Shawn Rine’s NFL Picks
Last Week: 10-5
New Orleans 36, Atlanta 16
No doubt the schedule makers thought they had a marquee matchup with this one. Then the Falcons unexpectedly began to stink, and now are putting off one gross stench. There are no such issues with the Saints who look every bit of a title contender. The thing is, with the red-hot Panthers right on its tail, New Orleans cannot afford a single slip. Don’t worry, that won’t happen here.
Green Bay 17, Minnesota 14
Will Aaron Rodgers play, or won’t he? That is the question. At one time during the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, this was a game every fan had marked on the calendar. It used to be a high-flying, high-scoring affair. Now, well, it’s simply Scott Tolzein against Christian Ponder. The Vikings have gotten so bad recently that Adrian Peterson isn’t even having much success running the football.
Jacksonville 13, Houston 10
If the Jaguars want the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft, this is a game they can’t afford to win. Yes, win. There’s big-time trouble brewing in Houston with star receiver Andre Johnson hinting that he may want out. Coach Gary Kubiak certainly isn’t saying the same thing, but it’s not up to him. There’s a better than great chance the Texans will have a new coach next season. The only question is, will there be a new top overall pick to greet him?
San Diego 24, Kansas City 19
It’s gone south in somewhat of a hurry for the Chargers. They look less and less super-charged every week. There weren’t the usual ridiculous Super Bowl expectations from the national media, but still, nobody saw this steep of decline so rapidly. The Chiefs are what we thought they were: an average team with little to nothing to offer offensively that has benefited greatly from a rather easy schedule. Will Kansas City lose two in a row? Yes.
Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 10
The Steelers are one game out of the second and final wild-card spot in the AFC. Yes, you read that correctly. As bad as they’ve been some days, the chances of postseason football increase by the game, and it’s not necessarily that Pittsburgh is getting better, but it’s more a product of the entire conference being dreadful. Did you see what happened when Ben Roethlisberger went to the no-huddle almost exclusively last week? Try 367 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Stick with that, Steelers, and you’ll be playing in the playoffs. Oh, and Cleveland is dreadful. Wait until you see all the Terrible Towels on the road.
Chicago 26, St. Louis 13
The last time we saw the Rams, they were dismantling the Colts on the road behind a breathtaking performance from West Virginia rookie Tavon Austin. Unfortunately their bye week probably couldn’t have come at a worse time, meaning momentum from that victory could be hard to sustain. The Bears are the walking wounded right now, but don’t sleep on Matt Forte. He’s the type of back who can carry a team through muddy waters.
Detroit 32, Tampa Bay 14
The Lions had a chance to strengthen their grip on the NFC North last week, but couldn’t put a single point on the board in the second half against Pittsburgh. To top it all off, the decision to fake a field goal instead of putting three points on the board was highly curious. The Buccaneers – yes, those guys – have won two games in a row. Making things even better, it’s been what, three weeks, since an outbreak of MRSA at their facility?
Baltimore 15, N.Y. Jets 13
There’s a very good chance the final AFC wild card will come down to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, going strictly by remaining schedules. The Jets hold that spot, but looked downright dreadful last week in a humiliating loss at the hands of the Bills. The Ravens didn’t do themselves any favors with a loss to the Bears, in which quarterback Joe Flacco basically blamed defeat on the weather. OK, Joe. Some good came out of that loss, though, as Baltimore rediscovered its running game.
Carolina 27, Miami 20
Nobody in the NFL is hotter than the Panthers, who have one six games in a row. The way they were victorious against New England though, was downright shameful on the part of the officiating crew. That being said, those are the kinds of breaks you get when things are going well. The Dolphins surprised me last week by knocking off the Chargers. Hey, Mike Wallace, how is all that young money treating you? Oh, 44 catches for 534 yards and one score? Careful what you wish for, my man.
Oakland 6, Tennessee 2
Both of these teams are one game out of the wild card, with each owning a victory against the Steelers. I know, but I digress. The Raiders, to the surprise of many, are actually playing pretty well. How good is it going? Consider they won last week with Matt McGloin at quarterback.
