NFL Picks: Week 7

Another great week in the NFL is in the books.  A tie, a bunch of blowouts and a bunch of shootouts.

My week 6 went 10-6, including a tie between Carolina and Cincinnati. Here are my week 7 picks, 15 games with just the Eagles and Buccaneers on their byes.

Thursday Night Football

  • Jets @ Patriots: It’s an AFC East match-up to kickoff week 7 action.  Before the season I thought this game could be the first in determining the division.  Instead it’s another chance for the Pats to continue to right the ship, and for the Jets to try to snap out of their funk.  I’m going with the former, because New York is just a mess in every facet of the game except the run. NEW ENGLAND WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Falcons @ Ravens: Atlanta continues to be one of those teams with a lot of talent being wasted.  I thought they’d snap out of it at home last week against Chicago, but instead gave up 30 points again.  And with a Ravens team that clicked on all cylinders to the tune of 5 1st half touchdown passes from Joe Flacco up next, all I have to say is yikes. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Titans @ Redskins: Talk about a game I probably wouldn’t accept money to watch.  Tennessee barely scraped by the win-less Jaguars a week ago, while Washington is on a four-game slide.  I think that skid ends for the Skins however, because they’re home and I’ve at least seen some good things from their offense against good teams.  WASHINGTON WINS
  • Seahawks @ Rams: Seattle is looking to rebound off a rare home loss to the upstart Cowboys in week 6, while St. Louis is coming off their 3rd straight defeat.  I don’t see the defending champs losing two straight and though this is a trap game, I think they get the road win on the strength of a bounce back performance by Russell Wilson. SEATTLE WINS
  • Browns @ Jaguars: I had the Browns beating Pittsburgh a week ago, but I didn’t think it would be in such dominating fashion.  The run game was great thanks to a big game from Ben Tate, while Jordan Cameron anchored a big day in the air for Brian Hoyer.  Not to mention the defense holding Ben Roethlisberger to 10 points.  Oh and Jacksonville is bad. CLEVELAND WINS
  • Bengals @ Colts: This is probably the toughest game for me to pick o the week.  Cincinnati has disappointed me, particularity on defense since coming out of their bye undefeated.  They’ve surrendered 80 points in the last two games, a loss and a tie, after just 33 in their first 3 games.  Now they face a high-powered Colts team, that happens to be on a 4-game win streak, on the road. So I am going to go out on a limb and take the Bengals on the road, because if they’re to take the next step, it’s games like this where they have to prove something. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Vikings @ Bills: Minnesota has had its moments this season, as has Buffalo.  Neither team has had consistent offense, rather relying on their defenses to carry them.  The Bills run game is their strength, and it hasn’t even been that great early.  I think both CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson have big days at home to get their team above .500. BUFFALO WINS
  • Dolphins @ Bears: Talk about two inconsistent teams that need a win. At 2-3 and 3-3 respectively, Miami and Chicago are both still in the conversation in their divisions. Both teams are strong in the trenches, but the Bears have the edge in the air, and that’s where I think they win it.  CHICAGO WINS
  • Saints @ Lions: New Orleans enters rested fresh off their bye week after a huge come-from-behind OT win in week 5.  Detroit won in week 6 in large part because of their outstanding defense.  Calvin Johnson is struggling, as is the run game, but it’s easier to take when your D holds the other team to a field-goal.  It won’t be so easy to do so this week, and even though it’s a road game, I’m taking a leap because of a guy named Drew Brees. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Panthers @ Packers: This is a big game in that it could affect playoff seeding in the NFC for one or both teams.  Carolina’s defense is not what we thought it would be.  Green Bay is surging after a 1-2 start.  I think it’ll be a close one throughout, with Aaron Rodgers coming up big late to help the cheese heads move to 3-0 at home. GREEN BAY WINS

