Bielfeldt Helps Short-Handed Hoosiers Hold Off Rutgers

The Indiana Hoosiers avoided a bad start to conference play by defeating the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 79-72  in Piscataway, New Jersey on Wednesday to win IU’s first Big Ten game of this season.

The close score and the quality of opponent (Rutgers was ranked as the 245th ranked team according to Kenpom) may have Hoosier Nation very worried going forward but the truth is that this was a good win considering the circumstances.

The Hoosiers faced an uphill challenge from the beginning of the game when James Blackmon Jr. was ruled out due to a knee injury he suffered during one of the practices heading into conference play. The Hoosiers faced even more adversity when Thomas Bryant got in early foul trouble and stayed in foul trouble all game before fouling out in the second half. In total, Bryant played all of six minutes and only contributed three points and a single rebound.

Then there was the turnovers. The Hoosiers finished the game with 23 of them and the biggest problem was that they came from players you’d least expect. Starting Guards Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Rob Johnson combined for 11 turnovers (six for Ferrell and five for Johnson) and Troy Williams, who does have a tendency to get too careless with the basketball, had a shockingly bad day even for him as he committed more turnovers (7) then he grabbed rebounds (6).

While most of these troubles were self-inflicted, the Hoosiers should still be given credit for overcoming everything to win their first conference game as well as their first road game of the season (the Maui Invitational counting as neutral site games).

Collin Hartman did a good job filling in for the injured Blackmon Jr. as he finished with nine points, including two three-pointers in the first few minutes of the game, and also added two rebounds.

However, the biggest story was Max Bielfeldt.

Unlike Hartman, Bielfeldt didn’t come into the game knowing he would have to make up for a starter’s lost production. Yet Bielfeldt filled in magnificently for the foul-plagued Bryant by tying a career-high 18 points as well as grabbing a team-high 14 rebounds. His combination of passing, scoring, and interior defense was almost Zellerish at times and was greatly needed for the Hoosiers to beat a very aggressive Rutgers team.

While Bryant didn’t have a great first Big Ten game, O.G. Anunoby did. The freshman from Missouri played his best game yet as he finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and two steals while also making two more three-pointers.

Longtime reserve Ryan Burton also made two three-pointers for an Indiana bench that nearly outscored the starters (42-37). Ferrell had a terrible first half but played significantly better in the second half as he ended up leading the Hoosiers in points (20) and assists (7).

The Hoosiers will get to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day but will play again on Saturday at Nebraska before returning home to face Wisconsin next Tuesday.

 

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All In The Cards: Week 12 Recap and Ranking Every Team By Category

Welcome to the Week 12 NFL recap! We are entering the final month of the season so that means it’s time for the NFL Playoff Machine! It also means that by now most teams have fallen into a particular category and this week I will designate which category every team falls under. In addition I’ll have my takes on last week’s games but they will be a little shorter this time. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Let’s see which category each team falls under with a month to go:

The Super Bowl Contenders: Carolina Panthers (11-0), New England Patriots (10-1), Arizona Cardinals (9-2), Denver Broncos (9-2), Cincinnati Bengals (9-2).

Obviously these aren’t the only teams that can win the Super Bowl (after all we have quite a few examples of fringe playoff teams getting hot over the last month and riding that momentum to a title), but right now I think no one would be surprised if any of these five teams hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in February. I thought about giving the Panthers their own spot as they are the only undefeated team left, but perfect season or not their goal is still to win the Super Bowl. I do think that they have become the favorite thanks to all of the Patriots’ injuries but they are not a lock by any means. The Cardinals will want revenge for losing to the Panthers in last year’s playoffs while the Patriots and the Bengals have offenses capable of overcoming Carolina’s defense and the Broncos have a defense capable of shutting down Cam Newton.

Want A Little More Than Just Make Playoffs: Minnesota Vikings (8-3), Green Bay Packers (7-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5), Seattle Seahawks (6-5), Indianapolis Colts (6-5), Kansas City Chiefs (6-5).

These are teams who will not be satisfied with just making the playoffs. If there is a “hot playoff team” this season, it will probably come from this group with the Seahawks and the Steelers as the likely suspects. The Vikings are here and not in the contenders group for the time being, but could easily jump if they beat the Seahawks this week and either beat or come close to beating the Cardinals next week. The Packers are also a team that could jump up but they have been so unimpressive the last few weeks I don’t think you can call them contenders at the moment. The Chiefs are currently the hot team but I wonder if they might have peaked a few weeks too early and will cool off by the start of the playoffs. The Colts are only in this group because they are still placing high expectations on themselves even though those expectations seem a little unrealistic at the moment.

Just Happy If They Make The Playoffs: Atlanta Falcons (6-5), Houston Texans (6-5), New York Jets (6-5), Chicago Bears (5-6), Buffalo Bills (5-6), New York Giants (5-6), Washington Redskins (5-6).

In college basketball this group would be called the “bubble”. At least one of these teams will make the playoffs (because the rules state someone has to win the NFC East) but there is a possibility that two or even three could play in January. What separates these teams from the group above is that there are no expectations if they make the playoffs. The Texans and Bears have turned things around and can already consider this season a success as long as they don’t self-combust over the last few weeks. The playoffs would just be icing on the cake for them. The Jets and the Bills want to make the playoffs just so they can start off their new coaching regimes with some promise for the future. The Falcons want to make the playoffs just so they don’t become one of the few teams in NFL history to start 5-0 and miss the playoffs. The Redskins just want to make their fans proud of them again and winning the division, and subsequently making the playoffs, would be the best way to do that. Finally, while you can never count out Eli Manning in the postseason, I’m pretty sure that Giants’ fans know that expecting more than a playoff berth would be asking for too much from this team.

Teams Trying To End The Season With Some Momentum: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6), Oakland Raiders (5-6), Detroit Lions (4-7), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7), San Diego Chargers (3-8).

While the Buccaneers, Raiders, and Lions all still have an outside shot of winning a wild card spot, I placed them in this category because they also still have a chance at a top-10 draft pick if they tank the rest of the season. Honestly, either direction would help the team in the long run but they need to decide now before they go 7-9 and miss out on both. The Jaguars and Chargers on the other hand would actually benefit from finishing 7-9 or 8-8 so they can gain momentum going into next season, where they would have a shot to take a step forward.

Want Nightmare Season Just To End: New Orleans Saints (4-7), Miami Dolphins (4-7), St. Louis Rams (4-7), Baltimore Ravens (4-7), Philadelphia Eagles (4-7), Dallas Cowboys (3-8).

