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Can't make heads or tails of NFL
How peculiar has this season been? If the 2010 playoffs were to start this weekend, the Falcons, Seahawks, Bears, Giants, Buccaneers and Redskins (technically tied with the Saints and Eagles for final spot) would be the NFC's six postseason participants. Not one of those squads made the playoffs last season. It's worth noting, I suppose, there are only 16 teams in the conference.
We're seven weeks in, and both the Chargers and Cowboys win-total "unders" are already winning bets in Las Vegas, while the Chiefs and Buccaneers are winnable Week 8 games away from locking up their "overs." Need more head-scratching factoids? This season, 30 percent of the NFL games played have been decided by three points or fewer. The highest for an entire season was 27.9 percent in 1997.
I went 4-10 last week with my picks and have zero regrets or shame. Find me someone who had the Browns over the Saints, the Raiders putting up 59 points in Denver and the Panthers scoring 10 points in the final two minutes, and I'll send you a free FOXSports.com coffee mug.
This week's picks? Let's dig in.
Week 7 Record: 4-10
Overall 2010 Record: 54-50
Sunday 1 p.m. ET games
Buffalo at Kansas City: Though the Bills are the NFL's lone remaining winless team, their offense actually has been quite prolific since Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Trent "Captain Checkdown" Edwards in the starting lineup. In the past four games, all Fitzpatrick starts, Buffalo has scored 30, 14, 26 and 34 points. The former Harvard quarterback is second in the league in passer rating at 102.0 and has tossed 11 TDs in four games. Unfortunately, the Buffalo defense is downright horrific. Look for Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles to have another field day in a K.C. win on Sunday. The Pick: Chiefs 27, Bills 20
Jacksonville at Dallas: The "All you needed to know" moment about the 2010 Dallas Cowboys came late in the fourth quarter Monday night, with the Cowboys down 18 points to the Giants at home in front of a nationally televised audience. The Dallas defense had already given up 38 points and had been getting shredded by the Giants offense all night when Cowboys defensive lineman Igor Olshansky made a routine tackle at the line of scrimmage on a Giants run up the gut. How'd the veteran react? By jumping around, screaming in Ahmad Bradshaw's face and going into a full-on celebration dance routine. Great job, dude. Somehow, things aren't looking much better in Jacksonville. I'm sorry, in good conscience; I can't pick a winner in this one. Our first tie of the year will come on Sunday. The Pick: Cowboys 20, Jaguars 20
Miami at Cincinnati: The Bengals have made the playoffs in consecutive years just once in franchise history, going to the postseason in 1981 and 1982. There were high hopes coming into 2010 that this squad would do the same, but six games in and in the midst of a horrific three-game slide, it's tough seeing how that could possibly happen in the loaded AFC. The Bengals offense, surprisingly, hasn't been the problem. It's been the defense, which was fourth in the NFL in yards against last season and 20th in 2010. Oddly enough, Miami is 0-3 at home and 3-0 on the road this season. The Dolphins will continue that strange trend with another road victory this weekend. The Pick: Dolphins 31, Bengals 27
Green Bay at New York Jets: The most interesting Jets tidbit I read this week had nothing to do with Brett Favre's cell phone or his photography skills. New York linebacker Calvin Pace spent his bye week in Atlanta, where he took in a live performance of "Yo Gabba Gabba!" with his daughter. "I'm more of a Sesame Street guy," he said afterward. "I like Elmo and the old-school stuff." I agree, though Reading Rainbow was always my personal favorite. Speaking of favorites, I can't pick against the Jets at home after a bye week to prepare for a team coming off an emotionally-draining Sunday night affair. The Pick: Jets 24, Packers 17
Washington at Detroit: Lost in the DeAngelo Hall highlights and the head-scratching Lovie Smith/Jay Cutler post-game comments following Sunday's 17-14 contest was a dominant performance from Albert Haynesworth. Remember him? Haynesworth had his best game as a Redskin on Sunday, recording a key sack and making several game-changing plays in the middle. With Haynesworth, Hall, star linebacker London Fletcher and LaRon Landry -- my pick for NFL Defensive Player of the Year thus far -- playing to their full potential, Washington could boast the toughest defense in the NFC. The Redskins should take care of a feisty Lions squad on Sunday. The Pick: Redskins 20, Lions 16
Denver at San Francisco, in London: So much for using the NFL to improve U.S. foreign relations. The Brits give us Radiohead, The Office and the lovely Victoria Beckham. In return, we give them ... Broncos-49ers! No two teams were less impressive in Week 7. The Broncos gave up the most points in franchise history (to the Raiders ... at home!), while the woeful Carolina Panthers earned their first win of the season over San Fran. Mike Singletary said his squad still had a shot at going to the playoffs after the loss. At what point do we just stop listening to what he says? I have a feeling the 49ers players already have. The Pick: Broncos 23, 49ers 20
Carolina at St. Louis: The Panthers scored eight more points in the final 1:53 of Sunday's comeback win over the 49ers than they did in their first five fourth quarters of the 2010 season combined. Matt Moore looked like a completely different player from the guy who was benched after six turnovers in two games and eight in less than nine quarters. Give me the "new look," high-flying Panthers in St. Louis over the Rams in this one. The Pick: Panthers 23, Rams 17