Sunday 4/4:25PM Games

  • Chiefs @ Chargers: Kansas City isn’t fooling anyone this season.  After starting last season with 9 straight wins, their offense just hasn’t been up to snuff this year.  The run game continues to excell, but Alex Smith has the pass game at the bottom of the league.  They’ve kept themselves in games, except for a 41-point game against New England, so there’s still hope.  But with their red hot AFC West counterparts on the schedule, this is going to be a tough one. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Chargers just find ways to win.  Being a home game, I like the Chargers to continue to find ways to win, which will push KC far out for the division and put pressure on the Broncos.  SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Cardinals @ Raiders: Arizona has its QB back, the defense is clicking and the NFC West is a toss up early.  Oh and they get a team on the march for another number 1 pick and a possible date with 0-16.  Oakland did give San Diego all it could handle a week ago, so I don’t think it’ll be easy, but I like the Cards on the road. ARIZONA WINS
  • Giants @ Cowboys: Yes, I know the Giants were manhandled a week ago, while Dallas overwhelmed the defending champs on the road. I also know that DeMarco Murray is a beast and New York isn’t great at stopping the run. But I also don’t think New York is as bad as they looked on Sunday Night.  Not to mention, when these two teams get together, strange things tend to happen.  Eli Manning has had a lot of success in Dallas, and I think he finds a way to get his guys back on track this week. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Niners @ Broncos: What a great match-up on Sunday Night between two of the final four teams from a season ago.  San Francisco has looked better of late after a slow start at 1-2.  But I still have concerns about their offense.  I know their defense can keep them in most any game, but with Peyton Manning just 3 TD passes away from the all-time record of 509, I don’t know how the Broncos don’t get their 5th win of the season. DENVER WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Steelers @ Texans: Pittsburgh is a straight up mess right now.  Sure they’re 3-3 but it’s been ugly, and having been 8-8 the past 2 years, being .500 is nothing special.  Add to that the surprising start of the Browns, the Steelers find themselves in the cellar of the North.  As for Houston, they’ve already surpassed their win total from last season and look a lot better on offense.  So give me the home team to move above .500 and keep pressure on the division leading Colts. HOUSTON WINS
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NFL: Week 17 Predictions

Here we are, the final week of the regular season.  Time really flies when you’re having fun.

Still a lot to be decided, a football fans dream scenario.

1PM Games

  • Cleveland @ Pittsburgh: Two non-playoff AFC North teams. So give me the home team in a defensive struggle. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Washington @ New York Giants: The Skins won the East last season, and the Giants miss the playoffs yet again.  Give me New York to end their season better than it started. NEW YORK WINS
  • Baltimore @ Cincinnati:  The Bengals are already in, the Ravens are on the fringe.  This is going to be a very good game, but I think the defending champs find a way. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Houston @ Tennessee:  One of the few games that hold no playoff implications.  The Titans had a pretty good season, but fell off at the end. Let’s just say the Texans finish the season on a 14 game slide and go from there. TENNESSEE WINS
  • Jacksonville @ Indianapolis:  The Colts can improve their seeding, and the Jags have been very good in the 2nd half of the season.  But Indy needs to head into the playoffs feeling good after a sub-par 2nd half, so I think they respond in the season finale. INDY WINS
  • New York Jets @ Miami:  The Jets are done, the Fins still have a shot.  I can see New York playing spoiler, and  I can see the Dolphins not knocking themselves out.  I’ll go with the northern inconsistent team in this one. NEW YORK WINS
  • Detroit @ Minnesota: The Lions continue to falter in big games, and now they could end up out of the playoffs.  I think the Vikings good 2nd half of the year ends on a high note. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Carolina @ Atlanta: A Panthers win wraps up a 1st round bye and the Southern division.  The Falcons are looking to end a very disappointing season.  Give me the Panthers. CAROLINA WINS

