WEEK 8: AFC NORTH
While the Ravens are home to take on the Arizona Cardinals there are some intriguing match-up’s in the AFC North:
New England (5-1) @ Pittsburgh (5-2)
This week New England goes to Pittsburgh bringing along Tom Brady and their prolific passing attack. The Patriots pass offense is ranked 1st in the NFL averaging a whopping 350 yards per game. The Patriots have improved their run game too, ranked 10th (124.0 yds. per game). Can their defense they stop the pass? New England’s pass ‘D’ is dead last against the pass, ranked 32nd at 322 yards per game.
The Steelers have been running the ball well until last week in Arizona when there were held in check. However, the passing attack has been plain dangerous this season, ranked 9th (265.5 yds. per game). They have a real weapon in WR Mike Wallace, he’s just about unstoppable. Further, the team has overcome all sorts of injuries on both sides of the ball. OLB LaMaar Woodley is on fire this season with 7 sacks, 1 INT. The defense is ranked 2nd versus the pass at 171.9 yards per game. What’s interesting in that stat is that they have only 2 interceptions this year.
The big questions: Was the loss to Houston the turning point for Pittsburgh? Can New England slow down Big Ben’s passing attack and receiver Mike Wallace?
Forecast: Could be gloomy in Pittsburgh, but chances of win. If your Pittsburgh you don’t like: 1) The fact that coach Bill Belichick has had 2 weeks to come up with a game plan. 2) Pittsburgh has been stymied by New England in the past. 3) Pittsburgh has had trouble with better teams in Baltimore and the Houston, their only two losses. With all that said, Pittsburgh seems to be overcoming the odds this year.
Projected Score: New England 24 – Pittsburgh 27
Cleveland (3-3) @ San Francisco (5-1)
Cleveland hasn’t got out of their offensive slump. Peyton Hillis remains injured, but the good news for Cleveland is running back Montario Hardesy rushed for 95 yards last week. If they can get the run game on track, it could really help their offense. The team has excelled in developing the talent in their secondary. They are ranked 1st in passing yards allowed at 171.5 yards per game. They are improving against the run, ranked 20th (119.5) yards a game.
San Francisco is the most improved team under a rookie head coach who had no offseason so to speak of. They stop the run ranked 2nd in yards allowed (74.7) and don’t give up many points, ranked 2nd in points allowed (16.2 per game). The offense is ranked 6th overall in rushing yards at 131.5 yards per game. If your the 49ers you better run the ball well this game with RB Gore. The reason, the 49ers are ranked 31st in passing yards and your going against the Browns with the best ranked secondary in fewest passing yards allowed.
Forecast: Runny. That is, look for the 49ers to attack Cleveland’s run defense, the unit has struggled in that area. 49ers are totally changed team under Coach Jim Harbaugh…and for the better.
Projected Score: Cleveland 19 – San Francisco 30
Cincinnati (4-2) @ Seattle (2-4)
Cincinnati the surprise team this year are playing well on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, the Bengals defense ranks in the top 5 in the major defensive categories: 4th in points allowed (18.5), 5th rushing yards (89.5) , 2nd passing yards (189.0) and 2nd in total yards allowed (278.5). QB Andy Dalton has quickly adapted and having a great season as a rookie quarterback in the NFL. QB Dalton has a 62.4 completion percentage, which is better than both Joe Flacco and Colt McCoy.
Seattle doesn’t impress all that much, but they manage to give some teams fits. They pulled an upset in NY against the Giants 36-35. Must be nice playing in the NFC West, they are 2-4 and in second place.
Forecast: If there could be any upset this week it is this game. The Bengals should win, yet Seattle is a tough place to play and again, they can give teams fits.
Projected score: Cincinnati 23 – Seattle 13