NFL Week 4 Picks

October 4, 2015 on 7:12 pm | In NFL | No Comments

There are a bunch of toss-up games that could go either way on the docket for Week 4.  The picks went good for both my dad, Mike Hatfield, and yours truly Matthew Hatfield during Week 3.  It’ll be tough to duplicate it, but we’ll give it a try.

On Thursday night, my dad had Pittsburgh over Baltimore, while I ended up calling for a 21-13 Ravens win.  Baltimore won 23-20 in overtime with the point spread being the Ravens favored by 3, so it ended up being a push in that regard.

Let’s review the records and give you some quick hitters on the games for Sunday and Monday . . .

Matthew Hatfield 30-18, 28-20 ATS, 10-2 Locks, 3-3 Upsets
Week 3 – 13-3 SU, 13-3 ATS, 5-0 Locks, 1-1 Upsets

Mike Hatfield:  27-21
Week 3 – 11-5

NY Jets (2-1) vs. Miami Dolphins (1-2) in London . . . This feels like a game that the Dolphins must win in order to keep pace with the improved Jets and Bills as well as defending Super Bowl Champ New England in the AFC East.  However, the Jets lead the NFL in takeaways with 11, four from CB Darrelle Revis, and have given up a league-low 41 points thus far.

Matt Says:  Miami 17-14 (MIA +2.5)
Mike Says:  Miami

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2) . . . Jacksonville will try to stop a five-game winning streak by the Colts in the head-to-head series and their chances are better than usual with Indy star signal caller Andrew Luck sidelined due to a shoulder injury.  Chuck Pagano and company are looking to save him for their following division matchup, Thursday night against Houston.  Defensively, the Jags are searching for answers as they gave up 51 points to New England the last time out.  Matt Hasselbeck isn’t Tom Brady, but the Colts at home still probably have more firepower minus Luck than the Jags do.

Matt Says:  Indy 24-16 (IND -4)
Mike Says:  Indy

NY Giants (1-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-1) . . . Both offenses were sterling their last time out; the Giants getting seven receptions apiece from Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. in beating Washington 32-21, while Tyrod Taylor completed 72.4% of his passes for 277 yards and a 3-0TD/Int. ratio in a 41-14 romp of Miami.  The Bills are likely to be without two key playmakers, RB LeSean McCoy and WR Sammy Watkins, due to injury.  That may give Big Blue the upper hand.

Matt Says:  NY Giants 21-16 (NYG +6)
Mike Says:  NY Giants

Carolina Panthers (3-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) . . . Since Week 1, Carolina has been without stud LB Luke Kuechly, but it hasn’t mattered a ton as the Panthers continue to be tough defensively.  On the back end, defensive back Josh Norman has been a force with 15 tackles, five passes defended, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to earn NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for September.  Rookie Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay offense may have a hard time overcome mistakes and getting back to .500.

Matt Says:  Carolina 19-10 (CAR -3)
Mike Says:  Carolina

Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Washington Redskins (1-2) . . . As inconsistent as these two teams have been, a win here puts them right back in the NFC East race.  Washington’s defense is giving up an NFC-low 277.3 total yards per game.  It’ll be key that LB Ryan Kerrigan, who has made 38.5 sacks since entering the league in 2011, applies pressure on Eagles Sam Bradford.  The Redskins have yet to intercept a pass on defense.  Bradford will want to take shots deep with Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper and company.  Controlling the clock with RB’s Alfred Morris and Matt Jones is a must for the Skins.

Matt Says:  Philly 24-21 (WSH +3.5)
Mike Says:  Philly

Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Chicago Bears (0-3) . . . Charles Woodson is like a fine wine; he gets better with age.  To go with his six tackles in last week’s game at Cleveland, he made a game-clinching interception with 38 seconds left to play to secure a 27-20 win for a Raiders team on the road that had previously lost 19 of 20 away from home.  Here’s another road game, and it’ll be a tricky one for the 38-year-old Woodson and his teammates with Jay Cutler returning at quarterback for a struggling Bears team.

Matt Says:  Chicago 27-20 (CHI +3)
Mike Says:  Oakland

Houston Texans (1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0) . . . This year, the Falcons have been down in games, but never out.  All three of their wins have seen them rally in the fourth quarter from deficits, beating the likes of the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys from the NFC East.  While RB Alfred Blue and WR DeAndre Hopkins had big games in last week’s win over Tampa Bay for Houston, the Texans will have their work cut out for them slowing down the tandem of WR Julio Jones and RB Devonta Freeman, who exploded for 141 yards rushing and 3TD’s against Dallas.

Matt Says:  Atlanta 34-17 (ATL -4.5)
Mike Says:  Atlanta

Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) . . . Not only are the Bengals off to a 3-0 start that saw them survive a 28-24 thriller in Baltimore against their division rival last week, WR A.J. Green was simply dominant with 10 catches for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  The Bengals are looking for their fourth win in a row over the Chiefs in the head-to-head series, but Cincy’s offensive line will have to be up to the task of blocking pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston for it to happen.  RB Jammaal Charles of KC is third in the AFC in rushing yards, while Cincy’s Gio Bernard is second.

Matt Says:  Kansas City 23-21 (KC +3.5)
Mike Says:  Cincinnati

Cleveland Browns (1-2) at San Diego Chargers (1-2) . . . To me, this is the Lock of the Week.  San Diego seldom ever loses three straight with QB Philip Rivers, and it happening at home against a Browns team coming off a 27-20 loss to Oakland would be a shock.  Keep an eye on two of the league’s more underrated receivers; Kelvin Benjamin for Cleveland and Keenan Allen of the Chargers.  Both can make a game-changing play in this one.

Matt Says:   San Diego 30-14 (SD -5)
Mike Says:  San Diego

Green Bay Packers (3-0) at San Francisco (1-2) . . . Besides worrying about reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the prolific Packers offense that has seen their quarterback throw for 10 touchdowns without an interception, San Francisco has to contain LB Clay Matthews.  In the past three meetings with the Niners, Matthews has 4.5 sacks.  Furthermore, QB Colin Kaepernick on the other side of the ball has to take better care of the ball than he did against Arizona when he threw two pick-sixes.  The positive is that he’s won all three starts against Green Run with a 101.3 QB rating, 301 yards rushing and 2TD’s.

Matt Says:  Green Bay 31-12 (GB -7.5)
Mike Says:  Green Bay

St. Louis Rams (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (3-0) . . . To me, this game comes down to pass rush and pass protection.  Arizona will try to keep QB Carson Palmer upright so that their offense, which leads pro football in scoring with 126 points to this point, continues to hum.  Larry Fitzgerald has been a major force the last two weeks, and for that to continue, the Cards’ o-line has to give Palmer time to find him.  St. Louis is tied for the league lead in sacks with 13 as DT Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn have combined for 6.5.

Matt Says:  Arizona 24-20 (STL +7)
Mike Says:  Arizona

Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Denver Broncos (3-0) . . . It didn’t look great for Minnesota after a Week 1 road loss in San Francisco, but Mike Zimmer’s Vikings have bounced back with consecutive wins, including a 31-14 victory over San Diego where RB Adrian Peterson ran for 126 yards and a pair of scores.  Only Barry Sanders has more touchdown runs of 40 yards or longer with 20 than Peterson’s 16.  Denver’s defense came up with four sacks and three takeaways in doubling up Detroit 24-12 on Sunday Night Football on NBC, providing QB Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense the necessary support it desires.

