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Wednesday, October 18 2017

NFL Predictions 2006: Week 7

SportEarly for a change. Let's hope no one breaks their leg on Saturday...

Carolina (4-2) @ Cincinnati (3-2): pick CAR +3.5/over 44

This is guaranteed to be a cat fight. Sorry, I couldn't resist. The Panthers are starting to win, albeit in close games. Three games in their current streak of four have come by a total of 8 points and they beat Cleveland only 20-12. Getting any victory would satisfy the Bengals who have gotten hammered by New England and had their hearts broken in Tampa Bay sandwiched around their bye week. It seems like a lot more than a month ago when their 28-20 win in Pittsburgh left them 3-0. Momentum and home field are strange things, but I don't like either side of the football for Cincinnati. Two straight games scoring only 13 points with star receiver Chad Johnson scoring just one touchdown. His 24 receptions for 300 yards almost mirror teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh meaning that he isn't taking over games. Guess who is? Steve Smith, that's who. After dropping 189 yards on the Baltimore defense including a back breaking score that went for 72 it is clear how big his impact is on this team. Running the ball I view Foster and Johnson as comparable threats, but it won't look that way on the stat sheet because Rudi faces a far better run defense. Any way I cut this up it will take a big effort from Carson Palmer for the Bengals to win. Despite throwing 72 passes over the last two games he has only 1 touchdown and 516 yards. If he breaks out they win, but I have to stick with the hot team.

Carolina 28, Cincinnati 23

Detroit (1-5) @ NY Jets (3-3): pick NYJ -3.5/under 43

This was almost the two cities participating in the World Series later in the evening, but the St. Louis Cardinals spoiled the party. Now New Yorkers will no doubt be ready to ensure the Motor City doesn't have any more reason to celebrate anything by sending the Lions back with a loss. It won't be hard because Detroit's road wins are about as common as Rosie O'Donnell keeping her mouth shut for more than ten seconds. On the other side of that coin the Jets have played well at home with two close losses to good teams (24-17 to New England, 31-28 to Indianapolis) and just beat Miami 20-17. They aren't quite turning the corner, but at least they can see it from where they are standing. The same can't be said for Detroit who needed a 3-1 edge in turnovers, 127 yards rushing from Kevin Jones and 161 yards receiving from Roy Williams on their home field just to beat Buffalo by a field goal. They are passing the ball well but at the Meadowlands sometimes that is tough to do. Both defenses are soft so each offense will have room to operate one would think. I am of the opinion New York's gang green comes to play and turns this into a nice win.

NY Jets 24, Detroit 13

Green Bay (1-4) @ Miami (1-5): pick MIA -5/under 40

Thank God the trade deadline has passed so we don't have to hear the insane rumors of Favre being dealt anywhere. Now he gets another shot at his old foe Joey Harrington in his new uniform. The bad news for the old guy is that his defense isn't weak by any stretch. Neither team has run the ball effectively and both have above average run defenses. This would seem to put the game in the hands of the quarterbacks and clearly define the result. However, on the road this season Green Bay has already lost decisions by 26-0 and 31-9. I view those as "give up" efforts. Even if the Dolphins have mightily underachieved this season relative to their expectations they have always kept it reasonably close having lost by no more than 11 points. They are also home from a three game road trip knowing a bye week is on deck so I anticipate a big effort. Sooner or later Saban might be coaching for his job and with a trip to Chicago next a loss here means a 1-7 start. I think they avoid it.

Miami 23, Green Bay 15

Jacksonville (3-2) @ Houston (1-4): pick JAX -9.5/over 40.5

The Jags are a lot better than their record indicates. The Texans can't say the same. Jacksonville has shut out their last two opponents at home where they have not allowed a point since opening day. Now they hope to notch their first road win after tough defeats in Indianapolis and Houston. It might have to happen without their starting quarterback, something I see as a minimal factor with David Garrard on the roster. Houston couldn't follow up their first victory with anything close to a respectable effort in Dallas. Their losses have all come by at least two touchdowns with margins of 14, 19, 16 and 28. It is a complete mismatch on paper and should turn out that way on the field. It is getting to the point of the season where the cream rises to the top and Jacksonville can't afford to let Houston stay in this game. They will put them out of their misery early and coast.

