Week 9 Review, TNF Prediction

Posted: 11/06/2014 by levcohen in Football

Tonight’s game is a pivotal one for football’s most enigmatic division: the AFC North. The 5-3 Cleveland Browns travel to Cincinnati to face the 5-2-1 Bengals. This game could help decide a playoff spot or even determine who wins this wide open division, which is the only one featuring four teams above .500. This is a division that has been defined not for its defense (as is usually the case) but for its total dominance at home. While every other division has at least five losses (the AFC West has five, with a sixth by the Raiders on a neutral field), the AFC North is 15-3-1 at home and 12-5-2 against the spread. I expect that trend to continue here, as the Bengals look clearly a cut above the Browns. I’m not counting out the Browns, both because they are 5-3 and because the Bengals are rather unpredictable, but I think the Bengals should win pretty easily.

Cleveland Browns (5-3, 4-2-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1, 4-3-1):
Spread: Bengals favored by 6.5
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: I don’t think this will be a traditional low-scoring game between AFC North rivals. The Bengals have given up 31 points per game since their week four BYE after allowing just 33 points in three games beforehand. Meanwhile, the Browns have scored fewer than 20 points in a game just once, although their offense has slowed down recently. I like the Bengals 30-20.
Bengals cover
Over

My five takeaways from last week, with an AFC theme since I’m tired of writing about the NFC:

  • Antonio Brown is finally (finally!) getting the attention he deserves. He had another huge game on national television, and has had at least five catches for the last bajillion games. He leads the league in receptions (71, 13 more than second place Matt Forte), targets (103, 16 more than Dez Bryant), yards (996, 59 more than T.Y. Hilton), and, despite his slight stature, is tied for fourth with eight touchdowns. He’s a threat anytime he touches the ball, and I’ll tell you from personal experience how scary it is to play against him in fantasy football. The best playmaker in the NFL.
  • The Dolphins are the fourth best team in the AFC. Better than anyone other than New England, Denver, and Indianapolis. They have kind of come out of nowhere, but are a failed last-gasp Aaron Rodgers drive away from being 6-2. Last week’s 37-0 win over the Chargers was as dominating of a performance as you’ll see in the NFL in a game against a good team. They still might not make the playoffs because of the sheer number of AFC wild card candidates, but Ryan Tannehill and Co. are looking pretty good right now.
  • There’s Tampa Bay, the Jets, Jacksonville, and Oakland, and then there’s everyone else. I am, of course, talking about the four worst teams in football, all of whom managed to lose in very different ways last week. The Buccaneers had a chance to win against a lackluster Cleveland team but threw the win away. Lovie Smith might be gone after a single year. The Jets played decently against Kansas City but never had a chance and lost by two touchdowns. The Jags somehow managed to score 23 points against the Bengals but allowed backup running back Jeremy Hill to run for 154 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-23 loss. And finally, the Raiders put up the best performance of the four in Seattle but are on this list because they are still the only team in football without a win. 0-16 is becoming more likely, although I’d bet against it.
  • The Ravens aren’t out of it yet. Yes, they’re last in the AFC North, but they have four home games left and still look  like a pretty good team. The problem, though, is that they have just one game left in division, which could make it pretty hard for them to make up ground in the division.
  • Everyone’s looking ahead to a Peyton-Brady rematch in the AFC Championship game, but don’t take it for granted. It’s pretty likely that one of the Patriots or Broncos will slip up before the AFCCG, with the Colts in a prime position to unseat one of the two giants and plenty of pesky wild card hopefuls just waiting for their chance to play one of the two.

This was my best picking week in a while:

I went 2-1 (Patriots and Steelers won, Chargers lost) on upset picks, moving to 14-18 on the season. The Chiefs beat the Jets to ensure my lock losing streak would end at two. I’m 6-3 on locks now.

11-2 straight up … 87-46-1
11-2 against the spread… 67-65-1
6-7 over/under… 55-77-2

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