Once again, The Ledger returns with fresh insight about the games that took place during week seven of the NFL season.
After going 7-7 last week, I went 9-4 against the spread in week seven, running my overall record to 63-40 on the season.
Like many, I had a good week picking against the spread because it seemed like so many of the games were predictable. The double-digit underdogs didn’t have much fight in them in week seven, and word is, the Las Vegas casinos are losing money this year. Considering how much money those casinos make, it’s hard to feel bad for those Goliaths.
Anyway, I digress…here’s how my week went. Hopefully, your week went as well as mine.
As expected, San Diego had little trouble with the Kansas City Chiefs, even though the game was played at Arrowhead Stadium, which is usually a tough venue for opponents.
The Chargers finally put together a complete game. Phillips Rivers was efficient, and the Chargers were able to rush for over 130 yards, albeit to the tune of 3.8 yards per carry. San Diego’s defense forced Chiefs’ QB Matt Cassel to throw three interceptions and stuffed Larry Johnson and his cohorts when the Chiefs tried to run the ball.
All that said, the Chargers’ first resounding win came against the Chiefs . If we’re to take San Diego seriously, shouldn’t they have a couple of these already? (1-0)
Indianapolis did nearly everything well. For the first time all year, they ran the ball extremely well (six yards per carry, 156 yards). Peyton Manning was effective throwing the ball. On defense, the Colts’ Jacob Lacey returned an interception for a touchdown. About the only area of concern for Indianapolis was that the Rams ran the ball well against them.
Stephen Jackson is a very good running back, but he hadn’t shown much this year to this point. Against the Colts, he had 134 rushing yards on over five yards per carry. More talented teams could seek to exploit this possible weakness in future Colts games. It’s something that bears watching. (2-0)
I expected Cedric Benson to gain some measure of personal revenge against his old team, and he did have a big day (189 yards rushing). However, Carson Palmer’s career day (20-for-24 passing, 233 yards, 5 TD) was unexpected to say the least. Cincinnati’s defense was also a surprise. Without Antwan Odom, their leader in sacks, the Bengals held the Bears to 10 points, and forced Jay Cutler into some bad throws.
Cutler continued his Jekyll and Hyde season. He’s got seven TD passes and 10 interceptions on the road in four games, as opposed to 4 TD passes and zero interceptions in two home games. The Bears are 1-3 on the road, 2-0 at home. If that trend continues, the Cutler-to-Chicago trade could quickly become better known as the Kyle Orton-to-Denver trade. (3-0)
On the first play of the second quarter, the Browns kicked a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. It was all downhill from there, though.
Aaron Rodgers hit Spencer Havner and Donald Driver for two long touchdown passes to help Green bay take a 21-3 halftime lead. By the third quarter, the Packers turned the game over to running back Ryan Grant who, like many before him, had a big game against the Browns’ woeful run defense (148 yards). In all, the Packers out-gained the Browns 460-to-139 on the day.
Not that it’s any consolation to Browns fans, but at least they may wind up with a Pro Bowler: punter Dave Zastudil, who put all four of his punts inside the Green Bay 20-yard line, and averaged nearly 45 net yards on his kicks. (4-0)
Sometimes, I write things in my picks column that make sense and I wind up looking smart on Sunday or Monday night. For instance, here’s what I wrote about the Steelers-Vikings game:
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.
As it turned out, the difference in this game was two fourth-quarter turnovers by Favre that resulted in long touchdown returns. Pittsburgh’s defense (14 points) outscored the Vikings’ offense (10), as it turned out.
The first was a 77-yard fumble return by LaMarr Woodley following a strip of Favre by Brett Keisel. The second came with a minute left in the game, and the Vikings driving for the potential game-winning score. However, a Favre pass to Chester Taylor wound up in the hands of Keyaron Fox, who rumbled 82 yards to give the Steelers the 27-17 win. (5-0)
Amazingly, despite blowing the Buccaneers out, the Patriots didn’t play a crisp, clean, mistake-free game. Tom Brady threw for over 300 yards, but had two interceptions. If the Patriots had played well, the score could have been much worse.
For the Buccaneers, Josh Johnson completed just nine of his 26 passes against the Patriots, and had three interceptions. The Bucs only mustered a 2.8 yards-per-carry for 89 yards on 26 carries. They yielded over 400 yards of offense to the Patriots, a far cry from the defense the Buccaneers boasted just a few seasons ago. (6-0)
Houston went up 21-0 in this game, and the 49ers benched Shaun Hill. Alex Smith took over for Hill, and the former No. 1 overall pick played well against the Houston defense.