Jacksonville 27, Houston 17

New England (4-1) @ Buffalo (2-4): pick NE -5/over 37

This was a battle on opening day with the Patriots having to rally before coming away with a 19-17 decision on their home field. Down by 10 into the second half first the offense rallied with a touchdown and field goal before a rare game winning safety was turned in by the defense. I'm not sure going on the road will really impact New England. Against these weak AFC East opponents they will continue to look good. Their ground game has two guys to ride and if that doesn't work Tom Brady is there to save the day. On the other side McGahee is responsible for 36% of the offense. If he can't find running room there is very little chance for Losman to rescue them. The fact is that the Bills are a mediocre team seemingly content with staying in that category. New England is a championship team in their heart. It will show in this game, a business like victory for the Pats.

New England 22, Buffalo 16

Philadelphia (4-2) @ Tampa Bay (1-4): pick PHI -5.5/under 43

Just a few short years ago this was the NFC Championship game. Tampa Bay routed Philadelphia in their house 27-10 en route to a Super Bowl title. The next season it was the Eagles representing the conference in a losing effort at the big game. Now Donovan McNabb has his team thinking playoffs again, especially on offense where no team has held them under 24 points. Unfortunately the defense has already yielded that many in four of six games, hence their 30-24 overtime loss to the Giants and 27-24 defeat last week in New Orleans. The Bucs are far from explosive on offense under rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. His best play last week might have been taking a late hit to keep the chains moving for a game winning drive. Their 14-13 win over Cincinnati put them in the win column, but they have scored only 62 points all season. They also just traded away defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, a shrewd move for their future but a loss in the short term for a defense struggling to hold onto the image of year's past. With him they are #26 against the run, not that Philly will challenge them on the ground. I expect a very ugly game. Both defenses should give their team a chance to win. Tampa Bay's because of sheer pride, Philadelphia's because the opposition is weak. In the end I have to bank on a healthy McNabb being able to close out the win whereas last week a still not right Palmer couldn't.

Philadelphia 19, Tampa Bay 13

Pittsburgh (2-3) @ Atlanta (3-2): pick PIT -2.5/over 37

The Steelers made a statement last week by blowing out Kansas City 45-7. They aren't dead yet. Big Ben had a solid game and at least for one game the media can put down the shovels. I am more curious to find out what to expect from the Falcons who have been maddening so far. Two weeks in a row they punish Carolina and Tampa Bay, allowing just three field goals. Then the Saints terrorize them, even if it was a Katrina inspired effort. After jumping back into the win column with a resounding 32-10 pounding of Arizona the wheels came off their 14-3 lead over the Giants which turned into a 27-14 loss. Aren't teams that run the ball well supposed to be able to protect leads? How does a team rush for 223 yards and pick up just 16 first downs? Getting 90 of it on a touchdown scamper from Dunn is one way, and going 6/15 on third down is indicative of Vick's liability in the passing game. Wide receivers Jenkins, White and Lelie combined for only 6 receptions for 64 yards. Tight end Alge Crumpler had five for 66 so you can expect Pittsburgh to double him up on passing downs. After seeing Tiki Barber gash this defense I find it hard to believe Willie Parker won't find some room to run. Overall I see a balanced team in the Steelers trying to sweat out a tough game on the road against a team that either overwhelms you or stinks it up. I'll take the group that knows how to win.

