Creature Vs. Creature: Week 15 B/R Gridiron Guru Picks

Scott RiegerAnalyst IDecember 11, 2008

*As part of a new series, a group of B/R writers make their picks on key football matchups. Minus numbers in parentheses denote how much a team is favored to win by.


Saints @ Bears (-3)


Game Overview


Both teams are 7-6 and trying to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Bears are also 4-2 at home, while the Saints have been bad on the road, posting a 1-5 road record.


The Saints would like to get the tempo going and try to make this game a shootout, which heavily favors them. However, the weather may dictate a slower pace, which favors the Bears.


Look for the Bears to try to establish Forte and get some big play-action gainers. If the Saints can slow the run down and force the Bears to pass, mistakes will be made.




Keys to the Game

The key will be Reggie Bush. The Saints try to move him around a lot to create mismatches against linebackers. Urlacher is better than most in coverage but, make no mistake, he is still a mismatch covering Bush.


If they can get Reggie Bush free in space, it will be a long day for the Bears' defense.




Point spread: (-3) The Bears won't cover. Saints win outright.


Prediction: Saints 27, Bears 17


Confidence Meter: Six Stars




Bucs @ Falcons (-3)


Game Overview


These two NFC South foes are mixing it up with playoff hopes on the line. The Falcons are 5-1 at home and are coming off a tough loss to the Saints. The Bucs are coming off an embarrassing performance against Carolina, where a record was set by the Panthers' running game.


The Falcons and Bucs both can be explosive on offense and this game will come down to which team plays the better defense. I expect a close game.




Keys to the Game

Tampa's D. Can they rebound to slow down Michael Turner after being exposed by DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart? If they can, the Bucs will be in good shape. If not, it might be a long day.




Point spread: (-3) Push


Prediction: Falcons 24, Bucs 21


Confidence Meter: Five Stars



Steelers @ Ravens (-2)


Game Overview


These two teams are battling for the AFC North division crown and while Pittsburgh is on top, Baltimore is closing fast. The Ravens have won seven of their past eight games and clearly have the momentum coming into the game.


The Steelers have been up and down of late, but their stingy defense has bailed them out a time or two. I'd say that their record is better than how they've actually played.


The first meeting between these two was taken by the Steelers, 23-20. I expect the game to be close again but not as much scoring.




Keys to the Game

Ben Roethlisbeger vs. Joe Flacco.


Their season statistics are eerily similar and their teams both rely on them to make the right throws and calls when needed. The QB that makes the fewest mistakes will put his team in the best position to win.




Point spread: (-2) Ravens will cover


Prediction: Ravens 13, Steelers 10


Confidence Meter: Six Stars




Broncos @ Panthers (-7.5)


Game Overview


Two division leaders square off at Carolina. The Broncos are just trying to find some consistency while the Panthers are trying to maintain home-field advantage for the playoffs.


The Panthers have been scary good of late, and I expect them to be able to control time of possession against the Broncos D. The Broncos are terrible at forcing turnovers and if they cannot make impact plays on defense, Carolina will run them to death.




Keys to the Game

The Running Game. 


The Panthers' dynamic duo promises to be running on all cylinders and is a lethal combination.


Denver has gone through running backs like toilet paper this season, with six RB's being injured and put on IR. They currently are using street-free agent Tatum Bell to run the ball and he can be effective. Remember, Tatum Bell was a Bronco draft pick and 1,000-yard rusher before moving on via trade.


If he can be as good running the ball for the Broncos as he was running out of the Lions locker room with Rudi Johnson's bags, the Broncos might win, but I don't expect that.




Point spread: (-7.5) Carolina will win, but won't cover


Prediction: Carolina 38, Denver 31


Confidence Meter: Seven Stars




Vikings @ Cardinals (-3)


Game Overview


This game will be a battle of a good ground game against a good passing game. In this case, I believe the Cardinals and the passing game will win out.


The fact is that Minnesota has been doing just enough to win and barely escaped a horrible Detroit team for the second time this season. Also, suspensions may be finalized, which would force key defensive players for Minny to sit out.


Arizona has won six of its last seven and is very good at home.




Keys to the Game

Minnesota's defense vs. Kurt Warner—Getting pressure will be key. If they can get pressure on Warner, he is known to make some mistakes.


Tarvaris Jackson or Gus Frerrote—Frerrote was hurt in last week's game and missed practice time.  If Jackson gets the start, it's a decided advantage for Arizona.




Point spread: (-3) Arizona will cover


Prediction: Arizona 38, Minnesota 20


Confidence Meter: Seven Stars




Giants @ Cowboys (-3)


Game Overview


The Cowboys are favored because they are at home but haven't played very well this season and certainly not up to expectations. Simply put, they are overrated.


The Giants, on the other hand, are the best and most consistent football team in the NFL.


It's a rivalry game, so all bets are off, but I expect the Giants to win this game.


They are coming off of a tough loss to Philly but actually played pretty well. The Cowboys also lost to Pittsburgh, largely due to a Tony Romo disaster in the second half.




Keys to the Game

Turnovers. The Cowboys have turned the ball over a ton this season, including seven times against the Giants in their first meeting this season, which the Giants won 35-14.


The Giants have done a good job of creating turnovers and have done a good job limiting their own turnovers.


If that trend holds true. Dallas doesn't stand too much of a chance in this one.




Point spread: (-3) Dallas won't cover. Giants win outright.


Prediction: Giants 28, Dallas 20


Confidence Meter: Eight Stars



Check out the picks from the other Gridiron Gurus


Kristin Hamlin


Chaz Mattson