It's time once again for the NFL picks of the week, where for once, we're actually coming off of a winning week, however small that margin might have actually been.
Let's get started...
Last week: 7-6
Overall: 42-62Tampa Bay @ Minnesota (-6.5), October 25:
The week's action begins with the Thursday night game in Minneapolis, as the 5-2 Vikings host the 2-4 Buccaneers.
Every year in today's NFL, there's always that one team that surprises everybody and makes the playoffs that was horrible the year before. And with the Vikes coming off a 3-13 season a year ago, they might seem like a prime candidate for that this year.
Of course, they also haven't played any games against the Packers or Bears yet. But in this one, they should find the win column again, although with Josh Freeman coming off a 400-yard passing day, it might not be as easy as some would have thought earlier in the year.
Playing at home again, I'll take the Vikings to cover and get their sixth win of the year.
New England (-7) @ St. Louis, October 28:
The 4-3 Patriots, who are back in first place in the AFC East this week after beating the Jets a week ago in Foxboro, go back on the road to face the 3-4 Rams in St. Louis.
As much as was made about Tom Brady's first visit to Seattle two weeks ago, I'm sure not nearly as much is going to be made of him visiting St. Louis for the first time in eight years, mostly because when you think Patriots-Rams you think Super Bowl XXXVI and the beginning of the Patriots Dynasty, which came at the expense of the favored "Greatest Show on Turf" in that game.
These Rams are a far cry from that bunch and frankly, so are these Patriots, who seemingly have to struggle in every game they play anymore to get a win. This might be the exception. Give me the Pats to cover on the road here.
Indianapolis @ Tennessee (-3.5), October 28:
You could probably make the case that every game in the NFL is a toss-up this year (and you'd probably be right), but this one between the 3-3 Colts and 3-4 Titans in Nashville REALLY appears to be one. The Titans are coming off a road win in Buffalo that was most noted for the return of Chris Johnson to "CJ2K" status, and since the Titans always play better at home anyway, it's easy to see why they're favored here, especially if they can get any kind of consistency from Johnson like in years past.
But I still like what the Colts are doing. Their last road game against the Jets two weeks ago was an unmitigated disaster (kind of like this column every week), but the time might be near for Andrew Luck to get his first road win. Give me the Colts here.
Jacksonville @ Green Bay (-13), October 28:
It seems our friends in Vegas don't have a whole lot to say about this one other than installing the 4-3 Packers as the league's largest favorite of the week by a wide margin as they host the 1-5 Jaguars this week at Lambeau. And it's with good reason, too, as the Jags will be without Maurice Jones-Drew and will likely be without Blaine Gabbert as well, even though his status is officially still up in the air as I write this.
But it's obviously the loss of the recently resurgent MJD that will really affect the Jags, whose only real shot at slowing down the once-again machine-like Packers' offense would be using him to keep them off the field. In the Packers' first home game in a month, expect them to roll here. I'll take Green Bay to cover, despite the large spread.
San Diego (-2.5) @ Cleveland, October 28:
This would seem to be a game that the 3-3 Chargers should win quite easily, despite going on the road to face the 1-6 Browns, owners of the league's worst record, in Cleveland, where this time of the year, weather is at least a 50/50 proposition as far as what you get.
But of you add in the possible league investigation into the Chargers using an illegal substance in their last game a couple of Mondays ago, and the fact that the Browns, despite being 1-6, have played well in stretches of pretty much every game they've played, and this might not seem like such a lock. But if the Chargers want us to take them seriously again as contenders, it's a game they simply must win. And I think they will. Give me the Chargers to cover on the road.
Atlanta @ Philadelphia (-2.5), October 28:
Well, hello Atlanta Falcons disrespect, it's good to hear from you again. Yeah, I'm not really sure when the last time was that an undefeated team was an underdog, even on the road, but here we are witb the 6-0 Falcons visiting the 3-3 Eagles and getting that ultimate sign of disrespect.
But as much as I want to pick against the Falcons, I'm not going to do that here. The Eagles are in bad shape, and realistically, a case can be made that they should be 0-6.
And firing your defensive coordinator, who never should've been you defensive coordinator in the first place, isn't going to stop Michael Vick from putting the ball on the ground, no matter how much he wants to show up his old, and undefeated, team. I'll take the Falcons here.
Seattle @ Detroit (-2.5), October 28:
Here is where I begin to question the sanity of some of the minds in Vegas, which I seem to do at least once every week. Can anyone out there reading this give me one good reason why the Lions, struggling at 2-4 and coming off a miserable offensive showing in Chicago Monday Night, are favored over the 4-3 Seahawks, even at home in Detroit?
Yeah, I didn't think so. Don't get me wrong. I completely understand the rationale behind it, since the Seahawks probably suffer from the home-versus-road syndrome more than any team in the league, but anyone who watched the Lions offense in action Monday, admittedly against perhaps the stoutest defense in the league, should have a hard time coming to this conclusion. Anyway, give me the Seahawks on the road.
Miami @ N.Y. Jets (-2.5), October 28:
Every game seems as though it's going to have the utmost importance in the AFC East, where one game separates all four teams, so when the 3-3 Dolphins visit the 3-4 Jets, it's naturally a huge game, even if it is only late October, and the halfway point of the season. The Jets won the previous meeting between these teams in overtime in Miami, despite being significantly out-played for a good portion of it.
As much as we all love to give the Jets grief (and they do deserve most of it), it seems as though they might have turned the corner and have begun resembling the team that once played in two straight AFC title games. Of course, that could all change if they let this one get away, and they very well might, but I'll take them to cover at home here.
Carolina @ Chicago (-7.5), October 28:
If Sad Cam Newton Panda hasn't been thrilled with the offensive production of his 1-5 Panthers during their current four-game losing streak, wait until he sees the defense the 5-1 Bears are bringing with them to greet him at Soldier Field this week.
Perhaps the only good news for Carolina this week is that the Bears' offense is coming off a bit of a struggle against the Lions Monday night, but then again, at the level the Bears' defense is playing at, it might not matter much in the end.
As mentioned in my NFL awards this week, it might be too early to anoint these Bears as "Monsters of the Midway", but I'm doing it, anyway. That means another week of Sad Cam, this time in Chicago. I'll take the Bears to cover at home in this one.
Washington @ Pittsburgh (-4.5), October 28:
The 3-3 Steelers return home to Pittsburgh to face the 3-4 Redskins after getting a win in Cincinnati that might very well have saved their relevancy in the league this year.
Speaking of relevancy, no one will argue that RG3 isn't, but it's his continued struggle to make the Redskins relevant that is the story here, and one week after leading his team down the field for a would-be winning score against the Giants, only to see Eli Manning do what Eli Manning does and steal it at the end, he now must lead his team into Pittsburgh against a rejuvenated Steelers bunch.
And it's the new-found running game of the Steelers that will likely carry the load for them again here, as they will want to keep the explosive Griffin on the bench where he can't be a factor. Give me the Steelers to cover.
Oakland @ Kansas City (-2), October 28:
Historically, any time the 2-4 Raiders and 1-5 Chiefs meet, home field is usually the ultimate difference maker, so it makes sense here that the Chiefs, as bad as they have looked, would be favorites here, but the Raiders look like they're putting a little something together, even though they needed overtime to get past the Jaguars at home last Sunday.
At the end of the day, I just don't see the Chiefs winning here, as they are in far worse shape organizationally right now than the Raiders, or anyone else, for that matter, are. So I'm going to give the Raiders the edge here, but I have been wrong before. Just look at my season record. I'll take the Raiders on the road here, but really, this one's a coin flip, too.
N.Y. Giants (-1.5) @ Dallas, October 28:
Here's where I normally insert some sort of snarky comment about how there's still some sort of love beyond reason for the 3-3 Cowboys, but since they opened as 2 point favorites and are now underdogs at home to the 5-2 Giants, I think it's easy to piece this one together. And the answer is because of the late-breaking news that broke Tuesday night that Cowboys' linebacker Sean Lee, arguably their best player on either side of the ball, and certainly the best on the defensive side of the ball, is out for the year due to ligament damage in his big toe.
Seeing as how Eli Manning has never lost to the Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium, and has put up gaudy numbers in every game he's played there, this is a blow the Cowboys won't survive. Give me the Giants to cover on the road.
New Orleans @ Denver (-6), October 28:
In the Sunday night game, the 2-4 Saints travel to Denver to face the 3-3 Broncos. Aside from the obvious storyline of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning facing each other for the first time since their Super Bowl showdown three years ago, this does have a lot to offer.
For starters, the Broncos, even at 3-3, are tied for first in the AFC West, and while the Saints aren't in the most convenient position to end the first half of the season at 2-4, they do still think they have legitimate playoff hopes, so it's also a huge game for both teams.
Just don't expect a lot of defense here, but then again, since we're talking about a game pitting Drew Brees against Peyton Manning, you probably knew that already, right? Give me the Broncos to cover at home.
San Francisco (-4) @ Arizona, October 29:
In the Monday night game, the 5-2 49ers visit the 4-3 Cardinals in the desert. Despite a couple of real stinkers offensively the last two weeks, the 49ers continue to lead the NFC West, thanks in part to a voracious defensive effort that helped them survive with a win over the Seahawks last Thursday.
With eleven days to have gotten ready for this one, I expect their offense to come out a little faster and try and put the Cardinals away early, as with John Skelton under center for the Cardinals, coming off two straight losses after a 4-0 start, you can;t expect them to score all that many points to keep up. If the 49ers are still one of the best teams in the NFL then they should win this game. I'll take them to cover on the road.
That's it for this week. Be back next week for the first week of the second half of the season.