However, a defense plays differently up by three touchdowns, and Alex Smith benefited from that. Before he gets anointed the 49ers’ savior, let’s remember that.
As for Houston, the Texans finally secured consecutive wins for the first time this season and they did a solid job defensively against a team’s running back. Of course, the 49ers abandoned the run game down three touchdowns, but Frank Gore only rushed for 32 yards on 12 carries for the game.
For the record, while this game was a push, my picking the 49ers to win outright denies me the chance to call this a win. (6-1)
The Jets ran for 316 yards on 54 carries. Mark Sanchez ate a hot dog late in the game. JaMarcus Russell turned the ball over three times before being benched. Of these three facts, only the hot dog eating by Sanchez ranks as a surprise. (7-1)
Carolina had 425 yards of offense to Buffalo’s 167 yards. Carolina had the ball for nearly 10 more minutes than the Bills did. Jake Delhomme threw for over 300 yards. Taken on the surface, these facts would seem to indicate the Panthers rolled to an easy win.
Of course, the game turned out completely different. Buffalo scored two touchdowns, thanks to Delhomme interceptions in Carolina territory that led to short drives. It was an ugly win for the Bills, but a win nonetheless.
Interceptions from Delhomme are nothing new. However, the Carolina run game was underutilized, in my view. Twenty-Three combined carries from DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but 44 passes from the turnover-happy Delhomme? It’s no wonder the Panthers are losing football games. (7-2)
Twice now this season, the Dolphins have had sizable fourth quarter leads against playoff contending teams. On both occasions, those teams came back to win.
One key difference between Miami’s loss to the Colts and their loss to the Saints was how efficiently the Dolphins’ offense played against Indianapolis. They limited the Colts’ offense to less than 15 minutes of on-field time by controlling the time of possession with long drives and no turnovers.
By comparison, the Saints’ offense was on the field for 33 minutes, because Miami didn’t move the ball down the field as well in this game, and because Miami committed three turnovers.
The Saints were far-from-perfect themselves. They needed 22 fourth quarter points to pull this game out and cover up the three turnovers that led to 17 Miami points. (7-3)
The Tony Romo-to-Miles Austin connection could be resurrecting the Cowboys’ season. Not that Dallas is a bad team, but they seemed to be pretty average on both sides of the ball so far this season.
However, as I hypothesized when making my picks last week, because Dallas’s full complement of skill players hasn’t been healthy since week two, the Cowboys have struggled. With everyone back, I expected Dallas to perform better than many expected, and the Cowboys put up 37 points.
Atlanta, as I stated last week, has an average defense, so seeing the Falcons give up over 400 yards and 37 points wasn’t surprising. Matt Ryan’s three-turnover day had to rank among the worst performances of his young career. (8-3)
One of the many knocks against the Cardinals last year was their abysmal record against East Coast teams. The travel was too grueling, some said. The Cardinals were a fluke Super Bowl participant, said others.
This year, the Cardinals are 3-0 on the East Coast. They don’t seem fazed by the travel. Their defense, especially against the run, is legitimate. With the 49ers fading now and the Seahawks probably lacking the talent to play consistent winning football, the Cardinals are clearly the class of the NFC West.
The Giants, on the other hand, have some questions to answer, especially regarding Eli Manning. How much of an effect will his current foot injury have for the remainder of the season? He was pressured constantly by Arizona’s defense, and he played tentatively at times. Should expectations of the Giants be tempered? Are they even the best team in their division, now that Dallas seems rejuvenated? (8-4)
I don’t mean to simplify things, but the Eagles ran the ball 27 times and threw the ball 26 times against the Redskins in their win at Washington this week. If they had a similar ratio of runs to passes against Oakland the week before, Philadelphia would likely be 5-1 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
Speaking of the Eagles’ run game, their numbers against the Redskins were skewed significantly by the dynamic 67-yard run by DeSean Jackson. Take that play away, and the Eagles only averaged 2.1 yards per carry. Some of that poor play may have been due to the concussion suffered by starting RB Brian Westbrook, but Washington’s defense deserves some credit as well.
Many are predicting this will be the last season for Washington QB Jason Campbell and coach Jim Zorn. What about Clinton Portis though? He will likely eclipse the 10,000 rushing yard mark sometime this season, but how much does he have left in his career? Perhaps the Redskins, like many other teams, need to simply start over. (9-4)