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The Lineman: Week Four NFL picks

September 30, 2011

By Steve Keating

OK, OK; the shine of a 5-1 opening week is really starting to dim but after three weeks the Lineman is still batting .500.

But like the Atlanta Falcons, we get our season turned around in Week Four. Good Luck.

Record: 9-9. Last week 2-4

Pick of the Week: 2-1

PICK OF THE WEEK

New Orleans Saints (2-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)  (Line Saints minus-7.5)

Let’s do the math together.

The Saints have scored 104 points and are averaging 34.7 points a game. The Jaguars have scored 29 points for an average of 9.7 points.

The Saints have former-Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees, who has already thrown for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns, calling plays. Jacksonville has rookie Blaine Gabbert, who has made one NFL start (a loss) and has completed 17 passes for 191 yards and one touchdown.

New Orleans has given up some big numbers defensively but most of those were accumulated in shootouts with the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans.

Jacksonville’s defensive numbers look impressive yielding just 280-yards a game (fourth best in the NFL through the first three weeks) but Carolina and Tennessee do not come close to packing the same offensive punch as Green Bay and Houston.

The Saints defence, which has been strong against the rush, will focus much of their attention on Jags running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who sits third in league rushing.

So crunch the numbers and the bottom line is: ZERO. As in zero chance of Jaguars winning this one.

Take the Saints and give up the 7.5.

- – - -

Denver Broncos (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (3-0)  (Line Packers minus-12.5)

The Packers may be 3-0 but have yet to really flex their muscles and really blow out an opponent.

That should change this Sunday.

Back home a Lambeau Field for the first time since their season opener, I expect Aaron Rodgers and company to put on a show for the Cheeseheads.

Rodgers is 12-1 in his last 13 starts at Lambeau and has the Pack Attack firing on all cylinders.

The Broncos have yet to win in five visits to Green Bay.

Even the best teams need all hands on deck when they visit Wisconsin and the Broncos limp into Lambeau with injury concerns on both sides of the ball with Pro-Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey and wide receiver Eddie Royal hurting.

The Packers are the best in league against the run but the 31st ranked pass defence is a concern giving up a whopping average of 359 yards per game.

But Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton will never be mistaken for Tom Brady, passing for 173 yards and two interceptions to offset two touchdowns in last week’s loss to the Titans.

Denver’s games have all been decided by three points or less. Not this one.

Take the Packers and give up the 12.5 points.

- – - -

Atlanta Falcons (1-2) at Seattle Seahawks (1-2)  (Line Falcons minus-4.5)

I keep waiting for the Falcons to take flight. I’m thinking this Sunday.

For a team that was to soar above to the rest in the NFC the Falcons have, so far, been this season’s biggest lunch bag letdown.

After a stuttering 1-2 start, the Falcons cannot afford to slip further off the pace in the suddenly tough NFC South that includes the Saints, improving Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the surprising Carolina Panthers.

Atlanta’s problems are no mystery.

The mistake prone Falcons must be more discipline and avoid turnovers and taking costly penalties.

They must also start protecting quarterback Matt Ryan who has been sacked 13 times in first three games.

Clean up and the Falcons are team worthy of the preseason praise.

The offence, when Ryan gets time to work, is loaded with weapons. Roddy White and rookie Julio Jones are as lethal as any catching combo in the league and running back Michael Turner is bruiser.

The Atlanta defence has not impressed but will be handling Seattle’s sputtering offence, led by Vikings castoff QB Tarvaris Jackson, that is averaging just 10 points a game.

After three tough contests to open the season and a visit to Green Bay up next a win Seattle is almost a must for the Falcons if they want to remain part of the discussion in the NFC.

Dirty Birds get it done in Starbuckland.

Take the Falcons and give up the 4.5.

- – - -

San Francisco 49ers (2-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)  (Line Eagles minus-6.5)

Well, it has not exactly been a Dream start, for the Dream Team, who sit at the bottom of the NFC East.

Right now, I’m wondering what the over-under is on Eagles quarterback Michael Vick surviving the entire season after being knocked out of the last two games with injuries.

Say what you want about Vick, but he seems eager to earn his $100 million and will be under centre again on Sunday despite leaving last week’s game against the Giants with what was first thought to be a broken right hand.

After back-to-back losses, the Eagles are another team that needs to get pointed in the right direction in a hurry.

Offense has not been a concern for the Eagles, even with a banged up Vick they are sixth in the league averaging 408 yards a game.

No the problem in Philly has been a wonky defence that has yielded 64 points the last two weeks.

The Eagles defence will get an opportunity to step up this Sunday when they take on a Niners offence that is averaging a league low 213 yards per game.

San Fran quarterback Alex Smith has thrown for just over 500 yards, or about 1,000 less than Tom Brady, and running back Frank Gore, normally the engine that drives the Niners attack, is sputtering contributing a measly 148 yards on 59 carries.

I’m not expecting this to be a close one but if it is, San Fran kicker David Ackers, the Eagles all-time leading scorer before heading to the West coast, would love nothing more than to put the boot to his former team

The improved 49ers are the best in the NFC West, which is sort of like being the tallest midget.

Eagles come up big on Sunday.

Take the Eagles and give up the 6.5.

- – - -

New York Giants (2-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-2)  (Line Giants minus-1.5)

With all their injuries I had overlooked the Giants through the first three weeks and apparently sohave a lot of other people with the New Yorkers installed as slim underdogs to the Cardinals.

The Giants have hung tough and are starting to get players back into the lineup, including widereceiver Mario Manningham, expected this week and pass rushing defensive end Osi Umenyiora could also make his season debut.

Umenyiora’s return is bad news for Arizona QB Kevin Kolb, who no doubt was already tossing and turning at night thinking about facing an already fierce New York pass rush led by Jason Pierre-Paul with 4 1/2 sacks.

With Peyton Manning out with injury and watching from the Colts press box all-season, it has been up to Eli to carry the family flag and little brother put up big numbers last week tossing four touchdowns in the Giants upset of the Eagles.

The Cards are a much tougher team at home, but if Manning remains as sharp as last week he should carve up an Arizona defence that ranks 27th giving up nearly 400 yards a game, including 275through the air.

Giant win in the desert.

Take the Giants and give up the 1.5.

- – - -

Buffalo Bills (3-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)  (Line Bills minus-3.5)

Should I be worried about a Buffalo letdown after a stunning upset of the New England Patriots.

Ummmm, I should but I’m not.

The Bills have gotten a taste of winning and I think this is a team still hungry for success.

Buffalo spotted the Patriots and Oakland Raiders big leads before storming back to get the win but I do not see that happening this week.

Bengals have been better than expected but rookie quarterback Andy Dalton is on a steep learning curve and I cannot see him outsmarting Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has the Bills offence humming.

Cincinnati ranks third in total defence giving up an average of 276 yards per game but face a high-octane Bills offence that leads the league in scoring and total offence.

Fitzpatrick has fired nine touchdown passes, second only to Tom Brady, Fred Jackson is fourth in league rushing averaging over 100 yards a game and Stevie Johnson has established himself as big play wide receiver.

Last week the Bills claimed their first win over the Pats since Paul Revere was calling plays in Boston but Buffalo has owned the Bengals sweeping their last 10 meetings.

Bills starting to pile up.

Take the Bills and give up the 3.5.

Picture: Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Arrelious Benn (17) runs past Atlanta Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud (28) and cornerback Dunta Robinson (23) during their NFL football game in Tampa, Florida September 25, 2011. REUTERS/Pierre DuCharme

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