Real and spectacular Week 7 picks
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 22, 2009
Illuminated by the real and spectacular headlights of one Ms. Teri Hatcher, the pigskin Porsche called the Cold, Hard Football Facts continues to roll through the 2009 season.
We went 10-4 straight up and 9-5 against the spread last week, our fifth winning slate ATS this year in six opportunities. LIke we've said, if the choice in your pathetic life is to give us a little credit or stand at the counter at the Sip-n-Save all day playing scratch tickets like you normally do, maybe it's time for a lifestyle change.
For the season, we're now 63-27 (.700) straight up and 53-37 (.589) ATS. Not bad. But, unlike your drug, prostitute and scratch-ticket habits, you won't go broke following our picks each week.
Oh yeah, we also picked two road underdogs to win outright last week (Kansas and Denver). Both delivered. We're now 7-2 ATS and 6-3 straight up picking road dogs to win outright. We have three road dogs winning outright here this week.
Finally, our lines each week are the ones found at CBS Sports.com.
Chicago at Cincinnati (-1.5)
Interesting that the Bungles are actually better on the road this year (3-0, including wins over Green Bay and Baltimore) than they are at home (1-2, with a win over Pittsburgh). Both Chicago and Cincy, meanwhile, have bested the Steelers by a single field goal.
Neither team is particularly good in any area. In fact, cruise through our Quality Stats and you'll find the two clubs clustered in the middle of the pack in almost every indicator.
Cincy, for its part, is on the very short list of four teams with two or more Quality Wins and all the rest are unbeaten (Denver, Minnesota, New Orleans). Coupled with the fact they're at home – despite the struggles this year – and we'll roll the dice with the Bungles.
Cincinnati 24, Chicago 20
Green Bay (-6.5) at Cleveland
Green Bay's one and only real weakness is the terrible number of sacks suffered by Aaron Rodgers – a league high 25. To put that into perspective, Indy's Peyton Manning and Atlanta's Matt Ryan have been taken down two times each this year.
But the Browns have more internal problems than the Balloon Boy family, including the NFL's 29th-ranked Defensive Hogs. They just don't have the swines to put any heat on the Packers passer.
Put most simply, Cleveland can't compete – especially when led by a quarterback who's completed 11 of 41 passes for 145 yards over the last two weeks, prompting calls for a long-dead legend to step up under center.
Green Bay 30, Cleveland 13
San Francisco at Houston (-2.5)
For some reason, Texans fans and a slew of national "pundits" are under the illusion that Houston suddenly has a great defense.
Believe it or not, we actually got heckled by one disillusioned Houston fan – "Texans00" – who, in the wake of the team's 28-17 win at Cincy last Sunday, wrote: "Crow anyone??? Guess you neeed to check stats for Arizona last week: 43 yards TOTAL OFFENSE against a VULNERABLE Texans defense in 2nd half of game. Thanks for playing."
Apparently, standards are so low in Houston that a 28-21 LOSS to the Cardinals back in Week 5 is enough to inspire Texas-sized trash talk.
Despite six serviceable quarters of play by the defense, Houston still looks mediocre at best and pathetic at worst in our defensive Quality Stats, including Defensive Passer Rating (16th) Bendability (20th), Defensive Hog Index (tied for 31st and last) and Negative Pass Plays forced (32nd).
The 49ers are more solid on both sides of the ball and, after two weeks to recover from their 45-10 loss to the Falcons, get back on track against the one-dimensional Texans.
It's yet another outright win by a road dog for the Iditarod sled master of pigskin analysis, the Cold, Hard Football Facts. Mush, doggie, mush!
San Francisco 26, Houston 23
Minnesota at Pittsburgh (-3.5)
Probably the marquee match-up of Week 7, and the best chance yet for the Vikings to falter.
Troy Polamalu wasted no time getting back into form, with a pick last week against the Browns, giving him two for the season. Believe it or not, that's half the team total this year (Ryan Clark also has 2) for a guy who missed the last four-plus games. The pass defense has clearly suffered in his absence, dropping from No. 2 in Defensive Passer Rating last year (63.4) to No. 15 this year (83.4).
