Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NFL Week 7 Picks: Unsatisfied

Are you unsatisfied by this NFL season yet? I have to confess, Dear Reader, that I am. A lot of this is going to seem like whinging over recent events -- a bad turn in the picks, a fantasy team that's fought all the way back to middling but probably won't contend for money, the real-life laundry going back to the .500 level despite exceptional talent, in a maddening pattern that has been their domain for years now -- but I think it's more than that, really. Only nine of 32 teams are above .500, and no team is winless. I used to think that that my Eagles were a special lesson in pain for their fans, but to be honest, they seem sadly ordinary as I look around the league - a handful of plays away from having a good or bad won-loss record. And we can forget the idea that a team builds during the year. The Super Bowl chances of Arizona and Houston are a lot lower today, and Atlanta's correction is coming. This season is 10 weeks of putting yourself into position without getting hurt, then six weeks of de facto playoffs to get into the real facto playoffs.

So what, as someone who is still on the plus side of the parley bet ledge, are we supposed to do with all of this? (Besides the intelligent thing of not betting on games anymore, or learning a lot more about the college game.) Well, get more comfortable with shaving the points to think that a team is going to win and not cover, that home field and short weeks and injuries matter a lot more than talent or scheme, and think harder about the dreaded "who needs it more" pick. After all, if everyone is going to be within hailing distance of .500, your picks should take that into account.

Oh, and one last thing: if there was ever a weaker 4pm slate of games than this round, I haven't seen it. You will be begging for the Jets to make it a game against the Pats, people, because the only other game in all of Christendom is Oakland hosting the Jaguars. If there ever was a bye week for your viewing, this is it...

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

SEATTLE at San Francisco (-7)

I'm already on the wrong side of business here, in that the opening line has dropped two points for the underdog, but there's still something in the way that the Niners lost last week that was unsettling. We're supposed to think that their run defense is for real, but as soon as the offense starts putting it on the ground -- as they are clearly due to do, given last year's happy luck on that account -- they give it up to a Giants' running game that hasn't looked this good in years. Against a Seahawks team that will be patient with RB Marshawn Lynch, and seems to be starting to open it up a bit more with QB Russell Wilson, I think they win... but not cover. And I really wish I had gotten the pick in at the opening number.

Niners 24, Seahawks 20

TENNESSEE at Buffalo (-3)

Two teams that feel much better about themselves after improbable wins last week. The Titans look better with QB Matt Hasselbeck under center, mostly because their WRs win enough battles that simple accuracy is preferred over extending the play with mobile but inaccurate QB Jake Locker. For the Bills, they've been getting home run play from their RBs, but the rest of the team still seems oddly unfinished to me, even though they are athletic. Look for Hasselbeck's smarts and the once a month good game from RB Chris Johnson to carry the day, and the Titans to benefit from the extra time off.

Titans 23, Bills 17

Cleveland at INDIANAPOLIS (-3)

This is what the 2012 NFL has come to. Instead of picking an emerging Colts team that will have home-field and a multi-game winning streak as a 7-point favorite over a winless team... you get to pick them as a 3-point who the hell knows move, coming off a thorough punking by the sideshow Jets. I'm still going to go here, especially with RB Trent Richardson banged up and QB Brandon Weeden in a road dome, and I like WR Reggie Wayne's chances to post a good number against overrated CB Joe Haden after folding last week against the Jets' Antoine Cromartie... but what was going to be a nice little ride with a secretly good team is just another up and down play.

Colts 27, Browns 20

GREEN BAY at St. Louis (+5.5)

There, Pack, was that so hard? All you needed to right the ship was an actually well-played game against the shockingly vulnerable Texans, who got away from the run early and got punked by QB Angry Aaron Rodgers, who threw for six scores last week and is (shh!) on his way to a 42 TD / 11 INT, 4,300 yards season, with another 500 on the ground. In other words, the best QB in the game, and here's his slate for the next 3 weeks: at St. Louis, then home for Jacksonville and Arizona. Oh, and second-year RB Alex Green gave them everything they were getting out of RB Cedric Benson, only with adequate pass-blocking and the potential to be more than a mule. So if the Pack hits the Week 10 bye at 6-3, with Rodgers bettering his pace, we'll really be able to forget the Monday Night Massacre? (No.)

As for the Rams, they've entered the Timeshare portion of the program with RB Stephen Jackson, who really deserved so much more out of his career than what the Rams have been able to give him. In this game, they'll get to Rodgers early on defense, but not score enough to take a big enough lead, then get left in the dust once they turn it over.

Packers 38, Rams 23

Arizona at MINNESOTA (-6)

Are you ready for the end of the John Skelton is a Winner myth? I know I am. To be fair to the Cardinals' inadequate backup QB, their inadequate frontline QB wasn't going to win this game either, not on the road, in a dome, and to a Vikings team that's due for the bounceback after last week's missed opportunity in DC. Look for the Vikings' D-line, a fading but still proud unit, to ring back the echoes for at least one week in this matchup.

