Friday, September 19, 2008

At the sports desk: NFL weekly picks

I'm 17-13-1 so far this season. (home teams in CAPS)

ATLANTA 5.5 over Kansas City. PICK: FALCONS. Neither team was particularly impressive last week, but the Chiefs, at home vs the lowly Raiders, managed only 190 total yards, and only 55 yards rushing. Meanwhile, Atlanta has Michael Turner. Go with the Birds.

BALTIMORE 2.5 over Cleveland. PICK: BROWNS. I know, call me crazy. But I have a feeling. The Browns offense will not continue to struggle as badly as they have. Meanwhile, the Ravens might be rusty after a 2 week layoff, and don't forget--they start a rookie QB Joe Flacco, and in the NFL rookies QBs are always up and down. I have a feeling he'll be down this week.

BUFFALO 9.5 over Oakland. PICK: BILLS. Buffalo impresses me, winning on the road last week. Trent Edwards: 20 of 25, no INTs. Meanwhile, while the Raiders won last week, it was mainly due to their ground attack; JaMarcus Russell threw for only 55 passing yards. I don't see the Raiders being able to stay in this game solely by running it. Go with the suddenly high-flying Bills.

CHICAGO 3 over Tampa Bay. PICK: BEARS. Neither team is an offensive powerhouse. Both teams made mistakes last week--12 penalties for the Bears; 11 for the Bucs. Tampa Bay won last week largely by grinding out over 160 rush yards; I don't see that happening this week vs the Bears at home. Devin Hester's injury concerns me; but, you know what...this kind of smash-mouth, grind-it-out game at home is one the Bears usually win.

Dallas 3 over GREEN BAY. PICK: COWBOYS. Hey, props to Aaron Rodgers, who's been lighting it up so far this year, and threw for over 300 yards again last week. But Tony Romo threw for over 300 yards last week too; and if Calvin Johnson of the Lions can torch the Packer secondary, so can TO. Look for this to be another entertaining, high-scoring affair, but with the Cowboys' talent level, I see them outlasting the Pack and winning by about a touchdown.

DENVER 5.5 over New Orleans. PICK: SAINTS. I think the Broncos will win this game; but I see the Saints with Drew Brees and Reggie Bush exploiting the Denver defense just as the Chargers did, and keeping it real close, losing by about a field goal.

MINNESOTA 3.5 over Carolina. PICK: VIKINGS. Minnesota should have won last week; and they're at home again this week, with the added incentive of starting Gus Frerotte, who's likely to throw the ball more effectively than did Tarvaris Jackson. Carolina last week was fortunate to win, gaining only 216 yards on offense vs the Bears. I suspect their luck will run out this week.

NEW ENGLAND 12.5 over Miami. PICK: DOLPHINS. No, not to win the game; but to keep the spread below 13 points. Yes, the Dolphins gave up over 400 total yards to Arizona last week. But I suspect Sparano and Parcells are madly making adjustments as we speak. Meanwhile, note that Belichick played it very conservatively with Matt Cassel, and the Patriots only gained about 260 offensive yards themselves vs the Jets. I question Cassel's ability to throw the deep ball effectively; hence, throwing short and running the ball will keep this score down.

NY GIANTS 13.5 over Cincinnati. PICK: GIANTS. The Bengals appear to be in trouble. They gave up over 170 rush yards last week to Tennessee; the Giants can run it, too. Carson Palmer threw for only 127 yards last week and had two picks; the Giants defense is even tougher. Hard to see how Cincy can keep this one close. Go with the G-men and give the points.

PHILADELPHIA 3.5 over Pittsburgh. PICK: EAGLES. Donovan McNabb played brilliantly on Monday night in a losing cause; I suspect the Eagles' confidence was bolstered despite the loss. Meanwhile, reports out of Pittsburgh have Ben Roethlisberger nursing a banged-up shoulder. And they're on the road.

SAN FRANCISCO 4 over Detroit. PICK: 49ERS. The Lions are awash in a sea of media and fan negativity in Detroit, with their 0-2 start. They've surrendered 82 points in two games, and last week over 300 yards in the air. And now they face the Niners, and QB J.T. O'Sullivan and offensive guru Mike Martz--who were both with the Lions last year and know them very well (and how to attack them). Doesn't look good for the Lions.

SEATTLE 9.5 over St. Louis. PICK: SEAHAWKS. The Seahawks made a ton of mistakes last week, along with over 350 yards to the 49ers--but still almost won. Meanwhile, the Rams look hopeless--they gave up 6 sacks and over 400 total yards last week to the Giants; and even with Stephen Jackson, gained only 68 yards on the ground. This looks like Seattle's chance to get well.

TENNESSEE 5 over Houston. PICK: TITANS. The Texans haven't played in two weeks; they may be rusty. Meanwhile, Tennessee is running the ball, stopping the run, and Kerry Collins hasn't made mistakes. That's usually a good formula.

WASHINGTON 3 over Arizona. PICK: REDSKINS. Arizona has looked good under Kurt Warner. But so far they've played the Dolphins and Niners--not exactly the elite. Meanwhile, this game is on the road vs a decent club in the Redskins who showed signs of coming to life last week. This has always been the kind of game where the Cardinals have struggled in the past; and so they're going to have to prove to me they're different. I still have doubts; so, go with the Skins at home.

INDIANAPOLIS 5 over Jacksonville. PICK: COLTS. This is a tough one; the Jags have played the Colts very tough over the past few years, and of course the Colts' injuries are well-documented. But--the Jags have injuries too, concentrated on their O-line. Meanwhile the Colts offense showed signs late against Minnesota of coming to life; Manning threw for over 200 yards in the second half. I think the Colts win by a TD here given the Jags' injuries...

SAN DIEGO 9 over NY Jets. PICK: JETS. I think the Chargers will win; but I like Brett Favre and the Jets to keep this one close. The Chargers' defense is vulnerable with Shawn Merriman out. I look for this game to be a close one.