Last weekend was a little more than frustrating as I flirted with my first losing week since I started making picks – but thanks to a Baltimore win on Monday I came out on the winning side at 8-7, taking me to 81-31 overall.
Here are my picks for this week:
Miami (4-5) @ Carolina (4-5)
My pick: Carolina
-The Miami Dolphins ground game was dealt a huge blow on Wednesday with the news that Ronnie Brown is done for the season – he was the team’s leading rusher, had the most touchdowns and was the triggerman in Miami’s wildcat offense. Carolina pulled out a big win last week against the Falcons, a week after almost pulling out an upset over the still-unbeaten Saints. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have been putting up big numbers in the Panthers backfield – look for them to be big factors come game time.
Indianapolis (9-0) @ Baltimore (5-4)
My pick: Indianapolis
-Even though they’ve caught some lucky breaks over the past three weeks in order to stay perfect – I still find it hard to bet against the Colts. The Ravens have a good defense, but Peyton Manning and the Indie offense have been pretty lights out so far this season. You could chalk up last week’s win over the Pats to a bad gamble by Bill Bellichik, but to win, the Colts did have to storm back from a 17 point deficit. I could see the Ravens maybe pulling out an upset, but I’m going with the Colts.
Washington (3-6) @ Dallas (6-3)
My pick: Dallas
-Not sure what happened to the Dallas offense last week, but they underperformed and came up short in Green Bay – this week they’re back at home (where they are 3-1), facing the Redskins, who were the latest team to beat the struggling Broncos last week. The offenses of these two clubs don’t even compare – Dallas averages over 80 more total yards and almost 10 more points per game. Tony Romo will be up against the league’s best pass defense, but if they’re not getting much in the air, they should be able to dictate on the ground as well.
Cleveland (1-8) @ Detroit (1-8)
My pick: Detroit
-As I’m writing this, I’m staring in disbelief at an advertisement for “all you can eat seats starting at just $57” for this game – first of all, why would you want to eat a seat, nevermind more than one; and secondly, who would pay $57 (US) to watch the Browns and the Lions? Good lord. Anyways, as bad as Detroit is, the Browns offense is far worse – they were shutout last week and have nine points in their last three games. At the least the Lions can put points on the board.
San Francisco (4-5) @ Green Bay (5-4)
My pick: Green Bay
-The Packers are coming off a big win over the NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys last week, shaking off the rust from back-to-back losses – on the other hand, the Niners took advantage of FIVE turnovers by Chicago QB Jay Cutler to pull out the 10-6 win last week. I’ve got to say, I’m more impressed by Green Bay win. Going by the numbers, the Packers are slightly stronger and Aaron Rodgers definitely has the edge over Alex Smith – which is why I’m giving this one to the cheeseheads.
Buffalo (3-6) @ Jacksonville (5-4)
My pick: Jacksonville
-The Jaguars made me very angry last weekend (but I was really angry at the Jets/myself for picking the Jets) by sneaking past NY with a last-second field goal. They’ve now won three of four, and I’ll be happy if they win this week because I’m picking them to beat the slumping Buffalo Bills, losers of two straight. They’ve got a new coach and a new quarterback, but I don’t expect we’ll see anything new from the Bills. In the three weeks since Jacksonville’s bye, running back Maurice Jones-Drew has rushed for 177, 97 and 123 yards with four touchdowns – the Buffalo defense is woeful against the run, giving up an average of 173 yards per game in that category. Jags take it, and Jones-Drew is a big factor.
Pittsburgh (6-3) @ Kansas City (2-7)
My pick: Pittsburgh
-As bad as the Steelers played last weekend in an 18-12 loss to the Bengals, there is no way they’re going to follow that up with a loss to the Chiefs. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season in last week’s loss, which snapped a five game win streak for Pittsburgh. Look for them to get back on track this week against the Chiefs, who are 0-4 at home this season.
Seattle (3-6) @ Minnesota (8-1)
My pick: Minnesota
-The Vikings have been great this season whether they’re running the ball or taking the aerial route. Brett Favre has 17 touchdown passes and Adrian Peterson has 11 rushing majors, so basically you have to eliminate both aspects of their game to make any headway. The Seahawks have the 22nd ranked pass defense in the league and the 10th best rush D, and the Vikings defensive game is pretty much around the same place. Statistically, the thing that gives Minnesota the edge here is that they’ve been averaging about 10 points more per game than the ‘Hawks.
