Thursday, October 17, 2013

NFL Week 7 Picks: Down, Down, Down

I don't have enough time this week for, well, anything. Work is in Q4 crush, I'm scrambling to get prepared for Saturday's NBA fantasy auction (seriously, the best sport for fantasy, for reasons that you don't care about), and there just aren't enough hours in the day. Any day. Hit me back on Saturday night and maybe I'll have some coherence to my thoughts; for now, we're just going to keep doing what we've always done and expect better results. What the hell, it seems to be working for Andy Reid now. Play me out, Tom...

And with that... on to the picks!

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SEATTLE (-6) at Arizona

Terrible Night Football? Sure, I'll bite. Carson Palmer isn't long for an NFL starting job, Seattle's secondary is ready for a quasi prime-time star turn, the Seahawks are getting closer and closer to having actual WRs and OL, and all the while, QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch give them the best rushing attack in the NFL. On the road in the desert, I like the Hawks to soar in their own time zone, and the Arizona offense to give their defense too many short fields to cover.

Seahawks 31, Cardinals 17

TAMPA BAY (+7) at Atlanta

The winless Bucs visit the near-winless Falcons in the game that defines why the NFC South has become the Saints to plunder. Tampa looks DOA now under coach Greg Schiano, but the Falcons are suddenly down to, well, no quality WRs and back-ups at the RB as well. It's more than a little shocking to see how a team that seemed to be doing everything the right way is just falling to dust, and that's without a QB going all Delhomme on them. Anyway, I like the road cover here with WR Vincent Jackson doing yeoman work, and RB Doug Martin converting in the red zone. QB Matt Ryan gets the home team a late win, though.

Falcons 27, Bucs 24

CINCINNATI (+2.5) at Detroit

If I'm serious about the Bengals being a top team in the AFC -- and I'm not ready to give that up -- I have to go for them covering a road dome game against the startlingly resurgent Lions. What's making me feel better about the pick is the rising tide of RB Giovanni Bernard, the continuing competence of RB Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, and the fact that both of those guys mean that QB Andy Dalton doesn't have to do everything by himself.

Bengals 23, Lions 17

Buffalo at MIAMI (-8)

Miami's coming off the bye, has home field, and will be facing a Buffalo team that's running through QBs like Spinal Tap runs through drummers. On pure talent, there's no way you can float this big of a number, but if the Dolphins ever let Dion Jordan take the field (lowest number of snaps for any non-injured first rounder, despite good pass rushing numbers), maybe they actually start doing some things on defense. Especially against a Matt Flynn tempo offense. Ye gads.

Dolphins 26, Bills 17

NEW ENGLAND (-3.5) at NY Jets

Man alive, this is the most vampiric Patriot team yet. Trailing to the previously unbeaten Saints at home, QB Tom Brady benefits from the uncalled hold of the week to thread the needle for a last-second strike, win and cover, and you could almost feel the relief cascading from the national media. What if New England wasn't around to feed you the same story you've been writing for the better part of a decade? Why, you might have to notice that without Convict Hernandez or Hurt Gronkowski, this is a team bereft of game-changing skill players tied to a QB that's going to get a sports hernia from carrying so many guys. But since they righted the ship, and the Jets took on bilge water in turning back into turnover machines in last week's Steeler loss, this line is close. The game, not so much. Mostly because the Pats finally have a defense.

Patriots 24, Jets 13

DALLAS (+2.5) at Philadelphia

It's been over one calendar year since the home crowd at Lincoln Financial left with a win they approved of in the regular season. Dallas comes in more than a little beat up, with RB DeMarco Murray and LB DeMarcus Ware both prone to miss. The Eagles might have their most effective offense on board in this one, since QB Michael Vick is still nursing the hamstring and QB Nick Foles is at near-historic levels of INT-avoidance this far into his NFL career. All signs, really, point to the home team putting it all together and making a statement game against a defense that Denver tore apart. And hey, so long as we're dreaming, they could easily rattle off wins in 3 of their next 4 before the bye (NY Giants, @ Oakland, @ Green Bay and Washington), which would set them up at 7-4 and in the possible position to put up enough wins to make that end of season game in Dallas to be something more than the 8-8 play-in game that the NFC East deserves. (They also have a much easier schedule than Dallas going down the stretch, since they don't get the Saints and do get the Cardinals. Oh, the benefits of last place.)

Except for, well, this little realityt. QB Tony Romo is, for all of his quirks, a quality NFL starter, and the Eagles don't rush the passer or cover secondary WRs enough to stop drives by quality NFL starters. WR Dez Bryant is a beast, and WR2 Terrance Williams might be an upgrade on the increasingly spent and injured Miles Austin. On the other side of the ball, this is really shaping up to be the week Foles makes a few mistakes, against an offense that will have absolutely no issues cashing them in. (Seriously, the over/under on passing yards in this game should be 800.) But if I'm wrong, I promise not to complain.

Cowboys 41, Eagles 31

CHICAGO (Pick 'em) at Washington

I can't take this one quick enough. Chicago has extra rest, better weapons on offense, and a coaching staff that isn't playing on reputation; if the defense was healthy, I'd look for this to be a stone-cold beatdown. Washington has a 1-4 record for cause, a slowly recovering QB that can't overcome his line or weapons, and a defense that's giving up +28 points a game despite RB Alfred Morris doing his level best to take the air out of the clock. I look for the road team to deepen the misery at FedEx Field, and Washington to pick up its 5th conference loss of the year. Oh, and next week, they go to Denver. Nice 2013, DC.

