Week 7 in the NFL followed the continuing 2012 trend of close finishes and late game heroics. After the Giants stole a close one against the Redskins in the most entertaining of one o’clock games, we were privy to just two late games, both of which were very competitive and went to OT.
Despite the exciting turnout of those 4:25 contests, I must say that a block of time in which half of the games feature the Jags and Raiders should never, EVER be approved by the NFL scheduling office again.
I’m not sure exactly what got screwed up there, but I could feel the depression sneaking into Scott Hanson’s voice on NFL RedZone as the early games came to a close.
My picks started out very strong in the early contests, but the failure of New England and Oakland to cover late cost me a couple spots. Overall, the week came in at an acceptable 64 percent, but just a few points here and there, and it could have been one of my better weeks of all time.
After this slight upswing, I find myself with the following yearly totals:
Straight: 62-41 (60 percent)
Spread: 46-57 (45 percent)
Over/Under: 53-50 (51 percent)
This puts my overall rate at 52 percent. It was the second straight week in which I raised my numbers for all three categories, so I dare say I’m starting to hit my stride.
Aside from these results, I must also thank you readers for giving me my most hits of all time for one of these articles. Hopefully both of these positive trends continue as we march into another week chock full of great matchups!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6.5) at Minnesota Vikings (O/U = 41.5)
In one of the best games last week had to offer, the Bucs fell just short of tying the Saints with no time left on the clock, and they fell to 2-4 on the year. A controversial illegal touching call was made on a ball caught in the end zone after the receiver stepped out of bounds before making the play, and instead of putting two games between themselves and NO, Tampa instead dropped into a tie for second in the NFC South.
The Vikings came off of a loss in Week 6 with a win against Arizona to move to 5-2 and remain just a game back from the Bears in the division. The Cardinals were unable to get anything going in the second half of the game, and the strong Vikings' run defense forced the marginal John Skelton to the air where he found little success.
In years past, this would have been a candidate for Stinker of the Week, but both teams have showed me something this season, and I will surely be tuning in. I like the Vikes at home, but in a fierce battle that has TB covering when it’s all said and done.
Spread: Tampa Bay
Miami Dolphins (+2.5) at New York Jets (O/U = 40.5)
After forcing the rival Pats into OT at home last week, the Jets were unable to capitalize and instead fumbled away their chances during their first possession in extra time. However, this game showed that even a depleted NY team can compete with one of the league's better squads if they show up to play.
The Dolphins drew a bye in Week 7, and after back-to-back wins they may have wished to keep that run going rather than take a week-long breather. On the upside, they have had extra time to prepare for a Jets squad who may be a bit worn out after their battle with the Brady bunch. They will no doubt be the fresher team in this matchup, which often provides some thrilling finishes.
The Jets pulled out an OT win in the first matchup between these two in MIA, but for some reason I think the ‘Phins grab the upset here in another close one. Call me crazy, but if not for two OT losses, this Miami team would be on a five-game winning streak right now, and I think they are anxious to get some of the recognition that has not yet found them.
San Diego Chargers (-3) at Cleveland Browns (O/U = 44)
After tallying their first win of the season in Week 6, the Browns were unable to maintain the winning vibe and lost to Indy last week. With a chance to eke out a victory late in the game, Cleveland couldn't find the end zone and fell to 1-6. Rookie RB Trent Richardson was nursing a rib injury in the second half of that game, but he seems slated to take the field this week.
The Chargers had the bye last week after an embarrassing collapse against Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Monday night in Week 6. After getting out to a big lead, their defense collapsed at home as they fell to .500 on the year. Another loss here would be three in a row, but against this Cleveland team, they should be able to turn things around and maintain at least a tie for first in the AFC West.
Straight: San Diego
Spread: San Diego
Indianapolis Colts (+3.5) at Tennessee Titans (O/U = 46.5)
After a horrific start to the year, Titans RB Chris Johnson finally found his stride in Week 6, exploding for 195 yards and two scores. Tennessee moved to 3-4 after riding their back’s coattails to victory, but in an AFC south which is nearly sewed up by Houston, they should set their goals on a Wild Card berth at this point.
