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Week Ten Picks

November 9th, 2007

Consider this: Ten of this week’s 14 games are division matchups. Eight of those mark the second time the teams have met this season. And in seven of those eight, the team that won the first round is favored to come out ahead again this weekend. That ain’t happening. Anyone who isn’t brand new to professional football knows very well that season sweeps are hard to pull off in the NFL except for true juggernaut teams. And there aren’t seven juggernaut teams in the league. Indeed, there are no more than two, possibly one, and neither of the candidates is playing a rematch this weekend (in fact, the better of them has a bye). So what does that mean? It means we’re looking at four outright upsets this weekend, minimum, and probably more like six. Now, your challenge is to tell me where they’re gonna happen. I say it’s your challenge, because I’m not taking it on myself. I tried, trust me. The games all came out pretty much the way the oddsmakers have predicted. And I’m just not up for trying to figure out where everyone, including me, has gone wrong. So, you know, here’s what not to expect this weekend.

Atlanta (+4.5) at Carolina
Chances are, one of these two teams is gonna find a way not to lose this game. And since the Panthers are both slightly less awful than the Falcons and playing at home, I’ll take my chances on them straight up, though I can’t see them winning by more than a field goal.

Adrian Peterson (+6) at Green Bay
No, that’s not an error. I’m just breaking this game down to what it really is. And, look, as one-man shows go, you could certainly do a lot worse than AP. Indeed, were it not for two factors — Green Bay’s stout defense and Minnesota’s complete inability to stop the pass — you’d have to figure Peterson had at least half a chance of winning single-handedly yet again this week. Of course, the Packers do have a stout D. And the Vikings are completely awful against the pass (which just happens to play right into Green Bay’s one-dimensional offensive attack). So while I expect Peterson to please fantasy team managers yet again this week (even the best defense probably couldn’t hold him to fewer than 100 yards and a TD at this point), in reality football I’m still gonna take the Packers. And give the six.

Denver (+3.5) at Kansas City
I’ve been having a lot of trouble bringing myself to make the pick I have to make in this game. On some level, no matter what the records and the stats say, I can’t quite bring myself to believe that the Broncos are as bad as they are or that the Chiefs are as … well, as goshdarned average as they are. But what else am I going to go with? Because, look, the bottom line is that while neither of these teams is ultimately impressive in any way, Denver is becoming more than a bit of a laugh. Most telling, the Broncos D can’t stop the run. At all. Denver’s giving up a league worst 161 yards a game (and 4.9 per carry, which is second worst in the league). So even without Larry Johnson, the Chiefs should have a fairly easy time moving the ball and controlling the tempo of the game (welcome back Priest. Factor in Kansas City’s solidly average passing game and the fact that the Denver D has a propensity for allowing passing touchdowns (15 so far this season), and you’ve got yourself a formula for a Chiefs victory. By about a touchdown. Unlikely as that may seem in the inner workings of my brain.

Buffalo (-3) at Miami
Hey, Jake Long, you watching this? Buffalo by 10.

St. Louis (+12) at New Orleans
Hey, Glenn Dorsey, you watching this? New Orleans by 17.

Cleveland (+9.5) at Pittsburgh
The over/under on this game is 47.5. Is that some kind of a joke? These two teams will have topped that by halftime. This is the bet of the week, kids. Between Cleveland’s high-scoring offense going at a Pittsburgh D that’s been tough as nails but is coming off a the kind of performance you can’t hope to repeat in the NFL (and working on a short week, no less) and Pittsburgh’s offense facing a Cleveland D that’s as weak as you’re ever likely to see from a contending team, it’s hard to imagine the total points put up in this match not topping 60. It’s also hard for me to imagine Pittsburgh winning this game by more than a touchdown. So that’s what I’m going with: Pittsburgh straight up, Cleveland with the points, and the over.

Jacksonville (+4) at Tennessee
I’m not sure it matters that David Garrard might be back under center for the Jags. I mean, it’s not like Jacksonville was lighting teams up with its passing game before Garrard got hurt. And given that Tennessee’s run D hasn’t yielded much to anyone thus far this season, I’m really not expecting Jacksonville’s offense to be able to accomplish much of anything in this game. Then again, I wouldn’t count on seeing the Titans put up a whole ton of points either. Tennessee by three.

Philadelphia (+3) at Washington
Man, wasn’t it just like two seasons ago that there was only meaningful question regarding the Eagles: When would they finally close the deal? Now, questions abound. Like who’s to blame? Who should be starting under center? And who’ll be the next head coach? This is ugly. Washington by a touchdown.

Cincinnati (+4.5) at Baltimore
Chris Henry a bad seed? Whatever gave you that crazy idea? Jesus, this Cincinnati team can’t get out of its own way. Well, at least this gives the Ravens a chance to take out their frustrations on someone. I guess it’s just as well it’s someone nobody particularly likes. Ravens by six.

Detroit (+1) at Arizona
You’ve gotta figure that sooner or later the fact that the Lions really aren’t a very good team is gonna have to catch up with them. I’m guessing sooner. As in this week. Cardinals by four.

Dallas (-1) at NY Giants
As I see it, this game’s all about running and stopping the run. I don’t believe the Giants’ defensive front, as well as it’s been playing, will be able to bring pressure on Tony Romo. But neither do I believe that the Dallas secondary can effectively cover New York’s wide receivers. So I see both teams moving the ball well through the air. The difference, then, is which team will be able to bring balance on offense. I think it’s Dallas. The Giants have run the ball marginally better than Dallas so far this season (138 yards per game, 4.7 per carry vs. 128 per game and 4.6 per carry — though Dallas has 10 rushing TDs to New York’s eight), but they’ve done it against weaker opponents. The Cowboys D, on the other hand, has proven a good bit more reliable against the run than the Giants D (84 yards per game, 3.6 per carry and four TDs as opposed to 101, 4.2 and six). And, again, Dallas has faced stiffer opposition. I don’t see any reason why I’d expect the trends to shift dramatically in this game. So I’m taking the Cowboys and figuring they’ll win by something on the order of three or four.

Chicago (-3) at Oakland
Here’s an almost foolproof formula for logging sacks when you take on the Oakland Raiders: field a defense. How’s that for insight? Bears by three.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at San Diego
Did you watch that Colts-Patriots game last weekend? Because if you did (and certainly if you caught the Chargers-Vikings tilt earlier that same day), you don’t need me to tell you how this game is gonna turn out. Colts by seven.

San Francisco (+9.5) at Seattle
Oh, boy. Monday can’t come soon enough, can it? Seahawks win. Niners cover. And that’s all I can bring myself to say about this game.

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