Pigskin picks: beer and nuts make a fine breakfast

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 23, 2008



We continued our winning ways last week, posting another 8-6 record against the spread and climbing back to .500 on the season (50-50-2).
 
The thing is, it could have been so much better. We made a late switch to Dallas (instead of picking St. Louis to stay within the number) when it appeared that Tony Romo was going to play. And we were victimized by two backdoor covers, as Houston and Tampa Bay squandered big early leads.
 
But if ifs and buts were beer and nuts, it would make a fine breakfast.
 
We remain strong picking straight-up winners. We went 10-4 for the week and are now 62-40 (.608) on the year. Here's how we see Week 8:
 
Oakland at Baltimore (-7)    
After beating the Jets at home for their first win under Tom Cable, the Raiders make another cross-country trek to play an early game. You probably know that we like to bet against teams in that situation, but the points are too generous here. The Ravens, who are fifth-worst in Scoreability, can't be trusted to cover a touchdown or more.
 
The pick: Ravens 20, Raiders 16
 
San Diego (-3) at New Orleans                                
Three years after playing a "home game" against the Giants in the Meadowlands, the Saints get to host the Chargers in London. The locals might say that Commissioner Goodell has given New Orleans a good "rogering." With QBs who rank first and second in Passing Yards Per Attempt, it promises to be a jolly good air show – but Drew Brees has the added motivation of facing his former team.
 
The pick: Saints 34, Chargers 30
 
Kansas City at N.Y. Jets (-13½)                  
The winners of Super Bowl IV take on the winners of Super Bowl III! It seems like it was almost that long ago that these teams were relevant, but at least the Jets have been competitive this season. They rank fifth in Scoreability, while the Chiefs are dead last in that category – and the suspension of running back Larry Johnson only makes matters worse.
 
The pick: Jets 38, Chiefs 20
                       
Buffalo (-1½) at Miami                     
The Bills finally play a division opponent, becoming the last team in the league to do so. They are a surprising 5-1, but their lone loss was a 24-point drubbing on the road. The Dolphins actually have comparable numbers in most of our Quality Stats, so we think the home 'dog may have some bite.
 
The pick: Dolphins 23, Bills 21
 
Tampa Bay at Dallas (-2)                 
The beleaguered Cowboys have already suffered as many losses (3) as they did all of last season. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have four wins against Quality Opponents, double the total of any of the next-best teams. By the end of this game, Tampa Bay's DBs may be asking each other who didn't intercept Brad Johnson.
 
The pick: Buccaneers 24, Cowboys 21
 
Atlanta at Philadelphia (-9½)            
Since meeting for the 2004 NFC championship, there has only been one winning season between these teams, and that was registered by the 2006 Eagles. This year, it is the Falcons who are above .500 (4-2), thanks in part to the league's second-best ground attack. We'll take the rushing 'dog to stay within the number.
 
The pick: Eagles 27, Falcons 20
 
St. Louis at New England (-7)                      
Jim Haslett is undefeated as head coach of the Rams, with both wins coming against Quality Opponents (Washington and Dallas). He now goes for the hat trick versus a Patriots squad that demolished Denver on Monday night. St. Louis is still a bottom-10 team in almost every Stat That Matters, and New England typically plays well at home.
 
The pick: Patriots 27, Rams 16
 
Arizona at Carolina (-4)        
The 4-2 Cardinals have suffered their only losses when playing early games on the East Coast. The 5-2 Panthers, meanwhile, have recorded all but one of their wins at home. Carolina also possesses the ability to slow down Arizona's aerial assault, ranking seventh in Defensive Passer Rating and fourth in Bendability.
 
The pick: Panthers 24, Cardinals 19
 
Washington (-7½) at Detroit                        
A week ago, the Redskins were favored by the identical amount over a Cleveland team that had just upended the defending-champion Giants. We correctly sided with the underdog then, but the winless Lions don't inspire the same confidence, even being at home. They give up the second-most yards on the ground per game and now must try to stop Clinton Portis, the league's leader rusher.
 
The pick: Redskins 30, Lions 20
 
Cleveland at Jacksonville (-7)          
Despite completing just 38 percent of his passes in last week's loss, Derek Anderson remains the quarterback in Cleveland – for now. In this game, he'll be down one soldier, as tight end Kellen Winslow sits out for conduct detrimental to the team. Jacksonville's defense, ranked eighth in Bendability, may help usher in the Brady Quinn Era.
 
The pick: Jaguars 23, Browns 13
 
N.Y. Giants at Pittsburgh (-3)
In this battle of 5-1 teams, the Giants are underdogs for the first time all season, but that role is deserved. They own just one Quality Win (against Washington in the opener), and their last five opponents have a combined record of 7-25. Pittsburgh occupies the top spot in our Defensive Hog Index, which could help negate New York's league-leading ground game.
 
The pick: Steelers 24, Giants 20
 
Seattle at San Francisco (-5)                        
After five straight playoff appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl, the Seahawks have hit rock bottom. At 1-5, they occupy the NFC West basement, and the team that's just a half-game ahead of them is favored by 5 points. New 49ers coach Mike Singletary should start his career with a victory.
 
The pick: 49ers 17, Seahawks 13
 
Cincinnati at Houston (-9)
Both teams were supposed to have a bye this week, but hurricane damage in Houston prior to Week 2 resulted in some schedule juggling. Since that time, the Texans have gotten hot, winning their last two, while the Bengals remain icy cold, falling to 0-7. Still, Houston ranks dead last in Bendability, which suggests that Cincy can score enough to keep it close.
 
The pick: Texans 27, Bengals 22
 
Indianapolis at Tennessee (-4)
The undefeated Titans already own a three-game AFC South lead over their rivals from Indy. Peyton Manning comes off one of his worst performances in recent memory, and he must now face the top-ranked unit in Defensive Passer Rating. Tennessee is also the league's best in Bendability, indicating that it could be another frustrating night for the Colts.
 
The pick: Titans 23, Colts 17

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