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The Lineman: Week Nine NFL Picks
Week Eight was full of surprises, not many of them pleasant. The St. Louis Rams taking down the New Orleans Saints was the big shocker while the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens managed to escape with wins but were unimpressive failing to cover.
It all it added up to a disappointing 2-4 week but we bounce back in Week Nine.
Record: 25-23; Last week 2-4; Pick of the Week: 6-2
PICK OF THE WEEK
Atlanta Falcons (4-3) at Indianapolis Colts (0-8)
(Line Falcons minus-7.5)
You have to feel for Indy, no NBA and no NFL. It is apparent now that there will not be any meaningful football played at Lucas Oil Stadium until the Super Bowl hits town in February.
It has been a truly miserable season for Colts fans, who can’t even get excited about the possibility of landing superstar college quarterback Andrew Luck with injured Peyton Manning having just signed a ba-zillion dollar contract.
After being pounded 62-7 by the Saints, the Colts bounced back last week and only lost by 17 to the Titans but now await the Falcons coming off a bye week, well rested and starting to take flight as they chase a third straight win.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, his superb pass-catching trio of Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones and the punishing running of Michael Turner are likely to heap more embarrassment on a Colts defence that is surrendering a league worst average of 31.5 points a game.
Look for Turner, who has hit his stride during the Falcons two game win streak, to have a particularly productive afternoon against an Indy run defence that is giving up an average of 144 yards per game.
Curtis Painter may be a reliable backup but he is no Manning, the Indy offence ranking 30th in both scoring (15.1 points per game) and total yards (294.9).
There is no room for error in a tightly-packed NFC South that includes the Saints and Buccaneers and the Falcons will not let this one slip away.
The Colts are 13-1 against Atlanta and have never lost to the Falcons at home.
Colts fans might also look at the Rams upset of the Saints last week and think, “Hey it can happen”.
Not a chance.
Take the Falcons and give up the 7.5.
Seattle Seahawks (2-5) at Dallas Cowboys (3-4)
(Line Cowboys by 12.5)
I am such a sucker for big spreads. I see them and it’s like a “For Sale” or a “Going Out of Business” sign.
I’m not sure why I would buy the Cowboys as 12.5 favourites over anyone but for some reason this one looks like a good deal.
There are the good Cowboys, who beat up on the Rams 34-7 one week and then there are bad Cowboys, who rolled over for the Eagles and lost by the same score the next week. Who shows up this week?
While the Cowboys have been erratic, Seattle has been consistent – consistently bad.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is a battler but prone to game-breaking bonehead plays and must cut back on his flubs if the Cowboys are to be factor in the NFC East.
Despite their up-and-down play, the Cowboys find themselves in position to make a big move as they enter the mushy soft part of the schedule that includes games against, Seattle, Washington, Miami and Arizona. Over the next five weeks, the visiting Buffalo Bills will be their only opponent with more wins than losses.
Even better, the Cowboys open a three-game home stand against the slumping Seahawks and will be looking to kick things off with bang.
Tarvaris Jackson leads a Seattle attack that ranks 31st in total offence averaging just 284 yards a game.
Jackson, who has just returned from injury, might want to make sure his insurance is topped up with Cowboys DeMarcus Ware looking to add to his 12 sacks against a Seattle offensive line that has allowed a league high 28.
Earlier this season, the Seahawks flew cross-country to upset the New York Giants but Seattle’s record away from home remains thin.
Give up the 12.5 and ride those Cowboys.
Green Bay Packers (7-0) at San Diego Chargers (4-3)
(Line Packers minus-5.5)
The well-rested Packers return to action coming off a bye and get the short-circuiting Chargers, who are coming off a short week and a stomach-churning loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chargers, who normally get the season off to notoriously slow starts, have switched it up this year and opted for the mid-season meltdown instead as they try to avoid a third straight defeat after going 4-1 out of the gate.
The big concern in San Diego is, what is wrong with quarterback Philip Rivers who has tossed a league-high 11 interceptions, been sacked 17 times and fumbled the ball six times, including a key one on Monday Night that cost Chargers the win.
Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, has been putting together an MVP type campaign tossing 20 touchdowns against just three interceptions.
Rodgers has the Green Bay offence humming averaging a league best 32.9 points a game while an opportunistic defence is tied for second for interceptions with 13.
The Chargers are a perfect 3-0 at Qualcomm Stadium this season but the Pack are unbeaten on the road and come to town riding a 13-game winning streak.
Under normal circumstances, I might give the Chargers a chance here but taking on the powerhouse Super Bowl champions on a short week the Chargers will just not have enough spark.
