Other than the Fins-Pats game, the most compelling matchups this week appear to be Dallas at Detroit and the Jets at Cincinnati. None of the national games look as if they will be competitive; even though they are on the road, Green Bay and Seattle should face little resistance from Minnesota and St. Louis respectively, and Denver should feast on Washington’s defense at Mile High.
The NFL’s never-ending quest for parity is taking a bit of misstep this year. The 2013 season has already produced the largest line spread in league history, and over this week we have the largest proportion of lopsided matchups that I can ever recall, with five teams (edit: make that four; Green Bay is now back down to just under ten over Minnesota) favored by double digits. At this time last year there were only seven teams that had taken ten or more points in a game; there have already been 13 in 2013, and we haven’t hit the halfway mark of the season yet.
Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New England Patriots (5-2) ★★★★★
Early game on CBS; Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
The Patriots need a victory to maintain their lead in the AFC East
With so many injuries to so many key players, it’s difficult to have a lot of confidence in them right now. However, the Miami offensive line has not played well – they can neither run block nor pass block – and Ryan Tannehill has been taking an absolute beating thus far. The Patriots need to get back to more balance in their play calling, run the ball far more often, and become less predictable with their play calls. That in turn will help improve season on third down (1-12 last week; 28th ranked 33% on the year). Expect the Pats to bounce back with a close win.
Pick • Patriots 24, Dolphins 23 ✔
Dolphins +6½ ✘
Over 45½ ✘
Final Score: Pats 27, Dolphins 17; NEP covers by 3½; under by 1½
San Francisco 49ers (5-2) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (0-7) in London ★★
Early game on FOX; Chris Myers, Tim Ryan
The Jacksonville offense is among the NFL’s bottom three in points, yards, rushing yards, interception percentage, sacks, first downs, third-down efficiency, and red-zone efficiency. Chad Henne gets his fifth start, perhaps to spare Blaine Gabbert the ignominy of qualifying for certain statistical categories; Gabbert currently owns a 36.0 passer rating, which is more than 16 points lower than the current “worst” NFL quarterback, Josh Freeman. Normally there would be no way that I would take a team favored by two touchdowns that is traveling this far, but that is a testament to Jacksonville’s ineptitude.
Pick • 49ers 34, Jaguars 10 ✔
49ers -14½ (two units) ✔✔
Over 40½ ✔
Final Score: 49ers 42, Jags 10; SF covers by 17½; over by 11½
Dallas Cowboys (4-3) at Detroit Lions (4-3) ★★★★★
Early game on FOX; Dick Stockton, Brian Billick
Two really good passing offenses, two mediocre rushing offenses, and two bad pass defenses. Detroit should bounce back from last week’s loss to the Bengals, but Tony Romo and Dez Bryant will keep it close. The Lions have only given up nine sacks this season, tied for the lowest in the NFL; the offensive line’s ability to keep Matthew Stafford upright will prove to be the difference. With De Marcus Ware still sidelined I would not expect the Cowboys to mount much of a pass rush.
Pick • Lions 31, Cowboys 27 ✔
Lions -3 ✘
Over 51½ (one unit) ✔
Final Score: Lions 31, Cowboys 30; DAL covers by 2; over by 9½
New York Giants (1-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) ★★
Early game on FOX; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston
Monday night was a ‘which team sucks less’ game, with the 1-4 Vikings playing the 0-6 Giants. This week is more of the same as the Giants take an eight game road losing streak to Philly, where the Eagles have lost nine straight home games. I don’t know if New York can count on Michael Vick duplicating Josh Freeman’s futility, unless his hamstring acts up and Matt Barkley (three picks last week) has to step in.
Pick • Eagles 24, Giants 20 ✘
Giants +6 ✔
Under 50½ ✔
Final Score: Giants 15, Eagles 7; NYG covers by 14; under by 28½
Cleveland Browns (3-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-0) ★★★
Early game on CBS; Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
The Browns have lost their last two games by 32 points, the once strong defense has given up 31 points in consecutive weeks, and Brandon Weeden finds himself on the bench once again. Jason Campbell becomes the third QB to start for Cleveland, and for starters he needs to do a better job of finding WR Josh Gordon and TE Jordan Cameron than Weeden did. Last week Weeden threw only two of his first 20 passes in the direction of Gordon and Cameron, and by the time he corrected that it was the 4th quarter and the game was out of hand. The Chiefs had a close call last week against Houston, so it is very doubtful that they will be looking past this game.
Pick • Chiefs 24, Browns 10 ✔
Chiefs -7 (three units) ✘✘✘
Under 39½ (two units) ✘✘
Final Score: Chiefs 23, Browns 17; CLE covers by 1; over by ½
Buffalo Bills (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-1) ★★★
Early game on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
Earlier this year I noted how very difficult it is for a team to play well enough to win back-to-back games on the road. Playing against one of the best teams in the league in their dome just decreases the chances of Buffalo pulling that feat off exponentially. Mario Williams (10 sacks) has been playing very well, but getting pressure Drew Brees is more problematic than getting to Ryan Tannehill.