4:25PM Games

  • Tampa Bay @ New Orleans: The Bucs played well following an 0-8 start.  But the Saints don’t lose at home, and they need this to ensure their spot in the playoffs.  Drew Brees and the Superdome faithful get it done. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Buffalo @ New England:  All pats. That is all. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • St Louis @ Seattle:  The division and number 1 seed isn’t locked up for the Seahawks.  The Rams defense has been very good all year, and I expect them to make things hard on the Hawks, but I think the run to the Superbowl goes through the rain. SEATTLE WINS
  • Green Bay @ Chicago: The Packers losing Aaron Rodgers derailed their season, and the Bears found a way to take advantage, despite their porous defense and rotating QB.  Give me the home team. CHICAGO WINS
  • San Francisco @ Arizona: This is a big game for both teams. The 49ers have a shot at the 1st round bye, the Cardinals are looking for a wild card spot.  Arizona has been a surprise all year, but can they win this big game?  It helps that it’s home.  But give me the road team. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Denver @ Oakland: This is a crazy game to have in the final week of the season.  A win secures the number 1 seed for the Broncos, while the Raiders are just finishing out the season. I can’t see the Raiders playing spoiler.  DENVER WINS
  • Kansas City @ San Diego:

Sunday Night Football

  • Philadelphia @ Dallas: It’s a win and in, lose and out for the NFC East foes.  The Eagles are healthier, as the Cowboys lost starter Tony Romo in their win last week.  And for that reason, give me Philly to take the division. PHILADELPHIA WINS

Enjoy the first week of the playoffs!

NFL: First Half Recap

So we’ve seen week 8 come and go, marking the unofficial halfway point of the season.

Sure some teams have already taken their bye, meaning they’ve only played 7 of their 16 game scheduled, but many have played 8.  So I figured I’d take a look back at my picks for the major awards and who was gonna win it all, and tell you who really won the 1st half of the season.

My Pre-season Division and Wild Card Winners

  • NFC: New York, Seattle, Green Bay, Atlanta, Dallas & New Orleans

Clearly I, was very off when I picked the Falcons and Giants to win their divisions.  Sure it could still happen, but it’s very unlikely as they sit in 3rd and 4th respectively.  But Seattle and Green Bay are both sitting pretty atop their respective divisions, and while Dallas and New Orleans aren’t wildcard times, they of course lead their divisions and would be playoff teams, as I thought they would be. I think the easiest division for me to pick had been the North.  But this has become of the of the bigger surprises for me, with both Detroit and Chicago right there heading into the second half.  The Saints, who I thought would be in a dog-fight with the Falcons all year for the South are coasting right now, but as we all know, a lot can happen in a short amount of time in the NFL.  If the playoffs started today, 4 of my 6 pick would make the playoffs.

  • AFC: Patriots, Denver, Baltimore, Houston, Cincinnati, and Indy

Here’s another case of getting the teams right (for the most part), just not picking them high enough.  Let’s talk about Indianapolis, who are showing they are a legit Superbowl contender, having knocked off three of the best teams in the league (Denver, Seattle and San Francisco), and easily at that.  I had them winning the a wild card spot, so I wasn’t really off, but I never thought they’d do this well again.  A lot of their success last year came in 4th quarter comebacks, something I didn’t see them replicating.  Denver I’m not wrong about, but my biggest shock might be in Kansas City.  I knew the Chiefs would be improved, never did I think they’d lead this division.  I figured they’d battle for a wild card.  But here they are the last undefeated team standing.  The Pats hold a slim lead, but things can change quickly if they’re not careful.  Baltimore and Houston have been big disappoints, while the Bengals defense has given them a nice lead in the North.  Just like in the NFC, 4 of my 6 picks would make the playoffs if they started today.

  • My AFC and NFC Championship games probably won’t end up quite the way I picked them, but my Superbowl pick of Denver over Seattle (sure call it chalk) does remain as a real possibility.

And how about my pre-season award winners?  Here is how some of my picks have changed.

Offensive Rookie of the Year:

  • I picked Texans Wide-receiver DeAndre Hopkins.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Packers Running Back Eddie Lacy, who I put down as an honorable mention.  He’s given the Packers another option on offense, which just makes them more dangerous.

Offensive Player of the Year:

  • I picked Lions WR Calvin Johnson.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Broncos QB Peyton Manning, another pre-season honorable mention by me.  How could he not be the guy right now? Look at his stats: 29 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. He’s completing nearly 72% of his passes and has only been sacked 11 times in 8 games.  Sure he’s got a lot of weapons but he’s also finding them and making all the throws.  But to be fair to Megatron, he’s having an insane year yet again.

