Week 7 NFL Picks: Geno, Landry & Brock? Oh My.

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Last week I seemed to be the only person on the planet who wasn’t freaking out about the NFL’s declining TV ratings. In fact, I used the intro of my weekly picks column to hype up the week 6 slate. As someone who watches every single minute of NFL action over the course of the week, it doesn’t bother me if the Primetime games are duds just as long as there are some great matchups at some point during the weekend. And I identified seven truly compelling games last week.

Unfortunately, we will not be having a repeat in week 7.

I feel like once a year, usually in October, I say to my readers, “If you had to pick a Sunday where you don’t park yourself in front of the TV all day and instead do something that your significant other wants to do, this would be the week for that.”

This is that week.

We’re unlikely to see a worse set of games this year than what week 7 is giving us. The best game was going to be New England at Pittsburgh, but obviously the intrigue is gone with Ben Roethlisberger sitting this one out.

The other “best games” this week? Umm…maybe Vikings/Eagles? Saints/Chiefs? Seahawks/Cardinals? That’s honestly the best I can come up with.

But hey, at least there’s that early morning London game on Sunday. So if you’re proceeding with a normal day of football watching, at least the shittiness is extended by three hours beyond the normal time commitment. Thanks, NFL!

Before we get into the week 7 picks, one quick note for you gamblers. Even though I always put the season-long stats at the end of this column, I felt it was important to highlight that favorites are now only 35-54-3 against the spread through six weeks (that’s a 39% cover rate). Even though you might think I’m telling you this so you know to go heavy on the underdogs, I’m actually warning you about the opposite. Some time soon, this is going to snap back and the favorites are going to rattle off a 12-3 type of week. I’m not sure when it’ll happen, but the key is to keep evaluating matchups like you normally do and not fall into the trap of thinking the underdogs are going to keep covering at this rate. Got it?

Here are the week 7 picks.

Teams on Bye: Carolina, Dallas

Chicago at Green Bay (-8) | over/under 46

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Green Bay 23, Chicago 20

The Bets: Chicago (+8) / Chicago (+18) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Is it really as simple as betting against the Packers because basically their entire running back corps and secondary are out for this game?

Yes, yes it is.

Please don’t waste your time putting much thought into this game. Grab the Bears with the points and thank me on Friday. Even before all these injuries were announced, I didn’t feel like the Packers could beat anyone by more than a touchdown. This isn’t a favorite pick of mine just because it would be so like the Bears to find a way to lose to this Packers team by 10 or more, but there’s no logic to picking Green Bay until they prove they’re a capable NFL team.

NY Giants (-3) vs Los Angeles | over/under 43.5 (in London)

The Pick: Los Angeles

The Score: NY Giants 23, Los Angeles 21

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Oh cool, we get to be annoyed & embarrassed by Odell Beckham’s antics at 6:30 in the morning on Sunday! Can’t wait!

Listen, these are two crappy teams playing in London so it’s kind of hard to get a good read on this game. I’m passing on making any bet recommendations, but I will be rooting hard against my new least-favorite team in the NFL, the Giants.

New Orleans at Kansas City (-6.5) | over/under 50.5

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Kansas City 26, New Orleans 19

The Bets: Kansas City (-0.5) in a 2-way tease / Under (60.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

The Chiefs have been really tough to nail down. They’ve beat two teams in blowouts, lost once in a blowout, won a close game and lost a close game. I have no idea what their identity is through six weeks.

I don’t see how the Saints are going to win in Arrowhead, but I’m even more confident in teasing the under in this game. If you can get the under to 60.5, I’d consider that a lock. Even though the Chiefs and Chargers combined for 60 points in week 1, that was a very fluky game. Prior to that, the last time a Chiefs game went over 60.5 points was in week 15 of the 2013 season. Andy Reid doesn’t do shootouts, and with a fully healthy stable of running backs now, I’m certain Kansas City will do everything they can to keep the Saints offense on the sidelines.

Indianapolis at Tennessee (-3) | over/under 48.5

The Pick: Indianapolis

The Score: Tennessee 23, Indianapolis 22

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Games featuring two AFC South teams are turning into an automatic stayaway for me. When you’ve got such shitty, unreliable teams facing each other, how can you confidently predict how the game will play out? I think the Titans will win, but I have no idea if it’ll be low-scoring or high-scoring. The Colts haven’t played in a single game where the total ended up under 48 this year, and the Titans have only been in one game where the total was 48 or more. So good luck figuring this one out.

All I know is a third divisional loss for the Colts in less than a month will hopefully thrust Chuck Pagano back to the top of the “first coach fired” rankings…which I have a monetary interest in.

Minnesota (-3) at Philadelphia | over/under 40

The Pick: Minnesota

The Score: Minnesota 21, Philadelphia 17

The Bets: Under (50) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Minnesota (-3)

The Vikings have given up 12.6 points per game during their 5-0 start. Four of those games were against teams ranging from 10th to 18th in FootballOutsiders’ offensive efficiency rankings (the 5th game was against Houston, the 32nd ranked offense).

The Eagles come into this game ranked 16th in the offensive category. So I ask you, dear reader, how the hell is Philly going to put up more than two touchdowns on Sunday?

With the Eagles rolling out a top five defense themselves, doesn’t it feel like we should be betting the under even if it’s ridiculously low already?

If you’re interested in teasing this, good job by you. Neither team has played in a game yet where the total went over 50. That’s probably a pretty easy bet.

Cleveland at Cincinnati (-10) | over/under 45.5

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Cincinnati 27, Cleveland 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Similar to the Bears/Packers game, it might be easiest just to grab the points and move on. After all, in what world should a 2-4 team be laying 10 points? That’s crazytown stuff right there.

The only concern I have is that we could see a monster A.J. Green performance against the Browns’ 30th ranked passing defense. And it’s starting to sound like Tyler Eifert could make his 2016 debut this week. I still have to grab the points in this scenario just because the Bengals have looked so bad and the Browns have played tight games against most of their opponents. But don’t be surprised if this is a “get right” game for Cincy and they win by 20.

Washington at Detroit (-1) | over/under 50

The Pick: Detroit

The Score: Detroit 25, Washington 23

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Something doesn’t smell right with this game. Either we put our faith in Washington and expect that we’re about to have two 5-win teams in the NFC East (Washington would move to 5-2 and Dallas is 5-1). Or we think the Lions are about to be 4-3 and could be in 2nd place in the NFC North by the end of the weekend. I hate both options.

I’m suspicious of the Skins on the road even though they’re 2-0 away from FedEx Field this year. I hate this game all together from a betting standpoint, but I’m thinking the Lions can give us a mini-surprise of winning this game by a couple points.

Oakland at Jacksonville (-1) | over/under 47

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: Oakland 19, Jacksonville 16

The Bets: Oakland (+1) / Oakland (+11) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Oakland (+1)

This will be Oakland’s fourth Eastern Time Zone game in seven weeks, and they’ve already won the first three. That’s an accomplishment as good as any for a West Coast team. Also keep in mind that they went toe-to-toe with the Falcons before ultimately losing by a touchdown to them in week 2. That loss doesn’t look very bad at this point. I point all this out because people have been very quick to say that the Raiders have gotten lucky all year while dismissing their accomplishments.

