NFL Week 7 Pickoff
It's quite often assumed that by the midpoint of the season, week 8 for example, that we should have a pretty good picture as to which teams should be contending for the playoffs, and which teams, well, won't.
Well folks, it's week 7 and that only means one thing: time to step up and shine.
All hell seems to be breaking loose in Dallas after last week's loss to Favre and the also rather unimpressive Vikings, and you have to wonder if Jerry Jones is willing to put up with it any longer.
Pittsburgh and Baltimore are throttling anyone who dares challenge them, and the Buffalo Bills are still the Buffalo Bills.
So many surprises this season, so little time, right?
In such an unpredictable year that this season has turned out to be, it seems nearly impossible to presume anything. Well, not anything, right?
Let's try our luck.
Cincinnati at Atlanta
It's hard to know whether Atlanta fits into that "elite" category so many have placed them in. A rather stunning 31-17 loss to Philadelphia last week didn't quite make the least amount of sense, either.
Nevertheless, the Falcons are 4-2, and are still atop the NFC South. Matt Ryan puts up numbers week in and week out, and I don't see Atlanta slipping in any sort, so the Falcons should be just fine for now.
As for Cincinnati, well, I just don't get it.
With the league's 11th-ranked offense on hand, you'd think the Bengals should be 4-2, 3-3, right? I don't mean to disappoint, but the Bengals are 2-3, and aren't going anywhere fast.
Atlanta holds the league's 24th-ranked pass defense, so Carson Palmer should get some quality looks Sunday.
Although as much as I'd like to pick the Bengals, I just have a feeling with the Falcons at home.
Cincinnati 22, Atlanta 28
Washington at Chicago
A couple of possible playoff-bound teams? Maybe? Think again.
To Washington's credit, they played a solid game at home against the near-desperate Colts. But the inability of the Redskins to finish off teams they should beat, might come back to haunt them.
I honestly have no idea what Chicago is, and frankly don't care.
Chicago's defense is good when it's good, but then again, it's also bad when it's bad.
Don't expect a very concise game from either team, and look for Washington's NFL-worst defense to give up big plays when they least need them.
Chicago by a field-goal.
Washington 20, Chicago 23
St. Louis at Tampa Bay
That's exactly what defenses are saying nowadays to surprisingly productive rookie QB Sam Bradford, who, coming off of last week's shocker over the Chargers, now finds his team undefeated at home.
It's no surprise that Bradford has succeeded as much as he has, wait, what? Yes it is.
The Rams' defense has stepped up, allowing Steven Jackson to stay fresh when on offense. Jackson was the week six RB of the week, with 148 yards and a TD against the Chargers.
The Bucs aren't looking so good after being just embarrassed by the Saints on home-turf, and Josh Freeman doesn't look that impressive.
Add the fact that Tampa has the league's 26-ranked overall defense, and young Sam Bradford should have himself a day.
St. Louis 28, Tampa Bay 17
San Francisco at Carolina
What an ugly game to pick.
A win-less team against a team that just got their first win doesn't sound like my kind of game. Nevertheless, we must pick a winner.
Carolina is 0-5 and going nowhere, and Jimmy Clausen is only attracting pity from the rest of the league.
However the 49ers are now in the "win" column and look to ride the momentum over the league's 12th-ranked defense.
Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree should hook up a few times in this one.
San Fransisco 28, Carolina 12
Buffalo at Baltimore
I don't think Buffalo stand much of a chance, although that's what we all said when the undefeated Patriots took on the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
The numbers don't lie for the Ravens: the league's 3rd-best overall defense, complemented by a young and improving offense led by QB Joe Flacco.
Buffalo 10, Baltimore 27
Pittsburgh at Miami
Pittsburgh has been dubbed the "best overall" team by nearly all the experts.
What's not to love about Big Ben's return? It's a great storyline and may fit into a great playoff run for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh won handily against Colt McCoy and the Browns last week, so you'd think the Dolphins would be a no-problem type opponent, right? Well, yes.
Miami is grateful for their overtime win against the bruised Packers last week, improving them to 3-0 on the road this season.
The special teams of the Dolphins, however, is a problem. Too many mistakes lead to a close Steelers win on the road.
Pittsburgh 21, Miami 18
Philadelphia at Tennessee
To be plain, Tennessee's routing of the Jags Monday night didn't come as a surprise to the rest of the football world, other than Jacksonville folks, of course.
The Titans now find themselves in a three-way tie for 1st place in the AFC South at 4-2. If Chris Johnson can keep up his 2,000 yard promise he's proclaimed for himself, the Titans should be okay against Philadelphia's 22nd-ranked rushing defense.