Pick • Saints 31, Bills 20 ✔
Bills +12½ ✘
Over 48½ ✔
Final Score: Saints 35, Bills 17; NO covers by 5½; over by 3½
New York Jets (4-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) ★★★★
Late game on CBS; Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots
Halfway through the week the Jets were still talking about the Patriots. Is it any wonder that Gang Green has followed every win with a loss? Expect that trend to continue against a Bengals defense that ranks 7th in the NFL, allowing 19.3 points per game. Last week was their Super Bowl; here comes the inevitable letdown, just like at Tennessee. The Bengals may not overwhelm their opponents, but they continue to find ways to win games.
Pick • Bengals 23, Jets 16 ✔
Bengals -5½ ✔
Under 41½ ✘
Final Score: Bengals 49, Jets 9; CIN covers by 34½; over by 16½
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4) at Oakland Raiders (2-4) ★★
Late game on CBS; Marv Albert, Rich Gannon
The Pittsburgh defense has had a nice turnaround, allowing just one touchdown and 22 points in the last two weeks; after starting out 0-4 and allowing 27.5 points per game, the Steelers can think about making a run for the last wild card spot. Pittsburgh has rediscovered their running game, with rookie RB Le’Veon Bell rushing for 93 yards and 4.9 yards per carry last week. Both defenses are very good against the run (3.7 and 3.8 yards per carry), but the Raiders have a better pass rush and their secondary is performing better than had been expected. The Steelers have had trouble with the long trip to the west coast in the past – they haven’t won in Oakland since 1995 – and Oakland’s banged up offensive line has had a week to recover coming off a bye week.
Pick • Upset: Raiders 20, Steelers 17 ✔
Raiders +3 ✔
Under 41 ✔
Final Score: Raiders 21, Steelers 18; OAK covers by 6; under by 2
Washington Redskins (2-4) at Denver Broncos (6-1) ★★★
Late game on FOX; Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman
Washington is allowing 8.5 yards per pass, the 2nd most in the NFL, and now they go on the road to face the league’s best offense without their two starting safeties: Brandon Meriweather is suspended for illegal hits, and Reed Doughty may not play due to a concussion he suffered last week. The Broncos will be fired up to avenge last week’s loss. The Skins only victories have been against backup quarterbacks (Matt Flynn and Josh McCown), a category that Peyton Manning does not fall into.
Pick • Broncos 49, Redskins 28 ✔
Broncos -13 (one unit) ✔
Over 54½ (three units) ✔✔✔
Final Score: Broncos 45, Redskins 21; DEN covers by 11; over by 11½
Atlanta Falcons (2-4) at Arizona Cardinals (3-4) ★★★
Late game on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch
Just like last year, Arizona has struggled on offense. The Cardinals rank 26th with 78 yards rushing per game, 25th in points scored (19.0), and 24th with 6.6 yards per pass. WR Larry Fitzgerald is nearing 100% health while working through his hamstring injury, but Carson Palmer (11 interceptions in the last five games) is making poor pre and post snap reads. Although the Falcons may get a boost with the return of Stevan Jackson; don’t expect too much; the Cardinals have been stout against the run, allowing a 6th-best 3.6 yards per carry. Atlanta can score (26 ppg), but there only wins have come at home against bad teams (Rams and Bucs).
Pick • Cardinals 24, Falcons 20 ✔
Cardinals -2½ ✔
Under 46 ✔
Final Score: Cardinals 27, Falcons 13; ARI covers by 11½; under by 6
Green Bay Packers (4-2) at Minnesota Vikings (1-5) ★★
Sunday night on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
I thought for sure that Josh Freeman must have set and NFL record for most incomplete passes in a game with 33 last week on his 20-53 abomination. Ironically his counterpart that night must have been rooting for him to throw just a few more bad passes; Eli Manning went 18-53 in 2007, giving him two more incompletions than Freeman had Monday night.I just don’t understand what Minnesota is doing. The fact they signed Freeman is a clear signal that they have made an assessment on Christian Ponder after 29 NFL starts and have decided to move on, giving Freeman an 11-game audition. First they start Freeman too soon after he arrived, but rather than continue to give him playing time they are now sitting him – and once again starting Ponder. If they want to win now then Ponder is not the answer – that is clearly Matt Cassel. This seems like a move to appease the masses rather than one with clearly defined reasoning.