Pittsburgh 24, Atlanta 20

San Diego (4-1) @ Kansas City (2-3): pick SD -4.5/over 41

Both of these teams have tangled with Pittsburgh and San Francisco this month. The results of those games say a lot. It is no surprise each team routed the 49ers, but while the Chargers had a smash mouth 23-13 win over the Steelers it was the Chiefs taking one on the chin last week in a 45-7 defeat. That loss exposed problems which have been mounting for a while. The loss of Trent Green has put too much pressure on Larry Johnson. He is keeping fantasy football owners happy with 631 total yards and 4 touchdowns, but despite averaging an identical number of carries per game as last year hardly has anyone talking about 2,000 yards. He might be wondering if he was actually on the Madden cover this season with his paltry 3.4 average running the ball. Their once automatic offense had a third poor outing and now must take on possibly the most athletic defense in the NFL. San Diego is #1 in total defense and in the top 3 of all the major categories. It is tough to imagine Huard being able to finish this game. Rookie Brodie Croyle mopped up last week and this time he might be thrown in there just to see what he can do. The season isn't lost yet for the Chiefs, who might get Green back, but it is getting close if they lose this one and also fall to the visiting Seahawks next week. Even their best effort might not be enough to stop Tomlinson and a quarterback in Rivers who is gaining confidence by the snap.

San Diego 26, Kansas City 16

Denver (4-1) @ Cleveland (1-4): pick DEN -4.5/under 32

The Browns have so far been just good enough to annoy their opponents. Three of their losses have come by within one score, but they lack the offensive punch to get them over the top. Having an offense might be important against a team like the Broncos who have given up only one touchdown all season, that being while in a prevent fourth quarter defense at New England. The flip side of that is a listless Denver offense with a season high of 17 points scored and 62 total. Shanahan is definitely happy to ignore the style points in favor of safe victories. One positive is the running of Tatum Bell. He is on pace to become the team's first back with over 300 carries in a season since Terrell Davis had 392 during the 1998 campaign ending in a second consecutive Super Bowl title. Javon Walker has emerged as the true deep threat they wanted Ashley Lelie to be, but his production is overshadowed by the fact that Rod Smith is finally showing his age with minimal production and only 8.5 yards per reception. Perhaps the strangest part of this game will be former Denver running back Reuben Droughns running against the bevy of former Cleveland defensive linemen. Every time Droughns gets stuffed there will be groans in the stands. I like the Frye to Edwards connection for the future, but Champ Bailey is going to treat the kid badly in this game. If he locked up Randy Moss last week there is no reason to believe he can't do the same here.

Denver 20, Cleveland 9

Arizona (1-5) @ Oakland (0-5): pick AZ -3/over 39.5

Some believe the Cardinals will have a hard time showing up emotionally after their unreal collapse on Monday Night Football against Chicago. I believe the Raiders have a tough time showing up whenever there is a football game to be played. With 11 losses in a row Oakland is looking for answers. They were able to score 41 points during defeats against Cleveland and San Francisco, but went back to their hopeless ways in last week's 13-3 defeat in Denver marking their third game without a touchdown this season. For me the big story is a meeting of the Pac-10's two most prolific passers ever. Matt Leinart won the Heisman and a national title (two if you ask Trojan fans) but few realize he broke conference records held by Andrew Walter from Arizona State. At this point the Raiders have a mess on the offensive line. Arizona's defense certainly last week showed the ability to wreak havoc if that is the case again. Oakland's defense can do some things, but something tells me Edgerrin James will be a little motivated to show he still has it after his pathetic showing on MNF. I am not convinced the Raiders blew it by not drafting Leinart because he wouldn't be thriving on this offense, but on this day he is going to make the fans think that.

