NFL Picks Week 8: Split on the Vikes, Five Players to Watch

By The Coach and Dr. Football

If I weren’t going to spend my Sunday afternoon watching Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Who Cares Bowl, I would watch the following players:

1. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: He has broken Jim Brown’s record of six 100-yard games to start the season. He has seven. He’s on pace to carry the ball a record 427 times this season. With 913 rushing yards already, he’s fifth in the NFL team rankings – just behind No. 3 Seattle’s ground game (920 yards) and just ahead of No. 4 Minnesota (877).

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DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

2. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: He now has 510 career touchdown passes. No one has more. He won a Super Bowl in Indianapolis, but he’s been a better QB in Denver. And he’ll take another step toward 600 TD passes this Thursday night against Denver.

3. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans: This week Watt faces the Tennessee Titans and he might have a field day. The monster defensive end has a team-best five sacks and 29 tackles. He has also returned an interception (80 yards) and a fumble (45 yards) for a touchdown.

4. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: He leads the NFL with 2,331 passing yards (333.0 yards per game). His passer rating is 100.5. He has 19 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. His team is 5-2 and he plays in Pittsburgh this week.

5. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota and Blake Bortles, Jacksonville: They aren’t near the top of the quarterback rankings, but they are rookie quarterbacks with wins under their belts. They might not set any records this season, but they are going to be good. No, they are going to be great.

It’s hard not to love the people who play football well. It’s a hard game and these guys are really good.

Speaking of good, the boys were rock solid last week. Dr. Football went 12-3 straight up (71-34-1) and 7-8 (47-59) against the spread. The Coach went 11-4 straight up (64-41-1) and 8-7 (49-57) against the spread.

This week, The Doc writes our brilliant rationalizations while The Coach still whines about all the flags. Let’s look closely at Week 8:

Thursday Night

Peyton Manning 1024x575 NFL Picks Week 8: Split on the Vikes, Five Players to Watch

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

San Diego Chargers (5-2) at Denver Broncos (5-1) 
Line: Broncos by 8.

After a record setting game, one may think that the Broncos may not the same “oomph” in a short week, but they should have enough to win. The Coach says: Peyton Manning was magnificent last week. There is no reason to think he won’t be again on Thursday.

Dr. Football: Take the Broncos to win but not cover.

The Coach: take the Broncos to win and cover.

Early Sunday Afternoon 

Detroit Lions (5-2) at Atlanta Falcons (2-5) 
Line: Lions by 3.5.

This may be listed as a home game for the Falcons, but London is very far from the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome. The Lions are the better team by far, but travel overseas takes a lot out of even a good team. This one may come down to a field goal. The Coach says: It’s amazing. Atlanta is sixth in the NFL in total offence and 30th in total defense. The Lions are first in total defense and that’s all I need.

Dr. Football: Take the Lions to win but not cover.

The Coach: Take the Lions to win and cover.

Minnesota Vikings (2-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5) 
Line: Buccaneers by 3.

The Vikings are a team in transition, while the Bucs are a team in position to earn a really high draft pick. The Coach says: The Vikings have lost Adrian Peterson, have a rookie quarterback and absolutely no offensive line. The only reason that Tampa won’t blow them out is because Tampa is bad, too.

Dr. Football: Take the Vikings to win.

The Coach: Take the Buccaneers to win and cover.

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Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears (3-4) at New England Patriots (5-2) 
Line: Patriots by 5.5.

Bad spot for the struggling Bears. The Patriots are hitting their stride. The Coach says: Tom Brady and Co. look like a Super Bowl threat again.

Dr. Football: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

St. Louis Rams (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) 
Line: Chiefs by 7.

Proof the Rams win was a fluke last week; the Seahawks had nearly 200 more total yards in defeat. They shouldn’t have won. starting to roll. The Coach says: I like the way both teams played last week. I just think that man-for-man, K.C. has a better football club.

Dr. Football: Take the Chiefs to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Chiefs to win and cover.

Seattle Seahawks (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-3-1) 
Line: Seahawks by 5.

Carolina has no defense, something the Seahawks will exploit despite this being their second consecutive road game. The Coach says: The Seahawks were ambushed in St. Louis last week. They won’t be ambushed again.

Dr. Football: Take the Seahawks to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Seahawks to win but not cover.

Buffalo Bills (4-3) at New York Jets (1-6) 
Line: Jets by 3.

The whispers are catching up with Rex Ryan, so expect him to gets his team to stave off his firing at least for one week. The Coach says: The Jets are at home and I can’t figure out the Bills.

Dr. Football: Take the Jets to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Jets to win and cover.

 NFL Picks Week 8: Split on the Vikes, Five Players to Watch

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) 
Line: Dolphins by 6.

Jacksonville got their one win for the year and now face a legitimate playoff contender that won handily on the road at Chicago last Sunday. Might be more Miami fans in the crowd than Jags fans. The Coach says: Blake Bortles was great against Cleveland. Miami will be a little more prepared.

Dr. Football: Take the Dolphins to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Dolphins to win and cover.

Houston Texans (3-4) at Tennessee Titans (2-4) 
Line: Texans by 2.5.

After self-destructing at Pittsburgh on Monday night, Houston should come out focused against a Titans team that doesn’t have much to offer, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Coach says: Can J.J. Watt play quarterback?

Dr. Football: Take the Texans to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Texans to win and cover.

Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1) 
Line: Bengals by 1.

After a humiliating defeat, the Bengals should bounce back at home against a Ravens team that isn’t as sharp on the road. The Coach says: Cincinnati’s defense is 31st in the NFL this season. Where’s Mike Zimmer when you need him? Joe Flacco should have a field day.

