The Lineman’s NFL picks — Week 9

November 5, 2010

NFLThat was better, a 4-2 week gets us back on track after a little first half wobble.

Unlike past weeks there were several matchups I liked in Week Nine, in fact it was difficult to settle on the six I liked best.

But this week I am going with teams that are expecting to be Super Bowl contenders and are hitting their stride – or need to – as we head into the second half of the season.

Record: 23-25. Last week 4-2. Pick of the Week: 3-5

Arizona Cardinals (3-4) at Minnesota Vikings (2-5) (Line Vikings minus-8.5)

Randy Moss is gone and Brett Favre is fading (I mean how much more punishment can this 41-year-old granddad take) but while the Vikings are down they are not out – not yet.

Tipped to reach the Super Bowl the Vikings have watched their season slip away but can get a grip with a win over the low-flying Cardinals.

A look at the schedule gives Minny hope with the Bills, Lions and a pair against the Bears on deck.

However, at 2-5 there is no margin for error, meaning the Vikings have to do the business starting this Sunday at the Metrodome.

While Vikes coach Brad Childress may not be ready to take on Favre he was prepared to standup to Moss, cutting the self-absorbed receiver after he snuggled up to his former coach Bill Belichick following Sunday’s loss to New England and then slammed the caterer that brings in free grub to the club.

Even without Moss and with wide-out Percy Harvin on the limp, the Vikings should have enough offensive firepower to blow away a Cards defence that is ranked second worst in the league giving up an average of 28 points per game (ppg) and is 29th in rush defence.

That likely means plenty of work for the NFL’s leading rusher Adrian Peterson, who is averaging nearly 111-yards per game.

Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt keeps switching between rookie QB Max Hall and veteran Derek Anderson hoping one might catch fire but both have been stone cold with Arizona averaging only 260 ypg, second lowest in the NFL.

Winter is coming to Minny and Childress is on thin ice.

Vikings defensive end Jarred Allen, one of the NFL’s most feared pass rushers the last two seasons, has just one sack and needs to find his mojo.

A beat-up Favre may need a walker to get out on the field but give me the future Hall of Famer with an enormous chip on his shoulder and something to prove playing at home against an Arizona team that sucks on the road.

The Vikes win BIG. Take the Vikings and give up the 8.5.

– – – –
New Orleans Saints (5-3) at Carolina Panthers (1-6) (Line Saints minus-6.5)

The defending Super Bowl champion Saints have left me with a major Mardi Gras hangover this season. How can you lose to the Cardinals and the Browns and then beat the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Part of the reason are injuries that have left New Orleans without Reggie Bush and a running game while Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees has thrown a league high 11 interceptions.

But the Saints turned in a big effort last Sunday upsetting the Steelers and look on the march.

The Saints defense is beat up and could be missing several key starters such as cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter but the Panthers have been pussycats on offense sitting dead last in scoring at 12 ppg and total offence 251.4 ypg.

No surprise the Panthers have flip-flopped at quarterback. Matt Moore led the Panthers to their only win two weeks ago over the equally inept 49ers but has thrown just five touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

Defensively the Panthers have been solid allowing just over 300 ypg, fourth best in the league and the Saints have never enjoyed their visits to Charlotte, losing three of the last four meetings.

Saints needed a late field goal to eke out a 16-14 win at home in Week Four but they arrive in Carolina riding the momentum from their victory over the Steelers and need to prove they have turned the corner.

With an offense averaging less than two touchdowns a game, I just cannot see the Panthers scratching out a win here.

Take the Saints and give up the 6.5.

– – – –
New York Giants (5-2) at Seattle Seahawks (4-3) (Line Giants minus-5.5)

Poor Matt Hasselbeck cannot be looking forward to this weekend. The Seahawks QB was sacked eight times in a loss to the Raiders last Sunday and now must face a well-rested and ferocious Giants defense that has flattened five quarterbacks and is tied for third in sacks (having played one less game).

A trip to the Pacific Northwest and QWest Field is never on the top of any team’s list, including the Giants who have lost on their last four visits to Seattle. In fact, the last time Giants won in the land of grunge bands, was in 1981, the same year QB Eli Manning was born.

The Seahawks, first in the NFC West, are 3-0 at the Qwest this season and have surrendered only 36 points at home – 20 of those in a shootout with the San Diego Chargers.

The Giants fly into Seattle riding a four-game win streak to sit atop the NFC East standings, but have been sluggish coming off bye weeks going 6-15.

The noise at QWest Field can be a nightmare for visiting quarterbacks and Manning is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 11.

Manning has a fleet of wide receivers that can match up with any team in the league in Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks, who has eight touchdowns and will go up against a leaky Seahawks secondary that has given up an average 267 ypg – fourth worst in the league.

