NFL Bullets for Week Seven

Cutler
Cutler
Jay Cutler and the Bears fell to 0-3 at home and it didn't sit well with Brandon Marshall.

The National Football League used to be a place where a “sure thing” actually was a “sure thing.” In the 1970’s, we knew that teams like the Raiders, Steelers, Cowboys and Dolphins would be favorites almost every week.

In the 1980’s, teams like the 49ers, Broncos, Giants and Redskins were the “givens” while in the 1990’s the Cowboys and Niners established themselves as “go to picks” when gambling.

Those days are gone because we are now in an era of parity that may be unlike any seen in professional sports. Great teams are a thing of the past because now we have “good teams” that are capable of winning many games but they are also capable of losing games that shouldn’t.

Oh well, this is what the league wants so I guess we have to deal with it.

On to this week’s bullets…

Hoyer
Brian Hoyer was brutal in the Browns' loss to the Jags which opens up questions about Johnny Manziel.

-The Cleveland Browns once again showed why they are the “Cleveland Browns.” A week after blitzing long-time nemesis Pittsburgh, the Browns followed that up with a loss to lowly Jacksonville.

-Any great team always has guys in the locker room who are edgy and aren’t exactly “choir boys.” Seattle’s “choir boy” apparently has been singing the wrong tunes as Percy Harvin was traded to the Jets.

-I’m guessing Harvin had supporters and detractors and Sunday’s loss in St. Louis was evidence of that as several players said the timing was pretty bad. They were informed as they boarded the plane to Missouri on Friday.

-Apparently there is more dysfunction in Chicago where the Bears were soundly beaten by Miami. The Bears are 0-3 at home and loud screaming was heard after the game as Brandon Marshall was allegedly calling out Jay Cutler. Why does this surprise anyone? Resigning Cutler was a mistake.

-I have no problem saying that Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all-time. Just make sure you put “regular season” in front. Manning is under .500 in the playoffs and I’m sorry, but that’s where the great ones are truly defined.

-New Orleans wasted a great opportunity on Sunday. They led Detroit by 13 points with four minutes to go. A win would have put them at 3-3 and at the top of the NFC South but they blew the lead and fell to 2-4. Good for them that their division stinks or else it would be too late.

-I still have concerns about Green Bay’s defense and the Packers’ offensive line but I would not want to mess with Aaron Rodgers right now or in the playoffs.

-I have no idea what to make of the Cincinnati Bengals who are now looking up in the standings at Baltimore. Indianapolis is playing well, but shutting out the Bengals? I never saw that coming. If this Bengals’ team misses the playoffs or goes one and done Marvin Lewis would have to be out.

-I have no idea how the Seahawks fell for that Rams’ punt return. How on Earth do you not know where the ball is?

-Antonio Brown and J.J. Watt were once part of the same offense at Central Michigan.

-Congrats to DeMarco Murray who rushed for 100 yards in his seventh straight game to open the season. All he did was break the record of Jim Brown but no big deal right?

-As long as the Cowboys’ offensive line stays healthy I think that offense will thrive. Lengthy injuries however could derail Jerry’s boys.

Texans, Steelers Look to Kick-Start Their Seasons

Bell-Ben
Bell-Ben
Le'Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger host the Texans tonight in Monday Night Football.

It’s my turn to take on Monday Night Football and this evening we have two teams with 3-3 records looking for some way to find consistency and stay in their respective division races. Pittsburgh hosts Houston tonight and both teams are looking up in the AFC and both know they need a win desperately to maintain an edge before the season gets away from them.

Houston (+3.5) at Pittsburgh (O/U 43.5) – The Steelers enter tonight’s game on a pattern we do not want to dismiss. Starting with week one, they have won, lost, won, lost, won and lost. So according to that pattern, the Steelers should win so there is no use in me going any further right?

This is the National Football League where the team that battered Pittsburgh a week ago, the Cleveland Browns, were beaten like a drum by previously win-less Jacksonville yesterday. The Texans started 2-0 but have not lost three of four but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Texans’ last two games were losses to Dallas and to Indianapolis by less than a combined ten points.

Foster
Arian Foster has had decent success against the Steelers in the past.

Those two teams are arguably the hottest in the NFL right now so those two losses don’t look so bad. What does look bad is the loss column of the Steelers which includes losses to Tampa Bay, Baltimore and now hard-to-figure Cleveland. Let’s breakdown tonight’s game.