Sunday 4 p.m. ET games
Tennessee at San Diego: Which play in Sunday's 23-20 loss to New England symbolized the first seven games of the Chargers season best? Rookie Richard Goodwin inexplicably leaving the ball on the ground after making his first NFL catch, only to have Patriots safety James Sanders pick it up and take it the other way? Third-year man Jacob Hester oddly not realizing Philip Rivers' pass to him was really a lateral, allowing the Pats to take it 63 yards to the Chargers' 7-yard line? The list goes on, but I think the false start -- not the missed field goal itself -- right before Kris Brown's failed game-tying, 50-yard attempt said it all. Expect more blunders and another bizarre loss for the Bolts on Sunday. The Pick: Titans 30, Chargers 24
Seattle at Oakland: As the official driver of the 2010 Raiders bandwagon, I had a Michael Corleone moments after the Raiders jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first three minutes of Sunday's 59-14 win over Denver. "Just when I think I'm out ... they pull me back in." How could you not love this squad, America? They lose, 17-9, to a horrendous San Francisco team one weekend, only to put up a 59-spot in Denver the very next Sunday. Seattle is 4-2, but I'll take its old AFC West rivals in this one. Before the season, I had the Raiders winning the AFC West. I'm sticking with it, Chiefs cupcake schedule be damned. The Pick: Raiders 27, Seahawks 21
Minnesota at New England: If Brett Favre's consecutive start streak actually does end on Sunday, the conspiracy theorists are going to have a field day. I can hear the theorists now: The Sterger stuff gets a little too hot, Roger Goodell pulls Favre aside, tells him to take a few games off, rest the ankle, let things cool down a bit in the media, have this story go away ... Hey, I'm not saying I believe any of that, I'm just warning you that you'll hear it. The Pats should be able to handle the Vikings, whether it's Favre or Tarvaris Jackson under center. The Pick: Patriots 34, Vikings 21
Tampa Bay at Arizona: In what's been nothing short of a confounding year in the NFC, you could make the argument Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman has been the conference's most impressive QB through seven weeks. Sunday's comeback win over the Rams was the fifth fourth-quarter comeback of Freeman's career and his third in four victories this season. After the 18-17 victory, coach Raheem Morris said his Bucs were "the best team in the NFC." Whether you think he's crazy or not doesn't really matter. His team is too young to believe otherwise. Warren Sapp laughed in my face when I told him Tampa Bay was going to win just three games this season. I should have listened. Give me the Baby Bucs on the road vs. the league's worst offense. The Pick: Buccaneers 28, Cardinals 21
Pittsburgh at New Orleans: Though they're being referred to as the Pittsburgh "Stealers" by fans in 31 NFL cities this week, Mike Tomlin's team has no reason to apologize for Sunday's controversial victory in Miami. As Ben Roethlisberger said on Monday: "You'll take the win." Most 20- and 30-year-old guys would consider back-to-back weekends in Miami and New Orleans one hell of a bachelor party plan. For the Steelers, it means going up against two of the league's toughest defenses on consecutive Sundays. Look for Drew Brees to shake off his first career four-interception game and what's been an underwhelming start to the season with a much-needed win in front of a raucous home crowd on Halloween night. The Pick: Saints 21, Steelers 17
Houston at Indianapolis: With Houston's two-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans out for the year, second-year outside linebacker Brian Cushing -- who never played middle linebacker in four years at USC -- is moving to the middle. Indianapolis comes into this one riddled with injuries and question marks, too. Dallas Clark is on the IR, and 13 other Colts are all battling injuries. Guess what? It shouldn't matter. With Week 1's loss still fresh in his memory, Peyton Manning would find a way to win this one with a junior varsity team around him. The Pick: Colts 31, Texans 22
Cheat Sheet Trivia Question of the Week: Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Crabtree were the first two wide receivers selected in the 2009 draft. Who were the other four first-round wide-outs selected and in what order were they taken?
E-mail of the Week:
I'm watching the games on Sunday, when my girlfriend casually tells me that she'll be dressing as "That Jenn Sterger girl from the Jets" for Halloween. Umm, should I be scared? — Danny, Jericho, N.Y.
As long as you don't go as a Brett Favre text message, I think we're all good.
Cheat Sheet Trivia Answer of the Week: After Heyward-Bey was taken with the seventh overall pick by the Raiders and Crabtree went 10th to the 49ers, Jeremy Maclin went 19th to the Eagles, Percy Harvin 22nd to the Vikings, Hakeem Nicks 29th to the Giants and Kenny Britt 30th to the Titans. All six receivers are healthy this season. Here are their 2010 stats thus far:
7. Heyward-Bey: 14 catches, 161 yards, 0 TDs
10. Crabtree: 28 catches, 332 yards, 2 TDs
19. Maclin: 30 catches, 458 yards, 6 TDs
22. Harvin: 25 catches, 289 yards, 2 TDs
29. Nicks: 45 catches, 525 yards, 8 TDs
30. Britt: 23 catches, 434 yards, 7 TDs
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