But first, a few thoughts on my first wrong call of a 2014 midweek game:
1. Kudos to the Jets. That team was outmanned, and they had a chance (granted it was a 58-yard field goal attempt) to win the game in the final seconds. The Jets should barely even have been on the same field with the Patriots, yet the Pats could never put them away.
2. I actually don't have a problem with the onside kick the Jets tried after their 2-point conversion attempt failed. Yes, there was 2:31 left, but the Jets had just one timeout, and frankly, I didn't believe the Jets could stop the Patriots offense at that point of the game unless the Pats simply decided to run the ball 3x and punt, which is what they did do. However, I don't believe Belichick would have signed off on that ultra-conservative approach had the Pats started that drive at their own 20, rather than the Jets 46.
My issues stemmed more from what the Jets did once they got the ball back, with 1:06 remaining at their own 12.
First play: Dump off to the running back in the middle of the field. Gained 8 yards and ran off 24 seconds.
Second play: Dump off to the running back in the middle of the field. Gained 11 yards and ran off 13 seconds.
So the first three plays (I'll include the spike) of their drive gained 19 yards but cost them 37 of the 66 seconds they had to work with.
3. Geno Smith has gotten lots of criticism for his play, which is mostly unfair. Smith has almost nothing to work at the skill positions on offense. Chris Ivory is good. Eric Decker is decent. That's pretty much it. That being said, he threw multiple balls into the end zone that gave his receiver absolutely zero chance to make a play on the ball. In a related story, the Jets were 2-for-4 in converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns and failed on their one two-point conversion try when Smith grossly overthrew his tight end.
4. If I were a Patriots fan, I'd have two large concerns. The first is their run defense, which looked horrible all night, especially when you factor in the Jets' inability to move the ball via the pass consistently. The second? This is their schedule over the next 7 weeks: vs Chicago, vs Denver, Bye, at Indy, vs Detroit, at Green Bay, at San Diego. It gets much harder very quickly.
Now for the picks. As always, home teams in CAPS.
INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over Cincinnati
Cincinnati has taken a tumble in efficiency stats after their last two games (loss to NE, tie with CAR), but efficiency stats have hated the Colts going on 2.5 years now (well more like 3.5 years, but every statistic hated the 2011 Indianapolis Colts, that's how they got Andrew Luck). Basically, Indy's defense is awful, with one exception: they are tied for 3rd in the NFL with 12 takeaways. Add in an offense that is second-best in the league in turning drives into points (they average 2.55 points per drive), and it's enough to win plenty of games.
If this game is going to be a shootout, Andrew Luck has considerably more weapons at his disposal than Andy Dalton has.
WASHINGTON (-5.5) over Tennessee
Neither team is very good, but only one of them will start Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback.
CHICAGO (-3) over Miami
The Bears should be able to attack Miami's pass defense with their dual headed monster at receiver, and Tannehill won't be able to keep up.
Cleveland (-5.5) over JACKSONVILLE
The Browns' defense hasn't been as good as expected. Luckily, their offense has been much better than expected, they have generated plenty of chuck plays and avoided turning the ball over (their 2 giveaways are tied with the Chargers for best in the NFL). And the Jaguars aren't winning this game without help.
ST. LOUIS (+7) over Seattle
I still believe in the Seahawks. Yes I expected them to beat the Cowboys, the game was in Seattle after all, but they played a terrible game and still were in it to the end. The narrative should have an angry Seattle going into St. Louis and pounding Marshawn Lynch at the St. Louis defense, which has vastly underachieved this season. But I'm worried the talented, young defensive line is going to find its groove for the first time this season because Seattle's offensive line isn't very good at pass protection. I'm also worried at how Jeff Fisher always seems to out-coach Pete Carroll when these two teams play in St. Louis.
Carolina (+7) over GREEN BAY
Green Bay's secondary is banged up, and their front seven really isn't very good, plus we've established these last 3 years how well they defend mobile quarterbacks (terribly). Carolina's Cam Newton hadn't done much with his legs all season...until last week, when he carried the ball 17 times for 107 yards. Green Bay will put up points on the vulnerable Panthers defense, but it says here that Newton will keep the Panthers close all game long.
BALTIMORE (-7) over Atlanta
Steve Smith continues his 2014 all-out assault on the NFC South. Ice up, son.
BUFFALO (-5.5) over Minnesota
We saw last week what happens when the Vikings can't run the ball and need to rely solely on their rookie quarterback to keep them afloat. It wasn't quite the carnage we saw when they asked Christian Ponder to save them, but it was still pretty ugly. The Bills are also a legitimately good defense. It's going to be pretty ugly again.
DETROIT (-2.5) over New Orleans
New Orleans on the road, playing a top defense. I don't like those odds. Oh, I almost forgot: no Jimmy Graham either.
SAN DIEGO (-4) over Kansas City
Philip Rivers has carved up far better secondaries than the Chiefs' this season. He'll do it again on Sunday.
DALLAS (-6.5) over New York Giants
Dallas is firing on all cylinders right now. The Giants? Well they got shut out by the vaunted Eagles defense (note: the Eagles defense is anything but vaunted) last week and lost Victor Cruz to a season-ending injury. Other than that, yeah, the Giants are in great shape.
Arizona (-3.5) over OAKLAND
Carson Palmer gets to bury his Oakland demons in this game. Namely, that he had to play for the Raiders for a season and a half.
DENVER (-6.5) over San Francisco
Denver is a complete team with a very good defense. Colin Kaepernick will make his fair share of plays with his legs and cannon arm, but San Francisco isn't going to have anything resembling a consistent offense on Sunday night. The 49ers secondary, while improved, won't be able to hold down Peyton Manning.
Houston (+3.5) over PITTSBURGH
Pittsburgh cannot stop the running game, and JJ Watt is going to make himself nice and comfortable in the Steelers' backfield next to Ben Roethlisberger.
This Week: 0-1 (D'oh!)
Last Week: 8-7 (.467)
2014 Season: 48-42-1 (.533)