When Houston has the ball… It doesn’t get much simpler than this; the Texans will use their zone blocking scheme and Arian Foster against a Steelers’ defense that has been gashed by teams that also deploy the system. In two games against Cleveland, the Steelers have given up over 300 yards rushing and the Browns use the zone blocking system.

Pittsburgh will have to make do without nose tackle Steve McLendon who is out. That means Cam Thomas or rookie Dan McCullers takes over there and that isn’t good.

I also believe you’ll see the Texans target cornerback Brice McCain who will replace Cortez Allen. McCain is a former Texan who had up and down moments for them. Allen has been brutal in recent weeks so we expect to see McCain. If Andre Johnson gets hooked up with him, look for that match-up.

When Pittsburgh has the ball… The opposite of simple is hard and that’s the test that awaits the Steelers’ offensive line as they have to deal with the best defensive player in the NFL right now in J.J. Watt. Pittsburgh can expect to see him lined up all over the line which means they will have to communicate about where he is. I doubt man-on-man blocking will cut it so look for the Steelers to double and chip on Watt.

The Steelers have a plethora of weapons on offense and those start with Ben Roethlisberger getting the ball to Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. If the offensive line can give Big Ben time then I expect the offense to move the ball. Where the team really struggles though is in the red zone. That has to improve tonight.

Trends: Houston is 1-9 straight up in their last ten games on the road… The total has gone OVER in five of Pittsburgh’s last six games at home… The Texans are 8-15 against the spread in their last 23 games… The Steelers are 6-2 SU in their last eight games at home.

The Pick: I’m going to buck Pittsburgh’s on again off again system and take the Texans getting the points. Take the UNDER as well.

Some are Still in, While Some are Certainly Out as College Football Rolls On

Winston
Winston
Head Coach Jimbo Fisher and his star QB once again escaped by beating the Irish.

I seem to recall a lot of people thinking out loud that the new college football playoff wouldn’t create the excitement that the Bowl Championship Series did. Regular season games wouldn’t mean as much and the usual suspects would continue to box-out the wannabes.

While the last part may end up holding true, the lack of excitement and less meaningful games couldn’t be further from the truth. Look no further than yesterday and last night for your examples.

In Tallahassee, Florida the defending national champions fought off the Fighting Irish with the help of a pass interference call to win 31-27. Despite another week of turmoil, Jameis Winston again saved the Seminoles despite his poor play at times. The Irish defensive line battered the Florida State offensive line in the first half but they made the proper adjustments and protected Winston better in the second half.

Kelly
Kelly's Irish were valiant in defeat but the pass interference call was legit and Kelly needs to admit it.

The Irish actually went ahead with :12 left but they were called for offensive pass interference on what was deemed a ‘pick-play.’ To be honest, it was the right call. The offensive player made no effort to even look as if he were going to be a receiver and instead blocked the defender allowing his teammate Corey Robinson to catch the game-winner. It really was the right call because it was so blatant.

Because Florida State is in the relatively week ACC and because Notre Dame is an independent, a loss by either was going to be tough to deal with in terms of the playoff. The Irish still have road trips to Navy, Arizona State and USC and should they win those plus their two remaining home games, they could still get in.

The Seminoles have a much easier path to stay unbeaten but do have road trips to Louisville and Miami. Right now I can only say this about both teams; Still in.

In Norman, Oklahoma yesterday the Sooners hosted conference rival Kansas State. Both teams had one loss and another loss for either would eliminate any chance for them to make the college football playoff. K-State’s loss this year was to Auburn and the Wildcats missed three field goals that would have given them the win.

How ironic was it that Oklahoma’s Mr. Automatic Michael Hunnicut missed a literal chip-shot that would have given the Sooners the lead? K-State ran the remaining three plus minutes off the clock to preserve the 31-30 win. Wildcats still in. Sooners out.

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the Crimson Tide hosted Texas A&M. The Aggies already had two losses but if they could run the table in the powerful SEC, a playoff shot would not have been impossible. Bama was still feeling the effects of their loss at Ole Miss and they played angry in demolishing the Aggies 59-0. Crimson Tide still in. Aggies out.

In Fort Worth, Texas yesterday the TCU Horned Frogs entertained the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Both teams had just one loss each and if things could break just right could find themselves in the college football playoff. The winner would still be alive while the loser would have other things to think about.

