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We provide the best and most educated National Football League picks based on relevant statistic and resources, along with: key injuries, Historical results, and accurate comparisons.
Thursday Night Football, October 17 8:25 PM ET – TV: NFL Network
Seattle Seahawks 5-1 @ Arizona Cardinals 3-3
Trying to contain a running back like Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch is a difficult task at hand. The Cardinals defense is one of the best at stopping the run, ranked 5th in the league. Lynch can do it all as runner, a valuable asset that makes Seattle’s offense sustain drives by carrying the load and catching out of the backfield. Last week, Lynch scored two touchdowns with 77-yards rushing and 78-yards receiving. Todd Bowles, Arizona’s defensive coordinator knows his group must focus in on stuffing the run by gang-tackling the powerful Lynch, and he also knows that his group needs to keep the swift feet of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson from escaping the pocket, making big-plays on the run to move the chains. The Seahawks get tight end Zach Miller (Hamstring) back, a tight end that may not put up eye-catching numbers, but Miller is a valuable target that Wilson’s been missing over the last three weeks. The Cardinals offense uses two running backs, rookie Andre Ellington, a shifty style of runner that’s an option out of the backfield for Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, and Rashard Mendenhall to get the hard-fought yardage. Palmer and star-receiver Larry Fitzgerald connected big last week in San Francisco, but this Thursday will be more challenging for them with Richard Sherman, a top cornerback physical enough to man up on Fitzgerald. That’s who Arizona needs to be game for this matchup, and if Carson Palmer can prove to me that he can play mistake-free football, I’d like Arizona’s chances, but I don’t see that happening. Pick: Seahawks 23, Cardinals 16
Score: Seahawks (6-1) 34, Cardinals (3-4) 22
Sunday, October 20
1:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-5 @ Atlanta Falcons 1-4 – TV: FOX
I never would’ve thought the Falcons would sitting at 1-4 heading into week 7, but you can make a strong case with a slew of injuries across the board they’ve suffered has been the major cause of their deficiencies. Steven Jackson (Hamstring) most likely won’t be lined up in the Falcons backfield, receiver Roddy White (Ankle) has been nothing more than a decoy on the field, linebackers Akeem Dent (Ankle) and Sean Weatherspoon (Foot) have been missing in action on defense, and to make matters worse than they’ve already been, receiver Julio Jones (Foot) is done for the remainder of the season. The Falcons may have the better hand at home this weekend, however. Tampa Bay has been dealing with an ongoing list of distractions. They have a quarterback, Mike Glennon that’s trying to prove his worth as a future franchise quarterback. Glennon got on track last week as he connected with receiver Vincent Jackson twice for scores, but the Buccaneers still ended up on the losing side of things. Glennon is surely the focal point going forward for the Buccaneers franchise, but the Falcons, a team that’s struggling and not meeting expectations still have a sure hand at quarterback with Matt Ryan, the quarterback that will have the better game in front of his home crowd.
Pick: Falcons 21, Buccaneers 17
Cincinnati Bengals 4-2 @ Detroit Lions 4-2 – TV: CBS
The mark of a good offense is an offense that finds a formidable way of scoring touchdowns. Some teams have the offensive line and running back that can punch it in, but Detroit will surely score most of their points through the air, and quarterback Matthew Stafford has found a key target, rookie tight end Joseph Fauria, who has five touchdown grabs, including two last week on the road in Cleveland. Defenses will now focus in on that factor, and that will leave more opportunities for Stafford’s arm to have other options singled up in the redzone. On the other hand, the Bengals need more consistency from their offense. Quarterback Andy Dalton silenced some of his critics last week with a good performance on the road. Dalton threw for 337-yards connecting with receiver A.J Green six times and score in route to their 27-24 overtime win at Buffalo. Dalton and the Bengals offense will be facing a Lions defense with a solid D-line that can rush the passer, a vital aspect that’s helped the backend of their defense register 10-interceptions, tied for 1st in the league. That factor of Detroit’s defense should have Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden focusing in on establishing the running game to keep Dalton out of third and long situations. The Bengals have a good D-line of their own, but when you have a shifty runner like Reggie Bush that can run outside the tackles, catch the defense off-guard on draws and catch screen-passes, you get the D-line working from side to side. That’s what I like Detroit’s offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to do here. They’ll do some, but not lots of running up the gut. They’ll utilize Bush’s speed to work the Bengals D-line and linebackers, and Calvin Johnson (Knee) will be more than just a decoy this week. Don’t forget, we are still living in a world full of Mega-Things with only one Megatron living in it.
