With the baseball season finally coming to its end last night, I can now focus 100% on the NFL the rest of the way. This is probably coming at the best time possible considering the issues I’ve run into making picks the last few weeks. Last week was OK, but not great, with a record of 7-6, thanks in part to that late field goal by Jason Elam that cut the Saints’ final margin to 8. The season record moves to 60-53-1 (.531). Here’s the picks for this week:
Redskins at Falcons (-10): Despite the fact that they ended up losing last week in New Orleans, the Falcons looked pretty good, with the exception of all the turnovers forced by the Saints’ D on Matt Ryan, whose nickname I am temporarily taking away from him. The good news for the Falcons is that they get to finally start playing some bad teams again, starting with the lowly Redskins on Sunday in the Georgia Dome, where Atlanta is unbeaten this year.
Cardinals at Bears (-3): This is a really tough game to choose simply because you can’t predict what you’re going to see from either of these teams. Two weeks ago, Arizona looked solid in beating the Giants in New York. Last week, they put up a Kurt Warner INT-filled fiasco against the Panthers. Likewise, the Bears beat up on the Browns last week after getting just smoked by the surprising Bengals in Cincy. But I’m taking the Bears for two reasons: they haven’t lost at home yet this year and because Chicago will force Kurt Warner to make mistakes.
Ravens at Bengals (+3): So, let me get this straight. Cincy beat Baltimore on the road 17-14 just a few weeks ago but the Bengals are the dog at home in the rematch? How did this happen? In all seriousness, though, Cincy wants this game badly to put some separation between themselves and 3rd place B-More and they wouldn’t mind keeping pace with the Steelers, either. The Ravens haven’t looked good in a few weeks and are in serious trouble if they lose this one.
Texans (+10) at Colts: I must be out of my mind picking against Peyton Manning & Co., especially considering their 7-0 record and the fact that the Texans’ D isn’t exactly one of the league’s best. However, I think that you’ll see why Houston is considered to have one of the most explosive offenses in the league in this game, especially if Ryan Moats can get going on the ground to open it up for the Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson connection. The Colts should win, but Houston will keep it interesting.
Dolphins at Patriots (-11): Ever since Miami introduced the Wildcat against the Pats at the beginning of last year, New England has had that game on its mind. Now they get the Dolphins sans a competent QB. New England will be well prepared to handle Ronnie Brown and his partners in crime and the Pats will cruise to an easy victory.
Packers (-10) at Buccaneers: Have you seen the Tampa Bay Bucs play this year? If the answer was yes, I’m sorry you had to suffer through it. Packers by a significant margin.
Chiefs at Jaguars (-7): Jacksonville proves almost every week that they are a competitive team. Last week’s loss to Vince Young and the Titans says otherwise, but I think that you’ll see Maurice Jones-Drew have a big day against the Chiefs’ run defense and that the Chiefs will continue to lack any kind of offensive consistency.
Lions (+10) at Seahawks: Both of these teams just don’t seem to have very much to play for already at this point in the season. It’s important to note that Matt Hasselbeck continues to play with his broken ribs. One bad hit and it’ll be back to Seneca Wallace and a lot less points being scored in the Pacific Northwest. The Lions will find a way to keep it close, win or lose.
Panthers at Saints (-13): This would normally be a very easy pick, but it seems like Carolina remembered how to run the football last week with D’Angelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart, which is going to make it a lot tougher on their opponents to win big, if only because the Panthers can control possession better. Still, no team has given me a good reason to pick against the Saints thus far and I expect to see an 8-0 team in the Big Easy.
Chargers (+5) at Giants: This is a game that both teams need badly since they’re both chasing good teams in front of them. In the last few weeks, though, San Diego has looked as if they’re turning the corner after a slow start, especially with the reemergence of LaDanian Tomlinson. The G-Men, on the other hand, have lost three straight and Eli Manning might be more injured than we’ve been led to believe because he has looked just awful the last two weeks.
Titans at 49ers (-5): The San Francisco defense should be able to contain Chris Johnson a good bit better than Jacksonville did, forcing Vince Young to actually make a tough play with his arm this week. As a result, San Fran should probably win this game behind the legs of Frank Gore.
Cowboys at Eagles (-3): The last time that Dallas was in Philly, they got embarrassed as the Eagles claimed the final NFC playoff spot in Week 17 of last season. I don’t think we’ll see a repeat of that, but I think we’ll see the same Eagles team that we saw last week against the Giants as they have just started to click on all cylinders. Not to say that Dallas isn’t playing well right now, but once again we have Tony Romo in a big game, which could be enough to give the game to the Birds.
Steelers (-3) at Broncos: Denver finally looked the way I thought they would all year against Baltimore last week. Now they get to play an even better opponent in Pittsburgh, who might need this game to keep pace with the Bengals depending on their result on Sunday. The Broncos appear to be losing some of that head of steam they opened the season with, and that could mean the beginning of a painful end to the 2009 campaign in Denver.
That’ll do it for this week. Make sure to check back on Tuesday for my mid-season recap and self-assessment on how right or wrong I’ve been so far.