By Doug Halberstadt
The results of last weekend’s NFL games proved one thing: there is no such thing as a lock. The St. Louis Rams, relying on a backup quarterback, were able to defeat the powerhouse Denver Broncos with arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game leading them. The New Orleans Saints also have a future Hall of Fame quarterback playing for them, and just like the Broncos, they were upset by a team most people didn’t think had a snowball’s chance in Hades of winning.
This week, I’ve learned a lesson, and I won’t call any game a lock, regardless of how lopsided it looks on paper. However, I will call a few teams heavily favored. Those heavily favored teams include the Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) over the winless Oakland Raiders (0-10) in tomorrow night’s (Thursday, Nov. 20) game on NFL Network.
The Indianapolis Colts (6-4) are another team that if the games were played on paper would win 99 times out of 100 against their visiting opponent this week, the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9). Unless it turns out to be a freakish unpredictable upset, this won’t be that one time out of 100 for the Jaguars.
They’ve scored more than 50 points in their last two games. This week, they could make it three in a row. The Green Bay Packers (7-3) will take their high-scoring offense on the road for a short trip over to Minneapolis to face the Vikings (4-6). I’m not sure if we’ll see another 50-point game for Green Bay, but I am pretty sure they’ll win.
The Philadelphia Eagles (7-3) were the victims of the Packers’ beating last week. This week, the Eagles face the Tennessee Titans (2-7 at press time). This should be a nice bounce-back win for the Eagles.
A team that is starting to pick up a little steam is the Atlanta Falcons (4-6). They’ve won their last two. This week, they host the Cleveland Browns (6-4). Look for Atlanta to maintain the momentum and make it three wins in a row.
The Buffalo Bills (5-5) have a home game against the New York Jets (2-8). The Jets haven’t won on the road this year. The Bills should climb back above the .500 mark and hand the Jets another road loss.
Former Chicago Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith will return to Soldier Field this Sunday. This time, he’ll be on the opposing sideline as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8). The Bears (4-6) will be looking to make it back-to-back wins at home. I like the Bears in this one, especially if it’s 35 degrees or colder at game time. Tampa won’t be able to handle the Bears — or the cold.
Another team looking to climb back above the .500 mark is the Houston Texans (5-5). Last week, they won despite being without the services of their superstar running back, Arian Foster. This week, Foster is expected to be back in the lineup when they host the Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1). Look for Foster and the Texans to make it two in a row and improve to 6-5.
After a nice win on the road against the Colts last week, the New England Patriots (8-2) are back at home this week against the Detroit Lions (7-3). Detroit managed to score only 6 points away from the Motor City last week in their loss to the Arizona Cardinals. They’ll need at least 4 — or possibly five times that — to beat the Patriots in Foxboro. I don’t see that happening. I’m taking the Patriots to win and make it seven in a row and eight of their last nine.
After pulling the biggest upset of the year against the Denver Broncos last week, the St. Louis Rams (4-6) travel to San Diego to face the Chargers (6-4). The one thing about the Rams is they continuously play hard-nosed football. I think they’ve found the pass rush they’ve been looking for all season. If they can keep that kind of steady pressure on Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, he’ll get frustrated, and that should give the Rams their second consecutive upset win.
The Arizona Cardinals (9-1) are the hottest team in the league. They’ve won six straight and have the best record in the NFL. They’ll have a tough test this week if they are going to make it seven in a row and get to 10-1. To do so, they’ll have to knock off the Seattle Seahawks (6-4) in Seattle. I think the Cardinals will stay red hot and be the first team to reach double digits in the win column.
Peyton Manning had one of the worst games of his career last week. His Broncos (7-3) only scored 7 points and lost a game they were heavily favored to win. This week, they are back at home against the Miami Dolphins (6-4). I look for Manning to return to his usual self and put up big numbers against the fish and pick up win No. 8.
The San Francisco 49ers (6-4) are hosting the Washington Redskins (3-7) and looking to win their third straight. The Redskins have lost two in a row and are only 1-4 on the road this season and 1-6 against NFC opponents. I think this one goes to the 49ers.
The Sunday night game is an NFC East match-up between the visiting Dallas Cowboys (7-3) and the New York Giants (3-7). The Cowboys beat the Giants 31-21 in Dallas back on Oct. 19. I look for the Cowboys to beat the Giants for the second time this season.
Monday night’s game is in New Orleans. The Saints (4-6) welcome the Baltimore Ravens (6-4) to town. The Saints have lost two straight at home. The Ravens are coming off their bye week. Saints fans won’t appreciate me saying this, but I think they’re going to drop another one in front of the home crowd and fall to 4-7.
The Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers are off this week.
Last week, my gut instincts landed me a 9-4 record with only the Monday night game still to be played at press time. I took the Steelers over the Titans in that game.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Nov. 19-25, 2014, issue