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The Lineman: Week Eight NFL picks
Back on track with a combined 9-3 record over the past two weeks which means I head into Week Eight on Halloween weekend showing no fear for what lies ahead.
Yes, it’s Halloween and the Lineman would never let it go by without all kinds of frightening references.
Record: 23-19; Last week 4-2; Pick of the Week: 5-2
PICK OF THE WEEK
Detroit Lions (5-2) at Denver Broncos (2-4) (Lions minus-0.5)
OK, you got what you wanted Mile High City, Tim Tebow is calling plays but be careful what you wish for Broncos fans.
The Tebow love-in is in full bloom in Denver, Bronco faithful hailing Timmy Touchdown as the second coming of Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway after he pulled out an unlikely 18-15 win over the Dolphins last week.
But a win, like a good Halloween costume, can hide many warts and Tebow was covered in them until his late game heroics.
For 55 minutes, the game featured “Tebow the Terrible” until “Tebow Terrific” arrived and I have to admit the guy finds a way to win.
But sorry Tebow fans, there is no way this week as the ornery Lions are coming to town.
Following a blazing 5-0 start, the wheels are starting to come off in the Motor City and after two straight defeats and a bye week coming up the Lions need a win here to get back on track with the Green Bay
Packers pulling away and Chicago Bears nipping at their heels in the NFC North.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford limped off the field after last week’s loss to the Falcons but is expected to play.
If not, Shaun Hill is about as reliable a backup as there is in the NFL and no reason he can’t play pass-and-catch with “Megatron” Calvin Johnson, who leads the league in touchdown catches with 10.
Tebow also moves up a weight class for this one going against a heavy-hitting, aggressive Lions defence led by Ndamukong Suh, who is just a nasty, nasty piece of work.
Detroit ranks near the top of the league giving up an average of just 19.6 points a game while the Broncos are near the bottom surrendering an average of 25.8 points and could be without their leader defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
Tebow’s passing has been about as accurate as my predictions but may be forced to the air with leading rusher Willis McGahee out with a broken hand.
Mile High can be a tough place to play but the Lions are a perfect 3-0 away from home this season.
No Mile High miracles this week. Tiny Tim set for a big disappointment.
Take the Lions and give up the half-point.
San Diego Chargers (4-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) (Chargers minus-3.5)
After a 0-3 start, a lot of people seem to be getting all worked up over the KC Chiefs, who are riding a three game winning run into Arrowhead this weekend.
Sorry, I just can’t get excited about a streak built on wins over the 1-6 Vikings, 0-6 Colts and 4-3 Oakland Raiders, who were test-driving new quarterback Carson Palmer last Sunday.
That nice little run, however, has boosted Chiefs confidence and put them back in the frame in the AFC West, making this a suddenly key division matchup.
If I have a concern about this one it is that while the Chargers have avoided their traditional early season slumber there are worrying signs the Bolts may be ready to take a mid-season nap instead.
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has not been sharp, throwing seven touchdowns against nine interceptions.
But the Bolts attack is loaded with weapons and with All Pro tight end Antonio Gates back from injury joining wide out Vincent Jackson, another big target and running back Ryan Mathews, it’s difficult to understand why this offense isn’t doing more damage.
Rivers will have to be wary of a Chiefs defence that picked off Raiders quarterbacks six times last week, Brandon Flowers running back two for touchdowns.
Statistically, the Chargers defence has been solid ranking fifth in total yards surrendered and third best against the pass, allowing an average of 175 yards per game.
The Chiefs offence has been unthreatening averaging 303 yard a game, to rank well down the league in 26th place.
The Chargers have won six of last seven meetings, including a 20-17 win in Week Three but have been prone to the occasionally KC clunker.
Arrowhead can be a scary place, especially on Halloween when the Chiefs are 4-0 at home.
It doesn’t have to be Halloween for the Chargers to provide a few scares but with Green Bay, Oakland and Chicago in the on deck circle and the Raiders and Chiefs applying pressure it is time for the Bolts to put their stamp on the division.
Trick or Threat, Chargers unmask Chiefs. Take the Chargers and give up the 3.5.
Miami Dolphins (0-6) at New York Giants (4-1) (Giants minus-9.5)
There were reports this week that Dolphins coach Tony Sparano put his house up for sale. Some might wonder what took him so long but either way, this smells like man who can see the writing on the wall.
After blowing a 15-point lead to the Broncos in the final three minutes last Sunday, it is hard to figure out how Sparano avoided being sacked by Dolphins owner Steve Ross.
The Dolphins head back to the Meadowlands for the second time in three weeks and it’s hard to see Miami bouncing back from their Denver meltdown with a visit to the well-rested Giants coming off a bye week.
The G-Men have had their wobbles, the biggest being a loss at home to the Seahawks, but come into Week 8 as healthy as they have been all season.
The return of defensive end Justin Tuck will bolster a defence that is tied for the league lead with 21 sacks while bruising running back Brandon Jacobs provides a nice compliment to Ahmad Bradshaw.
