Note:  any references to betting propositions are intended for entertainment purposes only.

PEWTERREPORT.COM STAFF STANDINGS

Scott Reynolds 73-39

Jim Flynn 65-47

Hugh MacArthur 64-48

LAST WEEK

Scott Reynolds 9-5

Hugh MacArthur 8-6

Jim Flynn
7-7
 
Cincinnati at Baltimore (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – This is one of those games that feels closer than it should be. If this game is close at all, it will be because Carson Palmer keeps the Bengals in the game. As I have said before, the Bengals still cannot defend the run, and are 25th in the league in rushing defense. With Brian Billick calling the plays last week, Jamal Lewis shook the dust off the Ravens’ rushing attack. Look for heavy doses of Lewis on Sunday. Cincinnati will have two problems of its own on offense: Baltimore has the number one-rated rushing defense in the NFL, giving up a measely 66 yards on the ground each game. Worse news for the kitties is that Baltimore leads the NFL in turnover differential at plus-11. Fifteen interceptions are driving that performance. So, the Bengals can’t run, and if Mr. Palmer isn’t perfect when passing, they might be tossing the ball to Ravens’ jerseys. The Ravens can run it, and Steve McNair is healthy. The field goal spread feels like a bargain.  Baltimore

Reynolds – Thanks for doing my homework for me, Hugh! I’ll just copy off you and pick the Ravens. Aside from what Hugh said, I just think Brian Billick has a better feel for his offensive players than Jim Fassel did. Now that he’s calling the plays I think the offense will match the defense in  terms of production. – Baltimore

Flynn – Baltimore looked good last week en route to its win over New Orleans. Cincinnati didn’t in its loss to Atlanta. This game is too close to call. If it were in Cincinnati, I’d go with the Bengals. But the fact that this game is being played on Baltimore’s home turf tells me to side with the Ravens in a close one. Baltimore

Miami at Chicago (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Here is a truly astonishing number for you. There is one team in the NFL that hasn’t covered the point spread in any game this year. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 0-7 vs the number Dolphins. Want some other interesting numbers? The Bears lead the NFL in both scoring offense and fewest points allowed per game. They are also tied with the Ravens for the league lead with a plus-11 turnover differential. The Dolphins have a minus-5 differential. Their problem is they throw interceptions (10). Two more words for you:  Joey Harrington. It says here that even with Las Vegas getting frustrated and throwing 13.5 pts to the Fish, they’ll be 0-8 against the number next week. Chicago

Reynolds – As much as it pains me to say it, Chicago is a juggernaut. They really have their act together on offense and defense. They may be the most complete team in the NFL. I don’t know if they have the postseason experience to make it all the way to the Super Bowl, but they have just as good a chance as any, and they should filet the Fish (yes, Hugh, I know that dolphins are really mammals. I’m just trying to be humorous). Miami is a really bad team. Chicago

Flynn – The 7-0 Bears might be the most balanced team in the NFL right now. To this date, only one team, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, have gone undefeated. Ironically, the Dolphins managed to hand the undefeated Bears their first and only loss of the 1985 season. But don’t look for history to repeat itself. The Bears are for real, especially when they’re playing at home. Chicago

Tennessee at Jacksonville (1:00 Sunday ET)

MacArthur – Jacksonville is a solid team. They aren’t flashy in any aspect of the game, but they can run the football and play good defense. They have recently found that without Mr. Leftwich helping keep both teams in the game, the odds of a Jaguar win go up considerably. David Garrard doesn’t make the same mistakes Lord Byron does, and when you are solid everywhere else, that is usually enough to win. It certainly should be enough to win at home against a rookie QB. Tennessee won’t be able to run very well, and Vince Young will be forced to hang a few up. The under looks inviting, even at 37.5.  Jacksonville

Reynolds – Jacksonville’s defense has been utterly dominate at times (see games against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia), but can they do it against teams that are from outside the state of Pennsylvania? I think Jacksonville’s “D” will pose some problems for rookie quarterback Vince Young and David Garrard will do enough to win. Jacksonville

