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Tag:Vikings
Posted on: October 21, 2010 8:35 am
 

Week 7 probabilities

One of the more intriguing matchups this weekend, and possibly the most puzzling prediction of the efficiency model all season, is the Patriots at Chargers. The Patriots come into Week 7 at 4-1, fresh off a dramatic win over the contending Ravens. The Chargers enter the weekend at 2-4, fresh off a loss to the rebuilding Rams. But somehow the model makes the Chargers heavy favorites over the Patriots  at 0.85 to 0.15.

In fact, the Chargers sit atop all other teams in the weekly rankings produced by the game probability model thanks to their passing efficiency on both sides of the ball. Philip Rivers and the rest of the offense are in a class by themselves, averaging 7.9 net yards per pass attempt. San Diego’s pass defense is also best in the league at 4.9 net yards per attempt. The Chargers’ running efficiencies on offense and defense are both better than average, as are their turnover rates.

So what is going on? How can a team that leads the league in efficiency (and in total yards) on both sides of the ball have only a 2-4 record to show for it? A big part of the answer is very clear: special-teams play. The Chargers have given up  three touchdowns on kicks and punts, and have had further difficulties on special teams.

But things still don’t add up, so let’s look at turnover differential. Although the Chargers are better than average in interception rate, they pass so often that they actually have a turnover differential of -3. This certainly isn’t good, but even combined with their special-teams failures, it still doesn’t fully explain four losses for such a statistically dominant team. Something else is going on.

I think a big part of the Chargers’ 2-4 record is bad luck. Statisticians might call it sample error or randomness, but whatever you call it, it’s not going well for San Diego. I’m not talking about leprechauns or superstitions or the random bouncing of footballs. (Although the Chargers have lost 9 of 11 fumbles, and the league-wide rate is about 50 percent. Fumble recovery is a notoriously random event in football — just look at the shape of the ball.)

Rather, I’m talking about a concept I call “bunching.”

Let’s say there are two baseball teams, completely equal in ability, playing one game at a neutral site. Each team performs perfectly equally, both hitting exactly nine singles over nine innings. But let’s say one team gets all its singles in one inning, and the other has its singles spread out one per inning. The first team might win, 7-0. It’s an extreme example, but it illustrates an overlooked point about many sports. Successful plays are not enough. Consecutive successes are required to win.

In football, two equal teams could each have 12 first downs in a game. One team could have three drives of four consecutive first downs, each leading to a touchdown, and the rest of its drives could be three-and-outs. The other team could have 12 drives consisting of one first down followed by a punt. Both teams could have equal yards, first downs and efficiency stats, and yet one team could win, 21-0. It’s easy to imagine a game in which one team has many more first downs and yards, but still loses. Could something like this bunching effect be cursing the Chargers?

It’s a given that N.F.L. offenses tend to score in proportion to their yards gained. It’s actually an extremely tight correlation, and the best–fit estimate of a team’s points per game is to take just under 10 percent of its yards per game and subtract 10. For the Chargers, who lead the N.F.L. with 433 yards gained per game, we’d expect the offense to score about 32 points per game, but they’ve actually scored only 26.

A similar analysis for the Chargers’ defense, with the special-teams scores set aside, shows that it has  allowed almost 2 points more per game more than the yardage total implies. That’s a total difference of 8 points per game.

If we could magically add those 8 points onto the scoreboard for each game this season, the Chargers would have five wins, no losses and a tie. Of course, things aren’t that simple, and we can’t just add points after the fact. But it’s an exercise that illustrates just how random game outcomes can be, even in the N.F.L.

