Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NFL Week 7: All In For Sin

There's an old saying about poker: look at the table and find the sucker. If you don't see one, it's you. But the happy little reverse of that is that it only takes one idiot to double you up.

Two months ago, the Bengals were clearly the biggest idiots at the table. Sitting on an asset in malcontent QB Carson Palmer, they refused to move him as the QB threatened retirement, choosing instead to put their faith in a rookie QB, throwing to young WRs, with a plodding RB. In a division with traditional powerhouses, it looked like Same Old Bengals and 4-12 or worse.

But then the all-in with 7-3 offsuit flopped trip sevens, with Andy Dalton and AJ Green looking like rookie of the year candidates. And today, the Raiders paid them off when a fourth seven hit the turn by shipping a first round pick and another conditional high pick (a #1 if Palmer gets them to a championship game, like that's going to happen) for the right to employ the one-time Heisman winner and USC TAInt machine.

It's as if they haven't watched film for the past five years, really. Palmer's not mobile, doesn't make terribly good decisions anymore, doesn't really have the arm strength, and can't have that much fire left, seeing how he was willing to walk away from the game rather than play in Cincy. In Oakland, he'll have a honeymoon of about a quarter, maybe two, and have to start right away. At least he gets an easy matchup, so it will all seem OK for now.

And maybe later, too. After all, it's not as if the Bengals never blow picks, and aren't still at the table.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Seattle at CLEVELAND (-3)

Are the Seahawks able to come up with two surprising road wins in the early going? Not without QB Tarvaris Jackson, they aren't, and it's kind of hard to imagine that sentence ever being said in English before. Cleveland's been disappointing, with RB Peyton Hillis looking like the latest Madden Curse victim and QB Colt McCoy having real issues in stretching the field, but they'll have enough to get past this team. Besides, the Browns now have film to show them that Seattle can actually win on the road now; they won't sleep on them the way the Giants did.

Browns 24, Seahawks 16

Atlanta at DETROIT (-3.5)

Adversity Check Time for the Lions, who lost last week at home to the surprising Niners, and now have to host the talented but troubled Falcons. In the NFC North, with the defending Super Bowl champion Packers, losing just isn't something you can afford, and the Lions' upcoming schedule starts to grow real teeth right about now. Matt Ryan's good in domes, but the Lions' defensive line is going to get him early and often.

Lions 27, Falcons 20

HOUSTON at Tennessee (-3)

A funny thing happened on the way to the Texans' easy AFC South win as the Colts became the front runners in Suck For Luck; the Titans struck blue snow with Matt Hasselbeck and managed to stay over .500, which is the high-water mark for the Texans, after all. They can blame injuries, of course, on WR Andre Johnson, RB Arian Foster and DE Mario Williams, but it's the NFL: injuries happen. And speaking of injuries, WR Kenny Britt remains done, which isn't going to help the Titans at all this week. At some point, don't the Texans have to actually come through and win one of these statement games?

Texans 24, Titans 17

DENVER at Miami (-2)

The Tim Tebow Era begins against a Dolphins team that's winless, employs the hapless trainwreck that is ex-WR Brandon Marshall, and will have to turn it around after a short week and retread QB Matt Moore. The Fish also don't rush the QB at all well, which might actually help them, since it meas Tebow is going to be tempted to actually stand in the pocket and make throws. But give this to God's Own QB: he does tend to win games, especially in the state of Florida.

Denver 19, Dolphins 16

SAN DIEGO at NY Jets (+2)

Short week and home game against a team that's on the road but also off the bye. The Chargers are in the same state of limbo as fantasy owners with TE Antonio Gates, and their special teams are a massive worry against the Jets; add in early season vengeance for RB LaDanian Tomlinson, and there are lots of reasons to like the home team in a pretty fascinating matchup of very flawed teams. But this Jets' team is just way too prone to taking 1-2 quarters off on offense, and QB Philip Rivers has enough weapons to avoid CB Darrelle Revis and still move the chains.

Chargers 27, Jets 24

CHICAGO at Tampa Bay (+1)

Can you figure these Bucs out? I can't. 45 point losers to the Niners, then a home win that was downright convincing against the Saints, with loads of turnovers and a solid running game from retread Earnest Graham. Meanwhile, the Bears went from getting punked by the Lions to ending Donovan McNabb's starting NFL career. It's the very definition of a toss up, and when things are like that, I'll take the team with the better RB (Matt Forte) and the wildcard that is PR / KR / WR / Highlight Reel Devin Hester.