The Colts squeaked by against Cleveland on the road and sit one-half game above the Titans in the AFC South. With potential divisional implications, this game will be a true test for QB Andrew Luck as he tries to prove he is the Colts’ leader of the future.
The Rookie QB has put on some solid performances against below-par defenses, and Tennessee fits that bill. I’m taking the Colts on the road.
New England Patriots (-7) at St. Louis Rams (O/U = 46.5)
The Patriots snuck away with an OT win against the rival Jets last week and lead the AFC East with a mediocre 4-3 record. Heading into their bye in Week 9, it will be crucial to take this gimme on the road to ensure they maintain their division lead until they come back in two weeks.
St. Louis was pretty well-handled at home against the Packers last week, finishing ten points behind in a game that didn't seem even that close. Despite repeatedly drafting with early picks over the past decade, this team still sits in last place in the NFC West. Head Coach Jeff Fisher would surely relish a win against this NE team to solidify his presence in his first season with the Rams.
Unfortunately for Fisher, the Pats' passing attack isn't too far behind—if at all—the GB one that picked them apart last week, and I think it will be déjà vu here.
Straight: New England
Spread: New England
Jacksonville Jaguars (+) at Green Bay Packers (O/U =)
In light of injuries to both Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert for Jacksonville, this game doesn't have a spread number at this point in the week. If the Jags' top two offensive players miss the game, we could see one of the larger spreads in recent history. The Jags have been pretty atrocious even with those guys on the field.
The Packers have clearly turned a corner offensively after a somewhat sluggish start, and Aaron Rodgers is finally dialed-in like we have grown accustomed to seeing him. He has an incredible ability to find any receiver on any play, and if Carson Palmer put up 298 yards against the Jags last week, I’m quite sure Rodgers can top the 300 mark.
I don’t even have to see the spread to know I’m taking GB regardless. The O/U, however, remains to be seen.
Straight: Green Bay
Spread: Green Bay
Atlanta Falcons (+2.5) at Philadelphia Eagles (O/U = 46.5)
The Falcons' undefeated record survived another week as they sat out with a bye in anticipation for this battle against Philly. Matt Ryan has shown up this year with clear intentions to join that group of elite passers in the league, and if he continues down this path there will be no denying him that position.
Andy Reid’s bunch also had last week off, so look for some interesting approaches in the secondary as they try to utilize All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha to slow down the Falcons' aerial assault. The Eagles have shot themselves in the foot repeatedly this year, and against a team this good, they cannot afford many, if any, mistakes.
I’m a little surprised that the Falcons are getting points here as they have yet to lose this season, but I will take those points and run with them.
Washington Redskins (+5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (O/U = 47.5)
Yet again, a spectacular performance by RGIII against the Giants last week was squandered by poor defensive play late as Washington fell to 3-4 in a tough loss. Despite a clear upswing in the team’s overall ability, they are still in last place in the tightly-contested NFC East. Losses against division opponents are not the recipe for a turnaround.
The Steelers held serve at home against the Bengals on Sunday night’s AFC North matchup, and now they find themselves just a game-and-a-half back of Baltimore. While clearly they haven’t worked out all the kinks yet, it appears that the offense is finally getting a grasp on the new game plan brought in by Todd Haley. If they can continue to improve as they have, then they will no doubt be in the playoff hunt.
Without Troy Polamalu, this Pitt team is right around .500, and I think that his absence provides enough open space for Griffin to take advantage in a narrow road victory.
Seattle Seahawks (+2.5) at Detroit Lions (O/U = 43.5)
After being manhandled by the Bears on Monday night, the Lions will return home to face another stingy defense in Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks. Despite sky-high preseason expectations, Detroit has failed to perform up to its talent level, and it will need to find some kind of offensive stride if it hopes to finish above .500 on the year.
Seattle fell to SF in a defensive struggle in a Thursday night game in which they only could manage a couple of field goals. The good news was that their defense held the Niners in check in the loss, giving the defeat just a little bit of upside.