Pick: Lions 30, Bengals 26
Buffalo Bills 2-4 @ Miami Dolphins 3-2 – TV: CBS
Off their bye week, the Dolphins get back two important pieces of their defense. Cameron Wake (Knee) is participating in team drills, and cornerback Dimitri Patterson (Groin) was also sited back at work. Wake played just one series against Baltimore, but will be a full-go against Buffalo’s Thad Lewis, E.J. Manuel’s replacement at quarterback. Lewis managed himself well throwing two touchdown passes in a losing effort against the Bengals. He was also sacked five times in that effort. Miami’s front on the defensive line is capable of generating pressure, and with Wake back in the lineup, things look more promising for them to pressure Lewis against a rocky Bills offensive line. Miami’s rushing attack can use more fuel to get the Jets of running back Lamar Miller’s legs going, but Buffalo’s secondary has been putrid, and they’re extremely susceptible to allowing deep-balls. This is the week Mike Wallace and Ryan Tannehill, who are starting to get into rhythm, go over the top a couple of times to take advantage of a weak Bills secondary.
Pick: Dolphins 27, Bills 17
New England Patriots 5-1 @ N.Y. Jets 3-3 – TV: CBS
The first time both squads hooked up on Sept. 12, the Jets defense gave their team a chance by allowing only 13-points on the road. Tom Brady and the Patriots offense were clearly out of sync then, but this time around, Brady has a receiver that he’s building chemistry with. That receiver is Kenbrell Thompkins, who caught the game winning touchdown in the closing seconds against New Orleans. Thompkins leads the team in touchdown receptions with four, and the receiver with the most receptions on the team is Julian Edelman with 41. Aside from gaining some continuity, the Patriots would still like tight end Rob Gronkowski (Forearm) back in the lineup. Danny Amendola suffered a concussion against New Orleans making him listed as questionable, and Gronkowski has been cleared by doctor James Andrews. All things pointed last week that the star tight end will be ready for this week, and it looks like we’ll see him in action this weekend. The Jets defensive front is one of the biggest and most fearsome groups in the league, and they need to bring all of their ammunition to attack Brady in the pocket to disrupt his immaculate timing. New York’s offense may be perceived as Geno Smith being the focal-point, but running back Bilal Powell is the key part of the Jets offense. He helps sustain drives by gaining positive yardage on first down to help setup third and shorts for Smith and the Jets passing game that lacks receivers to stretch defenses, vertically. Chris Ivory should see more work in the Jets backfield with Mike Goodson (Knee) gone for the remainder of the season. I like New York’s chances using a mixture of Powell and Ivory like they did in their first meeting, but when it comes down to passing downs, Tom Brady is the more likable passer to convert on third down. Mainly, I’d expect coach Belichick and Brady to hound the offense this week during practice that they need to be prepared better this time around, and I think they will.
Pick: Patriots 30, N.Y. Jets 20
Dallas Cowboys 3-3 @ Philadelphia Eagles 3-3 – TV: FOX
Familiar faces between both squads will be missing in action. The Cowboys will most likely be without All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Ware (Thigh Strain), even though he’s told the media this week that he’ll be a game-time decision. DeMarco Murray (Knee), a vital part of the Cowboys’ offense will be out, Miles Austin (Hamstring) is listed as probable, but head coach Jason Garrett admitted last week that Austin isn’t up to game speed on the field. The Eagles will start Nick Foles for the second straight week at quarterback with Michael Vick (Hamstring) ruled out. Foles led the Eagles to victory when replacing Vick against the Giants in week 5, and dissected Tampa Bay’s defense last week. The Cowboys secondary has given up a good chunk of yardage, and I’d expect Foles and the Eagles passing-attack to take chances downfield. They can do this if running back LeSean McCoy gets into a grove early on in the game. The Cowboys statistically have been good against the run, but from what I’ve seen thus far, the tackling has been porous, particularly on the edges, and the Eagles like to attack that with the speedy McCoy running the football. The key for Dallas’ offense to have success on the road will be the number called upon rookie running back Joseph Randle and Philip Tanner in a supporting role to be able to help pass-protect Tony Romo when the Eagles blitz on defense. Murray being out is a real stinger. He gets the hard fought yardage and is an option out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. Tanner is the more power-runner and Randle has a little more spurt to make plays in the open field, but I’m not confident in the other areas of being effective like Murray has. That’s the difference in this matchup to me. The Eagles have things in place to run the football effectively to keep Foles out of third and longs in a game that looks like a shootout to be, but then turns out to be an NFC East slobber-knocker.