Pick • Packers 31, Vikings 13 ✔
Packers -9½ (two units) ✔✔
Under 48½ ✘
Final Score: Packers 44, Vikings 31; GB covers by 3½; over by 26½
Seattle Seahawks (6-1) at St. Louis Rams (3-4) ★★
Monday night on ESPN; Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden
A really good defense against a team with a really bad defense, no running game, and a career backup that has not won as a starter since 2009. Seattle is far too talented for a mediocre Rams team, and that is without considering that Sam Bradford is out and that Kellen Clemens will be under center for St. Louis.
Pick • Seahawks 27, Rams 10 ✔
Seahawks -10½ (two units) ✘✘
Under 43½ (one unit) ✔
Final Score: Seahawks 14, Rams 9; STL covers by 5½; under by 20½
Carolina Panthers (3-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6) ★★
Thursday night on NFLN; Brad Nessler Mike Mayock
The Panthers have an excellent defense allowing just 13.8 points per game (2nd) and 302 yards per game (3rd). Since they are so rarely on television, this serves as a nice preview for the Pats week 8 game in Charlotte on Monday Night Football. Many fans may have penciled that in as a ‘W’ back when the schedule was first announced, but that is certainly not the case now. More on this game here.
Pick • Panthers 24, Buccaneers 10 ✔
Panthers -6 (three units) ✔✔✔
Under 40½ (one unit) ✘
Final Score: Panthers 31, Bucs 13; CAR covers by 12; over by 3½
4-3 Chicago Bears
3-4 Baltimore Ravens
2-5 Houston Texans
5-2 Indianapolis Colts
4-3 San Diego Chargers
3-4 Tennessee Titans
Three-Game Teaser (two units) ✔✔
Louisville (-11) at South Florida ✔
Kansas City (+2) vs Cleveland ✔
Washington-Denver over 45½ ✔
Four-Game Parlay (one unit) ✘
Louisville (-20) at South Florida ✔
Carolina (-6) at Tampa Bay ✔
Kansas City (-7) vs Cleveland ✘
Washington-Denver over 54½ ✔
Boise State at BYU (-6½) (one unit) ✔
Boise has looked shaky on defense, and now Grant Hedrick makes the first start of his college career against a pretty good BYU defense.
Final Score: BYU 37, Boise St 20; BYU covers by 10½
Boston College (+7) at North Carolina (one unit) ✘
The Eagles are 3-3 with losses to Clemson and Florida State by an average of just 11 points; UNC is 1-5, allowing 30 ppg, and can’t run the ball. BC RB Andre Williams should be able to run all over the Tar Heels soft defense.
Final Score: N Carolina 34, BC 10; UNC covers by 17
Clemson (-13) at Maryland (one unit) push
Tigers lick their wounds from last week’s loss to FSU.
Final Score: Clemson 40, Maryland 27; push
Pittsburgh at Navy (+6½) (one unit) ✔
The Midshipmen ran 106 offensive plays for 514 yards last week; look for them to continue to maintain possession of the ball for large chunks of time and wear out Pitt’s defense.
Final Score: Navy 24, Pitt 21; Navy covers by 9½
Utah (+7) at Southern Cal (one unit) ✘
USC is really banged up and and their roster is bare. WR Marqise Lee (knee) is questionable, RB Justin Davis and LB Lamar Dawson are out for the year, and the top three scholarship tight ends are all injured and may not play. While Utah has some injuries as well, USC’s situation is much more dire. A win by the Utes would not be a surprise at all.
Final Score: Southern Cal 19, Utah 3; USC covers by 9
North Carolina State at Florida State (-27½) (one unit) ✔
The Seminoles know that they not only need to run the table but also score some style points to have a chance to play in the national championship game. As for a letdown after beating Clemson last week, forget it, the Noles have revenge on their mind. A year ago NC State upset FSU 17-16 and knocked them out of the championship picture.
Final Score: Florida State 49, NC State 17; FSU covers by 4½
Wyoming (+10) at San Jose State (two units) ✔✔
Wyoming has a better offense (35.4 to 24.0 ppg) and runs the ball better (202.7 to 119.7 ypg) than the SJSU, and also has a better pass defense; I like the Cowboys here even though they are on the road.
Final Score: San Jose State 51, Wyoming 44; WYO covers by 3
South Carolina at Missouri (-2½) (two units) ✘✘
The Gamecocks best chance at winning is by controlling the ball, but Missouri has been excellent against the run. The Tigers are very balanced on offense, and South Carolina’s defense struggles in run defense.
Final Score: S Carolina 27, Missouri 24; SCAR covers by 5½
Louisville (-20) at South Florida – Best Play of the Week (four units) ✔✔✔✔
The worst thing that could have happened to USF was for Louisville to lose to Central Florida last week; had the Cardinals won then perhaps they would have looked past the Bulls, but that won’t be the case here. USF has won their last two games but that’s a mirage; they somehow manged to do so despite not scoring an offensive touchdown in either game.
