The Reuters global sports blog
Week Nine NFL Picks
Okay, the first string is back calling the shots this week after Week 8 backup CBall got pounded 1-5 (ouch).
CBall’s fumbles have left Team Lineman (6-0 in the Lineman’s last start in Week 7 in case anyone forgot) perilously close to the .500 mark but the big guy is back and so is the momentum as we head into the second half the schedule.
Record: 25-34. Last week: 1-5. Pick of the Week: 4-4
PICK OF THE WEEK:
Houston Texans (5-3) at Indianapolis Colts (7-0) (Line Texans plus 9 1/2) Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has been red hot at the controls of the NFL’s top ranked passing game. But wait a second; who is that guy ahead of him leading the league in most yards passing and touchdown passes? Why it’s Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.
Texans monster wide receiver Andre Johnson is scary good and leads NFL with 697 yards on 44 catches but Manning’s favourite target Reggie Wayne has just eight yards less on 55 catches.
After a stuttering start to the season the Texans have won three straight and are 3-1 on the road so should not be intimidated coming into the “Big Oil Drum” Lucas Oil Stadium.
What is intimidating, however, is the Colts 13-1 record against the Texans and a surprisingly stingy defence that has surrendered just 13 points per game – tops in the league.
The Colts could remain unbeaten after Sunday but giving up 9 1/2 to a quality team finding its mojo is just too much.
Take the Texans and the 9 1/2.
Carolina Panthers (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (7-0) (Line Panthers plus 14 1/2) Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme went off the rails tossing five interceptions in a playoff loss to the Cardinals to end last season and has had problems getting back on track ever since.
After a 0-3 start, the Panthers have displayed some bite with three wins in their last four games but none have come against the type of quality opponent they will face on Sunday.
The Saints high-flying offence led by quarterback Drew Brees can score at will averaging a league best 39 points and 428 yards per game.
The New Orleans defence also knows how to find the end zone returning five interceptions for TDs — not good news for Delhomme who has been a turnover machine tossing 13 picks against just five touchdowns.
But Delhomme, a Louisiana native and former Saints backup, is 6-0 on visits to the Big Easy and is coming off his first turnover free game of the season with last week’s win over Arizona.
The Panthers also catch the Saints coming off a short week following a tough Monday night win over Atlanta.
Brees will be wary of a Panthers top ranked pass defence and defensive end Julius Peppers is a beast with six sacks in last four games.
The Saints march on but giving up two touchdowns is too much.
Take the Panthers and the 14 1/2.
Green Bay Packers (4-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7) (Line Packers minus 9 1/2) Tampa Bay will wear their vintage 1976 popsicle orange jerseys on Sunday which are sure to bring back memories of the bad old days of when the Bucs were the worst team in the NFL.
Oh wait, the winless Bucs are the worst team in the NFL…
Now that the Brett Favre homecoming circus is behind them, the Packers can focus all their attention on locking up an NFL wildcard spot.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is the NFL’s top rated QB but the Packers have had problems protecting their quarterback, who has been sacked a league high 31 times.
That however, should not be a concern against the Buccaneers, who couldn’t get to the passer with a road map.
Buccaneers are already onto their third quarterback this season handing rookie Josh Freeman the start.
The Pack enjoy a weekend in the sun.
Take Green Bay and give up the 9 1/2.
Detroit Lions (1-6) at Seattle Seahawks (2-5) (Line Seahawks minus-9 1/2) The beat up Seahawks have just two wins this season but both have been home blowouts, 41-0 over the Jaguars and 28-0 against the Rams.
The Lions make the long trip west to hostile Qwest Field where they have not won since 1999.
For the second consecutive season the Seahawks have been undone by injuries with a dozen starters missing one game or more but have more than enough manpower to handle the toothless Lions, who got dumped by winless St. Louis last week.
Despite having just two wins the Seahawks will be motivated as they remain very much in the hunt for a playoff spot in the weak NFC West sitting just two back of the front-running Cardinals.
Take the Seahawks and surrender the 9 1/2.
Tennessee Titans (1-6) at San Francisco 49ers (3-4) (Line 49ers minus 3 1/2) After a strong start to the season the 49ers have dropped three straight and need a win to keep the pressure on the NFC West leading Cards.
San Fran’s last two defeats to the Colts and Texans were by a combined seven points and this week return to Candlestick Park for their first home game in almost a month.
The NFL’s best team a year ago, the Titans finally got their first win last week over the Jaguars benching aging QB Kerry Collins in favour of Vince Young.
The running game is likely to provide the key to victory in this one with Titans Chris Johnson, who rushed for a franchise-record 228 yards against the Jaguars, going toe-to-toe against 49ers Frank Gore.
But San Francisco has the NFL’s second ranked rush defence yielding just over 84.9 yards a game.
Young and Johnson have provided the Titans with some spark but 49ers coach inspirational Mike Singletary will have his team even more fired up for this one.
Take the 49ers and give up the 3 1/2.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) at Denver Broncos (6-1) (Line Steelers minus 2 1/2) The well rested Steelers come off a bye week while the Broncos come into the Monday Nighter off their first loss of season.
The Broncos, who surprised everyone with their 6-0 start, came back to earth with thud falling to the Ravens and now face another tough challenge with the Super Bowl champions coming into Mile High riding a four game win streak.
The Steelers wildman safety Troy Polamalu is back to full fitness and creating havoc and all sorts of headaches for Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton.
Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger can also expect a tough night going against a Broncos defence that has allowed just over 13 points a game and has 23 sacks.
But the Steelers tame the Broncos, who drop their second in a row.
Take the Steelers and give up the 2 1/2.
PHOTO: Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) looks down on the Tennessee Titans during second half of their NFL football game at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee September 20, 2009. REUTERS/M. J. Masotti Jr.