We are getting close to the midway point of the 2012 NFL season, and both Sportsmasher and RexRated have been right around (.500) with their picks this season. Sportsmasher claims he has finally gotten a feel for the league, and he is ready for a monster week, which will bring him back to his NFL picking greatness. Midseason, time to get it right, let’s get to the picks:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings (-7) – These Thursday night games are usually close ones, and although the Vikings (5-2) are clearly the superior team, I do not think the Buccaneers (2-4) are as bad as their record indicates. The Bucs can score some points, they have weapons at wide receiver and rookie Doug Martin has shown flashes in the running game. The Vikings defense has played fantastic football so far this season, and superstar tailback Adrian Peterson should have a huge night. I think the Vikings win this game, but I’ll take the points.
The Pick: Buccaneers (+7) FINAL SCORE: Vikings 24 Buccaneers 20
New England Patriots @ St. Louis Rams (+7) – The Patriots (4-3) have been extremely disappointing this season, they edged the Jets at home last weekend, but it was a game that the Jets lost more than the Patriots won. That being said, the Rams (3-4) were blown out by the Packers at home last weekend, and really struggled against an offense that spreads the field and lets the quarterback make plays. The Patriots run a similar offense, which is a disaster for the Rams, I think the Patriots offense gets on track on Sunday. This game is in London, where offenses have struggled, but Belichick will want to put on a show for the international crowd.
The Pick: Patriots (-7) FINAL SCORE: Patriots 31 Rams 17
SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: PATRIOTS (-7)
Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans (-3.5) – I discounted the Titans (3-4) too much last weekend, forgetting that they are a better team with veteran Matt Hasselback under center than the inexperienced Jake Locker. It also seems that their running back, Chris Johnson, has regained his mojo after a slow start and I expect him to shred the Colts defense. Andrew Luck and the Colts (3-3) are headed in the right direction, but they have not won a road game yet, and I think they will struggle in Tennessee on Sunday.
The Pick: Titans (-3.5) FINAL SCORE: Titans 28 Colts 20
Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles (-1) – This is a make or break game for the Eagles (3-3) as rumors abound that head coach Andy Reid will be forced to bench quarterback Michael Vick if he continues to struggle and replace him with rookie Nick Foles. The Falcons (6-0) enter this game as the only undefeated team remaining in football, and both teams are coming off of their respective Bye Weeks, so there is no advantage there. The Eagles have a ton of pressure on them to win this game, while the Falcons may have their division win wrapped up by week 10, so I am taking the Eagles and their sense of urgency with their backs against the wall.
The Pick: Eagles (-1) FINAL SCORE: Eagles 27 Falcons 23
San Diego Chargers @ Cleveland Browns (+3) – The Browns (1-6) and quarterback Brandon Weeden have been playing much better football lately than their record indicates, and rookie supplemental draft pick Josh Gordon seems to be the home run threat that his offense desperately needs. The Chargers (3-3) look like a Norv Turner coached team, lackluster play, blowing big leads and making bad decisions left and right. I am still totally shocked that that guy has a job. That being said, I like the Chargers in this game, they are an up and down team and should play well enough to cover in Cleveland.
The Pick: Chargers (-3) FINAL SCORE: Chargers 23 Browns 17
REXRATED BEST BET: CHARGERS (-3)
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Green Bay Packers (-15.5) – The situation in Jacksonville (1-5) could not be any worse right now, as the best player on their awful team, tailback Maurice Jones-Drew is out indefinitely. Even their awful quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, is banged up. Now the Jaguars go to Green Bay to take on a (4-3) Packers team that is coming home after blowing out the Texans in Houston and the Rams in St. Louis. This is the biggest point spread of the season, and in recent memory, and I’m still taking the Packers. Their offense is finally rolling, and they will not miss Charles Woodson against a terrible Jaguars offense.
The Pick: Packers (-15.5) FINAL SCORE: Packers 41 Jaguars 10
Seattle Seahawks @ Detroit Lions (-1) – Notice that I spent the last paragraph ripping Blaine Gabbert, then notice one of the most shocking statistics of the season, Gabbert has six touchdown passes to Lions quarterback Matt Stafford’s five. Seattle (4-3) is not ready to make a run to the Super Bowl yet, but they have assembled a tough and aggressive group of guys that nobody wants to play, with a great defense and devastating running game. Detroit’s (2-4) defense stinks, but they are overly aggressive and have no right to be. I see a huge game for Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, while Seattle’s excellent secondary takes Calvin Johnson out of the game, and with him Detroit’s offense. Bad matchup for the Lions this weekend, and with two notoriously chippy teams, I think we may see a bench clearing brawl.
