Lines are taken from the ESPN Pig Skin Pick ‘Em Game and my pick is in BOLD.
Last Week 5-8
Sunday 1:00 PM EST
Colts @ Titans -9.5
This is mostly about my doubt that the Titans can score enough points to beat the Colts by ten points. The Titans have given up almost 400 yards rushing the last two weeks. The Titans’ defense has looked a shell of the strong aggressive unit they looked to be early in the season. The Colts know this and will run the ball a lot. Neither of the two quarterbacks has played well of late, and I expect the pace of this game to drag. The Colts still have elite pass rushers in Freeney and Mathis and they will give them an edge against the Titans inept offense.
Saints @ Rams +10.5
One week after dropping 62 on one winless team, the face another team yet to win a game. The Saints are first in the league in scoring with 34.1 points per game and the Rams are last in the same category averaging just 9.3 points through six games. I’m not great at math, but I’m pretty sure 34 minus 9 is a lot more than 10.5.
Dolphins @ Giants -9.5
I don’t trust Eli Manning giving a lot of points at home. Those of you who read my Week 5 column know I picked the Seahawks on the road against the Giants (http://daodesam.blogspot.com/2011/10/week-five-nfl-picks.html) and the Giants lost in a shoot-out to a quarterback combination of Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. The Giants might do enough to win, but I’ll doubt that Eli makes it easy on them. The Dolphins for all their failings have a great pass rusher in Cameron Wake and are willing to run the ball. If they can pressure Eli into mistakes and take advantage of the Giants’ 27th ranked run defense, the Dolphins will have a chance to get their first win.
Vikings @ Panthers -3.5
The Vikings looked downright spunky last week against the Packers and rookie Christian Ponder looks to be an upgrade over Donovan McNabb so far, not that that is saying much. But, they still have problems. Their pass defense has been in shambles since they lost cornerbacks Antoine Whitfield to injury and Chris Cook to the police. Last week, they allowed Aaron Rodgers to complete 24 of 25 passes not including ones dropped, thrown away, or spiked. The other problem is opposing quarterback Cam Newton. I’ve had my eye on him from the start of the season, but I never had a closer look than last Sunday when he shredded a good Redskins defense for big play after big play. Expect more of the same and for Cam to lead Carolina into the bye week on a win streak.
Cardinals @ Ravens -12.5
Call me crazy, but I don’t trust Joe Flacco right now to cover that many points. I know the Ravens are mad coming off their Monday night loss and that the Cardinals are traveling west to east for an early game, but the Ravens have real problems on offense. Arizona does a decent job of stopping the run, holding the Steelers to just 3.3 yards per carry last week, and the Ravens will have to throw to get their points and I don’t see Flacco being able to do that. It’s always possible their defense kicks in a touchdown or two to help out and they win in a laugher, but there’s a better chance that they don’t.
Jaguars @ Texans -9.5
This is another game where I think the home team is giving too many points. After watching Jacksonville’s defense shut down the Ravens in front of the whole country Monday night, I can’t imagine the Texans will do much better. The Jaguars have allowed just one one hundred yard rusher against them all year (Rashard Mendenhall) and their pass defense is even better statistically. They have given up big plays at bad times and their especial weakness to opposing the tight ends does favor Matt Schaub and crew. I expect a hard fought divisional game that will come down to the final moments before decided.
Sunday 4:05 PM EST
Redskins vs. Bills -5.5 in Toronto
This isn’t a true home game as both teams will invade foreign soil for this one. The Bills are 0-3 in their journeys north since Toronto began hosting them. The Bills’ first problem is that this is a home field point spread and this is not a true home game. At least not compared to their normal advantage they enjoy. They are 3-0 at home this year with wins over the Patriots, Eagles and Raiders. Their second problem is that they are coming off a bye. Usually this is a good thing, but this year, perhaps to new rules essentially banning practice during the off week, it has been a disadvantage. Teams coming off their bye are 3-9 straight up and 4-7-1 against the spread so far this year. Their third problem is the Redskins’ defense isn’t as bad as Mike Vick and Cam Newton made them look the past two weeks. They have the ability to stop the run and pressure Ryan Fitzpatrick. Add all this up and you have the Redskins getting a big win and all of us diehards holding on to hope for at least one more week.
