Last week was the week I knew was coming, the “falling off a cliff” week. I had been picking well, got a little confident, mentioned my winning percentage, and basically signed my own death warrant. I went 2-6-1 in last week’s picks, thanks to Buffalo’s defense preventing Ahmad Bradshaw’s fourth rushing touchdown and holding the Giants to a late field goal giving me my first push of the year. On the season, I doubled up my losses and now stand at 23-12-1. Not terrible yet, so hopefully I can pull the emergency cord this week and get myself out of free fall. Rob Ryan feels my pain. Picks are in bold.
Georgia Tech @ Miami (-3)
The Yellow Jackets are 6-1 and in first place in the ACC, but have struggled in two conference games after a weak early season non-conference schedule. Tech escaped Maryland 21-16 two weeks ago before falling to Virginia last week 24-21. In the loss, quarterback Tevin Washington completed only 2 of 8 passes for 24 while throwing two interceptions. If the Jackets can get their triple-option run game clicking, they’ll be hard to stop, but Miami has won two straight against Georgia Tech and quarterback Jacory Harris can help the Canes keep pace and overtake Tech. Harris has gone three games without throwing an interception, while throwing for eight touchdowns. Running back Lamar Miller has also rushed for over 100 yards in 5 of the Hurricanes 6 games. Miami wins at home by 9.
USC @ Notre Dame (-9.5)
Since opening the season 0-2, Notre Dame seems to have fixed the turnover issues that haunted them against South Florida and Michigan on their way to winning four straight games, including a 31-13 romp over 15th ranked Michigan State. Their offense is averaging over 450 yards per game and their defense has held opponents to 13 points of fewer in three of their last four games. USC meanwhile has not played any ranked opponents, and their only legitimate opponent, Arizona State, beat them handily 43-22. The Trojans rely heavily on their passing game, which will struggle on the road. Irish win at home by 13.
Wisconsin (-7) @ Michigan State
I bet against Sparty last week and it hurt me, but I’m doing it again because the Badgers are not Michigan. Where Michigan still relies on speed and finesse on offense, which can be disrupted by physical swarming defense, Wisconsin is all power. The Badgers lead the country in scoring at 50.2 points per game and rank eighth in offense with 523 yards per game. The Badgers are currently on a three game losing streak at Spartan Stadium, their only conference loss coming there last season in a 34-24 loss, but this is not the usual Badger offense. In addition to the typical running game, averaging 257 yards per game, their top two running backs averaging over 6-yards per carry, the transfer at quarterback, Russell Wilson, adds a passing element to Badger attack that has not been there in recent years. Wilson has thrown 14 touchdowns to only one interception, and he keys the Badger offense in a big road win. Wisconsin by 10.
Auburn (+21) @ LSU
Auburn has been 3-1 against the spread when I pick them as the underdog. They’re the only college game I got right last week when they beat Florida and I’m going to ride with them again. LSU has been rolling teams, but they enter this game without their top playmaker on defense, Tyrann Mathieu, running back Spencer Ware and backup defensive back Therold Simon, who have all been suspended for failing a school administered drug test. LSU is still stout on defense and they’ll be able to score some points on offense, but theses missing pieces will cause the team to hiccup just a beat, and Auburn will keep it under three touchdowns. LSU wins but only by 14.
Chicago @ Tampa Bay (+1)
The annual London game has come and it sends the Bears and Bucs across the pond to play in Wembley Stadium. Chicago didn’t arrive in London until early today, a decision that I think may cause a bit of jet lag to effect the team’s play. The Bears will be riding high after last week’s throttling of the hapless Vikings, but the Bucs are playing well and they will handle the Bears pressure on defense much better than Donovan did last week. Freeman and the Bucs will take it to the next level in the fourth quarter, as they have this season, minus the trip to San Francisco, and pull ahead of Chicago late. Bucs by 4.
Atlanta @ Detroit (-3)
The Lions come off their first defeat in 2011 and get the Atlanta Falcons at home, a team that many predicted would make a deep run in the playoffs this year. Things haven’t worked out quite like that for Atlanta, however. They sit at 3-3, third in the division, and their explosive offense that they traded up in the draft to get has yet to materialize. Roddy White has regressed, Julio Jones has been hurt and the offense has been inconsistent. More alarmingly, their pass defense ranks 27th in the league, surrendering over 280 yards a game. Look for the Lions and Matthew Stafford to bounce back from last week’s disappointment and eat up big chunks of yards through the air against the Falcons defense. Lions by 11.
San Diego @ New York Jets (+2)
The Chargers have built a 4-1 record with close wins against Minnesota, Kansas City, Miami and Denver (combined four wins). Their one game against a team with a winning record was a loss to New England 35-21. Philip Rivers has been careless with the football, throwing seven interceptions and only six touchdowns. With the extra week off, having to travel across the country and the slight war of words between coaches this week, I see Norv Turner trying to do a little too much with the offense, opening themselves up to the big mistake. Look for the Jets defense to carry the team again, causing turnovers and probably returning another interception for a touchdown. Jets by 12.
Indianapolis (+13.5) @ New Orleans
The Colts are 0-6, yes, and they rank towards the bottom of total offense and defense in terms of yardage, but they have been losing games close since Curtis Painter took over. Starting with the near comeback against the Steelers, the largest margin of defeat for Indianapolis has been 10 points last week against the Bengals and only because Pierre Garcon tried lateraling the ball to nobody towards the end of the game. The Saints are coming off a disappointing performance against Tampa last week, where Drew Brees threw three interceptions and the defense got burned on some long plays by the Bucs. I see Painter hitting one of two long plays himself to keep the Colts within two touchdowns. Saints by 10.
Baltimore (-9) @ Jacksonville
This matchup makes me feel really bad for Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The Ravens have found another gear on defense and they have been eating up opposing quarterbacks while simultaneously stuffing the run. The offense has been a little up and down, but they make enough plays to win games, and they feast on bad defenses like Jacksonville. Maurice Jones Drew gets bottled up and Gabbert has rough night. Ravens by 17.