Dr. Football: Take the Bengals to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Ravens to win.

Late Sunday Afternoon

Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) at Arizona Cardinals (5-1) 
Line: Cardinals by 2.5.

Philadelphia is coming off their bye week with a lot of time to prepare for what I think is an over achieving Cardinals team. The Coach says: Game of the Week: The Eagles are loaded, the Cards are at home.

Dr. Football: Take the Eagles in an upset. 

The Coach: Take Arizona to win and cover.

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Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts (5-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) 
Line: Colts by 3.

The Steelers hung on for a Monday night win while the Colts completely dominated last week against the Bengals. Short weeks are tough for teams that are on a downward spiral. The Coach says: Andrew Lick is a beast and the Colts defense is third in the NFL.

Dr. Football: Take the Colts to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Colts to win and cover.

Oakland Raiders (0-6) at Cleveland Browns (3-3) 
Line: Browns by 7.

Oakland haven’t been able to get their act together all year while the Browns have at least covered the spread in all their home games so far this season. The Coach says: Either Brian Hoyer bounces back or Johnny Football plays.

Dr. Football: Take the Browns to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Browns to win and cover.

Sunday Night

Green Bay Packers (5-2) at New Orleans Saints (2-4) 
Line: Saints by 1.5.

The Saints haven’t lost at home under Sean Payton since 2010, and it won’t change here despite this game being a mismatch on paper. The Coach says: The Saints tend to win at home, but Aaron Rodgers is just too good.

Dr. Football: Take the Saints to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Packers.

Monday Night

Tony Romo NFL Picks Week 8: Split on the Vikes, Five Players to Watch

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Washington Redskins (2-5) at Dallas Cowboys (6-1) 
Line: Cowboys by 9.5.

The Cowboys are winning because the O-Line is giving Tony Romo time to throw the ball, while Washington is a mess. The problem with a spread so large is that once a team is ahead by a couple of touchdowns early, they tend to let the other team back in. The Coach says: The Cowboys DeMarco Murray ranks fifth in NFL TEAM rushing yards and 11th in attempts, That’s truly amazing.

Dr. Football: Take the Cowboys to win but not cover.

The Coach: Take the Cowboys to win and cover.

Jets Beat Worst, Friday Night Lightning Will Be Another Test

Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd feels a lot better after Tuesday night’s 3-1 win against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. To his credit, Ladd isn’t getting cocky about scoring his first goal of the season and beating the worst team (to date) in the National Hockey League.

Tuesday night at MTS Centre, Ladd scored the opening goal at 1:57 of the first period as the Jets built a quick 2-0 lead and then hung on to beat the winless Carolina Hurricanes 3-1.

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Andrew Ladd with a chance against the Canes (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

With the victory, the Jets put a halt to a four-game winless streak and improved to 2-4-0 on the season. Carolina, meanwhile, fell to 0-3-2, dead last in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes are the only NHL team yet to win a game this season.

For the Jets, Tuesday’s win was a huge step forward. After losing four straight, two straight at home, and scoring only two goals in the process, it was good for the Jets to score a few, albeit at home against the worst team in the league.

“A lot of times, it takes something like that to get you going,” Ladd said after the game. “Going to the net was something I wanted to focus on. Just kind of getting there, and see what I could make happen. It was nice to get that right off the hop.

“It gives you a better feeling here, that’s for sure. You know, when things start to mount, the toughest thing is getting it to start to go on the right track, and we did that. There are still some areas we can improve on, but it’s nice to get a good feeling back in here and some confidence in putting the puck in the net.”

Ladd now has a goal and an assist this season. He’s still minus-three, but improving. With two points, he’s second best on a team with only three players who actually have more than two — Bryan Little has three goals and an assist, Blake Wheeler has two goals and two assists and Toby Enstrom has four assists.

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Andrew Ladd has a big game (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Ladd had 23 goals and 54 points last year and his slow start concerned a lot of people close to the hockey club. It’s good to win, however.

“It was a lot of good,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice about Tuesday night’s performance. “It was kind of a continuation of our first period against Calgary, but we were able to maintain it through the 60 minutes. As with every game there are going to be pieces that the other team does well and I thought we handled it really well. We got some good blocks and some good second efforts at those critical times and some good saves. We had enough offense in our game that we were kind of confident just staying with it and keeping it pretty basic.”

Tuesday night’s victory was good for team morale and ending a slump is always good heading into a tough game. And Friday night at MTS Iceplex, the Jets will get a legitimately tough game.

The 4-2-1 Tampa Bay Lightning, the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference play in Winnipeg on Friday. The Lightning are coming off a 2-1 overtime victory in Calgary on Tuesday.

However, the Lightning are banged up. They lost forwards Ryan Callahan (lower body) and Alex Killorn upper body) on Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers, adding to an already long injury list that also includes defensemen Victor Hedman (hand) and Radko Gudas (lower body).

So it will be an interesting test on Friday. The Jets will face a team coming off a road win against a club that beat Winnipeg 4-1 at MTS Centre this past Sunday night, but also a team that has four of its top players on the shelf. Still, the Jets will face red-hot goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and high-scoring Steven Stamkos, who has five goals and two assists in seven games this season.

Game time Friday night at MTS Centre is 7 p.m.