Arizona 24, Oakland 17

Minnesota (3-2) @ Seattle (4-1): pick SEA -6.5/over 41

There is some bad blood between these teams after the Vikings "stole" guard Steve Hutchinson from the Pacific Northwest by putting the "poison pill" contract on the table. The Seahawks countered by taking wide receiver Nate Burleson. Thus far the edge in those deals is clearly in Minnesota's favor. Chester Taylor's running lanes have been there behind the Pro Bowl guard to the tune of 421 yards putting him on pace for 1,347 for the season. Burleson has just 7 receptions for 104 yards and only one game where he caught more than one pass. However, the trade for Deion Branch has the Seahawks feeling much better on offense. As predicted in this space last week Branch finally made his impact felt with six receptions and two huge touchdowns during the team's come from behind win at St. Louis to preserve their lead in the division. Safely back at home you can expect the defense to straighten up a little. It is a bit deceiving to say they have allowed 30, 37 and 28 points the past three weeks so they are struggling mightily. The first was a home blowout over the Giants where points were scored long after the game was decided. Then came a shellshocked effort in Chicago after Shaun Alexander went down. Last week they struggled early and gave up a bomb late, but in the meat of the game played very well. That being said, I imagine Minnesota will have a tough go of it against this defense. They finally broke the 20 point barrier in their 26-17 victory over Detroit and have yet to give up 20 this season. With mostly low scoring slug it out games on their ledger obviously they hope to keep it close going into the fourth quarter. I see that plan failing. Even without Alexander to control the game I like what I am seeing out of the Seattle passing game. Jerramy Stevens might return to the fray giving Hasselbeck yet another weapon. He is the difference.

Seattle 27, Minnesota 16

Washington (2-4) @ Indianapolis (5-0): pick IND -8.5/over 48

If the Colts aren't wary of the Redskins they should be. This game has upset written all over it. Clinton Portis is licking his chops at the prospect of running on this defense which won't have time to get McFarland into the fold. If they can control the clock with long drives it could get interesting. By that same token Peyton Manning must be salivating over the Washington secondary. After losing Carlos Rogers they gained Shawn Springs back from injury and signed Troy Vincent. With this kind of shuffling I expect a few breakdowns and guys like Wayne and Harrison have a tendency to exploit those with big plays. For all the moaning about Edge's departure to Arizona, the duo of Rhodes and Addai have piled up a respectable 542 yards rushing with 4 touchdowns plus another 149 yards and a score in the passing game. Just to save you time with a calculator this pace will produce 2,211 total yards with 16 trips to paradise over the course of a full season. James and Rhodes last year finished with 2,049 and 18 so clearly the offense hasn't slowed down. There are rumblings about the Colts winning ugly, barely beating poor opponents. It is better than losing to the Titans as Washington did on their home field last week. It seems to me that while trying to improve their offense the Redskins have suffered significantly on defense. This is going to be high scoring game and naturally I have to rest the outcome on home field and quarterback play. Peyton by far.

Indianapolis 33, Washington 24

NY Giants (3-2) @ Dallas (3-2): pick DAL -3/over 44.5

This is a pivotal game in the NFC East. Should the Eagles take care of the Bucs as I expect them to, both teams will be feeling the heat as they try to match victories and stay close to the division leaders. Dallas will be feeling more heat with three consecutive road games (Carolina, Washington, Arizona) on deck and a home tilt with Indianapolis after that. Losing this game could put their season into full blown roller coaster mode as they struggle to stay on the plus side. New York can rest a little easier with three home games after this (Tampa Bay, Houston, Chicago) especially considering the first two should be wins. A big road victory here might pave the way for a 6-2 start and give them visions of knocking the Bears down in a possible battle for home field in the playoffs. Each team comes in with a prolific offense. In fact, they have matching running games tied for #3 at 151.8 yards per game. The tiebreaker goes to the Cowboys who are a lot better at stopping the run. New York has a better passing game, but even if their statistics are eerily comparable no one would take Burress/Toomer (48 catches, 636 yards, 6 touchdowns) over Glenn/Owens (47 catches, 614 yards, 7 touchdowns). The tiebreaker there might be New York's Shockey having a better year than Witten who has yet to score. Something tells me Julius Jones is up for another one of his huge efforts, and an unexpected Barber will help carve up a victory. That would be Marion who just keeps tallying touchdowns and has combined with Jones to rush for 136 yards per game. Tiki's understudy Brandon Jacobs has assisted him to a combined 142 per game, but not in this stadium against this defense. He can fire himself and his team up with retirement talk all he wants. This game is going to the Cowboys.

Dallas 28, NY Giants 22

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