Sure, the Raiders are playing with fire when every game is close. But against really crappy teams, we can still expect them to win. And the Jaguars are a perfectly crappy team to help Oakland get back on track.

Buffalo (-3) at Miami | over/under 44

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 20, Buffalo 16

The Bets: Miami (+13) in a 3-way tease / Under (54) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Miami (+3)

Nope. Not falling for this trap whatsoever. The Bills are 4-2, they’ve got the best point differential in the NFL, and they’ve won four in a row, including wins over Arizona and New England. They’re also facing the 2-4 Dolphins who many people consider to be one of the worst teams in the league.

But none of that matters this week. The Dolphins are going to win this game outright. First of all, the Bills are probably going to be without LeSean McCoy, and he’s their entire offense at this point. Secondly, the Bills simply aren’t good enough to be a 5-2 team after this week, and the Dolphins aren’t bad enough to be a 2-5 team. Both teams are due to come back towards a more average level of play.

And the Dolphins are finally healthy along the offensive line so they should be able to move the ball like they did last week in their big win against the Steelers.

And of course, the Bills have a HUGE game against the Patriots looming in week 8. You think there’s a team out there more prone to looking ahead and assuming they’ve got a win in their pocket than the Bills led by Rex Ryan? No chance.

Baltimore at NY Jets (-2) | over/under 40.5

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 12, Baltimore 7

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

You want a bad football game? Try a Ryan Mallett vs Geno Smith matchup on for size. That’s what we’re looking at if Joe Flacco’s shoulder injury keeps him out on Sunday. The Vegas books initially had the Ravens favored by one point earlier this week, but with the Flacco news, the line has swung and made the Jets a favorite.

Geno Smith favored by two points against an actual NFL team? You bet.

If we find out on Friday or Saturday that Flacco is playing and is close to 100%, then go ahead and bet the Ravens (as long as the line doesn’t jump up to Baltimore -3 or higher). The Jets are a truly bad team so as long as there’s a warm body at QB for Baltimore, they should be the winner.

Tampa Bay (-1) at San Francisco | over/under 46.5

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: San Francisco 23, Tampa Bay 16

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Well this is an absolute coin flip. Yes, the Bucs seem like the better team, but they’re missing Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson on offense. They’ve also been pretty unimpressive regardless of injuries this season. They’ve been able to win two divisional games, but in between those, they lost three in a row by a combined 58 points.

This might sound crazy but the 49ers actually have a better defense, running game and coaching than the Bucs right now. So I’ll grab the Niners and hope for the best.

San Diego at Atlanta (-6.5) | over/under 54

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: Atlanta 30, San Diego 24

The Bets: Over (44) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Who cares about betting the spread in this game when you can lock yourself into the over? In terms of the teased over of 44, keep in mind that in the 12 combined games these two teams have played in 2016, the final score has been less than 44 total points just twice—when each team faced the Broncos. So this feels as much of a lock as any bet out there this week.

And if you’re not into teasing, these teams have gone over that 54 threshold in seven of 12 games this year (throw out the two Denver games because of that awesome defense and you’ve got teams that play in games where the total goes into the mid-fifties 70% of the time).

New England (-7.5) at Pittsburgh | over/under 47

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 30, Pittsburgh 17

The Bets: New England (-1.5 or +2.5) in a 2-way or 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with New England (-7.5)

As a Patriots fan I certainly don’t mind a much easier matchup with Roethlisberger out, but it definitely doesn’t help us get a feel for how they truly stack up with other Super Bowl contenders. Looks like we’ll have to wait until week 10 against Seattle for that test.

The Steelers already had some ugly losses when Roethlisberger was healthy, and now with Landry Jones taking over at quarterback, this game should be a slam dunk for New England. But the half part of “7.5” is really bothering me right now. The Steelers have a ton of talent on offense so isn’t there a possibility they keep the game relatively close? At least close enough for the backdoor cover if they’re down 14 points with just a couple minutes to go?

Can the Patriots really bring their streak to three straight games of demolishing an AFC North team? Actually, yeah I think they can. I understand if you’re staying away from the spread here, but I’m going to side with the Patriots and then tease them down to either -1.5 or +2.5.

Seattle at Arizona (-2) | over/under 43.5

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 20, Seattle 17

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Picking this game gave me a headache. It was one of the toughest games to figure out in week 7. If you look at the way each team’s season has started, you’d obviously pick Seattle to win. But I’m not so sure the Seahawks are that much better when giving it a closer look. Arizona and Seattle have faced three common opponents this year and the results have been incredibly similar.

Seattle lost to the Rams in LA by six points while the Cardinals lost to the Rams at home by four points. Seattle then beat the 49ers at home by 19 points while the Cardinals beat the Niners by 12 points in San Francisco. And finally, Seattle went to New York and handled the Jets by 10 points while Arizona destroyed those same Jets at home by 25 points on Monday Night Football this past week.

Call me crazy, but those appear to be two very similar teams so I’ll go ahead and take Arizona since they’re giving less than a field goal at home, on a Sunday night, with a raucous crowd knowing that a win and their team would only be a half game out of 1st place in the NFC West.

Houston at Denver (-9) | over/under 41

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 24, Houston 10

The Bets: Denver (-3 or +1) in a 2-way or 3-way tease / Under (51) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Denver (-9)

I haven’t been this excited about a pick since….well, since I recommended Pittsburgh over Philly in week 3. And that turned out to be a disaster. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, right?

When I looked at the lines on Monday, the Broncos were -7.5 and they were immediately my favorite pick of the week. Obviously they are a lot of other people’s favorite pick too since this line has jumped by 1.5 points.

But I’m undeterred by the line movement. The Texans might be the worst 4-2 team in NFL history. They’ve had to squeak out home wins against the Bears, Titans and Colts. They’ve been embarrassed on the road by the Patriots (with Jacoby Brissett as New England’s QB) and the Vikings.

They have the 32nd ranked offense in the league and they’re going up against the #4 defense. Their expensive QB, Brock Osweiler, is rated just a tiny bit above Ryan Tannehill and Ryan Fitzpatrick and a few spots below Pro Bowlers like Blaine Gabbert and Blake Bortles.

And the Broncos are playing this game on extra rest, on a two-game losing streak, and knowing they could be in 3rd place in their division with a loss. I don’t think they’re going to fuck around with this Texans team.

Here are the season-long stats I’m tracking:

  • Favorites are 35-54-3 against the spread (including a 4-9-2 record in week 6)
  • The point total has landed on Over 49 times, Under 41 times, and Pushed 2 times
  • I’m 48-42-3 against the spread

Enjoy week 7.

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Week 7 NFL Picks: 12 Truly Awful Matchups

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My Mom’s visiting. I’m 20 hours away from driving to Vegas. I had my worst results of the year in terms of making picks last week. My motivation is low.

No fancy intro to the week 7 picks. I have plenty to say about a lot of these matchups. Let’s dive right into it.

Seattle (-7) at San Francisco

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: Seattle 23, San Francisco 20

Wow. Just, wow. This line. A 2-4 team is a full touchdown road favorite? I guess, for the 49ers, barely losing to the Giants and then beating the Ravens doesn’t earn you much respect these days. Not only is it possible the Seahawks just aren’t very good, but they are playing the Thursday game after facing Cincinnati and Carolina in back-to-back weeks. I feel like those were pretty punishing games physically. It’s impossible to have any faith in Seattle right now. (P.S. I wrote all of the previous paragraph when the line was Seattle -6. I’m even happier now. Worst case scenario push!)

