Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams (+3)
Lost among all the furor over Lance Easley’s blown call last Monday night was the fact that the Seattle Seahawks went toe-to-toe with the Green Bay Packers, ultimately pulling out a 14-12 victory, as tainted as it may seem.
Seattle’s offense didn’t provide many sparks, but the defense played lights out. Outside linebacker K.J. Wright had nine solo tackles; perennially underrated Chris Clemons registered four first-half sacks; and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane had four tackles and two sacks. The end result: 268 total net yards and one lone touchdown for the usually potent Green Bay offense.
The Seahawks defense should shine again this week as they take on Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams. The Rams, like the Packers, have had issues with their O-line and their running game. Bradford has been dropped 12 times while running back Steven Jackson has averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.
St. Louis’ starting left tackle, Rodger Saffold, remains sidelined with a sprained MCL, which means that Wayne “Turnstile” Hunter will get another undeserved start. Hunter had a tough outing against the Chicago Bears last week as he allowed several QB pressures and a sack. Expect him to struggle once more as he attempts to block Clemons and fellow defensive end Bruce Irvin.
San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets (+4 ½)
The San Francisco 49ers are one of the NFL’s best teams because they can run the ball and stop the run. Frank Gore is averaging 5.4 yards per carry while the Niners defense is holding opponents to 91 rushing yards per game.
The New York Jets can’t run the ball or stop the run. Starting running back Shonn Greene is averaging 2.8 yards per carry while the Jets defense is ranked 28th against the run.
The Jets are ranked 11th in pass defense, but they’ll be forced to go the rest of the way without Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was lost for the season after he tore his MCL. That will force the inferior Kyle Wilson, who teams routinely target, into the starting lineup. Expect San Francisco to attack him early and often.
Pick: San Francisco
Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars (+3)
The Cincinnati Bengals defense has looked ragged thus far, particularly against the run. Cincy has allowed an average of 155 rushing yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry. That should send up some red flags as the Bengals prepare to face the Jacksonville Jaguars and Maurice Jones-Drew, who is averaging 104.7 rushing yards per game and a healthy 5.3 yards per carry. But the Bengals defense should be able to confidently stack the box against the Jaguars, who are averaging 163.7 passing yards per game.
Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton has been lighting up opposing defenses and that trend should continue this week. The Jaguars have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 63 percent of their passes, partly due to an anemic pass rush that’s generated two sacks through three games. Jacksonville’s D has also missed some key players like outside linebacker Daryl Smith, who will miss his fourth straight game this week.
Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals (-6)
The Miami Dolphins are ranked fourth in rushing yardage and they’re tied for the league lead with six rushing TDs. Running back Reggie Bush, who’s injured, has accounted for 57 percent of those yards and one-third of those scores. While Bush practiced on Thursday, it remains to be seen if he’ll play. Even if he does, he’s likely to have a tough time running against an Arizona Cardinals defense that’s allowing 3.9 yards per carry.
While the Cardinals’ rushing defense has been good, their passing defense has been better. Arizona is allowing 210 passing yards and 21 completions per game. The Cardinals pass rush has been pretty good, too. Arizona has 12 sacks this season, including five against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Quarterback Kevin Kolb has gone from goat to hero since he’s come off the bench to lead Arizona to three straight victories. While Kolb hasn’t racked up lots of yards or scores, he’s been incredibly efficient. His 108.6 QB rating is good for third-best in the league.
Kolb’s Miami counterpart, Ryan Tannehill, has been anything but efficient. The rookie has completed less than 53 percent of his passes and he’s thrown four interceptions, one of them a costly pick-six against the Jets last week. Tannehill struggled badly against the Houston Texans back in Week 1 as Tim Jamison and J.J. Watt combined for two-and-a-half sacks and four passes defended. Arizona’s defensive line is just as active, if not more explosive, than the Texans’. Expect them to pressure Tannehill early and often.
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers (O/U 53 ½)
The New Orleans Saints may very well have the worst defense in the league. They’re ranked dead last in total defense and they’re giving up 34 points per game. New Orleans has been dreadful against both the pass and the run and they’ve made very few impact plays; they only have one forced fumble and one interception through the first three games.
While the Saints defense has failed to do its job, the offense has been moving the chains and scoring points. New Orleans is ranked 10th in total offense and ninth in scoring offense, averaging 27.7 points per game.
The Packers offense had a rough time against the Seahawks last week, but they’re still averaging 304.3 yards and 19 points per game. Pass protection, which has been an issue for the Packers, shouldn’t be as big of a concern this week as the Saints have amassed just six sacks so far.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay’s special teams ace, is always a threat to score. He’s averaging a respectable 23.4 yards on kickoff returns and 15.4 yards on punt returns. The Saints have allowed 10 kickoffs and eight punts to be returned, so Cobb should get a couple of chances to break one loose.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-1)
The New York Giants are 2-1 because of Eli Manning’s great play. The Philadelphia Eagles are 2-1 in spite of Michael Vick’s picks.
Aside from his ugly first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Manning has looked every bit the two-time Super Bowl MVP. He’s completed almost 67 percent of his passes for a league-high 1,011 passing yards and five touchdowns.
So far, Vick hasn’t looked anywhere as good as Manning. In fact, he’s struggled so badly that his hold on the starter’s job may be in jeopardy. Of course, that shouldn’t be a much of a surprise as Vick has completed a woefully low 55.2 percent of his passes for 905 yards, three touchdowns, and six interceptions. He’s also been sacked nine times. Some of those sacks were Vick’s fault, but Philadelphia’s porous O-line also deserves its fair share of blame.
Eagles coach Andy Reid could help Vick out by calling some more running plays for LeSean “Shady” McCoy, who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. But don’t expect that to happen. McCoy has carried the ball 20 times or more just eight times over his last 34 games.
New York’s running game should get a boost from the return of Ahmad Bradshaw, who’s averaging 4.3 yards per carry. But it’s Andre Brown that Philadelphia should be worried about. He ran angry and he ran hard last week, as he gashed the Carolina Panthers for 113 rushing yards and two TDs. If Brown starts off hot, he may be tough to stop, especially if defensive starters Akeem Ayers and Fletcher Cox are unable to play.
Pick: New York
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys (O/U 42)
Monday night’s match-up between the Bears and the Dallas Cowboys looks to be an ugly, low-scoring affair.
The Bears offensive line, which has allowed 11 sacks, is sure to struggle against Cowboys outside linebackers Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware, who have combined for six sacks through the first three games.
Chicago’s top two running backs, Matt Forte and Michael Bush, are dealing with injuries and it’s unclear whether or not they’ll play. If even one of them can’t go, that will put more pressure on the shoulders of Jay Cutler, who has thrown for 309 yards, one touchdown, and five picks over his last two games.
The Cowboys have had protection problems of their own as quarterback Tony Romo has been dropped seven times. Penalties have been a problem, too. Left tackle Tyron Smith leads the league with five false starts while his teammate Doug Free is right behind him with four.
Dallas running back DeMarco Murray is averaging 4.3 yards per carry, but he’s coming off two straight poor showings: a 44-yard rushing game against Seattle and a 38-yard rushing game against Tampa Bay.
Tight end Jason Witten hasn’t been his usual, reliable self this season. He leads the league with five dropped passes and he’s missed a couple of routine blocks.
Season Record to Date: 7-10-0