Thursday, December 17, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 15 Picks

Scrappy Packers

The game against the Bears last Sunday was arguably their biggest trap game thus far. They were entering the game with a 4 game win streak. They had to play at Soldier Field, always been a tough place to get a win for the Packers the last few years. Add to it that the cold weather with sub zero wind chills makes it harder for the precision passing attack of the Packers, making them more dependent on their inconsistent running game. Their D line was decimated with injuries entering the game. Although Jolly, Raji and Jenkins played, they were all playing with injuries and Ryan Pickett was not even active for the game. It had all the makings of a perfect storm and a big time let down. But, the Packers were blessed to play a Bears team that simply refused to win, while the Packers simply refused to lose.

On a day when Aaron Rodgers passes for less than 200 yards, you hope that your defense holds off the scoring from the other side. The Packers defense did just that and some more. They shut down Matt Forte. While one might think that the Bears running game is not that formidable a task, in reality, it was Sunday with the banged up D line of the Packers. To counter that, Dom Capers designed and called a few new wrinkles on defense. He introduced "the psycho" which features just one D lineman and 5 linebackers in a nickel formation. Also, the secondary held their own against Jay Cutler and if they held on to a couple more balls, would have ended up with more than the 2 picks they had for the day.

The Packer offense was on the back of Ryan Grant, who had a 150+ yard day. His first touch on the first Packer snap of the day, he broke out a 62 yard TD run. That play was an indication of how much this O line group of the Packers have improved over the last month or so. They also kept Rodgers off the ground for the most part. The special teams too did not blow on any of the kick / punt coverage, which is a good sign. But, again, Mason Crosby missed one from 42 yards. The coaching staff, after the game, still expressed their confidence that Mason will snap out of this slump of missed kicks he has been having. But what else do we expect them to say? It is too late in the season to try replace your spot kicker.

With this win, the Packers have the inside track for a spot in the playoffs. Probably one win in their next 3 games should be enough the seal the deal, considering the tough schedule for the Cowboys and the Giants. But in the next 3 weeks, the Packers do have other issues to take care of in preparation for the postseason. They need to get both their offensive and defensive lines healthy. They cannot afford to rest players especially on offense, as that would mess with their chemistry to play together. They could possibly, reduce the snaps for the banged up players the next 2 weeks. Another pressing thing for the Packers is their special teams play. Although they did not have a tough time against the Bears, they should continue that effort through the remainder of the season and take it to the playoffs. They cannot afford any setbacks due to special teams going against playoff-level teams. It may so end up for the Packers that after their Week 17 game against the Cardinals, they might have to go back to Arizona for their first playoffs game the very next week. Rarely does it happen in the NFL, that a team plays back-to-back away games against the same opponent. The Packers might have to do it. If the Cardinals do have something to play for in Week 17, it will be a good test for the Packers to get an idea about where they stand against a playoff team.

Week 15 Picks

Colts (-3) at Jaguars
The Colts are probably going to play full strength and not ease up on their push like in years past. Still they have to contain MJD and the Jaguars running game to pull this one off. Also, if they jump off to quick lead and take off their starters, it wouldn't surprise me if the Jags make a comeback against the Colts 2nd or 3rd tier teams.
My Pick: Colts

UPDATE: 12/18/2009 12:20 PM

Cowboys (+7) at Saints
The "December funk" is getting to the heads of the Cowboys. Reality is how many teams can get through a schedule of facing the Eagles, Chargers and then the Saints without a funk.
My Pick: Saints

Packers (+2) at Steelers
The Packers can clinch a playoff spot with a win here and a little help - a Cowboys loss to the Saints (likely) or a Giants loss or tie to the Redskins (not likely but definitely possible). But the Packers have a tough task at hand try to get a win at Heinz Field against an angry bunch of Steelers. The Steelers might come at their opponents hard, but it still doesn't help fixing their decimated secondary. The cold weather will help in curtailing the passing game of the Packers, but 30 degrees in Pitt is like Spring in Wisconsin. Another aspect of this game that will be intriguing is the similarity in the defenses of the Packers and the Steelers. Capers was the one who instilled the now vaunted 3-4 defense in Pittsburgh in 1992-94. Its also a home-coming feel for McCarthy and some of the other coaching staff of the Packers. Although the Steelers cannot be discounted on their home turf, I still think the Packers will extend their win record over 3-4 defenses this year to 5-0.
My Pick: Packers

Dolphins (+3) at Titans
The Dolphins of late have been moving away from their Wild-Cat offense. Partly because they lost Ronnie Brown for the season and also because they like what they see in Chad Henne as a pocket passer. With Vince Young hobbled by his injury, I think the Dolphins will be able to contain Chris Johnson (by contain I mean less than 150 yards, cos that is how good he is), and pull this road win off, to stay in the race for an AFC wild card spot.
My Pick: Dolphins

Patriots (-7) at Bills
With all the fuss about Randy Moss' "giving up" on plays last week, little focus has been on the Moss Vs TO story this week. Who would have thought this story-line will be so irrelevant at the begining of this season? The bigger story definitely is that the Patriots are still to win in any of their opponent's home field this year.
My Pick: Patriots

Cardinals (-12) at Lions
Angry Kurt Warner against the Lions secondary? Good Luck Lions! I would include this game with any parley I make this week.
My Pick: Cardinals

49ers (+8.5) at Eagles
The Eagles are facing a rather confident 49ers team than what the 49ers record would indicate. But can the 49ers duplicate their effort against the Cardinals on the road?
My Pick: Eagles

Falcons (+5) at Jets
The Jets are now the No.1 defense in the country. Revis will blanket White all day long. And the Falcons won't have it easy whoever plays at QB. The Jets too will not care who starts as their QB, their offense will be on the shoulders of Thomas Jones.
My Pick: Jets

Bears (+11) at Ravens
Snow Storm in Baltimore this weekend. That's the last thing Cutler needs right now, especially with Ed Reed playing Sunday.
My Pick: Ravens

Browns (+2) at Chiefs
The Browns go into this game with lots of momentum after pulling an upset over the Steelers last week and will come out of KC with a win.
My Pick: Browns

Texans (-10.5) at Rams
The Texans should take care of business and pad up their wins, as they usually do after being all but eliminated from the playoffs.
My Pick: Texans

Bengals (+6.5) at Chargers
The Chargers are clear favorites here. But with the sad death of Chris Henry this week, emotions will run high and Bengals might try to dig in deep and pull this one out for their team mate. They already did that once upsetting the Ravens in their first meeting this season after the sudden death of Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer's wife.
My Pick: Chargers

Raiders (+14) at Broncos
Clearly, this is the lowest point in Jamarcus Russel's young career. He was benched to let the 2nd tier team play and now with the injury to Gradkowski, they skip him and let 3rd string Charlie Frye start for the Raiders. Talk about showing confidence on your No.1 pick!
My Pick: Broncos

Bucs (+6.5) at Seahawks
The Seahawks have been inconsistent this season. But if you watched closely, they have a pattern, lose to good teams in a blowout..... or thrash bad teams at home. This game falls on the latter category
My Pick: Seahawks

Vikings (-9) at Panthers
Percy Harvin may not play again. Delhomee ain't playing either. Plus the Vikings are on the road away from their cozy dome and astro turf. So this might end up being a game with heavy doses of runs from both teams.
My Pick: Vikings

Giants (-3) at Redskins
Every game now is a must-win for the Giants. Although this week they only face the Redskins, it is still going to be a tough one for them as all NFC East match-ups are.
My Pick: Giants

Last Week: 13-3
This week: 1-0
Year to date: 149-60

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