JM Jets Canes Oct21 Jubo 2 Jets Beat Worst, Friday Night Lightning Will Be Another Test

The Jets win one at home (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Compliments: Jets forward Dustin Byfuglien gave Winnipeg a 3-1 lead on Tuesday night when he out-raced Carolina’s Justin Faulk to the puck after a turnover right at the Winnipeg blue line. Byfuglien skated in alone, and beat Anton Khudobin with a backhand deke. It was Byfuglien’s second goal of the season.

Concerns: The Jets remain one of three teams yet to score a power play goal this season. Buffalo, and Minnesota are the other two. Tuesday night with the man advantage, the Jets went 0-for-5 with eight shots on goal. It’s not like they aren’t getting chances, they simply aren’t finishing.

Willy is Back and There is Still Hope… Slim, But There is Hope

Let’s not sugarcoat this in any way. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are as close to being eliminated from playoff contention as a team can be without being the Ottawa RedBlacks.

Granted, had they beaten the Ottawa RedBlacks two weeks ago, they’d still have a solid chance to reach the post-season, but as it stands, after seven straight losses and nine losses in their past 10 games, the 6-10 Bombers are in a very difficult situation.

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Bombers Coach Mike O’Shea (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Here’s how they make the playoffs:

1. They win their final two games of the season – at home to B.C. this coming Saturday and then next week in Calgary.

2. They hope B.C. loses its final three games – in Winnipeg this week, in Edmonton next week and at home to Calgary in the final week of the season.

3. They hope Toronto loses two of its final three games – at home to Hamilton this week, in Montreal next week and at home to Ottawa in the final week of the season OR they hope Hamilton or Montreal lose all three of their remaining games. Hamilton goes to Toronto this week, goes to Ottawa next week and then plays the Alouettes in the final game of the year. Montreal goes to Ottawa this week, plays host to Toronto next week and then finishes the year in Hamilton.

That’s the only way the Bombers secure the crossover.

Yeah, the Bombers do need a lot of help and if they lose this week at home to B.C., they’re done, but to be fair, with a win over B.C. this Saturday, their chances expand. And if they beat B.C. and Calgary to finish the season, they have a life.

Then again, head coach Mike O’Shea, one of the most laid back head coaches in the CFL didn’t sound like a guy who expects much this Saturday when the Lions come to town.

“I think we progressed this week over the previous two,” O’Shea said when asked about last weekend’s performance against Calgary. “But it still wasn’t good enough. Obviously, it wasn’t good enough to get the win.”

Paris Cotton who played well last week against Calgary will start at tailback. On Monday, former Bombers No. 1 tailback, Nic Grigsby, signed with Hamilton.

Paris Cotton Willy is Back and There is Still Hope... Slim, But There is Hope

Paris Cotton

Meanwhile, this week against B.C., Drew Willy will return to the lineup and start at quarterback while Robert Marve and Josh Portis will back him up. Brian Brohm suffered a broken thumb last week against Calgary and won’t return until training camp 2015.

“Drew looks fine. He threw Monday,” O’Shea told the news media this week. “He’s getting better. As I’ve said before, this is Drew’s team and if he’s able to play he’ll be going as the No. 1.”

There is no reason to believe the Bombers can’t beat B.C. After all, the Bombers whipped the Lions 23-6 in Vancouver in Week 5 although the Lions came back and thrashed the Bombers 26-9 in Vancouver on Sept. 13.

Still, the Bombers will be at home with the dwindling Investors Group Field crowd behind them. Last week, only 22,320 (announced) showed up to watch Winnipeg lose 33-23 to Calgary. Even if this losing streak doesn’t ultimately knock the Bombers from the playoff hunt (and, yes, it probably will), it has certainly hurt the team at the gate.

Game time Saturday night is 6 p.m. It will be televised on TSN. A completely different team than the one that lost to Calgary last weekend will have to show up in Blue this week. Whether that’s possible at this stage is anyone’s guess.

Flames Burn Grounded Jets in Listless Night Downtown

It’s a good thing the Jets gave away scarves on Sunday night. Had it been peanut butter, it might have been messy inside the MTS Centre.

Winnipeg’s 4-1 loss to Calgary could have caused a riot.

Scarves pic Flames Burn Grounded Jets in Listless Night Downtown

Jets fans and their spiffy new scarves (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Back in November of 1993, the marketing geniuses at Jets 1.0 gave away small jars of peanut butter to fans as they entered the old Winnipeg Arena for a game against Ottawa, one of the worst teams in the NHL. The Jets built a 6-3 lead and had it in the bag when the Sens scored four unanswered, including Bob Kudelski’s overtime winner. Fans rained peanut butter jars on the ice in a post-game display of disgust. Sunday night at MTS Centre, the only things the fans had to throw were their nice new scarves.

Sunday night, the Jets fell to 1-4-0 on the season, lost their fourth straight and second straight at home as they were beaten by a Calgary Flames team that really wasn’t very good.

Granted Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller was solid, but after awhile you have to admit to yourself that every goaltender in the NHL isn’t Georges Vezina in his prime. The Jets get plenty of chances and outshot Calgary 35-29, but Winnipeg just can’t finish. The Jets have now scored two goals in their last four games. That won’t cut it.

Here were some of the best Tweets of the night from the rink:

From @SKBigBluJetsfan: “Somewhere Claude Noel is going, “See, SEE!”

From @jtwpg: “What is the liability issue for True North if the Jets play so poorly we all hang ourselves with the free scarves.”

From @TBonnar: “If this game is any indication, the #NHLJets eventual third jerseys will be pylon orange.”

From @jtwpg: “Right now, the entire Jets team would clear waivers if Chevy wanted to call up the IceCaps.”

“The record is accurate,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “The record is reflective of the way we’ve played.