Here are your Week 7 game probabilities:

Win ChanceGAMEWin Chance0.45Cincinnati at Atlanta0.550.37Washington at Chicago0.630.40St. Louis at Tampa Bay0.600.49San Francisco at Carolina0.510.19Buffalo at Baltimore0.810.45Philadelphia at Tennessee0.550.14Jacksonville at Kansas City0.860.52Pittsburgh at Miami0.480.28Cleveland at New Orleans0.720.13Arizona at Seattle0.870.15New England at San Diego0.850.19Oakland at Denver0.810.26Minnesota at Green Bay0.740.53Giants at Dallas0.47
Posted on: September 24, 2010 9:14 am
 

Week 3 in the NFL

Can you believe that it's already week 3 in the NFL? If I told you that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be 2 - 0 and the Cowboys were going to be 0 - 2, you would have said that I'm crazy. The unpredictable season is always exciting.

Fans can be a fickle bunch, myself included. The collective mood varies week to week, quarter to quarter, possession to possession. This sentiment is amplified following a team's season opening performance. A win correlates into a franchise's followers booking their Super Bowl accommodations; a loss spirals supporters into panic. This is especially the case in Philadelphia. Another example: the New York Jets, who arrived with unparalleled hype and hoopla thanks to HBO's Hardknocks and proclamations from coach Rex Ryan. Yet after suffering a defeat to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, seemingly the entire football world wrote off Gang Green's title aspirations. Pigskin pundits blasted New York management for cutting ties with running back Thomas Jones, signing washed-up veterans, and welcoming the distraction of a reality series into training camp. Former star Joe Namath took issue with the team, stating the current Jets needed to "shut up and play." Ryan was crucified for his game plan, whose conservative nature seemed to contradict the coach's brash attitude and assertions. Keep in mind, New York lost by just ONE POINT. But in the NFL, there's a thin line between bliss and bitterness.

On to the game of the week:
The Atlanta Falcons were the recipients of similar vitriol after a Week 1 defeat to Dennis Dixon and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Falcons were expected to bounce back from a disappointing and injury plagued 2009, and competing against Dixon, a 3rd string quarterback, appeared to be just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Troy Pomamalu and the Steeler defense had a different itinerary in mind, as Pittsburgh came out victorious in a 15-9 overtime slugfest. Soon after, Mike Smith's squad was showered with criticisms and condemnations. Would Matt Ryan fall short of his projected potential? Was Michael Turner's 2008 an aberration? After Roddy White, were there any viable weapons in the aerial arsenal? So on and so on...

A 41-7 drubbing of defending NFC West champion Arizona seemed to lay to rest doubts among the Dirty-Bird backers, if only for a week. Ryan threw for 225 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a QB rating of 117.3. The Burner rushed for 75 yards on just 9 carries before succumbing to an injury (although not feared to be serious). Receivers not named White accounted for 14 receptions on Sunday. In short, Atlanta looked like the playoff-contending team that many had forecasted.

In reality, the Falcons fate is somewhere between their two performances. The Pittsburgh D, after shutting down Chris Johnson and Vince Young in Week 2, looks to have reclaimed their tenacious tendencies that led them to a Super Bowl in 2008. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are doing their best Little Giants impersonation. Atlanta travels to the Big Easy this week to play the Saints, off to a 2-0 start in their title defense. I give the edge to New Orleans; prediction: 28-19.

But rest assured, no matter what the outcome, one fan base will be making January playoff plans while the other will willow in its own misery. At least until next week's game.

These are my picks for the rest of the NFL:
Vikings over the Lions
Ravens over the Browns
Patriots over the Bills, aka the worst team in the NFL
Raiders over the Cardinals
Texans over the Cowboys...how bout dem cowboys? 0-3
Dolphins over the Jets
Steelers over the Buccaneers
Titans over the Giants
Bengals over the Panthers
Colts over the Broncos
49ers over the Chiefs
Eagles over the Jaguars
Redskins over the Rams
Packers over the Bears
Chargers over the Seahawks

Posted on: November 17, 2009 8:41 am
 

FFB week 10 review

49ers 10 – Bears 6

The 49ers rode the legs of Frank Gore to stop a four-game losing streak. Gore had 125 total yards (104 rushing) and scored his seventh TD of the season. After saying prior to the game that Chicago’s defense doesn’t impress him, Vernon Davis was held to 3 catches for 16 yards. However, he remains one of the best options at tight end this year. Michael Crabtree has been solid but unspectacular since joining the team, and he picked up a solid 48 receiving yards against the Bears. Alex Smith picked up his first win since September 2007 though he only had 118 yards on the day, with no touchdowns and an interception. But I’m sure he’s just glad he got a win.

