It’s tight atop the standings of NESN.com’s NFL picks, with each of our three “experts” separated by just one game in the standings. Finally, Week 8 should bring some clarity.
It’s time to separate the men from the boys.
Many of this week’s games are tough to call, with a few evenly matched teams facing off while other matchups featuring clubs headed in opposite directions. There is Peyton Manning looking to keep his celebration rolling against the San Diego Chargers, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens looking to knock off the Cincinnati Bengals at home and the Seattle Seahawks trying to bounce back from last week’s loss to the St. Louis Rams.
Ben Watanabe: 11-4 (58-31-1 on season). Just like his personality, Ben’s picks every week are solid yet unspectacular.
Darren Hartwell: 11-4 (60-29-1). Back in the lead and riding high, but not feeling too confident this week.
Mike Cole: 9-6 (59-30-1). No longer the pacesetter and none too happy about it. He’s been eyeing Darren’s car, key in hand.
San Diego Chargers (5-2) at Denver Broncos (5-1), Thursday, 8:25 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Broncos. Peyton Manning will be the one playing keep-away with the ball this week, although the Chargers won’t be nearly as gleeful about it as he was.
Darren’s pick: Broncos. The only team to beat Denver at home in it’s last 18 regular season games? San Diego. But I’m chicken, so I’m taking the Broncos.
Mike’s pick: Broncos. There’s some sort of a letdown coming for the Broncos — this game is sandwiched between a record-breaking performance and next week’s Patriots game — but the Denver defense has been so good this year. That, and homefield advantage gets the Broncos a W.
Detroit Lions (5-2) at Atlanta Falcons (2-5), Sunday, 9:30 a.m.
Ben’s pick: Lions. Tony Gonzalez delayed retirement last year in hopes of winning a Super Bowl with the Falcons. That actually happened.
Darren’s pick: Lions. The Falcons are usually much better at home, except they’re not really at home (the game is in London), plus they’re terrible right now. Lions win easily.
Mike’s pick: Lions. This game will be a comedy of errors, but the Detroit defense will get a takeaway and a score, which will end up being the difference.
Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Ravens. The Bengals haven’t lost at home yet, but in the last two weeks they have tied and been shut out. They’re a worse team now than they were in Week 1, when they topped Baltimore 23-16.
Darren’s pick: Bengals. The Bengals need a win badly after the Steelers pulled one out Monday night to move to 4-3. If they get A.J. Green back, they find a way to end the losing streak.
Mike’s pick: Bengals. Talk about two teams going in different directions. However, the Bengals need this game badly, and they’re still a good home team.
Houston Texans (3-4) at Tennessee Titans (2-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Titans. There’s talk of Tennessee throwing Zach Mettenberger in at quarterback. Yeah, I’m not really sure why I’m taking the Titans, either.
Darren’s pick: Texans. Speaking of teams in desperate need of a win… If the Texans lose this one, they’re in deep trouble. Plus, the Titans are really bad.
Mike’s pick: Texans. Taking the Texans on a short week on the road here after their Monday night stinker is a reflection on how bad the Titans are more than anything else.
St. Louis Rams (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Chiefs. Austin Davis delivered against the Seahawks, but Kansas City is better than Seattle. So, there you go.
Darren’s pick: Chiefs. Kansas City has been pretty darn impressive over the last few weeks, knocking off the Chargers and Patriots and losing to the Niners by just five points on the road. The Rams are just too inconsistent to pull off another upset here.
Mike’s pick: Chiefs. If Kansas City doesn’t pound the rock on the ground with Jamaal Charles and Kniles Davis against a Rams defense that’s allowing 4.8 yards per carry against, it’s doing it all wrong.
Chicago Bears (3-4) at New England Patriots (5-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Patriots. Injuries are taking their toll on the Pats, but at least they’re not feuding in the locker room (as far as we know). Also, I’m not sure I’d take Chicago’s pass defense against Tom Brady even without internal turmoil.
Darren’s pick: Patriots. The Bears’ bevy of weapons helped them score 14 points against the Miami Dolphins. Sure, the Patriots are banged up, but it takes a lot to beat them at Gillette Stadium.
Mike’s pick: Bears. The Patriots’ defense took another hit with the loss of Chandler Jones, which makes this a poor matchup against a Chicago offense that is due for a bounce-back showing.
Buffalo Bills (4-3) at New York Jets (1-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Jets. Geno Smith has put in two solid starts in back-to-back weeks, and I just can’t believe the Kyle Orton magic is going to continue. (Yes, the threshold for “magic” in sports in low these days.)