While all of these teams theoretically still have a chance to make the playoffs, all are very unlikely to be in contention much longer due to the turmoil that is currently surrounding them. The Ravens and the Cowboys are actually decent teams that in a parallel world where they avoided injuries and bad luck would be in the thick of the playoff race. The Saints and the Rams are on the fence as to whether or not they should blow things up and start rebuilding. The Dolphins are doing their best not to have to rebuild by getting rid of coaches left and right. Then we have Philadelphia. The Eagles shouldn’t be in this category as they are only one game behind the Redskins and the Giants in the NFC East race. With neither of those teams likely to run the table, the Eagles still have plenty of chances to make up the deficit and win the division. That is, if they hadn’t imploded these past two weeks. I don’t see how they turn things around after just allowing 10 passing touchdowns to Jameis Winston and Matthew Stafford back-to-back. In fact, I’d be surprised if they win another game this season. Even if this team somehow wins the division, I doubt this season would still be considered anything else than a failure unless they won a playoff game.

Fighting For Draft Position: San Francisco 49ers (3-8), Tennessee Titans (2-9), Cleveland Browns (2-9).

The difference between these three teams (since technically they aren’t yet eliminated from playoff contention) and the ones above is that the expectations for these teams were considerably lower heading into the season, making these situations nowhere near as dire. I know some may argue that the 49ers are a proud organization and so this should be considered a nightmare season for San Francisco, but everyone else knew this team would stink this season. You could also make an argument for the Titans and Browns, stating they will probably have to start over after this season. However, neither was expected to do anything this season so a rebuild was always possible from the beginning. There’s a chance that some other team earns the first overall pick, but right now these three teams are the leaders.

How I Did With My Week 12 NFL Predictions:

  • Arizona 19, San Francisco 13: This was maybe the worst officiated game I have ever seen. People have been talking about the terrible “roughing the passer “call on Quinton Dial’s sack of Carson Palmer and how the Cardinals weren’t penalized for snapping the ball after the play clock expired, but there were some equally horrendous call that went against Arizona. The referees called the 49ers’ “too many men on the field” penalty as a live ball foul and cost the Cardinals a down in the redzone and on another play an incomplete pass was ruled as “illegal touching” because they thought the receiver caught it with two feet in-bounds and you can’t review penalties. (1-0)
  • Detroit 45, Philadelphia 14: I actually thought the Lions might obliterate the Eagles but I didn’t have the guts to make the prediction last week. Now that I know that the Eagles’ defense has checked out, I won’t be afraid to make this prediction in the future. (2-0)
  • Carolina 33, Dallas 14: Maybe it’s for the best that Tony Romo got injured again so the Cowboys can tank the rest of the season and get a high draft pick instead of fighting for a useless playoff spot that will do nothing to help the franchise going forward. (3-0)
  • Chicago 17, Green Bay 13: You are on national television, during Thanksgiving, where you are retiring Brett Favre’s number and have the great Bart Starr in attendance, and you play like that? Bears deserve a lot of credit for the win, but I just don’t understand how the Packers have fallen off so much. (3-1)
  • Minnesota 20, Atlanta 10: I gave up on the Falcons last week so this didn’t come as a surprise. What did catch my eye was how the Vikings rebounded from the home loss to Green Bay. Also, I stand by what I said last week about Adrian Peterson deserving to be in the MVP conversation. (4-1)
  • Kansas City 30, Buffalo 22: The Chiefs look like the hot playoff team at the moment but I’m not sure they can keep up this level of play for the rest of the season and during a playoff run. I mean, sooner or later Alex Smith will throw another interception. (5-1)
  • Cincinnati 31, St. Louis 7: Bengals got back on track with a dominant win over a Rams team that is falling apart fast. Also, since the Texans are playing great ball and have a shot at either a division title or a wild card spot, the Bengals no longer have a bad loss on their resume. (6-1)
  • Oakland 24, Tennessee 21: Entertaining game between two young teams. However, the fact it was this hard for the Raiders to win tells me this isn’t the same team from the beginning of the season and that even though they won they probably aren’t in the playoff race anymore. (7-1)
  • Indianapolis 25, Tampa Bay 12: A humbling loss for the Buccaneers, who may have gotten caught up in all the media excitement of them possibly making the playoffs. Also, how well does Matt Hasselbeck have to play before we start talking about whether or not Andrew Luck gets his job back? (I’m talking strictly this season. It may be in the Colts’ best interest to sit him out the rest of this season and guarantee he’s healthy for next season.) (8-1)
  • New York Jets 38, Miami 20: A season-saving win for the Jets, who have somehow found their swagger after looking rather bland the last few weeks. Then again, it may just be a product of facing the Dolphins. Their game against the Giants will be a better test to see if they can make a run. (9-1)
  • Houston 24, New Orleans 6: As I already mentioned, the Texans have not only played their way into a tie for the division, but have also put themselves near the top of the wild card standings. Such a huge turnaround for a team that couldn’t decide on quarterback for the first several weeks. (10-1)
  • Washington 20, New York Giants 14: If the Redskins win the division that means they will play a home game in the playoffs. That means the Redskins will have good Kirk Cousins (11TDs, 2INTs at home) in the playoffs and will give the NFC East a chance to actually win a playoff game. (10-2)
  • San Diego 31, Jacksonville 25: What little hopes of the Jaguars somehow winning the AFC South probably ended this weekend when you combine this loss with how the Colts and Texans are playing right now. However, there’s still a lot going for this team if they finish strong. (10-3)
  • Seattle 39, Pittsburgh 30: A huge win for the Seahawks that currently has them in the final wild card spot. However, in that game they also lost Jimmy Graham (who was starting to click with the offense) and confirmed that the Legion Of Boom is no longer an elite defense, just a good one. (10-4)
  • Denver 30, New England 24: It should be made clear that the Broncos, not Brock Osweiler, beat the Patriots on Sunday night. That being said, with every win Osweiler gets, it becomes harder and harder to argue that Peyton Manning should get his job back. (10-5)
  • Baltimore 33, Cleveland 27: Just read this. It’s a list of all 43 games the Browns have lost in the last minute since they returned in 1999. I thought as a Cardinals fan I had seen heartbreak. Aside from the Super Bowl loss, I can’t begin to comprehend the amount of heartbreak the Browns have endured. (10-6)

 
Week 11 Record: 10-6
Season Record: 110-66 (.625)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

Mistakes In Maui And How The Hoosiers Can Learn From Them

After starting the season with three dominating wins, the Indiana Hoosiers traveled to Hawaii hoping to add some games against top-tier opponents to their resume. Unfortunately the Hoosiers never got a chance to face the best teams as the Hoosiers stumbled to a 1-2 record and a sixth place finish in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

The Hoosiers lost in the first round of the tournament to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 82-78 and thus were placed in the loser’s bracket for the rest of the trip. The two consolation games ended up being a 83-73 win over the St. John’s Red Storm and a 72-69 loss to the UNLV Rebels.