Scheifele scores Jets first period goal Flames Burn Grounded Jets in Listless Night Downtown

Scheifele scores Jets first and only goal (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

On a night when Rogers/CBC had a full complement of 22 cameras in the building, there wasn’t a lot (at least, not a lot of good) to see.

In the first period, the Jets made Calgary look like an American Hockey League team. Winnipeg outshot the Flames 13-6, had the only two power plays and led 1-0 on a goal by Mark Scheifele (the Jets best player). But it should have been a 3-0 lead and the game should have been in the bag already.

In the second period, the Jets were blindsided by a combination of their own bad luck and inability to score.

Let’s not pull any punches here. The Flames were generally horrible and yet they escaped the second period with a 3-1 lead.

As an example of how messy this whole thing has become, the Flames had two clear-cut breakaways before the two minute mark of the second period (one in each period) and shot one was fired right at Ondrej Pavelec’s stick and the other, a slapshot from 15 feet away, went 10 feet over the net and 20 feet wide.

Still, after Dennis Wideman scored early in the second period, the Flames had tied it at 1-1 and it was hard to decide which team was worse – a team that had completely controlled play and had at least a dozen chances to score or a team that did not have the quickness or skill to maintain a prolonged attack in the opposing zone.

Then came the Flames power play. It was a microcosm of the Jets 2014-15 season. During the Flames first power play, the Jets had two shots and three legitimate chances to score. But the Jets got nothing and the Flames managed to score on a Johnny Gaudreau wrap around. 2-1 Calgary.

Then, before the period ended, Mason Raymond, the former Moose who had a three-point night, ripped a wrist shot under the bar that Pavelec barely saw and suddenly it was 3-1.

Maurice coaching the only player who will actually listen to him Flames Burn Grounded Jets in Listless Night Downtown

Head coach Paul Maurice coaching up the only player who will apparently listen to him (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

“That second period was not the way we’re supposed to play,” said Maurice. “That’s on me.”

In the third period, TJ Brodie made it 4-1 as the Jets got caught standing around in their own zone, but later in the period, Winnipeg hit rock bottom. On a two-on-one break, Andrew Ladd was given a green light from the one Calgary defenseman in the vicinity, to take his big shot and he fanned on it. Missed the pick completely. Struck out.

The building began to empty.

Later, the two teams started a 10-man pillow fight along the boards and a lousy hockey game had degenerated into farce. The officials handed out a couple of minor penalties and more people headed home. No wonder there is now a Splash page on the Jets website offering available tickets for games in November. After three seasons and five games in Winnipeg, the fans are getting restless.

Perhaps this core of ex-Atlanta Thrashers will snap out of it and play the way Paul Maurice and Kevin Cheveldayoff believe they can play. Or maybe they won’t.

Sunday night, the Winnipeg Jets made the Calgary Flames look like Stanley Cup contenders. That’s not a sign of good things to come.

No Offence Leads to Heartbreak by the Lake

It would be easy to sit back and blame the latest Minnesota Vikings defeat on a defense that just couldn’t put the game away.

But Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills on, essentially, the final play of the game was hardly the fault of a defensive unit that allowed only 17 points for the second straight week.

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Poor Teddy.

The major problem with the 2-5 Vikings is not, and I repeat NOT, the defense. It is, instead an offence that has lost its heart and soul, an offensive coordinator who looks more like the head coaching failure in San Diego than the guy who is supposed to be an offensive genius, a terrible offensive line that was made even more terrible by two crushing injuries and a quarterback who has absolutely no time to throw a pass.

Sure, Vikings fans will remember an obviously injured Xavier Rhodes trying to cover Sammy Watkins, a Buffalo wide receiver who just might be the NFL’s rookie of the year, on the game’s final play. They’ll remember Watkins catching the pass to win the game. They’ll remember linebacker Chad Greenway blowing an assignment on fourth-and-20 on the final Buffalo drive. And they’ll remember an outclassed Buffalo QB Kyle Orton whooping it up on the Bills’ sideline.

They’ll remember all of that because they’ll want to forget how dreadful the offence was for the third straight week.

“I think we did some good things today. I don’t think we won the football game but I think we improved in some areas,” said head coach Mike Zimmer (who looked like he’d been hit by a bus) in his televised post-game news conference. “We were in a position to win, but credit goes to Buffalo with a couple of plays they made at the end of the game. We have to learn to win when we get in these situations.”

No kidding.

Vikings bills044seqn L No Offence Leads to Heartbreak by the Lake

Sammy Watkins beats Xavier Rhodes for the winning touchdown.

Now, to be fair, the Vikings did lead the football game 16-10 when Buffalo took possession on its own 20 yard line and drove 80 yards in 15 plays in the final 3:06 to win a game it never should have won. The Vikings defense had six sacks and seemed to be in total control when Orton suddenly turned into Peyton Manning without ever going into a phone booth.

But the offence was just horrendous. Rookie Teddy Bridgewater, playing behind that porous offensive line, completed 15-of-26 passes for a measly 157 yards, a touchdown pass to Cordarelle Patterson and two interceptions. It was the first TD pass of Bridgewater’s career.

Minnesota led 13-10 at halftime and then proceeded to put nothing more on the board than a single Blair Walsh field goal in the entire second half.

Bridgewater was sacked five times on Sunday behind a line that lost centre John Sullivan – the best of a bad lot – and guard Valdimir Ducasse to injuries. Sullivan suffered a concussion and Ducasse hurt his knee and it’s hard to imagine, but the Vikings O-line could be worse than ever. That’s like having no O-line at all. This is, after all, an offensive line that has allowed 19 sacks in the past three weeks (six, eight and five) and makes you wonder if Christian Ponder was really the problem.