Buffalo (-4) vs Jacksonville (game in London)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Jacksonville 26, Buffalo 17

I’m looking at the Jaguars’ roster and starting to think with some decent coaching, they should be one of those perpetually frisky teams. Offensively they’ve got some real talent at receiver, running back, tight end, and maybe, but probably not, quarterback.

But I’m picking the Jags in this game less because of how OK they are and more because how bad Buffalo might be. The Bills are still getting by on the reputation of their week 1 win over Indy and week 2 “kinda kept it close” loss to New England. But since then they’ve beaten a Miami team that had quit on its coach and a Tennessee team that’s looking like one of the three worst teams in the NFL.

I’m also pulling for a close game because I’ll be in Vegas for this week’s football Sunday and if I’m going to be up at 6:30 in the morning on little to no sleep, I’d like it to be worth my while.

Tampa Bay at Washington (-3.5)

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 20, Tampa Bay 15

What a perfect time to mention how bad this week’s schedule of games is. Look around. There is one really good game (Jets/Patriots) and one OK game (Browns/Rams) in the morning, and there are only two total afternoon games. I guess Cowboys/Giants is the more interesting of the two. Chalk this forgettable week up to three of the five undefeated teams being on their bye (Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay). But also chalk it up to the fact that the NFL has a handful of good, intriguing teams and about 27 worthless teams. Think about how bad the quality of Monday’s Giants/Eagles game was and then realize that those are two of the top 15 teams in this league.

Anyway, this feels like one of those games where afterwards we all go, “Whoa, are we sure the Redskins aren’t going to push the other NFC East teams for the division crown?” The answer is no. They are not.

Atlanta (-4.5) at Tennessee

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 34, Tennessee 16

I get that the Falcons needed overtime to beat Washington at home and then lost at New Orleans last Thursday, but they’re coming off extra rest and most likely facing Zach Mettenberger. The Falcons like to blitz, and I don’t picture everyone saying on Monday morning, “Oh man, Mettenberger was really solid with pressure on him all day. Nice win by the Titans.”

Also, the Falcons have lots of useful weapons and solid coaching. Tennessee has a backup quarterback and one of the worst head coaches in football.

I said this last week about the Bills and the Tyrod Taylor / EJ Manuel situation and it applies here: It’s either Mettenberger or a gimpy Marcus Mariota starting for Tennessee. Plan accordingly.

New Orleans at Indianapolis (-5)

The Pick: Indianapolis

The Score: Indianapolis 36, New Orleans 21

For me the Saints are in that category of teams who I can’t possibly consider taking on the road, unless they’re getting a touchdown at minimum. The Colts do well against soft defenses that don’t get pressure on Andrew Luck, and the Saints are a perfect fit there. Remember that the Saints needed all the help in the world (flukey turnovers, shanked punts, lucky bounces) to beat Atlanta at home last week. Their other win was an overtime game at home against Brandon Weeden and the JV Cowboys. More than maybe anyone, I’d love to see the Colts go 7-9 and miss the playoffs, but it’s not happening. Check this out from the Indy Star’s Zak Keefer: Since Chuck Pagano took over in 2012, the Colts are 19-2 against the AFC South and 19-19 against everyone else. They are exactly who we thought they were.

Minnesota (-3) at Detroit

The Pick: Minnesota

The Score: Minnesota 23, Detroit 14

We’ve got a rare scenario this early into the season where these two teams have already faced each other (in week 2). In that game, Adrian Peterson and a variety of Vikings backups ran for 200 yards. It doesn’t look like the Lions’ run defense has improved in the month since that meeting. I’m feeling big things from Peterson and the Minnesota defense. But not from Teddy Bridgewater. He stinks.

Pittsburgh (-2) at Kansas City

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Kansas City 28, Pittsburgh 23

This is the first game I’ve seen in a long time where several major Vegas sportsbooks still haven’t set a line on it by Thursday morning. I guess Ben Roethlisberger’s status is just that important. So proceed with caution. Vegasinsider.com is the only place I could find a spread so that’s what I’ll use.

I believe this line is set with the thought that neither Ben Roethlisberger nor Michael Vick will play. Landry Jones is the guy for the Steelers. And though he looked good in relief of Vick last week, it’s still a first-time starter in a road game that features a pretty vicious crowd. The Chiefs’ shitty game last week was predictable with only a few days to adjust to the loss of Jamaal Charles. But Andy Reid still has weapons on offense and he’ll at least put together a decent plan moving forward.

Meanwhile, does everyone realize how important the Steelers are to the enjoyment of the AFC over the rest of the year? You could argue that the AFC West (Denver) and the AFC South (Indy) are all but wrapped up, and if the Patriots beat the Jets on Sunday, the AFC East will be effectively locked up as well. Pittsburgh pushing Cincinnati over the final nine games of the year might be the only opportunity we have for a competitive AFC division.

Cleveland at St. Louis (-6)

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Cleveland 27, St. Louis 26

C’mon, you expect me to pick against one of the most exciting Red Zone Channel teams of 2015? It goes Arizona then Cleveland for which teams cause the most excitement when Andrew Siciliano announces they’re about to cut over to a different game for an update.

The Browns’ last three games have been decided by three points. There’s no reason to think this will be changing anytime soon. More than miraculously winning 11 games and going to the playoffs, the Browns can earn our respect by repeatedly playing in the most exciting game of the week. They’re well on their way and I say that keeps up this week, especially with the opponent being St. Louis and Jeff Fisher, a man who has no interest in blowing out another team.

Houston at Miami (-4.5)

The Pick: Houston

The Score: Miami 22, Houston 19

I guess there will be plenty of people who think replacing Joe Philbin automatically puts the Dolphins back on track with the preseason hype that had them winning at least 9 or 10 games. But I’m not fooled. This team still has plenty of problems and I don’t think they’ll be winning many games, let alone winning by more than a field goal. I think we’re looking at a 200 yard receiving game for DeAndre Hopkins, which will force me to add yet another awesome young receiver into the “best receiver in the league” conversation.

NY Jets at New England (-9)

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 37, NY Jets 23

Here’s the question: Do I really think the Jets “have something special going for them” as far too many media members seem to be saying right now? Are they some kind of team of destiny?

Or…are they a team that’s gotten to play a pretty awesome schedule? They beat Cleveland in week 1 after Josh McCown got hurt on the opening drive while fumbling on the goal line. Then they beat Indy, not a bad win, but not as good as it seemed. They lost to Philly before putting the nail in Joe Philbin’s coffin by rolling the mailing-it-in Dolphins. And then a big win over Washington last week.

The matchup everyone will be harping on this week as a big advantage for the Jets is Chris Ivory, leading the league in rushing yards/game, facing a 29th-ranked Patriots run defense. But like usual, I don’t think Bill Belichick cares if someone runs for 150 yards on his team as long as it takes 40 carries to get there. No big plays and force Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw at an underrated secondary.

The Patriots survived a couple road games and a rash of mostly minor injuries. They know they can wrap up the division over the next three games, all of which are at home. We’re only a few weeks away from me constantly asking, “Is it too early to be resting Gronk for the playoffs?”