Indianapolis 33, Arizona 22
Andrew Luck, the pupil, gets a chance to show his teacher, Bruce Arians, what all he has learned in the last year and can all but wrap up the AFC South with a victory. Believe it or not, the Cardinals still have a lot to play for with a 6-4 record that has them one game from a playoff spot. Hard to imagine they’ve done it basically without Rashard Mendenhall. Wait, we’ve seen this song and dance. It generally ends up with the running back crashing into the line backward, then in street clothes.
N.Y. Giants 25, Dallas 23
Pretty much everyone in the NFC East is in play, save for the Redskins, who have some major issues in-house. Dallas is a game out of first while the Giants, at 4-6, are two games back. You know what generally happens when these rivals meet in a crucial game, right? Yeah, the Cowboys fold faster than a house of cards. Here’s betting they do so again.
New England 38, Denver 35
Throughout his illustrious career, it’s arguable that nobody has bounced back from a tough defeat better than Tom Brady. He and the Patriots had their hearts ripped out Monday night as Rob Gronkowski was interfered with on the final play in Charlotte. The officials originally threw a flag but inexplicably picked it up. If this game was in Denver, I would definitely lean the other way.
San Francisco 28, Washington 13
So Robert Griffin III said in his postgame press conference that the Eagles pretty much knew what was coming before each play. Does that sound like a dig on the coaching staff, particularly head coach Mike Shanahan and son Kyle Shanahan, the team’s offensive coordinator? It does to me. That’s not a great state of mind to have going into what is a critical matchup for the 49ers. San Francisco isn’t nearly as good as it was last season, and that seems to stem from the fact teams have figured out a way to shut down Kolin Kaepernick and the zone-read.
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at email@example.com
Shawn Rine’s NFL Picks
Last Week: 8-6 Overall: 784-52
Indianapolis 24, Tennessee 12
Geez, it was only a few weeks ago that this had the makings of a pretty decent matchup. Then what happens? The Colts get blasted at home by the Rams and the Titans give up a victory to a Jaguars squad that would struggle in the Southeastern Conference. Injuries are playing a role on both teams, obviously, but those are losses that just can’t happen. The problem is, the Titans simply aren’t any good without Jake Locker.
Sunday, Nov. 17
Chicago 15, Baltimore 14
Somebody put out an A.P.B for Ray Rice, because the dude hasn’t been seen on a football field since last season. The Super Bowl champs have turned into the chumps in a hurry. Sure, Baltimore found a way to beat the Bengals in overtime, but did you see the Hail Mary it gave up at the end of regulation? That’s just pitiful. Jay Cutler is out with an injury, which seems to be a yearly occurrence. Still, Josh McCown gets it done.
Oakland 9, Houston 7
Two teams going in the same direction … nowhere. The Raiders I can understand because they’ve been a comedy of errors for some time now (I thought it was supposed to get better without the late Al Davis in charge?) The Texans, on the other hand, are a bit more complex. I don’t want to kick a guy while he’s down, but what shred of evidence has suggested Gary Kubiak has the necessary killer instinct to lead a team to a championship? It sure doesn’t help that Arian Foster is finished for the season.
N.Y. Jets 23, Buffalo 14
How top heavy is the AFC, you ask? Consider that the Jets, at a robust 4-5, are holding down the second wild-card spot. The first wild card belongs to Denver (8-1). What I saw of the Bills last week is a team that’s lack of a clue is only trumped by an overall lack of talent. New York, no matter how it does it, should get to .500 with a victory here.
Atlanta 6, Tampa Bay 3
The Buccaneers hadn’t quite finished celebrating their first victory Monday night when they found out their second-string running back, Mike James, is joining their starter, Doug Martin on the sideline. That leaves Brian Leonard, a career fullback, as No. 1 on their depth chart, followed by Western Kentucky grad Bobby Rainey. Uh, yeah. The Falcons are equally terrible, but still have more weapons.
