|Dear ESPN: We don't want to watch this guy and his stupid hair on MNF. Please get us a real game...now.|
In looking ahead to Week 7, here are three things that stand out to me…
1. Awful Schedule – A large group of bad teams just had their bye and, unfortunately, we’re now facing a week where a large group of good/exciting/interesting teams are on byes. Buffalo, Cincinnati, New England, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco are all off this week, leaving us with such gems as Seattle vs. Cleveland, Denver vs. Miami, and Washington vs. Carolina. Yippee. As if that weren’t bad enough, the Sunday Night game features Indianapolis getting blown out by New Orleans, and the Monday Night game features Jacksonville getting crushed by Baltimore. Can we flex a couple bye week teams in? Please?
2. QB Changes – Several teams made QB changes this week and it will be fascinating to see how some of them play out. John Beck is the new starter in Washington, Charlie Whitehurst (probably/hopefully) in Seattle, Tim Tebow in Denver, Christian Ponder in Minnesota, Carson Palmer in Oakland, and Stephen McGee in Dallas (just kidding). It’s pretty rare for this many QB changes to happen in one season, much less one week. Obviously Tim Tebow and Carson Palmer are getting the most press, but the Whitehurst thing could actually be a big deal. If they can beat Cleveland, they’ll only be two back of San Francisco with one more meeting left. Not saying it’s likely or anything…just pointing things out.
3. Do or Die – Atlanta, Houston, New York, Washington, and Chicago all face tough matchups that could make or break their seasons. Washington has it the easiest among the group as they face a bad Panthers team with the downside being 3-3. Either way, the Redskins had no right to expect anything from this season anyways. The other teams, however, are staring disappointment and disaster square in the eye. Expected to be major players in their respective divisions/conferences, a fall to 3-4 would be tough to overcome. It’ll be a tall task to avoid it though, as Atlanta faces Detroit on the road, Houston faces division leader Tennessee on the road, New York takes on San Diego at home, and Chicago plays Tampa Bay on the road.
As for the Week 6 picks, it was a good week for yours truly. Facing a 7 game deficit, I needed a big week to keep this a contest. Basically, I was the Eagles and Prince was the Redskins. Thankfully, I was able to put up enough points early on to overcome a late charge by Prince. Let’s see how things went.
(Remember, Prince and I are going head to head with our picks. No prize has been determined yet, but ideas are happily accepted.)
Week 6 Results (point spread in parentheses)
Landrum: 8-5 (9-4)
Prince: 8-5 (6-7)
Week 4 Winner: Landrum +3
Results through Week 6 (point spread in parentheses)
Landrum: 55-35 (45-38)
Prince: 59-31 (45-38)
Overall Leader: Prince +4
Prince still has the lead, but I made big headway in closing the gap. Unfortunately, there’s not much headway to be made in Week 7, as we agreed on pretty much everything.
Seattle at Cleveland (CLE -3)
Jon: Seattle (SEA +3)
Prince: Seattle (SEA +3)
It appears as if Seattle will be without their starting QB for this game…and that’s a really good thing. We only have a small sampling of Charlie Whitehurst, so it’s impossible to declare him “good,” but I think it’s probably safe to say he’s a big improvement over Tarvaris Jackson. That’s not a bold claim considering Seattle ranks near the bottom of the league in passing offense. However, they have quietly assembled some decent weapons in Zach Miller and Doug Baldwin. While they’ll never be the 2007 Patriots, it’s not hard to envision Whitehurst having some success. In contrast, it looks like the wheels might be falling off for the Browns. With the Madden Curse in full effect, the once dominant run game has completely evaporated to the point where Cleveland ranks an abysmal 30th in rushing yards per game. Ouch! That wouldn’t be quite so demoralizing if Cleveland didn’t boast (or whatever the opposite of boasting is) the most inefficient passing game in recent memory. Colt McCoy has the 7th most attempts in the NFL, but thanks to his horrendous 5.53 yards per attempt, he only ranks 21st in yardage. In review, the Browns suck at gaining yards in the run game AND suck at gaining yards in the passing game. Umm, that seems like a problem.
