Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
I wanted badly to pick a game of the week that I could preview like normal. I like digging up stats and finding little tidbits that will tilt a game one way or the other. The issue is that there’s no statistic or trend that will help decide this game. Green Bay is scoring 35 points per game to Detroit’s 30, but both teams are allowing 21 points per game. Green Bay’s defense looks a little worse than Detroit’s because the Packers get out to so many big leads that garbage time yards are an inevitability.
Nobody on the planet is playing like Aaron Rodgers (72.3% 3,168 yards 31 TD 4 INT), but the injury to James Starks leaves the running game in doubt. Assuming, of course, that Green Bay will even try to balance their offense with hand offs. The Packers are definitely capable of spreading the ball around in the passing game, and Thursday will be no different than usual.
Detroit is no slouch on offense, either. Considering that the Packers are allowing 295 passing yards per game, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson ought to have a banner game. The running game will be a problem for the Lions, too. Starter Jahvid Best may not be a typical, between the tackles back, but his absence may mean the game will be in the hands of Kevin Smith for the second straight week.
The only way to pick Detroit to win is if you think they can score at least 35 points, because that’s what they’re going to need to be in the game.
Green Bay 38 - Detroit 30
Upset of the Week
The Denver Broncos will beat the San Diego Chargers
Tailgate Confidential upset picks are starting to turn into the Denver Broncos show. It seems like the whole NFL is all Tim Tebow, all the time. But Tebow isn’t the main reason why the Broncos will upset the Chargers. The reason is Von Miller and the Denver defense. Miller, a rookie linebacker out of Texas A&M, has stacked up 9.5 sacks in the 10 games this season. With Miller and defensive end Elvis Dumervill leading the pass rush and Champ Bailey ready to lock down Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, the Broncos defense will prove to be more than the stumbling Chargers can handle.
While the Broncos defense has been improving over the last month, the Chargers offense has fallen to pieces. Just looking at the offensive numbers don’t do the Chargers fall from grace justice. Philip Rivers has been killing the Chargers in crunch time. And to top off San Diego’s woes, the Chargers are allowing 30 points per game over their current five game losing streak. I’m not sure how long this Broncos offense can be effective, but I’m betting on at least one more week.
Two closing notes:
The loss of Darren Sproles hurt Philip Rivers and the Chargers more than anyone could have predicted, and Tim Tebow (I can’t believe I’m saying this) finds ways to win close games.
Denver Broncos 27 - San Diego Chargers 21
|Packers||-6.5||Lions||Packers||Packers||Aaron Rodgers will throw so many touchdown passes that State Farm will gain market share overnight. #DiscountDoubleCheck|
|Dolphins||+7||Cowboys||Cowboys||Cowboys||**Post Game** Hooray for Tony Romo getting that clutch hold down. Not hooray for Tony Romo and his two interceptions. I knew Miami was playing well, but this loss to the spread was borderline stunning.|
|49ers||+3||Ravens||49ers||Ravens||**Post Game** Congratulations to the Ravens for winning this game. I thought San Francisco would be too much for them, but Joe Flacco played mostly mistake free and the Ravens defense turned Alex Smith into, well, Alex Smith.|
|Texans||-3.5||Jaguars||Texans||Texans||Houston getting Andre Johnson back will ease the blow of the team having to rely on Matt Leinart at quarterback. All the talk about Jacksonville’s tough defense can’t change the fact that an opponent has to do is score two touchdowns in a game to win against the Jags terrible offense. Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert has only 50 more yards so far this season than Texans RB Arian Foster has totaled from scrimmage.|
|Bills||+8||Jets||Jets||Jets||There isn’t much that I like about the Jets, but Buffalo has been outscored 106-26 in their last three games. Buffalo’s season ended Wednesday when it was announced that RB Fred Jackson will miss the rest of the season with a broken bone in his lower right leg. A bad defense and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s recent struggles left Buffalo with only Jackson as a legitimate weapon. Without a running game, there’s a pretty good chance that Buffalo is going to go from 5-5 to 5-11.|
|Browns||+7.5||Bengals||Bengals||Bengals||I hate this pick, but I can’t help but think that Cincinnati has more momentum after playing Pittsburgh and Baltimore tough in two losses than Cleveland does after a close win against a really bad Jacksonville team. Cleveland’s defense is going to fight valiantly, but Andy Dalton will get A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson the ball enough in the passing game to win by 10.|
|Vikings||+9.5||Falcons||Falcons||Vikings||I haven’t given up on Matt Ryan and the Falcons all season, but they’re too inconsistent to give a team two scores, no matter how uneven the matchup looks on paper. Minnesota may be without Adrian Peterson, who spent Wednesday in a walking boot to treat a high ankle sprain. While I won’t change my pick in the column, if it turns out that Peterson is out Sunday, I like Atlanta to cover.|
|Cardinals||Even||Rams||Rams||Rams||Umm… Steven Jackson? (It’s late. Does anyone really expect me to put thought into breaking down a matchup this boring? I didn’t think so.)|
|Panthers||-3.5||Colts||Panthers||Panthers||Neither of these teams are very good, but Carolina’s 400 yard per game offense should be able to hang 30 on the worst defensive squad in the league. On the other side of the ball, Indy is only averaging 13 points per game. It doesn’t really matter that Carolina’s defense isn’t great if the Colts can’t get out of thier own way.|
|Buccaneers||+3||Titans||Titans||Titans||This is more about the mistakes that Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman has been making this season. With 15 interceptions already, it seems like Freeman there’s no wonder that the Bucs have been having a hard time putting points on the board. Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck will start after injuring his arm late in last week’s game, and his new found chemistry with WR Nate Washington should be enough to propel the Titans to a win.|
|Bears||+4.5||Raiders||Raiders||Raiders||Unfortunately for Chicago, losing Jay Cutler for the next several weeks will likely derail their season. Caleb Hanie will replace Cutler, and he’s going to need more than one week of getting all the reps in practice to be ready to compete in an NFL game. Lucky for the Bears, Detroit already lost this week.|
|Redskins||+4||Seahawks||Seahawks||Seahawks||I spent the first half of the season saying that Seattle was the worst team in the NFL. I have no idea what happened, but the Seahawks have emerged as a team that doesn’t totally suck. The Redskins, however, totally suck.|
|Broncos||+6.5||Chargers||Broncos||Broncos||I just Tebowed.|
|Patriots||-4||Eagles||Patriots||Patriots||Vince Young led Philly to an upset of the NY Giants last week, but they won’t get two upsets in a row. New England outscored the Jets and Chiefs 71-19 in the last two weeks, and this defense isn’t going to scare Tom Brady. Especially if Nnamdi Asomugha’s non contact practice knee injury is as serious as it looks. Asomugha was carted off the practice field Wednesday. The Eagles are already missing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in their defensive backfield, so this loss could potentially be devastating to Philly.|
|Steelers||-10||Chiefs||Steelers||Steelers||Not only is Kansas City’s defense giving up 25 points per game, but Tyler Palko will be starting Sunday. Tyler Palko. Against the Steelers defense.|
|Giants||+7||Saints||Saints||Giants||I almost feel silly for picking New York to beat this spread, but the Saints defense isn’t great and Eli Manning is having a solid season. Eli Manning can’t stop the Saints offense from gaining 400 yards and putting up 30, though. New Orleans is unbeaten at home, and look to keep their lead in the NFC South intact. Drew Brees is going to be silly in this prime time matchup.|