Last year Kyle Orton threw 5 INTs while wearing a Bears uniform; Jay Cutler did the same on Thursday night. Those picks took away nearly all the fantasy points Cutler earned by throwing for 307 yards. Matt Forte also had a tough game on the ground at least. Forte ran for just 41 yards on 20 carries but made up for it by catching 8 passes for 120 yards. Devin Hester was targeted a game-high 14 times but only came down with half of those passes for 48 yards.

Titans 41 – Bills 17

If the Titans were 6-3 instead of 3-6, Chris Johnson would be right up there with Peyton Manning for MVP honors. Johnson was once again magnificent with 132 yards rushing, 100 yards receiving, and 2 touchdowns. Vince Young had his most passing yards (210) since December 2007 and also threw for a TD and ran for 29 yards. With Justin Gage out, Nate Washington became the #1 receiver, compiling 33 receiving yards and a score.

When Terrell Owens has a season-high of 85 receiving yards in Week 10, you know things are rough in Buffalo. Lee Evans had a nice game as well, as he caught 2 TD passes to go along with 50 receiving yards. Marshawn Lynch had 55 total yards and was outperformed by Fred Jackson who had 71 total yards and also threw a TD pass to Evans. For those of you who have Trent Edwards, it may be time to start looking elsewhere for a QB. Edwards was pulled in the fourth quarter after throwing a pick-six. He finished with 185 passing yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT, and Coach Jauron was noncommittal on who would be his starting QB next week.

Saints 28 - Rams 23

It wasn’t pretty, but the Saints got the job done. Drew Brees threw for 223 yards and 2 TDs but also threw 2 INTs and has thrown 7 INTs in the last four games. Reggie Bush had his best game of the season, by far, with 98 total yards (83 rushing) and 2 TDs. His versatility combined with his inconsistency make him a flex play each week, especially in PPR leagues. Pierre Thomas took a backseat to Bush in this game as Thomas only had 37 rushing yards. Marques Colston had another quiet game as he had only 17 receiving yards and also lost a fumble. On the other hand, Robert Meachem had his second straight good game with 68 total yards (27 receiving) and a touchdown. Coincidentally, both of these games have come with Lance Moore sitting out. If Moore, Colston, or Devery Henderson miss any time, Meachem is worth serious consideration in your starting lineup.

Steven Jackson continues to be options A, B, and C for the Rams as he had another great game. Jackson had 131 yards and a touchdown on the ground and also had 9 receptions for 45 yards through the air. It was his fifth straight game with over 100 yards from scrimmage. Marc Bulger turned back the clock and looked like the Bulger of 2006. He threw for 298 yards and 2 TDs while displaying his customary accuracy. Even though the bye weeks are over, Bulger is still worth a roster spot as insurance for your starting QB. Donnie Avery had 67 yards and 2 TDs as he remains Bulger’s favorite target. That alone gives him value as a WR3.

Dolphins 25 – Buccaneers 23

The Dolphins got the win but they may have lost their starting running back--at least for one week. Ronnie Brown left the game after hurting his ankle. With a game scheduled this Thursday, Brown may have to sit one out. Before leaving, he did have 82 rushing yards and a score. Ricky Williams led Miami with 102 rushing yards and, if you have him, he should be in your lineup regardless of whether Brown plays or not. Davone Bess appears to be Chad Henne’s favorite receiver but Bess has yet to get into the end zone this year. He had 4 receptions for 72 yards but should only be considered if you are in a PPR league.

