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The Lineman’s NFL picks — week 13

December 3, 2010

NFL/Another tough week made tougher by losing two games by a half-point each. Ouch.

If you believe in such things, this should be unlucky Week 13 but with the results last week, my luck cannot be any worse this Sunday.

Record: 35-37.

Last week: 2-4. Pick of the Week: 5-7

PICK OF THE WEEK:

Chicago Bears (8-3) at Detroit Lions (2-9) (Line Bears minus-3.5): The Bears have come out of their mid-season hibernation stringing together four straight wins, including last week’s impressive decision over the high-flying Eagles.

At the same time, the wheels have started to fall off in the Motor City following four straight losses.

The Lions have done some good work offensively this season averaging 23.5 points and 342.7 yards per game – both better numbers than the Bears, who are averaging 20.2 points and 299.4 yards.

But the poor Lions are down to their third string quarterback Drew Stanton, who has thrown just two touchdowns and seven interceptions in 10 career games and if he goes out, Zac Robinson, some dude the Patriots drafted in the seventh round, goes in.

Bears QB Jay Cutler is getting better protection and is coming of his best game of the season, tossing a career best four touchdowns against the Eagles.

Chicago’s defense ranks second in the league in points allowed averaging 15.6 and fourth in fewest yards allowed (300.2).

Julius Peppers, who knocked out Lions prize QB Drew Stafford in the season opener, will be looking to add Stanton’s scalp to his collection.

If the Bears are to finish top the Black and Blue division this is a game they cannot let slip away with the Patriots, Vikings, Jets and Packers on deck.

The Bears got lucky coming away with a win over the Lions in the season opener when officials ruled a spectacular touchdown grab by Calvin Johnson, was not a touchdown.

No luck needed this week.

Take Da Bears and give up the 3.5.

Atlanta Falcons (9-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4) (Line Falcons minus-2.5): The Falcons boast the NFL’s best record and are on a five-game winning run but are getting little Super Bowl talk because they can’t beat anyone any good on the road.

The Dirty Birds are perfect 6-0 at home but a modest 3-2 away from their own nest with two of those wins coming against road kill like Cleveland and St. Louis.

With three straight away games on their calendar, the Falcons get the chance to confirm their championship credentials.

Atlanta held on to beat the Bucs 27-21 in Georgia in Week 9 but now head to Florida to face an NFC rival that will be fighting for their playoff lives.

Tampa’s record qualifies them as one of this season’s biggest surprises. But the Bucs’ record is a bit misleading beating the teams they are expected to beat while producing no real upsets going 0-4 against teams with winning marks.

Atlanta QB Matt Ryan has all kinds of weapons in the Falcons offensive arsenal but expect Michael Turner, the NFL’s fifth leading rusher, to get plenty of work against a Tampa rush defense that ranks near the bottom of the league allowing 132.5 ypg.

The Bucs will be without injured safety Cody Grimm, which could mean a big Sunday for hot Roddy White, the NFL’s leading receiver with 84 catches.

In the retail world the Bucs are a dollar store while the Falcons are closer to Harrods.

Take the Falcons and give up the 2.5.

Carolina Panthers (1-10) at Seattle Seahawks (5-6) (Line Seahawks minus-6.5): It takes some pretty bad football to slip out of contention in the NFC West but that is where the Seahawks are headed after absorbing back-to-back thrashings from the Chiefs and Saints.

But surprise, the Seahawks remain tied top the division with the 5-6 St. Louis Rams.

The Seahawks rank 30th in the league in total defense (399 ypg) while their offense ranks 29th in yards generated per game with 299.3 and no team in the NFL had been worse at rushing the ball than Seattle (77.9 ypg).

Gruesome numbers for sure. But not as frightening as the toothless Panthers, who rank dead last in scoring average (12.7 ppg), total offense (259.2 ypg) and passing (157.8 ypg).

The Panthers continue to play musical quarterbacks with rookie Jimmy Clausen getting the start at QWest Field one of the NFL’s loudest and most hostile venues.