Matt Says:  Denver 20-14 (MN +7)
Mike Says:  Denver

Dallas Cowboys (2-1) at New Orleans (0-3) . . . For a while, it appeared that QB Drew Brees would not play for the Saints in this one, but word now is that he’ll return after missing their Week 3 loss to Carolina.  With the Panthers and Falcons both off to undefeated starts, this is clearly a must-win at home in front of a prime-time, nationally-televised audience if New Orleans has any sights on going to the playoffs this year.  Joseph Randle ran for 3TD’s in last week’s loss to Atlanta for the Cowboys and they’ll bank on him to deliver against a Saints defense giving up 397 total yards per game.

Matt Says:  New Orleans 24-23 (DAL +3)
Mike Says:  New Orleans

Detroit Lions (0-3) at Seattle Seahawks (1-2) . . . Even though the Lions are winless, QB Matthew Stafford is second in the NFC in passing yards with 814.  The matchup between WR Calvin Johnson and CB Richard Sherman should be one watched all night long as two of the very best players at their respective positions square off on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.  With the return of safety Kam Chancellor last week, the Seahawks showed why their star-studded secondary earned that ‘Legion of Boom,’ moniker, blanking Chicago 26-0.  Look for Russell Wilson and the offense to shine this time.

Matt Says:  Seattle 35-20 (SEA -9.5)
Mike Says:  Seattle

Matt Hat’s Hits:
LOCKS – San Diego -5, Under 42.5 in Miami/NY Jets, Atlanta -4.5, Carolina -3 and Green Bay -7.5
UPSET SPECIALS – NY Giants SU & +6 and Kansas City SU & +3.5

NFL Week 3 Picks

October 4, 2015 on 4:58 pm | In NFL | No Comments

Week 2 was one to forget for a lot of teams.  It also was one to forget for folks like yours truly when it comes to picks.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the odds are good for 2-0 teams to make the playoffs and not so good for 0-2 squads to reach the postseason.  However, an even bigger deal is 3-0 compared to 0-3.  Nine teams are trying to make it to 3-0, whereas eight teams are hoping to avoid the dread 0-3 start.

On Thursday night, both my father – Mike Hatfield – and I – Matthew Hatfield – took the NY Giants to grab their first win.  My call was 24-14 and Big Blue came through with a 32-21 win.  Let’s now move to the rest of the Week 3 slate, starting with how records stack up . . .

Matthew Hatfield 17-15, 15-17 ATS, 5-2 Locks, 2-2 Upsets
Week 2 – 6-10 SU & ATS , 2-2 Locks, 1-1 Upsets

Mike Hatfield:  16-16
Week 2 – 5-11

Week 3 Slate:

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at St. Louis Rams (1-1) . . . Which Rams team will show up, the one that outlasted reigning two-time NFC Champion Seattle in overtime or the one that got run all over in a 24-10 loss at Washington?  St. Louis has one of the fiercest defensive fronts in football, led by Aaron Donald.  They’ll have to contend with Pittsburgh’s two running backs, DeAngelo Williams and Le’Veon Bell, now back from a two-game suspension.  Furthermore, Pittsburgh’s passing game is deadly with QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown.  What might determine the outcome is the St. Louis offense against the Pittsburgh defense.

Matt Says:  St. Louis 17-16 (STL -1)
Mike Says:  Pittsburgh

Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-2) . . . The big difference in both teams’ start?  Cincinnati is +3 in turnover margin and Baltimore is -2.  Baltimore has its backs against the wall, and without injured pass rushing stud Terrell Suggs, they may have to turn to their own offense led by QB Joe Flacco to keep up with a Cincy offense that seems to be on the rise with RB’s Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill as well as TE Tyler Eifert.

Matt Says:  Cincinnati 26-21 (CIN +1.5)
Mike Says:  Baltimore

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) at New England Patriots (2-0) . . . There probably isn’t a bigger mismatch on the board this week, outside of maybe Seattle/Chicago, than this game.  Jacksonville deserves credit for beating the Dolphins after a lackluster effort in the opener against Carolina.  Blake Bortles and company can’t win a shoot-out with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who’s playing not only like one of the best tight ends in football but like one of the best players in general.  The Patriots seldom ever lose at home and it would be a total stunner if Jacksonville prevails in Foxboro.

Matt Says:  New England 42-16 (NE -14)
Mike Says:  New England

Indianapolis Colts (0-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-1) . . . Trouble in Indy?  Andrew Luck has the most interceptions thrown in the league since last year, which is surprising given that that he’s widely considered one of the top quarterbacks in the sport.  But all the problems don’t fall at Luck’s feet; their running game has been woeful, the offensive line is struggling to protect him and they’ve had occasional lapses on defense.  They can’t afford to lose a division game or else they will go from being a Super Bowl pick by many (including me regrettably right about now) to a team that will have a hard time reaching the playoffs.  Tennessee’s defense isn’t great and fits around the middle-of-the-pack.

Matt Says:  Indy 28-14 (IND -3.5)
Mike Says:  Tennessee

New Orleans Saints (0-2) at Carolina Panthers (2-0) . . . It’s looking more and more like a regime change may be coming in New Orleans.  Sure, the Saints have had plenty of success under Sean Payton, winning a Super Bowl, but starting quarterback Drew Brees is out with an injury and their defense has been hit for 57 points through two games.  Carolina’s defense, headed up by LB Luke Kuechly, has been much sharper in limiting its first two foes to just 26 points.  Look for Kuechly, QB Cam Newton and the Panthers to stay atop the NFC South, a division they’re trying to win for a third straight year.

Matt Says:  Carolina 20-13 (NO +9.5)
Mike Says:  Carolina

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at Houston Texans (0-2) . . . Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston bounced back from a sluggish debut in a loss to Tennessee at home by leading his team to a road victory over New Orleans.  Can they actually win two in a row away from home and beat a J.J. Watt-led Texans team?  Houston’s pass rush has the ability to get under his skin in this one and set the offense up with good field position to keep from falling to 0-3.

Matt Says:  Houston 18-10 (HOU -6)
Mike Says:  Houston

Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) at New York Jets (2-0) . . . If somebody said this would be a 2-0 vs. 0-2 matchup before the season, most would’ve figured the Eagles would be 2-0 and the Jets 0-2.  That’s not the case as first-year Head Coach Todd Bowles, formerly the defensive coordinator in Arizona, has the Jets thinking playoffs.  Their secondary, headlined by Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, is playing like one of the best around.  Philly has more offensive talent than their NFC-East low 34 points would indicate, and now is the time that they must show it to keep from imploding.

Matt Says:  Philly 27-14 (PHI +3)
Mike Says:  Philly

San Diego Chargers (1-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1) . . . The Chargers have now won at Minnesota since 1993.  Meanwhile, the Vikings have won four straight at home.  This figures to be a battle where the Vikes lean on their running game with Adrian Peterson and San Diego relies on the passing attack with QB Philip Rivers.  On interesting sidebar is that the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, used to be the Head Coach of San Diego.