Amazingly, Vikings tailback Jerick McKinnon carried 19 times for 103 yards and while it was a terrific performance, it just made you wonder why he didn’t get the football more often.

This was a game the Vikings could have — and should have — won. Until the final drive (and often during the final drive), the defense was flawless. Everson Griffen had three sacks and was a monster. Anthony Barr played like a first-round draft pick should play. Brian Robison was a tough SOB all day.

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The Vikings defense was solid all day but the offence just couldn’t get it done.

But it wasn’t enough. A horrible offensive line combined with a lousy offensive scheme left the Vikings with 16 points – the fifth time in seven games that the Vikings have scored fewer than 20 points in a game – and that was one point too few.

This Vikings team just can’t score (in seven games it has scored fewer than 10 points on three different occasions) and as a result they are 2-5 and pretty much out of the playoff hunt in a division that features the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

Next week, the Vikings go to Tampa Bay to face a lousy Bucs outfit. The really sad thing about the Vikings’ plight is that the schedule isn’t that tough.


Bombers Fall to Cornish and Calgary, Lose Another Quarterback In the Process

The best player in the Canadian Football League ate up both yardage and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defense on Saturday night.

Calgary Stampeders runningback Jon Cornish carried 21 times for 160 yards and the touchdown that put the game away as the Stampeders built a 16-6 first-half lead and then scored a late touchdown to beat the Blue Bombers 33-23.

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Brian Brohm (Photo by Jeff Miller)

With the win, the Stampeders improved to 13-2 and wrapped up first place in the West. The Bombers meanwhile lost their seventh straight and ninth in the last 10 and fell to 6-10 on the season. Winnipeg still has a remote shot at the playoffs, but they’ll have to win their final two games and hope B.C. loses its last three and Toronto loses two of its last three.

Bo Levi Mitchell returned from injury and completed 18 of 28 passes for 258 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Stamps won their eighth straight game coming out of the bye week. Calgary finished the game with 453 yards of total offence.

However, Cornish was the story. Last year’s CFL Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Canadian put a halt to a Bombers comeback effort when he ate up 43 yards on Calgary’s final drive and scored an eight-yard touchdown to put the Stamps up for good.

The Bombers, meanwhile, had another horrible night. With No. 1 quarterback Drew Willy out of the lineup nursing an injured throwing hand, backup Brian Brohm got the start. Brohm had completed 14-of-23 passes for 194 yards when he was rushed, hit and jammed his hand against a Calgary helmet. He was taken to the locker room and later returned to the bench in street clothes. He was replaced by Robert Marve who almost brought the Bombers back from a 23-7 deficit.

Marve got a lot of help from runningback Paris Cotton. With the score 23-9, Cotton scored on a 35-yard romp to make it 23-16. After a Calgary field goal, Cotton ran nine yards for another Bomber TD to make the score 26-23.

But that’s when Mitchell and Cornish took over and Calgary put the game away.

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The trench. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Cotton, who won the job from former Bombers tailback Nic Grigsby (now with Hamilton), finished with 108 yards and two TDs on 14 carries. Marve, the Bombers No. 3 QB, completed five-of-10 passes for 64 yards. Neither Bombers quarterback threw a touchdown pass.

Still, you have to give the Bombers backups some credit. The 23 points were the most the Bombers offence has put on the board since Week 11 when Winnipeg lost 30-24 at home in the Banjo Bowl to Saskatchewan.

This dreadful slump has really hurt the franchise. After putting 33,234 fans into Investors Group Field for the Banjo Bowl, the attendance has fallen to 28,534 in Week 14 and then to just 22,320 on Saturday night against the best team in the CFL.

The Bombers next home game is next Saturday night (6 p.m. on TSN) against B.C. It’s the most important game of the season inasmuch as a win will keep the team’s slim playoff hopes alive. But after having lost seven straight games, it’s hard to imagine there will be a big crowd waiting to greet them.

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It’s been a long season. (Photo by Jeff Miller).

Punchless Jets Fizzle in Home Opener, Shut Out by Rinne and The Preds

The Winnipeg Jets have now scored a grand total of one goal in the last 180 minutes of play.

Despite getting 31 shots at Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne, the Jets were shutout 2-0 by the Predators in the 2014-15 Home Opener at MTS Centre on Friday Night. Right now, this Jets team would have trouble putting the puck in a soccer goal.

TM Jets Preds Oct17 Wheeler 5 Punchless Jets Fizzle in Home Opener, Shut Out by Rinne and The Preds

Pekka Rinne foiled the Jets all night (Photo by Tara Miller)

Mike Ribeiro scored on a beautiful tip-in at 16:20 of the first period to give Nashville a 1-0 lead. Then, in the third period, James Neal was credited with a goal on a nasty bounce that fooled Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec wasn’t horrible. He just wasn’t as good as Rinne.

As this game wore on, there was never a sense the Jets would beat Rinne. In fact, there was never a reason to believe the Jets big scorers were going to find the net. With the exception of Mark Scheifele, most of the Jets Top 6 forwards were passengers and captain Andrew Ladd was invisible until the final few minutes.

Winnipeg, now 1-3-0 on the season, outshot Nashville 31-27, but it didn’t matter. Rinne was the best player on the ice and that’s all the first-place Predators (3-0-1) needed.

“Obviously a tough game for us, we have to find a way to score some goals,” said Jets centre Mathieu Perreault.

