Late games highlight Week 8 slate

my big Week 7 surge, I have officially moved over .500 for the year. What an
accomplishment considering the Dolphins-like start I had to my season. There
are five double-digit spreads among the six early games, so if you live on the
West Coast like me, you can probably sleep in until the late games start this
week. Then again, could we have an upset or two in store?


Week 7:            9-3-1

Season:            49-48-6


Arizona at Baltimore (-13)

Analysis:            How
can the Ravens be 13-point favorites if they only scored 7 against Jacksonville
Monday night? The Cardinals have proven to be quite anemic, but the reeling
Ravens offense has sent Baltimore sports talk radio into a frenzy, and
rightfully so. The often-oaf-like Joe Flacco continues to prove he is far from
a top-notch quarterback, and with a showdown with the Steelers looming, the
Ravens could be feeling the heat against the lowly Cardinals. The pick:


Indianapolis at Tennessee (-9)

Analysis:            It
doesn’t seem like things can get any worse for the 0-7 Colts, but they won’t be
getting any sympathy from the Titans. These two teams were beaten down by a
combined score of 103-14 last week, so there won’t be any shortage of bruised
egos in this once-fierce division rivalry. With the Colts having such a porous
run defense this looks like a bad matchup, but with the wheels coming off
almost as quickly in Nashville, it would be hard to imagine the Titans
producing a blowout in this one. The pick: Colts.


Jacksonville at Houston (-9.5)

Analysis:            The
Texans took over first place with authority by stomping the Titans, 41-7. But
perhaps no one is riding higher than the Jags, who did just enough Monday night
to upset the Ravens and their high-school caliber offense. The Texans have won
their two AFC South games now by a combined score of 75-14, and though the Jags
could have some answers for Houston’s offense, they may be a little emotionally
spent. The pick: Texans.


Miami at New York Giants (-10)

Analysis:            It’s
almost as if the Giants will have back-to-back bye weeks. After an actual week
off, the putrid Dolphins come to town boasting yet another 0-6 record (their
third in eight seasons) after blowing a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead against
the Broncos last Sunday. With New York already having given up its one
obligatory letdown on this three-game homestand, there is no reason to think
Miami will make their second trip to the Meadowlands in 13 days any more
competitive than their first one, a 24-6 drubbing at the hands of the
Jets.  Ironically enough, the last
time these teams met, in London in 2007, the Dolphins came in 0-7. The Giants
won a rain-soaked affair, 13-10. The pick: Giants.


Minnesota at Carolina (-3)

Analysis:            Cam
Newton continues to impress, and the Panthers may be the league’s most exciting
2-5 team. Still learning how to win, Carolina has the right man in Newton and a
more talented roster than their record would indicate. On the flip side, the
Vikings also saw some flashes of brilliance last week from their rookie
signal-caller, as Christian Ponder kept them within shouting distance of an
upset of Green Bay. Alas, the Vikings are 1-6 and going nowhere once again, and
this could be the time Carolina strings together a few wins to patch up their
record, which could very well be flipped to 5-2 if not for several tight losses
early on. The pick: Panthers


New Orleans (-13) at St. Louis

Analysis:            I
almost love picking games like these – the ones that seem so blatantly easy
because New Orleans hung 62 points a week ago and the Rams are 0-7. On paper,
they shouldn’t even play this game, right? But on the field, they will Sunday,
and for sheer irony, instinct says this could be a close game. When a team has
that kind of offensive outburst, they usually have trouble mustering that same

energy the following week, and St. Louis is playing with house money simply
trying to scratch the win column in 2011. Unfortunately Sam Bradford is likely
to miss his second straight game, but memory brings me back two years ago to
when the Saints were 8-0 and playing the 1-7 Rams. St. Louis was coming off its
bye and the Saints were chasing history, and naturally the game came down to a
Hail Mary attempt as New Orleans hung on, 28-23. Once a good division rivalry,
this one could be close yet again as the Saints could get caught napping here. The
pick: Rams.


Detroit (-3) at Denver

Analysis:            The
Lions are suddenly on the ropes at 5-2 after winning five straight to open the
year. Now they could be without Matthew Stafford as they travel west to take on
the Broncos, fresh off a comeback from a 15-0, fourth-quarter deficit in Miami
a week ago. Tebow Time didn’t look good for 55 minutes, but in the end the Broncos
found a way to win on the road for just the second time since 2009. Could
Detroit be suffering a similar fate to the Broncos of 2009? That Denver team
began 6-0 before losing four straight and ended up missing the postseason at
8-8. This appears to be a dangerous spot for the Lions, who have been somewhat
exposed by a couple of good teams the last two weeks and if Shaun Hill is under
center, things could change. Hill is a very capable backup, but momentum might
be on Denver’s side, where a raucous crowd figures to give an energy boost in
Tebow’s home starting debut in 2011. The pick: Broncos.