Atlanta (5-4) @ NY Giants (5-4)
My pick: New York
-The Atlanta Falcons are missing a big piece of the puzzle this weekend in running back Michael Turner, who suffered an ankle sprain last week in a loss to Carolina. How important is he to the team? In his last three outings, he’s rushed for 151, 166 and 111 yards (in just one half last week). Needless to say, their chances of winning are depleted with him out of the lineup. The NY Giants on the other hand are a team that desperately needs to get back on track, and this is a good opportunity for them to do so. I’m not saying the Falcons are completely one-dimensional, but not having Turner is a big hit to their offense.
New Orleans (9-0) @ Tampa Bay (1-8)
My pick: New Orleans
-The pressure of maintaining a perfect season can be tough on a team – and that seems to have been the case for the Saints over the past few weeks – they needed big comebacks against the Dolphins and the Panthers, and almost blew it against the lowly Rams last week. This week – another low-end opponent that they better not take lightly, in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have just one win on the season. The Saints defense will be up against a rookie quarterback, which bodes well for them – and as long as the offense can continue to roll without Reggie Bush (questionable to play), they’ll be fine.
Arizona (6-3) @ St. Louis (1-8)
My pick: Arizona
-Now, the Cardinals have been a somewhat frustrating team to gauge this season – perfect on the road, brutal at home. Thankfully, this week they’re playing IN St. Louis, where the Rams are 0-4 – in fact they’ve only got one win this season. Another difference between these two teams is points on the board at the end of four quarters – the Rams are averaging just 11 points per game, while the Cards have been scoring about 25. That doesn’t mean Arizona is going to win 25-11, but it gives us an idea of where the two offenses are at. Arizona QB Kurt Warner bounced back from a 5-interception loss to Carolina with two solid games against Chicago and Seattle – look for that to continue in the ‘Lou.
San Diego (6-3) @ Denver (6-3)
My pick: San Diego
-This is a tough one because at face value, this looks like a pretty even matchup – but the Broncos have lost three in a row after starting the season at 6-0. The Chargers, meanwhile, have won four straight and are really hitting their stride. LaDainian Thomlinson is coming off a two-TD outing last week and quarterback Philip Rivers has five TD passes in his last two games – so the Chargers offense is rolling right now. Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton is expected to play, despite an ankle injury, which could be good news for San Diego defenders.
NY Jets (4-5) @ New England Patriots (6-3)
My pick: New England
-The Patriots blew a 17-point lead and gave the ball up in their own half in last week’s one-point loss to the Indianapolis Colts – but apart from that, they played a solid game against one of the other elite teams in the league. This week, they’ve got the lowly NY Jets in their barn. After a 3-0 start the Jets have gone 1-5, with that one win coming against the Chokeland Raiders. They almost beat Jacksonville last week, but lost on a last-second field goal – I just don’t see them coming that close against a quality team like the Pats.
Cincinnati (7-2) @ Oakland (2-7)
My pick: Cincinnati
-The Bengals are cruising heading into this weekend’s game in Oakland against the Raiders, who have finally benched JaMarcus Russell. Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer has his offense playing a confident brand of football, but it looks like they’ll be doing so without Cedric Benson, who is out with a hip injury. Benson is the only Bengal with a rushing major this season, so someone will have to step up to fill that void. Maybe this sets the stage for a huge game from Chad Ochocinco?
Philadelphia (5-4) @ Chicago (4-5)
My pick: Philadelphia
-The Eagles are a team looking to bounce back after a couple of losses – and what better a boost for the defense than knowing they’re up against a quarterback that’s thrown 17 interceptions, including FIVE in his last outing (against the 29th ranked pass defense of the 49ers). Jay Cutler will face a much tougher test this week against Philly, who rank 10th in pass defense and third when it comes to INTs. The Eagles have run into some injury problems, but I think they’ve got enough to get past the bumbling Bears.
Tennessee (3-6) @ Houston (5-4)
My pick: Tennessee
-Ever since the change at quarterback, the Tennessee Titans are a different team – hell, even their owner is revved up by their recent success. In the weeks following a 59-0 loss to the Patriots, Vince Young has led the offense to point totals of 30, 34 and 41 – not bad for a team that scored 10 or fewer points in three of their first six games. At least some of that success is due to the play of Chris Johnson, who leads the NFL in rushing yards (first guy to hit 1,000). In the last four games, Johnson is averaging a monstrous 155 yards rushing PER game with two touchdowns in each of his last three games. Look for him to have another big day.