Matt Says:  Minnesota 23-16 (MN -2)
Mike Says:  San Diego

Oakland Raiders (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-1) . . . Oakland has dropped 19 of its last 20 on the road.  Even with the Raiders performing well in their home win over the Ravens, that doesn’t bode well for them facing a Cleveland team that was opportunistic in beating Tennessee and has some underrated pieces on defense.  The Browns may be able to make one more play via their defense or special teams to edge out the Raiders to get to 2-1.

Matt Says:  Cleveland 21-20 (OAK +3.5)
Mike Says:  Cleveland

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-0) . . . Life without Tony Romo officially begins for Dallas as the quarterback is on the shelf for a while due to injury and Brandon Weeden is the starter for now.  Matt Ryan is only 28-29 as a starter on the road for Atlanta and faces a Dallas defense that ranks second in the league in yards per play allowed at just 4.4.  On the flip side, are the Cowboys equipped to contain WR Julio Jones, who’s playing at a different level?

Matt Says:  Atlanta 31-24 (ATL PK)
Mike Says:  Atlanta

Buffalo Bills (1-1) at Miami Dolphins (1-1) . . . It’s safe to say that the Bills were humbled by New England last week, losing 40-32.  While Tyrod Taylor had three interceptions in that game, he has produced enough to maintain the starting job as he’s the first Bills signal caller to have four passing touchdowns and a rushing score through the first time two games since Joe Ferguson in 1975.  Jarvis Landry is quickly becoming a big-play weapon in the passing game and on returns for Miami, but the Dolphins will have to be at the top of their game defensive to contain Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins.

Matt Says:  Buffalo 20-14 (BUF +1)
Mike Says:  Miami

San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (2-0) . . . Rather quietly, the Arizona Cardinals are developing into a threat in the NFC.  Carson Palmer is 18-6 as the team’s starting quarterback and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had somewhat of a re-birth in Chicago last week with three touchdown receptions to show that he’s not over-the-hill or on the decline.  San Francisco may be on the decline though; they went from a big Monday night win over Minnesota to get thumped in Pittsburgh.

Matt Says:  Arizona 28-10 (AZ -7)
Mike Says:  Arizona

Chicago Bears (0-2) at Seattle Seahawks (0-2) . . . Pretty easy to figure out why Seattle is favored by more than two touchdowns here in this spot.  They have star safety Kam Chancellor back after he missed the first two weeks of the season due to a contract holdout.  Chicago has struggled mightily thus far, and with Jimmy Clausen taking over for the injured Jay Cutler at quarterback, things probably won’t get much better going to noisy Seattle with their 12th man.

Matt Says:  Seattle 31-7 (SEA -16.5)
Mike Says:  Seattle

Denver Broncos (2-0) at Detroit Lions (0-2) . . . Even though Denver is 2-0, they could easily be 1-1 or 0-2 as they had to sweat out close wins over Kansas City and Baltimore in the previous weeks.  At home in front of a big TV audience on Sunday Night Football, the Lions have the ability to strike quick with their offense featuring QB Matt Stafford and stud receiver Calvin Johnson.  It might take a little of the old Peyton Manning gunslinger type, rather than the new game-manager, to win this on the road.

Matt Says:  Detroit 27-21 (DET +3)
Mike Says:  Denver

Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) at Green Bay Packers (2-0) . . . You know the Chiefs are still smarting from that Thursday Night Football home loss to Denver, where they led in the fourth quarter by a touchdown before two late scores did them in to drop to 1-1.  Green Bay has won nine straight at home and it doesn’t look like the loss of star receiver Jordy Nelson has slowed down Aaron Rodgers and the Pack attack that much.

Matt Says:  Green Bay 34-17 (GB -5.5)
Mike Says:  Green Bay

Matt Hat’s Hits:
LOCKS – NY Giants -3, New England -14, Seattle -16.5, Arizona -7 and Green Bay -6.5
UPSET SPECIALS – Philly SU & +3 and Detroit SU & +3

NFL Week 2 Picks (Sun. Sept. 20, 2015)

September 20, 2015 on 4:53 pm | In NFL | No Comments

There’s no shortage of intriguing matchups for Week 2, beginning with New England traveling to Buffalo.  Two of the league’s most exciting receivers will square off when the Giants host the Falcons.  Meanwhile, San Diego visits Cincinnati, where the winner will be 2-0 and start to pick up traction as a team to watch out for in the AFC.

The second Sunday of the 2015 NFL campaign will come to a close on NBC with a re-match of last January’s NFC Championship game between the Seahawks and Packers, only this time it will come in Green Bay at Lambeau Field.

Week 2 got underway on Thursday night with Denver scoring two touchdowns in the final 38 seconds to go from behind seven at Kansas City to winning in improbable fashion.

Both yours truly and my father took the Chiefs to win that one, so it’s a 0-1 start, but we’ll try to turn things around on the rest of the games . . .

Records in Week 1:
Matthew Hatfield 11-5 SU (9-7 ATS) , 3-0 Locks, 1-1 Upsets
Mike Hatfield:  11-5

Week 2 Slate:

New England Patriots (1-0) at Buffalo Bills (1-0) . . . Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick have had some fascinating battles over the years, but this will be the first at Orchard Park.  Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, three to jumbo tight end Rob Gronkowski, in New England’s season-opening triumph over Pittsburgh.  Brady notched his 161st victory as the starting QB of the Pats, the most ever by a player with one franchise.  The Bills bottled up Indy’s high-powered offense in a 27-14 win last week, and Tyrod Taylor connected with Percy Harvin for a 51-yard bomb through the air.  While the Pats try to slow down RB LeSean McCoy, the Bulls will try to get pressure with their front four and contain Gronk.  At home, their defense may be up for the task better than most.

Matt Says:  Buffalo 27-21 (BUF -1)
Mike Says:  New England

Houston Texans (0-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-0) . . . Coach Ron Rivera has to like what his Carolina defense did on the road last week in Jacksonville in a 20-9 win.  They’re getting contributions from a bunch of different players, not just LB Luke Kuechly – whose 480 tackles since 2012 are the most in the NFL.  CB Josh Norman (INT TD, FF, FR in Week 1), LB Thomas Davis, DE Charles Johnson and DE Mario Addison (2 sacks vs. the Jags) all are making plays.  Houston’s defense will have to show better than they did against the Chiefs.  Even with a QB change from Brian Hoyer to Ryan Mallett, the Houston offense has more big-play capabilities, thanks to WR’s DeAndre Hopkins and Nate Washington, than Jacksonville did.

Matt Says:  Houston 21-20 (HOU +3)
Mike Says:  Houston

San Francisco 49ers (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) . . . It’s a homecoming of sorts for Niners Head Coach Jim Tomsula, who was born in Homestead, PA.  His San Fran team surprised many in the opener with a 20-3 rout of Minnesota in the second bill of an ESPN Monday Night Football double-dip.  Tailback Carlos Hyde, a standout at Ohio State, erupted for 168 yards and a couple of touchdowns on 26 attempts.  Pittsburgh’s defense struggled versus the pass in their 28-21 loss to New England.  Fortunately for them, they are better equipped to stop the run, got 351 yards passing from Ben Roethlisberger in that game, and DeAngelo Williams filled in for Le’Veon Bell with 127 yards rushing.  The extra few days to prepare and returning home ought to serve them well.