While the two losses hurt, it was how the Hoosiers lost those games that hurt the most and felt all too familiar.

All of the defensive improvement the Hoosiers showed during their first three games of the season vanished as opponents were able to score at ease, especially on post-ups and drives to the basket. The Hoosiers allowed 50 points in the first half to the Demon Deacons, 42 points in the second half to the Red Storm, and 41 points in the first half to the Rebels. In the case of the two losses, the Hoosiers did make defensive improvements at the start of the second half only to fall short when it came to the closing minutes.

Now while there was some troubling play this past week it doesn’t mean the Hoosiers are doomed to repeat what happened last season. In fact, if the whole team embraces reviewing these games and learns from their mistakes, the season will still have a lot of promise. Here are some of the mistakes that need correcting:

Consistent aggression: The Hoosiers played some of their most inspired defense during the first 10 minutes of the second half against the Demon Deacons. They contested every post-up and never allowed guards the opportunity to drive to the basket. However, whether it was fatigue or playing scared and trying not to lose the lead, the Hoosiers went away from that aggressive play. For a team that tries to wear out their opponent with their pace, I think the switch in mindsets (from being the trailing team to the team with the lead) is what tripped them up the most. Many teams become a lot less aggressive when they have the lead because aggressive play can lead to mistakes. However, despite the possibility of mistakes, aggressive play also puts a ton of pressure on the team that is trailing to be even more aggressive, thus making the opposing team likely to make even more mistakes. If the Hoosiers can continue to play their pace even when they have the lead they can make it harder for teams to come back on them.

Situational defense: I think we all learned this past week that this Hoosier team isn’t going to be a top 25 defense this season but that is OK. The Hoosiers don’t have to be defensively brilliant to reach their ceiling; they just have to focus on which situations require them to play to the best of their ability. Most of those situations occur in the final four minutes of games where a lot of Big Ten games will be won or lost. Knowing the situation is probably the biggest improvement this team can make. In the Wake Forest game, the Demon Deacons were able to drive to the basket simply because a defender was more focused on preventing a pass to the post than cutting off the driving lane to the basket. Preventing driving lanes is one of the best ways to stall out an offense that needs to score quickly and forces the opponent to rely more on jumpshots, which percentage-wise is an advantage for the defense. Knowing how to position yourself in those situations will require a lot of practicing and drills but it will make end-of-games situations a bit more favorable.

Crunch-time offense: This was maybe the most surprising development that happened in Maui. A lot of people expected the defense to be a recurring problem but several times the offense stagnated and thus let opposing teams take advantage of the Hoosiers’ suspect defense. The Indiana offense thrives on ball movement but more often than not the ball was only in one person’s hands for the majority of its late-game possessions and when the ball did move it was more for the sake of just moving the ball instead of trying to get someone open. Again I’m not sure if this has to due with nerves or not, but because the offense stops scoring in crunch time it places a lot of pressure on the defense to hold the lead or keep the deficit small. Some late-game plays may need to be drawn up during practice specifically for these types of situations going forward as it seems the Hoosiers can’t play at their usual pace during crunch time and thus feel uncomfortable in those situations.

There is no doubt in my mind that the coaching staff is already drilling the players on how to improve in these areas. As long as the players learn and implement these lessons going forward this team will be fine. After all, it’s only November.

Stats From The Boxscore:

Due to the drastically different play of some Hoosiers during this tournament, I decided to use this edition of Stats From The Boxscore to highlight some of the main players’ averages during the past three games and compare them to their first three games. There will be no analysis; this will just be for those who are curious about how differently some key Hoosiers played this last week.

  • Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell
    • First three games: 16.7ppg, 7.3rpg, 7.0apg, 1.33spg, 2.7tpg, 1.3fpg, 52.8% FG, 37.5% 3FG, 85.7% FT, 30.0mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 14.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 7.0apg, 1.33spg, 2.3tpg, 1.3fpg, 40.6% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 73.7% FT, 35.0mpg.
  • James Blackmon Jr.
    • First three games: 18.7ppg, 5.3rpg, 3.0apg, 0.67spg, 3.0tpg, 0.7fpg, 55.3% FG, 55.0% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 24.7mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 10.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.3apg, 1.67spg, 0.33bpg, 4.0tpg, 2.7fpg, 39.3% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 66.7% FT, 23.0mpg.
  • Troy Williams
    • First three games: 13.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 2.7apg, 1.67spg, 0.67bpg, 2.3tpg, 2.7fpg, 53.3% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 50.0% FT, 26.0mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 10.7ppg, 6.0rpg, 3.3apg, 2.33spg, 1.00bpg, 3.3tpg, 2.0fpg, 54.5% FG, 40.0% 3FG, 75.0% FT, 27.3mpg.
  • Thomas Bryant
    • First three games: 13.0ppg, 7.3rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 1.67bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.3fpg, 80.0% FG, 20.0% 3FG, 66.7% FT, 22.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 11.3ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 1.33bpg, 1.3tpg, 2.7fpg, 60.0% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 55.6% FT, 25.0mpg.
  • Max Bielfeldt
    • First three games: 7.3ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.00spg, 0.33bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.0fpg, 53.3% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 83.3% FT, 17.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 9.7ppg,  3.0rpg, 0.7apg, 1.00spg, 0.33bpg, 1.3tpg, 3.3fpg, 80.0% FG, 66.7% 3FG, 25.0% FT, 20.0mpg.
  • Colin Hartman
    • First three games: 2.7ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.0apg, 1.67spg, 0.7tpg, 2.7fpg, 36.4% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 18.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 3.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 0.7apg, 0.67spg, 0.67bpg, 1.3tpg, 3.7fpg, 42.9% FG, 42.9% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 17.7mpg.
  • Rob Johnson
    • First three games: 7.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.3apg, 0.33spg, 2.7tpg, 2.3fpg, 53.3% FG, 50.0% 3FG, 16.7mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 7.0ppg, 2.0rpg, 3.0apg, 1.0tpg, 1.3fpg, 38.9% FG, 50.0% 3FG, 42.9% FT, 22.7mpg.
  • Nick Zeisloft
    • First three games: 9.0ppg, 1.3rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 0.33bpg, 0.3tpg, 1.3fpg, 64.3% FG, 64.3% 3FG, 19.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 9.3ppg, 2.7rpg, 0.7apg, 0.33bpg, 1.0tpg, 0.7fpg, 56.3% FG, 57.1% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 20.3mpg.