Pick: Eagles 24, Cowboys 20
Chicago Bears 4-2 @ Washington Redskins 1-4 – TV: FOX
Washington’s defense remains suspect at getting burned in the secondary, and they get Chicago’s two big-bodied receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to deal with this weekend. How can the Redskins stop Chicago’s big-play ability? The need pressure upfront from their pit-bull nose tackle Barry Cofield. Cofield is the key to success for Washington’s defense for Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo to get consistent pressure on the edges. Cofield is a big body that lines up over the opposition’s center in their base defense, and is used as an interior force in sub-packages when Orakpo and Kerrigan are used as ends. They’ll need to pressure Cutler in the pocket, and stopping Bears running back Matt Forte will be another key challenge as the Bears like to run between the tackles. Robert Griffin III is moving better than he was in his first few games, but what Washington really needs to start developing is the play-action pass. Alfred Morris has been effective running the football, but the big-plays they got off of establishing the run with the read-option last year is still awaiting for them in 2013. The Giants ran the ball well with Brandon Jacobs, over 100-yards and two scores against Chicago in week 6. New York moved the sticks other than Eli Manning throwing a pick-six, and a decisive interception. The Bears only have 8-sacks as a unit on defense, but 17 takeaways and four scores. The key in this matchup will be what defense will buckle down in the redzone and hold its opponent to field goals instead of touchdowns. The Bears have more favorable matchups with Marshall and Jeffery singled up on the outside, and a tight end like Martellus Bennett that’s been a solid option for Jay Cutler on passing downs.
Pick: Bears 27, Redskins 23
St. Louis Rams 3-3 @ Carolina Panthers 2-3 – TV: FOX
Rams rookie running back Zac Stacy (Chest) has brought balance to the Rams offense in their two-game win-streak. He resumed back to practice fully this week, and looks ready to go. It’ll be important to have him in the lineup against a speedy Panthers defense that gets after the ball-carrier. Quietly, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is playing much better in the shadows. He’s completing about 60 percent of his passes, and has 13-touchdown passes and only 3-interceptions. So, you have a quarterback that’s taking care of the football, but still needs bigger plays from his arm in the passing game. Rookie receiver Tavon Austin hasn’t been anything spectacular up to this point, and has been taken out of offensive packages. The Rams have been using double tight-end sets with Lance Kendricks and Jared Cook, and receivers Chris Givens and Austin Pettis as the prime targets split wide. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is managing the game much better than he did the previous season. He’s making better decisions with the football by not forcing the issue. He’ll always use his feet to escape pressure, but what has been thrown into the fold this year is the deep-ball. Ted Ginn and Brandon Lafell are making big-plays in the passing game, and running back DeAngelo Williams has been effective carrying the football, averaging 4.3-yards per carry. The offense hasn’t been stuck in third and longs due to gaining positive yardage on first and second downs, and the results are turning out for the better. But, this matchup comes down to which defense can slow down the oppositions running game, and did you see Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis last week, who earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors? He had 2-sacks and 10-tackles in Minnesota last week. He’s a longtime veteran that’s overcome a string of injuries recently, and he’s setting a great example to the youngsters of the Carolina defense. They’ll put Bradford in lots of long-distance passing downs, while Newton and the Panthers will be more efficient.
Pick: Panthers 27, Rams 19
San Diego Chargers 3-3 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 0-6 – TV: CBS
There’s always some kind of shed of light in the darkest places. The darkness in the life of being a Jacksonville Jaguar is the realization that wins won’t come in any shape or form of being looked upon as anything promising in the near future. But, everyone needs to take a glimpse at second-year receiver Justin Blackmon in his lone two games since returning from suspension. Blackmon’s line of work: 19-catches, 326-yards and a score. He’s coming off a 14-catch, 190-yard performance against the Broncos, a game Jacksonville played much better than expected. That’s what the Jaguars have going for them in the future, a talented receiver they can build around. Blackmon (Hamstring) has been limited in practice, but signs are pointing that he’ll suite up this week. As for the hot and cold Chargers, they have a young and talented rookie receiver coming off a 9-catch, 107-yard performance in the teams win over the Colts on Monday. The Chargers drafted Keenan Allen in the 3rd round to give Philip Rivers a young target with potential to be a true number one option at receiver. I expect his targets to increase as the weeks go on, and I like the way Philip Rivers is playing within head coach Mike McCoy’s system coordinated by Ken Whisenhunt on the offensive side of things. Jacksonville’s defense is feisty, but I don’t see them cooling off the red-hot Rivers who’s completing over 70 percent of his passes. Why? He’s getting rid of the football much quicker than yester-year. That’s the major positive influence that McCoy and Whisenhunt have stamped on Rivers’ back.
