|My My, Hey Hey|
And with that... on to the picks!
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CLEVELAND (+6.5) at Cincinnati
Too many points for a home game among bitter and relatively close division rivals, especially in the AFC North, where all of the teams are above average. Look for both clubs rely heavily on running games that will find enough space to make the game close and grindy, and the home team to pull it out by avoiding more turnovers than the Brownies.
Bengals 24, Browns 20
KANSAS CITY (-1.5) at Buffalo
Andy Reid's tour of flawed offensive guys from his past continues, with this week's man being Buffalo's current RB2, Bryce Brown. KC appears to be the better team, with a defense that has come together despite what seemed to be devastating early injuries... but Bills WR Sammy Watkins has shaken off an early rib problem and a previous EJ Manuel issue to be the NFL's best rookie WR. It'll be close, but eventually, the Chief defense will get the better of QB Kyle Orton.
Chiefs 27, Bills 24
MIAMI (+2.5) at Detroit
Two teams that aren't used to this much prosperity, and one will have to keep it. Miami's resurgence has come on the back of QB Ryan Tannehill, who has been playing at a very high level with a sneaky-good WR corps, and a rushing attack that benefits from high tempo. Detroit should have WR Calvin Johnson back, but the RBs are erratic and the secondary can be had. I think this is the kind of game they regret later... and having a shaky St unit is especially worrisome.
Dolphins 26, Lions 24
Dallas at JACKSONVILLE (+7) in London
These games are usually horrible, with poor field conditions and blowouts of terrible clubs... but JVille may not be terrible right now. Sure, they are far from good, with real issues in stopping the running game, but they are better than they have been earlier in the year, and were just a few plays away from giving the Bengals a real scare last week. Against a Dallas team that's reeling a little bit, with questionable personnel decisions at QB and RB, I think they stick around and cover the number, maybe late.
Cowboys 24, Jaguars 20
San Francisco at NEW ORLEANS (-5)
What should be a possible NFC Championship preview is just a battle between underachievers, with the Niners in particular in real danger of not making the playoffs. New Orleans has always been a strong home favorite, and the Niner defense might be starting to lose a little steam with age and injuries. Not a blowout, but a cover.
Saints 30, Niners 24
Tennessee at BALTIMORE (-10)
Hate giving this many points to a Ravens team that's prone to sleep-walking a bit, but with the Titans starting rookie QB Zach Mettenberger, you have to count on turnovers and a possible runaway. The rook has some swagger and a big arm, and the Raven secondary can give up the deep ball, so this has late suckout written all over it. But that's not the way you bet.
Ravens 31, Titans 17
PITTSBURGH (-5) at NY Jets
A funny thing happened to the Jets last week in their routine loss: QB Michael Vick played relatively well, and the club didn't turn into turnover chucklefest. Which means they are more or less due to revert to form now, especially with how Pittsburgh has been getting after the QB. This doesn't even get into the absurd roll that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has been on, and he now gets to go against a secondary that wasn't good when they were healthy. Add the toxic NY crowd to the mix, and I couldn't think of a more confident pick. Steelers in a walk.
Steelers 38, Jets 20
ATLANTA (-1.5) at Tampa
Clear storyline here... Tampa will unleash vengeance on an Atlanta club that can't pass protect, and has comeuppance coming after a TNF clowning that was a confetti bucket and whistling away from a Globetrotter game. But that ignores the fact that Tampa is, well, terrible, and likely to fall apart against QB Matt Ryan, who actually had some time to throw against Detroit last week. This just in: Tampa is not Detroit. And Tampa is going back to a McNown (any McNown) at QB. Good luck with that.
Falcons 31, Bucs 20
DENVER (-11.5) at Oakland
Pity the poor Raiders, still the NFL's only winless team, with maybe the league's hardest schedule. Last week's road loss with honor in Seattle will look like fun and games to the angry Broncos, the rare owners of a genuine beatdown from the Patriots last week in New England. The over-under for TDs thrown by Peyton Manning in this game is 4.5; take the over. Hard.
Broncos 42, Raiders 20
St. Louis at ARIZONA (-7)
Maybe the only watchable game in the 4pm EST slate -- and seriously, the degradation of the late Sunday game is the single biggest reason why the three night games a week are just atrocious -- and even this is stretching things, because while the Rams are finally starting to rush the passer worth a damn, the offense is going in the wrong direction with WR Brian Quick on the shelf, and QB Austin Davis running out of smurfy escape tricks. Arizona is going to spit the bit one of these days; going 14-3 in their last 17 games just isn't sustainable for a team with a turnover-prone QB and a rushing attack that's all change of pace. But this isn't the week.
Cardinals 24, Rams 13
NY Giants at SEATTLE (-9)
I should take Blue here. They've got a long history of coming through on the road, and the Seahawks just look like they are having a hangover year; if the Raiders can stay with them deep in the fourth quarter, QB Eli Manning should be able to. But with the injuries just piling up, it's hard to see how they stick around, especially with turnover issues. Seattle gets well this week.
Seahawks 31, Giants 17
Chicago at GREEN BAY (-7)
This looked like such a better game a month ago, when Chicago didn't have fresh collapses on defense, and the Pack had protection issues of their own on offense. Since then, Green Bay has become a killing machine on offense and tolerable on defense, and the Bears have backed away slowly from their early wins to look like, well, a mediocre team helmed by a turnover-prone QB. This hasn't been a good matchup for QB Jay Cutler under the best of circumstances, and these are not those.
Packers 38, Bears 24
Carolina at PHILADELPHIA (-6)
The story coming into this one will be the rebirth of QB Mark Sanchez, arguably one of the more compelling storylines in the NFL right now, as everyone seems to have a hard opinion on whether or not he can succeed in a vastly improved offensive situation. What isn't worth an argument is this: in the short term, he's playing with a stacked deck. While QB Nick Foles had to deal with patchwork issues on the offensive line and a broken running game, the Sanchize might have the team's five best offensive linemen working in front of him for the first time this year (and yes, I know that Todd Herremans is out, but I think back-up Matt Tobin is better now, even without the injuries).
For Carolina, the defense hasn't been what it was promised to be, the running game isn't as strong, and the passing game seems to be limited entirely to possession work, without anyone being able to get more than 20 yards downfield. Look for the Eagles to run it 40+ times for nearly 200 yards, and for Sanchez to get way too much credit in an easy win.
Eagles 34, Panthers 20
Last week: 9-4
Year to date: 66-65-2