All In The Cards: Thanksgiving Edition (Week 11 Recap and Week 12 Preview)

Welcome to a special addition of All In The Cards. Thanksgiving is the only time of the year when you are encouraged to get a second helping. So I’m going to twist that phrase and use it as an excuse to combine both the week 11 recap and the week 12 preview into one article (the real reason is that I’m okay with posting a preview after one game has been played but three games is too many). No in-depth preview for the Cards’ game this week (the only thing different about this week’s matchup and the one in week three is that the game is in San Francisco and Blaine Gabbert is staring instead of Colin Kaepernick) So to make up for that I will give a little blurb for every recap as well as every preview. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Let’s get started with the week 11 recap:

How I did with my Week 11 NFL predictions:

  • Arizona 34, Cincinnati 31: The Cards’ first win against a team with a winning record was much deserved as these two teams threw everything they had at each other. Seeing the Cardinals make halftime adjustments and drive down the field in the waning seconds just reminds me how much this team has grown from just a few years ago. (1-0)
  • Jacksonville 19, Tennessee 13: Jaguars have been learning how to hold on to a lead late and now they are learning how to come from behind and win in the final minutes. A lot of progress is being made in Jacksonville while some but not a lot of progress is being made in Tennessee. (2-0)
  • Indianapolis 24, Atlanta 21: I’m jumping off the Falcons’ bandwagon because I’ve seen this before (A team that starts the season undefeated and then loses steam and becomes mediocre? Please don’t make me have to remember the 2012 Cardinals). The Colts need to keep pulling these games out because the Texans are right on their trail. (2-1)
  • Denver 17, Chicago 15: I’ll admit that Brock Osweiler did a lot better than I thought he would do but people need to temper their expectations. For as much improvement the Bears’ defense has made over the last several weeks they are still an average defense at best. If Osweiler can play like he did this week against the Patriots then I’ll start buying the hype. (3-1)
  • Dallas 24, Miami 14: Tony Romo is back and so is the Cowboys’ confidence. It’s amazing how the rest of the team suddenly plays better when Romo is around. It’s a testament to their confidence in him as well as a feeling of familiarity. It’s a shame Dallas wasn’t able to muster up a single win while he was gone. (4-1)
  • Detroit 18, Oakland 13: I’m pleasantly surprised with the quick turnaround the Lions have made. That win over Green Bay has really breathed new life into them but unfortunately it is probably too late to chase a wild card. Meanwhile the Raiders have seemed to regress after making so much progress the first half of the season. (4-2)
  • Baltimore 16, St. Louis 13: After seeing Joe Flacco silently put up with all the change and bad luck the Ravens have endured, it’s a real shame he ended up with such a serious leg injury. Meanwhile I think the Rams have gone on tilt as I’m not sure what they are doing anymore. Again, how can this be the same team that beat both Seattle and Arizona? (5-2)
  • Houston 24, New York Jets 17: Speaking of playing on tilt, things have really gone south for the Jets recently. They still have the talent and the schedule to make the playoffs but I don’t know if they can take advantage of either. The Texans on the other hand are being fueled by a pair of All-pros in J.J. Watt on defense and DeAndre Hopkins (yes I think he deserves an all-pro selection) on offense. (5-3)
  • Tampa Bay 45, Philadelphia 17: The Eagles will likely win a maximum of one more game the rest of the season, they just look dead. The Bucs are becoming everyone’s darlings in the NFC wild card race but I don’t know if this team can keep up this level of play until the end of the season. Regardless, it has been a successful year for Tampa Bay with a bright future. (5-4)
  • Carolina 44, Washington 16: This was a statement by the Panthers that their offense should be feared along with their defense. Could you imagine how good this team would be if they had Kelvin Benjamin? Also the Redskins are a decent team, so don’t take anything away from this blowout. As much as I’m a Cardinals homer, the Panthers should be the favorite in the NFC. (6-4)
  • Kansas City 33, San Diego 3: Remember when the Chiefs lost Jamaal Charles and were 1-4? The team is 4-1 since moving on from their star running back, but it has more to do with their defense stepping up to make up for the offensive shortcomings. Head Coach Andy Reid is also getting creative with the play calls, such as the Dontari Poe TD run. (7-4)
  • Green Bay 30, Minnesota 13: It wasn’t pretty but it was a necessary win for a Packers team that was close to a freefall after losing at home to the Lions. The defense really responded and held the Vikings in check. If the defense continues to play with that passion and Aaron Rodgers and the offense find their rhythm again this team will be just fine. (8-4)
  • Seattle 29, San Francisco 13: We really didn’t learn anything new from this game. I guess the only real thing to take away is that the Seahawks aren’t letting the heart-breaking loss at home to the Cardinals keep them down as they shift gears and chase the wild card. Meanwhile Blaine Gabbert continues to play decently well for the 49ers. (9-4)
  • New England 20, Buffalo 23: The Patriots’ offense continues to lose playmakers as Danny Amendola might miss time. Luckily the defense is playing very well to help mitigate any offensive drop-off. If this team still goes undefeated I think Bill Belichick deserves the Coach of the Year award, even if the Panthers go undefeated too. (10-4)

My Week 12 NFL predictions:

  • Arizona 31, San Francisco 10: Blaine Gabbert may be playing better than Colin Kaepernick, but it’s still nowhere near good enough to beat the Cardinals’ defense. Chris Johnson and the run game could get back on track this week.
  • Detroit 27, Philadelphia 17: Combine the Lions’ renewed energy with the Eagles’ lifelessness and this looks like a win for Detroit. This might be a must-win for Philly after the disaster against Tampa Bay.
  • Carolina 27, Dallas 24: I’m tempted to pick the Cowboys but with Tony Romo playing on a short week after just returning from an injury I think the Cowboys will start slow and the Panthers won’t let them catch up.
  • Green Bay 33, Chicago 20: Packers will want to sustain the momentum they gained from beating the Vikings last week. That plus they can’t lose the game where they are honoring Brett Favre now can they?
  • Minnesota 20, Atlanta 17: Huge game for both teams’ wild card chances. I already said that I jumped off the Falcons bandwagon so there isn’t that much more that I need to say about this pick.
  • Kansas City 17, Buffalo 13: I still think Buffalo is a good team but there is denying that the Chiefs are red hot at the moment. Plus the game is in Kansas City so I have to give them the advantage.
  • Cincinnati 34, St. Louis 10: Bengals need this win to halt their two-game losing streak. The Rams need this win to prevent their season from falling apart. I’ve seen both of these teams play and there is no doubt the Bengals are the better team and will win easily.
  • Oakland 20, Tennessee 14: This is possibly the Raiders’ last chance to regain momentum and chase a wild card spot. I think it may be too late to make a playoff push but I do think they will turn things around against the Titans.
  • Indianapolis 31, Tampa Bay 28: A toss-up game that I’m giving to the Colts because they are at home. It would not shock me at all if the Buccaneers were able to pull out the win.
  • New York Jets 22, Miami 17: Both teams are desperate for a win so I see the loser of this match being eliminated from the wild card race. I still think the Jets are talented enough to make a late-season push but they’re running out of opportunities.
  • Houston 28, New Orleans 20: The Saints may have changed defensive coordinators during the bye week but they still don’t have anyone on defense that can stop DeAndre Hopkins.
  • New York Giants 24, Washington 21: The Redskins will give them a fight, but the Giants know that with the Eagles’ implosion and the Cowboys just starting to play catch-up that this division is theirs for the taking.
  • Jacksonville 23, San Diego 16: Another toss-up game where I’ll side with the home team. That and the fact that I can’t easily forget how the Chiefs obliterated the Chargers last week.
  • Pittsburgh 30, Seattle 27: This pick isn’t a jab at the Seahawks; the Steelers are just really good and have renewed confidence now that the division title is within reach again. The Seahawks still have plenty of chances left to stay in the wild card race.
  • New England 20, Denver 17: Tom Brady is still the best in the NFL but he’ll have a tough time against a tough Denver defense without some of his main weapons. The Patriots will still win but it will be close.
  • Cleveland 19, Baltimore 16: With Joe Flacco out for the year I expect the Ravens to go into full tank mode. Then again, the Browns might also be in tank mode so this will be interesting to watch as both teams will try not to win this game.