Oakland at San Diego (-4)

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: Oakland 22, San Diego 21

You know what the Raiders are? The Browns of the West. They’re the exact same team. Vegas thinks so. Both of them were about 4.5 or 5 point underdogs to Denver earlier this year. Both have won a couple times and lost a couple very close games. And Cleveland played San Diego very tight a couple weeks back, ultimately losing by three. San Diego also let Pittsburgh with Michael Vick beat them at home. The Chargers are not a good team. This is an easy pick.

Dallas at NY Giants (-3.5)

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: NY Giants 30, Dallas 16

Generally speaking, you beat the Giants by throwing on them. It seems like a competent quarterback throwing between 40-50 times is the recipe against New York so far. That’s what Dallas did to barely win the week 1 matchup between these two teams. But I just can’t see Matt Cassel and either no Dez Bryant or a rusty/limited/why-is-he-playing Dez Bryant putting up enough points to stay with the Giants, who have put up 30+ in their last two home games.

If the NFC East is destined to mirror last year’s NFC South, then the Cowboys should absolutely win this game. So keep that in mind.

Philadelphia at Carolina (-3)

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 18, Philadelphia 15

By that score, I’m predicting a push. I really feel like Carolina should win by exactly three. Both defenses are solid. Both offenses have plenty of problems. I could see a field goal fest. Or, I could see Sam Bradford throwing four picks to Josh Norman as we all start to contemplate the NFC’s road to the Super Bowl going through Carolina.

Baltimore at Arizona (-9)

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 33, Baltimore 20

Baltimore is a bad football team. At 1-5, they’re in a four-way tie for the worst record in football. Interestingly enough, the Cardinals have faced several teams that are right near the Ravens in terms of win-loss record and overall incompetence. Here’s how they’ve fared: 31-19 win vs New Orleans, 48-23 win at Chicago, 47-7 win vs San Francisco, 42-17 win at Detroit.

Their worst game against a bottom feeder so far is a 12-point win. I think it’s very reasonable to think they’re going to come out and put up close to 40 on the Ravens. It will be yet another boring Monday Night game except for those of us who are betting big on Arizona.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 8 Favorites, 6 Underdogs
  • 3 Road Dogs, 2 Home Dogs, 1 Neutral Dog
  • 8 Home Teams, 5 Road Teams, 1 Neutral Team

Enjoy week 7.

NFL Week 7 Picks: De-Emphasizing the Gambling Obsession (maybe)

dalton luck

Six weeks of football seems like enough of a sample size to start drawing some legitimate conclusions. Every team has played at least a third of their season. Standings are important, but not necessarily the most important metric at this time. FootballOutsiders.com developed an advanced metric (DVOA is its acronym, and you can get an understanding of it HERE) that’s a much truer indicator of how a team’s performing rather than just looking at traditional things like points per game, yards per game, yards allowed, etc. I love looking at all the nuances involved in their many stats.

Let’s kick this column off by running through some things that jumped out at me when scouring the team DVOA stats on their website this week. Some things will surprise you, and some won’t:

  • Denver is the #1 overall team by DVOA, but more alarmingly for the rest of the league is the fact that they’re #2 in Defense DVOA. The Broncos finished last year as the #15 team on defense, and that was still good enough to get them to the Super Bowl.
  • The #2 overall team according to FootballOutsiders.com is….the Baltimore Ravens. Seriously. Somehow, someway, they rate out as the second best team in football.
  • The Seahawks, with their 3-2 record, are the third best team in football, ranking higher than Philly (6th) and Dallas (10th), both of whom are 5-1.
  • Detroit has the #1 defense in the NFL, but they check in at only 22nd on offense (other teams who similarly have top 10 defenses but bottom-half of the league offenses: San Francisco, Miami, Buffalo and Arizona).
  • Cleveland has the league’s #2 offense! The Browns! (Their 29th-ranked defense will eventually hold them back you’d have to think.)
  • San Francisco, despite our best efforts to discredit their defense before the season, has the #3 rated D unit.
  • The Saints, once again, have the worst defense in football.

After last week’s pooptacular picks by me, I started thinking deeply and in a philosophical way about football. I realized that getting caught up in my bets, the point spreads, fantasy leagues, my Suicide Pool and Pick ‘Em Leagues is causing me to lose focus of what used to be the true intrigue of football. During those weeks when all my shenanigans are working out, I’m happy as can be, but god forbid something like last week happens because then I’m swearing off football, wondering why I even watch. If I had stepped back from all that bullshit in week 5, here’s what I would have noticed:

  • The Dallas freakin’ Cowboys went into Seattle and marched up & down the field on the Seahawks. They turned Seattle’s home field advantage into the equivalent of Jacksonville’s home field advantage when it plays in London.
  • The Panthers and Bengals played an incredibly entertaining game where the two teams combined to tie up the game six different times. There were 74 total points scored in 75 minutes of football, and it was so good that neither team felt like winning it.
  • The Browns staked their claim as a legitimate threat in the AFC North, not by narrowly eking out a victory against the Steelers, but by kicking the Steelers’ asses right out of Cleveland.

I know there was more to love about week 5, but that’s what jumped out. So let’s all make a deal. We’ll keep making bets, making picks and playing fantasy football, but we’ll try our damnedest to remind ourselves what’s truly awesome about football.

Let’s get it started this week by previewing the games that could be extremely entertaining regardless of which way we’re betting:

  • Cincinnati at Indianapolis: Two teams that could fall anywhere between the #1 seed and the #6 seed in the AFC playoffs (well, the Colts will at worst be the #4 seed). Indy is surging, Cincy is reeling. Both cities are able to shorten their name by putting a “y” on the first syllable. This is a legitimately good AFC matchup.
  • San Francisco at Denver: A couple four-win teams, both of whom could be fighting for their respective division title all year against some tough competition, amidst the backdrop of Peyton Manning’s opportunity to break the all-time touchdown record. Two marquee franchises that absolutely need this win.
  • …and that’s it? Jesus Christ, I’m gonna have to ratchet up the amount of gambling a lot this week. I honestly can’t find any other compelling games on the schedule.

Screw the appreciation crap, let’s catch up with the bye teams and then jump into the picks:

  • Philadelphia: It’s a good thing the Eagles have started out 5-1 because the first six weeks was the easier part of their schedule. While they’ll be getting some key offensive linemen back after the bye, they might be without Darren Sproles for a bit. If they can continue beating up on the Houstons and Tennessees of the NFL, they should be positioned for a divisional showdown with the Cowboys in weeks 13 & 15. Throw in upcoming games against Green Bay and Seattle, and you can imagine the Eagles still having to fight to get to 10 wins.
  • Tampa Bay: 

Here are the week 7 picks.

NY Jets @ New England (-10)

  • The Pick: New England
  • The Score: New England 38, NY Jets 11

First of all, I’m terrified of spreads this large. Second, I’m terrified of backing MY team with a spread this large. Third, I happen to remember a rain-soaked meeting between these two teams last year that ended in a 13-10 win for the Patriots, and it just so happens that rain is in the forecast for Thursday night. And finally, as I mentioned last week, Rex Ryan may still be able to walk away from these back-to-back games between Denver and New England saying, “We went toe-to-toe with the best in our conference.”

