One of the staff members managed to pick 12 of the 13 games correctly last week. We have yet to have a perfect week by any one thus far in the season. Here are last week’s results along with season totals.
Matt Shetler – 12-1 (96-51-1)
Zac Weiss – 11-2 (96-51-1)
Matt Gajtka – 9-4 (94-53-1)
Jason Harding – 9-4 (86-61-1)
Here are this week’s picks.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
The Steelers need to get moving in the right direction after the 13-10 loss at home to Baltimore last week. In the loss back-up QB Byron Leftwich injured his ribs and will not play this week. Charlie Batch will get the start in relief duty. Plaxico Burress was signed by Pittsburgh due to injuries to Antonio Brown and Jerrico Cotchery. Brandon Weeden will get his first look at the NFL rivalry game between those two AFC North foes. Weeden has done a nice job of limiting his interceptions as the season has progressed, but expect Pittsburgh to mix packages and schemes to confuse the rookie.
Steelers: Gajtka, Weiss, Harding, Shetler
Minnesota at Chicago
The Vikings have made up big ground the last two weeks in the NFC North and this week will be a pivotal one for playoff hopes. The Bears have lost two in a row after opening up the season 7-1. The loss on Monday for Chicago came with back-up quarterback Jason Campbell under center. Lovie Smith said he is hopeful that Jay Cutler is cleared after suffering a concussion against Houston two weeks ago. The Vikings have continued to lean on Adrian Peterson and a serviceable passing game from Christian Ponder.
Vikings: Shetler, Weiss, Harding
Oakland at Cincinnati
Carson Palmer returns to Paul Brown Stadium for the first time not in a Bengals jersey. The homecoming probably would have been sweeter if the Raiders weren’t 3-7. Palmer has put together a solid season, but his 11 INTs are his most noted stat. The Raiders secondary will be the unit that is put to the test this week. AJ Green has a TD catch in his last nine games. Dalton’s ability to spread the ball around to Hawkins and Sanu will only help open Green up more frequently.
Bengals: Gajtka, Weiss, Harding, Shetler
Buffalo at Indianapolis
Just one year after the Colts have the worst record in the NFL and draft Andrew Luck they are now in position to possibly make the playoffs. The Colts run game has been lackluster so far without Donald Brown, but the Bills enter the game with the league’s worst run defense. Fred Jackson will return for the Bills, but CJ Spiller will still get the start. The Bills may be 4-6, but a win here could really make a push for a wildcard spot. The season has been crazy and 8-8 could get in.
Colts: Gajtka, Weiss, Harding
Denver at Kansas City
Denver’s offense will be without Willis McGahee this week. Ronnie Hillman, Lance Ball and Knowshon Moreno will be the backfield by committee this week. The Bronco’s may not need much based on how well their defense has been performing. To top that off they are playing the Chiefs, who have one of the worst offenses in the league. Brady Quinn is expected to get the start for Kansas City.
Broncos: Gajtka, Weiss, Harding, Shetler
Seattle at Miami
Another match-up has two rookie quarterbacks pitted against each other. Its no secret that the Seahawks rely on the run game, but the Dolphins run defense is ranked ninth in the league. Russell Wilson will have to utilize his play action on early downs to take shots down the field. Offensively for the Dolphins the questions are how well Ryan Tannehill will react to Seattle’s speed on defense. Miami has just one offensive touchdown in the last 10 quarters played. Note that the Seahawks will travel the furthest distance of any NFL team this season for this week.
Seahawks: Weiss, Harding, Shetler
Atlanta at Tampa Bay
These two teams do match-up well. Atlanta has a weak run defense, which is where the Bucs have managed to punish teams with rookie Doug Martin. Biggest concern of the game is that Tampa Bay has the worst pass defense in the league. Matt Ryan continues to find ways to distribute the ball to Roddy White and Julio Jones. The Falcons passing offense is ranked 4th in the NFL going into Sunday. With Tampa Bay at 6-4 they could certainly use the win for a playoff push.
Falcons: Gajtka, Weiss, Harding, Shetler
Tennessee at Jacksonville
Blaine Gabbert was placed on the IR list this and Chad Henne will get the start at QB. Henne made an instant impact especially with Justin Blackmon. Blackmon had a career day with 7 receptions for 236 yards and 1 TD. Henne will need a pretty big spark to help Jacksonville salvage anything of this season. At 1-9 they are tied for the worst record in the league. Tennessee on the other hand looks like they are finally coming together, but the question remains if it is too late.
Titans: Gajtka, Weiss, Harding, Shetler
Baltimore at San Diego
The Ravens held on for a big win on the road at Pittsburgh last week. Traveling to San Diego will be a tough challenge for them before they play Pittsburgh again next week. An important swing in games will be sure to have John Harbaugh fired up. He needs consistent play from Joe Flacco and big plays from Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed. The Chargers need a win to keep playoff hopes alive with a 4-6 record going into Sunday. San Diego will need to keep Philip Rivers upright with their make-shift offensive line.
Chargers: Gajtka, Harding
Ravens: Shetler, Weiss
San Francisco at New Orleans
Jim Harbaugh was left with a tough decision after Colin Kaepernick shredded the Bears defense for 16 for 23 for 243 yards and 2 TDs. Kaepernick is expected to get the start, but don’t be surprised if Alex Smith gets worked in at some point. The way San Fran’s defense has played lately either quarterback just needs to be serviceable. The Saints managed to claw back to a 5-5 record after starting out 0-4. Drew Brees continues to put up solid numbers with over 3,000 yards and 28 TDs.
Saints: Gajtka, Weiss, Shetler
St. Louis at Arizona
The Cardinals are trying to snap a six game losing streak and they’ll do it with Ryan Lindley under center. The Rams have also been winless in their last 5 games. Neither team has a successful run game and matching underachieving defenses. Not that it will happen immediately, but Ken Wisenhunt may be on the hot seat by the end of the season if he doesn’t start turning up some wins.
Rams: Weiss, Harding
Cardinals: Gajtka, Shetler
Green Bay at New York Giants
No question this game is important for both teams respective divisional playoff race. Aaron Rodgers continues to put up impressive numbers with 67% completion rate, 27 TDs and just 6 INTs. The Packers just have to worry about keeping him on his feet at this point. Eli Manning on the other hand hasn’t thrown a TD pass in his last 3 games. The Giants coming off the bye week will need a win and more importantly a solid performance by their defense. New York continues to get hammered in the secondary despite one of the league’s top pass rushes.
Packers: Gajtka, Shetler, Weiss
Carolina at Philadelphia
Both teams will rely on their running game and defense to put them in a position to win the game. It doesn’t matter which side you look at they have similar problems, the ability to move the ball, but not turn that into points. Nothing more frustrating for a coach than getting to the redzone and shooting yourself in the foot, something both teams have a real problem with. Philly fans have been calling for Andy Reid’s job for a few weeks now and you have to think this is a make or break game for his career.
Eagles: Weiss, Gajtka, Harding