New York’s Ahmad Bradshaw is among the top rushers, averaging more than 101 ypg, while backfield partner Brandon Jacobs is a beast averaging nearly five yards a carry.

Seahawks lay an egg at home in Week Nine. Take the G-Men and give up the 5.5.

– – – –
New York Jets (5-2) at Detroit Lions (2-5) (Line Jets minus-3.5)

The Packers rolled into the Big Apple and provided the Jets with a 9-0 wakeup call last Sunday and the alarm bells should still be ringing as the Jets make the trip to the Motor City to face the Detroit Lions.

Certainly the Lions are no longer a team that can be ignored recording back-to-back victories at Ford to match their win total from last season.

The Leos have played everyone tough this season and have been particularly good at home where they are averaging more than 30 points a game.

Matt Stafford returned from injury to toss four touchdown passes, including three to Calvin Johnson, in last Sunday’s win over the Redskins.

Johnson can expect to be shadowed by Jets top cover man Darrelle Revis but the big wide receiver had no problem with Redskins DeAngelo Hall, hauling in three touchdowns.

The Jets are 3-0 on the road this season led by a stingy defense that has allowed a measly 15.7 ppg, second best in the NFL.

Paced by LaDanian Tomlinson the Jets are averaging 153.4 ypg on the ground, third best in the league but the verdict is still out on quarterback Mark Sanchez, who comes up with a clunker now and then.

Who is the better QB, Stafford (number one overall in 2009) or Sanchez (number five overall in 2009), won’t be answered here but notes will be taken.

If the Jets rate themselves Super Bowl contenders they must come into Motown and prove last week’s loss was nothing more than bump in the road on the way to Dallas.

The Lions are not a Super Bowl team. While they are headed in the right direction it is still a long road back to respectability for a team that just two years ago went 0-16 and can clinch yet another record in NFL futility for most away losses next week in Buffalo.

“Jets to tower, ready for take-off.”
“Tower to Jets, clear for take-off.”

Fly the friendly skies, take the Jets and give up the 3.5.

– – – –
San Diego Chargers (3-5) at Houston Texans (4-3) (Line Chargers minus-1.5)

The Chargers let their traditional slow start drag on a little longer than usual this season but the Bolts finally appeared to shift gears last Sunday with a big win over the Tennessee Titans to pull out of three-game losing skid.

The Bolts, however, have left themselves no wiggle room and must build on their win over the Titans if they want to stay in the post-season chase.

It’s hard to understand how the Chargers are not running away with the AFC West.

Philip Rivers has thrown for 2,649 yards, more than any quarterback ever after eight games, the Chargers rank high in total offense averaging 426.9 ypg and tightend Antonio Gates leads the league in receiving touchdowns with nine.

The Bolts are no slouches on the other side of the ball either, with the top-ranked defense allowing just 260 ypg.

The Texans, meanwhile, have the NFL’s worst defense allowing an average of 404 ypg including a whopping 299.4 ypg through the air.

Houston QB Matt Schaub has plenty of weapons to work with, running back Arian Foster is second in the league in rushing with 737-yards averaging 5.7 per carry while Andre Johnson remains one of the NFL’s top receivers.

But the Texans are coming off a short week after being ripped apart by Peyton Manning and the Colts on Monday Night leaving them little time to prepare for Rivers and the Bolts’ high-octane attack.

The Chargers have not won on the road yet this season. Two teams desperate for wins. Chargers are more desperate.

Take the Chargers and give up the 1.5.

– – – –
New England Patriots (6-1) at Cleveland Browns (2-5) (Line Patriots minus-4.5)

If you have to play last year’s Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints and the current Super Bowl favourites New England Patriots back-to-back, I guess it is nice to have a bye week inbetween.

The Browns marched into the Big Easy two weeks ago and pulled off the upset against the Saints and now host the Patriots, who own the NFL’s best record and are riding a five-game winning streak.

This one hardly seems like a fair fight. Pats All-Pro QB Tom Brady and the NFL’s top scoring offense averaging 29.3 points a game against a Browns offense led by rookie Colt McCoy that sits second from the bottom, averaging just 16.9 points.

While the New England offense is Super Bowl quality, the Pats defense is not, allowing an average of 384 ypg, 28th worst in the league.

Pats coach Bill Belichick matches wits with his former-assistant Eric Mangini. Despite the win over the Saints the “Man-genius” is in the hot seat in Cleveland and needs a few more wins if he is to keep his job.

With Pittsburgh Steelers and Indy Colts in the on deck circle, Brady and the Pats will not be looking past this one.

Stand Pat this Sunday. Take New England and give up the 4.5.

PHOTO: Arizona Cardinals quarterback Max Hall looks down the field in the third quarter of their NFL game against the New Orleans Saints in Glendale, Arizona October 10, 2010. REUTERS/Rick Scuteri

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