But because the Patriots are one of my “can’t get a read on them” teams of 2014, I’m going against all instincts and picking them to add to the Thursday night blowout legacy of 2014.

Atlanta @ Baltimore (-7)

  • The Pick: Baltimore
  • The Score: Baltimore 34, Atlanta 20

Both teams have won big against Tampa Bay, and both have lost to Cincinnati. But that’s where the similarities seem to end. Atlanta is a complete disaster right now, as evidenced by their two-touchdown loss at home against the Bears last week. They were supposed to be unstoppable at home. Meanwhile, the Ravens seem to have found some offense for once, a scary proposition for the 31st-ranked Falcons defense heading into Baltimore.

If this isn’t at least a seven-point win by Baltimore, then football makes no sense and what are we even doing here?

Tennessee @ Washington (-5.5)

  • The Pick: Tennessee
  • The Score: Tennessee 31, Washington 30

Classic Washington luck: They face Arizona in week 6 just in time for Carson Palmer to return and then get the Titans in week 7 right as Jake Locker seems poised to come back. I’m not saying either of those QBs is a Pro Bowler, but it’s just typical PotatoSkins to not even get the benefit of the backup QB that’s been playing for the last couple weeks.

Anyway, Tennessee is bad, but they aren’t a touchdown worse than Washington. The poor ‘Skins get to play in Dallas on Monday Night Football in week 8. I’m sure their fans are looking forward to hearing all about Dallas’ amazing 6-1 start.

Seattle (-7) @ St. Louis

  • The Pick: St. Louis
  • The Score: Seattle 26, St. Louis 23

The Seahawks return to the site of last year’s rousing 14-9 win over the Rams, a game in which the great Kellen Clemens completed less than 50% of his passes, threw for no touchdowns and was intercepted twice. The Rams somehow stayed in the game because they were able to run for over 200 yards on the Seahawks. This time around Austin Davis gets to play the role of Clemens, and I see things playing out almost exactly the same.

Normally I’d think about taking Seattle here since they’re coming off a loss and probably pretty angry. But they lost Byron Maxwell (the 2nd best cornerback on the team) and Bobby Wagner (starting linebacker who happens to be their leading tackler) for the foreseeable future.

Cleveland (-6) @ Jacksonville

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Cleveland 23, Jacksonville 19

This line feels inflated by at least a few points because the Browns are turning into the darlings of the NFL. The truth is Cleveland has barely won any road games over the past five years, let alone by a margin of six points or more. Did you know the last time the Browns won a road game by more than four points was September 18th, 2011?

I just don’t appreciate Vegas insulting me by adding an extra 2.5 points because the public suddenly loves the Browns. The crazy thing is this team may not get a true test until week 10. If they go into their road game at Cincy that week with a 6-2 record, please remember that they’ve beaten the following teams: New Orleans (can’t win on the road), Tennessee (can’t win anywhere), Pittsburgh (might not get to 8-8), Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay (three of the five worst teams in football).

Cincinnati @ Indianapolis (-3)

  • The Pick: Indianapolis
  • The Score: Indianapolis 31, Cincinnati 27

As I mentioned above, this is one of the only truly compelling games this weekend. It pits two teams that expect to win their division and are also hoping to finally leapfrog the Broncos & Patriots to get one of the 1st round byes.

Where I messed up last week in picking the Bengals to easily cover a seven-point spread over Carolina was not thinking the absence of A.J. Green would have any effect. Sure, they put up 37 points in that tie, but you can’t just expect a team to lose its best player and not skip a beat.

Also, their defense has looked horrific the last couple weeks. This is a game that should absolutely end in a three-point win for the home team. I’m just hoping Andrew Luck can give me a little more than that.

Minnesota @ Buffalo (-6)

  • The Pick: Buffalo
  • The Score: Buffalo 27, Minnesota 9

Hmm, this line was -4 for Buffalo as of Tuesday. When I saw on Wednesday night that it had jumped to its current line, I furiously searched for significant injury news (or news that Adrian Peterson briefly returned to the Vikings to give Teddy Bridgewater a good spanking for last week’s performance). Nothing. Neither team seems to be losing a key player or getting a key player back. What gives?

Maybe Vegas decided the Vikings’ 31st-ranked offense might get shutout against a very good Buffalo defense, and if that’s the case, a single touchdown by the Bills would cover the six points?

In the Vikings’ four losses this year, here’s how many points they’ve scored: 7, 9, 10 and 3.

They’re also coming off a loss to a physical team in Detroit that literally beat them up for 60 minutes.

I hate backing such a mediocre team by a touchdown, but I could see this going very badly once again for Minnesota.

Miami @ Chicago (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: Chicago 27, Miami 14

In terms of advanced metrics like DVOA, these two teams are somewhat evenly matched. But the Dolphins have only played one true road game this year, and they got crushed 29-10 by the Bills in that one (they played a “road game” against Oakland in London as well).

The Bears haven’t won a home game yet this year. I think they’ll fix this just fine on Sunday, and it shouldn’t be too difficult of a game.

New Orleans @ Detroit (-3)

  • The Pick: Detroit
  • The Score: Detroit 17, New Orleans 10

Why didn’t I include this in the matchups I’m looking forward to this week? Because it might be a battle of two bad offenses. Both these teams are likely to be missing their best weapons (Jimmy Graham for the Saints, Calvin Johnson for the Lions), and we all know the Saints struggle in general away from Louisiana.

I’m taking Detroit because at least they have the #1 defense in the league to fall back on. Over the past couple years, this is the type of game where Drew Brees throws three interceptions while trying to make too much happen. Even with a neutered offense, I’m still expecting the Lions to roar!

Yes, that last line was extremely corny. But I wrote it so I could quickly transition to reminding you that Katy Perry (who sings a song called “Roar”) is playing the Super Bowl halftime show in February. That means on top of the football, the food, the beer and the Super Bowl Squares, we get this on February 1st

Carolina @ Green Bay (-7)

  • The Pick: Carolina
  • The Score: Green Bay 28, Carolina 27

In last week’s picks column, I talked a lot about my confidence picks and how you’ll know it when I’m extremely confident or supremely unconfident on certain games. Well just know that I’ve never stared at the computer screen without writing something longer than I just did for this game. I’m clueless.

By the way, FootballOutsiders.com also ranks every player by DVOA metrics, and currently Aaron Rodgers is the 5th best QB while Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are the top two wide receivers in all of football. Remember this as you watch the Packers continue to struggle. If I was a Green Bay fan, I would be writing weekly letters to try to get Mike McCarthy fired before Rodgers’ career ends with only the one Super Bowl appearance.

Better yet, pull a “Celtic Pride” and get Mike McCarthy drunk, lure him to your home, and then decide to “hold him” until Aaron Rodgers’ career is over.

Kansas City @ San Diego (-4)

  • The Pick: Kansas City
  • The Score: San Diego 27, Kansas City 24

I did a last second reversal on this pick. If you read my Power Rankings on Wednesday, you know how I feel about the Chargers. But a few things made me pause when I was about to pick them.

First, there’s the opponent. The Chiefs are coming off a bye and happen to have a pretty good pass rush. The Chargers are on something like their 12th center for the year. That worries me.