The Pick: Seahawks (+1) FINAL SCORE: Seahawks 27 Lions 20
Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets (-1) – The Jets (3-4) may have their weaknesses, such as lack of as pass rush and lack of offensive weapons, but there is still talent on this football team. The Dolphins (3-3) also have their weaknesses, but they are a physical team with a great pass rush, and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has shown flashes of brilliance. The Jets edged the Dolphins in their previous matchup, and there is bad blood between these teams, as always. I like the Jets in a tight one at home.
The Pick: Jets (-1) FINAL SCORE: Jets 21 Dolphins 17
REXRATED BEST BET: JETS (-1)
Carolina Panthers @ Chicago Bears (-9) – Just a brutal matchup for the Panthers (1-5) and quarterback Cam Newton, who needs a big game to shake his critics, and it is not going to happen against a nasty Bears (5-1) defense. Julius Peppers, Henry Melton and the Bears pass rushers will be in Newton’s face all day long and I see absolutely no way that the Panthers can stop the Bears offense. The Bears tend to struggle against teams that can stuff the run and overwhelm their offensive line, and the Panthers defense flat out stinks. Huge game for Matt Forte, Bears win this one easy.
The Pick: Bears (-9) FINAL SCORE: Bears 30 Panthers 10
SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: BEARS (-9)
Washington Redskins @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5) – If this was the Steelers (3-3) defense of old, I would say that Redskins (3-4) rookie phenom quarterback Robert Griffin III would struggle, but the Steelers defense has taken a major step back. I think that Pittsburgh’s offense will be able to move the ball on the Redskins and vice-versa, and I see this as a very close game, because RGIII will find a way to make plays. I think that the Steelers will end up defending their home field in a tight game, so I would take the points, this should be a good one.
The Pick: Redskins (+4.5) FINAL SCORE: Steelers 24 Redskins 21
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys (+2) – The defending champion Giants (5-2) enter this game on a roll, as winners of three straight games, and Eli Manning might be the NFL MVP if the vote was held today. However, they lost to the Cowboys (3-3) in the season opener, and Dallas looks to sweep the season series with their divisional rivals on Sunday afternoon. The Giants always play well in Dallas, and the Cowboys just lost their best defensive player, linebacker Sean lee for the season with a toe injury. I do not think that everyone realizes how big the injury to Lee is for Dallas, he was playing at a Pro Bowl level, and he killed the Giants in the season opener. I do not think Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning will let the Giants lose to the Cowboys twice, the Giants receivers and pass rush should help them beat an injury depleted Cowboys team, who will also be without tailback Demarco Murray.
The Pick: Giants (-2) FINAL SCORE: Giants 31 Cowboys 23
REXRATED BEST BET: GIANTS (-2)
SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: GIANTS (-2)
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs (-1) – This is an ugly game between two terrible teams who are longtime foes. The Raiders (2-4) are the better team but the Chiefs (1-5) can win the game if they are able to run the ball. Despite the fact that their starting quarterback is Brady Quinn, I think the Chiefs will be able to run the ball with Jamaal Charles on Oakland’s porous defense, and will finally get a home win, where they are (0-3).
The Pick: Chiefs (-1) FINAL SCORE: Chiefs 20 Raiders 16
New Orleans Saints @ Denver Broncos (-6) – This Saints team (2-4) is still getting far too much credit, their defense is absolutely horrific, and bad teams are lighting up the scoreboard against them. The Saints can score points too, but I would not be shocked if Peyton Manning threw six touchdowns against them on Sunday night in Denver. The Broncos (3-3) are by no means an elite team, but Peyton Manning looks more and more like the Peyton Manning of old each week, and Denver seems to be headed to a division win. This will be an entertaining game to watch, there will be a ton of offense, but I like Peyton and the Broncos to cover.
The Pick: Denver (-6) FINAL SCORE: Broncos 45 Saints 31
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals (+7) – Talk about two opposite prime time games, the Sunday night game should have a ton of offense, while the Monday night game should be a defensive battle. The Cardinals are a horrible offensive football team, and there is no way that they can move the ball on the 49ers excellent defense, which is likely the best in the league. The way that you beat the 49ers, as the Giants showed us, is get them down early and make them play from behind. The Cardinals do not have the offensive weapons to do that unless Patrick Peterson returns and interception and a punt. Both defenses are great, but I think the 49ers defense will get them the ball in good enough field position, where they will be able to put the ball in the end zone. Just a bad matchup for the Cardinals.
The Pick: 49ers (-7) FINAL SCORE: 49ers 23 Cardinals 7
Week 1: (9-7)
Week 2: (7-8-1)
Week 3: (10-5-1)
Week 4: (8-7)
Week 5: (5-9)
Week 6: (6-7-1)
Week 7: (6-7)
2012 Season: (51-50-3)
Sportsmasher Best Bets: 10-11
RexRated’s Best Bets: 9-12-1
BYE WEEKS: Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans