It's Week Seven in the NFL and some teams are rolling seven as others get snake eyes. We make picks and offer some takes -
Patriots over NY Jets - Joe Benigno went ballistic on WFAN after the Jets blew it against the Broncos. In subsequent interviews Benigno blames the recent failures on new GM John Idzik Jr. (his dad Idzik Sr. was offensive coordinator for the Jets under Walt Michaels; according to Gerald Eskenazi he would call his players "Galumpkies"), but in reality the blame belongs on Rex Ryan. He came in as a players coach and the inherent lack of discipline of players coaches has only gotten worse, graphically showcased by the botched timeout of coordinator Marty Morningwig in the Packers game. Ryan's bluster is no longer working and we now understand why the Ravens wanted nothing to do with him when they were looking to replace Brian Billick after 2007.
As for the Patriots, despite the injuries of recent they appear to have solved their offensive line problems and their offense may now have the two bookend deep threats (in Brandon Lafell and Brian Tyms) it really hasn't had since the Moss-Stallworth-Gaffney period, this to go with a rejuvinated tight end attack with Gronkowski and Tim Wright.
Bills over Vikings - The Bills showed fight in Terry Pegula's first official game as Buffalo Bills owner, and they get a Vikings team that got waxed in Teddy Bridgewater's return under center.
Ravens over Falcons - The Ravens so far are 1-2 against quality opponents but are fifth in scoring and third in fewest points allowed. They get a Falcons team that's suddenly shown it isn't as good as advertised with nothing in the way of performance against any kind of decent opponent.
Browns over Jaguars - The Browns may have finally found the combination for which their former AFC Central stablemates are still searching.
Panthers over Packers - On paper this appears to be a mismatch in the Packers' favor, as the Panthers are 17th in scoring and 24th in points allowed. But paper matches flame out faster - the Packers have feasted on mediocre teams and nearly blew it against the Dolphins last week while the Panthers have rebounded with a huge comeback over the Bears and the mind-blowing tie at Cincinnati. Aaron Rodgers remains suspect as he's always been when the heat's on while Cam Newton has shown more in the way of clutchness.
Dolphins over Bears
- It's Jay Cutler and he can't sell anyone that he's all that good. The win over the Falcons doesn't change what he is. The Dolphins meanwhile appear to be starting to show credible improvement overall, though becoming a playoff contender remains a distant prospect.
Bengals over Colts - The Bengals answered the questions following the Sunday Night Slaughter in Foxboro by putting up 37 points against the Panthers; the gag job by kicker Mike Nugent doesn't change the Bengals staged a needed rebound. They go to Indianapolis, a team they smashed last season and which is mediocre (again) on defense, but is nonetheless 4-2.
Lions over Saints - Surprisingly the Lions are subpar on offense but very good on defense, and the Saints have been shockingly bad on defense while Drew Brees hasn't been able to stop the bleeding of a 2-3 season so far.
Seahawks over Rams - The home loss to the Cowboys should drive the Seahawks to take down a Rams team they've owned since the 2004 playoff loss. The Seahawks are now in must-win territory with Arizona's surge and the 49ers' surge after a slow start.
Titans over Redskins - The Titans got a needed win last week as their quarterback issue continues. Charlie Whitehurst is not the long-term answer, but people are naturally frustrated Jake Locker's recovery from his thumb injury has been slower than desired. I think Locker will be back sooner than what people presently expect. The Titans meanwhile get a Redskins team that appears in disarray with poor play by Kirk Cousins and what may be struggle by coach Jay Gruden - the scuttlebutt I've heard is he's right now in over his head as an NFL head coach.
Chargers over Chiefs - The Chargers have surged in a big way while the Chiefs have struggled, having beaten only two quality teams (Philly and New England) since signing on Andy Reid. Alex Smith also remains winless in his career against the Chargers. Last year's games were epic, especially the Seyi Ajirotutu game in Kansas City, so it's reasonable to expect a points explosion here.
Cowboys over NY Giants - The Giants are 3-3 and go to Dallas where the Cowboys, to everyone's surprise, have surged into contention. That offense that had surged in three games disappeared entirely last week and it faces a Cowboys squad that's scored at least 30 points in three of their last four contests. Tony Romo and Eli Manning have five INTs apiece - a shocker for the normally-sloppy Romo. The Giants run defense meanwhile allowed 698 yards so far while DeMarco Murray has put up more than that by himself.
Cardinals over Raiders - The Raiders usually play the Chargers tough, so last week's game doesn't indicate some turnaround is beckoning - especially as the Silver And Hack face a surging Arizona team that got Carson Palmer back.
49ers over Broncos - This is where I got back out onto that limb. The idea of Peyton Manning losing to Jim Harbaugh - his predecessor with the Colts - seems absurd. But the Niners offense has begun picking up the last few games and the Niners are sixth in fewest points allowed. The Broncos meanwhile have struggled to seal the deal late in games - outside of the Cardinals game the Broncos haven't been able to put teams away; they've just outlasted them, illustrated by the Aqib Talib pick six against the Jets. The Broncos season also takes a turn for the worse after this game with a Thursday Nighter against San Diego and then the annual Brady-Manning Bowl at the Patriots.
Texans over Steelers - The Steelers are 3-3 as are the Texans, yet they couldn't be more different - the Texans are beginning to surge forward while the Steelers remain stuck in mediocrity and with more voices clamoring for the firing of coordinator Todd Haley. The problems go beyond the infamously hotheaded Haley, though - the Steelers have not been able to build an offensive line and their defense has faltered; the draft magic of the past doesn't appear to be there now.
And so it goes entering Talladega weekend.