Pigskin Predictions for Week 7

a week to be proud of. 8-4-1 (I guess the bye weeks are helping me
out) and now 3-3 on upset specials for the year. Did I say upset
special? Jim Schwartz was especially upset after Jim Harbaugh’s
overly-excited postgame handshake. That means only the 6-0 Packers
remain unbeaten. Will they remain so in Week 7? Let’s take a look
at the 13 games on tap:

Last week: 8-4-1
Season: 40-45-5

at Detroit (-3.5)

Analysis:            Okay,
so the Lions are human after all. At 5-1, there schedule will toughen
up a bit, and that starts this week with a visit from the Falcons.
Atlanta is 3-3 and needs to make a move ASAP in the NFC South, as
they sit just a game behind Tampa Bay and New Orleans. As usual, the
key will be Michael Turner, and the 49ers showed that despite
mediocre quarterback play, you can run on the Lions. Detroit could be
feeling some heat in the final game of a three-game homestand, while
Atlanta is starting to find its groove again. The pick:


(-1) at Tampa Bay in London, England

Analysis:            The
last time the Bucs were over on the pond, they were hammered by New
England, 35-7. The Bears hammered the Vikings last week to get back
to .500, while the Bucs are currently the NFL’s most unimpressive
4-2 team. Yet they beat New Orleans a week ago and are tied for first
in the NFC South, but they have given up a home game for the second
time in three years and could regret it if they don’t come away
victorious. Devin Hester may miss, and that could turn the tide, but
the Bears defense should do more to rattle Josh Freeman than the Bucs
defense will to rattle Jay Cutler. The pick: Bears.


at Miami (pick)

Analysis:            Wow
is this one a brutal game to pick. Then again, it’s probably more
brutal to watch. The Tim Tebow era officially begins in 2011 for the
one-win Broncos, while the Tony Sparano era could be on the line for
the winless Dolphins. Tebow is back in the state of Florida and
should have plenty of fans in attendance, and the Broncos are coming
off their bye week. Miami has seemingly treated every week like a bye
week, and the Broncos could be rejuvenated under Tebow. Forgive the
cheesy play on words, but the former Gator might make this Sparano’s
Dolphins swan song. The pick: Broncos.


at Tennessee (-3)

Analysis:            It’s
déjà vu for the Texans. Like last year, they began 3-1 before a
couple of serious injuries hit, and suddenly they are 3-3 and on the
road against a tough division foe coming off a bye. Tennessee was
shellacked by Pittsburgh two weeks ago, but the Texans don’t appear
to have coped with the losses of Andre Johnson and Mario Williams
quite yet. Johnson hasn’t been ruled out officially but seems
unlikely to play. However, if Houston can find answer for another
Johnson, Chris, they will have a good shot to take sole possession of
first place. Instinct says they will put up a spirited effort in a
must-win game to give them some peace of mind and breathing room in
the AFC South. The pick: Texans.


Diego (-1) at New York Jets

Analysis:            Hard
to believe the Chargers, who haven’t beaten a competent team in
2011, are favored on the road against a Jets team that’s 3-0 at
home. Granted, Mark Sanchez is struggling and the Chargers are always
a trendy pick to win a lot of games in the regular season when their
mettle isn’t really tested, but Rex Ryan needs to get his troops
going after a demoralizing three-game losing streak. Playing the
Dolphins wasn’t a cure-all but certainly helped boost morale, and
the Chargers never seem to rise to the occasion of playing big
games. The pick: Jets.


at Cleveland (-3)

Analysis:            Who
will be the Seahawks starting quarterback Sunday? Who cares? Seattle,
in all fairness, is 2-3 and coming off a stunning upset win in New
York, but this is a team that no one expects to start a trend of
winning any time soon. Coming off a bye and facing a team that is
looking to turn the corner, the Seahawks may have lost some of the
momentum they generated with the Giants win during the bye. Peyton
Hillis needs to get going, and Seattle might be just the right foe to
do that against. The pick: Browns.


at Carolina (-2.5)

Analysis:            Can
we say that for the Redskins, the other shoe has officially dropped?
It certainly looked that way with Rex Grossman’s horrid performance
last week, and now Mike Shanahan turns to John Beck, who has all of
four career starts. Carolina has been competitive in every single win
yet has just a 1-5 record to show for it, but Cam Newton continues to
impress and the Panthers get to face a team that may begin a losing
binge very soon. The pick: Panthers.

City at Oakland (-4.5)

Analysis: The
once-dreadful Chiefs season has taken a bit of a pleasant turn, as
Kansas City has won two straight heading into its bye and now has a
legitimate chance to get back into the race in the AFC West. The
Raiders now turn to Carson Palmer, acquired this week via trade after
Jason Campbell was lost possibly for the season with a broken
collarbone. The tide in this series has turned, with the Raiders now
having won five of the past seven meetings. Oakland is a surprising
4-2 but it will be interesting to see just how ready Palmer is after
being idle for so long. Being a rivalry game, this one should be
close and the Chiefs’ hopes for an upset will hinge upon how well
they contain Darren McFadden. The pick: Chiefs.


(-3.5) at Arizona

Analysis: Man
is this a payback game. Forget the subplots of Ken Whisenhunt and
Russ Grimm facing their former employers, but who can forget the
heartbreak Arizona suffered at the hands of the Steelers in Super
Bowl XLIII? Many Cardinals will still argue that Santonio Holmes
wasn’t fully in bounds on the winning touchdown catch (as will I).
Pittsburgh is 4-2 this year though not always impressive, while the
Cardinals are 1-4 with three gutwrenching losses and a blowout loss
to the previously-winless Vikings. If Arizona is to pull the upset,
they need a monster game from Larry Fitzgerald (always a possibility
for the Pitt alum) and an aggressive defensive effort against the
Steelers’ makeshift offensive line. With the familiarity,
desperation, and freshness factors working for them (they are coming
off their bye), Arizona has a shot to pull the upset. 
pick: Cardinals.

Bay (-9) at Minnesota

Analysis: Brett
Favre’s Packers used to struggled mightily in the Metrodome, but
Aaron Rodgers’ Packers don’t figure to. With the Vikings turning to
Christian Ponder, the white flag has essentially been raised and his
first start will come against the defending world champions riding a
12-game winning streak dating to last year. Not that Packer fans are
worrying, but Green Bay was outgained by St. Louis a week ago,
424-399, despite winning the game handily 24-3. Maybe it’s just
something the Rams do when they’re bad, though, because they also
outgained the Saints in 2009 when they were unbeaten yet still lost
the game. Either way, the Packers defense at times has been
susceptible to big plays. Adrian Peterson will need a monster day for
an upset to be possible, but the Vikings will probably have to settle
for just keeping it close.
pick: Vikings.

Louis at Dallas (-13)

Analysis: Talk
about perfect timing. After the football teams get done playing their
3:15 game (local time of course), the St. Louis and Dallas-area
baseball teams will go at it around 7:05 in Game 4 of the World
Series. Parking figures to be a mess, which would also be a fittingly
descriptive term for the Rams. St. Louis has not only scored an
NFL-low 49 points in five games, but they are 23 points behind the
second-worst offense in the Jaguars. For a Cowboys team that has
played 11 consecutive games decided by four points or less, a laugher
would be a welcome change, especially after they choked away yet
another fourth-quarter lead in New England last Sunday. Sam Bradford
missed practice again Thursday, meaning that A.J. Feeley could make
his first start since 2007. A ticked off Dallas defense could have a
field day in this one.
pick: Cowboys.

at New Orleans (-14)

Analysis: This
sure looked like a good game on the schedule, a rematch of Super Bowl
XLIV. But NBC certainly didn’t have a Curtis Painter-Drew Brees
showdown in mind when they plucked this one off the docket. The
winless Colts have been fighting hard with nothing to show for it,
but if nothing else they will have pleasant memories of the
Superdome. In their last visit on a Sunday night in 2003, they routed
the Saints 55-21 behind six touchdown passes by Peyton Manning. New
Orleans took a step back last week with a loss in Tampa Bay, and even
their head coach bore the brunt of it when Sean Payton suffered a
broken leg. The Saints have a cupcake of an October schedule, with a
visit to St. Louis capping the month next week, and the Colts are
going to keep fighting hard to get their first win. An upset isn’t
likely, but 14 points is a big number for a team that hasn’t quite
proven itself yet in the Saints.
pick: Colts.

(-7.5) at Jacksonville

Analysis: The
Ravens didn’t make it look easy, but by beating Houston last week
they improved to 4-1 and remained in first place in the AFC North.
Now they head to Jacksonville to face a lowly Jaguars team that they
have beaten seven straight times. Jack Del Rio, a former Ravens
assistant coach, is on borrowed time, and having a rookie quarterback
in Blaine Gabbert going up against one of the league’s best defenses,
his pink slip could arrive even sooner. The Jags did put up a good
fight in Pittsburgh last week, but Maurice Jones-Drew doesn’t figure
to have a big game against Baltimore’s run defense, leaving it on the
Jaguars defense to pressure Joe Flacco into some mistakes. That’s
certainly possible, but the Ravens don’t figure to sweat enough in
this one for the Jags to cover.
pick: Ravens.

of the Week: CARDINALS over STEELERS. Once again I might be a victim
of going with sentiment over logic, but the Steelers are banged up
right now, and the Cardinals, coming off their bye, need to get their
act together fast and are facing a team that denied them a
championship less than three years ago. Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm
should be able to concoct a good enough gameplan to compensate for
Kevin Kolb’s shortcomings, and the defense should be able to pressure
Ben Roethlisberger enough to keep it close. Larry Fitzgerald still
needs to come up big, but Pittsburgh could be looking ahead to their
New England showdown and may be due for a slip-up.

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