The Vikings, meanwhile, come to town with their own version of The Shootist, the aging gunslinger trying to make amends for the wild trigger finger of his past. So far, BrettFavre has lived beyond the hype. He's third in the league with a 109.5 passer rating (behind only Drew Brees and Peyton Manning) and has been outstanding in the efficiency departments, with 7.6 YPA, 12 TD and just 2 INT. Brilliant work.
But Pittsburgh's Big Ben isn't too shabby, either: fourth in the NFL with a 104.5 passer rating, a brilliant completion percentage of 72.5 (amazing) and a spectacular 9.1 YPA average that harkens back to the lofty efficiency number of his first two years in the NFL (the Steelers rank third overall in our Passing YPA indicator, which accounts for sacks).
The biggest weakness on either team is Minnesota's pass defense, 23rd with a 91.1 mark in Defensive Passer Rating – a real concern for a team who's faced the Browns, Lions and Rams.
The Steelers have enough firepower to exploit this weakness in a shootout similar to the one the Vikings fought last week against Baltimore. Pittsburgh wins despite Minnesota's constant pressure on Big Ben.
We celebrate the victory with a night out on the town with Jeff Reed.
Pittsburgh 24, Minnesota 23
Indianapolis (-12.5) at St. Louis
The Colts had the pleasure of sitting at home last Sunday during their bye-week, watching arch-enemy New England storm back to prominence with a 59-0 blowout over the Titans. The Colts, a dominant team right now, use the opportunity of their scrimmage against St. Louis – in the midst of an 0-16 "Rams slam" – to one-up their rivals.
Indianapolis 60, St. Louis 0
San Diego (-4.5) at Kansas City
Wow, the tide has turned for the Chargers in the court of the pigskin public's perception. Last week, they were 3.5-point favorites (at home) against the unbeaten Broncos. This week, they're mere 4.5-point favorites (on the road) against one of the worst teams in football.
The Chargers are shaping up as a classic paper tiger (wins at Oakland and vs. Miami; losses to Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Denver).
But the Chiefs, even after the win over Washington, remain a team with more holes in it than Captain Quint's chum bucket.
But how's this for a statistical shocker: Kansas City, which fielded the league's worst Defensive Hogs last year, actually rate higher in the indicator this year than the allegedly talented Chargers.
San Diego 23, Kansas City 21
New England (-14.5) vs. Tampa Bay (in London)
Tampa's pass defense (101.0 Defensive Passer Rating) is nearly as bad as the one that Tom Brady exploited in the snow last week in Foxboro. Tennessee entered that 59-0 loss with a 108.4 DPR.
There's not much else to say here: Brady and the Patriots look like they got their groove back – only a tough three-point OT loss at Denver marring their last four games. The Bucs, meanwhile, are winless and have been competitive only with bilge cleaners Washington and Carolina.
New England 31, Tampa Bay 13
Buffalo at Carolina (-7.5)
The hits just keep on coming, don't they, in this Halloween-style nightmare of a 2009 schedule?
We realize the Bills got so many problems that they need to call the Wolf to straighten things out. (NSFW video):
show video here
But given Buffalo's many problems, there's no way in hell the Panthers should be 7.5-point favorites against any pro team, not even the Edmonton Eskimos. The Panthers began the season 0-3 and since then have eked out three- and seven-point wins, respectively, to the Redskins and Bucs. Not to overanalyze the situation – hey, we only got 40 minutes before the wife gets home – but they're not beating the Bills by more than a touchdown.
Here's what will happen Sunday: these teams both run pretty well but neither can stop the run. The Panthers are 31st in rushing defense (4.97 YPA) and the Bills are 32nd (5.3 YPA).
So they combine to run wild for 500 yards on the ground, while the Bills, with a defense that, shockingly, is second in the NFL against the pass (58.5 Defensive Passer Rating) makes life hell for Jake Delhomme and one of the worst passing attack in football, forcing him into at least two picks.
Buffalo 20, Carolina 17
N.Y Jets (-6.5) at Oakland
Believe it or not, there's not much of a difference between these two teams when looked at through the colorful kaleidoscope of our Quality Stats. Sure, you would think the Jets enjoy huge advantages, but they don't.