Pittsburgh 26, Detroit 21
Megawho? Megatron? Never heard of the guy. Oh, you mean Calvin Johnson. Well, Mr. No. 81, meet Swag. Aka Ike T. Squared. Aka the Louisiana Lafayette Larcenist. All Ike Taylor does (usually) is shut down the other team’s top receiver. Don’t take my word for it, but look at the numbers. Nate Washington (46 yards, 0TDs), A.J. Green (41 yards, 0Tds), Brandon Marshall (52 yards, 0Tds), Jeremy Kerley (19 yards, 0TDs), Torrey Smith (61 yards, 0TDs), Denarius Moore (32 yards, 0TDs), Stevie Johnson (48 yards, 0TDs). Yes I concede that he did have a bad day against Minnesota and the entire secondary got lit up by New England, but this is the kind of matchup Ike lives for.
Philadelphia 34, Washington 33
With Dallas on its bye week, a victory against the Redskins would put the Eagles all alone atop the NFC East … at 6-5. At what point does anyone stop talking about that being the best division in football? Have we (excluding ESPN who continues to slobber all over it) already reached that point? Remember what happened when these teams met in the opener? The Redskins had to score 13 second-half points just to get it down to a 33-27 loss. Expect more of the same as Nick Foles may have found himself a permanent gig as Philadelphia’s starting QB.
Cleveland 15, Cincinnati 14
Can they both lose? Please? You have to give the Browns credit as they looked pretty good against what has turned into an overrated bye week team. Just kidding. But, if you’re a Steelers fan, you begrudgingly root for the Browns to muddle the North even more. The Bengals seemed to think all offseason they had a star at quarterback, but the only thing shining so far is Andy Dalton’s hair.
Arizona 22, Jacksonville 6
So Ben Roethlisberger wants to go to Arizona and reunite with former offensive coordinator and now Cardinals coach Bruce Arians? B.A. only wishes. What a bunch of gibberish. Although, I wouldn’t blame him for trying considering Larry Fitzgerald has basically been rendered useless since Kurt Warner retired. Luckily the Cardinals probably won’t even need him in this one.
San Diego 22, Miami 10
I can’t really put a finger on why, but for some reason the Chargers are having a roller coaster of a season. Losses to Houston, Oakland and Washington are unexplainable, but then there are victories against Philadelphia, Dallas and the Colts, and they hung in with Denver. Philip Rivers is having what many consider a career season, yet they still sit at 4-5. The Dolphins just lost to the Yuckaneers. Enough said.
Seattle 35, Minnesota 14
Starting with this week and going down the Seahawks’ remaining schedule, there’s not much reason to think they can’t finish at 15-1. There is a road game at San Francisco, but the Niners haven’t shown the offensive firepower they did a season ago. Other than Adrian Peterson, who hasn’t had the type of season expected thanks in large part to there being no passing game of which to speak, and Jared Allen saying he wants to stay, there isn’t much going for the Vikings.
New Orleans 33
San Francisco 17
We’re about to get a good look at who is a contender, and who is a pretender. There aren’t many worse places to go for a struggling offense than the Super Dome, which is as loud a venue as there is. Hand signals will be a must, so the 49ers had better be on their game. Everyone wants to talk about Peyton Manning for MVP, but what about Drew Brees?
N.Y. Giants 20, Green Bay 19
One elite quarterback isn’t playing and the other isn’t playing like he’s elite. Yet still we’re subjected to this game in the 4 p.m. ”showcase” window. Seriously, and not being facetious, there is nothing attractive whatsoever about this contest. Unless, of course, you’re the parents of Scott Tolzein. Don’t ask.
Denver 41, Kansas City 21
Speaking of contenders and pretenders, the Chiefs are about to get an old-fashioned butt whipping. No more undefeated season, and no more leading the AFC West. I’m certainly not sold on the Broncos past the regular season, but how can you be impressed by a Kansas City team that has beaten something like 43 second-string QBs?
Carolina 25, New England 13
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Panthers are on fire. They’re 6-3 and a game out of first in an NFC South that is admittedly top heavy. One thing we know about the Panthers is they will be physical. Conversely, we all know the pretty-boy Patriots don’t exactly like being punched in the mouth. This is a tough call, but … .
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org