Matt Says:  Pittsburgh 24-8 (PIT -6.5)
Mike Says:  Pittsburgh

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) at New Orleans Saints (1-0) . . . Trends all point towards New Orleans winning and doing so by a wide margin.  Tampa Bay has lost seven straight in the series to the Saints.  While they were relatively close last season with the Saints prevailing 23-20 in Tampa and 37-31 at home in overtime, the Bucs had a hard time on defense in their 42-14 loss to Tennessee in Week 1.  Rookie QB Jamies Winston threw a pick-six on his first NFL pass attempt, becoming the first QB to have that happen since Brett Favre (now if only his pro career turns out the Favre’s did, he’ll be in great shape).  You know Drew Brees, who threw for 355 yards last week, is licking his chops about facing this Tampa secondary after what Marcus Mariota did to it a week ago.

Matt Says:  New Orleans 35-14 (NO -9.5)
Mike Says:  New Orleans

Detroit Lions (0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (0-1) . . . Three of the last four meetings have gone to the Lions and both games last year were relatively low-scoring.  Detroit won at home 16-14 behind 103 yards from scrimmage from Joique Bell and 11 tackles by LB DeAndre Levy.  In Minnesota, it was the Lions winning 17-3 with Tahir Whitehead intercepting a pass of passes.  The Vikings also scored three points in last week’s road loss to San Francisco.  Returning home, they should fare better, particularly RB Adrian Peterson, who’s probably looking to take out his frustration on the Detroit defense after being held to 31 yards on the ground on just 10 carries.  The Lions led early against San Diego before fizzling down the stretch, surrendering 483 yards in the 33-28 loss.

Matt Says:  Minnesota 21-16 (MN -2.5)
Mike Says:  Detroit

Arizona Cardinals (1-0) at Chicago Bears (0-1) . . . Coming off a 31-19 win at home over the Saints, this is a grand opportunity for Arizona to get two games up on Seattle in the division potentially since the Seahawks have to visit Green Bay and the Cards are favored here on the road against a Bears team banged up at wide receiver.  Chicago has won four of the past five meetings, though Arizona signal caller Carson Palmer is 3-0 in his career vs. the Bears with an 8-1TD/Int. ratio.  Led by Patrick Peterson (15 INT’s and 5 for TD’s since 2011), Tyrann Mathieu and Rashad Johnson, the Cards have more playmakers on the back end of their defense than the Bears, which could decide things if RB Matt Forte and TE Martellus Bennett don’t have stellar days for the home squad.

Matt Says:  Arizona 23-16 (AZ -2.5)
Mike Says:  Arizona

San Diego Chargers (1-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) . . . Rather quietly last week, Chargers QB Philip Rivers threw for 404 yards and two touchdowns in their 33-28 comeback win over the Lions.  I say quietly because you heard more about the play of other QB’s around the league like Tom Brady of New England, Tony Romo from Dallas and Tennessee rookie Marcus Mariota.  Rivers needs one touchdown pass in this one to pass Dan Fouts (254 career TD’s) for most in Chargers franchise history.  Although the Cincy defense held Oakland to just 246 total yards last week, they face a more dangerous offense with Rivers, rookie RB Melvin Gordon, WR Keenan Allen and company.  It might be up to the Bengals offense, which got a career day from TE Tyler Eifert last week, in order to get to 2-0.

Matt Says:  San Diego 20-17 (SD +3)
Mike Says:  Cincinnati

Tennessee Titans (1-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-1) . . . Titans rookie Marcus Mariota out of Oregon was sensational in his debut, completing 13 of 16 passes for 209 yards and four touchdowns in a road rout of Tampa Bay as he had a perfect quarterback rating.  There weren’t many positives to take out for the Browns in their 31-10 loss to the Jets in New York.  They finished -4 in the takeaway department and both QB’s, Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel, had passer ratings under 80.  Conventional wisdom says go with Tennessee, even on the road, but Mariota missing injured TE Delanie Walker is going to force the Titans offense to adjust.  Cleveland usually is better at home.  They started 4-1 at the Dawg Pound last year, including beating the likes of recent Super Bowl winners Pittsburgh and New Orleans.

Matt Says:  Cleveland 31-26 (CLE +2)
Mike Says:  Tennessee

Atlanta Falcons (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1) . . . Are there two more exciting wide receivers in the game of pro football than the Falcons’ Julio Jones and second-year phenom Odell Beckham from the Giants?  Jones simply dazzled in Monday’s victory over the Eagles, hauling in seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns.  Simply put, there’s not a defender with an answer for him one-on-one an entire game.  That being said, the Giants did rank #7 in the league against the pass last year and won’t want to let him and Matt Ryan play pitch-and-catch.  Beckham was quieter in his team’s loss to the Cowboys, though Atlanta knows he has a knack for amazing grabs and should be a focal point in this one.  The more desperate team is New York.  Being at home with an extra day to prepare will likely help, too.

Matt Says:   NY Giants 27-24 (NYG -2.5)
Mike Says:  NY Giants

St. Louis Rams (1-0) at Washington Redskins (0-1) . . . When these two squared off last December, it was all St. Louis as the Rams dominated to the tune of pitching a 24-0 shutout.  They recorded seven sacks as a defense, forced four turnovers – two on fumbles and two on interceptions – and Tavon Austin returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown.  St. Louis got 122 yards from scrimmage from third-string running back Benny Cunningham in their 34-31 overtime thriller with Seattle in Week 1.  The Redskins blew a double-digit lead at home in a 17-10 loss to the Dolphins.  For Washington to spring the upset, it’s going to come down to their defense creating takeaways and establishing the running game with Alfred Morris against a tough St. Louis front.  With the way their schedule is set up, if Washington doesn’t win this game it could linger into a 0-5 or 0-6 type start.  They badly need a win at home.

Matt Says:  Washington 17-14 (WSH +3)
Mike Says:  St. Louis

Miami Dolphins (1-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) . . . At home against Carolina last week, Gus Bradley’s Jaguars had very little offense to speak of with 265 total yards in the 20-9 loss to a pretty good defense.  Miami’s defense is nothing to sneeze at either with a formidable d-line that features Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and rookie Jordan Phillips.  That probably doesn’t bode well for their young offensive backfield tandem of QB Blake Bortles and T.J. Yeldon.  Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill is 2-0 in his career against the Jags with a 98.3 passer rating and just one interception.  As long as Miami takes care of the football and doesn’t depend on Tannehill’s arm exclusively to win, they figure to be in good shape to move to 2-0, which is important in an AFC East that appears to be much stronger than in years past.

Matt Says:  Miami 28-17 (MIA -6)
Mike Says:  Miami

Baltimore Ravens (0-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-1) . . . Losing stud pass rusher Terrell Suggs for the season as the Ravens did in their narrow loss at Denver last week is a huge blow to that Baltimore defense.  That being said, they are still a solid favorite on the road to a Raiders team that went to its second quarterback, Matt McGloin, for an injured Derek Carr a week ago.  Carr is expected to go in this one, but the Oakland defense gave up 33 points last week to Cincinnati and Baltimore QB Joe Flacco could be poised for a huge day, even on the road.  For Oakland to drop the Ravens to 0-2, rookie receiver Amari Cooper will have to build on a 5-catch, 47-yard effort in his pro debut.