Final Score: Louisville 34, S Florida 3; LOU covers by 11
UTEP at Rice (-17) (two units) ✔✔
The Miners are 1-5 and their defense is ranked 107th among FBS schools. Rice is rushing for 230 yards per game (16th), while UTEP owns the 118th rushing defense. The Owls should be able to run all over UTEP all day long and win easily.
Final Score: Rice 45, UTEP 7; RICE covers by 21
$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $
Week 7 started out extremely well, being +1090 after Saturday’s college games. However things went south on Sunday thanks to three last minute finishes on Sunday afternoon. First Washington beat Chicago on a Roy Helu TD with 45 seconds remaining, which allowed the Redskins rather than the Bears to cover the 1½ point spread on a two unit game. Then in the one late game Pittsburgh beat Baltimore on a field goal as time expired, in another two unit game for me.
The coup de grâce came late in what was my top play of the week, Kansas City -5½ at home versus Houston and their third string QB. The Kansas City defense came up with a late turnover and what for a moment appeared to be a touchdown that would allow the Chiefs to cover, but the defender who picked up the ball was nudged by a Houston player and landed less than a yard short of the goal line. Andy Reid made the correct call under the circumstances, which was to take a kneel down and run out the clock so that Houston had no chance of tying the score with a TD and 2-point conversion.
That cost me four units, and was the difference between being even on Sunday and plus-1090 for the week, and only being plus 250 at the end of Sunday night. Dallas-Philadelphia turning into a defensive struggle with 13 punts rather than the offensive slugfest that I anticipated hurt as well; going well under cost me two units for not being over, one on a teaser, and another on a parlay.
Overall I should have stuck with my initial analysis rather than wavering on some games, such as Indy over Denver and the 49ers over Tennessee. Originally I had both as strong plays, but backed off on both, lowering the Colts from three units to one unit and the 49ers from two units to none. One outcome that was just as expected was the Colt-Broncos being a high score; that game easily exceeded the over by 16½ points.
Tale Of The Tape
Week 7 Results
Straight Up: 7-8, 47%
Underdogs to win straight up: 0-3, 0%
Against the Spread: 5-10, 33%
ATS picking favorites: 3-4, 43% (0-1, -440)
ATS picking underdogs: 2-6, 25% (1-3, -560)
ATS Confidence Picks: 1-4, 20% (-1000)
One Unit Plays ATS: 1-0, +100
Two Unit Plays ATS: 0-3, -660
Three Unit Plays ATS: none
Four Unit Plays ATS: 0-1, -440
Five Unit Plays ATS: none
Over Under Total: 7-8, 47%
Picking Over: 4-3, 57% (2-2, -30)
Picking Under: 3-5, 38% (1-0, +100)
O/U Confidence Picks: 3-2, 60% (+70)
One Unit Plays O/U: 2-1, +90
Two Unit Plays O/U: 1-1, -20
Three Unit Plays O/U: none
Four Unit Plays O/U: none
Five Unit Plays O/U: none
Best Play of the Week: wrong (KC -5½ vs Houston)
2-Game Teasers: none
3-Game Teasers: 1-1, +90
2-Game Parlays: none
3-Game Parlays: 0-1, -110
College Games: 9-1, +1090
Week 7 Total: (14-9; 3850 risked; net +140; 3.7% ROI)
Straight Up: 73-34 (68%)
Underdogs to win straight up: 11-11 (50%)
Against the Spread: 47-57-3 (45%)
ATS picking favorites: 24-29-2, 45% (11-13, -840)
ATS picking underdogs: 23-28-1, 45% (8-5, +420)
ATS Confidence Picks: 19-18, 51% (-420)
One Unit Plays ATS: 11-8, 58% (+220)
Two Unit Plays ATS: 6-7, 46% (-330)
Three Unit Plays ATS: 0-1, 0% (-330)
Four Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, 50% (-480)
Five Unit Plays ATS: 1-0, 100% (+500)
Over Under Total: 57-50 (53%)
Picking Over: 28-21, 57% (7-8, -230)
Picking Under: 29-29, 50% (11-7, +600)
O/U Confidence Picks: 18-15, 55% (+370)
One Unit Plays O/U: 10-8, 56% (+120)
Two Unit Plays O/U: 6-6, 50% (-120)
Three Unit Plays O/U: 1-1, 50% (-30)
Four Unit Plays O/U: 1-0, 100% (+400)
Five Unit Plays O/U: none
Best Play of the Week: 4-2 (+720)
2-Game Teasers: none
3-Game Teasers: 4-3 (+450)
2-Game Parlays: none
3-Game Parlays: 1-2 (+270)
College Games: 13-3 (+1360)
(55-41, 57%; 16,950 risked; net +2030; +12.0% ROI)
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