This week is about separation. Most divisions have a log-jam at first place, and this is the time we start to see the contenders distance themselves from the rest of the pack. No team has a bye this week and the games are very hard to pick. You can see most going either way. If you play in a Pick 'Em league that requires you to rank the picks in order of confidence, good luck. I'll rank each pick in order of my confidence - the higher the number, the more the confidence.
Games ranked 16 through 12 are my "best bets" (for those of you who play in Sirius' NFL Pick 'Em). Any game I pick the Vegas underdog to win will be considered an upset. I'll give one Upset Special - the upset pick I feel is the most surprising, and one Lock of the Week - the best bet I feel the most confident about. This is straight-up Pick 'Em for those who play fantasy Pick-em. It has no consideration for Vegas-style betting that takes the spread into account.
Season Total : 86 wins, 44 losses
Last Week: 8 wins, 6 losses
Average: 10 wins, 5 losses
Last Year: 157 wins, 99 losses
Best Year: 170 wins, 86 losses
This Week's Picks:
Colts over Jaguars, 1- Upset #1 - This game represents the Colts best chance for a win, and I believe they'll get it. I prefer Curtis Painter over Blaine Gabbert. I think Maurice Jones-Drew will have a nice day, but I also believe Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Robert Mathis will as well. In the end, I'll take the better coach and better QB and the collective effort of the above-mentioned Colts over MJD.
Broncos over Chiefs, 2 - Upset #2 - If KC hadn't looked completely inept (again) last week, I'd take them over the Broncos. I believe more in John Fox than Todd "ego" Haley (ok, so I don't like him). I can't offer any compelling reasons for you to go along with this pick because Kansas City is the more talented team, other than I just can't trust them. At least with Denver, you know what you are going to get.
Giants over Niners, 3 - Upset #3 - The Giants came in big for me as an upset special last week against the Patriots. Both these teams are well coached. The 49ers are first in red-zone defense, have a nasty front seven that you've never heard of, and just beat the crap out of the guys in front of them. They don't make mistakes and play conservative, old-school smash-mouth football. The Giants have numerous injuries at skill positions and no business winning against very good opponents, yet I think Eli is indeed elite, and I think this Giants team is up for the task. When push comes to shove, I'll take Eli over Alex Smith because we know Eli can win if he has to throw.
Jets over Patriots, 4 - I don't know how the Jets are favored here. I guess Vegas doesn't know the Patriots never lose two in a row, much less three. However, I think the defensive game plan the Jets used against the Bills will work perfectly fine against Tom Brady and the Pats. A close game will play right into their hands, and the Jets (like Atlanta) are figuring out how to incorporate their passing aspirations with the ball control/running attack that gave them success last year. I'd love to see the look on Brady's face after a third consecutive loss, so perhaps that is influencing my pick a little.
Panthers over Titans, 5 - In Cam I trust. Seriously. The Titans had a bye to make corrections and get it figured out. They came out of the bye looking worse than before. I'd rather be mediocre with Jake Locker. I don't see who can catch for Tennessee, nor who can run the ball for them. I think Cam Newton will be able to smile after a win and Steve Smith will enjoy the fountain of youth, or a fist fight with Cortland Finnegan.
Cowboys over Bills, 6 - For Dallas to have any playoff hopes, this is a MUST win. If Buffalo wants to keep pace in their division, they can't afford to lose another game. Buffalo has the better coach and quarterback, but Dallas has a strength opposite of a glaring Buffalo weakness. Kyle Williams just went on the IR, and in his absence the Bills have lost two consecutive games. Their solid run defense reverted back to last year's form. Jason Garrett, feed Murray the ball 30 times and you'll get a win.
Browns over Rams, 7 - Cleveland has the sixth-ranked defense. FYI, all AFC North teams are in the Top 6 defensively, which is unheard of. For that reason, and that reason alone, I'm picking Cleveland. I'll take the Rams WRs over the Browns, along with Steven Jackson and a healthy Sam Bradford. But I won't take them this particular week.
Bears over Lions, 8 - Detroit has had a week to sort out their last two losses. The Bears are coming off an emotional Monday night win on a short turnaround. Detroit made Chicago look silly the other month, but they had a career game from Jahvid Best. I don't know his status for this game, but I can say that Lovie Smith and Jay Cutler finally talked some sense into Mike Martz. Chicago's defense is getting the rest it needs because Culter and Matt Forte are controlling the ball and having sustained drives. Detroit needs to do a better job of using their tight ends, because no #2 option has stood out from the pack after Calvin Johnson. I pick this game with much trepidation on the assumption that Best won't be playing.
Dolphins over Redskins, 9 - Miami got a win last week. For an 0 and +__ team, to finally get a W in that column cures all ills. The Dolphins have played almost every game close, just not for 60 minutes. That win will give them confidence to beat a Redskin team who has no WR, no RB, and no QB that stands out in the crowd. I'd rather have two good games and one bad game from Rex Grossman than three mediocre games from John Beck, but it isn't my reputation staked on that one.
Steelers over Bengals, 10 - I love Andy Dalton. I say it every week. I love how this Bengals team has played united, without distraction or drama. Pittsburgh is banged up, but I don't believe Dalton has faced a Dick Lebeau-caliber defense. The Bengals have the 4th-ranked defense, but Pittsburgh is 3rd, and while I don't know how Dalton will play against that kind of adversity, I know how Big Ben will.
Saints over Falcons, 11 - Upset #4 - Matt Ryan is the master of the checkdown. While the Falcons are still learning how to use all their weapons, the Saints are masters at exploiting every bit of the field. That will be the difference.
Texans over Buccaneers, 12 - Houston knows how to win on the ground or in the air. They do what they have to do, and are very physical. The hiring of Wade Phillips was one of the best decisions this offseason, and the additions of Johnathan Joseph and Daneal Manning on defense have paid off. In short, the Texans will be able to run it down Tampa's throat, and Tampa won't be able to move the ball well because they lack a consistent vertical passing attack to keep pace with Houston's scores.
Eagles over Cardinals, 14 - The Cardinals don't have Kolb. Actually, they don't have a defense that will be able to stop LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick. Beanie Wells will look good early, until the Eagles start scoring and Arizona is forced to throw.
Ravens over Seahawks, 15 - If Baltimore wouldn't have laid an egg against the Titans one week after beating Pittsburgh, I'd give them my full confidence. They've been prone to an emotional let-down after a big game, and they've looked like complete poo-poo against a Jaguar team for no good reason. That said, you can point to the Titans and see Matt Hasselbeck who can still have a good game every once in a while. You can point to a Jaguar team and see a good defense and Maurice Jones-Drew. Can you point to Seattle and see anything that looks threatening? I didn't think so. What was Pete thinking @ QB?
Packers over Vikings, 16 - Lock of the Week - Christian Ponder, Adrian Peterson and the Vikings looked good for one half against Green Bay in Minnesota. This week's game is in Lambeau, and Ponder has a few weeks worth of tape out there to dissect. Rodgers is playing better than any QB has ever played through the first half of a season. I don't think this will be a blowout, but I do believe Green Bay's defense will know what to look for this time around.