Washington at Buffalo (-6) at Toronto

Analysis:            The
Bills make their annual visit to Canada to play in front of friends and family
and maybe a few Canadians hoping to learn a little more about the game. Buffalo
had a bye last week to think about their heartbreaking, 27-24 loss to the
Giants the week before. That should be plenty of motivation against a Redskins
team with no answer at quarterback and two bitter losses after a nice 3-1
start. MacGruber’s doppleganger, John Beck, gets the call for his sixth career
start, meaning Washington isn’t likely to produce enough offense to hang with
the high-flying Bills. This would be a good time to shake their north-of-the-border
hex, as Buffalo is 0-for-3 in Rogers Centre “home games”. The pick: Bills.


Cincinnati (-3) at Seattle

Analysis:            The
surprising Bengals will at least be rested off their bye before making the long
trip out west to Seattle. The Seahawks hope they left their offensive struggles
back in Ohio, where they scored just 3 points last week against the Browns.
Cincinnati needs to win games like these if they are going to be taken
seriously, but as bad as the Seahawks are or at least can be, teams off byes
this year have a poor track record and one would have to think that this will
be a tussle either way. The pick: Seahawks.


Cleveland at San Francisco (-9)

Analysis:            I’m
honestly not sure what’s more shocking, that the 49ers are 5-1 or that the
Browns are 3-3. Three is the magic number for Cleveland, as they mustered just
two field goals yet held Seattle to only one in last week’s unsightly, 6-3 home
win. The 49ers are coming off their bye and need to keep finding a way to let
Frank Gore carry the load on offense. Still, nine points feels like a big
number for a team without a big passing game, and one would have to wonder if
San Francisco can muster the same emotional energy it had in upending the
unbeaten Lions two weeks ago. The Browns were competitive in their last visit
to the Bay Area two weeks ago, losing by a gentlemanly 24-17 score to Oakland,
and don’t figure to be too intimidated by the possible return from injury of
old friend Braylon Edwards. The pick: Browns.


New England (-3) at Pittsburgh

Analysis:            If
Ben Roethlisberger had a Facebook page, his “Interests” section would include:
Extending the play, getting into trouble off the field, and rolling over for
the New England Patriots. In 5 career meetings with his polar opposite, Golden
Boy Tom Brady, he is 1-4, including a playoff loss. Furthermore, the Patriots
haven’t lost off a bye since their aberration season of 2002, meaning the
Steelers, who have beaten nothing but patsies so much, won’t be as lucky
against the Pats. Perhaps expecting another double-digit win like last year is
too much, but the Patriots are in the Steelers’ heads and the score will
ultimately reflect that. The pick: Patriots.


Dallas at Philadelphia (-3.5)

Analysis:            Now
if Andy Reid had a Facebook page, his interests would simply include “Winning
off the bye week”. Philadelphia has never lost under Reid following a week off,
and they got a much-needed win in Washington two weeks ago to hang in at 2-4.
The Cowboys need to unleash “starter” DeMarco Murray on the Eagles if they hope
to move up the ranks in the NFC East, where they trail only the Giants by a
game. Save for playing the woeful Rams, the Cowboys past 12 games have all been
nailbiters. That includes two games against the Eagles last year decided by a
grand total of 4 points (the teams split the two meetings). This one shouldn’t
be much different, especially if Philadelphia can’t find an answer for the
Dallas running game. That, in turn, makes Tony Romo less likely to choke the
game away. The pick: Cowboys.


San Diego (-3.5) at Kansas City

Analysis:            The
Chargers continued to prove last week what most have known all along: They
can’t win a big game to save their lives. And this Monday night would also
qualify as a big game. The Chiefs have turned things around in a hurry by
winning three straight after starting 0-3 and being outscored 109-27 in those
losses. The last of those losses was a 20-17 defeat at the hands of San Diego,
who let the Chiefs back into the game. Last week’s 28-0 win at Oakland showed
that the Chiefs are still good enough to win the games they are supposed to
win, and it’s almost hard to believe the overhyped Chargers are favored at all
here. San Diego lost last year at Arrowhead on a Monday night to open the
season to break a string of four wins in six previous trips there. This one
figures to come down to the end no matter what, because even in victory the
Chargers are never good enough to win convincingly. The pick: Chiefs.


Upset of the Week:            BRONCOS
over LIONS. There are many candidates here, including the Chiefs and Seahawks,
but part of me says picking KC or Seattle wouldn’t even qualify as true upsets.
Denver can look at Detroit at perhaps see a team in danger of suffering the
same fate as them in 2009, when the Broncos began 6-0 before losing four
straight. The Lions have won five straight on the road after losing 26
straight, but Matthew Stafford’s uncertain status and the lack of a Detroit
running game gives the Broncos a chance to garner a head of steam as Tim Tebow
makes his 2011 home debut.

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