Although this is shaping up as one ugly contest all the signs point to a Seahawks win.

The Seahawks play tough at home and can be expected to play with urgency with their playoff hopes going down the drain.

The Panthers have committed more turnovers than any other team except the Giants and must make the long trip cross-country to the Land of Starbucks.

Take the Seahawks and give up the 6.5.

Dallas Cowboys (3-8) at Indianapolis Colts (6-5) (Line Colts minus-5.5): Injuries finally caught up to the Colts who have lost three of their last four games.

It was once thought you could put Oprah and Peewee Herman at wide receiver and Peyton Manning would still find a way to throw touchdowns.

But Peyton Manning has looked more like Eli Manning tossing seven interceptions in his last two games, losses to New England and San Diego.

While the Colts may not put up the 12 or more victories they have in each of the last seven seasons they remain tied top the AFC South with the Jacksonville Jaguars but need a solid finish to their schedule to secure a ninth consecutive trip to the post-season in a very tough division that includes the Titans (5-6) and Texans (5-6).

Even with a battered receiving corps, with Manning at the controls it is no shock that Colts remain the NFL’s top passing team averaging 297 ypg.

But what is a surprise is to see, the Cowboys right near top of the rankings with 276 ypg.

The Cowboys are 3-8 and out of the playoff hunt but are 2-1 under interim coach Jason Garrett.

With no rushing game the Colts season rests on Manning’s shoulders but it is a burden the four-time MVP can carry.

The Dallas defense which has surrendered an average of 27.4 points a game (third worst in the NFL) has plenty of holes Manning will exploit.

The Colts have lost only once in 15 home games since they moved into Lucas Oil Stadium and the Cowboys will not make it two in a row.

Time to Manning up.

Take the Colts and give up the 5.5

St. Louis Rams (5-6) at Arizona Cardinals (3-8) (Line Rams minus-2.5): The Rams are a team on the way up and the Cardinals are on the way down losing six straight, including a Monday Night smack down by division rivals the 49ers that should have put an end to their playoff hopes but in the wacky NFC West – who knows?

The Rams have made steady progress under rookie QB Sam Bradford, who tossed for over 300-yards and three touchdowns to beat the Broncos last week and notch their first road win of the season.

There is no reason to believe the Rams won’t pick up a second away win in as many Sundays against an Arizona team that has big problems on both sides of the ball.

Only the Broncos have surrendered more points per game than the Cardinals (29) while the Arizona offense ranks second last in total yards allowed (269) and rushing (78), third worst in passing (191) and fourth worst in scoring averaging just 17.6 ppg.

After a loss to the Niners, Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson went off on the media and later had to apologise for his meltdown.

Look for more apologies next week.

Take the Rams and give up the 2.5.

New Orleans Saints (8-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-9) (Line Saints minus-7.5): With four straight wins the Saints are on the march and hitting their stride as injured players return to the lineup – Reggie Bush last week and running back Pierre Thomas this Sunday.

Now that quarterback Drew Brees has all his weapons back the Saints’ high-octane attack is starting to fire on all cylinders which is bad news for the floundering Bengals who have lost eight straight.

Brees, who was named Sports Illustrated’s Man of the Year this week, is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes with 23 and passed for an NFC best 3,321 yards.

Cincy QB Carson Palmer was once considered an elite quarterback and also on the cover of Sports Illustrated but this season people have been looking for his face on milk cartons. You know, the ones where they put missing people.

Palmer has two of the NFL’s top receivers (just ask them) in Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, aka Batman and Robin but they have produced about as much excitement as their reality television show.

Their last home game the Bengals coughed up a 28-7 lead losing 49-31 to the Bills.

New Orleans is 4-1 on the road and needs a big win to keep pace with the high-flying Falcons for top spot in the NFC South.

Saints march on.

Take the Saints and give up the 7.5.

PHOTO: Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throws a pass down field against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first quarter of their NFL game at Soldier Field in Chicago November 28, 2010. REUTERS/Frank Polich

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