Spread 'Em: NFL Week Eight Picks

Andrew ZercieCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2009

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 25:  Quarterback Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans warms up before playing the San Francisco 49ers at Reliant Stadium on October 25, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Welcome back to another round of picks based on analysis, insight, and hunches. It’s worked for me so far to the tune of 63-40 on the season.

After a 9-4 week seven, I’m hoping for even greater success in week eight.

Despite how well I’ve done so far, remember that all picks are for entertainment purposes only. I’m not perfect. I never will be.

If you’re a faithful reader, you know by now that I base my picks on flawed logic, personal opinion, age-old gambling trends, and matchups. If you’re looking for high-end analysis...well...the NFL on Fox pregame show occasionally has a nugget or two.

Here, now, are the week eight picks with the home team in bold.

Denver (+3.5) over Baltimore

At this point, it’s become laughable.

I understand that the Broncos have played several close games this season and that they haven’t proven to be a high-scoring offense, for the most part.

As a result, their margin for error is much smaller than most teams’ would be at 6-0.

Still, a road underdog to a team that’s lost three straight? No wonder Las Vegas is losing money on football wagers this year.

These aren’t the Ravens of 2000. The defense gives up well over 300 yards per game, and the last two teams to face Baltimore have had running backs top the 100-yard mark. Sure, their offense is better than it’s ever been, statistically speaking, but their wins have come against Kansas City, San Diego, and Cleveland. Lots of offenses have looked good against those teams.

Both teams are coming off their bye weeks. They should both be well-rested and prepared.

I’m taking Denver for two reasons. First, no team in the NFL adjusts to the opposition as a game progresses better than the Broncos. Also, I believe Denver is better than Baltimore on both sides of the football.

Broncos 24, Ravens 20

Chicago (-13.5) over Cleveland

After a tough loss in Atlanta, the Bears were humiliated by the Bengals in Cincinnati last week. Jay Cutler has been particularly bad on the road. All 10 of his interceptions have come away from Chicago, and he has thrown five in the last two weeks.

If there was ever a team that needed an easy home win, it would be the 2009 Bears.

Just in the nick of time, the Cleveland Browns come to Chicago. The Bears need a win to stay in the NFC playoff picture. Granted, a win against Cleveland proves nothing, but it could provide the Bears a much-needed confidence boost.

Keep an eye on Matt Forte, who hasn’t run well all season. He should find some running lanes against one of the worst run defenses in the league.

Bears 34, Browns 13

Houston (-3.5) over Buffalo

At first, I was going to take the Bills. However, the Texans have recorded wins at Cincinnati and against the 49ers in the last two weeks and have won three of their last four overall. Matt Schaub may finally be developing into a franchise quarterback, and Steve Slaton could have a huge week against a porous Bills run defense.

Of course, the flip side to all those positives is why I lacked confidence in this pick. The Texans are maddeningly inconsistent, for starters.

The Bills have won two straight themselves, both on the road.

Also, Houston’s defense is not particularly good, so the Bills should be competitive and, with a turnover here and there, could win this game.

Still, I think the Texans are emerging as a quality team, and winning a third straight game in decisive fashion would make them 5-3 on the season and keep them in the mix for a playoff spot.

Texans 28, Bills 17

San Francisco (+12.5) over Indianapolis

It’s been a while since the Colts have been tested, and conventional wisdom would have us believe the 49ers, losers of three of their last four, are not capable of giving the Colts a game. After all, Big Bad Indianapolis is a near-two touchdown favorite.

I’m not afraid to go against the grain once in a while, though.

The 49ers started the season 3-0. They played the Vikings tough at Minnesota and lost a close contest. They were down 21-0 at Houston last week and clawed back into that game. They’re a respectable team vying for a playoff spot in the NFC. They’ve got a couple dynamic young playmakers in Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree.

I’m betting the 49ers make this game interesting, at least.

Colts 31, 49ers 24

NY Jets (-3) over Miami

Some teams present matchup difficulties, and the Miami Dolphins are a matchup problem for the Jets. They run the ball well, and without Kris Jenkins clogging the middle of the field, the Jets will likely struggle to stop the run. Additionally, the Dolphins do a good job stopping the run, and that is the Jets’ strength on offense.

Despite the matchups that favor the Dolphins, I’m taking the Jets. I think the Jets recognize they let a win slip through their fingers in Miami earlier in the season, and they’ll want to atone for that.

As much as I dislike picking a team based on how they might feel as opposed to how they might play, that’s exactly what I’m doing here. It’s gambling, right? I’m taking a chance, and I acknowledge that.

Jets 27, Dolphins 21

NY Giants (+1) over Philadelphia

I’m well aware the Giants have lost two straight, both to quality NFC opponents, and they’re on the road and playing yet another “quality” NFC opponent.

I’m still picking the Giants. It boils down to this: I don’t believe the Giants are capable of losing three straight games.

I think getting pushed around at home by the Cardinals left many of the players on the team embarrassed. I think the memory of losing to the Eagles at home in the playoffs remains fresh in the minds of the Giants. I think having the now-healthy Cowboys and Eagles nipping at the Giants’ heels in the NFC East will be motivation for the Giants to go into Philadelphia and win convincingly.

Here I go again, picking based on feelings instead of using statistics of fact. Well, how about these tidbits?

The point I made last week about the Giants not having beaten many quality teams rings true for the Eagles as well. They’ve beaten Kansas City, Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Washington. Big deal. The Eagles haven’t run the ball well all season and rely on big plays to win ballgames.

