This week in: American Football – Week 8

Tebow- an adequate QB for at least 10% of one game

Last week in the NFL, Denver Quarterback, Tim Tebow, lead his team to an improbable comeback – having been 15-0 down with less than three minutes of the game remaining, the Broncos recovered to win 18-15 in Overtime.  Tebow’s performance in the final few drives of the game went someway to disguising just how bad he had been for the first 54 minutes – in that time he completed just 4 of his 14 pass attempts for a total of 40 yards.

Elsewhere, Chiefs QB, Matt Cassell, had a very unimpressive day in Denver – his completion rate was just 50% (15/30), he threw for only 161 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions.  Nevertheless, his side easily won 28-0 thanks to Raiders QBs Boller and Palmer combining to throw six picks, two of which were returned for touchdowns by the Kansas City defense. Peyton Manning remained on the sidelined for the Colts after neck surgery – an area of his body that would not have got much exercise during Sunday night’s game with the Saints – it was one way traffic as New Orleans spent most of the game driving towards the Colts endzone and ended up winning 62-7.

With Indianapolis struggling, the Titans and the Texans met in Tennessee with first place in the AFC South up for grabs.  The contest ended up being another one-sided matchup, as Houston thrashed the Titans 41-7.  In the fifth NFL game to be played in London, the Bears beat the Buccaneers in front of more than 76,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.  The Packers stayed perfect with a win in Minnesota, moving them to 7-0; the Panthers beat the injury-riddled Redskins; the Jets won at home against the Chargers; and the Jaguars defeated the Ravens on Monday night, despite running back Maurice “What Would” Jones-Drew fumbling the ball four times.  In the race for projected number one draft pick Andrew Luck, the Rams lost to the Cowboys and thus kept pace with the Colts and the Dolphins having lost all of their games thus far this season.  The Browns and the Seahawks played out a dull 6-3 game in Cleveland – the home team winning by two field goals to one – and people say that there isn’t enough scoring in “soccer”.

Predictions

Last week 7-6; Season 55-48

Home teams in bold

Colts +9.5 over Titans – Hard to take Indianapolis after they were crushed by the Saints last week – but the Titans were almost as bad and QB Matt Hasselbeck threw three interceptions in their loss to the Texans – taking the points.

Saints -10.5 over Rams – St. Louis, many people’s pre-season tips for the NFC West, have proven to be a terrible team and the Saints will be looking to continue their high-octane offense from last week.  I’m not sure how high they would have had to make this line for me to take the Rams – maybe -20.5.

Giants -9.5 over Dolphins – Last time I took the Giants in a home game they were heavily fancied in (Week 5 over the Seahawks), they ended up not only failing to cover, but actually lost the game.  However, I still cannot take Miami – who gave up that late lead to the Broncos last time around.

Panthers -3.5 over Vikings – Cam Newton led his Carolina team to victory against the Redskins last week, and I can see him making it two in a row this time against Minnesota.  Despite a spirited comeback that fell just short against the Packers last week, Vikings QB Christian Ponder – who has replaced the benched Donovan McNabb – threw two interceptions and needs to prove he can compete before his team is 16 points down.

Ravens -12.5 over Cardinals – Although Baltimore lost the Monday Night game in Jacksonville, they have been very strong at home this year (3-0, aggregate score of 98-38) and can expect to beat an Arizona team who have lost their last five games.

Texans -9.5 over Jaguars – After that impressive win over Baltimore, I should really be taking the Jaguars to at least cover this spread.  But they have been the worst team in passing yards gained thus far this season – QB Blaine Gabbert has thrown for just 810 yards this season and four touchdowns, compared with Houston’s Matt Schaub who has gained 1893 passing yards and 12 TDs.  Jacksonville also has a short week to prepare for the game after playing on Monday and are 0-3 in road games this year.

Bills -5.5 over Redskins – Before this season, bye weeks for teams usually resulted in a strong performance the following week as they had two games to prepare.  This year, teams coming back from a week off are just 3-9 – this could be in part to rules under the new labour agreement which prevent franchises from contacting their players for four straight days during this period, resulting in less preparation time than was previously available.  Alternatively, it could reflect the standard of the teams who have thus far had bye weeks – the 9 losses were for the Browns, Cowboys, Rams, Dolphins, Redskins, Titans, Cardinals, Chargers and Seahawks – combined record: 19-35.  Either way, the Bills should not have too many problems as they come back from a two week break to play the Redskins, who have benched their starting Quarterback, Rex Grossman, and have lost Tim Hightower and Santana Moss to injuries. Even though this game is being played in Toronto, not Buffalo, I think the Bills should win comfortably.

Lions -3.5 over Broncos – The Lions have lost two straight games, after winning their first five; the Broncos are on a high from their fourth quarter comeback last weekend – but Tebow was very bad for the first 54 minutes in that game and Detroit’s defensive line will cause him many more problems than the Dolphins did.

Bengals – 2.5 over Seahawks – Tough call, as neither team has been particularly impressive so far, but decided that I trust Cincinatti’s defense (111 points conceded in 6 games), more than Seattle’s offense (97 points scored in 6 games).

49ers -9.5 over Browns – Somehow, Cleveland is 3-3 going in to week 8.  They do have the number one pass defense in the NFL this year, but the main reason they do not have a losing record is a weak schedule.  Their wins have been against the Seahawks, Colts and Dolphins – who have a combined record of 2-18.  The 49ers have been the surprise team of the season – if they had not lost a late lead to the Cowboys, they would be 6-0 – and should take care of business at home against the Browns.

Patriots -2.5 over Steelers – With Tom Brady as their Quarterback, New England is 6-1 against Pittsburgh and have the top rated offense in the NFL again this season.  The Steelers have recovered from their week 1 mauling by the Ravens, and are now 5-2, but their five wins have been against Seattle (2-5), Tennessee (3-3), Indianapolis (0-7), Jacksonville (2-5) and Arizona (1-5) – their other loss coming against Houston (4-3).  I think Pittsburgh might be a secretly mediocre “good” team, and believe the Patriots will prove that this weekend.

Cowboys +3.5 over Eagles – Philadelphia is in desperate need of an impressive win, as they try to live up to all the pre-season hype surrounding them – but the Cowboys have been playing well this year and, if they had held on to big leads against they had against the Jets and the Lions, would be 5-1 and top of the NFC East.  As it is, they are 3-3, but I think they will keep the Eagles winless at home so far this season.

Chiefs +3.5 over Chargers – After two weeks, it looked as though Kansas City were among the worst teams in the NFL, having lost 41-7 to Buffalo and 48-3 to the Lions in their first couple of games.  Following that, the Chiefs played the Chargers close in San Diego – losing 20-17 – and then won their next three against the Vikings, Colts and Raiders.  A win this weekend would give them a share of the AFC West lead with the Chargers – who themselves have not played particularly well this season and lost last week against the Jets.  This promises to be a close game, with the home field advantage potentially the key to a Kansas City win.

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