JC’s Top Rope Report: NFL Week 8 Picks

A really bad week last week. Lets hope this week’s picks makes up for that.

Last Week’s Record: 6-7
Year to Date Record: 64-39

Arizona Cardinals vs Baltimore Ravens
I really thought the Arizona Cardinals were going to be better than this. They’re lucky the Rams are in their division, otherwise they would be the laughing-stock of the NFC West. Kevin Kolb has thoroughly disappointed in his first year in Arizona. And Larry Fitzgerald isn’t making the plays after signing his long-term contract. Oh, and the defense is getting torn to shreds. They can’t stop any passing attack they’ve faced so far. And the Cardinals are facing a pissed off Ravens team this week. The Ravens were embarrassed on Monday night football in Jacksonville. Joe Flacco looked like a JV High School Quarterback out there. The team passed more instead of relying on Ray Rice. Ray Lewis questioned that after the game. If there was ever a time for Flacco to right the ship, this game would be it. If Flacco can’t play well against Arizona, then he may not be the answer for the Ravens after all. But I might expect the Ravens to lean more on Rice this week than ever before, especially if the team is openly criticizing the use of Ray Rice. Ravens win this won.

Baltimore 31  Arizona 16

Minnesota Vikings vs Carolina Panthers
It’s the Battle of Two Rookie QBs from the Class of 2011. Ponder vs Newton. Christian Ponder looked rather impressive in his debut last week against Green Bay. Now Ponder takes his act to the road. Expect Ponder to actually throw against Carolina. He built his confidence up last week against Green Bay, no reason to think that he won’t throw against Carolina. It helps when you have Adrian Peterson on the team as well. The Vikings defense will have to focus on containing Cam Newton, otherwise he will run wild on them like he did against Washington last week. Greg Jennings burned the Vikings defense last week, and they have to be fearful that Steve Smith might do the same this week. This is a wide open game, and I expect a few points to be scored by each team. But I’m taking the Vikings here. They played better under Ponder and almost beat Green Bay, no reason they can’t beat Carolina.

Minnesota 33  Carolina 28

Jacksonville Jaguars vs Houston Texans
As ugly as it was, Blaine Gabbert got his first win against Baltimore in prime time. Gabbert didn’t do a lot, but he did enough to get his team in field goal range for their only points. Maurice Jones-Drew also did his part, carrying the ball 30 times. Jacksonville’s defense deserves just as much credit too. They pressured Joe Flacco, forced him into bad throws, and shut down Ray Rice. Now, they can’t win every game like that. But it was nice for Gabbert to get that first win under his belt. The Texans took a completely different approach to winning last week. They absolutely thumped the Titans last week in Tennessee 41-7. And they did that without Andre Johnson, and he may return this week. The Texans are the clear favorites now in the AFC South, and if they play like they did last week, no one in the division will compete with them. If the Jags win here, they actually aren’t out of the AFC South race. But they won’t win. Houston builds off of last week.

Houston 28  Jacksonville 13

Miami Dolphins vs New York Giants
The Dolphins are terrible. The QB they signed two weeks ago, Sage Rosenfels, has already been put on Injured Reserve. They signed J.P. Losman this week. That’s never a good sign. The team is in shambles. They blew a 15 point lead last week against Denver in the final 3 minutes of the game. There have already been rumblings of John Gruden or Bill Cowher coming to Miami next year. The Giants, meanwhile, are coming off a bye week rested and healthy. Eli Manning played well against the Bills two weeks ago, and Ahmad Bardshaw had his best game of the season. There’s no reason to think the Giants won’t role here. Of course they did lose to Seattle at home, but Miami is much worse than Seattle.

NY Giants 27  Miami 10

New Orleans Saints vs St. Louis Rams
The Saints scored 62 points last week against Indianapolis. The Rams also have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. This one could be another huge blowout. The Rams probably won’t have Sam Bradford again either. Steven Jackson scores the only two TDs for the Rams, because he’s on my fantasy team. But the Saints score way more. No need for further analysis.