 

Week 11 Record: 10-4
Season Record: 100-60 (.625)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In the Cards: Week 10 Recap

Welcome to the week 10 NFL recap! So many things happened this past weekend that I already know I won’t be able to cover everything. Still, I’ll do my best to cover as many as possible as the season is really starting to shape up and teams are either gaining or losing confidence. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s see how terrible I did with my week 10 picks:

How I did with my Week 10 NFL predictions:

  • Arizona 39, Seattle 32: You may recall that I called the Cardinals’ wins over the Ravens and the Browns “very important” because of how Arizona won those games. Well the importance of those wins and the lessons they taught were crucial for the Cardinals to defeat the Seahawks. In the Browns game, Arizona won its first game of the season in which it lost the turnover battle (4-2). Until that point the Cards had either a neutral turnover margin or won the turnover battle during their victories. Being able to win despite giving your opponent more possessions shows that you are the better team. In the Ravens game, the Cards showed they had the mental fortitude to overcome their mistakes and withstand a late-game charge by making clutch plays to win.
  • Sunday night, or early Monday morning on the east coast, the Cardinals overcame both obstacles to take down “big brother” on the road. The Cardinals overcame a negative turnover margin (Arizona had three turnovers while Seattle only had one) and overcame losing a 19-point lead to drive down the field once to retake the lead and once to put the game away. It was the first time in my time as a fan that the Cardinals won a huge game by taking the victory away from another team instead of just holding on for dear life. This was a championship-caliber win and a declaration to the rest of the league that the Cardinals are the NFC West threat that other teams should fear playing. (0-1)
  • Buffalo 22, New York Jets 17: Both the AFC and the NFC Wild Card race are a mess and it’s because of games like this one where teams who could distance themselves from the pack lose and make the race more crowded. Regardless of what you think of Rex Ryan and the his choice to make IK Enemkpali one of the Bills’ captains, the fact is that the Bills won an important game that for the moment gives them a big tiebreaker in the wild card race. The Jets have the (slightly) easier schedule going forward but with how the Jets have played lately that might not matter. (0-2)
  • Chicago 37, St. Louis 13: You could make the argument that if five crucial plays went the other way over the course of the season, the Bears would be 0-8 heading into this game. That’s what makes their blowout win over the Rams so surprising. The Bears put all of their defensive focus on Todd Gurley and shut him down (12 carries for 45 yards), thus making Nick Foles have to throw to beat the Rams. The fact that Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher appointed Case Keenum as the starting quarterback for this week’s game should tell you all you need to know about Foles’ performance. The Rams could continue to focus all of their attention on beating divisional foes but going undefeated in the division won’t help if you can’t supplement your record with other wins. (0-3)
  • Pittsburgh 30, Cleveland 9: I stated a couple of weeks ago that the Steelers would need to make a big run in the second half of the season to win a wild card but that task looks a lot easier at the moment. The first thing is that the Steelers currently have either a one or two game lead over all other AFC wild card contenders. The other thing that looks more favorable is the schedule, as opponents such as Denver, Indianapolis, and Seattle look a lot less threatening then they did a few weeks ago. With Ben Roethlisberger still able to be a top five quarterback even when not at 100%, I think the Steelers are one of the few sure things in a cloudy playoff picture. (1-3)
  • Tampa Bay 10, Dallas 6: How weird is the NFC playoff race? These two teams are a combined 6-12 and both of them have legitimate shots of playing in January. The Cowboys have Tony Romo coming back and with no one running away with the NFC East they have a chance to take the division if they finish 6-1 in their last seven games. The Bucs have a tougher challenge as they are two games behind the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons and are tied with five other teams at 4-5, a group that includes the Seahawks. I think you can call Tampa Bay’s season a success already but why not try for the playoffs if your team still has a shot? (2-3)
  • Detroit 18, Green Bay 16: I give a ton of credit to the Lions, but it still doesn’t make any sense to me that the Packers lost that game. I’ve picked the Packers each of the last two weeks thinking they would rebound only to disappoint. I feel I’m in the same position I was in with the Ravens at the beginning of the season. I knew they were a talented team and just banked my hopes on them turning it around. I think the Packers will eventually turn it around but I don’t think they will do it in time to win the division as they have to travel to Minnesota this week and with how the Vikings have been playing, I wouldn’t be surprised if this losing streak extends to four games. (2-4)
  • Carolina 27, Tennessee 10: People, me included, were having a hard time accepting Cam Newton’s transition to an elite quarterback because his performances weren’t all that impressive. However, this past week I finally saw what I wanted out of Newton. Against the Titans, Newton not only ran the ball well and committed no turnovers; he also threw very accurately, connecting on 21 of 26 pass attempts. Sure the game was a blowout, but we needed to see Newton throw a very accurate passing game to show us he is capable of doing it. Now it’s a matter of if he can do it when the game is on the line. He’s proven he can win in crunch time with his legs; now let’s see him win with his arms. (3-4)
  • Miami 20, Philadelphia 19: This was a crucial win for the Dolphins as it seemed they had lost all of the momentum that they gained when interim Head Coach Dan Campbell first took over. Meanwhile the Eagles give away yet another game and are facing the possibility of having to start Mark Sanchez at quarterback. The Eagles could survive the next two weeks against the Bucs and Lions without Sam Bradford (who has both a concussion and a separated shoulder), but then again they should have won this week and didn’t. (3-5)
  • Washington 47, New Orleans 14: I warned that sometimes a defense’s confidence can be irrevocably shaken when it takes part it an all-offensive shootout. The Saints’ defense wasn’t that good to begin with but the last two weeks have been an aftereffect of the Giants game. In the seven games prior to that 51-48 epic, the Saints were giving up 26.4 points per game (below average but manageable with an offense as great as the Saints). In the two games since the Giants game, the Saints have given up 40.5 points per game. It looks like a small sample size but that shouldn’t sway you as the last two offenses (Titans and Redskins) are considerably weaker than the majority of their first seven opponents (Cardinals, Eagles, Falcons, Colts, and Panthers had better offenses than the Saints’ last two opponents). The Saints can only hope that changing defensive coordinators helps stop the bleeding. (3-6)
  • Jacksonville 22, Baltimore 20: With the Jaguars’ win, this weekend marked the first time all three Florida NFL teams won on the same week in 5 years! Just let that sink in for a little bit. As for the Ravens, their season is literally playing out like one of those spoof movies where everything goes hilariously wrong. At this point I think it would be in the best interest of every Ravens fan and their health (both physical and mental) to look comically at this season and not take it seriously. The best the Ravens can hope for is to use their high draft pick to find an explosive skill position player to give Joe Flacco a playmaker to help him carry the offense. (3-7)
  • Minnesota 30, Oakland14: I know it is a quarterback league, but Adrian Peterson needs more attention in the MVP race. He has single-handedly made Teddy Bridgewater’s job easier and has reclaimed his title as best running back in the game. Peterson is on pace for 1,708 rushing yards, which would rank as his third best season total behind 2008 (1,760) and 2012 (2,097), the latter of which Peterson won MVP. He’s also helped the Vikings equal the same amount of wins they had all of last season after just 10 weeks. This week the Vikings have a chance to take advantage of the slumping Packers and gain a two-game lead in the division with a home win over Green Bay. (3-8)
  • Kansas City 29, Denver 13: Doesn’t matter how old Peyton Manning gets, that kind of performance (5/20 for 35 yards, 0 TDs and 4 INTs) only makes sense if Manning was injured, which he was. People seem ready to bury Manning, with talks of making Brock Osweiler the starter for the rest of the season and I think that is ridiculous. I know I’ve made a point this season to point out how bad the Broncos’ offense has been but this seems like a panic decision after losing two games in a row. Let Osweiler take over until Manning is 100% because a healthy Manning is still the Broncos’ ceiling on offense. (3-9)
  • New England 27, New York Giants 26: You know it was a crazy week in the NFL if Tom Brady and Patriots actually beat Eli Manning and the Giants. All jokes aside, this was huge for the Patriots as they continue to try and make up for the two championships they lost to the Giants by winning last year’s Super Bowl and potentially this year’s Super Bowl. However their chances for this season took a bit of a hit as Julian Edelman required foot surgery and may not be back in time for the playoffs. Brady is still one of if not the greatest quarterback of all time and he’s had success with replacement-level to slightly above-average weapons before but Edelman was possibly the last weapon (even more than Rob Gronkowski) Brady wanted to see go down. (4-9)
  • Houston 10, Cincinnati 6: We all knew that the Bengals weren’t going to finish the season undefeated so it was inevitable they would lose and as a result people were going to jump on the team after that first loss. I’ll admit that a loss to the Texans (especially one to backup quarterback T.J. Yates, who has beaten the Bengals in the playoffs before) is a little hard to swallow at first, but the Texans have a legit shot at making the playoffs either through the AFC South or the AFC wild card. What the Bengals should be more worried about is that they don’t seem to have as reliable of a running game anymore despite having both Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill healthy.  (4-10)

