Frank Gore and the 49ers have steamrolled their last five opponents, winning by an average of 23 points. Will their dominance continue over the streaking Panthers? (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Last Week: 8 – 5 – 0
Season: 85 – 48 – 0
Striving to be an “Honorary Black Man” (Bye Week)
With their defense making trips to IR a weekly tradition, the Bengals are in serious trouble atop the AFC North. A loss to the Ravens this week would pit the Bengals and Browns in a battle for the AFC North in Week 11. I’m starting to believe the Browns will win the North.
It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs finishing any worse than 13-3. Andy Reid is a lock for Coach of the Year.
With Rob Gronkowski back and Shane Vereen returning soon, the Patriots offense is looking more explosive. As I’ve been saying for weeks, the Patriots will play for another AFC title.
The Jets have alligator blood. Blown out one week and then they take down one of the best in the Saints. The only problem is this: The Jets won’t get a home playoff game. Their defense isn’t anywhere near as good on the road.
Redskins 27 at Vikings 34
Last night I tweeted that Mike Shanahan and Leslie Frazier were battling to prove who was the worse coach. Frasier’s timeouts in the final minute while Washington was scrambling to score before time expired was one of the dumbest things we’ve seen all season. What we’ve seen plenty of is Shanahan’s mindless 2nd half play calling. Once again, Shanahan and the Redskins chose not to ride Alfred Morris to a victory.
After the Vikings scored to cut Washington’s lead to six (27-21), the Redskins ran on 1st down. Morris picked up five yards. On 2nd and 3rd down, Griffin dropped back to pass, completing one of two passes for two yards. Three and out. Not what I would have done after the opposing offense marched down the field, but oh well.
After the Vikings again scored, this time to take the lead (28-27), Washington faced a 1st and 20 after a holding call. Robert Griffin III found Pierre Garcon for 18 yards. Alfred Morris then rushed for five yards for a 1st down and then another four yards to make it 2nd and 6. Instead of running the football with the NFL’s leading yards per carry back, Shanahan opted to drop Griffin back to pass on 2nd down. He was sacked for a loss of 10 yards and then sacked again on 3rd down.
With Washington now down 31-27, Shanahan and the Redskins had yet another opportunity to march down the field and more importantly, give their defense a breath. After an incompletion on 1st down, Morris rushed for seven yards. On 3rd and 3, Shanahan opted to once again throw the football. Griffin was sacked for an 11 yard loss. It was 3rd and 3. Morris’ last four runs went for 6, 5, 4, and 7 yards. He was averaging well over 5 yards per carry in the game. I don’t get it. In fact, Shanahan’s offense faced six 3rd downs with less than four yards to gain. They ran the football once. Shanahan is simply afraid to run the football on 3rd down despite having one of the best backs in the game. On top of that, his quarterback is currently hampered by a bum knee and therefore indecisive at times, making him susceptible to devastating sacks as we witnessed in the 4th quarter. The Redskins were good enough to win Thursday night. Their head coach was not.
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Seahawks at Falcons
I know it’s a lost season for the Falcons, but are they at all concerned about Matt Ryan’s play over the last two weeks? Seven interceptions to two touchdowns? Those are Blaine Gabbert numbers. (Note: If I’m the Falcons, I’m not that concerned. Ryan’s offense is gutted due to injuries. He’s slinging the football a la Brett Favre simply to keep his team competitive (or at least try). My only concern would be bad habits forming.) Are the Seahawks going to break out of this funk? Is it even a funk, or is Seattle overrated? Regardless, I can’t pick that Atlanta offense right now. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks -5.5
Lions at Bears
With Aaron Rodgers out, a win here could decide the NFC North. I’m not crazy about Chicago’s defense, but I have to keep with picking against Jim Schwartz teams in games against competitive teams. It hasn’t failed me yet. BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears Pick ‘em
Eagles at Packers
Christmas came early for the Eagles! While I’d never root for a player like Aaron Rodgers to get hurt, his injury was a huge gift to the Eagles. With Dallas traveling to New Orleans, the Eagles have a favorable opportunity to climb back into a tie atop the division. Come on, Eagles, don’t blow this. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles +1
Jaguars at Titans
Barring a miracle win for the Jaguars, the Titans will take over the AFC’s final playoff spot thanks to their drubbing of the Jets in Week 4. I can’t think of a single reason to watch this game. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans -13
Rams at Colts