New Orleans 45  St. Louis 14

Indianapolis Colts vs Tennessee Titans
Both of these teams are coming off of humiliating losses. The Titans were terrible at home against Houston. Matt Hasselbeck looked terrible, and Chris Johnson has yet to come to form after missing all of training camp. Johnson says it isn’t his fault, but when you miss as much time as he did, it will show. And it is showing. The Colts, meanwhile, are finding out that life without Peyton Manning isn’t all that great. Last week’s 62-7 loss was hopefully the peak of their embarrassment. The Colts weren’t playing that bad before last week. They can’t let it affect them too much. The Colts are in the Andrew Luck race, but the Titans may be thinking of trotting out Jake Locker if the team continues to struggle. This could be an ugly game, but I think the Titans win here. If Chris Johnson can’t get going here, then he may never get it going this year.

Tennessee 24  Indianapolis 20

Detroit Lions vs Denver Broncos
Tim Tebow’s first start had a very up and down feel to it. He was sacked six times and had less than 50 yards passing in the first half. But he found a resurgence in the second half, primarily the last 3 minutes, and lead the Broncos to an 18-15 over time victory. Tebow still has a lot to do before he becomes a competent NFL QB. He had a lot of inaccurate throws and relied too much on his legs. And he lost Willis McGahee for a couple of weeks with a broken hand. Tebow should be motivated in his first home start of the season. The Lions are facing their own problems. They’ve lost two in a road, and are going to a tough place to play in Denver. And they may be without their starting QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford has an ankle sprain and is a game-time decision. Knowing Stafford and his toughness, my money is that he ends up playing. Even if he doesn’t play, Shaun Hill is a good enough back-up that there won’t be too much of a drop-off. Expect the Lions defense to be blitz heavy and get in the face of Tebow. Maybe Ndamukong Suh can trash talk Tebow after one of them. I expect this one to be close considering the Broncos new found spring in their step thanks to Tebow. But the Lions win a tight one.

Detroit 23  Denver 21

Washington Redskins vs Buffalo Bills
And now the Redskins are coming back down to reality. Jon Beck is playing as bad as Rex Grossman did. And now, they lost RB Tim Hightower and TE Chris Cooley for the year, and WR Santana Moss is out 5-7 weeks. That’s just a bad combination all around for the Redskins. The Redskins defense is good, but not good enough to win games on their own. Beck played ok last week against Carolina, but he didn’t play well enough to win them the game. The Bills are coming off a bye week. They got slightly healthy, but lost LB Shawne Merrieman for the year and NT Kyle Williams is still out a few weeks. The defense isn’t built to be a shut down unit, but they shouldn’t have problems containing the Redskins here. Starting LT Demetrius Bell is out this Sunday, as is his back-up Chirs Hairston. LG Andy Levitre will move to LT, which could cause some problems. But Ryan Fitzpatrick is the least sacked QB in the league, and he has Fred Jackson to lean on. If Jackson keeps up his star play, he could gain some attention in the MVP race. This game is in Toronto. I could go on a rant about this series as a Bills fan, but I won’t. The Bills win here. But it is close, as the Bills know they have a huge showdown with the Jets next week.

Buffalo 30  Washington 24

Cincinnati Bengals vs Seattle Seahawks
I don’t know what you would call Seattle’s performance last week. Pathetic may be too nice of a word for it. Charlie Whitehurst looked terrible, as did the entire offense. Seattle is a different team at home though. The home crowd usually motivates them enough to play better. But the crowd can’t improve the play of Tavaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst. Fans are probably actually hoping it is Jackson, which is the first time they’ve hopes that since Jackson was acquired. The Bengals are 4-2 coming off of their bye and now take on the tougher portion of their schedule, with the first stop being this West Coast trip. The Andy Dalton/A.J. Green combo has been a pleasant surprise but it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up. After this week, the Bengals go to Tennessee then face Pittsburgh and Baltimore back to back. The Bengals will also be without Rey Maualuga for this game. I expect a close game here, but the Bengals are the better team and should win here, even in Seattle.