Week 10 Record: 4-10
Season Record: 90-56 (.616)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In The Cards: Week 9 Recap

Welcome to the week nine recap of All In the Cards! . Quite a few interesting games this week, some with implications that may affect the rest of some teams’ seasons. This week’s recap will be a little shorter than usual but look forward to some new content coming during the next few days. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s see how I did with my week nine picks:

How I did with my Week 9 NFL predictions:

  • Cincinnati 31, Cleveland 10: Whether it’s because of the short week of preparation or not, for the second straight week the Browns played a contender extremely tough in the first half and then fell apart completely in the second half. I don’t know for sure but my best guess is that the Browns see that their first half game plan is working and they don’t make halftime adjustments, giving the opposing team an advantage when they make adjustments. (1-0)
  • Buffalo 33, Miami 17: It seems the Dolphins have come back to earth after starting 2-0 under Dan Campbell. Meanwhile the Bills are starting to get healthy again and just in time as they looked like where fading after the loss to the Jaguars. A huge matchup with the Jets awaits them Thursday, which hurts the Bills chances of having LeSean McCoy ready for the game. (1-1)
  • Carolina 37, Green Bay 29: While I don’t want to go overboard since the Packer’s last two losses have been on the road against undefeated teams, it’s how the two teams defeated the Packers. A week after being completely shut down by the Broncos defense, the Packers were again slowed down until a late fourth quarter charge almost sent the game to overtime. The Packers’ defense has also been dreadful, letting both Peyton Manning and Cam Newton do whatever they wanted. The Packers are still a playoff team, but they seem to not match up well against aggressive defenses. (1-2)
  • Tennessee 34, New Orleans 28: The Titans look to finally be back on track with this win as well as with the return of Marcus Mariota. However, they have a tough test this week as they face the Panthers. As for the Saints, I knew one or both of the defenses from that epic 51-48 win over the Giants would feel the aftereffects and it looks like the answer is the Saints defense. (1-3)
  • Pittsburgh 38, Oakland 35: While the Steelers were able to pull out a must-win game, they may have to face the daunting task of having to survive without both Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell for awhile. Then again, Roethlisberger could start against the Browns because you can never count him out. The Raiders are still looking good as their offense continues to impress. (2-3)
  • Minnesota 21, St. Louis 18: Am I surprised the Rams injured an opposing quarterback? No not at all, but not because I think we have another bountygate brewing. The Rams have a very aggressive defense with the philosophy of hitting the opposing quarterback as much as legally possible. Of course, with that mentality comes the possibility of illegal hits. I think the Vikings could be in real trouble if Teddy Bridgewater misses multiple weeks as they face a competitive Raiders team this week followed by their first duel with the rival Packers the next week. (3-3)
  • New England 27, Washington 10: The loss of Dion Lewis will hurt the Patriots running game a little, but not enough to make Patriots’ fans worry about the team’s championship aspirations. After all, Tom Brady is still playing like an MVP candidate. Meanwhile the Redskins continue to play fairly well as they held the Patriots to their lowest point total of the season. The problem was that the Redskins put themselves in too big of a hole to start the game, so they never had a chance to compete. (4-3)
  • New York Jets 28, Jacksonville 23: The Jets really caught a break when the Jaguars fell apart in the fourth quarter, because if they didn’t the Jets would be on a three-game losing streak with a Thursday night matchup with the Bills next. As for the Jaguars, who showed resilience against the Bills the week before, this was a big step backwards. (5-3)
  • San Francisco 17, Atlanta 16: I have to give credit to Blaine Gabbert as he played a lot better than I expected. The 49ers as a whole really played like the season wasn’t lost yet which is a good turnaround from the previous weeks. Meanwhile the Falcons lose their second straight to a mediocre team and are starting to raise questions about the legitimacy of their record. (5-4)
  • New York Giants 32, Tampa Bay 18: Unlike the Saints, the Giants’ defense was able to turn things around after that 51-48 offensive classic. A lot of that had to do with the return of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who pressured Jameis Winston five times and even got one QB hit in his first game back with the Giants. The Buccaneers continue to go through growing pains, this time not ending drives and having to settle for field goals. (6-4)
  • Indianapolis 27, Denver 24: Everyone knew it would happen eventually. If the Broncos defense has an off-day, can the offense carry them to a win? To Peyton Manning and the offense’s credit, they almost did but it wasn’t enough. Also I need to give a lot of credit to the Colts for finally looking like the Colts we envisioned at the start of the season. Now can the Colts keep it up while having to play without Andrew Luck? (6-5)
  • Philadelphia 33, Dallas 27: The Cowboys remain winless without Tony Romo and realistically will need to stay undefeated with Tony Romo (Cowboys are already 2-0 when Romo starts) to have any shot of still winning the division. That might be too steep of a mountain to climb. Meanwhile, Sam Bradford had arguably his best game as an Eagle as he came in clutch with the overtime touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews. (7-5)
  • Chicago 22, San Diego 19: For all the talk of Jay Cutler being a bad quarterback, it should be noted that all three of the Bears’ wins were won by Cutler leading a late drive for the go-ahead score. As for the Chargers, Philip Rivers was dealt yet another blow as he has lost his second receiver in two weeks, this time losing Malcom Floyd after loosing Keenan Allen last week. (8-5)