Expect more games like this from Josh Freeman (196 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 lost fumble), rather than the 3 TD performance last week. Kellen Winslow continued to build on a good season, catching 7 balls for 102 yards on Sunday. Cadillac Williams has been inconsistent throughout the season but he did score a rushing touchdown to go along with 52 yards. He seems destined to be an RB3 for the remainder of the year.

Vikings 27 – Lions 10

This game played out pretty much as expected. Brett Favre threw for 344 yards and one touchdown and Adrian Peterson ran for 133 yards and 2 TDs. However, the star of the day was Sidney Rice who caught 7 passes for 201 yards. Though he only has two scores on the year, Rice is a legit WR2 and is on pace for nearly 1,400 receiving yards. Bernard Berrian continues to be a disappointment as he only had 22 receiving yards. Over the past three seasons, Berrian averaged about 900 receiving yards and 6 TDs. He may reach that TD average but is on pace for fewer than 600 receiving yards. Keep him on your roster, but don’t start him until he can gain some rapport with Favre.

For just the second time this season, Matt Stafford went a full game without throwing a pick. He also threw for 224 yards and a TD. Still, Stafford is only a QB2. Kevin Smith continued his sophomore slump with only 65 total yards this week. He is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry after putting up 4.1 last season. Even so, he is still an RB2/RB3. Calvin Johnson rebounded from last week’s poor game with 8 receptions for 84 yards.

Jaguars 24 – Jets 22

Maurice Jones-Drew continues to prove that he can be an every-down back as he gained 145 total yards and scored a touchdown. MJD became the first RB this year to gain 100 rushing yards against the Jets. His QB, David Garrard, showed his versatility with 221 passing yards and one passing TD along with one rushing touchdown. Mike Sims-Walker found the end zone for the fifth time in his past seven games. He is the Jags’ #1 WR and a fantasy WR2. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted in most fantasy leagues.

Mark Sanchez’s up-and-down rookie season hit another down against the Jaguars. He did throw for 212 yards and a touchdown, but also threw 2 INTs. Since he is fringe fantasy material at this point, he shouldn’t be on your roster. Someone who definitely should be on your roster is Thomas Jones who took another drink from the fountain of youth Sunday before running for 77 yards and a score. I thought the loss of Favre would hurt him but he’s actually outperforming his 2008 numbers. Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery had 79 and 68 receiving yards, respectively. Cotchery also scored a TD. You never know which one is going to be Sanchez’s favorite target for a particular game so neither has more value than a WR3 at this point.

Bengals 18 – Steelers 12

Surprisingly, this game featured no offensive TDs. Carson Palmer had 178 yards passing while Chad Ochocinco had only 29 receiving yards. Cedric Benson only had 7 carries for 22 yards before leaving with a hip injury, which he doesn’t believe is serious. With Chris Henry done for the season, Laveranues Coles will get more looks, and he led the team this week with 5 receptions for 67 yards.

Ben Roethlisberger only completed 50% of his passes and threw an INT along with only 174 yards. Santonio Holmes, with 88 receiving yards, garnered more fantasy points than any other player. Heath Miller (26) and Hines Ward (24) combined for only 50 receiving yards as Roethlisberger struggled under constant pressure from the Bengals. Rashard Mendenhall couldn’t repeat last Monday night’s performance as he had only 36 rushing yards on just 13 carries.

Redskins 27 – Broncos 17

For the first time this year, the Redskins managed to break the 17-point threshold to pick up their third win of the year. Jason Campbell was serviceable, throwing for 193 yards and one touchdown while not turning the ball over. Ladell Betts, subbing for the concussed Clinton Portis, had 114 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Redskins are likely not in a rush to get Portis back on the field with such a serious injury as a concussion. If Betts is still available in your league for some reason, jump on him. He could make for a nice flex play in the coming weeks. Santana Moss had a measly 2 catches for 8 yards and should be benched until he can show some consistency. He’s in a similar situation to Carolina’s Steve Smith; they are great players, but the people around them are hurting their fantasy value.