After TCU’s 42-9 drubbing of the Cowboys, it might be OSU who is doing the thinking and smarting. The Frogs have date with Kansas State in two weeks and both teams should enter with their one loss each. Horned Frogs still in. Cowboys out.

Also staying alive with one-loss was Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, Nebraska and Georgia.

Stay tuned for more craziness next week.

One-Loss Teams Fighting to Stay Alive in College Football

Sooners
Sooners
Bob Stoops and the Sooners face a key test today from Kansas State.

There are just six undefeated teams left in major college football and Marshall is one of those. The Thundering Herd is 6-0 but they are ranked 25th and the chances of them reaching the top four are extremely slim. One-loss teams like Kansas State, Oklahoma and Alabama have much better shots at the playoff than an unbeaten Marshall team.

Will they be able to continue their marches today? Let’s fined out.

Texas A&M (+13) at Alabama (O/U 63.5) –This has been the marquee match-up in the nation the last two seasons as the two teams traded wins at the other’s home stadium. Johnny Football is no longer a part of this equation and the Aggies have dropped two straight but there’s no reason to believe this can’t be another intense and exciting affair.

The difference this time around is that the Tide and Aggies each have tasted defeat and Kevin Sumlin’s team has looked very average. Alabama will need to rely more on T.J. Yeldon now with Kenyan Drake out for the season.

Trends:The total has gone OVER in in five of the Aggies’ last seven games on the road… Alabama is 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games… Texas A&M 12-3 straight up in their last 15 games on the road… The Tide is 12-1 in their last 13 games at home.

The Pick: Take the Tide to win but the Aggies will keep it close and take the OVER.

 

Snyder
Can Bill Snyder's Wildcats pull the upset in Norman today?

Kansas State (+7.5) at Oklahoma (O/U 55) –Lost in all the hoopla about Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor is Kansas State. The Wildcats are a better kicker away from being unbeaten after their tough loss to Auburn.

The Sooners bounced back from their loss to the Horned Frogs by beating rival Texas last week.

Trends:The Wildcats are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games against Oklahoma… The Sooners are 9-1 straight up in their last 10 games at home… The total has gone OVER in five of K-State’s last last six games when playing the Sooners… The total has gone OVER in four Oklahoma’s last five games at home.

The Pick: Take the Wildcats and the points and take the OVER.

Tennessee (+16) at Ole Miss (O/U 46.5) – I have to hand it to Head Coach Hugh Freeze and his Rebels. I thought for sure they were going to have a massive letdown in College Station last weekend following their win over Alabama. They put that to rest early but jumping on the Aggies early and never looked back.

Butch Jones and the Volunteers are 3-3 but have not won on the road yet this season. I think things are better in Knoxville but they aren’t going to threaten much here in Oxford.

Trends: Tennessee is 1-10 straight up on the road in their last 11 games… The total has gone UNDER in eight of Ole Miss’ last nine games… The Vols are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against Ole Miss… The Rebels are 7-1 straight up in their last eight games at home.

The Pick: Take the Vols and those points but I like the Rebels to win and I like the UNDER.

Royals, Tigers are Ships Passing in the Night

Butler
Butler
Billy Butler and the Royals are in the World Series and strangely enough they are similar to the team they lost the division too.

Sports brings out the best in people and while it can often bring out the worst too, it’s moments like Wednesday evening in Kansas City that make sports great. After 29 years the Kansas City Royals are returning to the World Series.

This is a team with no superstars which probably makes them even more enticing to the common fan and what I find most interesting about them is that they almost seem to be the very team they have pursued in the American League Central.

Brett
George Brett was a part of those great KC teams in the 70's and 80's and now gets to enjoy this as well.

What I mean is that eight years ago, the Detroit Tigers stumbled into the playoffs for the first time since 1987. They had the division wrapped up until these Royals came to Detroit and swept them forcing Detroit into the wild-card spot. While the Tigers had more “stars” then these current Royals do, the feeling around the Motor City in 2006 was total pandemonium.

The same craziness was on display in Kansas City Wednesday night as the Royals swept the Baltimore Orioles in four games. The Royals, who lost the division to Detroit by just one game, have now won eight straight playoff games. A dramatic, extra-inning win over Oakland in the play-in game, followed by a three-game sweep of the best team in the American League in the Angels.