Bears 34, Washington 20

St. Louis at CAROLINA (-6)

A big number for what appears to be equivalent erratic teams, but the Panthers get this game at home and on grass, against a Rams defense that only seems to play well under glass. Because Panther QB Cam Newton can skulk on the field and in the locker room, and no journo wants to just lay siege to the blunder-headed HC Ron Rivera, the Panthers don't get their due as an emerging smash mouth defense. In this game, that blown perception is going to get kicked to the curb. Until they play a team that's actually good again...

Panthers 26, Rams 17

SAN DIEGO (-9) at Jacksonville

There's the sense that the Jaguars are bouncing back from the nadir, since they only got beaten in Denver, rather than embarrassed. The Chargers are also more than capable of traveling across the country and leaving their game behind, especially at 10am PST. But this is the same team that lost a can't have that game against the Raiders two weeks ago, and there's only so many times that you can have much better players and lose anyway. Besides, they showed us all a little something in the run game last week, and I'm not prepared to call the Jag run defense good just yet.

Chargers 27, Jaguars 16

SAN FRANCISCO (-4) at Tennessee

Not in love with the Niners, but can't see how they have all that much trouble with the middling Titans, who don't get good enough play from the QB position when their starter is in there, let alone the back up. But unless and until WR Michael Crabtree returns from injury or this team makes a move (hello, Hakeem Nicks?), the Niners are a few cylinders short of dangerous.

Niners 20, Titans 14

CLEVELAND (+11.5) at Green Bay

QB Aaron Rodgers may be down two starting WRs (Randall Cobb and James Jones) in this one, which means a steady diet of the running game and TE Jermichael Finley pretending to be a wideout, and his fantasy owners pretending that he doesn't always let them down in spots like this one. The Browns actually have much better weapons outside, and the absence of LB Clay Matthews makes me think that even noted QB problem Braden Weeden is going to make that relevant. Look for Cleveland to threaten and definitely cover, and if the Pack weren't a public team, this number would be 7.5.

Packers 27, Browns 20

Houston at KANSAS CITY (-7)

Will the Chiefs ever run into a decent team in a good spot this year? At this rate, I'm expecting the Broncos to lose Peyton Manning before their games with Andy Reid and Co., who have gone 6-0 against a tomato can parade that is now 11-25, with none of the six teams even over .500. After this Sunday, that will be 13-30, with Cleveland and Buffalo coming up next before the bye. So they are going to be favored to go 9-0 without facing a winning team going into the break... and even get the bye week advantage before going to Denver. May we all find opportunities in life to be so abundant. Oh, and they get the Texans this week, who desperately need to trade for a QB before their fans take over as the most loathsome group in the US. (As for the game, Houston will try to run the Chiefs into unconsciousness, but as this is the NFL in 2013, it won't work.)

Chiefs 24, Texans 13

BALTIMORE (+1) at Pittsburgh

Are the Steelers capable of winning two in a row and keeping faint hopes of relevant games in cold weather alive? I'd like their chances better if the Ravens don't come in with issues as well, with a 3-3 record and middling +5 net points, not that these teams really care about the standings when they face each other. In a series that always come down to a field goal and DPI calls, give me the road team with the offensive line that's more likely to keep their QB upright long enough to draw the flag. So long as these teams are around and beating the snot out of each other, we can all pretend that football hasn't fundamentally changed. For the worse.

Ravens 24, Steelers 20

DENVER (-7) at Indianapolis

The SNF game is your weekly Ain't Peyton Wunnerful stroke-a-thon, made worse by the Colts' need to honor a player while he's still active for no good reason at all. I get that people like the guy and all, but for heaven's sake, you only won one ring with him, and his Broncos are going to be one of your bigger obstacles to bringing home another for, in all likelihood, the next 1 to 5 years. (Too long? Tell me why he doesn't play that long, given the quality of the Denver line and the relative lack of punishment that a QB with a quick release is going to encounter.) There's a reason why the Manning Boys have health records that are the envy of kickers.

As for this game, Denver should be able to do what they want on offense here, especially after a half in which they resembled a human football team against Jacksonville. Indy also runs into reinforcements for the undefeated Broncos, in the form of LB Von Miller. So Denver might get itself a pass rush, too. Thank heavens, because the team with the biggest point differential (+107 in six games, gulp) really needed a boost.

Broncos 37, Colts 27

Minnesota at NY GIANTS (-3)

Here's how bad the year has been, pick-wise; I feel good about taking the 0-6 Giants at home on a MNF game where, if QB Eli Manning throws another early TAInt, Giant Fan is going to give him the Full Schaub treatment. But assuming that the two-time Super Bowl winner (yes, I like making myself ill, as an Eagles Fan) can avoid the early disaster, the home team should benefit from similar largess from whoever is under center for the Vikings this week. The Giants' running game also showed a pulse last week, which is all kinds of important; fewer opportunities for mistakes.

And yes, if the Giants win this game and next week's in Philly, then use the bye to somehow set themselves up for a massive run into relevance in the 8-8 Wins East, followed by an improbable 4-win playoff month... well, um, I'm assuming there is some alternate universe in which 10,000 to 1 odd seasons play out, mostly as a mathematical or spiritual proof in the existence of the Beavis God. More on this next week, as the Full Horror of what is about to pass dawns on us all.

Giants 24, Vikings 17

Last week: 6-8-1

Year to date: 37-51-4

Career to date: 407-413-4

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