“We had a ton of chances, but when we had them we didn’t bear down. I don’t think we had a lot of really great chances, but had a few. He (Rinne) had to make a few good saves but we didn’t have a lot of great chances. We have to settle down and make plays. We waste a lot of (attacking) zone time just passing the puck blindly. We have to get some pucks to the net, bear down and find a way to get some goals.”

It wasn’t as if the Jets didn’t have any chances. In the second period, Jim Slater went in alone on Rinne and was foiled on an attempted deke. In the third period, Mark Scheifele was alone in front of the Predators goaltender and was foiled on an uncontested shot from the edge of the crease.

For the third straight game, the Jets had plenty of shots and some terrific opportunities but couldn’t find the back of the net. This time, at least, they weren’t stymied by a backup goalie.

TM Jets Preds Oct17 Enstrom 7 Punchless Jets Fizzle in Home Opener, Shut Out by Rinne and The Preds

Ondrej Pavelec made 25 saves in the Jets net (Photo by Tara Miller)

Last Friday, they were beaten 3-0 by San Jose backup Alex Stalock. On Sunday, they lost 4-1 to Los Angeles Kings backup Martin Jones. Friday night at the MTS Centre, they were shot out by one of the premier goalies in the NHL.

Jets fans were loud and proud when the game began. From the introduction of the players, to the national anthems and almost right through the first period, the Winnipeg crowd was as loud as head coach Paul Maurice and the players hoped it would be.

However, by the middle of the third period, the building had become eerily quiet and it was starting to empty. By the end, more than half the fans had departed and when the final buzzer sounded, the Jets were booed.

“It was a tight-tight game and there weren’t many chances to be had,” said Maurice. “We have to put the puck to the net so maybe we can bang in an ugly one. We aren’t going to throw a party after that. We’ve lost three straight and scored one.

“We knew it was going to be a tight game and it was. We wanted to get the crowd into the game and we couldn’t. It’s a disappointing start, a disappointing game at home.”

On the upside, the Jets penalty-killing unit was perfect again (Nashville was 0-for-four on the power play) and has now gone through 18 shorthanded situations in four games this season without allowing a goal. Of course, the power play went 0-for-three and the Jets still haven’t scored with the man advantage this year.

TM Jets Preds Oct17 Little 3 Punchless Jets Fizzle in Home Opener, Shut Out by Rinne and The Preds

Nashville’s Mike Ribeiro scored the eventual winning goal on a great tip in (Photo by Tara Miller)

The Jets need some scorers and they need them quickly. After putting up six against Arizona in the season opener last Thursday, they have been horrible in the attacking zone.

The Jets get at it again on Sunday night when the Jets face the Calgary Flames at MTS Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.

Week 17 CFL Picks: Bombers Need a Miracle

By The Coach and Dr. Football

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers still have a chance to make the playoffs. I know, it sounds like a ridiculous statement, but it’s true.

This week, when the 6-9 Blue Bombers play host to the 12-2 Calgary Stampeders, the home side will still be in a fight with the B.C. Lions for a crossover birth in the post-season. In the East. Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton are all tied for first at 6-8. However, while there is a chance one of those teams won’t get to eight wins (they all have four games remaining), that’s unlikely. The Bombers are likely going to have to win all three remaining games to have a hope. When you’re four points out of the final playoff spot (the crossover) with six points up for grabs, you’d better win. By the way, the Bombers can’t possibly make the playoffs in the West.

Brian+Brohm+Winnipeg+Blue+Bombers+v+Calgary+ B7Hi9C0L9ol Week 17 CFL Picks: Bombers Need a Miracle

Brian Brohm

In order to win this week, the Bombers will have to play their best game of the season. And they’ll probably have to do it with Brian Brohm at quarterback and Paris Cotton at tailback. This week, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea has called starting quarterback Drew Willy “questionable,” with an injured hand while RB Nic Grigsby, the fourth leading rusher in the CFL, asked for his release after he was told he would be a healthy scratch for the second straight week. It was almost as if Grigsby was being scapegoated for the Bombers slump – six straight losses and eight losses in the past nine games.

All will be forgotten, however, if the Bombers can upset the first-place Stampeders this Saturday night. A win and Winnipeg is right back in the crossover hunt. It’s unlikely, but not impossible. As they say, “That’s why they play the games.”

Last week, Dr. Football went 3-1 while The Coach swept four straight for only the second time this season.

This week, they’re back at it. The Doc writes the story of our brilliant selections while The Coach, drinks coffee and whines about the officiating. Let’s take a close look at Week 17 in the CFL:

Friday Night

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Jonathan Williams, Ottawa RedBlacks

Ottawa (2-12) vs. Hamilton (6-8) Line – Hamilton by 11 ½

Ottawa was humiliated in B.C. last week while Hamilton took their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter and squandered a chance to take a dominant lead in the East by allowing the Argos to beat them. There is far more talent on the Ti-Cats roster, and they’ll show why they chose to let Smilin’ Hank go. The Coach says: This will be over by the end of the first quarter.

Dr. Football: Take the Tiger-Cats to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Tiger-Cats to win and cover.

Saturday Afternoon

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Duron Carter, Montreal Alouettes

Montreal (6-8) vs. Toronto (6-8) Line – Toronto by 4

Both teams came up big last week and are really starting to roll. Experience is on Toronto’s side with Ricky Ray. But it will be close. The Coach says: Game of the week.

Dr. Football: Take the Argos to win but not cover.

The Coach: Take the Argos to win and cover.

