By Brody Burns
Last Week: 11-4 Season Record: 59-31
This week’s games have been picked through the lens of song titles by the indelible Kanye West.
Thursday night: Carolina (-6) at Tampa Bay – “Lift Off” – Feat. Jay-Z & Beyoncé The Panthers are on a streak, having won three of their last four by an average of 26 points, and having scored more than 30 in each of those wins. The two keys have been quarterback Cam Newton, and the defense. Newton has five TDs, no turnovers, and a 139.9 QB rating in the last two weeks. The defense is ranked third overall, and is second in points allowed only behind the dominant Chiefs defense. The Bucs are winless, have a rookie starting quarterback and may have lost their star running back Doug Martin for the season. Newton and the Panther’s defense will make Thursday night ugly. My Pick: Panthers 28, Buccaneers 16.
Dallas at Detroit (-3) – “Monster” Feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver In the play of the game this past Sunday, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw the ball in the general vicinity of wideout Calvin Johnson, who went up over three Bengals defenders to snag the 50 yard TD reception. It was nasty. Megatron was a monster, and the catch was only part of a mega day from the league’s most talented receiver. On Sunday, the Cowboys used a stifling defense to beat the Eagles, but this weekend they encounter a new monster in Megatron. Sunday should feature a lot of offense, as both the Lions and Cowboys rank in the bottom quarter of the league in total defense. I’ll take the hometown in this shootout thanks to another breakout game from Megatron. My Pick: Lions 34, Cowboys 30.
Cleveland at Kansas City (-7) – “Good Life” – feat. T-Pain The Chiefs are the best team in the league and are living the good life. They have the number one defense, are number one in turnover differential (+11), and are only giving up 11.5 points a game at home. Arrowhead is the toughest place to play, outside of Seattle, and the rabid Chiefs fans recently broke the world record for loudest crowd noise at a sporting event. On the other side, the demise of the Browns season can be pinpointed to the loss of quarterback Brian Hoyer. Chiefs fans will be “throwing their hands up in the sky” quite often on Sunday. My Pick: Chiefs 26, Browns 13.
Miami at New England (-6.5) – “So Appalled” Feat. Swizz Beatz, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Prynce CyHi, The RZA A quirky rule on Sunday sent the Patriots to defeat at the hands of the hated Jets. Tom Brady should be steaming on Sunday, and the Dolphins will be the sacrificial lamb to quench his fury. My Pick: Patriots 28, Dolphins 21. Buffalo at New Orleans (-11.5) – “All of the Lights” The Saints are well-rested, coming off of a bye week, and undefeated at home. Each week they’ve looked better and better. Even with rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso, the impressive Bills defense won’t be able to slow down the Saints prolific offense. Alonso has 70 tackles and four interceptions in his first seven games and defensive end Mario Williams is second in the league with ten sacks. The Saints won’t lose to the Bills on Sunday, but it’ll be closer than 11.5. My Pick: Saints 27, Bills 20.
NY Giants at Philadelphia – “Dark Fantasy” There are only two possible reasons to watch this: either residing from New York/Philadelphia or playing fantasy football. There is no other valid reason. If Vick plays then the Eagles win. At time of writing he’s likely to start. My Pick: Eagles 25, Giants 19.
San Francisco (-16.5) at Jacksonville – “Stronger” The Jaguars have yet to win this season and have lost every game by double digits. I think they are the worst team to ever play in the NFL. Their collective scoring margin is -146 (through seven games), and is on pace to break the NFL record (-287, 1976 Buccaneers). It gets worse on Sunday, much worse. The Niners are starting to get scary again, and playing better and better each week; week 14 against the Seahawks looms large. My Pick: Niners 34, Jaguars 13.
NY Jets at Cincinnati (-6.5) – “We Major” Feat. Nas & Really Doe Both the Jets and The Bengals are in the driver’s seats near the midpoint of the season, as each team is in control of their postseason chances. Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith has been a pleasant surprise, and the Jets are better than a lot of people thought they’d be. The Bengals are hot, having won three in a row, and five of their past six. Sunday goes to the home team, the Bengals who start to distance themselves from the pack in the mediocre AFC North. My Pick: Bengals 27, Jets 20.
Pittsburgh (-3) at Oakland – “Drive Slow” Feat. Paul Wall & GLC The Steelers are starting to put things together, and running back Le’Veon Bell is one of the many reasons that has made it possible. His ability to run the ball gives that horrid offensive line a reprieve from pass blocking, where they severely struggle. A running game and solid defense have been the hallmarks of the Steelers franchise for years, and these two facets of the game will play large on Sunday. The Steelers should be able to ground the game, and methodically win this one. My Pick: Steelers 20, Raiders 14.
Washington at Denver (-13) – “Homecoming” Feat. Chris Martin The Colts stopped Peyton and the Broncos offense thanks largely to pressure, a stout run defense, and a mistake free game from Andrew Luck. Denver dug themselves a hole with sloppy turnovers, and too many penalties. Vegas doesn’t think last Sunday will repeat itself, and I don’t either. The Broncos, back in the friendly confines of the mile high air, will unleash against Washington. The Broncos win this one big. My Pick: Broncos 38, Washington 20.
Atlanta at Arizona (-2.5) – “Gotta Have It” Feat. Jay-Z The Falcons began to right the ship on Sunday in a win over the Bucs, but each week is a must win. The way I see it, there are four teams fighting for the last wildcard spot in the NFC: Detroit, Chicago, Carolina, and Atlanta. Arizona is pretty solid at home, and coming off of a long week since they played last Thursday. I think the game is close, but the Falcons figure a way to win. My Pick: Falcons 24, Cardinals 23.
Green Bay (-6) at Minnesota – “Who Gon Stop Me” Feat. Jay-Z The Packers have won three in a row, four of their last five, and are looking unstoppable. The only thing that could derail this run is the mounting injuries; Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews, Jermichael Finley, Nick Perry, and James Jones are all expected to miss Sunday’s game. Meanwhile, rookie running back Eddie Lacy has been a revelation, and he’s my pick to win the offensive rookie of the year award. The Vikings have yet to win at home (the London game doesn’t count), and they may go winless at home all year. Luckily, the Lynx just won the WNBA title. My Pick: Packers 28, Vikings 17.
Seattle (-10.5) at St. Louis – “We Don’t Care” With quarterback Sam Bradford out for the rest of the year, the Rams just got a lot worse. Next Monday night, game 5 of the MLB World Series is set to play at the same time at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, as the Rams host the Seahawks. It’s an odd doubleheader in the city, and one guarantee is there will be a lot of empty seats in the Edward Jones Dome for the Rams game. Longshot prediction, I think the Rams are calling Los Angeles their home within five years. My Pick: Seahawks 35, Rams 17.