Also, as good as I think the Chargers are, I can’t help but notice their last four opponents were Buffalo, Jacksonville, the Jets and Oakland. I’m a little nervous they haven’t been tested in a bit.

And finally, they have a HUGE game at Denver just four days after this matchup with Kansas City. Can they be blamed if they’re looking slightly ahead and maybe don’t bring their best effort to week 7?

Arizona (-3.5) @ Oakland

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: Oakland 26, Arizona 23

I know, crazy upset pick, right? You can make the case that the coaching change from Dennis Allen to Tony Sparano during Oakland’s bye week was just what the doctor ordered. After all, they did almost beat San Diego last week. Of course, you could make the case that it was a one-game aberration.

I’d entertain the Cardinals as my pick a bit more if it were only three points. I’m just expecting some sort of crazy upset this week and this is my pick. Deal with it.

On the flip side, CARSON PALMER REVENGE GAME! After all, he had so many years, so many memories, so many successes in Oakland and they just unceremoniously cut ties with him after he gave his blood, sweat and tears for all that time.

NY Giants @ Dallas (-6.5)

  • The Pick: Dallas
  • The Score: Dallas 29, NY Giants 20

I was torn on this one because I don’t think Dallas is truly as good as their record. But the problem is the Giants really don’t match up well with the Cowboys. Their biggest weakness is their run defense, as evidenced by the torching LeSean McCoy and the Eagles gave them last week. The Cowboys, you may have heard, have the best running back in football.

This whole “Dallas being good” thing really bothers me, but I’m not going to ignore the evidence that’s right in front of my face. They look good.

San Francisco @ Denver (-6.5)

  • The Pick: San Francisco
  • The Score: Denver 26, San Francisco 21

Do they even play the game? Or do they simply have a three-hour ceremony to honor the record that Peyton Manning hasn’t broken yet?

Guys, I’m going to let you in on a little trick I use that will be particularly beneficial for this Sunday night game. I typically DVR “Football Night in America” and the night game and often watch them later on. Sometimes I have to actually live a life beyond football at the conclusion of the Sunday afternoon games. Other times I’ll choose to watch some TV shows with my fiancée, and then when she goes to bed I’ll turn the game on. What’s nice about this strategy is that I get to skip all the puff pieces on “Football Night in America” entirely. I watch Dan Patrick do the highlights of all the earlier games, and then I skip all the bullshit that Bob Costas, Hines Ward and the rest of the crew spews about whoever’s involved in the upcoming game. This Sunday night’s pregame show is going to be beyond intolerable. Please do yourself a favor and watch it on tape delay.

As for the game, did you know the Broncos have won two games by seven points, a third game by 14 only because of a late pick-six that made it seem more like a blowout than it really was, and their fourth win was a 21-point pasting against the Logan Thomas-led Cardinals. I’m just trying to say they haven’t been the dominators you’d expect them to be yet.

Also, remember how much Russell Wilson tortured Denver with all his 3rd down scrambling late in the Broncos matchup with Seattle in week 3? Well, Colin Kaepernick also knows how to run a little bit too.

Houston @ Pittsburgh (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Houston
  • The Score: Houston 27, Pittsburgh 21

I have no confidence in the Steelers whatsoever. They seem so old on defense that I dread the thought of Houston’s skill players getting loose after catches or breaking off long runs.

Even though both teams are 3-3, if you compare the two schedules, you’ll be much more impressed with what Houston’s done. Even their losses the last two weeks have been extremely close.

This is a big game for two teams that want to get into the AFC wildcard mix.

And if you’re already looking forward to next week, I’ve got good news! In week 8 there are six potentially awesome matchups. In the meantime, try to enjoy week 7.

Week 7 NFL Picks Against The Spread

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It’s pretty amazing that after this week the 2013 regular season will be 41% complete. Even more amazing is that I still feel like I’m getting warmed up with my picks. You’d think by now I’d have a good handle on this NFL season, but I don’t.

Need evidence? After finishing the 2012 season with a 58% win rate across all games against the spread (and barely ever dipping below .500 in a single week of picks), I’m floundering with a 37-51-4 record so far this year (42%). If you had bet $110 on every one of my picks so far this year, you’d be down $1,910 total. I should probably feel bad about that. But it’s a marathon. If you’re on the verge of losing your home or your loved ones because of my picks, come on out to LA and I’ll buy you a burger and a milkshake. That’s the best I can do. But this will turn around. It always does (I’m guessing. I don’t really know since it’s only my second year of tracking picks).

I need to turn a corner quickly or else it’s going to be me losing all my assets (which include a hastily put together grill from Home Depot and six months worth of dog food). So I spent some time yesterday going deep into all 92 of my picks from the first six weeks. Here’s what I know:

  • When the spread is 0-3 points, I’m a respectable 18-19-3 this year (yes, 49% correct is respectable when comparing it to that awful overall number).
  • When the spread is 3.5 points or higher, I’m an abysmal 19-32-1 (37%).
  • Breaking that down even further, when the line is between 3.5 and 7, I’m 12-18-1 (40%), and when the line jumps to 7.5 or higher, I’m 7-14 (33).

Pretty straight forward, right? The bigger the line, the worse I do. And in terms of me getting back on track this week, sadly there are only 4 lines that fall into my apparent wheelhouse. So here’s what I’m going to do. For the games with a big spread (by my definition at least), I’ll be going against my initial instincts no matter how obvious the pick seems. If all evidence points to the favorite covering, I’m going to switch it up and pick the underdog. And vice versa. I hate doing this. I really just wanted to stick to my process and assume things would eventually work out. But we’re too deep into the season to stay the course and expect a turnaround.

Staying the course at this point would be like a football team that was expected to contend for a playoff spot starting the season off looking really bad…the defense can’t stop anyone, the offense looks out of sorts, especially the QB as he throws eight interceptions in his first three games. And after week 3’s embarrassing 38-0 loss to a seemingly inferior team, the management gives everyone one more chance to turn things around. They stay the course only to see the team lose the next three games in equally embarrassing fashion, and that QB puts up another seven interceptions over that time. But then, after falling to 0-6, absolutely nothing happens. No shakeup. No coach getting fired. This QB who’s on a record-setting pace for interceptions in a season doesn’t get benched, doesn’t get called out publicly. Nothing. They stay the course again. Does that sound like good management and a recipe for turning things around?

Exactly. And I don’t want to look back in three more weeks and say I wish I would have changed things up earlier. That’s why the change for me comes now.

In case you didn’t already figure it out, that team I just described is the 2013 New York Giants.

So if you’re thinking of backing any of my picks, just know that my season is most closely resembling that of the New York Giants. Good times.

Let’s get to the week 7 picks:

Seattle (-7) @ Arizona

After all that talk about going against my instincts for every large spread, I’m refusing to do so for this game. I just feel so strongly that this will be a close game. We all know the Seahawks aren’t nearly as good on the road as they are at home, regardless of who they’re playing. And this particular opponent just happens to have a legit defense. If I told you that Arizona will most likely be able to neutralize Seattle’s running game and their top receiver, would you still be willing to take them to cover the seven points? I guess if you think the Seahawks defense will have some big plays against the error prone Cardinals offense you might be inclined to still take the favorite here. With my luck, Seattle will return three Carson Palmer interceptions for touchdowns. But I’m sticking to my guns here. Seattle wins without covering, 22-17.