While those 2006 Tigers didn’t sweep their first two opponents, they did defeat the New York Yankees three games to one and then beat the Oakland A’s four games to win the AL Pennant. Despite the two losses, the momentum never the left the Tigers much in the same way it hasn’t left the Royals.

Both organizations were very competitive throughout the 1980’s. The Tigers won the 1984 World Series while Kansas City won the ’85 Fall Classic over favored St. Louis. The Royals had actually advanced to the World Series in 1980 before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies. Ironically in ’84, the Tigers defeated the Royals to advance to the World Series.

The Tigers would also win the American League East in 1987 but lost to the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS. While the Royals playoff run ended in 1985 with the title. They did have great success in the 1970’s with division titles in ’76, ’77 and ’78. All three of those years the Royals lost the ALCS to the Yankees.

With both the Tigers and Royals having good success from the 1970’s through the ’80’s, the decade plus that followed was anything but successful. The Royals struggled to stay below 90 losses at times while the Tigers would actually reach total futility in losing more games than any American League team in history in 2003.

Today these two teams may in fact be two ships passing in the night. The Tigers are likely to lose Cy Young winning pitcher Max Scherer as well as Victor Martinez in free agency. Miguel Caberera looked mortal in 2014 as he dealt with injuries and while some of the youth was good, the Tigers overall took a step back.

The Royals may be peaking at the right time with a great blend of seasoned veterans and young players who are a great fit together. Kansas City also has tremendous bullpen strength which is a great foundation for the future. Look no further than the Yankees during late 1990’s and 2000’s.

For all I know, the Royals will do just as the 2006 Tigers did in the World Series which was completely tank but this team just seems different. Win or lose, I think we are starting to see the changing of the guard in the American League Central.

A Thursday Night Trio of Pro and College Football Action

Ryan
Ryan
I would have that look on my face too if I were Jets' Head Coach Rex Ryan.

NY Jets (+10) at New England (O/U 45) – This just looks too easy doesn’t it? The Patriots have had their way with the Bills and the Bengals in the last two weeks after struggling to beat Oakland at home. The Jets are a mess. Although I thought they played hard against Denver, too many mistakes and a horrendous secondary eventually cost them.

The reason why you can’t just lay your money on the Pats to cover is simple; we’ve seen this type of thing with these two teams before. Six weeks prior to the 2010 playoffs the Pats beat the Jets 45-3. They met in the divisional round in Foxboro where the Jets pulled the upset 28-21.

It may be one example but it proves simply that when we think the Jets are dead in the water, that isn’t always the case.

Obviously they need better play from Geno Smith or Michael Vick regardless of which one is behind center. They don’t have to be brilliant but they have to take care of the football. The Pats need to deal with season-ending injuries to Stevan Ridley and Jerod Mayo.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in eight of the Jets’ last nine trips to New England… The Pats are 5-1 straight up in their last six games at home against the Jets… The Jets are 0-4-1 against the spread in their last five games… New England is 6-13 ATS in their last 19 games at home against the NYJ.

Boyd
Pitt's Tyler Boyd has suffered from some inconsistent QB play this season.

Virginia Tech (+1) at Pittsburgh (O/U 45) – These two have split their 10 meetings dating back to 1996 with each winning five games. The Hokies looked like a surprise team when they knocked off Ohio State in Columbus but back-to-back losses against East Carolina and Georgia Tech derailed those thoughts.

The Panthers have lost three straight including one at home to Akron. Pitt has been a hard team to figure out this season and I expect them to have their hands full tonight.

The Pick: I’ll take the Hokies and the OVER tonight.

Trends: The Hokies are 1-4 straight up in their last five games at Pitt… The Panthers are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home… The total has gone OVER in four of Va Tech’s last six games on the road… Pitt is 1-4 ATS in their last five home games.

Utah (-3) at Oregon State (O/U 53) – The Utes are a really bad one-point loss to Washington State from being unbeaten right now and their schedule has been a little tougher than has the Beavers. OSU is also 4-1 with a blowout loss to USC and wins over pretty weak competition.

The Utes have actually played better on the road than at home and that could come in handy tonight.

Trends: The Utes have gone 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against Oregon State… The Beavers are 11-5 straight up in their last 16 games at home… The total has gone UNDER in 10 of Utah’s last 14 games… The total has gone UNDER in four of Oregon State’s last five games at home.

The Pick: I like Utah to cover and I love the UNDER.

