We got back on track in Week Seven with three picks and three easy wins. The Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and Indianapolis Colts combined to win 108-16 last week over the Cleveland Browns,Tampa Bay Bucs, and St. Louis Rams.
Other sharp picks noted in my survivor pool included the San Diego Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles, although really, the Eagles didn't look exceptionally well beyond two huge plays by wideout DeSean Jackson. That was more than enough, because the Washington Redskins, as expected, continued to look down right awful on offense.
All in all, that was one of the easier weeks you could ask for in terms of survivor pool picking, which reinforces the prevailing trend of the 2009 NFL season; there are a lot of bad teams. Terrible teams, in fact. What happened to good old NFL parity?
Well, this week could bring it back to the forefront. From the group of teams we typically like to "pick on" for survivor pools, the Bucs, Kansas City Chiefs, and Redskins are all on a bye and the Rams and Detroit Lions play each other. The Browns are facing a team that just got completely walloped last week. The Raiders are playing the Chargers, so we'll kick off Week Eight with that one.
San Diego Chargers over Oakland Raiders (notes, stats )
I admit I actually thought the Chargers-Chiefs game last week was going to be somewhat close. The Chargers have not overly impressed me this season with the combination of terrible run defense since losing NT Jamal Williams for the season and uncharacteristic poor running game of their own.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs had started to show some life, hanging with Dallas to the end and winning at Washington in recent weeks. This was a division game and one that, statistically, the Chiefs were not that far off the mark from the Chargers heading into it.
The end result: Chargers win 37-7.
Also going back to last week, the Raiders were a somewhat tempting pick to upset the Jets. They had just beat the Eagles at home, holding them to a measly nine points. Was it a sign the defense turned a corner? The Jets were coming off a bad loss to the Bills in which they could do nothing right. Quarterback Mark Sanchez was a turnover machine, the team committed over a dozen penalties, and they lost DT Kris Jenkins for the season.
The end result? Jets win 38-0. Or shall I say for the purpose of this write-up, Raiders lose 0-38.
Let's not get too caught up in the lopsidedness of those respective scores, but in the grand scheme of things, we just know the Raiders are a bad team. We may not be able to entirely explain how they managed to beat the Eagles, but we do know they beat them badly.
As for the Chargers, they have some very good players, but I'm not ready to call them a very good team yet. Maybe just plain good and perhaps more aptly described as better than average. It is not like they aren't capable of throwing up some stinkers now and again, but when your run defense and running game are problem spots, it will happen.
Looking at their season, however, the Chargers have really only lost to good teams - the Baltimore Ravens in Week Two, the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week Four, and the Denver Broncos in Week Six. I think it is the every other week nature of their season that really gives the impression that the Chargers haven't gotten on track.
This is a rematch with the Raiders and the Chargers only narrowly escaped in Week One, 24-20, thanks to an efficient running game by the Raiders. Since that time, QB JaMarcus Russell appears to be regressing, getting benched last week after a 6-for-11, 61-yard, two interceptions, and a fumble performance.
The Raiders running game is now headed up by RB Justin Fargas with Darren McFadden still out and Michael Bush not living up to high (maybe that was just me) expectations. Fargas is a decent spot player, but the trickle down effect of having poor QB play and poor receiving options is limiting the running game for the Raiders.
Twenty is the most points the Raiders have scored all season, so to expect them to duplicate it or top it is a stretch.
Even when the running game does not do well, like most of the season, this Chargers offense is still finding the end zone. QB Philip Rivers has racked up over 250 yards every game and completed 60 percent of his passes each of the last two weeks, with no interceptions in four games.
Rivers has a good receiving core in Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, and in particular Vincent Jackson, who is working his way from being very good to entering the great category, with three 100-plus-yard receiving games and a TD in four games. Even though the Raiders have a solid secondary, with a little pressure on Rivers and a multitude of options, the Chargers offense will keep on churning.
This might even be a bit of a renaissance game for RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who has looked better the past two weeks, although he still hasn't broken a long one yet. The Jets put up 265 yards rushing last week between Thomas Jones and rookie Shonn Greene.
The Chargers have never scored less than 20 and I don't expect that to change this week; they should be on tap for 28 or more.
Pick the Chargers for the win here, which will then represent their 13th straight win over the Raiders, dating back to December 2003.
Chicago Bears over Cleveland Browns (notes, stats )
The Browns got manhandled last week, but who can really blame them with over a third of their players out, due mostly to the flu. No flu this week, but does it change anything?
The Bears were on the wrong end of a vendetta by ex-Bear and now Bengal, Cedric Benson, who crashed into and ran over his former teammates to the tune of 189 yards. The five TD passes by Carson Palmer didn't help, either, as the Bears lost 45-10. Jay Cutler tossed three INTs and Matt Forte continued to struggle.
How much confidence can we really have in backing the Bears this week? Well, it is the Browns. Assuming the Bears still have visions of competing for a playoff spot and at 3-3, it is hard to imagine they don't. This is a game the Bears need to win.
