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Ace Addresses Parity

Mediocrity- The form of being only ordinary or moderate in quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate.

That right there is the perfect description of exactly half the NFL as we head into week seven. Exactly 16 of the 32 NFL teams right now are either 2-3 or 3-3 depending on whether or not they have had their bye yet. Severa; teams are still trying to decide if they are legit playoff contenders or not. Currently, as most Bills fans know, every team in the AFC East is 3-3. That is the first time ever that all teams in the division are tied after six weeks.
With all that being said, how many of those 2-3 or 3-3 teams really have a shot at contending for a playoff spot? Well, let us again dive in to a few specific teams as we did a few weeks ago and decide for ourselves.
Let’s just start with the 3-3 Buffalo Bills. So far, it has been a “beat the non-playoff teams, and get blown out by teams that are actually good” season so far for the hometown team. (For the record, the Jets are still “good” when Revis is healthy.) So what does that mean for the rest of the season? Well, in my opinion it gives me the same prediction I had before the season for the Bills. That is an inconsistent team (and quarterback) that will end up winning more games than they lose because of an easier second-half schedule, meaning they will still be in the hunt late in the season. Now, the once “easy” second-half schedule is now a little harder than first thought after teams like Miami (twice), St. Louis, Indy, and arguably the Seahawks, have played better than most thought. Like the Bills, however, these teams are still –yes—mediocre, and because the Bills still have home games versus the Titans this Sunday, Dolphins (primetime which means the Ralph will be rocking), Rams, Jags, and Seahawks (kind of, and they are not a good road team), I still think this team can win 9 or possibly 10 games, which at this point looks like a wild card lock at worst.
Once Cordy Glenn and Craig Urbik come back from ankle injuries, hopefully either this week or after the bye, then this team should have continued success running the ball, which should help take the pressure off Fitz. Prediction: 9-7, wild card.
Next, let’s examine the 3-3 Cincinnati Bengals, another team in the AFC that I think will be one of the Bills main challengers for a playoff spot come December. The Bengals have had a similar start to the Bills, as they are .500, but have yet to beat a marquee team. They’re currently are on a two-game losing streak after falling to the Browns and Dolphins. Their current losing streak followed a streak where they won three in a row with a home win versus the Browns, and then road victories at Washington and Jacksonville. In their toughest matchup of the season, they got blown out in the Monday Night opener at Baltimore, 44-13. I believe we will find out a lot about this team in the next three games, all at home, as they play host to the Steelers Sunday night, followed by games against Peyton and the Broncos, and capped off with a visit from Eli and the Gmen. Tough games for sure, but it helps that they are all at home. The Bengals biggest strength statistically is the 20 sacks they have so far this season, which is only one behind the Packers for the league lead. Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson are big contributors in that regard, as they each are averaging a sack per game. Despite the pressure up front, however, the Bengals are -7 in the TO department, which includes 9 INTs from second year man out of TCU Andy Dalton. Dalton may have the NFL’s leading receiver in AJ Green, but if he can’t learn to take care of the ball, and if the D can’t cause more turnovers, then this team will be sitting at home come January. Prediciton: 8-8, no playoffs.
Finally, let’s look at one of the teams in the jumbled NFC East, where the 4-2 Giants have sole control over first as of now, but lurking a game back are the inconsistent 3-3 Philadelphia Eagles. Before the season, I predicted Falcons over Eagles in the NFC Championship game, and right now the Falcons are the only ones playing like they want to make that come true. However, the Eagles are making changes as they enter their bye week, as they fired their DC yesterday, and are saying more changes may be in store. They get a great test when they return from the bye next Sunday, as they face who else but … the Falcons. If they are going to be a playoff team, however, they must improve in a few key areas.
First off, Mike Vick must improve upon his 9TD/11TO ratio. He can still be an elite QB that is a game changer as a dual threat, but not if he continues to turn the ball over. In fact, as a team the Eagles are -6 in the turnover department, meaning it would be nice for the entire team to change that stat, along with the fact that the Eagles have given up 10 more sacks then they have recorded on D, meaning play in the trenches needs to get better on BOTH ends. Finally, a great point that was made yesterday in the press conference by Andy Reid was that even though the offense has struggled averaging only 17 points a game, the D has given up fourth-quarter leads the past two weeks. If the Eagles can start finishing games as a TEAM, and get more sacks and turnovers than their opponents (meaning both the offense and defense must do their job), then this team can still play deep into January. I think they do indeed improve in these areas the rest of the way and go 6-4 down the stretch, but unfortunately for them the NFC is not as mediocre as the AFC, and 9-7 may not get it done. So, Prediction: 9-7, no playoffs.
As mentioned above, the Eagles are on a bye this week, but how will the Bills, Bengals, and all the other teams playing in week seven do? Well, here are my thoughts on week seven in the NFL – ENJOY!

SEAHAWKS @49ERS (-7.5)
I really like the 49ers in this Thursday night matchup to start week seven. They are sure to be motivated following the beat down given to them at home by the Giants a few days ago, and I don’t see Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch having his best game against a 49ers D which is still very, very good against the run, and is sure to stack the box forcing Russell Wilson to beat them. Although the Seahawks are coming in high after a big upset of the Pats, they are not very good on the road, and I think this is a statement game for the 49ers proving on national TV that they are still on of the best teams in the NFL. Expect Wilson to face a lot of pressure and make some mistakes on way to a 49ers win. Prediction: 49ERS OVER Seahawks 21-10.

Call me an optimist all you want but the Bills can and will win this game in my opinion, and I think they will do so in somewhat of an easy fashion. There may be some that disagree, but I believe the Titans are the second worst team in football behind the Chiefs, who the Bills manhandled at home in week two. Offensively they are 32nd in rushing and have their backup QB starting his third straight game in Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck has done an OK job in two starts prior to this one, but still has a 4/4 TD/INT ratio, and has been sacked eight times over his time in four games this season including two starts. Chris Johnson has nowhere to go behind a putrid offensive line, and I think the Bills run D from weeks 1-3 shows up again and limits him and ALSO gets pressure on the QB, which to this point they have only been able to do one or the other. Defensively the Titans are dead last in pass D and not much better against the run where they are 24th in the league. I expect Freddy and CJ to have big days as they continue to get healthy. If Fitz can play the way he did vs. KC, Cleveland, and Arizona (meaning no turnovers) then the Bills should have no problem winning this game. On paper they are hands down the better team, and I think they head into their bye 4-3, with road games at Houston and at the Patriots the next two weeks. Prediction: BILLS OVER Titans 27-17.

I have had the Browns as my upset pick the past two weeks, as I still firmly believe they are better than their 1-5 record. With the Colts missing Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, I believe the Browns go on the road and do something they haven’t done in over a calendar year, and that is put together a winning streak. Brandon Weeden has performed well the last two weeks as he gets more comfortable to the NFL, and Trent Richardson also seems to be just fine after hurting his ribs last weekend. Joe Haden also returned last week from suspension, which should help the Browns 30th ranked pass D. Expect Trent Richardson to have a nice day against Indy’s 29th ranked run D, and watch Brandon Weeden beat Andrew Luck for the second time in 2012, just like he did in the Fiesta Bowl in January. Prediction: BROWNS over Colts 24-23.

If anyone watched the Sunday Night game this past week, then you know one thing; Aaron Rodgers is starting to feel it. Rodgers torched a Texans D that was considered one of the best in the league to the tune of 338 yards and 6 TDs as he completed 65% of his passes. The Rams defense is nothing to sneeze at, but I got the impression last week that Rodgers was starting to get in one of those modes where no one will get in his way. He is the second best QB in the league in my opinion, and when he gets the protection, he can kill you. I expect him to do have one of “those days” again Sunday, to shake the naysayers who have doubted him in 2012. Prediction: PACKERS over Rams 31-20.

I am on record in this blog for saying two statements about these teams. 1.) I said the Vikings would win around eight games, which is two more than Vegas thought; and 2.) After starting 4-0, I said the Cards would not make the playoffs. Well, so far so good, and now the Cards will readjust to John Skelton as their starter with Kevin Kolb out six weeks with rib damage. Although Skelton has won with this team before, I do not think he can do enough against a Vikes D that is a solid unit as they rank 10th against the pass and 11th against the run, respectively. Not to mention, stats show that the Cards has a disadvantage traveling East for a 1pm kickoff. Prediction: VIKINGS over Cards 23-16.

Another ‘Skins game, and another predicted shootout by yours truly. I think I have said enough times here that RG3 was a top ten QB from the moment he stepped on an NFL field. He flat out makes plays on the ground as proven by being ranked 15th in the NFL in rushing (and yes that includes all RBs) and through the air, where he is tops in the NFL in completion percentage at over 70%. What is amazing however, is RG3’s 11/3 TD/TO ratio, which speaks volumes for the fact that rookie or not this guy is legit. However, one reason the ‘Skins aren’t 6-0 is because in their three losses they allowed an average of 31 points. If they did not lose Brian Orakpo and Adam Karricker to injury early in the season, they may be in first already. The 4-2 Giants hold that spot however, but the winner Sunday takes over the NFC East lead. Eli and RG3 are sure to go back and forth lighting up the scoreboard, but in the end I think the two time Super Bowl champ secures the deal by throwing one more late TD, giving the Gmen a 5-2 record. Prediction: GIANTS over Redskins 34-31.

This one won’t take long. Let me be blunt in three easy steps. Step one: The Saints, despite having only one win, have a top 3 QB as their starter. Step two: The Bucs have the second worst pass defense in the NFL. (Yes I realize it is basically because of one game, but if Eli can throw for 500, why can’t Brees?) and Step three: The Saints are at home and are coming off a bye. Prediction: SAINTS over Bucs 34-23.

Can I stop predicting Cowboys games? I have been off on this team all year. Right when I though they were just average they went into MetLife Stadium and beat the Giants on national TV week one, but then when everyone thinks they are championship contenders, they fall flat on their face. What will it be this week when they go to Carolina? I don’t know, because I thought Carolina (and their QB) were going to take steps forward this year, not back. Both teams will not be in contention for a playoff spot by December in my eyes, but someone has to win this game, right? Well, if indeed these teams do not tie (although if I had to predict one game to tie this weekend, it’d be this one) I like Dallas’ #1 ranked pass D against a QB in Cam Newton who is enduring the classic sophomore slump, and has apparently forgot how to read defenses. Both teams will try and lose, but Carolina will do a better job at trying. Prediction: COWBOYS over Panthers 23-20.

This game will have a weird feel to it. No Ray Lewis and no Brian Cushing totally takes the fun out of this game. If I subtract both those parts however, all I see is each team scoring more than if they had those two guys. You have two of the best all around backs in football, and two QBs who are very good at times but not elite, despite what Flacco thinks. It has the makings of a great game in my eyes, but I think some of the veterans on the Ravens step up, and help them pull what is considered by the odds a big upset, although no Ravens win should be too much of an upset. Prediction: RAVENS over Texans 27-24.

JETS @ PATS (-10.5)
The battle for first in the AFC East is on…sort of. That’s right, do I care that the Jets blew out the Colts at home last week? Uhhhh no. It is my blog and I will continue to hate on the Jets so long as this is getting published. Brady is going to tear that Revis-less Jets D apahhht (Boston accent) and the Pats are gonna scored wicked (Boston accent) points on the Jets. I still think the Pats D is soft however, so the Jets may keep the score respectable, but I’ll take Brady and Co. in a game that will be one of those “ The score doesn’t reflect the game” type of days, with the Jets fighting from behind. Prediction: PATS over Jets 31-20.

Do I seriously have to waste my time with this game? Good thing the Pats/Jets game will be shown in all markets outside of Jacksonville and the Bay Area. Then again, no one in Jacksonville is going to watch anyway judging on their attendance. Yeah, I went there. Raiders coming off a bye and McFadden has a “breakout” day. Prediction: RAIDERS over Jags 17-13.

I was starting to feel bad for the Steelers and all their key injuries this year, but then I remembered how obnoxious the fans are. Rough time to be a terrible towel waiver. Honestly, it seems like everyone but Big Ben has been hurt this year, and you know at some point he’ll sprain an ankle like he does every year. In the end however, mental toughness is what separates the black and yellow from most other teams, including the Bengals. Despite not having Polamalu this Sunday, I believe the Steelers continue Andy Dalton’s turnover streak, and the Bengals losing streak, with Big Ben and his weapons having a good day against the Bengals D who has given up 28 points a game. Prediction: STEELERS over Bengals 27-26.

Let me get this clear before I talk about the game. THERE ARE NO TIGERS PLAYING IN THIS GAME. Ok. I had to say it, because every time I have heard an add for this game someone had to chime in with “ Lions and Tigers and Bears oh my!” Yeah yeah, we get it. Anyway, on to football. The Bears D has been incredible thus far, as they lead the league in scoring defense and rush defense, are third in total defense, and have given up fewer points than anyone in the NFL. That to me spells trouble for a Lions team that hasn’t fully clicked, although it looked like things may have been starting to roll for Stafford an Co. in the last quarter of their comeback victory over the Eagles last week. It was reminiscent of their game in Dallas last year. Someone must remind them however, that the Bears D aren’t chokers like the Cowboys and Eagles, so if they want to win, they need to get off to a fast start. I think they do, and are smart enough NOT to kick to Devin Hester due to how bad their special teams have been. (cough Minnesota game) Prediction: LIONS over Bears 27-24.

That’ll do it for week seven of Ace’s advice. Here’s to the Bills being over .500 by the end of the weekend.
Have a good weekend everybody and GO BILLS!

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