The lone exception continues to be the Denver Broncos, who have been favored once all season (at Oakland) and are 6-0 against the NFL and the spread, a remarkable turnaround for a franchise that collapsed in their final three games last season, needing just one win to clinch the AFC West.
But I digress…
After a great two-week stretch, my picks last week were mediocre for a change. I went 7-7 against the spread in Week Six, bringing my overall record to 54-36.
Still, despite what can be considered a bad week for me, it wasn’t terrible considering some of the surprises that took place around the league, such as Oakland beating the Philadelphia Eagles. Now that was terrible, for the Eagles anyway.
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 … you can follow Peter King on Twitter now.
Here now are the Week Seven picks with the home team in bold .
This is the Chargers’ Last Stand.
San Diego is already 2-3 on the season, and could easily be 0-5. All three of their losses have come within the conference, and their loss to Denver last week put them three-and-a-half games behind the Broncos for the AFC West crown. San Diego needs this game.
The Chiefs have played better in recent weeks, winning at Washington and taking Dallas into overtime before losing to the Cowboys two weeks ago. Still, their pass defense is suspect (nearly 250 passing yards allowed per game), and about the only thing the Chargers seem to do well these days is pass the football.
I’m betting the Chargers show a little pride and take a big early lead on the Chiefs, then coast to a closer-than-it-should-be win on the road.
Chargers 27, Chiefs 20
Indianapolis (-13) over St. Louis
In their past 16 games, dating back to last season, the Rams are 0-16. That’s a trend that won’t change this week. St. Louis gives up nearly 400 yards per game on defense, and faces an Indianapolis team averaging more than 400 yards of offense per game.
The Colts are coming off their bye week and have quietly become the best team in the AFC so far this season. Word is, they’ll be getting Pro Bowl-caliber safety Bob Sanders back for this game, and in years past, his presence has improved their defense.
As much as I hate picking double-digit favorites, especially on the road, this has the makings of being a blowout of epic proportions. Peyton Manning is the league’s MVP to this point, and both the offense and defense for the Colts are improving. Scary thought.
Colts 42, Rams 10
Just a week ago, the Bengals entered Week Six as one of the darlings of the NFL. They were 4-1, with their lone loss coming against the Broncos. Cincinnati had beaten Pittsburgh and Baltimore in close games, instilling confidence in the franchise and the fan base.
A week later, the Bengals are barely favored at home against the turnover-prone Bears. Some of that is due to the loss of Antwan Odom for the season. All Odom had done was record eight sacks before tearing his Achilles tendon.
Another reason the Bengals are just a slight favorite is because of the franchise’s reputation as a laughingstock. People don’t fully believe that the Bengals are a playoff-caliber team.
I believe that Cedric Benson will play this game with something to prove, since he believes the Bears submarined the early portion of his career. I also believe the Bears’ defense doesn’t have the teeth it once had. Plus, Jay Cutler has played significantly worse on the road this year; all seven of his interceptions have come away from Chicago.
Call me a Doubting Thomas if you will, but I have more faith in the Bengals than the Bears.
Bengals 24, Bears 17
After feasting on the Detroit Lions last week, the Packers’ next opponent is the bumbling Browns.
The Browns are supposedly ridden with the H1N1 strain of the flu, their best quarterback may be their return man, Josh Cribbs, and they allow more than 400 yards per game on defense. Otherwise, they’re great!
Green Bay is not without their problems; Detroit sacked Packers QB Aaron Rodgers five times, and they haven’t run the ball well all season. However, this should be another relatively easy win for the Packers, given the Browns’ defensive struggles.
Packers 31, Browns 14
Pittsburgh (-4) over Minnesota
To this point, the Vikings haven’t been tested on the road this season. They’ve played some close games at home (San Francisco, Green Bay, Baltimore), but their road games have come against some of the worst teams in the league (Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis).
The Steelers should be a good challenge for Minnesota. Their pass defense has performed better in recent weeks with Troy Polamalu back from his injury, and their run defense has been strong all season.
The Vikings will need Adrian Peterson to have a huge day to keep the Steelers from blitzing Brett Favre into some mistakes. I’m betting that Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau have the team prepared to keep Peterson in check. They’ll squeeze Favre into a couple turnovers and win by a touchdown, maybe more.
Steelers 24, Vikings 17
New England (-14.5) over Tampa Bay
In what amounts to a road game for both teams, the Buccaneers are considered a double-digit home underdog in London. Go figure.
Just being simplistic, this is a game the Patriots should win easily. They’re coming off a 59-0 thrashing of the Tennessee Titans and have won eight of their past 10 dating back to last season. Conversely, Tampa Bay has lost their past 10 straight.
With a short week to prepare, having experienced players and coaches gives the Patriots an edge over the Bucs. The Patriots also have a pretty sizable advantage over Tampa Bay in other areas besides preparation and coaching, such as roster talent, on-field synchronicity, and, most importantly, uniforms.
For Patriots fans, this should be a jolly good show.
Patriots 34, Buccaneers 3
San Francisco (+3) over Houston
The worry in picking the 49ers is that they were exposed by the Atlanta Falcons as overrated against the pass, where the Houston Texans excel on offense.
The difference between the Falcons and Texans though, is that the Falcons are building toward being one of the best teams in the NFC. Houston, meanwhile, remains inconsistent, unable to string together consecutive wins since late last season.
