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The Lineman: Week Five NFL picks


OK, it is not exactly the big week I was looking for but 3-3 at least has the Lineman heading back in the right direction. But catch a look at the Pick of the Week 3-1 (soon to be 4-1). Good tipping to all. Record: 12-12. Last week 3-3 Pick of the Week: 3-1 PICK OF THE WEEK San Diego Chargers (3-1) at Denver Broncos (1-3) (Chargers minus-4.5) Maybe I am one of those guys who keeps banging his head against the wall but for the second time in three weeks I am backing the Chargers as my sure thing. The Bolts let me down when they failed to cover against the Kansas City Chiefs accounting for my only blemish so far on my Lock of the Week. Could I be zapped again here? Perhaps, but 4.5 points seems seriously thin for a Chargers team. that has avoided its traditional stumbling start and finding is finding its stride as travels to Denver to take on the Broncos, who were beaten like a rented mule last week by the Green Bay Packers. The Broncos play much tougher at Mile High and with the exception of the blowout at Green Bay have kept games close, their other three contests all decided by three points or less. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has been a little off target tossing a league high six interceptions but so has Broncos QB Kyle Orton. The difference is, Rivers has the Chargers offense humming averaging a solid 415 yards per game and 313 yards passing. Bolts wide receiver Vincent Jackson has emerged as a serious game breaker averaging 18.7 yards a catch, each one of his grabs going for a touchdown or first down. Running back Ryan Matthews is a double threat out of the backfield with 19 catches. Rivers and company should enjoy a productive day against the Broncos 29th ranked defense that has coughed up nearly 28 points a game. After this game the Chargers have a bye week and should be motivated knowing a win over their AFC West rivals would keep them in top spot in the division until they return to work. So after a Week Three shock, I am re-Charged. Take the Bolts and give up the 4.5. - – - - Seattle Seahawks (1-3) at New York Giants (3-1) (Lines minus-9.5) I very nearly went with the Giants as my lock of the week but I think I actually saw Tom Coughlin smile last week and that, well, it rattled me. Decimated by injuries at the start of the season, the G-Men did not look like they would be a factor in the NFC East but have hung tough and could yet be the class of the division. Giants QB Eli Manning has the mojo going with wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who had a career day last week hauling in 10 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown in New York’s big comeback win over the Cardinals. The New York defense is still rounding into form but has 12 sacks and should have few problems controlling a lifeless Seattle attack that ranks dead last in total offense. The Seahawks travel about as well as Ms. Lineman who needs valium and chardonnay flying to fly to the coast. Certainly, you will find no “I LUV New York” t-shirts in the Seattle locker room. The Seahawks are 1-6 on trips to the Big Apple and where hammered 44-6 on their last visit in 2008. After opening the season with three-of-four games on the road the surging G-Men return home looking for a fourth straight win. It all means Giant problems for the Seahawks. Take the G-Men and give up the 9.5. - – - - Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) at Buffalo Bills (3-1) (Line Eagles minus-2.5) The Dream may be over for the Eagles but not the season. At least not yet. A loss to the Bills on Sunday, however, and the Eagles could be done – cementing a spot in the over-hyped Hall of Fame. Caught in a three game tailspin, the Eagles are without a doubt this season’s biggest disappointment throwing around big money on the free-agent market and handing quarterback Michael Vick a $100 million contract. A $100 million just does not buy what it used to. Statistically there are no glaring areas of concern. The Eagles offence is averaging a respectable 25 points and 434 yards per game (fourth best in the league). Vick has plenty of weapons and is using them, LeSean McCoy fifth in the league in rushing with Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson among the top pass catchers. The Eagles have given up a lot of points but the their pass defense has been adequate and pass rush is tops in the league with 15 sacks. While the Eagles have been one of the biggest disappointments the Bills have been one of biggest surprises going 3-0 including a magical win over the Patriots. But in a loss to the Bengals last week the Bills were exposed for the team they really are – an improving club still a step away from joining the elite. The Buffalo offense led by Ryan Fitzpatrick can put up oodles of points but their defense is near the bottom of the league yielding more than 400 yards a game. The Eagles have made a habit of giving up big leads, the Bills calling card has been big comebacks. This a one is shaping out as a shootout between Fitzpatrick a Harvard grab and Vick, an ex-con. Street smarts say take the desperate Eagles and give up the 2.5. - – - - New York Jets (2-2) at New England Patriots (3-1) (Line Jets plus-9.5) New York, New York, I’m liking the look of both Big Apple teams this week. This could be the most entertaining game of the week, a grudge match between two teams and coaches who don’t like each other whole bunch. The Pats will be looking for a bit of revenge for the Jets knocking them out of the playoffs last year while the 45-3 beat down the New Englanders laid on the New Yorkers last season will not soon be forgotten. Tom Brady is the top ranked quarterback having already tossed for over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns but the Jets own the league’s second ranked pass defense. New England is a bit banged up and could be without players at key positions with linebacker Jerod Mayo, running back Danny Woodhead and tight end Aaron Hernandez all doubtful. But Brady will have plenty of weapons at his disposal including Wes Welker leads the league in receptions (40) and receiving yards (616). The Jets