Flynn – Jacksonsville’s defense ate Philadelphia’s potent offense alive, holding the Eagles to just six points last Sunday. What do you think the Jaguars are going to do to rookie QB Vince Young and the Titans offense? This one could get ugly. Jacksonville

Kansas City at St. Louis (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Kansas City is an interesting team. They have proven to be solid, especially at home. Their numbers scream “average” on offense and defense. In fact, the best thing they do is not throw interceptions (four in 2006). Damon Huard has been capable, and Larry Johnson is averaging 92 yards per game on the ground and has eight TDs. The Rams don’t throw many interceptions either (1 in 2006), and Steven Jackson has been as effective as Larry Johnson.  Marc Bulger has the passing attack ripping along, as his 12 TDs and 101 passer rating attest. The Rams’ D is nothing to write home about, but they are third in the NFL with a plus-10 takeaway differential, and they play very well at home. Very well at home usually beats “average” on the road.  St. Louis

Reynolds – Arrowhead is to the Chiefs what the Fortress of Solitude was to Superman. It’s home base – safe and secure. Kansas City is awfully tough at home, and just average on the road as my colleagues point out. The thing is that I think this team is growing more confident in quarterback Damon Huard, and running back Larry Johnson is really getting hot right now. I think it’s time the Chiefs grow up and leave the nest – and win. Kansas City

Flynn – After a rough start, the Trent Green-less Chiefs have won two straight games and have improved to 4-3 on the season. The Rams have cooled off, losing two straight while producing the same record as the Chiefs. Kansas City might be a better team than St. Louis, but the Chiefs just isn’t the same team away from Arrowhead. St. Louis

Dallas at Washington (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – The bye week could not come too soon for the Redskins. Joe Gibbs, like Bill Parcells, is in “win now” mode, so we will continue to see Mark Brunell and not Jason Campbell at quarterback. In truth, Brunell hasn’t been that bad. He has a 90 passer rating and is completing 64 percent of his throws. The problem is that most of his throws cover about one yard in the air. The downfield passing attack has been nonexistent. Clinton Portis is only averaging 16 carries a game, so despite any denials, he must be hurt. Seeing so much of Ladell Betts is not a good thing for the ‘Skins’ attack. What the heck ever happened to T.J. Duckett anyway? They traded for this guy because they need another inactive player each week? It certainly is puzzling why he hasn’t seen the field. The funny thing is, even with all of these problems, the offense has been about average statistically. It’s the pass defense that is just killing the Redskins. For all of $2 million per year Gregg Williams’ supposed genius on that side of the ball, the Skins have some truly mesmerizing numbers vs the pass: 30th in yardage, 31st in INTs and 32nd, dead last, in sacks with 10. So, I am making a great case for Dallas to send the Skins out of their misery this season and put them to 2-6, right? In the words of the immortal Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend!” Dallas is a very rugged team, but Tony Romo is still raw, and Gregg Williams will throw the house at him on the blitz to confuse the young quarterback. The ‘Skins do stop the run pretty well, and they will force Romo to beat them through the air. Maybe he can, but 90,000 Redskins fans at FedEx and I believe that the more desperate team with two weeks to prepare gets the “W.”  Washington

Reynolds – Wow. Did you read Hugh’s novel of analysis on that one? Is it any wonder that I’m nine games of him in the standings? My secret for success in picking really tight games? I close my eyes, start a Mongolian chant, have two bites of an apple, nod my head up and down four times and then snap a sharpened Ticonderoga pencil in two. The answers usually just come to me. If not, then I break out a quarter (or a penny, nickel or dime) and flip it. It’s heads. Washington

Flynn – The Redskins are reeling, and the Cowboys recovered from their Monday night loss to the Giants by thumping the Panthers on the road last Sunday. The Cowboys look like a legitimate playoff contender. The Redskins, however, do not. Confidence plays into the hands of the Cowboys in this one. Dallas

