Week 7 Picks

Steve O Speak

A Guest Blog By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Willypops

Last week I took my first stab at picking the full slate of NFL games against the point spread here on Fanspeak.  Didn’t do too bad – went 9 and 5.  Some of the guys on TV didn’t do as well.  So, buoyed by that success, I decided to take a crack at picking six of the bigger match-ups in Week #7:

Steelers @ Dolphins (+3) – The Steelers (4-1) ignored the distraction and hype in getting Ben Roethlisberger’s return from suspension game under their belts by convincingly beating the Browns last week.  Offensively, the Steelers have a sound running game and now have their more than reliable passing game going.  With the defense continuing to play at an extremely high level, the Steelers are poised to establish themselves as the team to beat in the AFC.  But they have some tough games coming up over the next four weeks, including three straight road games against the  Dolphins, Saints and Bengals.  They follow that up with a home game against the Patriots.  We’ll know an awful lot about the Steelers after they navigate that field of “land mines”!  The Dolphins (3-2) are a hard team to figure out.  They started the season with two  road wins against the Bills and the Vikings but then followed those up with two home losses to the Jets and Patriots.  After their bye week, they went up to Lambeau Field last week and beat the Packers.  So no telling what to expect against the Steelers.  Chad Henne and the offense for the most part have been sound and the defense is solid.  But both sides of the ball rank in the bottom third of the league in points scored and points allowed.  I don’t think that bodes well for the Dolphins in this game so I’ll take the Steelers and give the points.

Redskins (+3) @ Bears – The Bears (4-2) are on top of the NFC North but they lost to the Seahawks last week at home.  Their offensive line continues to struggle in pass protection and the Redskins’ Brian Orakpo, who is fast becoming one of the premier pass rushers in the league, could come up huge in this game.  Two weeks ago against Carolina, Bears running back Matt Forte ran wild but overall their running game is not very strong.  Defensively, the Bears are in the top 10 league-wide in nearly all of the important statistical categories.  The Redskins (3-3) are coming off a tough loss at home against the Colts last Sunday night which came on the heels of an exciting home win in overtime against the Packers.  Offensively, the Redskins are starting to show some signs of life in the running game.  That’s encouraging since the play of quarterback Donovan McNabb thus far can best be characterized as being mediocre.  They will need for him to play much better if they are to have any real success this season.  The Redskins defense continues to be the worst team in the league in total yardage given up and they are in the bottom third in most defensive statistics.  Yet, they managed to hold the Eagles and Packers to 12 and 13 points respectively in getting wins on successive weeks.  This game could go right down to the wire.  Quite often in close games it’s the team with the strongest defense that comes away with the win.  So the nod here goes to the Bears getting a win at home and covering the spread.

Eagles (+3) @ Titans – The Eagles (4-2) have won four of their last five games and are coming off an impressive win at home last week against a very good Falcons team.  Quarterback Kevin Kolb had an outstanding game, going 23 for 29 and throwing for 326 yards with three touchdown passes.  A few more games like that and he will quiet the excitement over Michael Vick’s start to the season and will justify the move sending McNabb to the Redskins in favor of Kolb as the starter.  Overall defensively, the Eagles are sound but they have shown some weakness in stopping the run.  Curiously, three of the Titans (4-2) four wins have come on the road  They followed up their win at Dallas two weeks ago by completely dominating the Jaguars in Jacksonville last Monday night.  As usual, the Titans are playing solid defense this year, allowing the 4th fewest points in the league.  Offensively, quarterback Vince Young is off to a pretty good start, throwing for 7 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions.  But this team’s bread and butter is their running game with Chris Johnson.  As he goes, so go the Titans.  I look for Johnson to exploit the Eagles run defense and the Titans defense to hold Kolb and his talented corps of receivers (minus the injured DeSean Jackson) in check enough so that the Titans win by more than 3 points.

Patriots (+3) @ Chargers –  The Chargers (2-4) have two dominating wins against the Jaguars and Cardinals but are coming off two devastating losses at St. Louis last week and at Oakland the week before.  Because they play in the AFC West however, all hope is not lost.  But they better right this ship quickly because after this game they play the Titans at home and the Texans on the road.  If they continue to play the way they have been, they easily could be 2-7 after that stretch.  Overall, the Chargers are very solid statistically on both offense and defense.  Quarterback Phillip Rivers is having another good season but their rushing offense is in about in the middle of the pack.  It would seem that the Chargers lack of success so far may be more attributed to the off the field distractions associated with the contract disputes involving two of their big name players.  The Patriots (4-1) are coming off big wins in Miami and at home last week against a very good Ravens team.  Quarterback Tom Brady is having another good season thus far and the productive return of Deion Branch last week suggests that Randy Moss’ departure may not negatively impact the Patriots as much as many thought it would.  The Patriots defense has struggle a good bit this year but they have recently shown signs of improvement.  I think this one could be a shootout but I like Brady and the Patriots chances so I’ll take them and the points.

Vikings (+3) @ Packers –  The Vikings (2-3) have pretty much struggled this year, especially offensively.  Quarterback Brett Favre’s performance this year has done an about face compared to his performance last season.  He has already thrown as many interceptions (7) as he did all of last year.  Fortunately for the Vikings, running back Adrian Peterson is off to a great start and it appears that they are going to have to rely on him to pick up much of the slack on offense.  The addition of wide receiver Randy Moss should pay dividends as the season progresses.  Defensively, while the Vikings are not playing up to the level of last year’s performance they are still very sound.  The Packers (3-3) have just been decimated by injuries, most of which have been to key players.  They have had tough losses the past two weeks – the first at Washington in overtime and then at home last week to the Dolphins in overtime.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is having a good season but it is basically his show since the Packer rushing offense leaves a lot to be desired.   Defensively, the Packers are solid but far from spectacular.  When your team is banged up, it is usually your defense that is going to make the difference between wins and losses.  Linebacker Clay Matthews is the engine that powers the Packers defense but he has been hampered this year by a sore hamstring.  Assuming that he can play at somewhere near full throttle, then I think he will wreak havoc on Favre and the Vikings passing game.  As a result, I’ll take the Packers at Lambeau on Sunday night and give the points.

Giants (+3) @ Cowboys –   A classic NFC East showdown on Monday Night.  The Cowboys (1-4) are coming off two tough losses, one at home against the Titans and then last week at Minnesota.  Defensively, the Cowboys have been playing very well.  And offensively, their passing statistics are near the top in most categories.  Most everybody is impressed with the Cowboys running back contingent but for some reason, Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett seems to favor the passing game and he has been criticized for not striking the proper balance between the run and the pass.  On paper, the Cowboys look like a team that should be 4-1 instead of 1-4, but they just seem to find ways to shoot themselves in the foot with costly and stupid penalties.  The Giants (4-2) are coming off three straight impressive wins against the Bears, Texans and Lions.  But in the two games prior to that run, they looked horrendous in losses to the Colts and Titans.  The Giants defense has been playing very well of late and they seem to be able to dictate the tempo of the game.  The offense has been effective overall and the running tandem of  Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs has been particular productive, accounting for a combined total of nearly 800 yards rushing.  In this game, clearly the Cowboys backs are up against the wall.  If for no other reason than that, I see the Cowboys offense finding a way to overcome the Giants defense and coming away with a victory at home and covering the spread in doing so.

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