I’m still not feeling the Colts. I think they lose last week in Houston if Gary Kubiak doesn’t go down. I know these guys are “professionals,” but I don’t think I’d be able to focus if my coach didn’t show up for the 2nd half because he was headed to a hospital in an ambulance. The Rams season is pretty much over, but it’s definitely over with a loss Sunday. They’ve played well over the last two weeks. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams +10
Raiders at Giants
I think it’ll take a 7-1 finish for New York to win the NFC East. Hosting the Raiders is a nice start. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -7.5
Bills at Steelers
Give Mike Pettine a lot of credit for Buffalo’s impressive play this season. It’s been a long time since the Bills boasted a physical, havoc-wreaking defense. Pettine’s defense ranks third in the NFL in both sacks and interceptions. Also, EJ Manuel returns this week. Buffalo’s 3-6 record is a reflection of their bad luck in the quarterback health department. Pittsburgh’s 2-6 record is a reflection of sucking. BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills +3
Bengals at Ravens
I give up with both teams. I really liked the Bengals to win the division behind that defense. I thought Andy Dalton and the offense would be much improved as well. Now the defense has been declawed by injuries and Dalton and the offense are as inconsistent as ever, which would open the door for the Ravens, right? Wrong. Baltimore is a mess, especially offensively. They’re as awful to watch as the Jaguars. Still, as much as I hate doing it, I can’t help but pick them here. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens +1.5
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Panthers at 49ers
A very, very big game for both teams. The Panthers are winners of four straight. All double digit wins in which they scored at least 30 points. However, none of those wins came against winning teams. In fact, the 49ers will be the first team Carolina plays with a winning record (at time of game) all year. The 49ers find themselves in a similar boat. They’ve won five straight while averaging 35 points per game over that stretch. Their smallest margin of victory was 12 points. But, like Carolina, none of those wins came against a team with a winning record. Two great defenses. Two teams with much to prove. This should be fun. (Note: My brother, a die hard Panther fan, is angry at Roger Goodell for making his Panthers play the 49ers and Patriots right after their byes in consecutive weeks.) Cam Newton needs a signature win… badly. I believe in Superman. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers +6.5
Texans at Cardinals
What a disastrous season for Houston. Matt Schaub combusts into a turnover, pick six pile of mush, Arian Foster is mediocre and hampered by injuries, even the defense has been horrendous, surrendering a touchdown more per game than in 2012. Then your head coach collapses on the field and your stuck with Wade Philips making the calls. I can’t decide if Houston gives up on the season now or rallies for their fallen coach behind the surprisingly talented and exciting Case Keenum. I like Arizona at home but this feels like an emotional win for Houston. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans +2.5
Broncos at Chargers
San Diego really blew it on the goal line in D.C. last week. With two games against both the Broncos and Chiefs over the second half of the season a 5-3 start is worlds better than 4-4. I could see the Chargers beating the Chiefs, but the Broncos have too much firepower for Philip Rivers to match. Denver coming out of a bye won’t help San Diego’s cause either. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -7
Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)
Cowboys at Saints
A few years ago the Saints were 13-0 and poised to finish undefeated when the Cowboys stormed in and stole New Orleans’ perfect season. I actually liked Dallas’ chances of winning this one right up until the Saints laid an egg in New York against the Jets. With the Panthers surging, the Saints need a win to maintain their cushion in the NFC South. Furthermore, Dallas’ defense can’t stop anyone and the offense has been erratic. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -7
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Dolphins at Buccaneers
I hope the Richie Incognito coverage continues indefinitely. I can’t get enough. – Said no one. Ever. This situation is ridiculous. Everyone is to blame. But more importantly, is anyone else concerned that we live in a world where Jonathan Martin is terrorized by a teammate for being quiet and passive and Blake Griffin gets off scot-free after those HORRIFIC and PATHETICALLY STUPID Kia commercials? I need a “Chris Paul makes Blake Griffin cry over Kia commercials” controversy to remind me the world isn’t upside-down. By the way, the Bucs parlay (extra points for a pirate term) Miami’s controversy into their first win. And everyone rejoices. BUCCANEERS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers +3
If I were Charles Barkley…
Last Week: 6 – 6 – 1
Season: 62 – 65 – 5