Matt Says:  Baltimore 24-14 (BLT -6)
Mike Says:  Baltimore

Dallas Cowboys (1-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (0-1) . . . Tony Romo engineered a tremendous comeback for Dallas on Sunday Night Football against the New York Giants, finishing 36 of 45 for 356 yards and three touchdowns.  He’ll now be without his most explosive weapon, Dez Bryant, for at least the next seven weeks as the wide receiver sustained an injury in that win.  Philly came out of the blocks too cold against Atlanta before seeing their rally fall short.  Look for Sam Bradford and that passing attack to hum in that one and for Jordan Matthews (10Rec. 102Yds.) to have a big day.  Tailback DeMarco Murray, who ran for only nine yards on eight carries against the Falcons, should fare better against his former team also.

Matt Says:  Philly 31-24 (PHI -5.5)
Mike Says:  Philly

Seattle Seahawks (0-1) at Green Bay Packers (1-0) . . . These two were the NFC favorites a year ago and might be once again this season.  Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception at home since 2012.  Though the Seattle secondary is equipped to make life harder on Rodgers and pick him off, they still miss safety Kam Chancellor, holding out due to contractual issues, and that showed in the 34-31 overtime loss at St. Louis.  Even though the Seahawks made a comeback in that game, one of their scores came on a 57-yard punt return by rookie Tyler Lockett, and the offense isn’t quite at a dominating form just yet.  The Seahawks will need a strong game from RB Marshawn Lynch to win on the road.

Matt Says:  Green Bay 28-20 (GB -3.5)
Mike Says:  Green Bay

New York Jets (1-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1) . . . It was not an opener that Chuck Pagano and his Indianapolis team would like to remember, losing 27-14 in Buffalo to the Bills in a game that really wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated.  Meanwhile, New York is coming off a 31-point win and benefitted from being +4 in the turnover department.  Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets offense will hope to take advantage of Indy’s secondary missing two key defensive backs, Greg Toler (neck injury) and Darius Butler (hip injury).  Quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts rebounded from a 0-2 start last year by winning five straight.  That second loss came at home against the Eagles in a game that they led most of the way.  This is a similar spot, at home on a Monday night, and I’d expect them to play with a sense of urgency.

Matt Says:  Indy 30-13 (IND -7.5)
Mike Says:  Indy

Matt Hat’s Hits:
LOCKS –Indy -7.5, Pittsburgh -6.5, New Orleans -9.5, Arizona -2.5
UPSET SPECIALS – Houston SU & +3 and Washington SU +3

Matthew Hatfield & Mike Hatfield’s 2015 NFL Predictions!

September 13, 2015 on 5:48 pm | In NFL | No Comments

Each August for about the past 10-12 years, my father and me head to Shula’s 347 Grill in Norfolk (shameless plug… hopefully they see this and we get some kind of discount, right?) for an enjoyable meal to celebrate my birthday, but also make our NFL Predictions for the upcoming season.

Check out our division winners, who will be in the playoffs and Super Bowl picks.  Last year, I had Indy over Seattle – far better than my selection of Houston over Atlanta the year before – but just missed with the Colts falling the AFC Championship and Seahawks throwing an interception at the one-yard line against New England as the Patriots kept them from winning a second straight Lombardi Trophy.

So without further ado, here you go…

Matt & Mike’s NFL Picks for 2015

NFL Sunday Week 1 Picks (Sun. Sept. 13, 2015)

September 13, 2015 on 5:29 pm | In NFL | No Comments

It’s time for the first NFL Sunday of the 2015 season.  On Thursday night, things kicked off with the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots holding off the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-21 behind four Tom Brady touchdown passes, three to tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Technically, the ‘line’ in Vegas ended up being 7 points in most places, making it a ‘push.’

Yours truly Matthew Hatfield and my pops, Mike Hatfield, will do our picks.  So far, I hold the 1-game lead by virtue of New England’s win over my dad.

Matthew Hatfield 1-0 (0-0-1 ATS)
Mike Hatfield 0-1 (0-0-1 ATS)

Week 1 Slate:

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears . . . How much will the loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson sting the Packers?  He was the go-to guy for QB and NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, who will now look to Davante Adams and rookie Ty Montgomery to step forward in his absence and complement Randall Cobb.  Chicago ranked #30 against the pass a season ago, making that the main area new Bears Head Coach John Fox must improve for his team to be a playoff contender.

Matt Says:  Green Bay 28-17 (GB -6)
Mike Says:  Green Bay

Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans . . .
Led by the NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, the Texans have hopes of getting back to the playoffs after a two-year absence.  To start off 1-0, containing the Kansas City running game that features Jamaal Charles, who has rushed for 14 touchdowns in his past 13 games, will be imperative.

Matt Says:  Houston 17-14 (Hou +1)
Mike Says:  Kansas City

Cleveland Browns at New York Jets . . .
This will be the coaching debut of Todd Bowles, former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, as the New York Jets Head Coach.  It’s two unlikely starters at quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick for the Jets and Josh McCown for the Browns, but look for the defense that steps up and creates the most turnovers and makes more big plays to prevail.

Matt Says:  NY Jets 20-13 (NYJ -3.5)
Mike Says:  Cleveland

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills . . .
Former Baltimore Ravens backup Tyrod Taylor gets his first start at quarterback in Buffalo as he edged out Matt Cassel and E.J. Manuel in the preseason for the job.  A lot of people like Rex Ryan’s Bills as a darkhorse team for the playoffs with a defense that figures to be among the league’s stingiest, plus dynamic playmakers on offense in RB LeSean McCoy and WR Sammy Watkins.  Indy QB Andrew Luck is looking to make a run at MVP this season and get the Colts to the Super Bowl after losing to New England in the AFC Championship last season.

Matt Says:  Indianapolis 28-21 (IND -1)
Mike Says:  Indianapolis

Miami Dolphins at Washington Redskins . . .
Are the Redskins totally sure who they want to play quarterback for them this year, whether it’s Kirk Cousins, Robert Griffin III or Colt McCoy?  Cousins is slated to get the nod here, but will face a Dolphins defense that has two premier pass rushing threats in Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, who is second in team history with 63 sacks behind Jason Taylor’s 131.  Miami QB Ryan Tannehill also is the only player in club history to pass for over 3000 yards in each of his first three seasons as remarkably Dan Marino did not accomplish that feat.

Matt Says:  Miami 23-13 (MIA -4)
Mike Says:  Miami

Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars . . .
These two teams that were expansion squads about 20 years ago haven’t faced off since September 25, 2011 when the Panthers edged Jacksonville 16-10.  Another low –scoring defensive battle wouldn’t surprise us.  Remember, Carolina got off to a slow start last year and is going to try to avoid repeating that this year in their quest of a third straight NFC South division crown.

Matt Says:  Jacksonville 20-17 (Jag +3)
Mike Says:  Carolina

Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams . . .
To me, this is an upset alert game for the two-time defending NFC Champion Seahawks.  Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor has decided to hold out due to contract issues with management, and going on the road to take on a St. Louis team with one of the toughest defensive lines in football could make it difficult for Marshawn Lynch to run the ball.

Matt Says:  St. Louis 21-14 (STL +3.5)
Mike Says:  Seattle

New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals . . .
In two seasons, Bruce Arians has done a very good job in the desert, leading the Cardinals to a Wild Card berth last year before losing to NFC South division winner Carolina in the opening round of the playoffs.  Keeping QB Carson Palmer is a must, and despite the defense having to replace some key components, there are a lot of good pieces still in Arizona.  New Orleans has one of the most prolific passing games engineered by Drew Brees, but the Saints have traditionally been much better at home than on the road.

Matt Says:  Arizona 31-28 (AZ -2.5)
Mike Says:  Arizona

Detroit Lions at San Diego Chargers . . .
There were trade talks and rumors during the off-season regarding Chargers signal caller Philip Rivers, who has won four division titles and ranks second among active NFL QB’s with 36,507 passing yards.  Rookie tailback Melvin Gordon will try to bring some balance to a running game that ranked near the bottom of the league.  As for Detroit, the Lions boast one of the most feared passing combos with QB Matt Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson, but lost a significant player up front on defense in Ndamukong Suh to Miami.

Matt Says:  San Diego 27-16 (SD -3.5)
Mike Says:  San Diego

Tennessee Titans at Tampa Bay Buccaneers . . .
It’s the debut of the top two quarterback draft selections from this year, Marcus Mariota from Oregon for the Titans and Florida State product Jamies Winston with Tampa Bay.  Tennessee has won six of the past seven meetings in the series.

Matt Says:  Tampa Bay 19-16 OT (TB -3)
Mike Says:  Tennessee

Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Raiders . . .
Jack Del Rio takes over as the Head Coach in Oakland, a team many think will be improved this year after a 3-13 finish last season.  Two second-year players to watch in this one are Cincy RB Jeremy Hill, who led NFL rookies in rushing yards last season with 1124, and Raiders QB Derek Carr, the league’s top rookie passer with 3270 yards.

Matt Says:  Cincinnati 26-18 (Cin -3)
Mike Says:  Cincinnati

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos . . .
The last time the Broncs played host to the Ravens, QB Peyton Manning threw for 462 yards and seven touchdowns in the opener in 2013, avenging the playoff loss to Baltimore from the prior season.  Manning and the Broncos weren’t happy with their postseason loss at home to Indianapolis from this past January, so don’t be surprised to see them have a strong start, even if the Ravens end up having a better year in the long run.

Matt Says:  Denver 35-17 (Den -4.5)
Mike Says:  Denver

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys . . .
Believe it or not, the Cowboys have won four straight in the series.  That’s hard to believe given the Giants’ success under Head Coach Tom Coughlin and QB Eli Manning, winning a pair of Super Bowls.  But Big Blue has missed the playoffs three straight seasons after winning their last Lombardi Trophy, something Dallas has its sights set on this year with one of the best offensive lines in football as well as the plenty of offensive talent in QB Tony Romo, WR Dez Bryant and veteran TE Jason Witten.

Matt Says:  Dallas 31-21 (DAL -6)
Mike Says:  Dallas

Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons . . .
Ex-Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn takes over in Atlanta, a team with plenty of offensive firepower in the form of QB Matt Ryan and WR’s Julio Jones and Roddy White.  For some reason though, the Falcons have had some underachieving seasons, and they must work on a pass defense that ranked #32 – dead last – in the league last year.  Philly has a new QB in Sam Bradford, formerly of the Rams, as well as a new RB in DeMarco Murray, once of the Cowboys.  Getting a road win against a team with the passing game the Falcons have would be a major plus.

Matt Says:  Atlanta 30-17 (ATL +3)
Mike Says:  Philly

Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers . . .
It’s rare that a team like the Vikings, which has finished below .500 in four of the last five seasons, is favored on the road against a Niners squad not long removed from three consecutive appearances in the NFC Championship game.  But San Francisco saw some key players leave, multiple staples on the defense retire, and have a new Head Coach in Jim Tomsula replacing Jim Harbaugh (now at Michigan).  Meanwhile, Minnesota is a trendy Wild Card pick with RB Adrian Peterson back to support developing QB Teddy Bridgewater.

Matt Says:  Minnesota 14-9 (MN -2.5)
Mike Says:  San Francisco

Matt Hat’s Hits:
LOCKS – Green Bay -6, Denver -4.5 and San Diego -3.5
UPSET SPECIALS – St. Louis and Jacksonville

2015 NFL Season is Here! Steelers at Patriots Picks (Thurs. Sept. 10, 2015)

September 11, 2015 on 12:28 am | In NFL | No Comments

The 2015 NFL season is finally here!  No more talk about deflated fumbles, court cases or Commissioner Roger Goodell.  It’s time to get down to business – the real games.

Yours truly and my father, Mike Hatfield, will be doing our predictions each week… so let’s begin with the game kicking off this evening on NBC at 8:30 PM EST between the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots and visiting Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots . . . B ill Belichick’s squad has won four of the last six meetings with a 55-31 romp back in 2013 when tight end Rob Gronkowski finished with 143 yards receiving and a touchdown.  Quarterback Tom Brady has no shortage of motivation and Gronk will likely be his go-to target against a Pittsburgh defense that has some talented parts, but is inexperienced in spots.  Mike Tomlin’s group begins life without safety Troy Polamalu, such an indispensable piece of their success in recent years.

Pittsburgh should have one of the most potent offenses this year before everything is said and done with QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown (the NFL’s leader in receptions and receiving yards last season).  However, Bell will miss the first two games due to suspension.  They’re also missing starting center Maurkice Pouncey, out with an injury.

Big Ben is making his 159th start in a Steelers uniform and that passes Terry Bradshaw for most in team history.  They’re going to have to pull the road upset on his arm, which can be done against a Patriots defense that was dealt some significant losses in the off-season, primarily in the form of CB Darrelle Revis (Jets) and DT Vince Wilfork (Texans).

At home, the Pats are tough to beat and appear better equipped to win a shoot-out than the Steelers.

Matt Hatfield’s Pick:  New England 27-24 (Pittsburgh +6.5)
Mike Hatfield’s Pick:  Pittsburgh 24-21

Former CIAA Commissioner Moorman Passes – Tues. Sept. 9, 2014

September 10, 2014 on 1:38 am | In College Football, NFL | No Comments

Clinton R. “Bob” Moorman, Jr., Major (ret) US Army, passed peacefully at home with his family after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s. Bob was a 43 year resident of Hampton, VA. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1924. Shortly after his birth, the Moorman family moved to the Far East where they lived in Manila, Philippines and Shanghai, China. Upon his father’s death in Shanghai, Bob and his mother returned to Columbus, Ohio, his parent’s home.

Bob left Hampton Institute during World War II and entered the US Army, segregated at that time, as an enlisted man. He was assigned to a transportation (trucking unit) which later was part of the all Black “Red Ball Express”, which delivered ammunition, fuel, food, and medical supplies to the Patton’s Third Army during and after the Normandy invasion. The unit battled the German Army on the route in their attempts to cut off supplies to Allied troops. The unit returned to their base with the dead and wounded. After the war, he returned to Hampton to finish his studies.

In 1948 after completing the Officer Training Course, Bob was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and assigned to the famed 24th Infantry Regiment, the Buffalo Soldiers. Stationed in Japan, the 24th was one of the first units sent to Korea at the outbreak of the war. His unit was in the Battle of the Chosen Reservoir when the 250,000 Chinese troops entered the Korean War. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart during the conflict.

After the war, he returned to the States continuing his military career and being involved in the Armed Services Football League where different branches of the military had post teams which travelled between military bases. In early 1960s he was assigned to the 7th Special Forces “Green Berets” and stationed in Bad Toelz, Germany. He retired from the Army in 1966.

His new career was athletics, both collegiate and professional sports. After a short stint as head coach at Wiley College, he was hired by the San Diego Chargers as the East Coast Scout. As he continued his career, he became the first full time Commissioner for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) in the 1970s. During his tenure with the CIAA, Bob served on a number of national committees: President of the NCAA College Division Commissioners’ Association, NCAA Athletic Steering Committee, NCAA Council, Division II Football and Basketball Committees, NCAA Professional Liaison Committee, and the National Association of College Directors of Athletics. He represented the NCAA and United States at the first Goodwill Games in the Soviet Union. He was past president of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and the Peninsula Sports Club. He was a life member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Bob’s last position was a college official scout for the National Football League.

Bob is survived by his wife of 63 years, Tamiko of Hampton, VA; Son, Clinton (Bob) R. III (Elizabeth) of Bahama, NC; Daughter, Kathy Epps (Keith) of Hampton, GA; five grandchildren; and three great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held 1:00 PM, Saturday, September 13, 2014 at the Hampton University Memorial Church.

Memorial contributions may be made in lieu of flowers to the Alzheimer’s Association
Southeastern Virginia Chapter; 6350 Center Drive, Suite 102; Norfolk, Virginia 23502
Friends are encouraged to visit to share memories and words of condolence with the family.

Arrangements are under the care of Parklawn-Wood Funeral Home, 2551 N. Armistead Ave., Hampton, VA 23666.

NFL Week 4 Picks for Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 29, 2013 on 9:12 am | In NFL | No Comments

The final Sunday in September offers plenty of intriguing
matchups.  Call it ‘Separation Sunday,’
for Week 4 in the NFL as several teams try to go into October with strong
momentum.  Seven teams – Chicago, Denver,
Kansas City, Miami, New England, New Orleans and Seattle – enter the weekend undefeated.  Meanwhile, there are six winless squads – NY
Giants, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington – with two
of them squaring off in London.

Let’s go through the games and give some predictions (sure
to go wrong)

My Record:  30-18 (7-9 in Week 3)

Week 4 Picks . . .

San Francisco 49ers
(1-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-2) –
It’s the Thursday Night Football matchup on
NFL Network with San Francisco reeling, coming off back-to-back losses to the
Seahawks and Colts, the ladder most puzzling because they were favored by
double-digits at home and lost by 20 in their building.  QB Colin Kaepernick
is starting to draw criticism, but look for a strong bounce back against a St.
Louis team that struggled to stop Dallas’ running game in a 31-7 Week 2
loss.  Expect RB Frank Gore the deep,
talented San Fran backfield to be involved heavily in this one.  Pick –
San Fran 24-10, Niners -3.5

Baltimore Ravens
(2-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-2) –
Believe it or not, Bills rookie signal
caller E.J. Manuel has thrown more touchdown passes with four than reigning
Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco of the Ravens.  Flacco has thrown
three so far.  The key to this game will
likely be pass protection as you’ll see two of the best sack artists in the
league on display with Buffalo’s Mario Williams, who has 4.5 sacks, and
Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs, the team leader in sacks for the Ravens with
three.  Right now, Baltimore has more
ways of scoring as evidenced by getting a defensive touchdown and special teams
touchdown in their 30-9 trouncing of the Texans a week ago, giving them the
slight edge on the road.  Pick – Ravens 23-17 (OT), Baltimore -3

Cincinnati Bengals
(2-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-2) –
The Bengals won a wild, roller-coaster
game with the Packers last week by a count of 34-30 in which they scored 14,
gave up 30 unanswered and then scored the final 20 points.  Cleveland made an interesting move before
Week 3 when they traded star tailback Trent Richardson for a future first round
draft choice.  Meanwhile, they inserted
Brian Hoyer into the starting lineup and the new QB tossed three touchdowns,
including the game-winner in a 31-27 win over Minnesota.  Does he make it two in a row?  Although they’re at home, it’s doubtful
against a much stingier Bengals defense.
Pick – Cincy
27-17, Bengals -3.5

Chicago Bears (3-0)
at Detroit Lions (2-1) –
First place in the NFC North is on the line as the
Bears take on the Lions in Detroit.
Chicago has dominated the series of late, winning nine of the last ten
meetings.  The Bears got defensive
touchdowns from Major Wright and Julius Peppers in last week’s 40-23 victory at
Pittsburgh.  Detroit’s passing combo of
QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson was on point in last week’s win over Washington,
their first road win over the Redskins since 1935.  Stafford threw for 285 yards and two scores
with Megatron snagging seven balls for 115 yards and
a touchdown.  If Detroit’s d-line gets
Bears QB Jay Cutler off his timing and rhythm with his receivers, the Lions
should take care of business in their building.
Pick – Lions 34-21, Detroit -3

Seattle Seahawks
(3-0) at Houston Texans (2-1) –
The top two ranked defenses in the league
go head-to-head as Seattle visits Houston.
Seattle’s super-sized secondary with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond is bar
none most intimidating going in the NFL.
Houston QB Matt Schaub will have to find
success against them without turning it over, which means relying on the
running game and make sure he checks down to the backs and tight ends instead
of taking too many shots against a defensive backfield that’ll make you
pay.  At home not wanting to fall to 2-2,
I expect the Texans to play desperate, start out fast and hold on late.  Pick –
Texans 14-13, HOU +1.5

NY Giants (0-3) at
Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) –
If ever there was a ‘must-win’ this early in the
season, this would be it for Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants.  Big Blue got spanked last week in Carolina,
thus they’ve heard strong critics all week about not only their poor play, but
their overall effort.  Giants QB Eli
Manning has only 5TD’s passing compared to 8INT’s.  Kansas City is one of the early season
surprises with Andy Reid the front-runner for Coach of the Year less than one
month into the 2013 campaign.  Justin
Houston has made an NFL-best 7.5 sacks right now as
the KC outside linebacker is extremely disruptive and someone the Giants will
have to block in order to give Manning time to throw against that bump-and-run
coverage of the Chiefs DB’s.  Generally,
the Giants rise to the occasion when their backs are against the wall, and this
one of those times.  Pick – Giants 21-7, NYG +3.5

Arizona Cardinals
(1-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) –
There has been a lot of turmoil in
Tampa Bay revolving the benching of starting quarterback Josh Freeman, who last
year threw for a team record in yardage and TD’s, but been plagued by inconsistency,
most notably completing under 50% of his throws on the campaign.  Coach Greg Schiano
has decided to go with rookie Mike Glennon, the third
QB taken in this past NFL Draft out of NC State.  Against an Arizona defense that has a couple
of playmakers up front in DT Darnell Dockett and LB
John Abraham as well as INT threats on the back end in CB Patrick Peterson and
rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu, it might not be a good
debut for Glennon.
Pick – Cards 20-16, AZ +2.5

