I knew it was going to be difficult to go three for three last weekend, so I can’t be too unhappy getting two out of three.  I guess I should have known da’ Bears would eventually figure out how to score on offense.

With the season getting closer and closer to the playoffs, upsets will become more frequent and games (and teams) will become more unpredictable.

That being said, I’m feeling pretty good about my picks this week.

NFL Football

This week’s Lock of the Week (11-2).

The way they’re playing right now, it’s tough to bet against the New England Patriots against any team right now.  Since they are traveling to Miami to take on the Dolphins, I have no choice but to make this my Lock of the Week.

As is usual with a Patriots team, the first few weeks of the season are spent getting the kinks out.  They make some minor adjustments during the early-to-middle part of the season, and turn on the turbo chargers down the homestretch.

This season is no different.  Their defense was suspect early in the year, but is playing a very respectable game right now.  Their offense was good during the first quarter of the season, but is nearly unstoppable now.

After destroying the Colts two weeks ago 59-24, and then blowing up the Jets on their own field Thanksgiving night 49-19, don’t expect them to hold back against a very average Dolphins team.

It may not be another blowout of 30 to 35 points, but it will definitely be a double digit victory for New England

This week’s Upset of the Week (7-6).

This one was tough.  I only picked two games as upsets this week.  And the one that I was going to go with as this week’s Upset of the Week, the Cleveland Browns over the home team Oakland Raiders, ended up not being an upset after all.  The Browns are favored by a point!

That leaves me with a game that’s gonna’ make me look like a homer for the local boys.  You got it.  I’m saying that the Cardinals’ seven game losing streak ends this week as they visit the N.Y. Jets.

Go ahead, take your best shot.  I’ve already heard it from a lot of people this week.  Most experts believe that Arizona will finish this season with a twelve game losing streak and that this trip to the east coast is just another blip on the road to failure and humiliation.

Okay, they didn’t actually use those words, but I grasped the meaning.

Let me explain why I think the Cardinals losing streak ends this weekend.

First of all, the quarterback situation is being blown way out of proportion.  When Mike Golic said that the Cardinals’ QB situation is the worst in the NFL, I don’t think he was looking at the whole picture.  (If he wants to see the team with the actual worst QB situation, he needs to look at the other sidelines this week.)

John Skelton is a very nice guy, but he was never the answer at quarterback.  He is a good backup, but not a starter.  He’s big and strong, but not accurate at all.  It’s not so surprising that his last pass thrown was an incomplete fifteen yard pass to a wide open Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone.

The fact that Ryan Lindley, the rookie from San Diego State, has the starting job right now is not an indication that the coaching staff has thrown in the towel.  It’s an announcement to the world that Skelton’s chances are finally done.  As soon as Kolb comes back, the job will be his.

The offensive line will need to step up their pass protection (a weekly statement by Cardinal fans, I know).  However, their run blocking is not all that bad.  With RB Beanie Wells finally back with a full game under his belt, I believe the sacks will begin to decrease, as the Jets let up an average of 142.8 rushing yards per game, while only sacking the opposing QB 1 ½ times per game.

The real key is the Cardinals defense against the Jets offense.  This should be no contest at all.  Why?  Well let’s see.  Where does the strength of the Arizona defense lie?  Putting pressure on the quarterback (nearly three sacks per game) and containing the pass (74.3 QB rating against).

Where is the Jets biggest weakness?  The passing game, where they average a 76.1 QB rating while allowing nearly three sacks per game.  With Jeremy Kerley as their only deep threat, the Jets have no other receivers that can get away from the Cardinals secondary.  The third leading receiver on the team has only played four games this season!

If Shonn Greene can’t improve on his season average of 63.8 yards rushing, the Jets may very well be held under double digit scoring.

As I said already, the Arizona Cardinals seven game losing streak ends this week against the N.Y. Jets.

This week’s Game of the Week (11-2).

Half of this week’s schedule could easily have fit the bill for the Game of the Week.  The NFC East has two potential winners with Philly at Dallas and the Giants at the Redskins.  Pittsburgh’s rematch with Baltimore would have worked if Big Ben was healthy.  Even the Colts at the Lions should be very entertaining.

But I’m going with a different divisional showdown.  The Minnesota Vikings travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers in a very important game for both teams.  A Packer loss would make it nearly impossible to catch the Bears, while a Viking loss could all but knock them out of the playoff race.

Both teams are coming off stunning losses.  Not stunning because they lost, but stunning because they both had their heads handed to them by teams they should have been able to compete with.

The Packers went into the Giants’ home turf feeling pretty good about the way they’d been playing.  They walked away with a 38-10 loss, having played their worst game of the year.

The Vikings had many convinced (including yours truly) that they would be able to contain the Bears, a team that had been beaten solidly the previous two weeks.  Instead, da’ Bears handed them a 28-10 beat down that wasn’t even that close.

So which team, or teams, will show up this week?  Will the Packers be able to bounce back and protect their home turf, keeping the pressure on the division leading Bears?  Will the Vikings be able to keep their playoff hopes alive?

I’m going with the Packers, not just because they’re the home team, but because I think they’re the better team.  There may not be a showcase of stellar defense, but the Packers will pull away in the fourth to put this one away.



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