By Brian Spencer
How We Did Last Week
We felt particularly confident about last week’s picks, and turns out we were right: 5-2. It looked like 6-1 until the Ravens scored a last-gasp touchdown to ruin the Steelers -3.5 (they led 20-16 with 8 seconds left); the other miss was picking the favored Kansas City Chiefs to cover 5.5 vs. the then-winless Miami Dolphins. The Chiefs instead took the day off.
We’re running a bit behind schedule this week, so here’s the quick-and-dirty picks for Week 10. Some tough spreads this time around with so many clunkers on the schedule, but after discussions into the wee hours of Thursday morning we’ve emerged with seven picks we feel pretty good about.
Houston Texans (-2.5) at Tampa Bay Bucs: Arian Foster and Ben Tate are both currently on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards, and have played major roles in getting the Texans off to their best start in franchise history. That’s despite losing Mario Williams for the season and Andre Johnson for the past 5 weeks (this week makes it 6).
Having those horses in the backfield is obviously fueling the strong start, but that pass defense is quietly turning into one of the league’s best: the Texans are currently second overall in passing yards allowed/per (182.6) and are tied for fourth overall in team interceptions (11).
Those two recipes for success are not good for the up-and-down Bucs. With DT Gerald McCoy on the shelf now for the rest of the year, Albert Haynesworth was brought in to help shore up a rush defense that’s been gashed over 132.4 yards/per and allowed 8 rushing TDs; we don’t think he’ll make much difference. On the other side of the ball, third-year QB Josh Freeman, as well as his second-year WR Mike Williams, have regressed. PICK: Texans Cover
New England Patriots (+1.5) at New York Jets: This one’s a toss-up. We know the Jets always play the Pats tough, and that the Ryan Bros. consistently devise defensive game plans that limit Tom Brady’s effectiveness. Speaking of defense, the Patriots are allowing more total yards per (416) than anybody in the league. It’s tough to sweep the Jets, but we just can’t see the Pats losing three in a row. They need this one. Pick: Patriots Cover
Carolina Panthers (-3.5) vs. Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson finally showed signs of life out of the Titans backfield last week, rushing for 64 yards (4.6 YPC, his best game total so far) and tacking on 46 receiving yards. He’s still only scored 1 TD on the season, however, but this could be the week he breaks on through: the Panthers allow 133 rushing yards/per (28th overall) and have already yielded 11 rushing scores (tied for worst). We’ve said this a few times now with Johnson, but if he can’t do it this week, when will he?
Regardless, the Jekyll-and-Hyde Titans’ bigger problem is figuring out how to control Cam Newton, Steve Smith, and the Panthers’ (at times) dynamic offense. All in all we like the Panthers at home more than we do the Titans on the road. PICK: Panthers Cover
Just Trust Us
Minnesota Vikings (+13.5) at Green Bay Packers: It’s NFC North Rivalry Weekend with the 6-2 Bears and 5-3 Lions squaring off in Chicago, and the unbeaten Packers hosting the 2-6 Vikings, who are coming off a bye. Minnesota hung tough in Week 7, with rookie QB Christian Ponder at the helm of a 33-27 loss in his first NFL start. We think it’ll be a similarly competitive affair, with a steady pounding of AP helping the Vikings control the clock and keep that almost unstoppable Packers offense off the field as much as possible. Speaking of unstoppable, look for Jared Allen to add two more sacks to what’s looking like a record-setting 2011 resume. PICK: Vikings Cover
St. Louis Rams (+2.5) at Cleveland Browns: We’re not going to watch a single minute of this game and don’t recommend you do either, unless your only other option is Jacksonville and Indianapolis. Or Washington and Miami. Ugh. Steven Jackson is the difference here as the Rams pick up a rare win. PICK: Rams Cover
Buffalo Bills (+5.5) at Dallas Cowboys: Somehow forgot to post this pick on Friday when this was published. Right, so… Bills didn’t cover.PICK: Bills Cover
Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5) at Indianapolis Colts: Like the Rams/Browns game, this game is for football masochists only. You have no reason to tune into this one unless you own Maurice Jones-Drew on your fantasy team. Don’t ask. Just bet. PICK: Jaguars Cover
Arian Foster & Cam Newton Photo Credits: Icon SMI