Bears 23, Bucs 20

Washington at CAROLINA (-3)

Wow, that Redkins feel-good year ended pretty fast, didn't it? After three quarters against the previously turnover-free Eagles secondary, Rex Grossman had reminded everyone that he was still Rex Grossman, and the vaunted Redskins' running game had been totally forgotten. On the road in NC, they'll struggle with either of their terrible signal callers, have the dubious benefit of some of their unbelieving fans, and feel the distinct displeasure of losing to a team that's not going to have a QB controversy for the next 10 to 15 years. It's also telling that the Skins' run defense got taken to the woodshed last week...

Panthers 31, Redskins 16

Kansas City at OAKLAND (-4)

We discussed this in the lede, but give the Raiders their due; they are about to enjoy a 3-week renaissance of relevance, with actual ticket sales and overconfidence. (Yes, they have a bye next week. But still.) I'm not prepared for the Bay Area to be relevant in football again, and they won't be when actual playoff games happen, but against weak teams and at home, it's going to seem like the gamble worked. It's also nice that Darren McFadden's fantasy relevance isn't going to go down the drain from the move.

And also, a final note... how crappy is Jason Campbell's life, really? A week ago you were a starting QB with a team that looked ready to extend your contract, with emerging weapons and a weak division. One play later, your collarbone is broken, your team has moved on by paying a king's ransom, and you might have started your last game in the league, since it's not as if the league was completely sold on your talents before. Oh, and yo spent the first half dozen years of your career getting passed from coordinator to coordinator like a foster child. I get that this isn't a major talent here, and that no one will remember him five years from now, but he could have been something.

Raiders 27, Chiefs 17

Pittsburgh at ARIZONA (+4)

It's the Steelers' annual West Coast road trip of pain, where a third of the crowd is wearing the colors and they don't look at all like themselves. The last time that WR Larry Fitzgerald faced this team, he nearly kept them from winning a Super Bowl, and he could easily go for numbers here against a Steeler defense that's banged up and aging. The Cardinals are also coming off a bye, which is going to help. Add it all up, and it's a Cardinals cover, if not an outright win -- and the only thing keeping me from saying win is that I think the Steelers are too well-coached, and the Cards aren't good in the red zone. But it's going to be a very near thing.

Steelers 28, Cardinals 27

ST. LOUIS at Dallas (-13)

Just too big of a number for a Rams team that can run the ball, against a Dallas team that settles for field goals way too easily. I also like the Rams to get garbage time yards and points with shiny new toy WR Brandon Lloyd, who is playing for a contract and will make some plays.

Cowboys 26, Rams 20

GREEN BAY at Minnesota (+9)

One of these games, the Packers are going to just sleep for a few quarters and miss a cover. The offensive line isn't that airtight, every QB has an off day in them, and the ball can bounce wrong. This week, with rookie QB Christian Ponder making plays and Viking Fan giving full voice to their historic hate.... isn't the week. If you want to cover the spread against this Packers team, you do it by keeping things low-key, looking non-threatening, and not being a historic rival. Oh, and having a QB that avoids turnovers would also help.

Packers 31, Vikings 20

INDIANAPOLIS at New Orleans (-14)

I'm probably underestimating the anger that the Saints are going to feel for last week's loss in Tampa, and feeling too kindly about QB Curtis Painter's ability to move the sticks when down, but these SNF games tend to stay tighter than expected, too. So give me the Colts for the late suckout cover. And just how much is NBC hating the fact that they don't get flex games until late in the year?

Saints 30, Colts 20

BALTIMORE at Jacksonville (+8)

How weird is this NFL season? Jacksonville is going to be in prime time several times in the next few weeks. They just resigned WR Mike Sims-Walker, who they bounced in the off-season, and who wasn't good enough to stick with the Rams. No, seriously, the Rams. And they are about to get slapped all over the yard by the Ravens, who live for prime-time beatdowns of mediocre teams.

Ravens 27, Jaguars 16

Last week: 6-6-1

Year to date: 49-37-3

Career: 456-442-19

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