It's later in the week than usual for my weekly NFL musings posts, but we had Christmas in October this week with two posts from mary rose after not hearing from the sagacious one in quite some time. Then the Mike Wallace video plus another solid statistical offering from WolfPackSteelersFan and what do you know, it's the end of the week. Anyway, because we're approaching weekend football, I'll combine my Week 7 thoughts with predictions for this coming weekend. I tried that with Denver a few weeks ago and didn't look so hot in the process :) But what the hey, let's have some fun.
* All in all, a not so interesting week in the National Football League. There were blowouts galore - six games in all were decided by 28 points or more. Yikes. Yes, the NFL is still a league filled with amazing athletes, which in turn means that anything's possible any given week. But sheesh, there certainly are a fairly clearly delineated crop of 'haves' and 'have nots' this season. St. Louis got dusted again, extending their losing streak to one season + 1 (17 games). Oakland, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Cleveland are all a total mess. We better not freakin' lost to any of those three teams.
* Let's continue with the AFC North and the Cincinnati Bengals. Last week in my musings post, I wrote that it was too soon to count the Bengals out. My reasoning was the Bengals offense hadn't really hit its stride whatsoever. On Sunday against the Bears, the Bengals' offense went off for 448 yards and 45 points. Here were the outcomes of their first seven series: TD, TD, TD, TD, FG, TD, TD. Carson Palmer was outstanding, throwing for 5 touchdowns on 20-of-24 passing. Cedric Benson meanwhile, a player I've been high on since he was signed by the Bengals last year, got revenge on his old team. He rushed for 189 yards on 37 carries, increasing his season total to a league leading 720 yards. Cincinnati now heads in to their BYE Week with a full head of steam and confidence. When they return in Week 9, they'll host the Baltimore Ravens in an absolutely huge AFC North clash. The Bengals don't necessarily have to win that one, but Baltimore sure might need it. Should be very, very interesting.
* Hmm, I don't even know if this is worth my breathe, but I'm not sure about the decision by San Francisco to bench Shaun HIll in favor of Alex Smith. Do I think Shaun Hill is a good quarterback? Head and shoulders above Alex Smith? No, no I do not. Again, not that I watch him or that team closely, but that's not the point. The point is you made a decision to play Shaun Hill this year. And you benched him with a 3-2 record in the 1st half of last Sunday's loss to the Texans. Yes the 49ers looked miserable on offense in that half, but here was Hill's line before getting benched: 6/11 for 45 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs. Again, didn't watch the game so I don't know if Hill was missing open guys left and right. But he didn't exactly crap the bed. Didn't Mark Sanchez keep his job after throwing 5 picks in a loss two weeks ago? Yes, yes he did. And so should have Hill. Yes, Alex Smith provided a 'spark.' Will it last? Who knows. Probably not. Coach Singletary made the determination after all that Hill was their guy after evaluating the two all spring and summer. Yes he struggled the previous week against Atlanta in a blowout loss, but give the guy more than 6 quarters to work through some struggles before benching him. He basically led his team to victory on the road against a very good Minny team, and he had protected the ball sufficiently in leading his team to victory in 2 of the team's first 3 games of the season.
* That's about all I got from last week - a very ho-hum week in the National Football League. On to my Week 8 picks.
(Lines courtesy of Bodog as of early morning Friday)
* Denver Broncos +3 (+105) @ Baltimore Ravens -3 (-125)
My pick: Baltimore - this is as close to a must win game for Baltimore as there can be. After starting 3-0, they've dropped three straight and are a bit behind the 8 ball as they come out of their BYE Week. That said, victories the next two weeks against the Broncos and the Bengals and they're right back in the thick of things. As much as I hate to admit it, I think John Harbaugh is a good game coach and will have a great game plan for Denver. I don't like his incessant whining, but the guy can coach.
My pick: Route city. Indianapolis should cruise against a 49ers team that is hanging on for dear life after a promising start. You know my feelings about the decision to bench Shaun Hill in favor of Alex Smith. I suppose I could be proven wrong in a big way with a road victory in Indy this week, but that ain't happening. Not with the way Peyton Manning & Co. are playing right now.
My pick: Houston. Can you believe though that Ryan Fitzpatrick has won consecutive games for the Bills? The season in a way hinges on this game for both teams. This is exactly the type of game the Texans have failed to win in years past - games against so-so teams away from home that ultimately cost them a chance at earning their first ever playoff berth.
My pick: Cleveland. The Bears are a mess on defense without Tommie Harris and Brian Urlacher. I think they'll win but not cover that 2 TD spread. The Bears have to live with the fact that they gave up on Cedric Benson and Kyle Orton for no great reason at all - both are flourishing while the Bears collectively tread water.
My pick: Tough one to call here. The Jets have been impressive running the football and stopping the run - both of which are key ingredients to stopping Miami. But I still like Miami here for some reason. Their season is in the balance at 2-4, but they were in this exact same predicament last year before they went on a terror in the 2nd half of the season. If Chad Henne can play more like he did in his first two starts rather than how he performed last week in the Dolphins' collapse against the Saints, then I like their chances to get a huge divisional road win.
My pick: Who cares.
My pick: Dallas. Seattle isn't very good. The Cowboys pass rushers should be able to get to Matt Hasselbeck and he's been awful under pressure this year. Should be fun watching Dallas and their fans get a false sense of confidence heading in to the home stretch.
My pick: Wow, no idea how New York is favored here. They haven't beaten any one of note and have gotten punched in the mouth consecutive weeks now against competitive teams. I like Philly.
My pick: There is no line too high for Oakland. I'll take the Chargers in yet another blowout.
My pick: The Titans are awful, but not this awful. It was time to go to Vince Young weeks ago. We'll see if how he responds to his first opportunity in quite some time. It's the Titans defense though that better have figured some things out during their BYE Week. They haven't been able to stop anybody in the secondary. I still like Tennessee to get off the schnide here.
My pick: Green Bay is sneaky good, particularly on offense. I think they'll roll at home against the Vikings in Brett Favre's return to Lambeau. Aaron Rodgers is quietly putting together one heck of a season. I'm fairly concerned/excited about the Steelers and Packers matchup later in the year. I think both teams will be atop their respective divisions when they square off in late December.
My pick: Carolina. That's too high a line for Arizona to be beating teams. They're much improved and much more mentally disciplined under Ken Whisenhunt, but I still can't see them winning by more than 10. Tough one to call though, Carolina has been consistently inconsistent and generally an utter disappointment.
My pick: Atlanta. Drew Brees has had his struggles in recent years against divisional opponents, and Atlanta is sneaky good if you ask me. Then again, the Saints are dynamite at home under Brees and Sean Payton, particularly at night. Still, I expect a closer game than that line.
Enjoy your weekends guys and gals!