Winston Situation is a Referendum on the Whole Darn Problem

Winston
Winston
While I'm pretty sure Jamies Winston is guilty of several things, getting money for autographs shouldn't be one of them.

Off the field, the last seven days have been pretty bad for the reigning Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston. His school, Florida State University, has opened an investigation into his sexual assault allegations. According to Title IX rules, FSU is within its’ rights to investigate the alleged assault on their own. Winston has also been linked to the same sports’ memorabilia people that have cost Georgia running back Todd Gurley his season.

On the field, Winston was brilliant in leading the Seminoles over Syracuse in Western New York on Saturday. He was 30 for 36 for 318 yards and three touchdowns and is proving once again that he seems to play better the more the off-field scrutiny he is under.

Signing autographs for anyone is not against the law nor is it against the rules of the NCAA. Accepting so much as a dime however is a violation of NCAA rules and to this point Winston claims he never accepted any money. ESPN’s Darren Revell said the signatures on 500 pieces of memorabilia were in the same location on each piece and were signed with the same marker.

While that doesn’t mean Winston did anything wrong, it suggests that he did these signings at one time which under almost all circumstances results in a payment.

Gurley
Todd Gurley was suspended for making money on his name. Georgia makes millions on it but that's OK.

I don’t have the answers here and I’m not going to claim to but I’ve been around long enough to know that where there is smoke, there is almost always fire. Going back to the FSU investigation for a minute, while this will not result in any jail time or legal ramification, it could be a tremendous thorn in Winston’s side from here on out in his personal and professional life.

He has the right to remain 100% silent while being questioned by FSU authorities but what has already been uncovered is disturbing. Florida State officials have admitted what many of us assumed about the Tallahassee Police Department’s investigation. It was poorly done and was essentially swept under the rug to make things easier for Winston and the football program.

Regardless of how this investigation turns out, the real issue here is the eventual death of amateurism.

My personal opinion is that a player should be allowed to make money any way possible (within the law obviously). Take Gurley for example who is currently suspended for signing jerseys for money. Why can’t he make money for this when the University of Georgia is making money hand over fist by selling his jersey on their own website?

Move away from football for second… There was a time in amateur athletics when athletes basically lived on whatever they had. Corporate sponsorship was not allowed at the time so many Olympic hopefuls had to rely on their families for financial support.

Now, look at a guy like Michael Phelps who apparently got bored being an average citizen and was arrest two weeks ago for his second DUI. Phelps has made millions off of sponsorships like the ones he’s had with Subway, Under Armor and several swimming apparel companies. The mere fact we call Olympians ‘amateurs’ anymore is a joke.

While I firmly believe Winston has screwed up royally and much of it due to feelings of entitlement, the system still needs to be overhauled. College athletes need to be allowed to take advantage of their fame especially considering the money they bring in for their universities.

Here is Your Brief Glimpse at All of the NFL Lines for Week Seven

Romo
Romo
Tony Romo and the Cowboys are red-hot and now host a depleted Giants' team this week.

As is the usual case, I’m taking a look at the early lines for this week’s National Football League schedule. These are, and will change in almost all cases so stay tuned but here are my thoughts on each game as they exist today.

NY Jets (+10) at New England (O/U 46.5) – Double-digit spreads in the NFL are always tough to swallow and this rivalry game in the AFC East will be no different. Right now I like the Pats to cover simply because I have zero faith in the Jets’ offense to score more than 14 points.

Cincinnati (+3) at Indianapolis (O/U 49) – This line will move solely on the availability of A.J. Green. Doctors are recommending rest and no surgery but that rest means he is likely out another week or two. The Colts offense will be licking its’ chops after the Bengals surrendered 37 to Carolina this past Sunday.

Tennessee (+4) at Washington (O/U 46) – Here is you ugly game of the week… The Titans seem to play everyone tough and they were fortunate to get a few win over Jacksonville. The Redskins need to get the running game going because while Kirk Cousins can put up impressive numbers he also makes mistakes. Right now I like the Titans and the points.

Philbin
Ryan Tannehill and Joe Philbin need to get their act together as they head into Chicago.

Miami (+3) at Chicago (O/U 49) – It’s going to be a long week in Miami where head coach Joe Philbin didn’t do his team any favors in their last second loss to the Packers. In Chicago, the Bears righted the ship with a solid win over Atlanta that featured Jay Cutler playing much better than he had lately. Take the Bears in this one.