Pick: Chargers 30, Jaguars 16
4:05 PM ET
San Francisco 49ers 4-2 @ Tennessee Titans 3-3 – TV: FOX
Tight end Vernon Davis and receiver Anquan Boldin have been Colin Kaepernick’s main targets, especially when connecting in the endzone. Davis has 6 and Boldin has 2 touchdown catches, rounding out all eight of quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s touchdown passes. The 49ers expect Michael Crabtree (Achilles) back next month, while Mario Manningham’s return seems closer from a knee injury. The 49ers still have a running game in place behind Frank Gore carrying the load through open lanes created by a mean and physical 49ers offensive line. Tennessee’s defense has been fairly well against the pass, and has generated a good deal of pressure upfront against opposing offenses. On the offensive side of the ball, Tennessee isn’t getting the explosive runs they need out of running back Chris Johnson, a key-factor of the passing game not being able to open up. Jake Locker (Hip) has been cleared for contact and hasn’t officially been ruled out, but I still don’t like Tennessee’s chances to be able to do much against San Francisco’s defense with locker or Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. The 49ers defense will focus in on not allowing Chris Johnson to break free into the open field, and offensively, they’ll continue to ground and pound it with Frank Gore. Ultimately, Kaepernick has the ability to extend plays against a solid pass-rush to help the 49ers punch it in when in the redzone.
Pick: 49ers 27, Titans 15
4:25 PM ET
Cleveland Browns 3-3 @ Green Bay Packers 3-2 – TV: CBS
With receivers James Jones (Knee) and Randall Cobb (Fibula) off the field, the Packers turned to rookie running back Eddie Lacy on the ground, and a deep-ball touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson in route to their hard-fought 19-17 win on the road in Baltimore. Jones is listed as questionable, but signs indicate that he’ll be absent from action. Cobb will be out for a significant amount of time, and the Packers are turning to Jarrett Boykin to be the teams number two wideout if Jones can’t get the go. I was impressed by the Packers defense last week without Clay Matthews rushing the passer. They sacked Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco five times and held the Ravens rushing attack in check, only 47-yards allowed. Cleveland’s offense has a dynamic receiver in Josh Gordon that is getting better week by week. Gordon is mostly known as a deep threat, but the receiver is proving to be more than just that by catching intermediate route passes as well. Tight end Jordan Cameron is making a strong case for Pro Bowl voters to take notice, an option for Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden to move the chains on third down. Cleveland is going to need a burst from running back Willis McGahee. 37-yards rushing like he had last week against Detroit isn’t going to cut it for the Browns offense to win at Lambeau. Aaron Rodgers may be the “Big-Cheese” around Green Bay, but taking a good look at rookie running back Eddie Lacy getting his number called 20-plus times over the last two weeks, and hitting around the century-mark with 99-yards rushing against the Lions, and then 120 on the road in Baltimore, tells me the Packers have found another key element for an offense that already sports a prolific passing attack. Ultimately, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers will throw a safety over the top on Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, the Browns only serious deep-ball threat.
Pick: Packers 28, Browns 17
Houston Texans 2-4 @ Kansas City Chiefs 6-0 – TV: CBS
Talk about getting thrown to the Wolves. With struggling starting quarterback Matt Schaub (Ankle) out, head coach Gary Kubiak has elected to go with third stringer Case Keenum over T.J. Yates. And who are the Wolves that Keenum is getting thrown to? Kansas City’s outside linebackers Justin Houston, 9.5-sacks, Tamba Hali, 6.5-sacks, defensive tackle Dontari Poe, 4.5-sacks and middle linebacker Derrick Johnson, a dynamite run-stopping ball-hawk. That group has been a nightmare for opposing offenses, a group that’s been the ultimate reason for their defense leading the league in sacks with 30. Coach Kubiak knows that running back Arian Foster (Hamstring) needs to suck up the soreness. Foster will play, but he’s also going to need his change-of-pace running back Ben Tate to be much more effective than he was last week. Time in the pocket against the Chiefs defense is very slim, and Houston’s offensive line better bring their boxing gloves to the ring, otherwise chances of moving the sticks go down in the dumps. Without question, J.J. Watt and the Texans defense will come to fight, but getting after Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is seemingly impossible. Kanas City’s offensive line has been outstanding on buying him time and getting a push off the ball with their smash-mouth style of play. That’s what it takes to slow down Houston’s pass-rush, a physical grind-them-out O-line with Jamaal Charles carrying the rock, and a precise-ran west coast passing system being operated like a well-oiled machine, gaining yards methodically to wear out a defense.