If the Giants can contain the likes of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Brian Westbrook, they’ll win. I’m betting on a disciplined tackling game by the Giants and a frustrated Eagles offense by game’s end.

Giants 24, Eagles 14

Dallas (-9.5) over Seattle

Last week, the Cowboys clicked offensively against the Atlanta Falcons. With their starting offensive players all healthy and contributing, Dallas looks formidable when they have the ball.

Seattle has some quality players on offense also, and I could see Matt Hasselbeck having a solid day, assuming he’s upright by day’s end. The Seahawks don’t run the ball well, though, and they’ll need to sustain some long drives to keep the Cowboys’ offense off the field. Can the Seahawks do that through the air almost exclusively? I don’t see it happening.

I’m expecting Dallas to top 30 points again, and Seattle can’t keep up with that.

Cowboys 34, Seahawks 17

St. Louis (+4) over Detroit

If the game pitting the two best teams in the league is called the Super Bowl, maybe this ought to be known as the Ugly Bowl.

Or the Toilet Bowl.

It needs a catchy name—otherwise no one will watch.

I know Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are likely back for the Lions this week, but this game is a toss-up, regardless.

The Lions are 1-22 in their last 23 games. The Rams are 2-21 in their last 23 games. Both teams make a lot of mistakes. Neither defense is any good, and neither offense has proven to be consistent. I like the Rams’ running game better and believe they may win based on the strength of it.

Who needs analysis when writing about the Toilet Bowl anyway?

Rams 28, Lions 27

Jacksonville (+3) over Tennessee

Here’s the Titans in a nutshell: Their coach wore a Peyton Manning jersey to an event recently in a poor attempt at humor, and the 86-year-old owner is making personnel decisions essentially, calling for Vince Young to start over Kerry Collins.

I never thought I’d say this, but the Titans are Team Turmoil.

Since losing to the Jaguars 37-17 a month ago, the Titans have lost twice more. The combined score in those games was 90-9.

Tennessee is trying to figure out what their 2010 season will look like; their fate for 2009 is sealed.

Meanwhile, there’s still something at stake for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not that they’ve played great football in the last month either. They lost 41-0 at Seattle and then scraped by the Rams in overtime, 23-20. It hasn’t been pretty, and they certainly haven’t been consistent, but the Jags are 3-3.

It’s absurd to me that the Jags are underdogs. As I wrote earlier, with wagers like these, it’s no wonder Vegas is losing money on the NFL this year.

Jaguars 24, Titans 20

San Diego (-16.5) over Oakland

Were it not for some late-game heroics from Philip Rivers and Darren Sproles, the Raiders would have already beaten San Diego this season.

Alas, the Chargers snuck out of Oakland with a close win, and the first chapter in a disastrous season was written by the Raiders.

San Diego comes into this game having flattened Kansas City last week, while the Raiders were steamrolled at home by the Jets. I expect both trends to continue.

The Chargers should have their way with the Raiders. The Raiders are ugly on offense and can’t stop the Chargers on defense. San Diego is trying to stay in the AFC playoff picture and could use a big win in front of their fans to ignite their fanbase. The motivation is there for the Chargers, and I’m betting the players will be, too.

Chargers 35, Raiders 7

Arizona (-10) over Carolina

I can’t believe it’s come to this. Arizona is a double-digit home favorite. This must be as rare as a Chicago Cubs World Series appearance.

And yet, it’s completely warranted. The Cardinals allow fewer than 70 rushing yards per game, and they’re fresh off a convincing 24-17 win over the Giants at the Meadowlands, traditionally the Cardinals’ own House of Horrors.

Meanwhile, the Panthers face the team that knocked them out of the playoffs and helped cause Jake Delhomme’s professional downward spiral. It’s entirely possible that Delhomme avenges his poor playoff performance and guides the Panthers to victory.

It’s much more likely, though, that Delhomme is forced into a slew of poor decisions that lead to turnovers, and the Cardinals roll to their fourth straight win.

Cardinals 31, Panthers 17

Green Bay (-3) over Minnesota

After this weekend, we’ll all have the answer to the question that’s been weighing on all our minds since the summer:

Did the Favres reserve enough hotel rooms for this game?

Kidding aside, this figures to be a big swing game in the NFC North. The Vikings are 6-1, while the Packers are 4-2. The Vikings have already beaten the Packers. If the Vikings beat them again, they essentially hold a three-game lead over the Packers in the North. If Green Bay wins, it keeps them in the race for the division.

Last week, faced with a tough opponent on the road in the Pittsburgh Steelers, Favre turned the ball over twice late in the game and deep in Steelers territory. Both turnovers were returned for touchdowns, sealing the Vikings’ fate.

Surely, Favre will want to atone for last week. Naturally, he’ll want to have a big game in front of Ted Thompson, the Packers’ GM.

But what about Aaron Rodgers? The media attention, both nationally and in Green Bay, has focused on Favre ever since he left. All Rodgers has done is develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback.

Hopefully, the game will live up to the hype surrounding it. I’m banking on a solid performance from Rodgers and more turnovers from Favre.

Packers 28, Vikings 24

Monday Night

New Orleans (-10) over Atlanta

The Saints have won all six of their games by 12 or more points. They average nearly 430 yards per game on offense, and they’re facing a Falcons defense that gives up nearly 370 yards a game.

The Falcons may be a playoff contender, but this game simply isn’t a good matchup for them. In most cases, Atlanta can engage their opponent in a shootout. The Saints’ defense is opportunistic, especially when they have a lead over another team, and I expect them to take an early lead and pull away.

Saints 37, Falcons 24


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