One of just four quarterbacks with a passer rating of 100 or better, Eli Manning continues to find his groove and could have a big day as wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and speedy Victor Cruz terrorize a leaky Miami secondary.
Looking down the Miami quarterbacking depth chart it is like peering into one of those discount bins at a book store – no bestsellers here.
With Chad Henne gone for the season with shoulder injury the Dolphins turned to Matt Moore, who will try to play Sunday with bruised ribs.
Sage Rosenfels was brought in as potential backup but has also been pushed to the sidelines with an illness resulting in an emergency call to Buffalo Bills castoff J.P. Losman, who is one hit away from making his first appearance since 2008.
Giant problems for the Dolphins. Take the G-Men and give up the 9.5.
New Orleans Saints (5-2) at St. Louis Rams (0-6) (Line Saints minus-12.5)
Well, how much fun was that last weekend? If you took the Saints, like I did, it just doesn’t get much better than a 62-7 blowout.
I am not sure the Saints can light it up against the Rams the way they did against the Colts but this one also has ugly rout written all over it.
The Cowboys laid a 34-7 beating on St. Louis last Sunday and now the poor Rams face the surging Saints, who top the league in scoring averaging 34.1 points a game and are second in total offense (467.1 ypg) and passing yards (341.0 ypg).
The Rams are averaging a measly 9.3 points a game, the 56 points they have put on the board this season less than what the Saints scored against the Colts.
With Sam Bradford nursing injury the chances of improving on those numbers will be good with backup A.J. Feely under centre for a second consecutive week.
Saints Drew Brees has thrown for a league best 2,477 yards and 18 touchdowns with running back Darren Sproles (two touchdowns) and tight end Jimmy Graham (five touchdowns) tied for second in receptions with 45 each.
It all adds up for a long, long day for the Rams defence, which is not the worst in the league, just the second worst, allowing an average of 28.5 points a game.
If you’re looking for a Halloween horror show. Look no further.
Nightmare at the Edward Jones Dome. Take the Saints, give up the 12.5 points and close your eyes, this one could be scary.
Arizona Cardinals (1-5) at Baltimore Ravens (4-2) (Line Ravens minus-12.5)
Halloween came a week early for Ravens fans with the frightening display Baltimore put on falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If you had Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on your fantasy team you probably ended Monday Night with your wife talking you in off the ledge.
So the question is; why on a short week, coming off an absolutely appalling offensive display would anyone pick a team to cover a generous 13-point spread ?
The answer is a hunch. I just can’t see the Ravens not responding to last week’s embarrassment with a performance that validates their Super Bowl ambitions.
While there are plenty of questions about the Ravens offence, which needed three quarters just to manage a first down against the Jags, there are none about a defence that remains among the NFL’s most punishing and feared.
Led by Ray Lewis, the Ravens are surrendering a league low average of 13.8 points and 272.7 yards per game.
But it is the Baltimore attack and Flacco on the hot seat.
Flacco gets a chance to silence doubters going against a shaky Cards defence that is giving up an average of 410 yards per game and 274-yards through the air.
The Cardinals are mired in a five-game losing skid and have been the NFL’s version of road kill, having lost 10 in row away from home, including all three road trips this season.
At the same time, the Ravens are almost unbeatable at home going 13-1 at M&T Bank Stadium and 3-0 this season.
Locked in a tight race with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the surprising Cincinnati Bengals for top spot in the AFC North, the Ravens cannot afford another slip up against a team they should beat.
No tricks this week, just treats. Take the Ravens and give up the 12.5.
Washington Redskins (3-3) at Buffalo Bills (4-2) (In Toronto) (Line Bills minus-5.5)
The Bills make what has become their annual pilgrimage to the Great White North to face the Redskins.
Toronto hasn’t exactly been a home-away-from home for the Bills, who have lost all three regular season games they’ve played at the Rogers Centre but for the first time since the series began in 2008 Buffalo brings a winning record with them across the border.
The Bills have been one of the surprise packages this season sweeping their opening three games (handing New England their only loss) but have dropped two of their last three and need a win here to prove they really are a player in the AFC East with the Patriots and Jets.
The Redskins also got the season off to a respectable 3-1 start but have stalled losing two straight since swapping starting quarterback Rex Grossman for John Beck.
The banged up Redskins limp north without two key offensive weapons, running back Tim Hightower lost to a season-ending knee injury and wide receiver Santana Moss sidelined with a broken hand.
Without Hightower and Moss, it will be difficult for Washington to keep pace with Bills’ explosive attack which is the third most productive in the league averaging 31.3 points per game.
The Bills’ Fred Jackson is one of just two running backs averaging over a 100 yards a game and Stevie Johnson is the favourite target for Harvard trained quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been sacked a league low seven times.
An opportunistic Bills defence is tied for second with 12 interceptions returning three for touchdowns.
Bills come due in Canada. Take the Bills and give up the 5.5.