NFC North Standings:
1. Detroit Lions 5-2 (2-0)
2. Green Bay Packers 5-2 (2-1)
3. Chicago Bears 3-4 (0-1)
4. Minnesota Vikings 2-5 (0-2)
Detroit Lions vs Atlanta Falcons (Lions are the favorite at -3.5; over/under: 47)
The Detroit Lions beat the Saints in last week’s contest thanks to a Matthew Stafford touchdown pass to Corey Fuller, late in the fourth quarter. Without Calvin Johnson in the lineup, Stafford zoned in on Golden Tate for much of the game. Tate was targeted 13 times, came up with 10 receptions, 154 yards and a touchdown.
This week the Lions travel into Atlanta to face a team in the Falcons that is desperately looking for answers. Atlanta is on a four game losing streak and now facing one of NFL’s premier defensive units. Detroit’s defensive unit is only allowing 73 rushing yards a game and are giving up 15 points a game – the Falcons’ defense gives up nearly double that amount.
The Detroit Lions front line is surely going to put pressure on a Falcons offensive line which has given up 15 sacks this season. Matt Ryan and this Atlanta offense will have their hands full in what looks like another “can’t win” situation. Atlanta poses the same futile threat that the Saints did to the Lions, and the Lions barely escaped that game with a “W” so the Lions, once again enter the game as the clearly better team, but can they show that?
Prediction: Lions 21, Falcons 16; Better’s Pick: The Under
Minnesota Vikings vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Vikings are the underdog at +3; over/under: 42)
The Vikings had a different kind of luck than that which shone over the Lions in the waning seconds of their contest with the Bills. The Vikes were already heading into last week’s contest as a fragile underdog. They put up a great fight against Buffalo but gave up a touchdown to wide receiver Sammy Watkins with one meaningless second left on the game clock. If there was ever a time to play the Tampa Bay Bucs, it’s now.
Tampa Bay has one win thus far, and has suffered to blow out losses to Atlanta and Baltimore along the way. Although their record is 1-5, they still have a chance in their division because the NFC South is flat out awful this season. Tampa Bay has gives up the most points per game and the most yards in the air – lucky for them, the Vikings only pass the ball at around 180 yards per game.
In their seven games played, Minnesota has finished with a single digit score twice and has only scored more than twenty points once. Most expected this team to be a work in progress – but not an all out struggle. There is nothing exciting, sexy or riveting about this contest unless you’re a die-hard fan of either team and you continually tell yourself “it’s still early in the season, we can turn things around.”
It’s not that early in the season, anymore.
Prediction: Bucs 17, Vikings 12; Better’s Pick: The Under
Chicago Bears vs New England Patriots (Bears are the underdog at +7; over/under: 49.5)
After the Bears’ 27-14 home loss to Miami, Brandon Marshall summed up his team’s efforts in one word: “Unacceptable.” Keep in mind that was the one word he used to explain his frustration to the media, but in the locker room after the game – Marshall was heard screaming a few choice words directed at his teammates.
It would appear that this team lacks leadership and discipline on both sides of the ball. The talent is there, but the performances aren’t.
At the center of it all, of course, is quarterback Jay Cutler. Many thought that the gunslinger days of Cutler were behind him, under coach Marc Trestman – but alas, Cutler’s carelessness has resulted in 7 interceptions and 3 lost fumbles. It’s hard to believe that with the talent this team has on offense, the Bears are only averaging 22.4 points per game.
While the leadership and discipline of the Bears are in question, this week they square off against a franchise built off of leadership and discipline in the New England Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady leads a balanced New England attack in Foxboro this weekend which is averaging 26.7 points a game and although it’s been documented that Brady has lost some zip in his throw, there is no doubt he still understands the in’s and out’s of his offense better than most. Expect Brady to expose the vulnerability of the Bears middle zone with slants and seam routes attacking the hash-marks.
Rookie Kyle Fuller is day to day after injuring his hand and suffering from a hip pointer against Miami, so even if he does play, the NFL’s defensive rookie of the month of September, surely won’t be at 100%. The Bears can’t continue to sleep walk, week-to-week, especially not against the Pats this Sunday.
Prediction: Patriots 32, Bears 21; Better’s Pick: The Over
Green Bay Packers vs New Orleans Saints (Packers are the underdog at +1; over/under: 54.5)
Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers have been names mentioned this season as early MVP favorites, but it has been Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers who is playing nearly flawless in the last 4 weeks. Rodgers has one interception tied to his name this season and has 18 touchdown passes (1 more than Rivers, 1 less than Luck and Manning). What’s made this offense even more impressive is emergence of rookie wideout Davante Adams. The Fresno State receiver has become more of a fixture in the last two weeks and it seems Rodgers has already grown comfortable with him. With Cobb being the legitimate vertical threat and Jordy Nelson off to a fantastic season – there is no reason to believe that this offense will slow down anytime soon.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees remembers when things were that easy in New Orleans.
Drew Brees and the Saints are leading the pack as one of the more disappointing teams of 2014. Funny thing about this Saints team is that when they are moving the ball, they seem to settle for field goals. Drew Brees for the first time in his career actually looks confused by defenses and has lost his moxy that’s kept things “A Geaux” in New Orleans. Optimistically thinking, tight end Jimmy Graham should be healthier this week and help to open things up for this New Orleans offense.
The Green Bay defense is still a question-mark, and they’ve had the advantage of playing underwhelming offenses for the most part. The Saints offense looks bad to the standards of many because they were expected to resemble an offense like Denver’s. Truth is, they are scoring just under 26 points a game, which isn’t too shabby at tall and the Saints have a home field advantage that’s as good as anyone’s in any sport. This is a must win for the Saints, and for the Packers – it could be a classic “trap” game.
Saints 28, Packers 27; Better’s Pick: No Play.