Week 9 Record: 8-5
Season Record: 86-46 (.652)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In The Cards: Week 8 Recap

Welcome to the week eight recap of All In The Cards. A lot of wild and crazy things happened last weekend so there are quite a few things to talk about, including the firing of some coaches, some key injuries, and a particular quarterback-benching. The Cardinals are on bye this week but there will still be a regular All In The Cards this week as I will give my midseason grades for each team as well as midseason awards. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s see how I did with my week eight picks:

How I did with my Week 8 NFL Predictions:

  • Arizona 34, Cleveland 20: This game was a tale of two halves. The first half featured the Cardinals of old, as they continuously shot themselves in the foot and let the Browns rack up a 21-7 lead. The pressure of being the favorite was getting to them and after one Chris Johnson fumble (his first of the season) things started to unravel as both the offense and defense were pushed around by the Browns. Despite a late field goal, it looked like the Cardinals had fallen prey to the trap game. Then the Cardinals did something they never do. Instead of playing scared, the Cards played angry. Right from the second half kickoff, the defense smothered the Browns offense, only allowing 86 total yards and forcing two turnovers. The Browns never scored again while the Cardinals offense scored 24 points in the second half to pull out the victory. To the regular observer this seems like an underwhelming win for the Cards but it is more than that. The Cardinals won their first game this season where they lost the turnover battle (the Cards had four turnovers to the Browns two), thus breaking down the preconception that this team only wins when things go their way. The Cards took this game and now have a bye before they face the Seahawks in what will be the biggest game of Arizona’s season so far. (1-0)
  • New England 36, Miami 7: Even toddlers who can’t put together full sentences know that the Patriots’ offense is excellent, but what we saw Thursday night was that the Patriots’ defense is also a pretty good. They held a Dolphins’ offense that had scored a combined 82 points in their last two games to just a measly seven points. Even more impressive is that the Patriots’ run defense held the Dolphins to 15 rushing yards after Miami accumulated 428 rushing yards over its past two games. If the Patriots’ defense can play like they did Thursday night on a consistent basis, we may see Tom Brady and company complete their second perfect regular season. (2-0)
  • Kansas City 45, Detroit 10: A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that you should never fire a coach unless you know for a fact that the coach, not the players, is the reason you are failing. We saw a couple of teams part ways with a coach this week and for their sake they better be right or else the same thing that happened to the Lions will happen to them. In their first game after firing offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, the Lions were humiliated by the Chiefs as Detroit tied a season-low 10 points scored. The Lions’ eighth ranked passing game threw for only 195 yards against a Chiefs’ defense that ranks a mediocre 21st in pass defense. Either the Lions replaced Lombardi with the wrong guy or it’s the group of players that should shoulder the blame. (3-0)
  • Tampa Bay 23, Atlanta 20: While fourth quarter comebacks are exciting, at some point you need to ask yourself why do you need to make these comebacks all the time? That’s the position the Falcons see themselves in at the moment as their flare for waiting until the fourth quarter to make a run has finally come back to haunt them. Give credit to the Buccaneers, who had a similar lead last week against the Redskins but collapsed in the second half, for finding a way to win in overtime, but this was a long time coming for the Falcons. Despite being 6-2, the Falcons are nowhere near that good when you realize they have trailed in the fourth quarter during six of their eight games. That means the Falcons are only a few plays away from being 2-6. The Falcons need to find out why they keep falling behind because as you saw on Sunday, those deficits are starting to catch up with them. (3-1)
  • Minnesota 23, Chicago 20: Down seven with less than five minutes left to go on the road at a place where you have lost seven straight. That was the position the Vikings found themselves after Jay Cutler ran in for the go-ahead touchdown to put the Bears ahead late in the fourth quarter. What we saw was a Vikings’ team grow up and pull through in crunch time. Let me say this because I know some people might want to call me a hypocrite for praising the Vikings comeback but criticizing the Falcons for always having to come back: the difference is that the Vikings were tied in the fourth quarter before seeing the Bears retake the lead, thus prompting the Vikings to have to score late to win. The Falcons on the other hand fall behind early by multiple scores and then start to play better in the fourth quarter. The Vikings showed resolve by falling behind late and coming out with the win. That’s the sign of a well-coached team. (4-1)
  • Cincinnati 16, Pittsburgh 10: When you combine this loss with the loss of Le’Veon Bell, this may be the game the Steelers look back to if they don’t make the playoffs. While DeAngelo Williams should be able to keep the running game afloat in Bell’s absence, the home loss to the still undefeated Bengals is what will hurt more. The race for the wild card spots will be tough and with someone from the AFC South guaranteed to make the playoffs, we may yet again see a 10-6 or better team miss the playoffs. However, it’s not looking good for the Steelers to even finish 10-6 with the schedule they have left. They host the surprisingly good Raiders this week and still have home games against the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts. In addition, they still have to play the Seattle Seahawks as well as the Bengals on road. Getting to 10-6 will be an uphill battle as the Steelers currently sit at 4-4. This would have been considerably easier if they were 5-3. (4-2)