Not only did the Broncos lose their third game in a row, but they may have also lost their QB for a couple of weeks. Kyle Orton threw for 193 yards and 2 TDs before leaving with an ankle injury that could keep him out of next week’s pivotal matchup with San Diego. His backup, Chris Simms, has barely played since 2006 and should not be picked up in free agency. Brandon Marshall caught two long TD passes and finished with 134 receiving yards. Eddie Royal’s (21 receiving yards) disappearing act extended another week and, unless you get points for return yards, he has virtually no value. Knowshon Moreno had 97 rushing yards to lead the Broncos and, maybe an even better sign for his owners, had 18 carries compared to Buckhalter’s 2 carries.

Panthers 28 - Falcons 19

Jake Delhomme actually looked like a pro QB against Atlanta as he threw for 2 TDs and 195 yards without turning the ball over. Steve Smith, who is managing to salvage this season despite his QB’s play, caught both Delhomme’s TD passes. DeAngelo Williams appears to have regained his 2008 form as he had 122 total yards, while backfield mate Jonathan Stewart had 82 rushing yards and 2 scores. Williams is a bona-fide RB1 and Stewart is a safe flex option.

If he wasn’t there before this game, Matt Ryan is officially in a sophomore slump. Actually, slump may be too nice a word, as he has thrown 11 INTs in his last six games. He did throw for 224 yards, but the points he got from his TD were negated by the turnovers. With a tough upcoming schedule (NYG, PHI, NO, NYJ), things are not going to get any easier. You may want to hit up the trade market to see what kind of value you can get for Ryan. To make matters worse for Atlanta, Michael Turner injured his ankle and will undergo additional tests on Monday. He had rushed for 111 yards before leaving and all Turner owners should immediately grab Jason Snelling (93 total yards, 1 TD) if he’s still available in free agency. Roddy White had 7 grabs for 98 yards and Tony Gonzalez had 6 for 67, but neither player was able to get into the end zone.

Chargers 31 - Eagles 23

With his 2 TDs on Sunday, LT jumped ahead of Marcus Allen to take third place in the record books for career TDs. He also ran for 96 yards which was his most in a home game since 2007. Philip Rivers tossed two scores of his own, along with 231 passing yards. Vincent Jackson was held to a single reception for 10 yards, but you shouldn’t even think about taking him out of your lineup. Antonio Gates had 7 catches for 78 yards and Malcolm Floyd had 3 catches for 45 yards. Floyd is worth a spot in deeper leagues as well as keeper leagues since it is clear that the Chargers are now a passing team, with Philip Rivers as their leader rather than LT.

The most telling stat from this game is Donovan McNabb’s 450 passing yards compared to his team’s 29 total rushing yards. Brian Westbrook suffered another concussion and, in my humble opinion, he should sit the rest of the year. If you have Westbrook, make contingency plans as you may not see him for the remainder of the season. Jason Avant, of all people, led the Eagles in receiving with 156 yards while DeSean Jackson had 8 catches for 91 yards. Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek each had 6 catches and a TD reception.

Packers 17 – Cowboys 7

When the Packers defense plays the way it did against Dallas, you can expect pedestrian offensive efforts as well. Aaron Rodgers threw for only 189 yards and 1 TD, though he did rush for a score. Ryan Grant ran for 79 yards but doesn’t appear to have the explosiveness that he displayed two years ago. Donald Driver and Greg Jennings had 50 and 45 receiving yards, respectively. The Packers are having trouble with the pass rush, so Driver’s intermediate routes are a much more viable option for Rodgers than Jennings’ deep routes. Driver should be rated higher than Jennings until the Packers O-line improves.