Green Bay at Buffalo (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – How in the world is 2-5 Buffalo a 3-point favorite over 3-4 Green Bay in this game? This is truly bizarre. The Packers’ offense is hitting its stride, and Brett Favre has been sacked only nine times all season, good for third-fewest in the league. This directly correlates to his 10 to 5 TD to INT ratio.  Buffalo’s defense is very average. The one thing they do well is sack the quarterback, with 21 takedowns, good for fifth in the NFL. So, to believe in the Bills, you need to believe in sacks and INTs ruining Favre’s day. Ah, you say, but look at the atrocious Packer defense. Yes, let’s look at it. The Packers have been good against the run (ninth in the league), but are 32nd against the pass. The only thing they do well in pass defense is sack the quarterback, where they are rated third in the league with 22 on the season. So, a good quarterback should annihilate this team. And there lies the rub, friends. Once again, I give you two words to choose by: J.P. Losman. Green Bay

Reynolds – I like Green Bay in this one because they are on a bit of a roll, Brett Favre isn’t killing this team with interceptions and the Packers certainly aren’t afraid of playing in cold conditions. I’m not a big Buffalo fan. I don’t think J.P. Losman is the answer. This team reminds me of the old Cincinnati Bengals who had one star – running back Corey Dillon – and that’s it. The Bills have Willis McGahee and that’s it. Green Bay

Flynn – The Packers are just 3-8 in their last 11 regular season road games. The Bills have done a decent job defending their homefield. However, Buffalo has dropped three straight games and isn’t the most confident team right now. Brett Favre is playing good football right now. The Packers escape Buffalo with their third straight win and improve to .500 after starting the season 0-4. Green Bay

Atlanta at Detroit (Sunday 1:00 PM ET)

MacArthur – Detroit is simply outclassed on both sides of the ball.  Atlanta will impose its will with the run and take some shots downfield to Alge Crumpler and Co. The Lions’ passing game is starting to really pick up under Mike Martz, but many of those yards are there because the Lions are hopelessly behind in most of their games and have to throw. This is why Jon Kitna leads the league in pass attempts with 38 per game and Kevin Jones only gets 16 carries a game. That won’t be a good combination against the Falcons on Sunday. The Falcons also have a plus-8 turnover differential, while the Lions are at minus-4. Atlanta

Reynolds – Rod Marinelli is getting the attitude turned around in Detroit. Yes, they are still losers, but they don’t play like losers. They play hard. They are just missing out on a few key players on offense and defense right now. Having Shaun Rogers out due to a suspension doesn’t help. I think the Falcons roll. Atlanta

Flynn – Detroit’s defense has the blue print on how to contain Atlanta QB Michael Vick from Rod Marinelli’s coaching days in Tampa Bay. But there’s one problem – Marinelli doesn’t have the players to get the job done. Atlanta

Houston at New York Giants (Sunday 4:05 PM ET)

MacArthur – Well, I think any Buccaneers fan that watched the Giants’ game last week will agree that they can run the ball (fourth in the league with 146 yards per game), and when needed, they can throw it to Plaxico Burress as well. It’s still hard to tell how Houston has won two games. Their defense is awful against the run and the pass, and despite David Carr’s 94 passer rating they have the 23rd rated scoring offense. Perhaps this is because they are good at giving the ball away, and are last in the league with a -9 differential. So, unless the Giants’ get bored in the swirling winds, it should be a humdrum win.  New York Giants

Reynolds – I just don’t see how Houston can win at New York. This may be a trap game for the G-Men because they think and know they can beat the Texans, but they still have to show up and do it. New York is really playing with some confidence right now with big wins over Dallas and Tampa Bay in the last two weeks. I think they steamroll the troubled Texans. New York Giants

Flynn – While this could be a letdown-type of game for New York, I just can't make a strong caase for the Texans pulling off the upset over the Giants, especially with the Giants playing at home. Houston simply won't be able to stop Tiki Barber on the ground, which should lead to big point production for the Giants offense. New York Giants

New Orleans at Tampa Bay (Sunday 4:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – Okay, so there wasn’t enough karma to get a Tampa Bay win last week. Lord knows they had their chances. I have said all along the Saints are not as good as their record, and the beatdown they suffered at home from the Ravens is the beginnings of proof. The Saints have Reggie Bush dinged up, and the Bucs are the best 2-5 team in the NFL. The Bucs are a team that is hungering to pound an opponent. This is the week. Want some numbers? Well forget it. This game isn’t about numbers. The Bucs’ season is on the line and they are at home. They’ve seen Drew Brees and Co now, and the rush defense improved mightily against the Giants last week. If Cadillac can get the damned ball, this Saints defense can be run on. The Bucs crank it up to 3-5, and there is a pulse in the Bay Area.  Tampa Bay

