I was disappointed with how last week went. However, it’s a new week, and it’s time to provide some picks for folks looking for help with the office pool. Hopefully, for your sake and mine, my picks are more accurate this week.
As always, I base my picks on flawed logic, personal opinion, age-old gambling trends, and matchups. If you’re looking for high-end analysis…well…I try.
Here now are the week four picks, with the home team in bold. Picks are for entertainment purposes only, of course. (Last week vs. spread: 7-9. Season record against the spread: 28-20)
Oakland (+9.5) over Houston
Call it the Upset Special.
On offense, the Raiders’ strength is running the football. On defense, the Texans can’t stop the run at all.
Houston has yet to establish its own running game on offense this year, and the Raiders’ CB Nnamdi Asomugha should slow down the Matt Schaub-to-Andre Johnson connection in the passing game.
If the Texans are serious about making a run to the playoffs this year, they need this game.
Still, I can’t see Houston winning by 10 or more points, especially if Oakland refrains from turning the ball over and controlling the time of possession with their running backs. In fact, should Oakland stick to that formula, they may win outright.
Tennessee (-3) over Jacksonville
The last team to make it to the playoffs after starting 0-3 was the 1998 Buffalo Bills. Tennessee is 0-3 as all casual NFL fans know, but they’re also 0-3 within the AFC, and their next two games after this one: home against the Indianapolis Colts and at the New England Patriots. So, stick a fork in the Titans.
They not only have to win this week, but the next two as well to gain some ground within the AFC. Not happening.
And this week is no lock either: dating back to last season, the Titans are 3-7 (including playoffs) in their last 10 games, and Jacksonville is 2-8 in the same span. These teams are on equal footing, for the most part.
Interestingly enough, their styles of play are similar too. They both rely on strong running games. Neither team has playmaking receivers. Both teams’ defenses have struggled this year.
I’ll take the Titans, only because they need to win to keep their false sense of hope for a post-season berth alive.
New England (-2) over Baltimore
Lost amid all the hype surrounding the Ravens is the fact that their schedule to this point hasn’t been particularly challenging. Their once-vaunted defense allowed 24 points to the Chiefs and 26 to the Chargers.
Oh sure, they dominated the Browns. When the Denver Broncos dominated the Browns, it was written off because it came against a terrible team. Why haven’t the Ravens received the same treatment?
Meanwhile, the Pats have handled business at home, and this one’s in Foxboro. I’ve said it for weeks now: the deeper into the season we go, the more comfortable Tom Brady will be behind center.
I think the headlines after this week’s contest will focus on the Ravens’ defense being exposed a bit, and I’ll wonder what took people so long.
Cincinnati (-5.5) over Cleveland
I considered going the other way with this game upon hearing that Derek Anderson was starting for the Browns. Anderson built a nice rapport with Braylon Edwards when he started, and the two could connect for a few big plays to keep this one close.
However, the Bengals are starting to believe in themselves after big wins over the Packers and Steelers.
Their defense is good, their running game seems to be improving, and Carson Palmer is getting good protection and playing well thus far. It’s hard to pick against the Bengals these days.
NY Giants (-8.5) over Kansas City
I expect the Giants to have another game similar to the one they had last week against Tampa Bay.
I’m not saying they’ll shut the Chiefs out, but the Giants will look to run the ball quite a bit, control the time of possession, and force the Chiefs to make mistakes on offense. It’s a simple formula, and there’s no reason to deviate from it this week.
Chicago (-10) over Detroit
I know the Bears haven’t been lighting teams up this year, but my rationale for picking them is simple. The Bears have more talent, and are playing at home.
Matthew Stafford will likely struggle in this one for the Lions, and the Bears should be able to control the ball and see better results in the running game this week.
Washington (-7) over Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers’ run defense has allowed over 175 yards per game on the ground, and their secondary has been lit up just as badly. This matchup is just what the struggling Washington Redskins’ offense needed.
Clinton Portis should have a big day and Jason Campbell, who’s been accurate (67% completion percentage) and a bit underrated this year, could have his best numbers of the season as well.
Should the Washington offense struggle again, the cries for Jim Zorn’s removal will only grow louder.
Indianapolis (-9) over Seattle
With Matt Hasselbeck sidelined, the burden falls on Seneca Wallace again. Playing on the road against a team likely to jump out to an early lead, I expect Wallace to struggle and the Seahawks to lose big.
Peyton Manning will lead the Colts to a couple of early-game scoring drives and the Seahawks will need to play catch-up without the personnel needed to pull it off.
New Orleans (-7) over NY Jets
I think this one will be close to the spread. I don’t see the Saints blowing the Jets out. The Jets’ defense this season has been exceptional, led by CB Darrelle Revis, and their rookie QB Mark Sanchez has more than held his own.
However, Sanchez will have to throw the ball more in this game. So far, the Jets have limited his throws and, not coincidentally, he’s made relatively few mistakes.
If he’s forced to make 45 passes or so, the likelihood of him forcing throws and throwing interceptions only increases.
By the same token, Drew Brees hasn’t faced a defense this talented yet this season. However he is experienced enough to adjust, and I wonder if Sanchez is similarly capable in just the fourth game of his career.
Buffalo (-2) over Miami
This became a no-brainer pick the moment Miami lost Chad Pennington for the season. Chad Henne may well turn into a quality starting quarterback in the NFL, but it won’t happen overnight.
The Bills’ defense has struggled against the run this year, but they should be able to key on the Dolphins’ duo of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and make Henne beat them.
San Francisco (-9.5) over St. Louis
The 49ers will miss Frank Gore but his backup, Glenn Coffee, shouldn’t have much trouble gaining yards on the ground against one of the worst run defenses in the league.
Meanwhile, the Rams will be without starting QB Marc Bulger, relying on his understudy, Kyle Boller, to rally the team. Stephen Jackson will have a tough day against a stout 49ers’ run defense that will key on him and make Boller beat them.
Denver (+3) over Dallas
The Cowboys’ defense gives up a ton of passing and rushing yards. Their best two running backs are dinged up.
Dallas nearly played a complete stinker against Carolina at home on national TV last week, and they play on the road coming off a “short week” of preparation.
So, naturally, the Cowboys are three-point favorites against a team that’s allowed just 16 points on the season. Yeah, that makes total sense.
Look, odds are that the Cowboys will score more points in this game than the Broncos have allowed on the season. However, Kyle Orton is improving week-to-week at the helm of a new offense.
The Broncos will be able to run on the Cowboys, and they’ll slow down Dallas’ running backs. Denver will pressure Tony Romo, while Dallas’ pass rush will struggle against one of the best offensive lines in football.
If their 3-0 start to this point wasn’t proof enough they’re for real, then maybe 4-0 will do the trick.
Pittsburgh (-6.5) over San Diego
I went back and forth a few times before deciding to pick the Steelers. While the Chargers have yet to develop their running game, Phillip Rivers has looked great so far.
Pittsburgh has had trouble protecting Ben Roethlisberger, and they’re 1-2, but he’s played well despite the O-Line issues and a lack of production out of the backfield.
These teams are very similar. The Steelers are in jeopardy of starting 1-3 on the season and host the Chargers. They need the win more, they’ll play as if their season is on the line, and they’ll pull away late.
Minnesota (-3.5) over Green Bay
I’m going to downplay the Brett Favre Revenge Factor. I’m sure Favre wants to throw for 12,500 yards and 17 TD passes in this one.
As badly as he wants to embarrass the Packers on the field, he’s not going to hurt his team’s chances of winning just so he can try to pad his statistics though.
The truth is, Adrian Peterson should be able to run on the Packers’ defense, allowing the Vikings to control the ball.
Alternately, the Packers will struggle to protect Aaron Rodgers and, as good as Rodgers is at minimizing mistakes, he won’t be error-free in this one.
The crowd will be pumped up, the Vikings will feed off of it, and I could see this game being over early on.
Vikings 31, Packers 20