Saturday, March 8, 2014
DOLPHINS (4-3) at COLTS (4-3), 1 p.m.
Outlook: It is Week 9 in the NFL and the Dolphins are playing an important game with bearing on the AFC playoff race. I call that progress. Heck, it might be closer to miraculous considering the team was winless a year ago today. The thing is, Indianapolis is much better, too, driven by rookie Andrew Luck. What odds you could have gotten in July if you'd bet that both of these teams would be over .500. In fact if Ryan Tannehill plays Sunday -- he's questionable -- he and Luck will be the first rookie QBs since 1970 to meet in the regular season with at least three wins each. Impressive. Now the good news/bad news. The bad news: I hunch the Colts will win in a slight upset. The good news for Dolphins fans: I'm only 3-4 picking Miami games this year. The betting line doesn't so much flatter Miami as disrespect Indy.
Prediction: Colts, 21-20
LIONS (3-4) at JAGUARS (1-6), 1 p.m.
Outlook: When presented a weak crop of lousy matchups, a Jacksonville home game is a safe default pick as the Dog Game of the Week. The Jags played Green Bay surprisingly tough last week but haven't stopped being a moribund 1-6 squad without their best player in injured Maurice Jones-Drew. Detroit isn't much of a road team, and so the upset factor here is medium-high, but error-prone Jacksonville finds ways to lose. (Bonus fact: Matthew Stafford will surpass 10,000 career passing yards in his 37th game. Only Kurt Warner, in 36 games, has done it faster.)
Prediction: Lions, 28-17
BRONCOS (4-3) at BENGALS (3-4), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Denver has won 14 of the past 17 in this series, and that was before Peyton Manning started pitching for the Broncos. Manning has at least 300 yards, three touchdown passes and 70 percent completions in four consecutive games. You would think the Bengals, as home underdogs coming off a bye, might be tempting, but Manning and slumping Andy Dalton are a stark contrast entering this one.
Prediction: Broncos, 31-20
RAVENS (5-2) at BROWNS (2-6), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Baltimore has won nine games in a row over Cleveland in the Modell Bowl Series, and is 4-0 after byes under John Harbaugh. Don't see it easy, though. Browns have won two in a row at home, their defense can be tough, and Ravens only won by 23-16 in first meeting five week ago. After getting spanked by Houston, Ravens must earn back the trust.
Prediction: Ravens, 21-17
CARDINALS (4-4) at PACKERS (5-3), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Cardinals have lost four in a row and limp in off a short week after playing Monday. Packers have injury issues with Greg Jennings out and Jordy Nelson iffy. But I figure if Alex Smith can decimate the Arizona pass-D with accuracy, so can Aaron Rodgers, even missing some pieces.
Prediction: Packers, 30-16
BEARS (6-1) at TITANS (3-5), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Chicago's defense has scored 41 of its 185 points. Who cares if Jay Cutler and the offense struggle; the Bears are at their best when Cutler is sitting. Tennessee happens to have won 10 of its past 12 home games vs. NFC teams, but I'm not leaving this Chicago D when it's this hot. Can't see Chris Johnson or Matt Hasselbeck getting much done.
Prediction: Bears, 24-13
PANTHERS (1-6) at REDSKINS (3-5), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Past two Heisman Trophy winners duel in Robert Griffin III vs. the man he replaced as NFL Wunderkind, Cam Newton. And I like Cam's Panthers in an upset. Carolina is due some luck, with five of its losses coming by a combined 18 points. And nothing about either team is worse than Washington's pass defense, which is on pace to be the first ever to allow 5,000 season yards.
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