The Pack is back and San Diego needs to recharge.
Take Green Bay and give up the 5.5.
San Francisco 49ers (6-1) at Washington Redskins (3-4)
(Line San Fran minus-3.5)
It has taken me half a season to forget Mike Singletary is no longer calling the shots in San Fran and get on the Niners bandwagon.
While the Lions and Bills have been stealing all the turn-around glory, the 6-1 (yes I had to look twice as well, that is SIX and One) Niners get my vote as the season’s surprise package.
Normally when I see a team from NFC West head cross-country warning bells go off but the Niners are unbeaten on the road this season gutting out wins over Detroit, Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
If anyone is going to be worried about losing sleep it is most likely quarterback John Beck and the rickety Redskins offence as they prepare to take on the NFL’s top ranked defence that is surrendering an average of just 15.3 points a game.
Beck, sacked nine times last week in a shutout loss to the Bills, makes his third straight start in place of ineffective Rex Grossman and will once again be without injured top receiver Santana Moss.
The 49ers offence revolves around running back Frank Gore who has rushed for more than 125 yards in each of San Francisco’s last four contests.
Quarterback Alex Smith has been effective but not flashy tossing nine touchdowns against just two interceptions.
A San Francisco treat, take the Niners and give up the 3.5.
Denver Broncos (2-5) at Oakland Raiders (4-3)
(Line Raiders minus-7.5)
My big worry in this one is that the Broncos might decide to end their Tim Tebow experiment after just two games.
The Miami Miracle two weeks ago when Tebow brought Denver back from the brink in the final three minutes to steal a win from the Dolphins glossed over some serious flaws that were on full display last week at Mile High when the Broncos were mauled 45-10 by the Lions.
The Raiders also have quarterbacking issues but addressed them acquiring disgruntled former Pro Bowler Carson Palmer in a blockbuster trade with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Carson made an ill-advised cameo appearance throwing three interceptions in his Raiders debut (28-0 loss to the Chiefs) just a day after arriving in Oakland but coming off a bye week has time to absorb the Men in Black playbook.
Palmer will need more time to get up to speed in Oakland and boost a passing game that ranks near the bottom of the league averaging a little over 200 yards a game.
Bringing in veteran wide receiver and former Bengals team mate T.J. Houshmandzadeh this week should also help.
Tebow has thrown 412 yards in five games this season, including two starts. I think Rodgers did that in one half. But the kid has come up big in the fourth quarter completing 24-of-44 passes for 308 yards with four touchdowns.
Fair to say this one is not going to threaten any passing records.
This contest should be decided on the ground, where Tebow could be a factor with his running while the Raiders will rely Darren McFadden to do the heavy lifting.
Raiders opened the season with a 23-20 away win in Denver and have won four straight against the Broncos.
Denver’s only road win this season came two weeks ago in Miami and have been otherwise brutal on the road losing 11 of their last 13.
The Raiders will still be stinging from the 28-0 beating the Chiefs laid on them and need a win to keep pace in the AFC West with Kansas City, San Diego and Oakland all enter weekend action with 4-3 marks.
Back in Black.
Take the Raiders and give up the 7.5.
New York Giants (5-1) at New England Patriots (5-1)
(Line Giants plus 8.5)
New England glamour boy Tom Brady gets all the press while Giants quarterback Eli Manning has lived in the shadow of big brother Peyton.
But no more overlooking the younger Manning, who is having perhaps his best season calling plays in the Big Apple. Only Packers Aaron Rodgers and Brady have a better passer rating.
The New England offense is as advertised – awesome, averaging 437 yards, 28.9 points, 324.7 yards passing per game. All among the top five in the league.
But Patriots defence is bargain basement giving up a league worst average of 424 yards per game, including 323 per game passing (also the league worst).
Look for Manning and his solid receiving ensemble of Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks to enjoy a fun day shredding Pats leaky secondary.
The Giants defence with a league best 26 sacks will keep Brady under pressure.
It will be the first meeting between the two teams since the Giants upset the unbeaten Pats 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII four years ago but New England has won the last four regular season meetings.
Brady is unbeaten at home in an NFL record 31 consecutive regular-season contests.
The Patriots rarely lose back-to-back game and seem almost unbeatable at Gillette Stadium but 8.5 points is extremely high for a team that has league’s worst defence going up against the Giants fourth ranked passing attack.
This should be shootout.
I’m not convinced the G-Men have enough to end Brady’s streak but it will be close.
Take the G-Men and and the 8.5.