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Week Eight Picks

October 25th, 2012

It’s that time of the football season when I’ve realized that everything I thought I knew two months ago was wrong, but I haven’t quite figured out what’s actually right and what’s an illusion. Or, you know, that’s my excuse this week for getting everything wrong. Here’s what not to expect.

Tampa Bay (+6.5) at Minnesota
Christian Ponder soared through the early part of the season, threatened to come back down to earth for a few weeks, then finally landed with a hard thump in the Vikings’ ugly week seven win over Arizona. He gets his wings back in this game. The Buccaneers pass defense is among the worst in the NFL. And since Tampa’s solidly average offense isn’t likely to accomplish much against the stingy Minnesota D, there should be a time of possession disparity that works in the Vikings’ favor as the game wears on. I think we’ll see a competitive first quarter, maybe first half, followed by a prolonged period of Minnesota dominance. It’ll end with the Vikings on top by 13.

New England (-7) vs. St. Louis at Wembley Stadium, London
If you’ve got Sam Bradford as maybe the backup quarterback on your fantasy team, ummm, you know, start him this week. I don’t care who your primary QB is. Aaron Rodgers? Bench him. Drew Brees? Bench him. Yeah, Bradford’s had just one standout game so far this season. And, sure, Bradford has thrown nearly as many picks (6) as touchdowns (7). And, OK, right, he’s gone three full games without a TD pass. That’s all true. But this week is different. Because this week Bradford gets to go up against the New England Patriots pass defense, which means for this week only, Bradford is hands down the best quarterback in the NFL. That’s how it works this season: the best quarterback in the league every week is the one playing New England. That changes when the Patriots change it, and not before. Does that mean I’m picking the Rams? No. I’ll take the Patriots, on the assumption that their own quarterback (who’s had a pretty good games himself here or there through the years) is due for a big outing. The St. Louis defense won’t make it easy for Brady. But they’re not exactly on par with some of the other NFC West Ds. What they are is an uneven unit that’s fared well against so-so offenses, but that’s also given up a pair of 300-plus passing performances. I look for Brady to make it three, and to nudge the Patriots past the Rams and into the bye with a record of 5-3. New England by a field goal.

Indianapolis (+3.5) at Tennessee
What do you think’s a bigger factor in this game, the Colts’ inability to stop the run or the Titans’ inability to stop anything? I’m actually gonna go with the former, believe it or not. In honesty, thought, that’s mostly because the game’s in Tennessee, which is just about the extent to which I’m willing to actually think about this game. Titans by a point.

Jacksonville (+14) at Green Bay
The Jaguars have neither a quarterback nor a running back. What they do have is a really, really long afternoon in front of them. Packers by 20.

San Diego (-2.5) at Cleveland
It isn’t easy to throw three interceptions in a road game and still come out on top, but that’s just what Philip Rivers is going to do in Cleveland. Chargers by a point.

Atlanta (+2.5) at Philadelphia
The Falcons have a significantly better offense and a slightly better defense than the Eagles. And the swing from Atlanta’s +10 to Philadelphia’s -9 takeaway/giveaway differential comes out to 19 in the Falcons’ favor. So why are the Eagles giving points? Because they’re at home? Because the Eagles under Andy Reid are undefeated coming off a bye week? Because the Falcons have had a few close calls in recent games andhave to lose a game sooner or later? Nope. Not buying any of it. Falcons by a touchdown.

Seattle (+2) at Detroit
Yet another game where I just can’t understand the line. The Seahawks are working on 10 days rest. The Lions are on a short week. And, offensive shortcomings and all, Seattle is the better, more complete team. So, ah, yeah, I’m looking for the “upset.” Seahawks by three.

Miami (+2.5) at NY Jets
The Jets don’t have the defensive unit they took into Miami back in week three (mainly because of how they came out of Miami in week three), but I don’t look at that as sufficient reason to expect a much different outcome when the teams meet again in the Meadowlands. (Early in the season to be wrapping up a division series, isn’t it?) Jets by three.

Carolina (+7.5) at Chicago
Here’s an item for Cam Newton‘s suggestion box: Throw fewer interceptions and more touchdowns. Pretty simple, right? Well, maybe not so much when you’re facing a defense that leads the league in picks (14). Oh, well. Maybe next week. Bears by 10.

Washington (+4.5) at Pittsburgh
Of course RG3 is good enough to overcome the Steelers’ defense. But it doesn’t matter, because everyone is good enough to overcome the Native Americans’ defense. Pittsburgh by six.

Oakland (+2) at Kansas City
There was a time when this matchup really meant something. That time is not now. I honestly have no idea which of these two horrible, horrible football teams to pick. I guess I’ll go with the one that isn’t pinning its hopes on a switch to Brady Quinn at quarterback. Raiders by three.

NY Giants (-2) at Dallas
Yup, I sure do remember the Cowboys taking the Giants down in New Jersey in the season opener. I’m also aware that the Cowboys haven’t done anything remotely impressive since, while the Giants have rounded into form and started looking like a team that could repeat as champions. So let’s flip the score as well as the location. Giants win 24-17.

New Orleans (+6) at Denver
Sometimes you look at a game and realize that the only thing you can conceivably say is, “Bet the over.” Over/under is 55.5. These teams should get to that by about midway through the third quarter. In fact, this has the potential to be the ninth game in NFL history in which both quarterbacks throw for 400-plus yards. I don’t think it will be, however. Denver’s D is just good enough to slow Drew Brees down a bit, which should ultimately account for the difference on the scoreboard as well as the stat sheet. Broncos by four.

San Francisco (-6.5) at Arizona
Cardinals quarterbacks have been sacked 35 times this season on 257 attempts. That a sack percentage of 12.4 (or, if you prefer, a sack for every eight times an Arizona QB drops back to pass), which is far beyond awful. You can’t succeed when you subject your most important player to that kind of a abuse. You just can’t. Still, the game is in Arizona, and the Cardinals have a solid D. So I’ll say 49ers win by a mere four points.

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