San Francisco had two weeks to prepare for this game, and their 45-10 loss in Atlanta was humiliating. They’ll bounce back and reassert themselves with a solid road win, while the Texans will continue to torment their supporters, and have the rest of us scratching our heads.
49ers 27, Texans 24
NY Jets (-6) over Oakland
The Jets ran for more than 300 yards last week against Buffalo and lost, thanks primarily to Mark Sanchez’s five interceptions.
This week, the Jets travel to Oakland to face another horrid run defense. The Raiders give up nearly 150 yards rushing per game, so Thomas Jones and Leon Washington should each have huge days. If the Jets can limit Sanchez’s throws by running the football successfully, they should have no problem with Oakland.
After Oakland surprised the Philadelphia Eagles last week, one would think the Jets will not take Oakland for granted. I don’t expect any surprises here. I expect a resounding Jets win.
Jets 28, Raiders 13
Carolina (-6.5) over Buffalo
Buffalo allowed more than 300 yards rushing to the Jets last week, and give up an average of more than 180 yards on the ground per game. This week, they travel to Carolina, where DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart await. I would imagine the Panthers’ game plan will be run-heavy.
Carolina will have success against the Bills, of that there is no doubt. The question is, can Buffalo score on the Panthers? Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson could rival or equal the production of Carolina’s running backs; the Panthers allow nearly 150 yards per game on the ground themselves.
The key will be the play of Bills’ backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. If he surprises Carolina with some early pass plays, their defense will back off the line of scrimmage, opening up running lanes for Lynch and Jackson. If Fitzpatrick can’t connect with his receivers, the Panthers can expect more run plays, and that would reduce the effectiveness of the Bills’ running attack.
Fitzpatrick is a capable backup QB, but I believe the Panthers’ offense could have a big day, forcing the Bills to run less, throw more, and increase their chances of turning the ball over, which isn’t a good formula for success.
Panthers 31, Bills 17
I’ll admit, this is a selfish pick. I want to see the Saints sweat a little bit, and I think the Dolphins are capable of making it happen.
Earlier in the year, the Dolphins nearly beat the Indianapolis Colts by keeping their offense off the field, running the football effectively and sustaining long drives. While Peyton Manning was ultimately able to shred the Dolphins’ defense for 27 points in less than 15 minutes on the field, Miami created a blueprint that should serve them well against the Saints.
Of course, the Saints seem to be a better team than the Colts, especially when running the football. Pierre Thomas has turned into a solid featured running back, better than anyone the Colts have on their roster, and the Dolphins will need to shut him down in order to have a shot at beating the Saints.
Where the Dolphins are weak is at quarterback, as Chad Henne will be making just his third career start. He’ll have to make some plays early to keep the Saints’ defense from keying on Miami’s running game. If he can’t do that, it’ll be a long day for the Dolphins.
But, as I stated earlier, I’m taking the Dolphins. I believe they’re capable of hanging with the Saints and making them play a tight game to earn a solid road win.
Saints 27, Dolphins 24
Dallas (-4) over Atlanta
The bye week came at a great time for Dallas. They were nearly beaten by the Kansas City Chiefs in their last game. Had they lost that game, Cowboys’ coach Wade Phillips might have been replaced, and the season could have quickly turned into a weekly soap opera.
Instead, all the pieces of the Cowboys’ high-powered offense are returning from injuries. Marion Barber, Roy Williams, and Felix Jones seem to be back at full strength for this game, meaning Tony Romo should have at his disposal a full complement of offensive weapons for the first time since Dallas’ home opener.
That was the last time the Cowboys scored 30 or more points. They should be able to score that many points, or more, against an average Atlanta Falcons defense
Atlanta will get their share of points as well; the Cowboys’ defense allows just as much yardage as the Falcons’ defense does (nearly 360 yards per game). I expect a shootout between these teams, and I believe the Cowboys will emerge with the win by a touchdown.
Cowboys 37, Falcons 31
The Giants were embarrassed by the Saints last week and should be pleased to be at home after playing four of their first six games on the road. Their game against the Cardinals presents some interesting challenges for the Giants.
The Giants like to run the football, averaging nearly 150 yards per game, but the Cardinals allow less than 60 yards per game on the ground. If the Giants can figure out a way to run the football on the league’s top run defense, this could be a rout.
Kurt Warner struggles against defenses that pressure and hit the quarterback, something the Giants excel at. If he is sacked a few times early and consistently pressured by the Giants’ defensive line, the Cardinals’ one-dimensional offense could have no dimensions.
I’m taking the Giants, on the belief they will re-assert themselves as an elite team in the NFL and that playing at home on national television will reinvigorate them.
Giants 33, Cardinals 24
Philadelphia (-7) over Washington
Both of these teams are coming off ugly losses to teams they should have beaten soundly. Of course, the Eagles come into this game with the hopes of being a playoff contender, while the Redskins are shrouded in controversy, speculation, and finger-pointing.
Still, despite their season-long struggles, the Redskins have yet to be blown out. Their largest defeat was last week’s debacle against the Chiefs, an eight-point loss.
So why, then, am I taking the Eagles? Simply put, the Eagles are the most dynamic team the Redskins have faced this season. Washington has played St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Kansas City. Those five teams have a combined four wins amongst them. The fact that Washington is 2-3 given their early schedule is an indication they’re in for a rough stretch, beginning with the drubbing they’ll take at the hands of the Eagles.
Eagles 35, Redskins 10