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Schrager's Week 10 Cheat Sheet
We're at the 2010 season's midway point and Philip Rivers is on pace to break the NFL's single season passing record, Ndamukong Suh and Wes Welker have attempted to kick an extra point, and a Hall of Fame wide receiver is suiting up on Sunday for the third different team … in a five-week span.
Fans are angry over having to watch one of the league's worst squads on Thanksgiving, and they're not talking about the Lions. Rookies Max Hall, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford have combined for seven wins, one more than Brett Favre, Tony Romo, and Carson Palmer combined.
Oh, and the Raiders — yes, the Raiders — are above .500. As they enjoy their well-deserved bye week, the Silver and Black are in the midst of their first three-game winning streak since 2002, the last time they finished a season with more than five wins.
Lots of teams are still alive with a lot more football to play.
I went 11-2 last week with my picks and am feeling pretty darn good.
As for Week 10? Let's dig in.
2010 Overall Record: 72-58
Week 9 Record: 11-2
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET games:
Cincinnati at Indianapolis: The Bengals are off to a 2-6 start with arguably the league's toughest second-half schedule up ahead. It'll start with a trip to Lucas Oil on Sunday, where the Colts have lost just twice in 19 games. Indianapolis lost a tough one in Philly on Sunday, but should have no problem disposing of the Bengals. This Cincy squad had aspirations to become the first Bengals team to go to the playoffs in consecutive years since the Ken Anderson-led gang did it in '81 and '82. It ain't happening.
The Pick: Colts 27, Bengals 16
Carolina at Tampa Bay: Things couldn't get much worse for John Fox's Carolina Panthers. On top of being 1-7 and losing their last two games by a combined score of 54-13, the Panthers have now been stung by a vicious run of injuries, too. Five key players left Sunday's Saints game and did not return, including quarterback Matt Moore, running backs Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton, linebacker Dan Connor and defensive end Greg Hardy. If Moore can't play on Sunday, rookie Jimmy Clausen will be the starter and rookie Tony Pike will be the backup. Third string? Another rookie — Armanti Edwards, drafted to play receiver -— would be the guy. How's that for a depth chart at quarterback? And the running game could be without the services of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart? A good college team could beat this shell of a Panthers squad on Sunday.
The Pick: Buccaneers 28, Panthers 13
Detroit at Buffalo: Winless Buffalo looks to break the schneid against the only franchise in NFL history to finish a 16-game season with zero victories. The Bills, as has been their M.O. all season, led late in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's clash with Chicago in Toronto, only to turn the ball over twice in the final minutes and lose by three points. The Lions, meanwhile, blew a 10-point lead in the final six minutes and lost 23-20 to the Jets at home. Detroit and Buffalo are currently tied for the longest running playoff droughts in the NFL, with each team's respective postseason slumps dating back to 1999. With Matt Stafford now likely out for the year, it's safe to extend those slumps to 11 consecutive years of postseason-less football. There's always next year. Again.
The Pick: Bills 23, Lions 14
Houston at Jacksonville: After jumping out to a fiery 3-1 start and attracting the love of media members from coast to coast, the Texans have lost three of their last four games, falling to 4-4 and the bottom of the AFC South. What'd I say last week? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me every stinkin' year? Well, I don't even know who you're fooling at that point. These are the Houston Texans, folks, and as the great Dennis Green once said, “They are who we thought they were.” Or at least, they are who I thought they were. I'll take the Texans over the Jags in this one, but with games at the New York Jets, versus Tennessee, at Philadelphia, versus Baltimore, and at Tennessee up ahead, it looks like another year of knocking on the door, but not being allowed into the postseason castle.
The Pick: Texans 31, Jaguars 20
Tennessee at Miami: Randy Moss to the Titans, huh? Well, according to my latest Frommer's Travel Guide, there are better local barbecue joints in Nashville than Minneapolis. So at least he's got that going for him. Moss is joining a Titans squad that is 3-1 in road games, coming into Sunday's battle against the Dolphins. Miami's 4-4, but have defeated just one team that currently has a winning record (Green Bay), and their four wins have come against teams with a combined 10-21 (.323) record. Tennessee should be rested from its bye week and prepared. Gimme Moss and the Titans, moving the ‘Phins to 0-4 at home this season.
The Pick: Titans 27, Dolphins 16
Minnesota at Chicago: In this month's GQ, there's a column detailing the unlikely union of Kid Rock and famed music producer Rick Rubin. It's a bizarre pairing of two extreme personalities that -— if brought together -— could bring out the best in one another. The end result is an album that's supposed to take the music world by storm. If there's an NFL equivalent to Rubin and Rock's curious partnership, it's Mike Martz and Jay Cutler out in Chicago. Eight games into the experiment everyone thought was destined to fail, the Bears are 5-3, but feature the worst scoring offense in the NFC North. The offensive line's been a major problem all season, but is finally getting healthier. Like Rock and Rubin, look for the Bears offense to make some beautiful music versus the Vikings on Sunday. I may be in the minority here, but I like Cutler and Martz over Favre and Chilly in this one.
