Halfway through the season, things are just getting started
We're coming up on the ninth week of the season, and the games are still as exciting as they were when the season started. This Sunday, we've got Baltimore looking for revenge, a perfect primetime match-up and exciting games at both Chicago and Indianapolis. Now more than ever, a retrospective on the first half of the season is in order. Let's take some time to remember the first eight weeks of 2009.
The first half of the season brought fans the heartbreaking demise of the Redskins. We also got to watch Brett Favre prove himself again and again against rivals, good teams and bad teams alike – until the Ravens dethroned him in Baltimore. We saw the reemergence of Vince Young and the triumphs of under-the-radar superstars like Miles Austin. Now, sub-par teams like the Panthers are barely hanging on at 3-4, and solid teams like the Ravens are struggling 4-3. Only two teams remain undefeated: the Saints and the Colts. While Petyon Manning and Drew Brees seem to be untouchable for now, everything is liable to change in the second half of the season. We just have to take it all in one week at a time.
Sunday, Nov. 8
Baltimore Ravens (4-3-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-0)
Rose - Baltimore
Dennis - Baltimore
Ava - Baltimore
After wallowing in a three-game losing streak, the Ravens are back in the game with renewed enthusiasm from their impressive victory over the previously undefeated Bronco last week. The Bengals, coming off a bye week, will also approach Sunday's game with fresh energy. In the teams's last encounter, Cincinnati's Andre Caldwell snagged a last-minute touchdown which solidified the team's 17-14 victory over Baltimore. The outcome of this game will bank on the Ravens' desire for revenge, so the Bengals will probably no secure their AFC North top spot on Sunday. But wouldn't it be great if Cedric Benson could top his own 100 rushing yards record against Baltimore?
This game is a rematch of two fierce AFC North rivals. Cincinnati won by an extremely close margin in the final seconds of their last meeting, but watch for Baltimore's defense to come up big this week. Ravens with the win.
Well this should be an interesting game! The Bengals already had an emotional win over the Ravens in Baltimore, and Joe Flacco and Co. are seeking revenge. The Bengals are a good team, but the Ravens have a stifling defense, as shown by their absolute dominance over Kyle Orton last week beginning with the first play of the game. The Ravens also have much more to lose (read: a good place in their division) so they've got more motivation. Baltimore will bring home the bacon this week.
Miami Dolphins (3-4-0) at New England Patriots (5-2-0)
Rose - New England
Dennis - Miami
Ava - New England
While the Dolphins are attempting to reconstruct their fragmented season, the Patriots are planning to further prove their dominance by continuing the two-game victory streak they managed before their bye week. While Miami tries for a consecutive season win, New England's goals are higher - to try for the top of their division for the sixth time in a decade. All signs point to a Patriots win.
Miami's Wildcat offense is capable of picking apart opponent defenses. Now they need their defense to show that same kind of capability, with DE Jason Taylor once again looking like a Pro-Bowler. Also, they're 3-0 in their AFC East division so far. If they can manipulate the New England secondary, look for a Dolphins upset.
The game is in Foxborough, and the Patriots are coming off a bye week. Though Miami just beat the Jets, there was not much weight in the win; the Jets were on their heels a bit last week. Nothing is routine in the NFL, but for a team as good as the Patriots this is about as formulaic as it gets.
Kansas City Chiefs (1-6-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4-0)
Rose - Jacksonville
Dennis - Jacksonville
Ava - Jacksonville
As one of the worst offensive teams in the NFL this season, Kansas ranks 30th with 251.6 yards per game. Now that Chiefs free safety Jarrad Page will end his season due to injury, the team will lose their three-year starter. Although the Jaguars are recovering from the pitiful run defense they showcased last week, they will still manage to win against the 1-6 Chiefs.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew for Jacksonville is as explosive as NFL running backs get. If the defense can keep up, expect the Jaguars to pounce on a lifeless Kansas City offense. Jags take the cake.
Another enthralling match-up of two bum teams. Maurice Jones Drew has put up huge numbers in his three games against some of the worst in the NFL (at least two touchdowns and 119 rushing yards each time), so I think he will be able to lead his team to victory, especially at home. The odds just seem to be stacked in Jacksonville's favor.
Houston Texans (5-3-0) at Indianapolis Colts (7-0-0)
Rose - Indianapolis
Dennis - Indianapolis
Ava - Indianapolis
With new talent Ryan Moats filling in on the field for Steve Slaton and his many fumbles, the Texans look to be in a pretty solid position. Last week, Moats ran for 126 yards while Slaton watched from the bench. But these improvements won't be able to match the team that ranks first in the league for pass yards and defensive points. The Colts will continue their flawless AFC domination.
Though Houston is off to its best start in history, QB Peyton Manning and his consistent Hall of Fame-worthy play is unstoppable. Still, WR Andre Johnson and his team of Texans may very well put up a fight this week. Colts win it.
Of course I'll choose the Colts, but it'll be interesting to see if Matt Schaub, who has been putting up astronomical numbers lately, can compete with Peyton. If he can, it'll be a duel of quarterbacks all day. Both will use their great receivers effectively, and we're sure to see some quality football in this exciting division match-up.