Reynolds – I have picked against Tampa Bay the last three weeks and have been 1-2 in my picks. This week, I’m going to pick the Bucs because I think they have a little bit of mojo working at home right now. This team just finds a way to win at RJS. I think the Saints are a better team and their record shows it, but I just have a feeling the Bucs will win with a balanced offensive attack and a better day throwing the ball from Bruce Gradkowski. Hey Bruce, TDs, not field goals, babe. Tampa Bay

Flynn – The Buccaneers should have defeated the Saints a few weeks ago, and they better do it this time around as a 2-6 hole will simply be too deep to climb out of. Jon Gruden’s critics will get their wish as the Bucs will run Cadillac Williams 20-plus times en route to an important NFC South division win. Tampa Bay

Minnesota at San Francisco (Sunday 4:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – This contest has “trap game” written all over it. Both teams are coming off humiliating losses, and the five points being given to the 49ers at home seems generous. So, why will the Vikings win? Three reasons: The 49ers defense is unbelievably bad, giving up 34 points (34 POINTS!!!!!!!) per game. The offense cannot keep the ball and has league worsts in fumbles (12) and turnover differential (-9), and the Vikings got shredded by Tom Brady last week. I know Tom Brady. Tom Brady is a friend of mine. Alex Smith, you’re no Tom Brady.  Minnesota

Reynolds – A little political reference there from Hugh just days before the mid-term elections. How clever, Hugh. Now were you referencing Lloyd Bentson’s famous “Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy” to Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice-Presidential debate, or Ronald Reagan’s famous “Governor, you are no Thomas Jefferson” line to Bill Clinton in 1992? Everyone, be sure to vote on November 7 … unless you don’t believe in our government in which case you will be stuck with whoever everybody else votes for. I vote for the Vikings. Minnesota

Flynn – The 49ers got waxed by the Bears last Sunday, and I’m not sure a team can recover from that bad of a beating in one week. Then again, the Vikings lost 31-7 at home to the Patriots last Monday. The Vikings are much more talented and experience than the 49ers, especially at the quarterback position, and that will be the difference in a close one. Minnesota

Denver at Pittsburgh (Sunday 4:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – Usually 5-2 teams playing 2-5 teams are easy games to pick. Las Vegas agrees that this one isn’t, as the 2-5 Steelers are actually favored by 2.5 points. Is that a misprint? Perhaps it has something to do with another two words I’ll give you:  Jake Plummer. Jake Plummer is the lowest-rated QB in the entire NFL at 65. Oh, Denver can run the ball, as their 155 yards per contest will attest. But, the poor passing output has led to just 16 points per game scored, which is 27th in the league. The defense had been able to bail them out until they ran into the Perfect Peyton buzz-saw last week, but now they face a desperate and embarrassed Super Bowl Champion in their own backyard. Maybe Las Vegas knows something after all. Pittsburgh’s defense has been pretty good against the pass, and they are second in the league with 12 interceptions. Of course, the Steelers have thrown 11, so this has been a wash to date. If you look at all of the numbers, the Steelers are actually better than Denver statistically on both offense and defense. Their Achilles heel has been their minus-5 turnover differential, which lies squarely at the feet of poor pass protection by the offensive line and some bad decisions under the resulting duress from Big Ben. For all the hullabaloo about not allowing points, the Denver defense actually doesn’t rush the passer all that well (20th in sacks) and doesn’t intercept the ball that often (21st in INTs). That tells me sometimes those folks in Vegas are pretty smart. Pittsburgh

Reynolds – Denver can deliver a death knell to Pittsburgh with a gutsy road win. Pittsburgh can show its pride and get off life support with a gutsy home win. Which team has the most guts? It will all come down to quarterback play. Jake Plummer is bad. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t that bad, but he’s playing like Jake Plummer. I think there is a better chance that Roethlisberger plays great as opposed to Plummer. If he throws two picks or more, the Steelers lose, though. Pittsburgh