Vikings 26, Cardinals 16

Washington at NY GIANTS (-6)

For an incredibly low confidence game, I know exactly how this one is going to go down. The Skins will take an early lead as the Giants do their usual We Fear Prosperity, Especially In 1PM Home Games, routine. Then the Giants' offense will find some measure of equilibrium, leading to the defense forcing a turnover. Eventually, Blue grinds out the clock and has DE Jason Pierre-Paul get to Skins' QB Robert Griffin The Legacy, and it's a Blue win. But I have no idea whether it will be by 4 or 7. The coin flip says... home team.

Giants 31, Redskins 24

NEW ORLEANS at Tampa Bay (+2.5)

A tough but necessary spot for the Saints, who still have a long way to go to get back to equilibrium after that 1-4 start... but the Bucs' pass defense is awful, and New Orleans is coming off a bye. They also historically struggle in Tampa, but I think they'll score enough to get past the Bucs.

Saints 31, Bucs 27

DALLAS at Carolina (+1)

Another moment where the line has moved significantly -- 1.5 points towards Dallas -- and while trusting this Cowboys' team in any kind of close game is a signed affidavit of a gambling problem, the stink in Carolina is just too great to ignore. This will be one of those games that pad QB Tony Romo's numbers enough to make his dwindling number of apologists more convinced that their man is being done wrong. And more tellingly, TE Jason Witten, the security blanket that actually makes this offense go (since, as has been proven over and over, you can't trust WR Dez Bryant), looks like his old self.

Cowboys 26, Panthers 20

BALTIMORE at Houston (-7)

Too big of a number, and too much of a correction; this line has moved 3 full points since opening on the Ravens' injury news. The problem with that logic is that the Houston defense is also banged up, and I'm expecting a short-lived Win For Ray (Lewis) movement to keep the Ravens afloat, at least until the secondary issues really take them down. Besides, Baltimore is on the bye after this, so I think HC Jim Harbaugh pulls out all of the stops, especially on offense. This will be the best game of the day.

Ravens 27, Texans 24

Jacksonville at OAKLAND (-4)

Just a feeling that RB Darren McFadden puts up one of those 150+ yard 2+ TDs kind of days against the Jags here, who do not travel well and have to be seriously worried about how little they are getting out of first round WR Justin Blackmon. In a game between what may be the two worst teams in the AFC (assuming, of course, that the Sideshow Jets don't make a run for the title later), and the only outlet for America if Jets-Pats is a blowout, give me the home team that nearly pulled off an upset in Atlanta last week.

Raiders 31, Jaguars 16

NY Jets at NEW ENGLAND (-10.5)

Love that the line came down from 13 on this one, in that it's taking even the suckout cover worry out of play for me. Both of these teams are 3-3, but that's where all similarities end. New England has a top-5 option at QB, a stable of reasonable RB options, the home crowd, and a coaching staff that's borderline legendary. New York has left and right-handed sideshows at QB, a single mudhorse RB, unproven and never-was WRs, and a defense that isn't nearly as good as they think they are, since they don't have a consistent pass rush or two lockdown corners. They can trick you a bit on offense and special teams and they tackle well, and if you don't get a lead, they can ugly it up with a running game... but not if the opponent puts points up early and often. That's what the Patriots will do. It's going to get ugly.

Patriots 34, Jets 10

PITTSBURGH at Cincinnati (+1)

How do you figure either of these teams? The Bengals could be seizing this division by the throat with the Ravens' injuries and Steelers' age, but keep coughing up highly winnable games with turnovers and weak defense. The Steelers look ancient and slow on defense, and sieve-like on the offensive line... but coaching, weapons and an experienced QB can go a long way, especially in a year where seemingly everyone in the AFC is a .500 team. So, coin flip, Pittsburgh, and if you think I'm going this way just to put Superstitious Yinzer Fan on tilt... well, bonus!

Steelers 24, Bengals 21

Detroit at CHICAGO (-5.5)

The Bears have led in most of their games this year for many reasons, not the least of which is that their defense starts hot, the offense has long drives, and the special teams are some of the best in the game. They don't always finish that way, given that the offense is turnover-prone and the defense can lose their edge... but when you combine that with the Lions' offensive tendencies to sleep through the first three quarters, I'm seeing Chicago carrying a lead into the end game. Which puts us in prime back door cover and suckout anger mode, and the line is right on the point of pain... but I'd rather be on the side of the team with the lead in such a situation.

Bears 27, Lions 21

Last week: 5-9

Year to date: 43-47-1

Career: 585-571-27

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