By Doug Halberstadt
It’s the bye week for the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. It couldn’t come at a better time for both teams. The Bears are 3-5 and have looked plain bad in their last two losses to the Dolphins and the Patriots. Quarterback Jay Cutler is a large portion of the problem. I hope he’ll use the time off to get his head back on straight and put the first half of the season behind him.
On the other hand, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers can use the time off to heal a tweaked left hamstring he suffered in the Packers’ loss to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday night, Oct. 26. The Packers are 5-3 and will be waiting for the Bears to come to town after the bye week.
The other teams taking this week off are Atlanta, Detroit, Buffalo and Tennessee.
Tomorrow night’s game (Thursday, Oct. 30) has the New Orleans Saints (3-5) heading into Carolina to face the Panthers (3-4-1). Carolina’s last win came against the Bears back on Oct. 5. The Saints’ last win was on Sunday night over the Packers. Even though they’re 3-5, I’m saying the Saints are a much better team than their record indicates and will pick up their fourth win of the season.
The other team with a tie in their record is the Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1). This week, they host one of the weaker teams in the league, the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7). Look for the Bengals to pick up the win and add another loss to the Jaguars’ already impressive collection.
The only team worse than the Jags is the winless Oakland Raiders (0-7). Their collection of losses will grow as well this week. They’ve got the unenviable task of having to face the Seahawks (4-3) in Seattle. Even though Seattle doesn’t look as dominating as I thought they would be this season, they still have plenty of gas in the tank to keep the Raiders from their first win.
As long as we’re talking about teams with one win or fewer, that brings me to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) and the New York Jets (1-7). Neither of these teams will get win No. 2 this week. The Bucs have to go to the Dawg Pound in Cleveland. The Browns will improve to 5-3. The Jets will be in Kansas City, and that means the Chiefs will come away with a 5-3 record as well.
Going in the other direction, let’s look at teams on the opposite end of the standings. The Arizona Cardinals (6-1), the Dallas Cowboys (6-1 at press time), the New England Patriots (6-2) and the Denver Broncos (6-1) will go up against each other this week. The Cardinals will be in Dallas, and the Broncos travel to Foxboro to battle the Patriots. These two games are undoubtedly the best games on the week nine schedule. I’m taking the Cowboys at home and the Broncos on the road.
The Philadelphia Eagles (5-2) will try to pick up win No. 6 on the road this week. They will visit the Houston Texans (4-4) in the Lone Star State. I like the Texans at home, even though I think this one could go either way.
In the “Sunshine Super Bowl,” the San Diego Chargers (5-3) will leave sunny southern California behind and set up camp under the clear blue skies in Miami. The Dolphins (4-3) would like to send the Chargers back home with a sunburn, but I don’t see that happening. I’m looking for the Chargers to improve to 6-3.
The Minnesota Vikings (3-5) open up the month of November at home against the Washington Redskins (2-5 at press time). This is another game I see going either way. The coin flip came up heads, and that goes to the Redskins.
San Francisco (4-3) has a home game following their bye week against the St. Louis Rams (2-5). I look for the well-rested 49ers to dismantle the Rams.
The other team that’s well-rested and coming off a bye week is the New York Giants (3-4). They welcome the Indianapolis Colts (5-3) to the Big Apple for the Monday (Nov. 3) night game. After winning five in a row, the Colts got stomped by the Steelers 51-34 last week. I look for the Colts to bounce back and beat the Giants in front of a national audience.
The Sunday night game has those high-scoring Steelers (5-3) hosting the Baltimore Ravens (5-3). I look for the Steelers to ride that momentum and pick up their third-straight game.
Last week, I was 10-4 with the Monday night game undecided at press time. I took the Cowboys over the Redskins.
From the Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 2014, issue