Maybe home-field advantage in the NFL isn’t the incredible force it once was, but it still matters.
There are only two teams in the NFL whose road record is a full game or more better than its home record. Jacksonville is 3-4 on the road and 1-5 at home, and Philadelphia is 3-4 at home and 5-1 on the road. Everyone else is either better or roughly the same at home. That’s not too surprising.
That’s also why this weekend could be very interesting.
There are nine home underdogs in the remaining 15 games this week, and the Browns at home are a pick ‘em against Chicago. We know that just about every team in the NFL plays better at home, so it could get a little wild on Sunday.
We’ve already seen perhaps the biggest upset in the NFL this season on Thursday night, when the Chargers won as double-digit underdogs at Denver. Are we in for one of those NFL weeks? We’ll see how crazy the playoff picture looks by Tuesday morning.
Here are this week’s picks:
Denver (-10.5) over San Diego (picked yesterday): Shocker. And get ready for a full week of “the sky is falling in Denver!”
Washington (+7) over Atlanta: I know the Redskins are a mess. The Falcons stink too.
Cleveland (pick ‘em) over Chicago: I don’t like the Bears’ defense, and I think the quarterback change away from red-hot Josh McCown is suspect too.
Houston (+5.5) over Indianapolis: Tough to pick the Colts as a significant favorite over anyone right now.
Miami (+1.5) over New England: The Patriots didn’t look good for about 58 minutes last week at home against the Browns. And the offense did struggle early in the season without Rob Gronkowski.
Philadelphia (-4.5) over Minnesota: No Adrian Peterson, and the Eagles have been better off on the road anyway.
N.Y. Giants (+7) over Seattle: Reluctant pick, because the Giants are not even as good as their 5-8 record. But the Seahawks aren’t as dominant on the road.
Tampa Bay (+5.5) over San Francisco: The Bucs have been playing better, and this has the feel of a very low-scoring game.
Jacksonville (+2) over Buffalo: I don’t understand why the Bills (1-4 in their last five games) are favored on the road against the Jaguars (4-1 in their last five games).
Kansas City (-4.5) over Oakland: The Chiefs beat bad teams.
Carolina (-11) over N.Y. Jets: The Panthers beat sub-par teams too, and usually beat them by a wide margin.
Dallas (OFF) over Green Bay: The Packers are incompetent with Matt Flynn at quarterback, and it’s hard to believe Aaron Rodgers plays.
Tennessee (+2.5) over Arizona: Home dog alert.
St. Louis (+6) over New Orleans: This game will be tough for New Orleans.
Cincinnati (-2.5) over Pittsburgh: If Miami can come in and win at Pittsburgh with the Steelers’ playoff lives on the line, the Bengals can come in and win now that the Steelers are all but eliminated.
Baltimore (+6) over Detroit: Do you trust the Lions laying all those points? I could see them losing this game, even though it’s at home.
Last week: 9-7
Season to date: 86-118-6
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Congrats to Brenda S. of Dunn, N.C., for winning two Powerocks Magicstick portable batteries in last week’s giveaway, and to Jon T. of Red Bank, N.J., for winning a wireless LG sound bar from Sam’s Club the week before that. This week, we have another prize your ears will like.
We’re giving away a pair of V-Moda Crossfade M-100 headphones. CNET reviewers bestowed these feature-rich ‘phones with an Editors’ Choice award last year, calling them beautifully built with a warm and detailed bass-rich sound. They’re durable, include an inline remote and microphone, and can fold into a compact bundle.
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DENVER – Peyton Manning was good on Thursday night.
He was 27-of-41 for 289 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception on a play in which a San Diego Charger hit his arm as he threw. The Denver Broncos gained 5.6 yards per play. Manning had a 92.4 rating. Prorate those numbers over a full season and compare them to the rest of the league. You’ll find that they’re just fine.
That’s the problem. The Broncos aren’t going to win a title with Manning being good. He needs to be great every single week for the Broncos to win.
He wasn’t great on Thursday and neither were the Broncos. The defense couldn’t get off the field, allowing the Chargers to hold the ball for 38:49. The running game gave no help. Denver’s backs averaged 1.6 yards per carry. The Broncos still had a chance, down seven points with the ball in the fourth quarter, but Manning’s interception with 5:07 left practically sealed the 27-20 loss.
With Manning not playing at his normal record pace, the Broncos lost at home to a team that was 6-7 coming in. They have no room for error.
“We didn’t have the ball much but when we had it we didn’t do enough with it,” Manning said. “Give San Diego credit. They played better than we did.
“It’s our job to score points when we have the ball. No matter if you have it for 40 minutes or 20 minutes. We had it for 20 tonight, and we didn’t do a good enough job on offense.”
Thursday’s loss doesn’t mean the Broncos can’t or won’t go to the Super Bowl. They’re 11-3. A loss, without receiver Wes Welker (concussion), on short rest to a desperate Chargers team doesn’t eliminate everything else the Broncos have done.
“It’s not the end of the world,” cornerback Chris Harris said. “You’re going to take losses. It think it’s good to learn from this game.”
But for the first time all season they need some help.
Because of Denver’s loss on Thursday, the New England Patriots will be the first seed in the AFC if they win out. Denver already lost at New England once this season and everyone knows how Manning has fared against Bill Belichick’s defenses in his career. Maybe the Patriots lose Sunday at Miami, or next week at Baltimore, and open the door up for the Broncos to control the top seed. But it’s not up to the Broncos anymore.
And Thursday was a reminder that the Broncos are very good, but far from unbeatable.
The defense is just average. Not terrible. But definitely not very good.
On Thursday night, Ryan Mathews rushed for 127 yards, his highest output since Nov. 27, 2011. The Chargers were 6-of-12 in third-down conversions. They didn’t make many big plays but they made most of the little ones.
“Can’t do anything on the sideline,” receiver Andre Caldwell said. “They did a good job with their offense keeping us off the field.”
Denver has had bad days on defense before this season, but Manning has been great almost every game. When Manning was just good against the Chargers, the defense couldn’t bail him out. It’s a challenge to win a championship with a middle-of-the-pack defense. Everything else needs to go right.
“There’s only one way to go and it’s upwards,” linebacker Wesley Woodyard said about the defense. “On defense we’ll challenge ourselves to get better.”
Maybe they won’t need to get better. They were one of the clear favorites in the NFL before this week with that same defense. Manning’s first Super Bowl championship team, in Indianapolis seven years ago, had an average defense.
Thursday’s loss didn’t eliminate the Broncos as a Super Bowl contender. Even if the Broncos don’t end up with the No. 1 seed, that means little. Only two No. 1 seeds have won the Super Bowl since 2001. Thursday’s surprising loss just showed that if Denver is going to win a Super Bowl, Manning has to be great in every remaining game. Anything less than that isn’t going to be enough.
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