  • Houston 20, Tennessee 6: As a Cardinals fan, the firing of Ken Whisenhunt has me conflicted. On one hand he led the Cardinals to their only Super Bowl appearance and to back-to-back division titles. On the other hand there are all the stats of Whiz with/without Kurt Warner (24-18 with Warner, 24-53 without Warner). It seems that what ultimately led to Whiz’s demise with the Titans was his unwillingness to change his offense, which doesn’t surprise me. Whisenhunt’s progression scheme fit Warner perfectly, but since Warner’s retirement, Whiz has focused more on finding a quarterback who can work in his system instead of adapting his system to fit his quarterback. That is the key reason he has gone through so many quarterbacks during his time as a head coach and honestly is sounds like a fatal flaw. I still respect Whiz for leading the Cardinals to the Super Bowl and I wish him the best of luck, but this was a coach firing I agree with 100%. (5-2)
  • St. Louis 27, San Francisco 6: I wanted to talk about how the Rams are now 3-0 against the NFC West or how Todd Gurley has rushed for more yards than any other running back through their first four games since the NFL/AFL merger, but when the 49ers make a decision as dumb as the one they announced this week I have to talk about it. Do people forget how bad Blaine Gabbert was when he last played? Gabbert has the worst career QBR of any quarterback in the last 10 years, sporting a terrible 22.6 during his three years in Jacksonville. For anyone unfamiliar with QBR, all you need to know is that a quarterback with a QBR of 50 is considered to be an average. You can’t use the supporting cast argument either because he has a similar supporting cast now so nothing will change. I know the 49ers are frustrated with Colin Kaepernick, and that the offense is currently last in points scored. It just feels like the 49ers are giving up on the season and trying to distance themselves away from the last link to the Jim Harbaugh-era. I hope another team down the line gives Kaepernick another shot, because this season was hopeless for him from the start. (6-2)
  • New Orleans 52, New York Giants 49: This is the kind of box score you usually see during a Madden game, not an actual NFL game. I can’t help but feel that both defenses have been scarred from this experience. I remember in the 2009 playoffs when Arizona beat Green Bay 51-45 that both defenses took some time to recover after being humiliated by the opposing offenses. Neither the Saints nor the Giants’ defenses were that good to begin with, but you really have to worry about their psyche going forward. Suddenly a stop the defense would usually make doesn’t happen and then the team loses a game they needed to win. It will be very interesting watching both defenses going forward. (6-3)
  • Baltimore 29, San Diego 26: It’s really tough to see a warrior such as Steve Smith go down the way he did. Before the year he called this one his last season but after suffering an Achilles injury Sunday it is hard to believe that this will be the last time we see the future hall-of-famer. As for what the Ravens do without Smith, my answer is run the ball more and hope somebody in the receiving core emerges over the next couple of games to be a go-to receiver for Joe Flacco. As for the Chargers, even more weight is on Philip Rivers now with the injury to Keenan Allen. However, unlike Flacco, Rivers still has Danny Woodhead, Antonio Gates, and Malcom Floyd to throw to. (7-3)
  • Oakland 34, New York Jets 20: Derek Carr became the third Raiders’ quarterback since 1970 to throw for over 300 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions (the other two being Rich Gannon and Jeff Hostetler). Even more impressive is that he did it against a Jets’ defense that is one of the best in the NFL. Suddenly the Raiders are over .500 with a win against a good opponent and hope that a future playoff berth could happen as soon as this season. I think it’s a little early to be thinking playoffs, but if the Raiders are able to win one or both of their next two games (at Pittsburgh and then home for Minnesota) then I would probably jump on the bandwagon. The Jets, on the other hand, have lost two straight and while both were against good opponents (the other loss being against New England) the thought of losing Ryan Fitzpatrick for any amount of time really puts their playoff hopes in jeopardy. (7-4)
  • Seattle 13, Dallas 12: The Seahawks did what they had to do and now they go into their bye week 4-4 with a huge matchup against Arizona the week after. The game is important for both teams, as I’ll go further in-depth during that week’s All In The Cards preview, but there is no doubt that the team with more pressure to win that game is Seattle. Even though it seems the Seahawks’ defense has finally gotten back on track, 15 total points allowed in their last two games, they played two of the five worst offenses in the NFL in the 49ers and Romo-less Cowboys. The Seahawks have still yet to beat a team with a winning record and failing to do it against Arizona at home could put the Seahawks so far behind in the standings that they won’t be able to catch up by the end of the season and miss the playoffs. (8-4)
  • Denver 29, Green Bay 10: I didn’t think the Broncos’ defense could continue to carry the team throughout the rest of the season but I was obviously wrong. What we saw against the Packers was one of the best defenses in recent NFL history. You do not simply hold Aaron Rodgers to 77 passing yards. In fact, the Packers offense, which averages 332.1 yards a game, was held to just 140 yards. Broncos’ wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (168 yards) had more yards than the whole Packers’ offense. I still think the offensive shortcomings will eventually bite the Broncos in the butt, but that defense is going to make extremely hard for any team to take advantage of an offensive mistake. As for the Packers they face another tough defense in Carolina this week. I think Rodgers and company will respond but if they don’t then there might be some cause for concern. (8-5)
  • Carolina 29, Indianapolis 26: If reports are true that Pep Hamilton continuously refused to play an up-tempo offense, then this firing makes a little more sense. However, this just seems like the wrong time to bring in a new offense. I understand the concept that in situations like this there needs to be a fall guy, but the truth is that it wasn’t all Hamilton’s fault. Andrew Luck is obviously not himself as he still seems injured and has committed 13 turnovers this season. The offensive line is still bad, the tight ends aren’t as involved, and the defense is ranked 25th in points allowed which puts even more pressure on Luck to perform. If new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is able to turn this offense around, then firing Hamilton will have been the right call. The problem is that I don’t think things will change that much under Chudzinski. (9-5)

Week 8 Record: 9-5
Season Record: 78-41 (.655)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2