Saturday, March 8, 2014
By GREG COTE, The Miami Herald; last week: 10-5; season: 32-31
BRONCOS (2-2) at PATRIOTS (2-2), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: The Game of the Week cabinet gave a cursory glance at Eagles-Steelers and Chargers-Saints but ultimately was drawn as if by hypnosis to the holy altar of Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. I don't wanna say this'll be a shootout, but the score is already 24-21 and kickoff is still hours away. Brady affirmed his magic last week in engineering a 45-point second half that made Buffalo's defense collapse like a U.S. Ryder Cup team, while Manning has silenced his critics with vintage 300-yard games back to back. Always like Brady at home, always, still, but bet Manning finds a way to keep it close and make it thrilling deep into the fourth.
Prediction: Patriots, 38-34
FALCONS (4-0) at REDSKINS (2-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Sometimes you go with your gut. Atlanta is unbeaten and Redskins have somehow lost seven consecutive home games, but those trends shall end. See a big day for unheralded Alfred Morris against a run defense that is Falcons' Achilles heel.
Prediction: Redskins, 30-28
BROWNS (0-4) at GIANTS (2-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: The Dog panel sifting for a week's worst game always prefers the classic enjoining of two really bad teams but will settle on apparent disparity when needed. In this case, that's winless Browns -- losers of 10 in a row -- against defending champ Giants, who are home and also hungry after last week's two-point loss to Philadelphia. Browns played Baltimore tough last week, but I like Giants' defense to dominate rookie Brandon Weeden.
Prediction: Giants, 28-13
DOLPHINS (1-3) at BENGALS (3-1), 1 p.m.
Outlook: A 431-yard passer, a 253-yard receiver, eight defensive sacks and it isn't enough -- man, the Dolphins truly are inventing new ways to lose. Miami has won on six of its past seven trips to the Queen City, and I give the Dolphins a medium shot at an outright road win, following heartbreaking overtime losses the past two weeks. That upset hat hangs on this hook: Reggie Bush and a stout running game against a Cincinnati run defense allowing 5.4 yards per carry. Alas, I see a big day for Bengals receiver A.J. Green and a purring offense that has averaged 33 points in its current three-game winning streak.
Prediction: Bengals, 27-24
PACKERS (2-2) at COLTS (1-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: How much does emotion weigh? That's the question here, as Indy plays its first game without Coach Chuck Pagano since he was diagnosed with leukemia. No doubt Colts will be inspired, and the fact they're coming off a bye and the Packers are coming off a draining one-point win over the Saints further levels this game. Then again, back in the real world, Aaron Rodgers will have his way with the Colts' defense.
Prediction: Packers, 31-17
RAVENS (3-1) at CHIEFS (1-3), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Ravens' run defense is better equipped than most to limit Jamaal Charles, meaning the game shifts into Matt Cassel's error-prone hands. Baltimore is rested after playing last Thursday, and Ray Rice figures to have a big day. I'd also note that KC's once-vaunted home-field edge at Arrowhead has withered, with six losses there in past seven games.
Prediction: Ravens, 27-10
EAGLES (3-1) at STEELERS (1-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: One needn't be a Pennsylvanian to be excited about this one. Eagles have survived turnovers to win three games by four total points. Steelers, off a bye, are healthier than they've been in a long time, and get Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall back. Philly might have more overall talent but Pittsburgh takes the state title.
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