Cleveland (-4) at Jacksonville (O/U 45) – The Jags remained winless last week while the Browns knocked off long-time nemesis Pittsburgh in a big way. The schedule sets up nicely for the Browns who have Tampa Bay and Oakland in the next two weeks. The loss of Alex Mack will hurt but I still like Cleveland to cover.

Seattle (-6) at St. Louis (O/U 43.5) – Seattle is 3-2 and already has a loss at home. In their two losses, both San Diego and Dallas did two things; converted on third down and kept the Seahawks’ offense off the field. Still like them to cover.

Carolina (+7) at Green Bay (O/U 48.5) – Great performance by Carolina last week in a tie. Better performance by Aaron Rodgers in a Packers’ last-second win. Take the Panthers and the points.

Atlanta (+6.5) at Baltimore (O/U 49.5) – Atlanta? Outdoors? Forget it. Take the streaking Ravens to cover.

Minnesota (+4) at Buffalo (O/U 43) – Minnesota was stifled at home by a decent Detroit defense. Look for the Bills to cover here.

New Orleans (+2.5) at Detroit (O/U 50.5) – The Saints understand this game could be their season. Another loss and making the playoffs becomes most difficult. If Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham are both out, expect scoring to be down. Take the Lions to cover.

Kansas City (+5) at San Diego (O/U 44.5) – This could be the game of the week. The Chargers are playing as well as anyone and the Chiefs seem to be in every game they play. I like the Chiefs and the points.

NY Giants (+5) at Dallas (O/U48.5) – Victor Cruz is gone for the season. Dallas is on fire and at home. Take the ‘boys to cover.

Arizona (-3.5) at Oakland (O/U 43.5) – I said last week that Tony Sparano would have his Raiders ready and they were despite losing. The Cards are too good on both sides though. Take them to cover.

San Francisco (+6.5) at Denver (O/U 47) – The 49ers seem to have bounced back a bit and are playing better on defense. No matter, the Broncos offense is too good at home. Take them to cover.

Houston (+3.5) at Pittsburgh (O/U 44.5) – The Texans are a bit of a mess at quarterback while the Steelers are a mess period. Take the Texans and the points.

Is Cleveland for Real?

Hoyer
Hoyer
Brian Hoyer has the Browns and their fans riding high in 2014.

The Cleveland Browns have not won an NFL championship since the 1950’s. They remain one of a handful of teams to have never played in a Super Bowl. Despite this, their fan base remains strong and committed. Perhaps their long-held devotion is paying dividends because the Browns are now 3-2 on the season and yesterday took their long time nemesis the Pittsburgh Steelers to the woodshed in a 31-10 win.

The Browns were playing with two key defenders, Paul Kruger and Joe Haden, less than 100% and they were also playing without Phil Taylor who is a key cog in their 3-4 defense. During the game they also lost all-pro center Alex Mack for the season with a leg injury.

Pettine
Mike Pettine has the Browns buying into his system in Cleveland.

Those things didn’t matter. Although they spotted the Steelers a 3-0 lead, they came roaring back behind quarterback Brian Hoyer to grab a 21-3 halftime lead. They would extend it to 31-3 before Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit receiver Lance Moore with a touchdown pass late in the game.

Hoyer’s play has put to bed any controversy that was there in training camp between he and first round draft pick Johnny Manziel. The Cleveland crow chanted “Bri-an Hoy-er” throughout the second half and made it clear their feelings on just who should be the starting quarterback for their beloved Browns. In two against the Steelers this season, the Browns have rushed for over 300 yards.

Their zone scheme led by Kyle Shanahan has given the Steelers and their defensive coordinator fits. The success of the running game led to success in the play-action passing game which the Steelers could not cover for their lives.

Also not to be ignored is the Cleveland defense which didn’t exactly slow the Steelers’ offense but did shut it down when it seemed most necessary. While I could easily make this a referendum on just how bad the Steelers are in the red zone, let’s give the Browns the credit they deserve. Time and time again they forced the Steelers into situations that ended up being far less than than what they were accustomed.

The Browns move forward with Jacksonville and Oakland in the near future on the schedule and have the opportunity to be 5-2 before we know it. They will need to address the void caused by the injury to Alex Mack and that will not be easy. He’s been one of the top centers in the game and his absence will be felt moving forward.

