An even Week Seven for me was highlighted by the Jets kicking a field goal when down 10 with less than 30 seconds to go to get me the cover and the thriller in London where Jacksonville were up by 24, then down by 4 before Bortles found Allen Hurns with just over 2 minutes left for the win.
There were also some outright wins from underdogs that were rather surprising. Oakland put the boot into San Diego, dominating to the tune of 37-6 at the end of the 3rd quarter before a flurry of late touchdowns made the final scoreline a more respectable 37-29. We also saw good showings from Tennessee, New Orleans, Miami and St. Louis.
With Week Eight upon us, we’re nearing the half-way point of the regular season, and some of our pre-season predictions can come under more scrutiny. For instance, I picked Washington to finish up with the #1 selection in the 2016 draft. That’s not going to happen thanks to a solid run game, defense and a little bit of Kirk Cousins magic. I also, rather optimistically, picked Tampa Bay to win the NFC South. It’s clear now that Jameis Winston isn’t the rookie sensation they needed and their roster still has a lot of holes.
But onto this week, we see a battle between two of our 5 undefeated teams as Denver host Green Bay while Detroit head to London without Joe Lombardi after relieving him of his offensive coordinator duties this week. The last time Jim Caldwell removed his OC and took over the playcalling duties he won a Superbowl with Baltimore. The same outcome here is rather unlikely, but hey if it worked once why not try again?
Arizona Cardinals (-4.5) over CLEVELAND BROWNS
The Cardinals offense is really a lot of fun. In a world of quick, short passing offenses their vertical passing system in a breath of fresh air. Carson Palmer is doing a great job of buying the necessary time in the pocket as well, sliding up and across with a confidence rarely seen in those who have torn their ACL twice.
On defense the Cards have continued their blitzing ways despite former defensive coordinator Todd Bowles moving on. Monday night saw multiple edge blitzes from pocket-sized safety Tyrann Mathieu as well as Arizona’s first round pick from two years ago, safety/linebacker hybrid Deone Buccanon. That kind of aggressive pass rush is going to really test an offensive line that is great on the left side but suspect on the right. There’s also the issue that Josh McCown might not be 100%, a worrying situation as Johnny Manziel’s personality is again under scrutiny. Arizona also has the #1 defense against tight ends, meaning that 2015’s surprise fantasy star Gary Barnidge may struggle this week.
ST. LOUIS RAMS (-8) over San Francisco 49ers
This is a simple premise for me. Last week the Seahawks continued to prove 2015’s trend that if you pressure Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback will fall to pieces. Well, few teams are as well equipped to get to a quarterback as St. Louis. They are 2nd in the league with 23 sacks so far this season, and it’s not just one person leading the charge while others stand around. Aaron Donald leads the team with 4.5, Robert Quinn has 4, Chris Long leads a pack of players with 2. The pain comes from a lot of places for opposing quarterbacks.
Then there’s Todd Gurley on the other side, who is a ridiculous blend of power and speed that doesn’t seem fair. The consensus among NFL writers is that drafting running backs high isn’t a good idea because of the number of good backs that are available later. The exception is if that back is truly exceptional. While the Chargers are starting to worry about their 1st round rookie back, the Rams are absolutely delighted with theirs so far. Gurley is averaging an insane 6 yards per carry so far, with 6 runs over 20 yards. This San Francisco defense is ranked dead last in defensive DVOA and could do without seeing a phenom like Gurley right now.
Green Bay Packers (-3) over DENVER BRONCOS
Both of these teams are 6-0. Both are coming off a bye. So why take the road favourite Green Bay Packers?
Quite simply it comes down to the quarterback. Both these defenses are playing well, Denver’s perhaps a little better. They can both get to the quarterback and defend the run. They both have active and dangerous secondaries that can take the ball away in an instant. And so the difference comes down to the offenses, where quite frankly it’s a no contest. Aaron Rodgers is the perennial MVP candidate that Peyton Manning used to be. His blend of outrageous arm talent, fantastic mind and quick feet is what you would put together if you were coding the perfect Madden quarterback. Combine that with his superior offensive line and running game over the Broncos and you get a team that should be able to comfortably cover a -3 line.
TNF: Miami (+8)
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-5) over Detroit Lions
San Diego Chargers (+3) over BALTIMORE RAVENS
Minnesota Vikings (PK) over CHICAGO BEARS
Cincinnati Bengals (+1) over PITTSBURGH STEELERS
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-3) over New York Giants
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7) over ATLANTA FALCONS
New York Jets (-2.5) over OAKLAND RAIDERS
Seattle Seahawks (-6) over DALLAS COWBOYS
CAROLINA PANTHERS (-7) over Indianapolis Colts
NO LINE – Titans @ Texans – Check my Twitter on Sunday for this pick.
Last Week: 7-7-0 (2-1-0)
Overall: 47-52-4 (10-11-0)