Saturday Night

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Paris Cotton (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Calgary (12-2) vs. Winnipeg (6-9) Line – Calgary by 9

Another embarrassing loss. Another injured quarterback. Guys quitting. At least Wade Miller didn’t announce a ticket price increase. That counts for something right? The Coach says: The amazing thing about this game is that the Blue Bombers are still in the playoff hunt.

Dr. Football: Take the Stampeders to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Stampeders to win but not cover.

Sunday Afternoon

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Chris Getzlaff

Edmonton (10-5) vs. Saskatchewan (9-6) Line – Edmonton by 4

Kerry Joseph gets the start for the Roughriders this week. Chaos will ensue. Not the good kind. The Coach says: On the up side, Kerry Joseph is a big improvement over that poor Tino Sunseri. He might have been the worst quarterback to start a CFL game since Troy Kopp.

Dr. Football: Take the Eskimos to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Eskimos to win and cover.

Week 7: Tough Week for the Vikings on the Road

By the Coach and Dr. Football

After Ready Teddy and the Minnesota Vikings were carved up by the Detroit Lions at home last week, it doesn’t look like this week’s offering will be a whole lot more inviting.

It’s Week 7 in the National Football League and the Vikes are off to Buffalo where Kyle Orton, of all people, has take the Bill by the horns and made it work. There is no reason to believe that Buffalo has a date at Super Bowl XXXVVIIXXVIII anytime soon, but this team is playing much better football than it has in years. It doesn’t hurt that there is a new owner and a new sign of life.

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Poor Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil. He was almost completely absent against Detroit.

The Vikings, meanwhile, have the worst offensive line in the NFL (their quarterback was sacked eight times last week) and as a result, they put their highly touted rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in harm’s way every week. If Mike Zimmer doesn’t fix his O-line, this is going to be a long, long season.

Here in Prognostication City, we’re starting to tune in. The Boys had a so-so week last week, although The Coach had his best week against the spread. This week, there are only a few games on the schedule.

Last week Dr. Football went 8-6-1 (59-31-1) straight up and 4-11 (40-51) against the spread while The Coach had one of his best weeks of the season, going 11-3-1 (53-37-1) straight up and 10-5 (41-50) against the spread.

This week, the Doc writes our rationalizations while The Coach complains about the officials, the announcers, the penalties, the length of games….

Let’s look closely at Week 7:

Thursday Night

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Julian Edelman

New York Jets (1-5) at New England Patriots (4-2) 
Line: Patriots by 9.5.

Tom Brady has thrown for 652 yards his past two games. He won’t even break a sweat this week. The Coach says: This won’t be close.

Dr. Football: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

Sunday Afternoon

Cincinnati Bengals (3-1-1) at Indianapolis Colts (4-2) 
Line: Colts by 3.

After a strong start, the Bengals have started to stall, while Andrew Luck and the Colts have won four straight and are rested after blasting Houston on a Thursday night. The Coach says: As a dear Colts fan I know always says, “It’s better to be Luck-y than good.”

Dr. Football: Take the Colts to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Colts to win and cover.

Tennessee Titans (2-4) at Washington Redskins (1-5) 
Line: Redskins by 6.

Two teams that are early season disappointments. The Titans barely beat Jacksonville and the Redskins have not found a groove with Kirk Cousins, and have turned over the ball way too much. They should win at home but it won’t be a classic. The Coach says: Change the nickname.

Dr. Football: Take the Redskins to win but not cover.

The Coach: Take the Washingtons to win but not cover.

Miami Dolphins (2-3) at Chicago Bears (3-3) 
Line: Bears by 3.5.

The Dolphins threw everything at Green Bay last week, and came up short. The Bears return home after a few weeks on the road, and looked good last week beating Atlanta and will carry that momentum for a big win at Soldier Field. The Coach says: I’ll never fall in love with the stuff Jay Cutler does, but he has won three games and he’s at home this week.

Dr. Football: Take the Bears to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Bears to win and cover.

Hoyer1 Week 7: Tough Week for the Vikings on the Road

Brian Hoyer

Cleveland Browns (3-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6) 
Line: Browns by 5.5.

The Browns blasted the Steelers last week while the Jaguars played tough on the road but still lost in Tennessee. They have shown improvement and should get the home win. They can’t go 0-16. The Coach says: The Browns are living up to everything that happened in the movie Draft Day. It’s hard not to like that team. Blake Bortles is getting better, but he won’t win this week.

Dr. Football: Take the Jaguars in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Browns to win and cover.

Seattle Seahawks (3-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-4) 
Line: Seahawks by 7.

The Rams came out quick in the Monday Nighter but still came up short while the Seahawks were pushed around at home against the Cowboys. I think that this will be a statement game for the defending champs and Russell Wilson will have a big day. The Coach says: Poor St. Louis. Austin who?

Dr. Football: Take the Seahawks to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Seahawks to win and cover.

Carolina Panthers (3-2-1) at Green Bay Packers (4-2) 
Line: Packers by 7.

Cam Newton vs. Aaron Rodgers should be fun to watch until the Packers wear out the road weary Panthers. It will be high scoring game, one that the Packers will win at home. The Coach says: The Panthers have a cute little team but they’ll beat the Panthers.

Dr. Football: Take the Packers to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Packers to win and cover.

Atlanta Falcons (2-4) at Baltimore Ravens (4-2) 
Line: Ravens by 7.

The Ravens absolutely mauled the Bucs last week and now return home to face a Falcons team reeling after a home loss against the Bears. The Ravens momentum carries through this week in front of their fans. The Coach says: The Falcons can’t stop the run. They won’t stop the Ravens.

Dr. Football: Take the Ravens to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Ravens to win and cover.