Flynn – The Steelers are 2-5 and falling apart. The Broncos are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Colts. Big Ben continues to make key mistakes with the football, and Denver’s defense continues to make teams pay for it. It will be tough, but the Broncos escape Pittsburgh with a much-needed win. Denver

Cleveland at San Diego (Sunday 4:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – Cleveland wins this game if … nah, forget it.  Cleveland won’t win this game. If you’re a Browns fan, there is no number in creation I can give you to provide hope. Looking at the stats, it’s actually hard to imagine that the Chargers have lost 2 games. Sometimes games with 5-2 teams vs 2-5 teams can be a challenge to pick. Not this time.  San Diego

Reynolds – After reading MacArthur’s blather, a champion (that’s me with a nine-game lead) will give you a pithy prognostication. San Diego

Flynn – The Browns need to savor last Sunday’s win over the Jets while they can because victory will be short-lived for Cleveland when it meets the Chargers, who are arguably one of the league’s best teams. Cleveland’s offense is no match for San Diego’s defense. The Chargers should have no problem downing the Browns at home. San Diego

Indianapolis at New England (Sunday 8:15 PM ET)

MacArthur – Before the season, my colleague and good friend Jim Flynn predicted the Patriots would go 9-7 and finish second to Miami in the division. I predicted 13 wins for the Patriots this season, and at 6-1 they seem on track. People understandably have Colt fever after the win in Denver, and heck the Colts pounded the Patriots last season, right? Well, they did, but they won’t win this Sunday night for 3 reasons: 1) The Colts don’t run the ball that well, and the Patriots do. 2) The Colts rank second in the league with 15 TDs through the air, but the Patriots have the fewest passing TDs allowed (4), so the Colts will need to run the ball a bit. 3) Some of New England’s defensive statistics are a bit pedestrian, but not the one that counts. They are only allowing 12 points a game. And, if you need a fourth reason, the game is in New England, at night. Another? Okay, Bill Belichick is 9-2 vs. the Colts with Manning at the helm. New England

Reynolds – Since when did the NFL schedule the AFC Championship Game in November? Oh, wait. There are nine more games to go. The chanting, nodding, bites of apple and the broken Ticonderoga tells me Adam Vinatieri will kick the game-winning field goal. But I’m going to go against my Indy pick and actually say New England. Why? Ego. I think Bill Belichick and the Pats will want to be the team to give the Colts their first loss of the year … and ensure that the rematch in January is on their turf (if that’s what you call it). New England

Flynn – The Colts looked good last week. The Patriots looked better. These teams are two of the AFC’s best, and this game will come down to defense and quarterback play. Peyton Manning might be the better quarterback, but New England’s defense is playing better than Indy’s. That defense, along with Brady’s arm, should be enough for the Patriots to down the Colts in a game that will definitely live up to the hype. New England

Oakland at Seattle (Monday 8:30 PM ET)

MacArthur – This is one game where you can throw out the statistics. The Raiders are the worst offensive team in the NFL by almost any measure. They are tied for last in turnover differential at minus-9. The pass defense has been pretty good, but teams have run all over them.  But, the Raiders have won two straight and this is a rivalry game.  More importantly, all of the good statistics that support Seahawk dominance mean little when Matt Hasselbeck morphs into Seneca Wallace and you’ve got a rookie toting the rock instead of Shaun Alexander.  Still, you could put George Wallace in at QB for the Seahawks and probably still beat the Raiders at home. Seattle

Reynolds – Ugh. Talk about bore the nation. ESPN got hosed on the Monday Night Football games this year. Newsflash: Sunday night is now the new Monday night. NBC’s games are way better. I’ll pick the home team. Seattle

Flynn – Don’t look now, but the Raiders have won two straight games. But three times will not be the charm for the Raiders as they march into enemy territory in Seattle to face a Seahawks team that, despite playing without its starting quarterback and running back, is still capable of downing a team as bad as the Raiders. Seattle

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