Joe-Pinions: Sports

29 Oct 2010 – NFL Pick ’em, Week 8

Posted in Football (NFL) by txtmstrjoe on 29/10/2010

Picks for Week 8:

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Miami Dolphins

The Bengals have had an uneven first half to their season so far.  They have somewhat defied some expectations that their collection of talented yet troubled cast-offs and rejects, including an older yet still effective WR Terrell Owens and CB Adam “Pacman” Jones, would spread conflict and discontent.  Up to this point, they haven’t done so.  Unfortunately for Cincinnati, the real reason why the team acquired such players in the first place – to bolster the team’s talent level – has similarly not met expectations either up to this point.  Six games in, they’ve only gone 2-4.  Some people say that they are under-achieving.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins are at 3-3 after six games.  They tend to keep games close, then get in position to score just enough points to beat their opponents.  Except for their blowout loss to New England in Week 4, they excel in never being out of contention in games, letting their solid running game, adequate passing game, and stout defense give them enough plays to win.  The flipside, of course, comes when the other team just outplays them, even by a small amount, at the crucial game-deciding moments.  They need to generate more fire from that offense.

Cincinnati may have the home field advantage, but the DOLPHINS have fewer issues to deal with this week.  The Bengals will not have Pacman Jones in their secondary; while the “Fish” aren’t exactly known to be an aerial team, they are competent enough to exploit any weakness the Bengals secondary shows.  Carson Palmer is also battling injuries and may not even play, which only makes things more difficult for the Bengals.  Finally, with their hopes for a playoff spot already looking lost due to the strength of their division rivals, the Bengals may not have enough incentive to play like tigers given their sub-500 record.

Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks

Yes, I know I’ve had Raiders games the last two weeks, and a Seattle game last week as well.  What can I say?  I think this is an interesting game.

The Raiders absolutely annihilated the Broncos in Denver last week, 59-14.  Running back Darren McFadden just went crazy last week against the Broncos, completely masking the Raiders’ mostly feeble passing attack.  The defense also made its share of plays, including a “pick six” by cornerback Chris Johnson early in the game.  Coming home after such a conquest on the road should only boost the Raiders’ spirits.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, excel at Qwest Field, but the team is still on a quest to find similar performance on the road.  They have a decent 1-2 record on the road (they are unbeaten at home), so they have yet to find a comfort level away from Seattle.  Oakland will be a difficult team to beat, but throughout his career head coach Pete Carroll has shown a penchant for being resourceful and inventive in finding ways to win.

I want to pick Oakland for this game, but I have a feeling the SEAHAWKS will catch the Raiders a little full of themselves.

New Orleans Saints vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

I’ll confess that I was torn about choosing this game or the New England Patriots vs. Minnesota Vikings game.  Yeah, I could have jettisoned either one of my previous two games above and accommodated the Pats vs. Vikings, but I honestly think that those two games are more compelling as football games and a little tougher to pick a winner from; the Pats vs. Vikings game is mostly interesting because of the Brett Favre angle, in my opinion.  There’s no way the Patriots will lose to the Vikings.  It just won’t happen, unless aliens kidnap both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

But I digress.

The Saints are 4-3 after seven games; they could very easily have been 2-5 given their close and somewhat lucky wins over two teams with two wins combined (the 49ers in Week 2, and the Panthers in Week 4).  They simply don’t look as explosive on offense as they did last year, and defensively they don’t seem to be making as many plays and taking the ball away from the opponent.  They can still move the ball, and they can still score, but the whole show looks far less spectacular than it did last year. 

Meanwhile, the Steelers give the impression of a storm gathering energy, just building up power and strength just before making landfall.  For New Orleans fans and residents, this must be an uncomforting, even unsettling, idea (apologies to those with extreme sensitivity to allusions to Hurricane Katrina; I absolutely mean no disrespect).  The offense should continue to improve with each passing week as Ben Roethlisberger gradually ramps his play up, and the defense will remain the constant force it traditionally has always been.  They have yet to lose with Big Ben back in control of the offense.

Almost unbelievably, I would think that the defending Super Bowl champion Saints are the underdog at home against the mighty Steelers.  I’ve vacillated over this pick this entire week, choosing one team, then the other, for my pick in this game.  But I must register a committed choice for the sake of this blog’s weekly NFL picks.

The SAINTS, then, will march off with a spooky victory on Halloween night.  I’m too afraid of the powers of voodoo being called up against me if I picked against the hometown team.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos

My friend Tim from the UK wrote a great blog entry on this game; read his 49ers vs. Broncos preview here.

I won’t repeat everything he said, though I strongly agree with what he wrote.  Essentially he echoes many of the same sentiments about the 49ers that I’ve been railing about weekly here in my own blog.  I will add, too, that the 49ers’ offense is embarrassing, and the defense is over-worked and sometimes plays too conservatively, especially when the team is nursing any sort of lead late in games.  The team looks too often as if they are playing not to lose, instead of playing to win.  In other words, the 49ers look like they get uptight and avoid taking risks to their detriment, which affects their execution on both sides of the ball and therefore kills their chances of seizing the win.  

The Broncos also have their problems.  As Tim said, their running game, once much-vaunted and effective no matter who was toting the rock for them when Mike Shanahan was the head coach, lacks efficiency and explosion.  The Broncos’ fortunes will ride quarterback Kyle Orton’s right arm and head coach Josh McDaniels’ schemes.  Defensively, all they need to do is make sure they crowd the line and take Frank Gore out of the game and force the 49ers to throw.  Easy enough game plan, and probably easy enough to execute against such an unimaginative offense as the 49ers.

I’ll directly quote Tim’s entry as I pick the 49ers to win this game:  Who will win? My head says Denver hold all the aces, but my heart says San Francisco will come out on top if they can establish their ground game and rely on Willis and Clements to force some turnovers. A weather forecast which predicts light rain all weekend may also help neuter the Broncos’ potent pass offense. 49ers to win a low-scoring encounter, 20-17.

Well said, Tim.

NFL

16-12 after seven weeks with four games apiece.  Last week I said that I’d be doing well if I picked half of those four games correctly.  This week I’ll repeat that sentiment.  I think that none of these four games are locks; I could go 0-4 with this week’s picks.  

We’ll find out by the end of Sunday night!

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2 Responses

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  1. Tim said, on 29/10/2010 at 17:02

    I have to admit, I’ve not seen enough of either Cincy or Miami this season to call their game. And I’m still stunned that Oakland could score 59 points on anyone!

    It’s a huge game for the Saints, and they need to rediscover the intensity they’ve been missing for much of this season, or else Pitt will annihilate them.

    As for the Niners, I fear my 20-17 prediction may have been a triumph of hope over realism, but I’m hoping a soggy pitch that cuts up badly will even things out, just as they did in the Giants’ narrow win over the hapless Dolphins three years ago. Well, I can hope, can’t I?

  2. txtmstrjoe said, on 29/10/2010 at 17:14

    Hey, maybe the 49ers can score 59 points on the Broncos too?

    Couldn’t they?

    I doubt they can, but hey, a one-point win is still a win.

    Hope you have a great time watching the Niners! I envy you that. I’ve never seen them play a regular season game, just a preseason game down in San Diego from several years ago.

    Regarding the other games: I think they’re all going to be close games, especially if New Orleans shows some championship quality in their play at home. The Steelers, though, are a mighty opponent. They are probably my favorite to win the Super Bowl this year. I’m hugely impressed with how they never skipped a beat without Big Ben taking the snaps. I don’t think any other team in the NFL could have done what they did.


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