The Cowboys O was dominated by the Packers D in this game as both the running game and Miles Austin were shut down. None of the three Dallas running backs gained more than 26 yards, and Austin had only 20 yards on the day. Tony Romo threw for 251 yards and a late TD, but he also threw a pick and lost a fumble. The lone TD was scored by Roy Williams, who also managed 105 receiving yards on 5 receptions. From the looks of things over the past month, it appears that Austin and Williams can’t each have a big game in the same game. It’s either one or the other. I have more confidence in Austin than in Williams. Austin is still a WR1 while Williams is only a WR3. I really don’t know what to make of Jason Witten. It seems as though every week he’s catching 4-5 passes for around 45 yards. I still have faith in him--and you should, too--as he is still Romo’s favorite target in the red zone…even though he hasn’t scored a TD since Week 2.

Cardinals 31 – Seahawks 20

With his 2 TD passes on Sunday, Kurt Warner has now thrown for 200 TDs in his Hall-of-Fame career. He also threw for 340 yards as all three of his top receivers got into the action. Anquan Boldin had 8 for 105, Steve Breaston had 4 for 76, and Larry Fitzgerald had 7 for 73. Breaston and Fitzgerald also got into the end zone. Everyone knows Fitz is a WR1, but Breaston and even Boldin are WR3s. Boldin’s injuries are starting to catch up with him and he has almost no deep speed. Rookie Beanie Wells had the best game of his young career with 85 rushing yards and 2 TDs. Tim Hightower had 58 total yards, which included 5 receptions. Despite Wells’ two scores, Hightower still has a little more value due to the huge disparity in receptions between the two of them (Hightower has 45 on the season, Wells has 6).

The good news for Seattle this week is that they may have found their future running back. After Julius Jones left with an injury, Justin Forsett took over and ran for 123 yards and one score while catching five passes for 26 yards. It appears Jones will be out for some time, so grab Forsett while you can. Even when Jones returns, Forsett will still have value, especially in PPR leagues. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 315 yards and 1 TD with most of the yardage going to T.J. Houshmandzadeh (9 for 165). Housh hasn’t been quite what we expected him to be in Seattle, but this week’s game was a good sign that he and Hasselbeck are developing more of a rapport. The Seahawks’ leading receiver, Nate Burleson, went catchless for the first time this season. He was targeted five times, so Hasselbeck was definitely looking for him. Burleson remains a safe WR2 for next week.

Chiefs 16 – Raiders 10

As the score indicates, this was not an aesthetically-pleasing game. Jamaal Charles said, “Larry Who?” by rushing for 103 yards and a score. Todd Haley doesn’t like to run the ball all that much so don’t expect this type of performance too often, but Charles can be a serviceable RB3 for the remainder of the season. Matt Cassel did not throw a TD pass, but he did throw an INT and lost a fumble. The Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers tandem had 91 and 60 yards receiving, respectively.

The return of Darren McFadden (11 rushing yards) and Chaz Schilens (27 receiving yards) did not play out quite as anticipated. However, Michael Bush (119 rushing yards) and Justin Fargas (41 rushing yards, 1 TD) were able to provide some much-needed offensive punch. The RBBC all but eliminates any value for the Oakland backs, but Schilens is someone to keep an eye on. He is a big target and can actually catch--unlike Oakland’s other receivers. If you have an open roster spot it may be wise to take a chance on Schilens, who some see as a Vincent Jackson-clone.

Colts 35 - Patriots 34

Wow! That’s all I can say. I’m sure most of the people reading this saw the game last night so you pretty much know what happened. Peyton Manning did his thing with another 300+ yard, multi-TD game. Reggie Wayne caught 10 passes for 126 yards and 2 TDs, including the game winner. The Patriots held Dallas Clark in check as he “only” had 65 receiving yards. Despite a finger injury, Joseph Addai still managed to score 2 TDs and gain 68 total yards. The Colts are really struggling to run the ball, but Addai is a big factor in the passing game and receives lots of goal line carries. He can still be used as an RB2.

Tom Brady was Tom Terrific in throwing for 3 TDs and 375 yards (though I’m sure all of Boston thinks it should have been 376 yards). Randy Moss and Wes Welker each had 9 receptions. Welker went for 94 yards and Moss showed he still has 4.4 speed by going for 179 yards and 2 TDs. Laurence Maroney scored a rushing TD but also lost a fumble on the Colts’ one-yard line. Kevin Faulk had 79 rushing yards and caught 2 passes for 7 yards (though, again, Boston thinks it should have been 8 yards).