Defensive Player of the Year:

  • I picked Bengals Defensive Tackle Geno Atkins.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to the Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali.  This guy has done a little bit of everything.  4 forced fumbles, 23 tackles, a pick 6 and 9 sacks.
  • Other possibilities: Bills MLB Kiko Alonso, Seahawks CB Earl Thomas or Chiefs OLB Justin Houston.

Most Valuable Player:

  • I picked Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Colts QB Andrew Luck.  This guy has shown he was the right guy to take number 1 last year.  He can outplay the best of them, and can put early game struggles behind him to help his team late.  His numbers aren’t flashy, but he takes care of the ball and is a true leader.
  • Other possibilities: Broncos QB Peyton Manning, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and Lions WR Calvin Johnson.

Coach of the Year:

  • I picked Seahawks Pete Carroll.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid.  When you turn a 2 win team into an undefeated team halfway through the season, you’re going to be considered for awards.
  • Other possibilities: Bengals Marvin Lewis, Colts Chuck Pagano and Panthers Juan Rivera.

And finally my biggest surprises good and bad of the first half.

Biggest Disappointment – Team

  • Houston Texans: This is a team I saw as one of the last two standing in the AFC.  With a running back tandem like Arian Foster and Ben Tate, with a very good defense that got back Brian Cushing to play along side last year’s defensive player of the year in JJ Watt, I thought it was time for this team to take that next step.  But Matt Schaub has regressed, and is now injured, and TJ Yates didn’t do much better backing him up.
  • Dis-Honorable Mention: New York Giants – They collapsed in the 2nd half of 2012, and have carried that bad play into 2013.  Injuries have ravaged the o-line, secondary and running back position, but they still have too many weapons to be just 2-6 in the first half.

Biggest Disappointment – Offensive Player

  • Ravens RB Ray Rice: This is a guy who is usually atop the rushing yards leader board.  But a year removed from helping his team win the Superbowl, Rice hasn’t done much to help his team, and it’s a big reason why they’re just a 2-win team coming out of their bye.  At 26, there should still be something left in the tank, but he hasn’t been producing.  He’s been very good in his career after the bye, so maybe the extra time off will help get him back on track.
  • Dis-Honorable Mention: Redskins QB Robert Griffin III – It might not be fair to say this, as the mobile quarterback is coming off a serious knee injury that knocked him out of the playoffs last year.  But if you’re going to let him play, that means he’s healthy, which means we should be seeing more consistency from last years Rookie of the Year.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise – Team

  • Carolina Panthers: This team is riding on the high of a 3 game win streak that saw their offense put up 30+ points again, and the defense limit its opponents to 13.7 points a game, 2nd only to KC.  This team hadn’t been over .500 since before Cam Newton was drafted.  They are 2nd in a division where the Falcons play.  That means something.
  • Honorable Mention: Kansas City Chiefs – 2 and 14 to 8 and 0.  A sack happy, shutdown defense.  A good run game.  A quarterback who is very good at game management. They get honorable mention because despite a bad record a year ago, this team sent 6 players to the pro bowl, so the turnaround isn’t a huge surprise. This team is primed for a postseason run.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise – Player

  • Cowboys LB Sean Lee: This guy has a nose for the football, tied for 1st in the NFL with four interceptions, one of which he returned for a score.  He also has the most return yards of a defensive player.  He’s also defended 10 passes, recovered a fumble and has a combined 81 tackles.
  • Honorable Mention: Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor – His team only has 3 wins, and his numbers aren’t great, but after a few years of disappointment, he’s shown glimpses. First of all, those 3 wins match Oakland’s win total from a year ago.  He can run with the best of the mobile quarterbacks.  And he wasn’t even supposed to be the starter. Matt Flynn was brought in, and Pryor just flat-out beat him for the job.

So there you have it.  That was fun, looking back at what I thought preseason and seeing how it’s panning out.  Of course there’s still a whole lot of football to be played, and everything I wrote here (or almost everything) could be meaningless come week 9 or 10.   But that’s the beauty of the gridiron, nothing stays the same for long.  So win, lose or draw, let’s go out and enjoy the 2nd half of the 2013 season as much as we did the 1st half.