Sorry for that confusion, I promise to change things up for most of the other games that fall into my “death zone.”

New England (-3.5) @ NY Jets

My initial thought is to take the Jets with the points, mostly because of the mounting injuries on the Patriots defense. Vince Wilfork’s season-ending injury was alarming enough, but now Jerod Mayo is out for the year and Aqib Talib may be out a little while (here’s yet another example of why I hate making picks on a Thursday…we still don’t know Talib’s status for this weekend). The Jets have shown themselves to be at least semi-competent on offense. This game is in New Jersey. And sloppy Thursday game or not, the Jets did hold New England to 13 points in their week 2 matchup at Gillette Stadium. Everything points to another close game so that’s why I’m going against those facts and taking the Patriots to cover in blowout fashion, 28-10.

Side Note: Maybe Rob Gronkowski could have done us all a favor and announced a while back that he’d be on the Derrick Rose rehabilitation plan. I feel like that would have saved the fans and media lots of time and energy debating why he hasn’t returned yet. After this week, the Pats have back-to-back home games against Miami and Pittsburgh before their bye week. Imagine this team being 8-1 and then getting Gronk, Shane Vereen and a hopefully healthy Danny Amendola for the stretch run?

San Diego (-9) @ Jacksonville

Easy pick here. Old Ross would have taken the points thinking that Jacksonville at home against the worst defense in football with Chad Henne at the helm would at least keep this to a respectable loss, especially with the cross country travel for San Diego on a short week. So without any further research whatsoever, let’s switch it up and take the Chargers to cover with a 33-13 win.

Side Note: Philip Rivers is a prime example of why fantasy football will someday cause me to jump off a bridge. How much time did we spend in August studying up on fantasy rankings? Trying desperately to determine the correct ranking of the Rodgers, Manning, Brady and Brees foursome atop the QB projections? And then we spent high draft picks or a crazy amount of auction money on those guys. And Philip F-ing Rivers goes undrafted in nearly every league only to be the 4th best QB through six weeks (on a points per game basis). And I doubt we’ll see a drop-off because he still faces Jacksonville, Washington, the Giants, Oakland and Denver (twice)…all terrible defenses.

Cincinnati @ Detroit (-3)

Sneaky good game here. Both teams are 4-2. Both have legitimate aspirations to win their division. And based on the next handful of weeks, I could see the winning team rolling to something like an 8-3 record before their respective schedules become more difficult in week 13. Big game. What I didn’t realize until a few minutes ago is that Cincinnati hasn’t looked good at all on the road this season…they’ve lost at Chicago and at Cleveland and nearly blew it against Thad Lewis in Buffalo last week. Even if Calvin Johnson didn’t look great in week 6, at least he played. He should only get healthier. I’m picking Detroit to cover with a 26-20 win.

Buffalo @ Miami (-7.5)

The Bills could get blown out in this game, right? They’ll have to start Lewis at QB once again. They’ve been bad on the road (seven-point loss at the Jets, 13-point loss at Cleveland). Miami’s coming off a bye and still looks like a solid team. I think you get the drill at this point. Since my instincts for these lines suck, I’m going with the Bills to cover. Miami still wins 29-24.

Side Note: Last week Thad Lewis faced a top five defense in Cincinnati and he threw for over 200 yards with two touchdowns and a 100.5 passer rating (while pushing the Bengals to the brink in overtime). Per the Matt Flynn contract rules that were established two years ago, doesn’t Lewis automatically get a six-year, $75 million guaranteed contract from some irresponsible team in the offseason?

Chicago @ Washington (PICK)

I’m taking Chicago to win 34-24. This looks like a terrible matchup for Washington on paper. The 2013 Bears have a legit offense, particularly with their many weapons in the passing game. That Redskins just so happen to be terrible at defending the pass. I hate to say it, but I think it’s time to write off the 2013 Redskins. They just don’t look right.

Meanwhile Washington fans are getting a glimpse through five games of what life with RGIII could be like in 5-7 years when running isn’t an option for him anymore. In his 2012 rookie season, Griffin averaged only 26.2 passing attempts per game, throwing for about 213 yards in those games. He ran for 54 yards per game. The low passing attempts and the rushing yards (which made him a dual threat to every defense) translated into a solid 2.7 touchdowns-to-turnovers ratio, but more importantly, 11 wins.

Through this first part of the 2013 season, Griffin’s rushing yards are down to 30 per game, and his average passing attempts are way up to 41.8 (289 passing yards per game). The result is a much worse touchdowns-to-turnovers ratio (0.67) while getting the Redskins off to a 1-4 start.

There are other possible reasons for Washington’s rough start, but I don’t think those numbers are a coincidence. With the threat of Griffin running essentially nonexistent, defenses are able to focus on stopping him as a passer. The good news for Redskins fans? He ran nine times for 77 yards in his last game, he’s only 23 years old, and his knee will only get healthier as time passes. It may be too late to salvage the 2013 season, but I’m betting on big things from him in 2014 (barring the typical Washington sports luck throwing him another major injury or a bizarre firearms felony).

Dallas @ Philadelphia (-3)

This line has been all over the place. I’ve seen one sportsbook open it as a PICK and another open it with Dallas as the three-point favorite. Which means they’re just as confused as I am. We’re talking about two evenly matched teams. Lots of offense, little defense. Philly will be without Michael Vick again. Dallas lost DeMarco Murray last week. Oddly enough the Eagles haven’t won a home game this year. But the Cowboys don’t have a road victory yet either. Both teams have beat Washington and the Giants, and both have lost to San Diego, Kansas City and Denver. In times like these I usually lean on whoever has the better coaching and QB matchup. Well, Dallas gets the nod in the QB department, but Philadelphia might actually win the coaching battle even with a rookie head coach. As much as I want to pick Dallas, I’m talking myself into Philly. With their top-ranked running game, ball control offense and the less-error-prone-than-Michael-Vick Nick Foles running the show, I think they don’t let Tony Romo do enough Tony Romo things. The pick is Philadelphia to cover and win, 29-24.

St. Louis @ Carolina (-6)

The initial instincts point to the Rams being a frisky team that covers the majority of the time when they’re underdogs against an equally questionable team. They’ve outscored the opposition 72-33 in their last two games, including a road win in Houston last week. At 2-3, why would the Panthers be favored by six over anyone? The line on this should be Panthers by three. I don’t know why it’s six and I don’t care. I’m taking the Panthers to cover because it’s the opposite of what I should do. I guess I’m hoping for a ton of running against St. Louis’ horrible run defense? Carolina wins, 20-12.

Side Note: The real reason I’m picking Carolina is because they’re my only hope for the three preseason Super Bowl bets I made. You must be wondering how that’s possible. The Panthers?? Your best bet to win the Super Bowl??? Well, I loved the NFC South going into the year so I had my intern go to Vegas in August and place three bets: Atlanta 9/1 odds, Carolina 40/1, Tampa Bay 60/1. So that sucks. Looking at the Panthers’ schedule…if everything breaks exactly right for them…they might claw their way to 9-7. A 10-6 record would take New Orleans resting its starters against Carolina in week 16 or the Patriots somehow losing to them on Monday Night Football in week 11…I’m fucked.

Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (-7)

The right choice is clearly to take Tampa and the points. Why? Let me count the ways: Atlanta is 1-4. In what crazy alternate reality are we living that a 1-4 team is laying a touchdown? Atlanta lost Julio Jones (it’s best receiver) for the year, and Roddy White (its 2nd best receiver) probably isn’t playing this week. Steven Jackson still might not be back. They’ve been terrible on defense. The old fallback of “Atlanta almost never loses at home” is no longer true since they lost back-to-back home games against the Patriots and Jets this year. Even if Tampa Bay is really really bad, it’s still a divisional game and even the worst teams get up for those. What am I missing?

Oh yeah, I’m missing the fact that I suck at making picks this year. I’m going with Atlanta to cover and pinning my hopes on Mike Glennon coming unglued in a loud dome. The only way the Falcons cover realistically is if by some act of god they go up by three touchdowns early. No way that Tampa offense comes back from that big of a hole. The final score is Atlanta 27, Tampa Bay 16.

San Francisco (-4.5) @ Tennessee

This is such an easy pick: San Francisco covers and wins, 24-3.

With Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, the Titans have been way too close to pulling off upsets against good teams the past two weeks (Kansas City and Seattle). The wheels haven’t totally fallen off this Tennessee team yet, but they will. And when we talk about wheels coming off a Fitzpatrick-led team, we’re talking all four wheels flying off the car while it’s barreling down the freeway at 80 miles per hour AND the spare tire somehow flying out of the car through the sunroof. That’s what Mr. Fitzpatrick brings to the table. Meanwhile the 49ers have quietly gotten things back on track after that two week disaster in September when they got outscored by Seattle and Indy 56-10. Since then, they’re 3-0 with their worst game in that stretch coming last week when they only beat Arizona by 12. We all temporarily forgot about San Francisco, but when they bring their 7-2 record into New Orleans in week 10, we’ll be like, “Oh, right, San Francisco. Fuck, they’re good.”

Houston @ Kansas City (-7)

Kansas City’s #1 ranked pass defense against T.J. “Don’t call me Matt Schaub just because I also like to throw pick-sixes” Yates. In Kansas City. The Chiefs are undefeated. The Texans are 2-4 and on a four-game losing streak. In their past two road games Houston has been outscored by a combined 52 points. Feel free to bet heavily on the Chiefs. There are plenty of reasons to justify it. But not me. I love the idea of taking the Texans for no obvious reason. It makes absolutely no sense, but I’m predicting a wild upset here. Houston shocks us all (well, not me since I’m predicting it) and hands KC their first loss, 24-21.

Cleveland @ Green Bay (-10)

Although Green Bay’s defense sucks and its best offensive weapon, Randall Cobb, is out for a while, I’d still normally be taking the Packers to cover because Brandon Weeden vs Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field seems like a sick joke intended to increase the suicide rate in Cleveland by 10,000%. But once again, you know the drill. I’m forcing myself to grab Cleveland and the points here. I’ll have to bank on the Cobb injury totally short circuiting the Packers offense and for Josh Gordon to be the best player on the field not named Aaron Rodgers. Cleveland scores a victory…sorry, a moral victory, as they cover the spread, but Green Bay wins 26-22.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-1)

If you’re as into football as I am, you’ve probably experienced this exact scenario: You make all your picks for Pick ‘Em league purposes, Suicide Pools, your weekly blog, etc on Thursday or Friday. You’re feeling good about most of those picks. Saturday rolls around and while you’re watching college football you make some bets on those upcoming NFL games, backing those same picks from earlier in the week. You read a bunch of “expert” predictions on different sports websites, and you see some of those experts talking about their picks on different TV shows. You start to get an uneasy feeling because there’s this one game where you thought your pick was going to be at least slightly rogue, only every single person seems to be picking the same team as you. Sunday morning rolls around and you call some of your buddies hoping someone, anyone, will make the case for the opponent of that team. But nobody does. And then you realize that sneaky pick you made is destined to lose because the entire world backed it. (This is the close relative of the sleeper team in the preseason that becomes not a sleeper at all because the entire world decides to pick them as a sleeper and then that team totally implodes once the season begins…for instance, this year’s Tampa Bay team).

This doesn’t happen every week, but when it does, I get so pissed off that I didn’t see it coming.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m warning you right now that Pittsburgh is that team this week. And I totally get it. The Ravens stink. They can’t score. They can’t run. They can’t pass. Their defense isn’t winning games. On the other side the Steelers could be right back in the thick of things in the AFC North if they win. Believe it or not, Pittsburgh’s offense has been better than Baltimore’s this year. And of course the game is in Pittsburgh.

Everyone is going to be taking the Steelers. For that reason alone, I’m picking Baltimore to cover and win, 23-17.

Denver (-7) @ Indianapolis

All the numbers and everything else we’ve seen from these teams so far tell me we should be taking Indy and counting on a close game. After all, the Colts offense isn’t so bad itself and their defense has actually played better than Denver’s this year. That just means I’m going with the reversal here and picking Peyton Manning and the Broncos to lay siege to the city of Indianapolis…they’re going to rape & pillage, burn everything to the ground, and walk away with a convincing 44-27 victory.

Side Note: As far as Jim Irsay’s antics from earlier this week go, I absolutely love what he’s doing. It’s the perfect crime. If the Broncos come to town and demolish the Colts, the Irsay-Manning stories will go away and we’ll all move on with our lives. But if the Colts somehow pull off the upset, people will ask Irsay if the ceremony to honor Manning and the subtle jabs he took at #18 in the media were his way of trying to get inside Manning’s head and throw him off. And even though Irsay will deny any attempts at throwing Manning off, he’ll do it with a wink and a smile, and we will all think he’s an evil genius. There’s no downside for him in creating all this commotion before the game. It’s almost too perfect of a plan.

Minnesota @ NY Giants (-3.5)

What a beaut of a Monday Night Football game! I’m sure ESPN’s ratings will be off the charts for this one. Two teams with a combined record of 1-10!!! Eli Manning vs Josh Freeman! Can we just skip all the foreplay on Sunday and fast forward to Monday please?

But seriously, I’m picking the Giants to cover and it’s not even a question. In my Pick ‘Em league where we rank our picks by confidence points, I might even select this as my most confident pick of the week. Why? Because while the Giants have been bad, unlucky and unhealthy, the Vikings have been bad, horrible and putrid. And I’m even willing to admit that Josh Freeman is a significant upgrade from Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. Doesn’t matter. The Giants will win, 33-23. 

Side Note: If your girlfriend/wife/mistress is used to you watching every Monday Night game no matter what, you could choose to be a hero this week and tell her you’d rather do something she wants to do than watch another measly football game. It’s the perfect game to miss. And hey, when you’re getting that Thank You BJ from her later that night, be sure to think of me. Or don’t.

Definitely don’t.

For those keeping score at home, in week 7 I’m taking:

  • 9 Favorites & 5 Underdogs (Chicago-Washington doesn’t have a favorite or underdog)
  • Of those 5 Underdogs, 1 of them is a Home Dog and 4 of them are Road Dogs.

Way too many favorites in there. Oh well. If this new method doesn’t work, next week I might be handing the reigns over to my girlfriend. Enjoy week 7.