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Patriots will improve to 7-2 and the Steelers will fall to 2-6.
Baltimore and Indianapolis are both coming off bye weeks. They both are on the road this week. The Ravens go to the dog pound to play the Browns, and the Colts are in Houston against the Texans. I like both of the well-rested road teams.
Last week, I was 9-3 with the Monday night game left to be played at press time. I took Seattle over the Rams in that game. If the Seahawks are victorious, I’ll be 78-42 after the first eight weeks of the season.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2013, issue