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Week 7 NFL Picks

Peyton Manning’s homecoming kicked off with a slap to the face from Colts owner Jim Irsay. Will Manning move to 7-0 at the Colts expense? Elsewhere, Reggie Bush is really good, don’t sleep on Alex Smith, and an Eagles/Cowboys showdown matters again.

Last Week:  12 – 3 – 0
Season:      57 – 35 – 0

Not Wearing Pink (Bye Week)

Raiders
I’m still in on Terrelle Pryor. Last week was all part of the growing process. I mean, what young quarterback hasn’t faced a 3rd and 48 in his young career? We’re learning here, folks. (I can’t wait for the Raiders to screw up their 2014 draft by taking a QB in the 1st round. Or, they’ll screw it up by not taking a QB in the 1st round. It won’t matter what route they choose, it’ll be the wrong one.)

Saints
Still the best team in the NFC, and that’s despite an offense that, outside of Jimmy Graham, hasn’t been as dominant as what we’re used to from Drew Brees and the Saints. If you’re looking for the Panthers or Falcons to make a run at the NFC South, there’s not much hope for you. However, if you’re a dreamer, the Saints toughest stretch of the season starts November 10. It’s a five game run that has the Saints hosting Dallas and San Francisco before traveling to Atlanta and Seattle and then returning home for Carolina. It’s not a murderers’ row but it’s the bumpiest road of the Saints cupcake schedule.

Thursday Recap

Seahawks 34 at Cardinals 22
The final score was closer than the game. Seattle dominated from the get go. If not for a few self-inflicted wounds, the Seahawks may have won by 30. My favorite play of the night: Larry Fitzgerald blind-siding Richard Sherman as Michael Floyd cut back across the field. That actually wasn’t my favorite part of the play. It was what happened afterward. Fitzgerald went and checked on Sherman and Sherman harbored no ill will. It was business, but there was respect. Also, Fitzgerald deserves praise for hitting Sherman hard enough to end his pursuit of Floyd but not hard enough to end his night or worse, his season. It was obvious Fitzgerald could have packed a whole lot more punch in that block. Anyway, that was an impressive road win against a division opponent after a lackluster showing four days earlier in Seattle.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Buccaneers at Falcons
Blowing 4th quarter leads to the Dolphins and Jets ruined Atlanta’s season. I don’t get why they didn’t fire Mike Smith over the bye week. The Falcons aren’t making the playoffs. If you could characterize this team with one word, what would it be? In my opinion… Soft. They tail off in the 4th quarter. Even when they rally back they often come up short. The Falcons have the talent but lack the toughness to be a title contender. It’s why the Seahawks nearly bullied them out of the playoffs, and it’s why the 49ers succeeded a week later. There’s two ways to change the culture of a locker room. You can’t get rid of 52 players, but you can get rid of one coach. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -7

Bengals at Lions
Remember the 2006 NFL Draft? Mario Williams went one, Reggie Bush went two and the world nearly melted because the Texans passed on Bush. After a few seasons, it flip-flopped and Williams was the NFL all-pro and Bush was the crazy athletic back who never quite figured out the NFL, at least not in New Orleans. I think it’s flipped again. Williams is now in Buffalo fading into obscurity as the Bills are mired in mediocrity, and Bush is a brand new player in Detroit. Don’t get me wrong, Williams is still a fine player (8 sacks through six games, including 4.5 against Carolina), but he’s not impacting his team the way Bush is. Bush has made the Lions offense a legitimate terror. Bush ranks 8th in the league in total yards and all seven players in front of him have six games under their respective belts. Bush has five. Furthermore, if you remove the kick and punt return stats from the equation, Bush is ranked 6th in the NFL in total yards. Also, I still refuse to pick the Lions against good teams as long as Jim Schwartz is their coach. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals +3

Bills at Dolphins
This is a make-or-break week for the Dolphins. I know they’re 3-2 but dropping to 3-3 after what would be a third straight loss would be devastating, especially once you consider Miami’s upcoming schedule; @NE, CINC, @TB, SD, CAR. That’s four tough games in a five-week stretch. Their loss to Baltimore in Week 5 will haunt them come playoff tiebreaker time. Also, if you have time, get to know Kiki Alonso, your 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins -8

Patriots at Jets
Fascinating, yet mostly pointless stat of the week: 34 quarterbacks have started and finished an NFL game over Weeks 5 and 6, and only two have thrown fewer touchdowns than Tom Brady; Alex Smith, and the pick six master, Matt Schaub. Rob Gronkowksi can’t get healthy fast enough. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -4