For today at least, Browns’ fans can bask in the glory of a victory over their most-hated rival while looking forward to even better days ahead behind a quarterback not named Manziel.

Other NFL Notes from Sunday… Joe Flacco threw for five touchdowns in a win over Tampa Bay. Four of those were in the first quarter… A rare tie presented itself yesterday as the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers played to a 37-all tie in Cincinnati… Dallas pulled off the stunner of the day by beating Seattle at home 30-23… The Lions went into Minnesota and beat the Vikings 17-3 despite having no Calvin Johnson and no Reggie Bush in the lineup… Carson Palmer returned to the Cardinals’ lineup and led them to a 30-20 win over Washington. Kirk Cousins threw three interceptions on the day including the pick-six to Rashad Johnson which clinched the game for the Cardinals.

I Really Like These Sunday Late Games

Rivers
Rivers
Why shouldn't Philip Rivers be getting some MVP consideration?

I’m taking a look at the late games today which may be capped by the best game of the day when the Giants visit Philadelphia. Let’s go!

San Diego (-7.5) at Oakland (O/U 43.5) – The Chargers are a fourth quarter letdown in the opener  away from being 5-0 right now. QB Philip Rivers is having an MVP-type season and the defense is really coming together. In Oakland, the Tony Sparano era is underway. I can guarantee you that the Raiders will give maximum effort today.

San Diego has to be careful not to rely too much on Rivers with both of their top running backs out of the game with injuries.

Trends: San Diego is 3-7 against the spread in their last ten games against the Raiders… Oakland is 4-17 in their last 21 games against the the Chargers… The total has gone OVER in five of San Diego’s last seven games when playing on the road against Oakland.

Key Injuries: SD RBS Ronald Brown, Ryan Mathews OUT… OAK G Khalif Barnes OUT

The Pick: Take the Raiders getting the points and I like the UNDER.

Murray
DeMarco Murray cannot afford to fumble the ball the way he has against Seattle.

Dallas (+9) at Seattle (O/U 47) – There used to be an old saying that Monday night’s winners were Sunday’s losers. This came about because of less time to prepare and heal up before the next game. I don’t think that’s going to be the case here. Pete Carroll will have his team ready to go because this isn’t the normal Dallas team they’ve seen in recent years.

The Cowboys are running the ball behind DeMarco Murray and their much-maligned defense is doing just fine.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in five of Dallas’ last seven games… Seattle is 2-5 against the spread in their last seven games against Dallas… The Cowboys are 1-4 straight up in their last five games at Seattle.

Key Injuries: DAL LB Bruce Carter OUT… SEA TE Zach Miller OUT

The Pick: Take Dallas getting the points and the UNDER.

Washington (+3.5) at Arizona (O/U 45.5) – This is all going to depend on who is starting at quarterback for Arizona. There’s talk it could be Palmer, Stanton or even rookie Logan Thomas who came in last week. I think you’ll see Bruce Arians rely on the running game a bit more either way.

For the Redskins, can Kirk Cousins bounce back from a rough go against the Seahawks? I think you’ll see them go with Alfred Morris and the running game a bit as well but the Cardinals’ defense is tough so he’ll have to throw at some point.

Trends: Washington is 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games on the road… The Cardinals are 1-5 ATS in their last six games when playing the Redskins at home… The total has gone UNDER in four of Washington’s last five trips to Arizona.

Key Injuries: WAS QB Robert Griffin III OUT… Qbs Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton QUESTIONABLE

The Pick: Take the Cardinals to cover and the UNDER.

NY Giants (+3) at Philadelphia (O/U 51) – With Dallas playing earlier in Seattle, this becomes a monster game for both of these teams. A Cowboys’ loss means the winner of this game takes first-place in the NFC East. The Giants will be hurting without running back Rashard Jennings but don’t be a bit surprised if rookie Andre Williams has a big game in his place.

For the Eagles it’s quite simple; they need to get LeSean McCoy going. He’s averaging less than three yards per carry right now and that’s not going to cut it.

Trends: The Giants are 3-9 against the spread and are 3-9 straight up in their last 12 games against Philadelphia… The Eagels are 7-1 SU in their last eight games at home… Philly is 5-12-1 ATS in their last 18 games at home.

Key Injuries: NYG RB Rashard Jennings, OUT… PHI C Jason Kelce OUT

The Pick: Take the G-Men getting the points and I like the OVER.