NFL Preview: Week 7


Game of the Week: Minnesota Vikings (6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) 10 AM – Fox

The Steelers have been pretty unstoppable in the air, and the Vikings are ranked 24th against the pass, so Ben Roethlisberger may have a huge day.  Rashard Mendenhall has been banged up in practice this week, meaning Pittsburgh’s run game will be even weaker than usual.  If Brett Favre is careful with the ball and Adrian Peterson keeps Roethlisberger off the field, the Vikings will stay undefeated.  Prediction: Steelers win, Vikings cover (+4.5)

San Diego Chargers (2-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) 10 AM – CBS

LaDainian Tomlinson has been terrible this season and he had the flu early in the week – like he needs an excuse to mope around on the sideline all game long.  But the Chargers don’t need any kind of running game to beat the Chiefs; they just need Philip Rivers to have time to find the many, many open receivers there will be.  If the Chiefs get to Rivers, they can win.  Prediction: Chargers win and cover (-4.5)

Green Bay Packers (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (1-5) 10 AM

You know parity is completely absent in the NFL when a slightly-better-than-average team like the Packers is an absolute lock to win on the road.  Cleveland has no idea who to put at quarterback and that may be their deepest position.  But the good news for Browns fans is that the players reportedly have no confidence in head coach Eric Mangini.  Oh wait, that’s bad.  Prediction: Packers win and cover (-7.5)

Sleeper Game of the Week: San Francisco 49ers (3-2) at Houston Texans (3-3) 10 AM

The 49ers are coming off a bye week which forced them to think about that 1000 point loss at home to Atlanta two weeks ago (or at least it probably felt that way), so they’ll be motivated.  They had better be because Matt Schaub and the Texans are 3rd in the NFL in passing yards per game.  Both defenses are middle-of-the-pack against the run and pass.  Frank Gore has to have a huge game to keep the Texans’ offense off of the field, so basically it comes down to Gore vs. Schaub/Andre Johnson.  Prediction: Houston wins and covers (-3.5)

Lock of the Week: Indianapolis Colts (5-0) at St. Louis Rams (0-6) 10 AM

Give Peyton Manning two weeks to prepare for just about anyone and he’s gonna win.  Against the 0-6 Rams?  Yes.  Manning is averaging over 300 yards per game this season, so as long as he doesn’t turn the ball over and give the Rams free-chances and short fields, the Colts will roll.  Prediction: Colts win and cover (-13.5)

Lock of the Week, Vol. II: New England Patriots (4-2) “at” Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6) 10 AM

The only real question in this one is if the scoreboard at Wimbley Stadium (normally a soccer stadium) will have enough space for whatever score the Patriots put up.  The crowd could play a small factor in this one, seeing as the British people probably won’t be very fond of a team called the “Patriots,” and also since the Bucs are owned by the owner of Manchester United.  But the fans don’t understand the game enough to know what difference they might make.  And it wouldn’t matter anyway.  Prediction: Patriots win and cover (-14.5)

Buffalo Bills (2-4) at Carolina Panthers (2-3) 1:05 PM

Jake Delhomme is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 10 and the Bills picked off 6 balls last week.  That doesn’t bode well for Carolina, except that he may never be called on to throw a ball.  Despite that impressive defensive show, the Bills also gave up 318 rushing yards to the Jets last week as well.  And while Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are very good, the Panthers’ DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are better. Prediction: Panthers win, Bills covers (+7.5)

New York Jets (3-3) at Oakland Raiders (2-4) 1:05 PM

Mark Sanchez inexplicably threw five interceptions last week, despite that the Jets running game completely embarrassed the Bills.  Sanchez seemed to struggle with the windy, cold conditions at the Meadowlands (get use to that!), and will likely find it easier to take care of the ball in sunny, warm Oakland.  Especially since the Raiders are averaging less than a pick per game, and 220 yards passing allowed per game.  If Rex Ryan’s defense can stop the Raiders’ running game, the Jets win because JaMarcus Russell isn’t beating anyone with his arm.  Prediction: Jets win, Raiders cover (+6.5)

Chicago Bears (3-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) 1:15 PM

Jay Cutler may be able to celebrate his new contract extension with a huge day since Cincinnati will be without Antwan Odom for the rest of the season.  That will hurt the Bengals’ pass-rush considerably.  Cincy’s Cedric Benson (4th in the NFL in yards per game: 88.5) would probably like nothing more than to have a huge game as well, in order to stick it to the Bears for dumping him in favor of Matt Forte (23rd: 55.8). Prediction: Bears win and cover (+1.5)

Atlanta Falcons (4-1) at Dallas Cowboys (3-2) 1:15 PM – Fox

The team whose running game controls the clock wins.  Dallas seems to be viewing this game as a statement game to show what they’re all about, but they seem to have those games every few weeks, which means they clearly don’t know the answer.  At this point it seems clear that Tony Romo is simply not Troy Aikman and the Cowboys need to get the ball out of Romo’s hands, commit to being a running team so Flozell Adams can stop getting beaten by pass rushers every play, and ride Marian Barber and Tashard Choice into the playoffs.  Prediction: Cowboys win and cover (-3.5)

New Orleans Saints (5-0) at Miami Dolphins (2-3) 1:15 PM

The Saints have never won in Miami.  But there’s a first time for everything.  Both teams allow around only 80 yards rushing per game, so don’t expect much on the ground in this one.  The difference is that if the Dolphins are forced to throw it, they’re not really playing to their strengths.  If New Orleans is forced to throw, they could score 100.  Prediction: Saints win, Dolphins cover (+6.5)

Game of the Week, Vol. II: Arizona Cardinals (3-2) at New York Giants (5-1) 5:20 – NBC

Arizona is the best in the league at stopping the run, which is what the Giants like to do most on offense.  New York is the best in the league at stopping the pass, which is what the Cardinals like to do most on offense.  So unless one strength wears down the other, the question may end up being: whose second option is better?  Do you like Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells against the Giants’ front 7 or Eli Manning, Steve Smith, and Mario Manningham against the Cardinals’ secondary?  Prediction: Giants win and cover (-7.5)

Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) at Washington Redskins (2-4) Monday 5:30 – ESPN

Not only is Philly fighting to stay in contact with the Giants in the NFC East, but they’re also out to show that last week’s embarrassing loss to the Raiders was an anomaly.  Last week Eagles’ coach Andy Reid chose not to test one of the worst pass-defenses in football, and called passing plays on just 20% of the snaps.  Imagine how lopsided the play-calling will be this week against the league’s third best pass-defense in Washington!  Speaking of play-calling, the Redskins took that duty away from head coach Jim Zorn and hired a new coach out of retirement to take over 5 days before a divisional game.  That can’t end badly, right?  Prediction: Eagles win and cover (-7.5)

All times are Pacific and TV airing info is for the Los Angeles area only.

Season Predictions: 48-42 against the spread, 59-31 straight up