Cincinnati 17  Seattle 16

Cleveland Browns vs San Francisco 49ers
The Browns are lucky Seattle played a lot worse than them last week. For a team that was suppose to improve on offense, it sure looks like they have taken a step back. The Browns will probably be without RB Peyton Hillis again on offense, although he really isn’t the problem. The problem is Colt McCoy and his apparent regression this season. The defense is playing better, but the offense is just bad. They’ve only broken the 20 point barrier once this year. The 49ers, meanwhile, have gone under a huge resurgence under new coach Jim Harbaugh. He has Alex Smith playing well, and Frank Gore is playing much better than last year. The defense has also stepped up and played better. No reason to see the 49ers struggling here. They should take care of the Browns.

San Francisco 26  Cleveland 17

New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers
These are traditionally two of the best teams in the AFC, but whenever they met up, it is always Tom Brady and the Patriots that come out on top. The Steelers offense though is playing better than they have in recent years. Ben Roethlisberger loves finding Mike Wallace deep, and he should be able to find him plenty against the Patriots 32nd ranked pass defense. The Steelers pass defense has traditionally been abused by Tom Brady on a regular basis. Brady always finds ways to find an open WR. Last season, it was Te Rob Gronkowski who torched the Steelers. I think both QBs should be able to find open WRs, so I think it could come down to who has the better running game in this one and can control the clock. If the Steelers can pound the ball away on the ground while finding openings in the passing game, there is no reason to think they can’t win. I know Tom Brady and Co. usually own the Pats, but I think the Steelers finally win one here. They’ve looked much better after I doubted them a few weeks ago.

Pittsburgh 38  New England 34

Dallas Cowboys vs Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles looked good heading into their bye week against Washington. They finally looked like the Dream Team everyone pegged them to be. Now they had the bye week to work out all of the kinks that they still had to workout. Now they have a prime time home game against one of their biggest rivals. The Cowboys took care of business last week against St. Louis, and a new star might have been born in RB DeMarco Murray. Murray ran for 293 yards last week against St. Louis. The Eagles run defense is nothing to write home about. Murray may not run for 293 yards, but he should top a 100. This game rests a lot on the shoulders of Tony Romo. Can Romo find Miles Austin and Dez Bryant against the Eagles “Holy Trinity” at cornerback. Romo has struggled in the spotlight before, and you have to wonder if he can handle the spotlight here again. Mike Vick should be able to find his WRs against a struggling Dallas secondary. Vick should also be able to make plays with his legs. The Cowboys need to bring heavy pressure on Vick and force him into mistakes, similar to what the Bills did a few weeks ago. Because Tony Romo has yet to shine in the spotlight, I’m taking the Eagles here.

Philadelphia 31  Dallas 27

San Diego Chargers vs Kansas City Chiefs
Remember after Week 2 when everybody was ready to write off the Chiefs. They were blown out by Buffalo and Detroit, and they lost Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry for the season. Matt Cassel looked terrible, and everything looked ready to fall apart. But the Chiefs held everything together, and are now right back in the AFC West race. They dismantled the Raiders in Oakland last week, which had to be a good feeling for everyone in the Chiefs organization. The Chargers, meanwhile, blew a double digit second half league against the Jets last week. Philip Rivers has not looked like himself at all this year. He hasn’t had Vincent Jackson or Antonio Gates full time this year, but that has never slowed down Rivers before. He has a good running game this year, but that apparently isn’t helping. You have to think that the Chargers will struggle in Arrowhead. The Chiefs played them close in San Diego, and I think they pull out the win on Monday night.

Kansas City 24  San Diego 20

My Vegas $$$ Picks
Last Week’s Record: 2-2
Year to Date Record: 16-11-1

Pittsburgh +3 vs New England: Like I said, I think this is the year the Steelers finally beat the Patriots

Kansas City +3.5 vs San Diego: Chiefs are on a resurgence, Chargers are struggling

NY Giants -10 vs Miami: This spread seems to small

Minnesota +3.5 vs Carolina: They played the Packers tight, no reason they can’t beat the Panthers

That’s all from me today.

Until next time,
Justin C
Follow Me on Twitter @JCWonka