Atlanta at Detroit (DET -4.5)
Jon: Detroit (DET -4.5)
Prince: Detroit (DET -4.5)
After suffering their first loss of the year, it will be interesting to see how Detroit responds this week. The glitzy 5-0 start certainly got everyone excited, but it also served to mask some major problems that indicate the Lions might not be as good as their record suggests. The most notable problem area has to be third down efficiency, where the Lions have converted only 30.5% of their third down attempts (28th in the league). The weird thing is I think Detroit will be better with Jahvid Best out. His massive 163 yard game against Chicago makes his numbers look decent, but he’s gone for Y/A averages of 3.4, 3.6, 1.2, 4.3, and 3.1 in the rest of their games. Basically, he’s not good. It’s no coincidence that Detroit’s offense gets better when they have a deficit, as putting the emphasis on Stafford and Johnson makes them far more dangerous. I’m guessing we’ll see a VERY fired up Lions team that looks to throw it early and throw it often. With Atlanta allowing 283.3 passing yards per game, I fully expect Detroit to hang a big number on them.
Houston at Tennessee (TEN -3)
Jon: Tennessee (TEN -3)
Prince: Houston (HOU +3)
This was the absolute hardest game to pick this week and it was the only one that Prince and I disagreed on. Boring, right? Well, considering the injuries to both teams, it’s no wonder that they seem so evenly matched. It’s not that I feel good about Tennessee; it’s that I feel really bad about Houston. The injuries to Andre Johnson and Mario Williams have seemingly sucked the life out of them and I have serious doubts about their ability to rebound…especially considering their joke of a coaching staff. If Chris Johnson is ever going to bust out of his slump, it will be against the porous Texans D. Still, Houston seems like the more talented team and I hate picking against talent. I’ll stick with Tennessee here, but I don’t feel good about it.
Denver at Miami (MIA -3)
Jon: Denver (DEN +3)
Prince: Denver (DEN +3)
TEBOW TIME!!! OK, so I’ve already spoken my peace on Tebow…several times. I’ll spare you another rant. All I know is that there is NO WAY I’m EVER picking Matt Moore. He is awful! Just dreadful! The most interesting thing about this game will be seeing what creative ways the “experts” can reason away any positive thing Tebow does. Always a treat!
San Diego at New York Jets (SD -1.5)
Jon: San Diego (SD -1.5)
Prince: San Diego (SD -1.5)
3-3 record aside, things are getting ugly up in Jets land. Rex Ryan’s idiotic rants are all fun and games when the Jets are turning teams over four times a game and ramming the ball down their throats for 200 yards. However, it’s a whole different ball game when they have a middle of the road defense and a bottom feeder running game. That’s right, the powerful ‘pound-and-ground’ New York Jets rank 31st in rushing yards per game. Hmm…maybe Rex shouldn’t be knocking Norv Turner when he’s struggling to compete against the Miami Dolphins. At this point, I’m nearly 100% out on the Jets, and the likely return of Antonio Gates means the Chargers are probably going punch them square in the mouth. For all us Rex-haters out there (and Mark Sanchez), that’s exactly what we like to see. Just be careful you get that hand out of there quick or he’ll probably take a big bite!
Chicago at Tampa Bay (CHI -1.5)
Jon: Tampa Bay (+1.5)
Prince: Tampa Bay (+1.5)
This is an idiotic line in every way conceivable. Tampa Bay not only has a better record, but they had a more impressive performance last week. So what if Chicago beat up on Minnesota? The Viking suck! Even the Chiefs beat them! Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is off taking care of business against an actual contender in the Saints. All I can figure is that the beating Tampa Bay took at the hands of the 49ers is still ringing in peoples ears. If that’s the case, then I can somewhat understand. The truth is that I still don’t quite know what to make of either team as both continue to notch victories despite having bottom of the league passing defenses. That’s not a formula for success in today’s NFL, so my gut tells me neither team is for real. At some point, the Bears aren’t going to get that special teams score they so heavily rely on, and that’s when the wheels fall off. Josh Freeman finally broke out of his funk last week and I’ll happily take the better offensive team at home.
Washington at Carolina (CAR -3)
Jon: Carolina (CAR -3)
Prince: Carolina (CAR -3)
John Beck is starting for the Redskins this week and it’s going to take a lot more than 3 Cam Newton INT’s to drop this one. It doesn’t make a bit of difference to me that Washington has the third ranked scoring defense, because John Beck is that bad. If you can’t beat out Rex Grossman in an open QB competition, then there’s absolutely no hope for you to succeed in the NFL. As for Newton, it will be interesting to see how he responds to his first bad start. As crappy as the Redskins are, they still boast the league’s 3rd ranked scoring defense. This will be a nice test for Newton and an excellent opportunity to get some positive “winning” reps.