Darren’s pick: Bills. The Bills lead the NFL in sacks, and they should have plenty of fun disrupting Geno Smith and the Jets’ woeful passing attack, even one that now includes Percy Harvin.
Mike’s pick: Jets. Buffalo’s run game is now nonexistent, and I think the Jets can gameplan enough to slow down the Orton Express just enough to eek out a win.
Minnesota Vikings (2-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Vikings. I’m petitioning Roger Goodell to just simulate this game so nobody actually has to be subjected to watching it.
Darren’s pick: Buccaneers. Surprised this wasn’t the Sunday night game … but yeah, both of these teams are awful. When in doubt, take the home team.
Mike’s pick: Vikings. The Bucs are awful in just about every facet of the game, and that will be enough to jump-start the woeful Vikings offense. Or at least that’s what I’ve told myself.
Seattle Seahawks (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-3-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Panthers. I’ve been teetering off the edge of the Seahawks bandwagon for weeks, and now I’m taking the plunge, big time.
Darren’s pick: Seahawks. I actually believed the Seahawks players who said they were shell-shocked by the Harvin trade last Sunday. This is not a sub-.500 team, and they’ll prove it Sunday.
Mike’s pick: Seahawks. Still not ready to say the Seahawks are fading, but I am ready to say the Panthers stink on ice.
Miami Dolphins (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Dolphins. Denard Robinson is fun to watch, but the disparity between these teams is still much wider than a Shoelace.
Darren’s pick: Dolphins. I see what Ben did there. I also agree with him. If it weren’t for some late-game heroics from Aaron Rodgers, the Fins would have won their last three games. They should be fine here.
Mike’s pick: Dolphins. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the last three weeks: 72.3 percent completion percentage, 8.5 yards per attempt.
Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) at Arizona Cardinals (5-1), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Cardinals. The Eagles are coming off a bye, but the Cardinals are coming off playing the Raiders, which is basically the same as a bye.
Darren’s pick: Cardinals. Tempted to take the Eagles, but I think Arizona’s run D is too stout for even LeSean McCoy to overcome.
Mike’s pick: Cardinals. Nick Foles is a turnover machine, and the Cardinals are third in turnover ratio this season. That’s not the only reason Arizona will win, but we’re working with limited space here.
Oakland Raiders (0-6) at Cleveland Browns (3-3), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Browns. Guh. The Brian Hoyer Express made an unscheduled stop in Stinkville last week, but it’s chugging right along to Winadelphia once again.
Darren’s pick: Browns. Hopefully Cleveland’s loss the Jaguars is a wake-up call to not take terrible teams lightly, because it gets another one this weekend.
Mike’s pick: Browns. This game will be like the sun: If you stare long at it long enough, you’re going to give yourself some serious problems.
Indianapolis Colts (5-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Colts. No, beating Houston by a touchdown on Monday night will not garner you any extra credit from me, Steelers.
Darren’s pick: Colts. This Colts team is starting to look like a serious contender, while the Steelers are coming off a win against the Texans that kind of felt like a fluke.
Mike’s pick: Colts. The Colts showed me something last week, as their defense was just as good as, if not better than, the offense. They’ll really show me something if they do it two weeks in a row.
Green Bay Packers (5-2) at New Orleans Saints (2-4), Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Packers. If Tom Brady were having the type of season Drew Brees is (11 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 91.7 passer rating), New England fans would be apoplectic.
Darren’s pick: Packers. Came this close to taking the Saints, given their track record at the Superdome. But Rodgers is just a machine right now, and the underachieving Saints defense won’t stop him.
Mike’s pick: Packers. Green Bay doesn’t turn the ball over (first in turnover margin) and is among the least-penalized teams in the NFL. That, plus Rodgers, seems like a good enough recipe to figure out the Saints at the Superdome in primetime.
Washington Redskins (2-5) at Dallas Cowboys (6-1), Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Ben’s pick: Cowboys. The Redskins have to hope their logo gives them a lot of oomph if they want to take down the best team in the NFC.
Darren’s pick: Cowboys. Hey, Washington’s run defense isn’t that bad! Who are we kidding, no one’s stopping DeMarco Murray. This is a good night to catch up on some sleep.
Mike’s pick: Cowboys. I laughed out loud at the idea of Colt McCoy going into Dallas and winning on “Monday Night Football.”
Photo via Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports Images
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