Cowboys at Eagles
The Eagles surrender 29.8 points per game. The Cowboys score 30.5 per game. Does anyone else think this isn’t going to end well? Though, with DeMarcus Ware out, the chances of an Eagles win improve dramatically. Nick Foles is also an improvement over Michael Vick, at least in my opinion. Foles reads the field better, has a better pocket presence, and isn’t prone to devastating turnover binges like Vick. Bad news for Eagle fans: The Eagles haven’t won a home game in over a year. They’re 0-8 since beating the Giants in Week 4 of 2012. Regardless, I’m super excited because this is the biggest Eagles/Cowboys clash since 2009. (You know, when the Eagles got smoked two weeks in a row by the Cowboys, essentially ending the Donovan McNabb era.) The world is a better place when Eagles/Cowboys match ups matter. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys +2.5

Bears at Redskins
Robert Griffin III is quickly rising through the ranks on my personal, “most annoying, whining athlete list.” Right now he’s surpassed Dwyane Wade but just below Blake Griffin. I don’t want to pick the Bears but I can’t think of a single reason I can pick the Redskins outside of Alfred Morris rushing for 250 yards. BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Pick ‘em

Rams at Panthers
Carolina has consistently been inconsistent this season. Week 1 was a good showing. Week 2 they fell apart in the 4th quarter. Week 3 was dominant. In Week 5 (after their bye) they were a mess in Arizona. Week 6 they were dominant again. The Rams are on a little roll right now, so there’s no room for error from Cam Newton and the Panthers. If they’re serious about the playoffs, they need to start a run right now. (This line is too high. I hate that I’m taking the Panthers.) PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; -6

Chargers at Jaguars
The Chargers will win but expect an ugly outing after the short week and early Sunday start. If I’m to take the Chargers as an AFC Wildcard contender, I need a convincing win here. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Jaguars +7.5

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

49ers at Titans
The titans hung tight with both the Chiefs and Seahawks over the past two weeks. It’s a shame their starting cornerback went down during the toughest stretch of their schedule. Tennessee is a good football team that can’t win because its quarterback won’t let them. In other words, they’re the Arizona Cardinals of the AFC. The Titans are due for a win over a good team, but I can’t take Ryan Fitzpatrick against a good defense. Get well sooner, Jake Locker. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers -4

Browns at Packers
With every passing week the Browns front office looks better and better. Trent Richardson’s rushing stats by week since being shipped to Indianapolis for a first round pick:

Week 3: 13 rushes, 35 yards, 2.7 average, TD
Week 4: 20/60, 3.0, TD
Week 5: 18/56, 3.1
Week 6: 10/40, 4.0

I’m gonna say that’s not first round pick production. In fact, I’d bet there’s 20 running backs NOT starting in the NFL who could be plugged into any offense and produce those numbers. The Richardson trade is Cleveland’s biggest football win in over a decade. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -10

Texans at Chiefs
Since the start of the 2012 season, Alex Smith has started 15 games. His record in those games? 12-2-1. He’ll never be Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but the Ravens won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer and a great defense. The Bears reached the Super Bowl with a great defense and Rex Grossman. I’m not buying the “Alex Smith won’t get it done in the playoffs” knock against the Chiefs. Andy Reid is a brilliant game planner and his defense is second to none in the NFL. If the Chiefs can split with the Broncos, there’s a very real chance they head into January as the AFC’s top seed. (FYI: The Texans are starting Case Keenum Sunday. His NFL stats to date: 0, 0, 0, 0. The Kansas City defense hasn’t stopped drooling since Keenum was declared the starter.) CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -6.5

Ravens at Steelers
Normally one of my favorite games of the season, but with Ray Lewis gone and the Steelers severely diminished, it’s lost a lot of its luster. It’s interesting that both teams pride themselves on being tough, physical football teams, because neither can run the football with any proficiency. The Steelers rank 31st in rushing yards per game. The Ravens rank 27th. I’m not sure how I feel about living in a world where the Browns and Bengals are the toughest teams in the AFC North. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens +1

Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)

Broncos at Colts
Jim Irsay is right. Super Bowl titles matter more than “star wars” statistics and achievements. Jim Irsay is also an idiot. His franchise isn’t what it is today if it weren’t for Peyton Manning. The Colts wouldn’t be in beautiful Lucas Oil Stadium if it weren’t for Manning. For Irsay to take a shot at Manning the week of Manning’s homecoming is immature and foolish. Manning did far more for Irsay than Irsay could ever do for Manning. Manning has never said one negative thing about the Colts. Nor would he. Why attack him now? This whole ordeal confuses me. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -6.5

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Vikings at Giants
ESPN must be thrilled with their draw this week. Two teams with a combined 1-10 record often make for high ratings. After last week’s field goal snooze fest in San Diego, I think I may sit this one out. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -3.5

*****

If I were Charles Barkley…
Last Week: 6 – 9 – 0
Season:    39 – 49 – 4


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