Minnesota Vikings (2-4) at Buffalo Bills (3-3) 
Line: Bills by 5.5.

Both teams are coming off losses; the Vikings looked dreadful at home against the Lions. This will be Teddy Bridgewater’s first road start, a test against a tough Bills defense, especially against the run. Things will get worse for Minnesota. The Coach says: The Vikings offensive line is the worst in the NFL. I fear for Teddy Bridgewater’s safety.

Dr. Football: Take the Bills to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Bills to win and cover.

Matthew Stafford1 Week 7: Tough Week for the Vikings on the Road

Matthew Stafford

New Orleans Saints (2-3) at Detroit Lions (4-2) 
Line: Lions by 3.

The Saints will be rested coming off the bye, and have a tough test against the Lions top ranked defense. Drew Brees will wish he had another week off. The Coach says: The Saints are lost on the road while the Lions have the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

Dr. Football: Take the Lions to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Lions to win and cover.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) at San Diego Chargers (5-1) 
Line: Chargers by 4.5.

The Chiefs are coming off the bye while the Chargers might have been guilty last week of taking the Raiders a bit too lightly. Phillip Rivers won’t let that happen at home. The Coach says: It appears that Philip Rivers has completely forgotten that Norv Turner coached there once. That’s good news for the Chargers.

Dr. Football: Take the Chargers to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Chargers to win and cover.

New York Giants (3-3) at Dallas Cowboys (5-1) 
Line: Cowboys by 6.5.

The Giants were terrible last week in Philadelphia, while the Cowboys return home after a big road win in Seattle. They played hard against the defending champs, and might not have a lot left in the tank, but they’ll have enough to win a close one. The Coach says: America’s Team just could be America’s Team again.

Dr. Football: Take the Cowboys to win but not cover.

The Coach: Take the Cowboys to win and cover.

Carson+Palmer+Oakland+Raiders+v+San+Diego+2UBUtpVVtjMl Week 7: Tough Week for the Vikings on the Road

The Cardinals Carson Palmer. I just love this picture because it pulls the collective chain of my Raiders’ friends.

Arizona Cardinals (4-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-5) 
Line: Cardinals by 3.5.

The Raiders get Carson Palmer back, but he won’t be able to do much against a very good Arizona team. Look for a blowout. The Coach says: There is a very good chance that the Cardinals are the best team in the toughest division in the NFC.

Dr. Football: Take the Cardinals to win and cover

The Coach: Take the Cardinals to win and cover.

Sunday Night

San Francisco 49ers (4-2) at Denver Broncos (3-1) 
Line: Broncos by 6.5.

The 49ers battled back for the road win against the Rams on Monday, while the Broncos return home after coasting to a win over the Jets. The key to the game is for the Broncos to slow down the San Fran running game then let Peyton do the rest. The Coach says: I’ll always take Peyton. Especially at home.

Dr. Football: Take the Broncos to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Broncos to win and cover.

Monday Night

Ben+Roethlisberger+Philadelphia+Eagles+v+Pittsburgh+T3RzSGsufm3l Week 7: Tough Week for the Vikings on the Road

Ben Roethlisberger

Houston Texans (3-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) 
Line: Steelers by 3.5.

Pittsburgh is hardly the Steelers team that always looked good on Monday nights of years gone by, and must stop the bleeding on defense. That being said, Heinz Field is still a tough place for road teams to play. The Coach says: Neither of these teams is a good as we expected. Pittsburgh is at home and J.J. Watt can’t win games all by himself.

Dr. Football: Take the Steelers to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Steelers to win and cover.

It’s Not His Fault: Bombers Release Nic Grigsby

He came to Winnipeg without much fanfare and made the team in training camp. He carried 21 times for 122 yards in his first Canadian Football League regular season game

On Wednesday, however, the Blue Bombers released the CFL’s fourth leading rusher.

Nic Grigsby Its Not His Fault: Bombers Release Nic Grigsby

Nic Grigsby (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Upon his release, Nic Grigsby almost immediately tweeted: “To all my teammates & fans here in the peg I love and wish you guys nothing but the best. I asked for my release!!”

Grigsby is currently No. 4 in rushing in the CFL with 744 yards in 162 carries. With 55 catches, he leads all CFL runningbacks in receiving and is sixth in passes caught this season (he has 444 yards receiving, 23rd in the CFL).

He had done all that behind one of the worst offensive lines in the CFL, a porous unit that neither pass blocks nor even run blocks with the league’s playoff-bound units.

Last weekend, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea and his offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille decided to go with Paris Cotton and bench Grigsby, the 25-year-old back out of Arizona State.

In pre-season, Cotton, 24, had out-rushed Grigsby, but an injury kept Cotton out of the lineup early in the season. Grigsby took the ball and ran with it and kept his job for 16 weeks. During that time, the Bombers got off to a 5-1 start, but have faltered as the offensive line took some injury hits and then just got progressively worse. Winnipeg has lost six straight games, eight of their last nine and are now four points out of fourth place in the West with six points remaining on the table.

On Monday in Edmonton, Cotton rushed for 31 yards on eight carries in his first start, although to be fair, the Bombers have almost abandoned the running game and Cotton carried only four times in each half.

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Grigsby gone.

The Eskimos (now 10-5) won the game 41-9 to wrap up a playoff spot. The loss left the 6-9 Bombers in dire straights with three games remaining. It’s now likely that Cotton will be the team’s tailback for the remainder of the season.

It’s impossible to blame Nic Grigsby for what’s happened to the Blue Bombers. He just happens to be the odd man out because this team has left itself so thin along the offensive line.