Originally posted on The Herd's Word  |  Last updated 11/11/11

As Joe Flacco hung up another floating long ball to Torrey Smith last Sunday Night I could feel all of your breaths being collectively held, not to mention the disappointing four-letter bombs that accompanied Smith’s spike after the touchdown. You weren’t alone fellas, but you won’t be alone cashing in from your book next week either. Our first losing weekend in a month -and only our third of the season- was aided by missed field goals by an Alabama kicker who looked like a miny linebacker, two pick-6’s by Philip Rivers and a 91-yard drive against the best pass defense team in the NFL and brought us to 28-20-2 on the year. But, in the words of the legendary Kurtis Blow, “These are the breaks!” But now we’ve gotta “break it up, break it up, break it up” and get back on the winning trail. I stayed away from the Stanford-Oregon matchup this weekend because I couldn’t come to a decision or get an exceptional read on which direction the game was headed in but if you’re going to play that game on Saturday night keep Stnaford’s ATS winning streak in the back of your head. Back to our games, we’ve found a few mistakes in Vegas and we’ll happily exploit them. Here we go!…….-Fireman Mike

TCU +15 @ Boise State

Boise State has been such a cover machine over the past 10 years that their lines are sometimes off by as many as five points in games against quality competition. TCU is more than quality, they are legitimate threats to Boise’s crown and will play with their hair on fire in order to send that message this weekend. The Horned Frogs disappointed their faithful fans with an opening night loss to Baylor, which at the time seemed like a horrendous start to the season. We took the Baylor Bears on opening weekend realizing their offense had explosive potential led by amazing, duel-threat stud Robert Griffin III. TCU was introducing a new Qb as well as a ton of changes on the defensive side of the ball but still hung with one of the better teams in the Big 12. It was a sign of things to come. They haven’t scored less than 27 points in a game so far this season while averaging close to 42 on the year. Casey Pachall has stepped in admirably for Andy Dalton and looks like an NFL prospect in his own right. Kellen Moore has been his usual surgical self throughout the season totalling 29 TDs against only 5 INTs. This TCU defense does have a knack for getting after the QB which will make Moore uncomfortable at times. The Broncos running game will be Moore’s best friend once they realize the Horned Frogs can hang with them in a shootout, but while they run the clock to keep the ball out of Pachall’s hands they’ll also find no time to rack up 15 points to cover late. While Boise State has looked dominant, they haven’t faced legitimate competition since beating Georgia to open the season. I expect the Long Horns to hit on a few big plays early and go toe to toe with the #5 team in the country for four quarters before ultimately losing to a BCS Championship level team.

Boise State wins this game 47-37 but TCU takes the money in another great game between these two proud programs, a game that will undoubtedly be closer than the final score suggests.

Nebraska -3 @ Penn State

The Nittany Lions have been a terrible cover team throughout the season. Now they have to take the field in the face of public scrutiny after one of the most horrific weeks in the history of any college football program. Taking the field without Joe Paterno won’t make much of a difference. The 84-year old Paterno wasn’t calling plays, or even designing schemes, for the shakeup throughout the coaching staff and the media blitz will prove costly. Nebraska, on the other hand, sees the light at the end of the tunnel and will be playing with most of America routing for them. Despite losing to Northwestern last weekend, they still have an outside shot at a Big Ten Championship berth but they’ll use the opportunity to knock Penn State out of that game as the ultimate motivating factor, not only for themselves but for the conference itself. If you don’t think the Cornhuskers coaching staff won’t use what happened in Happy Valley as a motivating factor to their players and plead for them to send a message this weekend, you’re crazy. Nebraska has more talent than Penn State from top to bottom but also possess the superior coaching staff and are schematically on another level all together. PSU has an issue at quarterback that will come back to haunt them at the end of the day, as the mosterous Nebraska line keeps Silas Redd and the Penn State running game in check.

Nebraska sends a message this weekend with a 31-10 victory in a game that is simply a footnote to the rest of the drama at Penn State.

Steelers -3 @ Bengals

Cincinnati has been playing above the rim for the entire season but have been helped greatly by the schedule makers who decided not to give them Pittsburgh or Baltimore on their docket until the middle of November, somewhat of an oddity considering they have to play each team twice. Rookie Andy Dalton has done more than hold his own so far this season but the Bengals signal caller hasn’t run into a salivating defense like Pittsburgh yet, something that puts him at a great disadvantage despite playing them at home. A lot of Cincy’s success comes from setting the tone on the ground which opens things up for Dalton over the top. The Steelers will be more than happy forcing Dalton to throw the ball and will aggresively stack the box more often than not. Offensively, the Steelers have to get Mike Wallace and Co. going with throws downfield in order to open holes for the running game up the middle. I have no doubt that Mike Tomlin will find a way to exploit the Bengals on both sides of the ball, leading to a comfortable and dominating thrid quarter lead.

Pittsburgh rebounds from a demoralizing loss to the Ravens and leaves Cincinnati with a 24-13 win and a share of second place in the AFC North.

Saints @ Falcons OVER 49.5

I very seldomly give out over/unders but then again it’s not very often that two great quarterbacks who happen to have their offenses playing at an astonishingly high level face off against one another. Last weekend was an anomaly as nine or ten of the games played went under the point total, especially in a season in which there has been such an explosion of scoring in every way imaginable. What you’re essentially routing for when you take an O/U with a number like 49.5 is a 24-24 tie at some point in the game, and when I think of it that way I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the score at the end of the third quarter or even halftime. Ner Orleans’ point totals have been so high over the last four years against their division that many of them have gone under, mainly due to the Saints defensive ability to cause costly turnovers. But htis years version of the Saints D has been rather susceptible, giving up an average of 30 points per game whenever they face an offense with threats at the skill positions. The Falcons have more than threats at the skill positions, they have weapons of mass destruction! Julio Jone is starting to embrace the role of deep threat for Matty Ice and Roddy White is as polished as any wide receiver in the league. Combine them with Drew Brees’ plethora of playmakers -Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Mark Ingram- and you have all the makings of an NEW-fashioned shootout.

Atlanta wins 41-38 with a late field goal after giving up a big lead to Brees and The Boys, but we’re satisfied as soon as Mark Ingram crosses the goal line to pull the Saints within two scores, 31-21, early in the third quarter.

Lions +3 @ Bears

Chicago hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record yet this year and I don’t expect that streak to end, especially against a hungry Lions team that not only is out to prove they belong every week but is well rested after coming off two weeks rest. The best thing that could have happened to us happened on Monday Night when the Bears took care of an overrated Eagles team that is still given a ton of respect by the national media as well as Vegas, where you won’t find too many suckers. The Lions were the early season darlings but after back-to-back losses against San Fransisco and Atlanta their star lost a little shine. Those losses will turn out to be good for the young Lions who have to get used to bouncing back after big losses just as much as they do with wins. Detroit is giving up an average of 18-points per game but hwen you tak ea closer look a lot of those points are given up early, when the young Lions are making adjustments and seeing a team for the first time as a whole. This will be the second time Detroit faces the Bears this year, which will give them a better idea of what the Bears plan to attack them with. The same goes for Matt Stafford and the Lions offense, who seem to be clicking on all cylinders of late.

The Lions pull away early and win 33-17, leaving Bears fans scratching their heads once again. But like always, we’ll take the points because they’re free!

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