Pick: Chiefs 27, Texans 13
Baltimore Ravens 3-3 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 1-4 – TV: CBS
When Ravens running back Ray Rice doesn’t produce, the Ravens offense sputters. Rice is only averaging 2.8-yards per attempt. The offensive line hasn’t been able to get a push to create running lanes, and as a result, the Ravens offense isn’t sustaining drives, something far from what last year’s championship team was able to do for the most part of the season. This week, Rice and the Ravens offense face a Steelers defense coordinated by the legendary Dick Lebeau. Safety Troy Polamalu is healthy, a vital part for LeBeau’s defense to have success. Lebeau will bring Polamalu down in the box on third and shorts to help stuff the run, and you can bank on some blitzes heading towards Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. This game has the making of a slobber-knocker written all over it. You have both teams with issues on the offensive line, struggling running games, but the Ravens defense has been much better at getting after the quarterback. They’ve tallied 22-sacks, 3rd best in the league, and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 19-times. I’m not expecting Rice to run wild on the Steelers defense, but one of the key traits to a running back like Ray Rice’s game is his ability to pick up the blitz. That’s the difference to me in this contest. The offense that slightly has more sugar in the punch to protect the quarterback, and the Steelers running game has to show me some form of life. Not one runner has reached the century-mark this season, and that’s not Steelers football.
Pick: Ravens 19, Steelers 13
Sunday Night Football in America 8:30 PM ET – TV: NBC
Denver Broncos 6-0 @ Indianapolis Colts 4-2
With his Super Bowl ring flicked up on his right hand, Colts team owner/CEO Jim Irsay gave his slice of pizza to the media this week on the departure of Peyton Manning to Denver: “Tom Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these,” Irsay said. “Pittsburgh had two, the Giants had two, Baltimore had two and we had one. That leaves you frustrated. You make the playoffs 11 times, and you’re out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Mostly, you love this.” Broncos head coach John Fox feels that Irsay’s comments were a “cheap shot” to his starting quarterback that’s ripping defenses to pieces, and he has all the ammunition aligned to do things majorly humiliating to any defense. Manning’s been keeping his cool in the “comment-realm” in response to Irsay and Fox’s remarks. Why does Peyton have to talk anyways? It all takes place on the field, and as good as the future looks for Andrew Luck and the Colts, it takes time to earn the right to put on “Jordan-Shoes” to walk the walk. And if you don’t think in the slightest that Peyton doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder for this one, you better wake up and smell the coffee. Game on America, number 18 is bringing his “Air-Jordan’s” to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Pick: Broncos 48, Colts 33
Monday Night Football, October 21 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
Minnesota Vikings 1-4 @ N.Y. Giants 0-6
The time is Josh Freeman time in Minnesota, a time for him to begin a new chapter to try and save the Vikings search for a franchise quarterback. Freeman’s days in Tampa Bay started off on the right foot until bright and sunny days turned into dark and cloudy due to a divorce-like setting between him and coach Schiano. He begins his new chapter against the struggling Giants, the most shocking bad start of any team as we near the halfway point of the season. New York’s defense has been dreadful, and the formally known top –rated pass-rushers of Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck have been silent. The New York defense has only registered 5-sacks, and opposing quarterbacks are tearing their secondary to shreds. That could be a break that Freeman catches here against a non-existent pass-rush, but that’s not what the Vikings offense is circulated around. The main-man that makes the Vikings offense go is running back Adrian Peterson, the best in the game, and that’s what the Giants defense will have to contain in this matchup. New York’s offensive line has been a mess as well in protecting Eli Manning, but the Giants turned to running back Brandon Jacobs (Hamstring) in a losing effort in Chicago, a game Jacobs ran for over 100-yards and 2-touchdowns. The team also signed Peyton Hillis, a back that had over 1,000-yards and 11-touchdowns for the Browns in 2010. Jacobs has been practicing, and should be ready to go Monday. Hillis may get some action too. That’s what I like going for New York, a balanced attack that can take the pressure off of quarterback Eli Manning that is due to connect big with receiver Victor Cruz. Salsa dances anybody?
Pick: N.Y. Giants 27, Vikings 24
Bye: Oakland Raiders 2-4, New Orleans Saints 5-1
You can follow Massimo Russo on Twitter @NFLMassimo and SilverandBlueReport.com @SilverBlueRpt