For the third consecutive week, I have to apologize for the lack of a Flashback Friday. I haven’t dedicated the necessary time into the column, and that will be rectified in the near future, I assure you.
Now, and as always, here are my picks and fantasy advice for another week of NFL fun.
Week 7 Picks
Atlanta 23 – Tampa Bay 16
This game could go either way (a running theme this week, with plenty of hard-to-gauge matchups), but I am going to give the nod to the Falcons because they are playing at home and seem to have more to lose at this point. Their playoff hopes are almost totally destroyed, but there’s a certain amount of pride on the line for last year’s runner-ups in the NFC Championship game. If they can’t get past this dysfunctional Buccaneers team, then something is seriously wrong, beyond the injuries.
Carolina 30 – St. Louis 20
One of the league’s most potent rushing attacks faces off against one of the league’s leakiest run defenses in what shouldn’t be much of a game at all for anyone who isn’t a football purist at heart. Expect heavy doses of DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton on designed runs, and expect the Rams not to stop any of them.
Detroit 24 – Cincinnati 14
You’re seeing this Lions team start to put both sides of the ball together, particularly defensively, where their dominating pair of DTs is finally paying off on the heavy investments they represent. While the Bengals have a solid defense as well, a (close to) healthy Calvin Johnson and some underneath work involving Reggie Bush should be enough to get the Lions a solid win against a solid team.
San Diego 35 – Jacksonville 27
It won’t be as easy as the Chargers may expect, especially if the injuries to Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts don’t hold them out of the game. Still, San Diego has to be able to win this game, despite the cross-country trip and their tendency to play down to the level of their opponents. It may not be as high-scoring as I’m predicting if the Chargers decide they want to (and can) run the way they did against the Colts last week, but I can’t see them losing this. Well, I can, but I’m not going to change my pick based on a silly whim…
Miami 31 – Buffalo 24
Lamar Miller? Step on up, you’re chance is here to break out. The Bills, perennially terrible against the run despite having a stout defensive line, are going to be the litmus test for this Miami running attack. I predict Miller and the O-line will get the job done, not too flashy in the numbers column, but enough to balance the offense. With that balance, Tannehill can work off of play action, get Hartline and Wallace some good opportunities, and ultimately the Fins’ first divisional win in their first divisional game of the season.
New England 27 – New York 21
Another game where a whim exists, where I think “Hey, Rex Ryan and his Jets always give the Patriots a hard time, don’t they?”. They do, but they’ve lost five straight to Brady and Co., and I don’t see any reason why that streak should be broken this week. Injuries are depleting the Patriots’ roster, but they still find ways to win; it’s what great teams do. The Jets? Injuries or not, there’s no great team hiding behind all their troubles.
Dallas 31 – Philadelphia 24
With most analysts looking at the Eagles as the odds-on favorite at home, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the injury-riddled Cowboys find a way to win this game. The way? Jason Witten. While the Eagles’ D has been improving in different ways, they’re still weak against the pass, and against tight ends in particular. Dallas has to press this advantage in order to make my (kind of an) upset pick work. Otherwise, Nick Foles and Chip Kelly are going to end up on the right side of the scoreboard.
Chicago 40 – Washington 31
Yeah, the Bears are going to march into the Redskins’ home and put up 40 points. Or something close. The skins will attempt to keep up, but at the end of the game, fantasy owners are going to be loving Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and/or Alshon Jeffery and, most notably, Matt Forte, who will be the unstoppable X-factor in this sound road win for the Bears.
San Fransisco 28 – Tennessee 13
It won’t be as easy as they’ve made it look over the past couple of weeks, but this 49ers team is turning the corner in a big way after a shaky start and the Titans, with or without a banged up Jake Locker, are going to find themselves halted on too many drives to keep this game competitive after two quarters.
Green Bay 24 – Cleveland 20
This is the way Green Bay is going to have to start winning football games; where Aaron Rodgers frustrates his fantasy owners but feels the pressure ease when he hands off to a guy in Eddie Lacy who has the look of a real-deal workhorse. With the WR injuries the Pack are working with, you can’t expect many mismatches to be found when Joe Haden is hovering Jordy Nelson all game, but Jermichael Finley could provide a score or two. He’s needed right now, and that’s usually when he shows up.
Kansas City 25 – Houston 7
The Chiefs may put up another 10 sacks against an inexperienced backup QB and a Texans team that is, to put it lightly, coming apart at the seams. When the Chiefs are sitting on a perfect record and the Texans are out of playoff contention only a year after their roles were reversed…well…it goes to show you how awesome the NFL really is.
Baltimore 17 – Pittsburgh 13
In what may be the ugliest game of the season so far, the long-running bitter rivalry between these two teams will culminate in an intense defensive-based game where the Ravens manage to squeeze in the few points they need to stop a Steelers team who, while high off of their first win, still has more questions than answers.
Denver 44 – Indianapolis 31
This game was one of the games we all circled on our schedules at the beginning of the year. Peyton is coming back to the stadium he built, and even if Colts owner Jim Irsay doesn’t say the things he said this week, you can rest assured that his old QB is going to do everything he can to tear it down.
Minnesota 24 – New York 21
I’m looking at this game, at the matchups and all that, and I’m thinking, “jeez, both of these teams were at least playoff-worthy yesterday, weren’t they?” With one win between the two of them, I give the nod to the team that already got that particularly nasty monkey off their back. A week removed from the tragic situation Adrian Peterson has had to endure won’t suddenly make him a beast again, but against this team, I can’t see him not making the difference.
Fantasy Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em
Cam Newton – QB – Carolina Panthers
Nick Foles – QB – Philadelphia Eagles
Matt Forte – RB – Chicago Bears
Lamar Miller – RB – Miami Dolphins
Victor Cruz – WR – New York Giants
Mike Wallace – WR – Miami Dolphins
Jason Witten – TE – Dallas Cowboys
Tony Gonzalez – TE – Atlanta Falcons
Graham Gano – K – Carolina Panthers
Baltimore Ravens D/ST
Ben Roethlisberger – QB – Pittsburgh Steelers
Tom Brady – QB – New England Patriots
Doug Martin – RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chris Johnson – RB – Tennessee Titans
Calvin Johnson – WR – Detroit Lions (Didn’t trust me last week? Don’t make the same mistake again.)
Andre Johnson – WR – Houston Texans
Rob Gronkowski – TE – New England Patriots (Yes, even if he’s active.)
Antonio Gates – TE – San Diego Chargers
Randy Bullock – K – Houston Texans
Tennessee Titans D/ST