Posted on: November 11, 2009 8:16 pm
 

Week 10: safe bets by DC

Last week was the first time that I shared my predictions with the online community. I was on point with 61% of my games with the spread. I'm looking to build on that percentage this week. That brings me to the first game of week 10.

The 49ers are 3-point favorites over the Bears, who have lost four in a row. Another loss and they might lose sight of the Cardinals in the NFC West.

Chicago (4-4) has seen its once fearsome defense turn soft without Brian Urlacher, who broke his wrist in the opener, and several other key players. The Bears have won the last three meetings, all at Soldier Field, outscoring San Francisco 81-32. They could be vulnerable to the runs of Frank Gore because Chicago ranks 21st against the rush.

The Niners handle the run well but struggle against the pass, which means Jay Cutler might be airing it out all night. Chicago has looked a bit more vulnerable and a lot more fragile.

49ERS, 21-20

 



Dallas (pick 'em) at Green Bay

Having found their pass rush, the Cowboys could cause more sack havoc for Aaron Rodgers.

BEST BET: Cowboys, 21-17

 



New England (plus 3) at Indianapolis

Time for Bill Belichick to toy with Peyton Manning's mind again, and for the Patriots to prevent Indy from chasing their unprecedented 16-0 of 2007. The Colts just have too many injuries in the secondary.

UPSET SPECIAL: PATRIOTS, 24-20

 



Cincinnati (plus 6 1/2) at Pittsburgh

I have been wrong on the Bengals a lot this year, but I'm starting to believe in them — at least enough to cover.

Steelers, 20-17

 



Philadelphia (plus 1) at San Diego

Two teams that epitomize the up-and-down nature of the NFL. Philly's secondary is depleted and they only have one LB. I expect Gates and Vincent Jackson to come up big.

Chargers, 24-23

 



Jacksonville (plus 6) at N.Y. Jets

Two teams that epitomize not being too good or too bad, thus their 4-4 marks. Mark Sanchez will get back on track this week; Cotchery and Braylon Edwards will have fun with the weak Jaguar secondary.

JETS, 24-13


 

Detroit (plus 15) at Minnesota

Fresh from a bye, this should be easy for the Purple Favres. It's like having 2 bye weeks.

Vikings, 31-10

 



Denver (minus 4 1/2) at Washington

Denver's mini-slide ends here, or its sensational early season comes into serious question. The Redskins without Clinton Portis are even worse than they were, but not as bad as the Browns.

Broncos, 20-10

 



New Orleans (minus 14) at St. Louis

Been searching for hours for a reason this will be close. Still searching ...

Saints, 40-14

 



Seattle (plus 7 1/2) at Arizona

Enigmatic Cardinals need to bring their road temperament to their dome.

CARDINALS, 30-20

 



Buffalo (plus 6 1/2) at Tennessee

From 0-6, Titans have decent shot at seven wins. Here's No. 3. The Bills are just horrible this year.

TITANS, 20-10

 



Atlanta (minus 2) at Carolina

Panthers can be tough if they don't make errors. Falcons have been mistake-prone recently. Jake Delhomme is due for another turnover special.

Atlanta, 24-14


 

Baltimore (minus 10 1/2) at Cleveland

The Monday night massacre, although the Ravens really are struggling. Not nearly as much as the Browns, of course. Brady Quinn better practice throwing from his backside; I feel bad for the young fella.

RAVENS, 27-7


Tampa Bay (plus 9) at Miami

Does anyone outside of Florida really care? Don't expect Freeman to sneak out with another win.

Dolphins, 23-10

 



Kansas City (plus 2) at Oakland

Does anyone anywhere really care?

Chiefs, and cover...no points total here because they are both zeros.


There it is: safe bets by DC.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com