The Pick: Bears 31, Vikings 17
New York Jets at Cleveland: Last year, Eric Mangini watched the NFL's Championship Game Sunday on TV like the rest of us. Only, when he settled into his sofa chair, he was watching his former employers compete in the early game and his hired gun quarterback in the late one. So yeah, that probably wasn't too much fun. But Mangini, now 30 pounds lighter than he was last season and reportedly in the best physical shape since his college days at Wesleyan, seems to be having a bit of fun with his Browns (or, as much fun as Eric Mangini possibly could appear to have). Fresh off back-to-back wins over the Saints and Patriots, the slimmed down Mangini now gets a shot to knock off his old team on Sunday. I like Mangini and Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to beat brother Rex and the Jets on Sunday.
The Pick: Browns 24, Jets 17
Sunday, 4 p.m. ET games:
Kansas City at Denver: After three straight games of eclipsing the 200-yard mark, the Chiefs running game was held to 112 yards on the ground, 80 below their league-leading average, in Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss to the Raiders. But the running game wasn't what ultimately failed the Chiefs; a season-high 11 penalties and several key dropped passes haunted Kansas City down the stretch. Fortunately, they play a Broncos team that's struggling to find anything that works on Sunday. The perfect cure for a hangover this season has been a date with Denver at Invesco, where the once impossible-to-beat-at-home Broncos are just 1-3 this season.
The Pick: Chiefs 17, Broncos 14
Seattle at Arizona: Though the offense wasn't exactly a weekly fireworks show in Arizona over the first half of the season, it's been the veteran defense -— to the surprise of many —- that's been the more disappointing of the two units in 2010. In back-to-back games, the Cardinals defense has been unable to sustain fourth-quarter leads, as the Bucs drove 74 yards in the final minutes for a winning score in Week 8 and the Vikings put up 17 unanswered points and more than 250 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime in Week 9. Everyone knew the Cardinals offense would take a step back without Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin, but perhaps it's Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle that have been missed the most in 2010. Fortunately for ‘Zona, Seattle's been outscored 74-10 over the past two weeks. The Cards will find a way at home.
The Pick: Cardinals 28, Seahawks 17
Dallas at New York Giants: I had the Cowboys losing to the Packers by 30 points in last week's Cheat Sheet, and somehow underestimated just how bad they'd get beaten. So Wade's gone, Jason Garrett's in, and there's a whole lot of John Fox, Brian Billick, and even Bill Cowher talk down in Big D this week. One thing no one's talking about is Sunday's trip to New York, where the division-leading Giants should have no problem stomping all over the league's most embarrassing group of wannabes to take the field in recent memory. I can't recall an NFL team with so many veteran Pro Bowl players, so many preseason expectations, and so much hype — self-combusting like the Cowboys are this season. Oh, and in case you were wondering —
The Pick: Giants 37, Cowboys 6
St. Louis at San Francisco: Two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks square off as Troy Smith (2006) goes up against Sam Bradford (2008) out in San Francisco. The Niners rallied under Smith in the fourth quarter of their Week 8 win over Denver in London, and appeared to play with pride with the 2010 season on the line. I liked what I saw and think they'll find a way at home over the upstart Rams in this one.
The Pick: 49ers 23, Rams 13
New England at Pittsburgh: "We don't suck,” Tom Brady said following Sunday's embarrassing 34-14 loss in Cleveland. “If we play like we played (Sunday), we suck, but we know we're capable of playing better than that. We've got to go out there and do it." The Patriots certainly don't “suck”, but I can't see them coming into Heinz Field on Sunday night and beating the Steelers in their building. New England gave up 230 yards on the ground last week. Look for Mr. Mendenhall to do some carving of his own on the Pats defense.
The Pick: Steelers 27, Patriots 20
Philadelphia at Washington: Though he's nursing two sore hamstrings, Donovan McNabb is expected to start Monday night versus his former mates in Washington. He's even supposed to run the two-minute drill. I like Philly, here, though, regardless of who's under center for Washington. The Eagles could be down two starters in their defensive backfield, but have enough depth at both safety and corner to withstand the losses of Nate Allen and Ellis Hobbs this weekend.
The Pick: Eagles 23, Redskins 16
Cheat Sheet Trivia Question of the Week: The last time the Dallas Cowboys had the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, they selected Russell Maryland in 1990. Who did they select the last time they had the second overall pick?
Reader E-mail of the Week:
I understand that you picked the Raiders as your 2010 sleeper team and to win the AFC West before the season (don't worry, they won't), but I happen to find your weekly cheerleading act for the Silver and Black a bit disingenuous and rather distasteful. You haven't picked against Oakland all season and even referred to them as “My Raiders” last week. Moving forward, please do your readers a favor and pick the games as an impartial party and not as some raging homer.
I see you are from Broncos Country. Very interesting. Moving forward, I promise I will not pick the Raiders solely based on my bold preseason prediction that I was so widely ridiculed for and/or my joy in watching one of the league's great franchises turn things around. But I have to cut this e-mail short. My white jump suit and shoulder spikes are ready at the dry cleaners.
Cheat Sheet Trivia Answer of the Week: Tony Dorsett, the 1976 Heisman Trophy winner, was selected second overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1977 NFL Draft.
Schrager's Mid-Season Awards:
- NFL MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
- NFL Defensive Player of the Year: Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
- NFL Offensive Player of the Year: Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
- NFL Coach of the Year: Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
- NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions
- NFL Comeback Player of the Year: E.J. Henderson, LB, Minnesota Vikings