Vince Young looked great Monday night before suffering the minor knee injury, and back-up Kerry Collins looks more than capable to carry the load this Sunday against Philly.
Meanwhile, the Michael Vick-less Eagles lead by QB Kevin Kolb won handily against the formerly NFC-best Atlanta Falcons 31-17. Hard game to evaluate.
I like Tennessee's chances at home.
Philadelphia 24, Tennessee 27
Jacksonville at Kansas City
Kansas City has yet to prove themselves in the clutch, although QB Mat Cassel is on fire. Throwing for 201 yards, and 3 TD in Sunday's loss to the Texans.
Jacksonville hasn't really won much other than at home against the Colts, and with a banged-up David Garrard possibly missing Sunday's match-up, the Jags have to be concerned.
Both of these teams are horendace against the pass, so look for both teams to throw for significant yardage.
Cheifs sneak away with the victory.
Jacksonville 17, Kansas City 20
Cleveland at New Orleans
Another game that's harder to evaluate than some might think.
Although New Orleans' gaining momentum courtesy of Tampa Bay's routing Sunday should give the Saints enough to win this one.
The Saints also have the league's 7th-best overall defensive squad, and the Browns have, well, Colt McCoy.
Although Colt McCoy showed signs of progress in last week's loss against the Steelers, the rookie could have a few potential problems against one of the better, faster defenses the NFL has to offer in the Saints.
Browns RB Peyton Hillis should get a boatload of carries as McCoy tries to settle into the Cleveland offense.
Cleveland 16, New Orleans 24
Arizona at Seattle
Seattle is one of the best in the business against the run this season, and Arizona's run-game isn't exactly in it's prime.
Then again, the Seahawks have lost some "gimme" games, and Arizona's up-start so far this season should play in as a factor come Sunday afternoon.
The Cardinals will again start un-drafted rookie QB Max Hall against the Seahawks -- a good move for the team and organization. Max Hall should be the future QB of this team.
If Hall can hook-up with Larry Fitzgerald enough times, expect a key road win for the Cardinals.
New England at San Diego
Stay classy, San Diego.
Well so much for that "classy" performance against the Rams.
The Chargers are all but impressing their critics this season, starting out win-less on the road, along with a 2-4 start. But panic hasn't quite reached the Chargers, at least for now.
The team with the league's best total offense, and #1-ranked defense is underachieving once again. Is Norv Turner's job really in jeopardy? Who knows. I sure don't.
Meanwhile, New England is showing us why they are a true gem offensively. If beating the Ravens at home isn't a statement, then I don't know what is.
Maybe it's just me, but the Chargers don't seem to have that spark that everyone seems to think they possess.
New England 24, San Diego 23
Oakland at Denver
Denver lost on a pass-interference call last week against the Jets, and now find themselves at a lowly 2-4 record.
Although I like Denver's chances against Oakland's lagging defense, the Raiders do in fact have the league's 8th-best pass defense. Kyle Orton and company will have to neutralize Oakland by incorporating the run numerous times.
Denver's altitude has also proved to be a factor to road-teams, so Denver has the immediate advantage.
Oakland's inconsistency and lack of talent at the play-making positions will ultimately cost them a chance at the AFC West title.
I like Denver's chances, in a close game.
Oakland 18, Denver 21
Minnesota at Green Bay
Oh boy, here we go again.
Its truly unfortunate that the Packers have lost nearly every key starter on their roster for at least one game now, and the tension between fantasy and reality is dangerously close to breaking for Green Bay.
However, Green Bay is still 3-3, tied for 2nd-best in the NFC. Aaron Rodgers will start again (although bruised), and WR Greg Jennings will have to embrace the fact that he is now the featured receiver now that TE Jermichael Finley is gone for nearly 9 weeks.
Favre and the Vikings are coming off a season-saving victory over Jerry's 'Boys, and look to continue their 10th-ranked defense dominance against the Packers.
Whoever limits mistakes and costly penalties will come out victorious Sunday night.
Minnesota 27, Green Bay 31
NY Giants at Dallas
"Monday night of fright", as Dallas fans would call it.
The Cowboys are on the edge of collapsing and missing the playoffs all together, and the Giants will only add to that fire.
Being in Dallas will give the Cowboys the initial edge, but Eli Manning and Hakeem Nix will hookup one-to-many times for Dallas to handle Monday night.
The Cowboys are amongst NFL leaders in nearly every statistical category, but still find themselves sitting at 1-4, and possibly 1-5 after Monday night.
Its a shame how Tony Romo hasn't quite hooked up with WR Miles Austin as much as we all anticipated, but Roy E. Williams has definitely stepped up in place of the lacking production from Austin.
Sorry Dallas, this just wasn't your year.
NY Giants 31, Dallas 30