Lions @ Broncos +3.5
The explosion of Lions hype early in the season seems like a distant memory after two straight losses. The air seems to have been let out of this team and injuries are starting to plague them. With Denver rallying around Tim “The Chosen One” Tebow, this looks like a prime candidate for an upset, right? I think the Lions realize they need to remind everybody that they are a good team. Tebow looked below average until his late game heroics, which were admittedly impressive, but I think he will find Suh&Co much less forgiving. The Lions pull together and get a much needed win going into a much needed bye week. They need that time to get healthy and used to the idea that they are a contender.
Sunday 4:15 PM EST
Bengals @ Seahawks +2.5
I think these teams are very similar. They both have very good defenses and play very conservatively n offense, running the ball often, if not particularly effectively. In such a scenario, I’ll take the home team. Especially so in this case because the Seahawks have enjoyed one of the best home field advantages in the league in recent years. In two home games so far this year, the Seahawks beat the Cardinals and lost by two to the Falcons. Coming into a place like Seattle and facing a tough defense and a deafening crowd is a nightmare for a rookie quarterback like Andy Dalton.
Browns @ 49ers -9.5
The Browns have scored 20 points only once this year while the 49ers seem to be getting better by the week. The 49ers have been popular NFC West champion picks for years now and their superior talent was always apparent. Jim Harbaugh seems to be the coach to finally get them playing to their potential. This would seem on the surface to be a possible trap game, but the 49ers have crazy momentum and a defense that will feast on Colt McCoy and the Browns’ feeble offense.
Patriots @ Steelers +2.5
Let’s get this out of the way first: Tom Brady is 6-1 lifetime against the Steelers and 4-1 at Heinz Field. For all intents and purposes, Tom owns them. This is reflected in the fact that the Steelers are underdogs at home which rarely happens. These Steelers and Patriots teams are different from the usual though. Pittsburgh makes its living on the deep ball and the Patriots have struggled against offenses that can throw the ball all year. New England is dead last in the league against the pass. The Steelers on the other hand, have the 2nd ranked defense against the pass and match up well against the firepower of the Pats. I think the Steelers are the better team right now and that they will get a meaningful win at home Sunday.
Sunday 8:20 PM EST
Cowboys @ Eagles -3.5
Two teams oozing with talent and a myriad of cruel ways to blow games and torture their fans meet as the NFC East looks on waiting for someone to step forward and claim her maidenhood. The Cowboys have the league’s top ranked run defense, but I don’t expect that to mean they will shut down the Eagles. When the Redskins and Eagles met, the Redskins were ranked in the top 5 against the run, but it meant little against the speed and versatility of Vick and Lesean McCoy. The Cowboys similarly run a 3-4 defense that relies heavily on play making outside linebackers. Vick will spread out the field and run wild on the ‘Boys, keeping the Eagles’ aspirations alive and the NFC East still longing for a worthy suitor.
Monday 8:30 PM EST
Chargers @ Chiefs +3.5
The Chiefs’ season turned around in San Diego Week 3. After suffering the loss of their two best players and losing by an average of over 40 points per game the first two weeks, their season’s outlook appeared bleak. That Sunday, they came together and played a much improved game despite still losing by three points. Since then they have rolled off three straight wins to climb back to .500. Phillip Rivers has not looked himself so far this year as he has thrown a very un-Rivers 7 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. Facing a Chiefs pass defense coming off a 6 pick game against Oakland, playing in Arrowhead, one of the only other true home fields left in the league, I like Kansas City.