looked horrible losing to the Ravens last week, as quarterback Mark Sanchez was left scrambling for his life. But the New England defense is not nearly as scary as the Ravens and Sanchez should at least have an opportunity to put some points on the board. This one will be decided by the Jets defense. Rex Ryan will blitz Brady all day hoping to force him into making mistakes. Hey, it could happen, he threw four interceptions against the Bills. Brady has won 29 consecutive games at home but not only do I think the Jets cover, I think they could pull the upset here. Jets shoot down Pats? Maybe. But they will cover. Take the Jets and the 9.5. - – - - New Orleans Saints (3-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-3) (Line Saints minus-3.5) I can admit that Cam Newton is having an exceptional rookie season but for some reason I am just not convinced this is a team on the verge of big things. The Panthers have been competitive in every game so far and get a boost from the home crowd but this week they face an improving Saints team that has won three straight and on the march. No shock to see Drew Brees and New Orleans as the second ranked offence averaging 454 yards per game but it was a surprise to see the Panthers right behind them averaging 440 yards. Jump over to the quarterback ratings and same thing, Brees signs in at number two passing for 1,410 yards and there is Newton at number three with 1,386. Despite Newton’s undeniable talent it is still hard to see the Panthers keeping pace with Brees who has a much stronger supporting cast. Newton and wide receiver Steve Smith have chemistry but Brees has more weapons including back field trio of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram that should give Panthers defense fits. For all his gaudy numbers, Newton is still a rookie and prone to rookie mistakes, his five touchdown passes offset by five interceptions. It is also worth remembering the Panthers won just two games a year while the Saints won it all in 2010. Saints march to fourth straight win. Take the Saints and give up the 6.5. - – - - Oakland Raiders (2-2) at Houston Texans (3-1) (Line Texans minus-5.5) Houston will be without injured All Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson but will not need him this week as the Texans go up against a leaky Raiders defense that ranks 30th in points allowed (28.3 per game) and rank 29th in yards allowed (409.8 ypg). Instead , running back Arian Foster, last season’s leading rusher is likely to be the man in the offensive spotlight for the Texans as he gets plenty of work against Oakland’s 28th ranked run defense. Oakland will also be counting heavily on their ground game and running back Darren McFadden, who is tops in rushing with 468 yards. The stingy Houston defense, which ranks fourth allowing an average of just 17.5 points per game, is likely to focus their attention on McFadden while and relentless pass rush that has produced 12 sacks will keep Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell scrambling. The Texans have made a terrible habit of throwing in a clunker just when things seem to be going smooth but with a chance to start a season 4-1 for the first time and playing at home I can’t see them letting this one slip away. Texans get their win. Take Houston and give up the 5.5. Picture: San Diego Chargers defensive back Marcus Gilchrist ® is called for pass interference on Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline (82) as San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32) pulls in the ball during their NFL football game in San Diego, California October 2, 2011.


The Lineman: Week Seven NFL Picks


By Steve Keating That was more like it, a very solid 5-1 effort in Week 6 after a very tough month of average results. Could we be perfect in lucky Week 7? Feels good. Record: 19-17. Last week 5-1 Pick of the Week: 5-1 PICK OF THE WEEK Green Bay Packers (6-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-5) (Lines Packers minus-8.5) Doesn’t it seem a long time ago that Brett Favre was the only storyline that matter in this NFC North rivalry? Now it is rookie Christian Ponder starting at quarterback for the floundering Vikes, who are flatter than the Metrodome roof after a snowstorm. Going against the unbeaten Super Bowl champs is probably not the best way to get your feet wet as an NFL quarterback but the Vikings appear to have given up on Donovan McNabb and will get a chance to see what Ponder can do under fire. Green Bay’s front seven will be driving the Packers Welcome Wagon for Ponder, who will be making his first career start. It might be the Vikings defence, however, that is in for a long day against a Packers offence that is humming along averaging a league best 32.8 points per game. Six games into the season Pack quarterback Aaron Rodger is already getting the MVP nod having thrown a league high 17 touchdowns. The Packers defence also looks to have finally settled in allowing a total of 17 points in their last two wins. Minnesota will try to run the ball but Adrian Peterson is likely to find it tough slogging against the Packers fourth ranked run defence that is yielding an average of 82.8 yards per game. The Packers rarely show their best at the Metrodome and at times this season have eased up when they have had opponents on the ropes. Rodgers called out his team after last week’s lacklustre second half effort against the St. Louis Rams and with a bye week coming up, I expect the Packers to keep their foot on the gas until the final whistle this Sunday. Not much to Ponder here. Christian thrown to the lions. Take the Packers and give up the 8.5. - – - - Baltimore Ravens (4-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) (Line Ravens minus-7.5) Wow, another Monday Night mismatch. First Hank Williams and now this. Ravens have the league’s best defence allowing an average of just 14.2 points per game and the Jags, on a five game losing skid, have the NFL’s worst offence averaging just 260.3 yards per contest. Oh, and they are averaging just 12 points a game as well – second worst behind the Rams. Hard to see why anyone would want to turn in and watch this train wreck unless it’s to see if Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert can survive a night of pounding from Ray Lewis and company. Well, it is getting close to Halloween and this scary matchup should leave you screaming. Take the Ravens and give up the 7.5. - – - - Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) at Arizona Cardinals (1-4) (Line Steelers minus-3.5) I have not had much faith in Pittsburgh this season but thinking it is now time to show the Steelers a little love – especially when the line is a very attractive 3.5 points. Big Ben Roethlisberger is starting to find the target tossing six touchdowns the last two weeks while the Steelers defence is once again playing like the punishing Steelers defence fans expect, surrendering a league low 270.5 yards per game. The Pittsburgh pass defence is also the league’s best allowing just 157.7 yards per game and will have Troy Polamalu back at safety after NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year was knocked out of last week’s game with a suspected concussion. Wide out Larry Fitzgerald is as dangerous as ever and running back Beanie Wells has six touchdowns but the Cards will have trouble moving the ball against a stingy Pittsburgh defence. The Cardinals are a tougher out at home and are coming off a bye week desperate to pull out of a four game tailspin but the Steelers are back and ready to roll. A rematch of the 2008 Super Bowl should produce the same result – a Steelers victory. Take the Steelers and give up the 3.5. - – - - St. Louis Cardinals (0-5) at Dallas Cowboys (2-3) (Line minus-12.5) I can’t remember the last time the Cowboys were 13-point favourites but I think it might have been when Roger Staubach was still quarterbacking America’s team. Current QB Tony Romo is no Staubach but I don’t think he needs to be to hang a big number on the beat up Rams. After tough losses to Detroit and New England the Cowboys get the wobbling Rams at home needing a big win to get back in the playoff chase in the NFC East. The Cowboys wins over San Fran and Washington have come by a combined five points but I expect an erratic Romo to finally put it together against a Rams defence that is giving up an average of 27.4 points and over 400 yards of offence per game – both third worst in the league. As leaky as the St. Louis defence is, the Rams offence is in worse shape averaging a league 9.8 points a game and could be without starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who injured his ankle in last week’s loss to the Packers. All Pro wide receiver Brandon Lloyd obtained in a trade with Denver this week makes his Rams debut but who will get him the ball? Interesting fact, Cowboys last 11 games have been decided by four points or less. Time for a blowout. Ride em Cowboys. Take Dallas and give up the 12.5. - – - - Indianapolis Colts (0-6) at New Orleans Saints (4-2) (Line Saints by 13.5) Like an old girlfriend you can’t let go of, I keep coming back to the Saints only to be brushed off. Ok, this is the last chance, I mean it this time. ItÂ’s hard to figure out why a team with so much talent and an explosive offence cannot impose itself on lesser opponents. Well, they don’t get any lesser than the winless Colts. After losing to Tampa Bay last week, the unhappy Saints return home after three road games ready to lay a beating on Indy. Drew Brees remains the NFL’s second ranked quarterback tossing 2,152-yards and 13 touchdowns and is at the controls of a Saints attack that sits second in total yards (averaging 452 yards per game) and passing yards (344). The Colts 29th ranked defence has allowed an average of 27.2 points providing Brees and the boys a chance to put up some big numbers. Without Peyton Manning calling plays the Indy offence has stalled, averaging just 284-yards per game, second lowest in the league. In two home wins this season the Saints have averaged 35 points. Colts clobbered. Take the Saints give up the 13.5. - – - - San Diego Chargers (4-1) at New York Jets (3-3) (Line Jets plus 1.5) The Jets looked terrible in the first half last week against winless Miami and now have a short week to get ready for the well-rested Chargers, who jet into the Big Apple off a bye week. All the numbers tell me I should be backing the Chargers but my gut is telling me something else – or I could just be hungry. The Chargers have avoided their traditional sluggish start to the season and have looked solid on both sides of the ball ranking near the top of the league in many offensive and defensive stats. But I’m liking the intangibles and an improving Jets defence in this one. Darrelle Revis put on a clinic in the Jets Monday night win over the Dolphins showing why he is the NFL’s number one shut down corner. I don’t expect San Diego to find much success on the other side of the field with former Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie on patrol. The Jets offence and inconsistent form of quarterback Mark Sanchez remains a worry but I am expecting the New York ground game, which ranks second last in the league averaging just 80.8 yards per game, to get untracked behind an inspired effort from LaDanian Tomlinson, the Chargers all-time leading rusher, who will be facing his former team for the first time. All three Jets wins have come at home and the Chargers do not play well on trips to the East coast. This is also a game the New Yorkers must win if they want to stay in the chase in the AFC East with New England and Buffalo. The New Yorkers talk tough and usually back it up with a gritty effort. Bolts get a jolt. Take the Jets and the 1.5. - – - - And with the game in London for the international series, here is the Lineman’s verdict on how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears may go… Should be one of the better ones they have staged in London. It was too close for me to call in my picks but if I was going to take one I would have taken the Bears. There you have it. Picture: Chicago Bears quarterback Nathan Enderle practices at The Oval cricket ground in London October 21, 2011. NFL International Series game will see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Chicago Bears at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday.