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Fearless Rick's NFL Week division Picks - Early Games

Welcome to the very best in winning NFL and College Football picks.
Rick Gagliano | January 11-12, 2014

All times Eastern - Click here for late games.

Saturday, January 11

4:35 pm New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-7 1/2, 48) - A trip to the Super Bowl from the NFC will go through Seattle unless the Saints can disprove the skeptics and win another game on the road, as they did last week, winning as a wild card in Philadelphia, 26-24.

The Saints entered the fray in Philly sporting a 3-5 record as a road team and will have the further task of attempting to overturn a 34-7 bombing by the Seahawks a little over a month ago in Seattle, when they played to the tune of a 34-7 loss on December 2nd.

The gaping margin of victory from that particular game makes the current line appear somewhat weak, and there's some concern that it will go as high as none or 10 points by game time, which still would leave it far in the dust of the previous result.

Only the staunchest Saints' supporters would venture into such dangerous territory, not because the Saints are a poor road team - they're 4-5 now - but because the Seahawks have dominated the league for much of the past two seasons.

Over the span of two regular seasons, the Seahawks have posted a regular season combined record of 23-9 (11-5 in 2012; 12-4 in 2013). Two teams have beaten them twice during that span - Arizona and San Francisco - but the Seahawks have two wins over each of them as well, one during each season.

Add in the eight straight preseason games and a 1-1 record in last season's playoffs - a 24-14 win at Washington and a 30-28 loss at Atlanta - and the Seahawks are surely one of the most awe-inspiring teams of not just the past two seasons, but of the past ten years.

On top of that, they have just one home loss over the two seasons, that occurring in week 16 of this season, when the Cardinals upset them, 17-10, on December 22.

With all of that staring them in the face, the Saints' task seems not just daunting, but, when considering that the Seahawks are the healthiest team in the playoffs and have had an additional week off in preparation for this game, maybe impossible.

One stat the Saints can hang their hat upon is that they held the Seahawks to 127 yards rushing on 38 carries. However, the flip side is that New Orleans only rushed for 44 yards on 17 carries, a pitiful 2.6 yards per carry.

As for injuries, running back Pierre Thomas may be ready for this game, though he's still listed as inactive. Mark Ingram filled in well enough against the Eagles last week, and may have to shoulder most of the load again. As usual, Drew Brees will be dinking and dunking short passes to Derren Sproles, Jimmy Graham, Marques Coltson and others, but the Seattle defense is geared to keeping everything in front of them and not allowing the big plays.

Success in the passing game - New Orleans forte - may not be easy to come by, as the Seahawks were the NFL's #1 pass defense, allowing only 177.3 yards per game.

Scoring will be at a premium for the Saints. It will be up to their defense to keep them in the game, and that may not be so easy, either. Seattle QB Russell Wilson has emerged over the past two seasons as one of the scariest offensive weapons in the league. When Wilson is throwing, he's usually on target, and when he's running, he's tough to catch. He personally gave the Saints fits in their regular season meeting, rushing eight times for 47 yards and going 22 for 30 for 310 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

In case Wilson needs any help, he'll have Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, who is capable of taking over games all by himself. The Saints held Lynch to 45 yards on 16 carries in their December game, obviously making a focus of him for their defense. Problem is, it didn't work.

About all New Orleans can hope for is that the defense can hold the Seahawks under 24 points and force a few turnovers and maybe make some plays on special teams. Still, that seems more the stuff of fantasy than reality, and the reality is that the Seahawks are nearly invincible at home and will likely blast the Saints for another lopsided win.

Prediction: Seahawks 30 Saints 13


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8:15 pm Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-7, 53) - Coming off one of the greatest comebacks of all time in their wild card, 45-44 win over the visiting Kansas City Chiefs, the Colts are probably just beginning to think what life in New england will be like with Tom Brady on the opposite side of the field.

Indianapolis' revival from a 31-10 half time deficit - expanded to 38-10 early in the second half - was the second greatest comeback in NFL history. Only Buffalo's rally from 32 points down in 1993 - also a playoff game - over Houston, was better.

It's unlikely that this game in New England will have that kind of flavor. The Colts can be expected to keep it a little closer in the first half. Andrew Luck is probably ot going to toss three picks, as he did against the Chiefs, and the defense should be better-prepared.

While the Colts and Patriots did not face each other this season, they did last season, when Andrew Luck took the Colts up to New England for a November 18 game. The Patriots spanked them, 59-24, and, yeah, Luck tossed three picks - two of them returned for touchdowns - but he also hit T.Y. Hilton for a pair of scores.

The score was just 24-17, New England, at the half, but, in the second half, Tom Brady threw two TD passes, the Pats rushed for two more and got another one on one of those picks, while the Colts were only able to score seven points.

So, the Patriots have that history on their side, and thus, are a touchdown favorite. One thing the Pats don't have on their side is tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is out for the season and caught two TD passes and torched the Colts for seven catches and a game-high 137 yards in that game. His absence may help the Colts even up the score a little.

Adding to the Colts difficulties is the fact that the Patriots have not lost at home this season. They, along with New Orleans and Cincinnati, were the only teams to go through the regular season undefeated at home, but the Bengals were dumped by the Chargers in their own house this past Sunday and the Saints won't play at home unless they win in Seattle and the 49ers beat the Panthers this weekend.

Not exactly pushovers on the road, the Colts posted a solid, 5-3, record this season, the three losses coming at San Diego, Cincinnati and Arizona. To their credit, the Colts beat San Francisco and Kansas City on the road, among others.

Statistically, this is about as close a game as it gets. On offense, the Patriots scored 26.8 per game, to the Colts 23.8 points per outing, though the Colts surely are capable of better, as proven not just this past Saturday, but also in mid-season wins over Jacksonville, Seattle and Denver, all games which the Colts won and scored 34 or more points.

Indianapolis allowed 22.8 points per game, while the Patriots were just a shade better, giving up an average of 21.8.

Both teams run the ball well enough that teams cannot make them one-dimensional, a proposition that figures to make this one a shoot-out.

Though New England hasn't lost at home this season, the Colts should prove a formidable opponent. Tom Brady will be on his best form, no doubt, but don't count on Andrew Luck throwing the game away. Additionally, Donald Brown and Trent Richardson may prove an unstoppable duo out of the backfield, as the Pats don't have the usual bulk of Vince Wolfork clogging up the middle.

Whichever team comes out on top will do so by managing their possessions and making plays on third downs and under similar pressure situations. Brady has proven his ability to do all of that over the years, but Luck seems just as well suited to carry the day.

Bottom line is that the Colts won't take a back seat to anybody and are ready to move on in the playoffs.

Prediction: Colts 38 Patriots 34

All times Eastern - Click here for late games

Copyright 2013, 2014, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.

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