Pittsburg Steelers
(0-3) vs. Minnesota Vikings (0-3) in London –
Stadium will play host to this matchup between two winless teams that had
playoff aspirations before the season.
After all, Adrian Peterson rushed for 2097 yards last season en route to
winning the MVP and guiding the Vikings into the postseason, while Ben
Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls as the starting quarterback of the
Steelers.  Despite not having much of a
running game, the Steelers can hit for more big passing plays than the Vikings,
and the Pittsburgh defense may be built better to stuff the running of Peterson
than Minnesota is to get after Big Ben.  Pick – Steelers 23-14, Pitt -3

New York Jets (2-1)
at Tennessee Titans (2-1) –
If not for a late hit out of bounds by the
Buccaneers late in Week 1, the Jets would be 1-2 instead of 2-1.  And in the case of Tennessee, the Titans
rallied in the final moments to stun the Chargers and get above the .500 mark
instead of being 1-2.  The loser in this
game could be headed for a slide, whereas the winner has a shot to be a sneaky
team that cracks the postseason party.  The
Jets have won five of the last seven in this series, but can their defense come
up with takeaways in this one?  To me,
the difference is ball security, and Titans QB Jake Locker has yet to be picked
off, whereas Jets rookie Geno Smith has thrown six
interceptions thus far.  Pick – Titans 17-10, TN -3.5

Washington Redskins
(0-3) at Oakland Raiders (1-2) –
There has been an awful lot of scrutiny
over Redskins second-year QB Robert Griffin III, who electrified Washington a
season ago as they went from 3-6 to a surprise playoff participant.  Griffin hasn’t looked 100% and not been as significant
of a threat on the run as he was during his rookie year.  Even worse for the Redskins is the fact their
defense has given up more yards through three games than any in league history
to start out a season in the modern era.
Oakland comes in with a dynamic dual-threat QB themselves in Terrelle Pryor (822 total yards), but he doesn’t have a ton
of weapons around him the Oakland defense could find it tough to stop the
Redskins from moving the ball down the field.
Pick – Redskins 30-24, WSH -3.5

Philadelphia Eagles
(1-2) at Denver Broncos (3-0) –
It has been a record-setting start for
Peyton Manning at quarterback as Denver is unbeaten and dominating its foes to
this point.  Manning has thrown for 1143
yards, 12 touchdowns and not been intercepted yet on 122 pass attempts.  His receiving core is playing with supreme
confidence as well, and the Broncos enter with the longest regular season
winning streak at 14 in a row.
Philadelphia’s fast-paced offense under new Head Coach Chip Kelly was a
huge hit in a Week 1 road win at Washington with RB LeSean
McCoy atop the league stats in rushing and WR DeSean
Jackson #2 in receiving, but their defense is a far cry from the offense.  It’s a nightmarish matchup in Denver against
Manning and a hot Broncos offense.  Pick – Broncos 42-24, Denver -10.5

Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
at San Diego Chargers (1-2) –
San Diego is a bounce or two away from being
3-0 instead of a game under .500 going into the final Sunday of September.  Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown
eight touchdowns with only one interception, performing much better than he did
during a disappointing 2012 campaign.  Dallas’
defense has been terrific at coming up with takeaways and they currently stand
at +3 in the turnover margin category, which also means that QB Tony Romo is protecting the ball reasonably well.  What may determine the outcome is how well
the Cowboys incorporate DeMarco Murray and the
running game into their offense against a San Diego defense that is leaky at
times.  In the end, I’ll go with Rivers
at home in a mini shoot-out.  Pick – San Diego 31-23, Chargers +1.5

New England Patriots
(3-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2) –
The NBC Sunday Night Game of the Week is a
good one as it features the two quarterbacks with the best active starting
records in the league in the Pats’ Tom Brady (139-39 for a .781 mark) and the
Falcons’ Matt Ryan, who is 57-24 (.704).
Both teams lost in the Conference Championship game, and the Pats are 3-0
with two narrow wins over division rivals Buffalo and the NY Jets, whereas
Atlanta lost twice in the final minutes to the Dolphins and Saints.  At home, the Falcons are tough, having won 12
of their last 13 in the regular season.  Pick – ATL 31-20, Falcons -2.5

Miami Dolphins (3-0)
at New Orleans Saints (3-0) –
The Dolphins are one of the biggest surprises
in the league, rallying to beat the Falcons 27-23 in Week 3, and a couple of
the free agent additions for Joe Philbin’s squad like
WR Mike Wallace from the Steelers and MLB Dannell
Ellerbe from the Ravens are paying dividends so far.  Several years back, Miami had a chance to get
its franchise quarterback to be the guy that finally admirably fills the shoes
of Dan Marino, but couldn’t bring in Drew Brees and
instead the Saints got him and went on to win Super Bowl XLIV (44).  Brees has thrown for
over 300 yards in eight consecutive games, one off the league record that he
owns.  Tight end Jimmy Graham is a major
matchup problem that figures to be the difference in this one.  Pick –
Saints 35-21, NO -7

Locks:  ATL -2.5, Over 49.5 in ATL/NE, Denver -10.5,
Over 58 in DEN/PHI, Detroit -3, Jacksonville +9 and Houston +2

Upset Specials:  NY Giants +3.5 and Arizona +2.5

Interview with Bills QB EJ Manuel

July 22, 2013 on 6:56 am | In NFL, NFL Draft | No Comments
One of the biggest surprises of the 2013 NFL Draft came when the Buffalo Bills selected quarterback EJ Manuel 16th overall in the first round.  Many draft analysts and experts projected Manuel to be the second or third QB chosen, expected to go in the second round.
Manuel, a product of Virginia Beach’s Bayside High School, won four bowl games at Florida State University, where he set several ACC and school passing records, including highest completion percentage. 
During the July 20th edition of High School Sports Talk Presented by on ESPN Radio 94.1, Coach Ed Young and Matthew Hatfield caught up with Manuel.  You can listen to that interview at the link below:

Week 1 NFL Picks for 2012 Season

September 9, 2012 on 1:58 am | In NFL | No Comments
Time now for Week 1 NFL Picks.  In case you missed it earlier, see my Season Predictions for 2012 division-by-division and throughout the playoff:
A quick review of Thursday night and last year.
Thursday:  0-1 (pick was NYG 27-20, Dallas won 24-17)
Last season:  72% SU, 59%ATS
Week 1 Predictions:
Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears
Pick – Chicago 31-14 (CHI -9.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns
Pick – Philly 17-10 (CLE +9)
St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions
Pick – Detroit 28-20 (STL +8.5)
New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans
Pick – New England 27-13 (NE -5.5)
Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs
Pick – Atlanta 35-17 (ATL -2)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings
Pick – Minnesota 19-13 (MN -3.5)
Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints
Pick – New Orleans 35-20 (NO -8.5)
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
Pick – NY Jets 20-10 (NYJ -3)
Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans
Pick – Houston 31-10 (HOU -13)
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
Pick – Green Bay 28-19 (GB -5)
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Pick – Arizona 27-24 in OT (AZ +2.5)
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick – Tampa Bay 21-16 (TB +2.5)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
Pick – Denver 23-20 (DEN -1.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Pick – Baltimore 24-12 (BLT -7)
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Pick – San Diego 20-14 (SD PK)
LOCKS:  Chicago -9.5, Atlanta -2, Over 43 in ATL/KC, New Orleans -8.5, Houston -13 and New England -5.5
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