One man's Week 7 NFL picks ...
Pittsburgh (-3) over MIAMI
Our short national nightmare is over: I'm just happy James Harrison has decided he can figure out a way to play in this crazy new NFL. I know, I know, the idea that the league is putting some teeth into punishments for cheap hits bothers us all, but at least we have James Harrison to carry the flag for those who are offended by the NFL's attempt to police thuggery. James, you are our Ghandi, we stand beside you in this incredibly sensible and selfless quest.
ATLANTA (-3.5) over Cincinnati
Remember, despite my season-long bath in mediocrity, I am 5-1 in my Locks of the Week. So if you just skipped all of my other picks (which I of course highly suggest you do) and just stuck with the lock you'd be OK. The point is this: I have put you in position for great wealth, my hands are clean on this one. No guilt.
So here's your Lock of the Week. I'm still not sure what to make of the Falcons (totally non-competitive last week in Philly, a game where they had a chance to sort of plant the flag as a legit NFC power) but I'm pretty sure the Bengals are on their way to 6-10 (2-3 and look at the next eight games: at Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh, at Indy, Buffalo, at Jets, New Orleans, at Pittsburgh. They'll be favored in two more games -- tops -- in the next two months). Still not sure why this isn't a six or seven-point spread.
KANSAS CITY (-5.5) over Jacksonville
Looks like Todd Bouman at QB for Jacksonville, which in a bizarre way almost makes this a scary pick. Sure, the last time Bouman threw a pass in a game was 2005, but how many times have we seen a quarterback make a random spot start and throw for 300 yards in a win?
St. Louis (+3) over TAMPA BAY
If you could pick any QB to have for the next 10 years is it too early to think that Sam Bradford could be the right choice? Lemme take a quick look at all 32 teams and see … I was wrong, I'd still take Matt Ryan before him, maybe Mark Sanchez, too. But he's already in the conversation.
San Francisco (-2) over CAROLINA
As controversies go, Jimmy Clasuen vs. Matt Moore isn't exactly Brady-Bledsoe. More like Tommy Hodson vs. Marc Wilson. If I'm John Fox I just stick with Clasuen the rest of the way and give him a chance to show something. You already know Matt Moore isn't the answer, and you know this team is going nowhere this year, so what exactly is the risk?
CHICAGO (-2.5) over Washington
The Bears win and go to 5-2 because Jay Cutler will throw for over 300 yards and probably have at least two TD passes against the 31st-ranked pass defense in the NFL. It's great that Donovan McNabb is going home to Chicago but unless he's also bringing 2002 with him I don't think it'll matter much.
NEW ORLEANS (-13.5) over Cleveland
Game 2 for the Browns in what has to be the roughest four-game stretch of any team in the league this year: At Pittsburgh (return of Big Ben), at New Orleans, home New England, home Jets. That's the kind of kick in the twins that made Bob Saget a millionaire. Probably the four best teams in the league, though you could put a Baltimore or an Indy in there, I guess. It would say a lot about Mangini if the Browns are still playing hard in a couple of weeks with the playoffs out of reach and a rookie QB learning on the job.
BALTIMORE (-13) over Buffalo
I get what a franchise QB can mean, but if the Bills don't have a guy they love with what will be (at worst) a top three pick in the 2011 draft they should move out, stock up on picks and start building up the defense. Last four weeks they've allowed 34, 38, 38 and 36 points. The truth is that Ryan Fitzpatrick (99.9 passer rating -- seven TDs and just two picks) has been pretty good since he took over for Trent Edwards. Tough assignment for the Bills Sunday, the Ravens are going to looking to blow off some Foxboro steam. Joe Flacco -- who I am not sold on yet at all, made some terrible decisions down the stretch last week -- has his best game of the year as the Ravens win easily.
Philadelphia (+3) over TENNESSEE
Was there ever a time over the last 16 years when you thought Kerry Collins was one of the six or seven best quarterbacks in football? Not even close, right? But you talk about a compiler -- he's 12th all-time in passing yards, ahead of guys like Jim Kelly, Troy Aikman and Steve Young. There's a lot to be said for hanging around.
(One other quick point about the Bills. Doesn't it make sense to make a move on whichever QB the Eagles don't keep after this year instead of using a high first on what is really a coin flip? You know both Kolb and Vick are Day One ready and neither is going to cost you that first-rounder.)
SEATTLE (-6) over Arizona
The Seahawks are the only team in the NFC West with more points scored than points allowed this year, holding a whopping 98-97 lead. The Cardinals -- tied for first at 3-2 with the Seahawks -- have been outscored by 50 points in their five games. The NFC West is like Chelsea Handler -- I don't get it and hope to make it through 2010 without seeing it on TV. But for all the laughs Pete Carroll (His Tweet of the Week? "Hey 12th man, let's get a huge "SEA! HAWKS!" chant going during the coin toss up until kickoff on Sun... spread the word!") has given us over the years, the guy can put together a defense. Did it with the Pats, did it at USC and the Seahawks are 12th in points allowed. He'll cook up something that'll confuse Max Hall, and the offense (with Dorsett and Lynch) should be able to move the ball against an Arizona defense ranked near the bottom of the league against the rush.
Oakland (+8.5) over DENVER
From Thursday's San Francisco Chronicle:
With the Raiders thin at quarterback, punter Shane Lechler got behind center to spell Jason Campbell and Kyle Boller at practice on Wednesday.
File Under: The kind of report you like to read when your team has the Raiders' first-round pick in 2011.
GREEN BAY (-2.5) over Minnesota
Big moment last night, as I googled "Jenn Sterger Playboy" for the 25,018th time to take the lead over "Ines Sainz naked" on my 2010 Creepy Google Search Chart.
DALLAS (-3) over New York Giants
Desperate team at home pick, nothing more. The Giants are 4-2, but is there a really good win in there? Home over Carolina, home over Chicago, at Houston (a good win, but the jury is still out on the Texans) and home Detroit. And two blowout losses on the road (Indy, Tennessee). I just don't see a huge difference between these two teams, and one of them needs to win or their season is over. And yes, I'm writing this with my mouth wide open while trying to figure out how to work my headset to honor what Wade Phillips does every time the camera shows him after his team is hit with an excessive celebration penalty.
New England (+3) over SAN DIEGO
This might be a different pick if I thought Antonio Gates was healthy, but it looks like he'll be limited at best with a toe injury.
The Patriots are 4-1, and I'll ask this: Do you think this defense is as good as it will be at the end of the season? No reason to think the young guys won't improve, right? And won't this offense only get better as they get more comfortable without Moss? I think we are watching something pretty rare -- a team that is in the middle of a rebuilding season but at the same time has legitimate Super Bowl hopes. Helps when you have one of the five best QB's in history (and No. 21 on the NFL Network's top 100 players list -- and how can Brady be behind Favre on that list? Are you kidding me? Has there been a minute since Brady took over in Foxboro where you would have rather had Favre under center? Two minutes left, down six, life on the line is anyone choosing Favre? As a QB Brett Favre couldn't carry a texted picture of Brady's jock) playing at an MVP level. He'll make the plays when they need it again in San Diego. Call it a 27-24 final.
Last Week: 7-7