Look at Passer Rating Differential: you know the Raiders suck in this indicator (27th). But the Jets aren't much better (24th). You know the Raiders suck passing the ball with JaMarcus Russell (51.95 passer rating). But the Jets aren't much better (53.79).
The Raiders even enjoy an advantage on our Defensive Hog Index. They rank a respectable 11th and are among the best in the league at getting off the field on third down. The Jets, as we noted earlier this season, have actually struggled on the defensive front and remain among the worst in the league at forcing opponents into Negative Pass Plays (30th).
However, the Raiders continue to have the worst Offensive Hogs in the NFL and, for one week anyway, the Jets defense nearly lives up to the pre-season hype about their "swagger."
Bold prediction of Week 7: Rex Ryan and Tom Cable end the game by trying to punch each other out at midfield.
N.Y. Jets 20, Oakland 17
New Orleans (-6.5) at Miami
Not to overanalyze the situation, but the Saints are better than the Dolphins everywhere it counts and in many places that it doesn't. The Saints are easily the most complete team in football, with a defense that's clicking every bit as well as its widely publicized offense. The Dolphins are like your friends who joined that folk band after college: they're trying to find themselves.
Saints 30, Miami 20
Atlanta at Dallas (-3.5)
Chalk up another outright victory for a CHFF road dog.
However, this one won't be easy: the Cowboys have a very critical match-up in their favor. Right now, they average 5.92 YPA on the ground, a mark which puts them on pace to rewrite the NFL record currently held by the 1963 Browns (5.74 YPA) for the most prolific running attack in league history.
The Falcons try to counter that with a group of Defensive Hogs tied for dead last with Houston's. Atlanta also surrenders 4.69 YPA on the ground, 27th in the NFL.
So the Cowboys will pick up huge chunks of yardage on the ground this week. But they've done that all year, with little result: Dallas's only victories have come against Tampa, Carolina and, last week, against Kansas City in OT.
Defensively, Dallas will have little luck getting to Matt Ryan, who's been sacked just twice all year (tied for the league low with Peyton Manning). The Falcons quarterback will have all day in the pocket and will have a field day against a Dallas defense that ranks 27th in Defensive Passer Rating (94.57).
In a contest between one team that dominates the running battle and another that dominates the passing battle, the latter almost always wins.
Atlanta 27, Dallas 23
Arizona at N.Y. Giants (-6.5)
Surprising Cold, Hard Football Fact of the Week: the struggling Cardinals, the defenseless Cardinals in the eyes of many, actually have a better group of Defensive Hogs than the Giants.
Arizona ranks No. 5 in this critical indicator. New York ranks No. 9. Most impressively, the Cardinals are actually the best team in the league against the run, surrendering just 2.76 YPA (and just 59.6 YPG, also No. 1).
The Giants, meanwhile, are suddenly filled with question marks in the wake of their uncompetitive 48-27 loss to the Saints. The schedule is certainly now suspect: the Giants have bested the pathetic Redskins, the winless Bucs, the terrible Chiefs and the often embarrassing Raiders, plus a two-point win over the troubled Cowboys.
The home team will hold on for the win, but not without a scare. "Closer than the experts think!" as our favorite college prognosticator likes to say.
N.Y. Giants 27, Arizona 26
Philadelphia (-6.5) at Washington
It's hard to take the Eagles seriously following their loss last week at Oakland. But we'll chalk it up to a cross-country mulligan for a team that should be somewhere in the mix come late December.
The Redskins are an enigma. They're actually middle of the pack in most of our Quality Stats, but clearly they're a a team with so many troubles that somebody should make an after school special about them.
Their position on our stat sheets is more a function of a ridiculously easy schedule. Since battling the Giants in Week 1, the Redskins have faced, in consecutive weeks, the Rams, Lions, Bucs, Panthers and Chiefs – teams who are combined 4-25. The Redskins went just 2-3 against this collection of losers.
In other words, these five teams 3-2 against Washington and 1-23 against the rest of the NFL. That hurts.
We're not quite sold in the Eagles as a contender yet. But we're definitely sold on the awful condition of the Redskins.
Philadelphia 24, Washington 14
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