Kansas City at Oakland (OAK -3.5)
Jon: Oakland (OAK -3.5)
Prince: Oakland (OAK -3.5)
Carson Palmer, Carson Palmer, Carson Palmer. That’s pretty much the scoop on this game. Given that this is his first game since last year, my guess is they’ll keep things simple with a heavy dose of McFadden and plenty of short, safe routes. Oh wait, that’s pretty much been their offense the entire year. On the podcast, I nearly talked myself into taking Kansas City on the basis of their “improved play.” This sounded good in my head…until Prince pointed out there two wins were over Minnesota and Indianapolis. Touché, Prince! So yeah, Oakland wins big.
Pittsburgh at Arizona (PIT -4)
Jon: Pittsburgh (PIT -4)
Prince: Pittsburgh (PIT -4)
Much like an eclipse, it’s not wise to look directly at Kevin Kolb, lest your eyes be burned out of your skull. Yes, he’s been that bad. As for Pittsburgh, their big breakout is coming very soon. Thanks to some less than impressive performance early in the season, they’re easily the most undervalued team in the league and it would be very unwise to count them out. While their offense is struggling to score points (19.8, 22nd), they’re having no problem putting up yards (373YPG, 10th). And while their defense has been unable to get turnovers (2, 32nd); they’ve had no problem shutting teams down (17.0 PPG, 4th). The most important numbers to keep in mind are the passing Y/A they allow (5.4, 1st) and the passing Y/A they put up (8.2, t-6th). Those have been proven to be the biggest indicators of success in the modern NFL. Basically, every statistic clearly shows the Steelers as a great team that’s down on their luck. Once that luck starts to swing (and it will), watch out.
St. Louis at Dallas (DAL -10.5)
Jon: Dallas (STL +10.5)
Prince: Dallas (STL +10.5)
I’m so terrified of this game that I’m seriously tempted not to watch it. What good could possibly come from it? How happy can I possibly be about beating a winless team? On the other hand, if we lose…well, you may never hear from me again. Getting Brandon Lloyd could prove to be huge, and he should be ready from day one after already playing in Josh McDaniel’s system. Still, the Rams have proven their lack of ability on the offensive line, and DeMarcus Ware should wreak all kinds of havoc. That will end up being the difference in a game that will be much, much closer than it has any business being.
Green Bay at Minnesota (GB -9.5)
Jon: Green Bay (GB -9.5)
Prince: Green Bay (GB -9.5)
Not much to say here. Christian Ponder makes his first start and it comes at a very inopportune time. The Packers secondary has taken a lot of heat for allowing big yards this year, but it’s kind of understandable since the Packers always take huge early leads. What is the other team gonna do, run the clock out? While the yardage totals tell one story, their opponent QB Rating of just 82.0, good for 10th in the league, tells another. I’m not trying to say their pass defense is amazing, but it’s far more solid than it gets credit for, especially when you account for Drew Brees’ opening night rampage. Adding in the fact that they ranked #1 in opponents QB Rating in 2010, this should prove to be waaaaay too tall a task for Christian Ponder to handle in his first start. My guess is this one gets out of hand quick.
Indianapolis at New Orleans (NO -14)
Jon: New Orleans (NO -14)
Prince: New Orleans (NO -14)
Speaking of games getting out of hand quick, take a look at this gem of a Sunday Night game! The only question is how long New Orleans keeps its foot on the pedal, because there’s no doubt they dominate in this one. I’m taking the big line here because I think Painter will turn it over a bunch against the constant blitzing of Gregg Williams.
Baltimore at Jacksonville (BAL -8.5)
Jon: Baltimore (BAL -8.5)
Prince: Baltimore (BAL -8.5)
Well, at least I have Monday night free? That’s pretty much the only silver lining I can find here, as we’re left with yet another crap-fest in the biggest prime time spot of the week. Look, ESPN; you’re gonna need to start putting good games on at some point because, contrary to what you may believe, I don’t tune in to hear Jon Gruden praise every single person on the field and Ron Jaworski talk about “The National Football League.” I WANT GOOD FOOTBALL! This…well, this is kind of the opposite. As bad as Joe Flacco is, Blaine Gabbart is much, much worse. I wouldn’t be shocked if he set some sort of single game INT record in this one. No, seriously, I wouldn’t.