Arizona Cardinals (4-3-0) at Chicago Bears (4-3-0)
Rose - Arizona
Dennis - Arizona
The last time these two teams encountered one another in 2006, Arizona boosted Chicago up the Super Bowl ladder by receiving a stunning loss. This season, neither team looks ready to take the path to a Super Bowl victory; the Cardinals have been inconsistent and unable to conquer division rival San Francisco, while the Bears looked sloppy last week when Jay Cutler failed to throw a touchdown for the first time in seven games and was intercepted for the sixth time in three games. But with a one-game lead in the NFC West, the Cardinals will take it, if only by a slim margin.
Chicago is coming off a blowout over Cleveland last week. With the improving performance of WR Devin Hester and rookie WR Johnny Knox, the Bears are poised to show up offensively against Arizona. But the Cards are 3-0 on the road this season, and will continue this streak on Sunday.
Amazingly, Kurt Warner threw five picks last week! I couldn't believe it; usually they swap quarterbacks or end the game before that happens. Nonetheless, in the NFL you're always going to lose when you throw five picks (well, unless the Cardinals had played the Redskins), so we shouldn't count that game as part of a bad streak. Chicago is 3-0 at home, but I'm still inclined to pick the Cardinals. Arizona's defense could possibly stop the Bears's offense, which has been sputtering a bit lately.
Washington Redskins (2-5-0) at Atlanta Falcons (4-3-0)
Rose - Atlanta
Dennis - Atlanta
Looks like our home team is looking at yet another loss to add to their already unimpressive record. After losing two consecutive games, the Falcons look to use the Redskins to improve their recent downward spiral. Washington's only hope is in their defense, as Atlanta faltered slightly in this respect since Matt Ryan committed three turnovers last game. But Ryan will still use Washington's holistic weakness to booster the Falcons's reputation. Atlanta will snag the victory.
Statistically, Atlanta beats Washington in just about every offensive category. QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner will be the key players this week in tearing up an often abused Washington defense. A 2-5 record should be motivation for the Skins, but they won't able to the contain the Falcons's explosion.
It's got to be Atlanta. Matt Ryan threw three picks last week, but Atlanta is still fine at 4-3. The bottom line is that the Redskins aren't even going to beat a decent team at this point, even if they are coming off a bye week.
Green Bay Packers (4-3-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7-0)
Rose - Green Bay
Dennis - Green Bay
Ava - Green Bay
Green Bay is looking at an easy job this Sunday: to master the only winless team in the NFL at this point in the season. This will be the perfect boost the Packers need to make a comeback after their second loss against the Vikings. Despite the team's need for improvement in pass protection, their offense won't have any trouble conquering Tampa Bay.
In the ninth week, Tampa Bay is the only remaining winless team and they're getting really desperate. After going through two starting quarterbacks already this season, the Buccaneers need Josh Freeman to emerge as an offensive leader. After an emotional loss against the Vikings last week, the Packers should be fueled to destroy the Bucs.
The Bucs are still winless, so this victory should be easy for Green Bay. That's lucky for the Packers because they need all of the insurance-wins they can get, especially with the Vikings playing so well.
Carolina Panthers (3-4-0) at New Orleans Saints (7-0-0)
Rose - New Orleans
Dennis - New Orleans
Ava - New Orleans
With their best record in team history, undefeated New Orleans has a lot to brag about. Not to mention the fact that Drew Bees is still leading the NFL's best offense, which averages 39 points per game. But will the Saints's strong running game be enough to conquer a team who has defeated them at home seven years in a row? Not quite. The game will be intense, but New Orleans ranks within the top five for yards, points and rush yards. The statistics are against the Panthers.
New Orleans is looking even better than they did a few years ago, during head coach Sean Payton's first year coaching. Their pass attack is dominant and, with the recent surge of RB Pierre Thomas, their running game is nothing short of complimentary. On the other hand, Carolina is a team riddled by the inability of key players like WR Steve Smith to perform at an elite level. Saints march through the Panthers.
Similar to the New England game, this match-up will be business-like for the Saints. New Orleans is undefeated against mediocre teams, and this week will be no different.
Detroit Lions (1-6-0) at Seattle Seahawks (2-5-0)
Rose - Seattle
Dennis - Seattle
Ava - Seattle
In order to avoid their third consecutive loss, the Seahawks will need to conquer the weak lions, a feat that shouldn't cause the team too much stress. Despite Seattle's recent struggles and knowledge that their door to the playoffs is closing rapidly, they are not quite as unprepared as the Lions. Recently, Detroit coach Jim Mora was forced to release two players. The Seahawks will soar to a needed win.
In this game, a lot is riding on Seattle QB Seneca Wallace's ability to replace starter Matt Hasselbeck as the offensive anchor. In addition, the running backs are on the hot seat as Julius Jones hold the team record for rushing touchdowns with only one. Detroit should be focused on breaking their road-game loss streak. The Lions need QB Matthew Stafford to show Seattle's LB Aaron Curry why he deserved to be picked first in the draft. Seahawks fly over the Lions.
Two teams that are 1–6 and 2-5 make for a bad game indeed. I'll take the Seahawks since they're at home.
Tennessee Titans (1-6-0) at San Francisco 49ers (3-4-0)
Rose - Tennessee
Dennis - San Francisco
Ava - Tennessee
Recently, the 49ers have been tossed around. They could be looking at a fourth consecutive loss this Sunday if Tennessee's Vince Young keeps up his record-breaking tendencies. After completing 15 of 18 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, Johnson is now the best in the NFL for 824 rushing yards and five runs of over 40 yards. Looks like an unexpected turnaround has come for the Titans - they'll add another win to their record.
Which running back will emerge this game: San Fransisco star Frank Gore or Tennessee play-maker Chris Johnson? The result will likely have a lot to do with the winner of the game. In addition, Titans's QB Vince Young seems to have been resurrected; since the beginning of last season, he has performed at a high level in his first start over Kerry Collins. Still, the 49ers mine their way to victory.
Vince Young will make this an interesting game. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Tennessee will win this one – Young will be riding the momentum he built up last week. On top of that, the 49ers have one of the worst pass defenses in the league, and Young is trying to show off that arm he's worked so hard on. Young won't torch San Francisco, but he will lead his team to victory.
San Diego Chargers (4-3-0) at New York Giants (5-3-0)
Rose - San Diego
Dennis - San Diego
Ava - San Diego
If the Chargers come out on top, it will be their first victory over a winning team. If the Giants prevail, they will end a three-game losing streak. Both teams need the win, but in order for the latter to become a reality, QB Eli Manning and LB Antonio Pierce must take initiative and lead their team to a decisive victory. With the team's current downward spiral, that just may not be possible.
Neither San Diego nor New York has been performing very well in the last couple of weeks - both are badly in need of a win. The Giants are on a three-game losing streak and their once-dominant defense is nowhere to be found. The Chargers have done just enough to muster up four wins. If QB Phillip Rivers can take advantage of a lackluster secondary, expect a Chargers win.
If anyone needs a bye week, it's Eli. The Giants are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Eagles, and Mr. Manning hasn't been doing so hot lately. Yes, the Giants are usually a powerhouse franchise, but don't let the records fool you; the Chargers are going to capitalize on Eli's bad playing.
Dallas Cowboys (5-2-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-2-0)
Rose - Philadelphia
Dennis - Philadelphia
Ava - Philadelphia
For the past three Dallas games, Tono Romo's performance seems to have determined the victory. He didn't throw any interceptions for the last three consecutive games, all of which the Cowboys dominated. Now, tied with the Eagles for the division top spot, Dallas will face worthy competition. With Brian Westbrook back, the Eagles are in better shape to put up a good fight. Regardless, this game will keep spectators on the edge of their seats. Look for an ultimate win by the Eagles.
This NFC East rivalry game has the potential to be the game of the week. Both teams have been looking impressive, with Dallas WR Miles Austin's surprising success and Philadelphia's knack for making big offensive plays. The key to this game may be just how well the teams can run the ball, seeing as both have formidable pass attacks. The Eagles pull off a close one.
Another great Sunday night game. I would even say that this is the biggest game of the NFC East so far this season. The Cowboys will make the long trip to Philly after a bye week and look to rock the Eagles, but Philadelphia will have confidence from their recent victory over a tough division foe. I'm going to say what I've said all along: if Romo gets a couple of points on the board and avoids turnovers and picks, the Cowboys will win handily. Romo has been playing well lately, but I just can't see him keeping the errors down against the Eagles's defense.
Monday, Nov. 9
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2-0) at Denver Broncos (6-1-0)
Rose - Denver
Dennis - Denver
Ava - Denver
Despite their relatively weak start, the Steelers have shown significant improvement; they're coming from a series of wins while Denver is coming from their first loss. Up against the Broncos, Pittsburgh will have to implement a strong defense when encountering Denver's poor rushing offensive line. Although the Steelers rank number one in the NFL for 76.6 yards of run defense each game, they haven't emerged from a Denver home game victorious in almost two decades. Broncos steal the win.
Though picking Denver after their loss against Baltimore might seem like a huge upset, the Broncos are still a power in the AFC. If they can learn from the mistakes they made against the Ravens, the Steelers may not be able to break through Denver's impenetrable defensive line. Broncos for the upset.
The records suffice as an explanation for my pick this week. The Steelers are 1-2 away, while Denver is sitting pretty with 3-0 at home. Need I say more? On top of that, I imagine the Broncos are pretty mad about messing up an undefeated record, but they'll use that energy to get fired up and prove that they're still the real deal.
Dennis Chae. Whhaazzaaa, I'm Dennis Chae. I love my Baltimore Ravens and shoes. In fact, I collect sneakers and am always looking for a new pair of Nikes. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is probably going to be the greatest thing ever in a year or so. I ... More »
Ava Wallace. More »
Rose Wynn. I love piña coladas, getting caught in the rain and the ladies of the Blair Pom Squad. More »