Quarterback Derek Anderson continues to start for the Browns even though he is less than deserving. There is some speculation that the Browns are keeping Brady Quinn on the bench to prevent paying him his big bonus. Head coach Eric Mangini disputes that, of course, but the theory appears reasonable. Anderson's completed less than 50 percent of his passes in each of his last three starts, and has thrown for a grand total of 244 yards in those games. A small consolation is that he has kept his INT numbers down to only one per game.
The Browns best opportunity to control this game lands on the shoulders of RB Jamal Lewis, but he does appear to be slowing down with only 15 or fewer carries in four of five games played this year and a 3.4 yards per carry average. Lewis won't be able to accomplish what a younger and highly-motivated Benson did to the Bears last week.
The Browns have scored 20 points twice this season and under 10 four times. The Bears defense is average, but enough to hold the Browns under 20.
Taking a look at the Bears offense, Cutler is in a word, erratic. He had a nice stretch of games from Weeks Two to Four, throwing seven TDs versus only one INT. In the other three games, including the last two, four TDs against nine INTs. Ouch.
Interestingly enough, the three games with the big INT numbers were all on the road. Or was it because they were playing against better teams, perhaps? It doesn't matter, because the Browns are a bad road team and they will be traveling to Chicago for this one.
Forte has a nice opportunity to boost his numbers this week, which are way off from his rookie season. I'm not that confident he will, but the Packers' Ryan Grant had his best outing of the season last week against the Browns.
Even with the up and down Bears, over 20 points should be possible. You can tell I'm not as confident in the Bears as the Chargers, which is why I dropped the Bears down to the second-ranked pick spot.
As with most Browns games, as long as returner Josh Cribbs is kept under control, then the Browns are going to have an extremely hard time winning a game; back the Bears for the win.
Arizona Cardinals over Carolina Panthers (notes, stats )
This third choice was a tough one this week. I considered the Colts over the San Fransico 49ers, The New Orleans Saints over the Atlanta Falcons, and even the Dallas Cowboys over the Seattle Seahawks, but finally settled on this game.
I'm not that keen on backing the Cardinals after coming off a big victory over the New York Giants on Monday Night Football , because they still could be suffering a bit of a hangover from that game, but it is true what the commentators said; that coach Ken Whisenhunt has changed the culture in Arizona. Formerly a team without much confidence to go on the road and get a big win, they did just that at Giants Stadium and were impressive in doing so.
The Panthers lost to the Bills. Another improbable win for the Bills in which their opponent did a lot more wrong than the Bills did right. Just when it looked like the Panthers might be starting to get their act together, with back-to-back wins over the Bucs and Redskins, they fell back down last week.
One safety and one TD in the fourth quarter accounted for all of their scoring. QB Jake Delhomme threw three INTs, but hey, at least he finally got WR Steve Smith involved with six catches for 99 yards. Panther head coach John Fox has already stated Delhomme will continue to be the starter, which at this point is a bit of an indictment on backup Matt Moore. How bad is Moore that they won't even trot him out there for a try?
At any rate, the Panthers' ability to score goes through their running game, which hasn't been all that this season except for a couple of flashes. One of the Cardinals' strengths now is their run defense. They did pretty well against the Giants, although one could argue the Giants got away from the run earlier than they should have.
With the exception of Brandon Jacobs last week, the Cards have held every rusher they've faced to less than 70 yards. That doesn't bode well for RB DeAngelo Williams. And of course, if the running game doesn't click and the Panthers are forced to rely on Delhomme, then the Cards opportunistic secondary could be in for a good day. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is practicing this week, but still a bit questionable with an ankle injury.
As for the Cardinals offense, we know what it is capable of doing in the passing game. I was really impressed with rookie Chris Wells last week. He looked big and powerful knocking back Giant defenders on his way to 67 yards on 14 carries and a TD.
Wells will continue to back up Tim Hightower due to ball security issues. Heck, both are prone to fumbling, but if Wells can get that taken care of, he'll be an excellent player in this league. That won't happen this week, but Wells has earned more carries. The Panthers have a below average run defense, so I would expect another solid day from Wells (assuming no fumbles).
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin is a question mark, as he was clearly hobbling in the Giants game. Even if he doesn't go, Steve Breaston filled in admirably, as he did last week, and of course Larry Fitzgerald remains QB Kurt Warner's top target. Fitzgerald didn't even have a good game last week, including a couple of slips and falls, and a drop on a long pass out of the wildcat formation from Antrel Rolle. You won't see a drop like that from him very often.
Like I said, I am a little sketchy on backing the Cardinals in this game, but they are at home, have been playing well, and statistically outmatch the Panthers on offense and defense.
The last time these teams faced off against each other was last year's divisional playoff, in which Delhomme threw five INTs. Even if Wells/Hightower put the ball on the turf a couple times (hope not), Delhomme is a good bet to outdo them on the turnover front.
I'll take the Cardinals for the win.
Mike MacGregor created the Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy fantasy football and fantasy baseball draft tools, plus he developed various features and sports pools found at FFToday.com and MyOfficePool.ca. Mike owns and operates MyOfficePool.ca .