This is a critical weekend in the NFL. A few seasons could be decided for some team’s such, as those Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings who need to put up or shut up. The San Francisco 49ers are in trouble, along with the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills, but can the Washington Redskins pull another shocker on national television against the Colts?
Lots of questions, three games from Noontime Sports along with a few answers too because it is our weekly NFL- 3 Games to Watch on a Football Friday! Have a great weekend and root for Noontime Sports and our football guru Mr. Matt Noonan and his pigskin picks.
Baltimore [4-1] at New England [3-1]: It is pretty clear that the Patriots have been reminded all week that the Baltimore Ravens embarrassed them in the opening round of the 2009 NFL Playoffs, 33-14. The rematch is set to begin just nine months after the horrific playoff loss, but who has the edge in this game?
The Ravens have clearly demonstrated to all NFL fans why they are the best team in football, as well as a squad that needs to be beat sooner rather than later. They have won two critical road contests this season, beating a divisional foe, the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, as well as the New York Jets, but can they beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium to make it three-in-a-row? The last time the Patriots lost at home during the regular season was on November 30, 2008, when quarterback Matt Cassel and his team fell to the soon to be Super Bowl champions, Pittsburgh Steelers, 33-10. Ever since the loss, the Patriots have won 11 games at home, which include every game during the ’09 campaign.
The Ravens strongest unit without a doubt is their defense, which ranks fourth in points allowed (14.4), third in yards allowed (257.8) and second against the pass (156.6). It will be interesting to see if this incredibly strong unit can stop a Patriots offense that ranks first in points (32.8) and averages (344.2) yards of offense.
Quarterback Tom Brady has completed 85 of his 122 passes for 911 yards and nine touchdowns, but can he rely on a questionable ground game? The Patriots weakest link may not just be their young secondary, but instead, the running game because ever since Kevin Faulk became sidelined with a season ending injury, the rushing role has fell on the shoulders of newcomer Danny Woodhead and third year back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The Ravens have held their opponents run game in check, which could force Brady to utilize the air attack quite frequently, so look for his new favorite target, Deion Branch to play a factor.
Expect this one to be close and possibly come down to one final Patriots drive. The Patriots defeated the Ravens in a rather long and unbearable game that took nearly four hours last fall, but once the final whistle blows, expect the Patriots to have added another win to their win column. Prediction: Patriots 23 – Ravens 20
Dallas [1-3] at Minnesota [1-3]: Talk about two teams that were supposed to be much better than their current records. Both the Cowboys and Vikings were prepared to pick up where they left off in 2009, as winners, but instead they are currently a bunch of losers.
Quarterback Brett Favre is supposedly a game time decision on Sunday due to elbow tendonitis and possibly shame too. Favre’s off the field behavior is currently being investigated by the league and scrutinized by all football fanatics, but it is Brett Favre, so don’t expect the league to punish the 20-year veteran, as well as the face of the NFL. Besides Favre, the Vikings secondary is banged up, which should prompt Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to continue to pile up another 300 yard day through the air. Romo this season has been impressive and has already piled up 1,346 passing yards and seven touchdowns.
The Cowboys offense and defense has not looked at all intelligent or even aware of league rules. They have allowed way too many penalties against themselves through four games and the question is, can they remain mistake free for sixty minutes and play smart football?
The Vikings running game has been the bread and butter of this offense, but when these two teams last met in the 2009 playoffs, running back Adrian Peterson only recorded 63 yards on 23 carries and did not even reach the end zone. Overall, these two teams know how important this game is, but with so many questions on both sides of the ball, I am going to show that I am biased and pick “Big D” in this one. Prediction: Cowboys 28 – Vikings 21
Indianapolis [3-2] at Washington [3-2]: The Washington Redskins have been a surprising story this year. Running back Ryan Torain has also been a sensational story too, not just because he is replacing Clinton Portis, who is sidelined with an injury, but, because he has helped open up the passing game for quarterback Donovan McNabb. McNabb has thrown for 1,315 yards and has tossed just four touchdowns through five games. Against a Colts defense that doesn’t fare well against defending the pass, expect the Redskins to test a banged up secondary and air it out quite often. Besides, when the game was on the line against the Packers, McNabb showed off not only his arm, but also the ability to throw the ball 40-50 yards down field.
The Colts have also been a surprise too this season and certainly the injury bug has hit them rather hard. Players such as Bob Sanders and now even Joseph Addai being sidelined are hurting the team’s chances to continue to be the dominant horse in the AFC regular season race, yet, besides the offensive and defensive struggles against the Kansas City Chiefs, quarterback Peyton Manning continues to demonstrate why he is the greatest quarterback to play the game.
This one should be a lot closer than expected and consider it a chance for Colts place kicker Adam Vinatieri to replicate his late heroic game winning kicks from his earlier days in New England. Prediction: Colts 20 – Redskins 17