If the Lions are as inept offensively here as they were against Chicago, then watch for Seattle to take advantage early. However, returning home after a loss like they took at Soldier Field, I believe the Lions will show up and take this one.
Carolina Panthers (+7.5) at Chicago Bears (O/U = 43)
After another disappointing loss to Dallas that could have easily gone the other way, Cam Newton continued his trend of post-game shenanigans. Singling out his offensive coordinator, the second year passer suggested more runs and field goal attempts in order to improve his passing. I don’t know about you, but that doesn't exactly scream confidence to me.
The Bears have looked phenomenal all year, and they are somewhat under the radar as one of the NFC’s best teams to this point. After shutting down the Lions' attack the way they were able to, I have no doubt they can do the same to a 1-5 Carolina team on the brink of mutiny.
Oakland Raiders (+2) at Kansas City Chiefs (O/U = 41)
Oakland was able to stage a late-game comeback in last week’s win against the Jags, scoring 13 unanswered points as Sebastian Janikowski knocked the game winner through in OT. Despite their sub-par 2-4 record, they are only a game back in the weakened AFC West as they match up against the division’s last place Chiefs.
Following their bye week, the Chiefs have named Brady Quinn as their starting quarterback, supplanting the underperforming and overpaid Matt Cassel. It’s hard to see this as a good move since Quinn has never shown any ability to play at the NFL level, but sometimes a shakeup like this is what a lackluster team needs to find a new groove.
New groove or not, I will never pick in favor of a team starting Brady Quinn at quarterback. Never.
New York Giants (-1.5) at Dallas Cowboys (O/U = 47.5)
In what could be the Game of the Week, we will see a storied divisional rivalry between the Giants and Cowboys. This game always provides some fireworks, and Eli Manning has provided quite a bit of pyrotechnics on his own this season, leading his team to 5-2 and a division lead. Last week's late bomb to Victor Cruz to seal the deal against the Redskins was eerie in that we almost expect the two-time Super Bowl champ to win games like that. Never thought I would say that about Peyton’s little brother, but hey, can you argue?
The Cowboys have not looked very good throughout the beginning part of this season, but they still remain in contention for the division at 3-3. Following a narrow victory against Carolina, it is hard to see how this team will slow down the Giants' rolling offense, especially since Dallas' leader in tackles, Sean Lee, is lost for the season with a toe injury.
While I don’t think it will be a runaway by any means, I’m taking the Giants to cover here and to remind Dallas fans that their team just isn't that great this year.
Straight: New York
Spread: New York
New Orleans Saints (+6) at Denver Broncos (O/U = 55)
After staging one of the best comeback performances of his career, Peyton Manning had a week to recover before hosting the Saints in this week’s Sunday night showdown. Lost in Peyton’s spectacular performance, however, was a valiant effort by the Broncos' defense, which surrendered zero second half points in the team’s epic comeback. They will need another strong performance against one the league’s best offenses.
New Orleans should be counting their blessings that they made it out of Tampa Bay alive after being throttled by Josh Freeman in their narrow victory. While it looks like the Saints' offense has found their way, the defense continues to play poorly. Without a significant improvement, the Saints will have a tough time slowing down a QB known for exposing a team’s weaknesses.
I think this will be a high-scorer, but the Broncos' defense is much better than the Saints', and that will give them the edge at home.
San Francisco 49ers (-6.5) at Arizona Cardinals (O/U = 37.5)
Another close win for San Fran on Thursday night helped it maintain a one game lead in the highly competitive NFC West heading into this Monday night matchup. A win against the Cards would put two games between the 49ers and the division’s second place team, not to mention giving them the tiebreaker edge that could have a huge impact come playoff time.
The Cardinals started off incredibly hot and won their first four, but they have since lost three in a row and showed that their strong takeoff was just a flash in the pan. With John Skelton under center, the Cards have been unable to utilize their most dangerous weapon in Larry Fitzgerald, and as sad as it may sound, they must be counting the days until Kevin Kolb is ready to return.
Unfortunately, it looks like Monday Night Football will feature the replacement QB against the league’s best passing defense, and I’ll let you do the math on that one.
Straight: San Francisco
Spread: San Francisco