Vinnie hasn’t exactly nailed his over/under picks thus far. Nevertheless here’s your appetizer:
Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers (over/under 41.5 points): The Raiders make their hay, so to speak, by running the football well and occasionally taking shots downfield in the passing game. What’s the No. 1 thing Pittsburgh is able to do defensively, as well as any team in the NFL, week in and week out? Stop the run. Consider Pittsburgh’s woes along its offensive line – injuries galore, poor play here lately. What’s the strength of Oakland’s defense? Its defensive line, anchored by Richard Seymour. Low scoring game here, people.
41.5 total points.
Without further adieu, here are the picks you’ve waited for with bated breath:
Ravens at Carolina Panthers (+10): DeAngelo Williams was just put on Injured Reserve, but then again he’s been absent from the Panthers offense since Week 7. Like last week, fellow running backs Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton appear unlikely to play. This leaves the weight of expectations on second-year pro Mike Goodson, but with journeyman Brian St. Pierre poised to start at quarterback against visiting Baltimore, this game has the makings of a lopsided ending. The Panthers’ defense isn’t as terrible as you would normally associate with the worst team in the NFL, so Baltimore probably won’t be replacing any single-game offensive records. Won’t be needed. Color Vinnie surprised if Carolina scores in the double digits.
Gimme the Ravens minus the points.
Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins (-1.5): This is not an indictment of Tyler Thigpen and his potential to add a little something, perhaps surprisingly, to Miami’s offense. But as of gametime this past Sunday, Thigpen was No. 3 on the Dolphins depth chart at quarterback. He’d probably spent the year running the scout team offense, throwing almost exclusively to backup receivers. Now he faces the unenviable task of leading the Dolphins offense – on a shortened week, mind you – against Julius Peppers and a quality Bears defense, without Jake Long protecting his blind side from the left tackle position. As always the Bears special teams, particularly with Devin Hester as a returner, is a difference maker. Conversely, Miami has struggled in the area of special teams. Hint: these matchups do not bode well for Miami.
Gimme the Bears plus the points. (CORRECT)
Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers (-3): The 49ers have looked like a different team altogether with Troy Smith making himself comfortable as the team’s quarterback for the foreseeable future. The passing game is more of a threat, making things less predictable for defensive coordinators. But Tampa Bay is 3-1 in road games this season and has a multidimensional quarterback of its own in Josh Freeman, whose rapid development has done wonders for his team’s level of competitiveness. A good sign for Tampa Bay’s chances at a playoff run is its ability to run the ball more effectively. Critical factor for San Francisco: can the offensive line be reshuffled in the absence of left tackle Joe Staley to the extent that Smith, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and company continue to move the chains?
Gimme the Buccaneers plus the points.
Arizona Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5): The Chiefs have come into a bit of a slump, but share a division lead with Oakland in the AFC West. With the momentum Oakland and San Diego – merely a game behind them – are riding, the Chiefs need this game. Now for all the passing numbers Matt Cassel compiled playing from behind in the blowout loss at Denver last week, he was about as much the reason Denver put together such a convincing lead early on. Not a great quarterback, Cassel – at least not yet. He won’t have to be to look above average versus Arizona, though, partly because the Cardinals’ defense has been so disappointing to date and partly because receiver Dwayne Bowe can seemingly do no wrong. And then there’s the high likelihood that Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones approach 200 yards on the ground, at home and against the Cardinals porous front seven.
Gimme the Chiefs minus the points.