A 7-7 week may not seem very impressive, but some of you were surprised to find out that those seven wins were enough to take home at least a share of your office pool. You see, while seven wins is naught more than a mediocre showing in most cases, it was enough to best Vegas by two full games and keep these Winners in the top 0.5% of the world.
Through six weeks, the picks posted here are 58-33 and, while 63.7% may sound a bit underwhelming on the surface, consider that the odds-on favorites have only gone 51-40. For the first time in NFL history, underdogs have won 40 games through six weeks, and we've successfully picked enough correct underdogs that we hold a decisive edge over those who make their livings setting the betting lines.
All of that being said, seven wins in a week is not what Jacson's Winners are all about, so let's move on this week's picks and put this chapter of mediocrity behind us.
Look, Thursday, I don't even know what to do with you anymore. In four of the six weeks (including the Wednesday night opener), you've made me look foolish right off the bat. To compound things, this is a 'Hawks game, which only further muddies my analytical waters. Vegas is predicting San Fran by 7, based largely, no doubt, on the fact that coming off of losses, Jim Harbaugh's team has won their next games by a combined score of 93-11 (!). That's an average final of 23-3. I'll take Seattle to cover that spread, and I'll take the under (league-low +/- of 38), but I'm picking the Niners to win.
For the only time this season, I hope my picks start out on the wrong foot.
THE PICK: 49ERS
The funny thing about the first half of the season is that for ~90% of the teams in the league, there are enough positives to still envision a playoff run. Hell, the Buffalo Bills are tied for first place in the AFC East right now and even the Titans can take solace in the fact that they're only a game behind a Wild Card spot. However, we're still talking about two bad teams and when two bad teams play each other, I typically defer to the home squad, unless the visitor gives me a compelling reason not to.
The Titans do not give me a compelling reason.
THE PICK: BILLS
What I just said about two bad teams playing each other.
THE PICK: COLTS
I'll get to some of the reasons I expect the Packers to dismember the Rams in a moment, but it's worth noting that right now, it's tough to say that anyone is playing the cornerback position better than last year's Najeh Davenport Memorial Tournament runner-up, Cortland Finnegan -- perhaps not even this guy. Finnegan was Football Outsiders' #1 corner in 2011 and he's been absolutely sensational this year, too.
Unfortunately for Jeff Fisher and the gang, Finnegan can't cover Jordy Nelson and James Jones at the same time, meaning Janoris Jenkins is going to have to play error-free all night for the Rams to even have a chance. And even if both he and Finnegan play terrifically, it may not matter, if Aaron Rodgers continues to drop dimes like he did on Monday.
Besides, St Louis' offensive line is ghastly, their receivers are JV, and Green Bay's all-or-nothing defensive approach has historically feasted on teams that don't have a precision passing game to counter it.
THE PICK: PACKERS
I honestly expected that these two teams would have four wins coming into this game, but I was thinking that would be four wins combined, not each. The Cardinals' four wins have come on three coin-flip games and a shellacking of a deceptively good Eagles team. Their losses have been the result of a disaster in St Louis and a hilarious hero-to-goat stretch by gloved placekicker Jay Feeley, who slammed home a 61-yard field goal to tie the game and then doinked a 37-yarder that would have won it.
They enter Minnesota without Kevin Kolb, whose "resurgence" has been propped up by that crazy first month by the Arizona defense. And with KK's ribs being literally detached from his sternum last week, even the world's best receiver won't help John Skelton do much against a pretty nasty Vikings D.
THE PICK: VIKINGS
If I had to handicap the Super Bowl right now, I'd put my money on the Houston Texans and the Giants battling for the right to fondle Lombardi's shaft. In Tom Coughlin's tenure, the Giants have historically faltered near the beginning of the season, searching for an identity before discovering it late and charging into the postseason like a well-trained group of beasts.
Well, the beasts started out, more or less, on the same page this year and that has culminated in a dismantling of the 49ers in San Fran and there's no reason to think that will slow down at home against the Redskins. Now, Robert Griffin III is having the single most impressive rookie season I've ever seen, and while the Giants secondary is suspect at best, I don't think RGIII will have enough firepower to overcome the general talent deficiencies his team has. The fact that Pierre Garcon is likely to miss another game doesn't help any.
THE PICK: GIANTS
It's not often that I take a visiting team with a worse record over the guys with HFA, but the Buccaneers are no one's idea of a heavyweight and the Saints are better than their 1-4 record would leave you to believe. Let me qualify that: the Saints' offense is better than their record would have you believe. Their defense is still the worst in the NFL.
A good team would be likely to exploit the violent discrepancy between offensive and defensive productivity, but the Bucs are not a good team. They have the pieces to be, but they're not there yet. The only thing that really concerns me about this pick is that the Saints' X-factor, the incomparable Jimmy Graham, is still not practicing with an ankle sprain, despite coming off a bye week. If Graham sits, the playing field gets leveled considerably.
THE PICK: SAINTS
This is a tough one because both teams have some really obvious shortcomings. Dallas' O-line is a mess, their run defense has been passive, and Jason Garrett's time-management continues to baffle. On the other hand, Carolina has been about as consistent as Snookie's diet, looking one week like they have it together while being a complete trainwreck the next.
I'm putting my faith, warranted or not, in the fact that the Pathers are coming off a bye week and into a home game, which, historically speaking, is a huge edge.
Get ready to panic, America, cuz I think your Cowboys will be 2-5.
THE PICK: PANTHERS
Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans
With a combined record of 10-2, this tilt should be the best game of the week. Unfortunately, the Angel of Death flew overhead last week and the Ravens defense apparently forgot to apply lamb's blood to their door frame. In a short period of time, the incredible Baltimore defensive unit was decimated, losing Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata, greatest-linebacker-ever(?) Ray Lewis, and star corner Ladarius Webb to injury. Combine that with the fact that promising rookie CB Jimmy Smith is battling an injury himself and you have a 5-1 team that is all of a sudden very vulnerable on defense.
Furthermore, Houston runs the most complete offense in the league and while I was surprised at their basting vs Green Bay last week, I'm not reading into it too much, and I fully expect them to dominate the clock in this one. Now, for the first time in franchise history, the Ravens are equipped to counter-attack quickly and the formidable strength of their team has switched all the way to the offense. Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, and Anquan Boldin are all capable of giving Baltimore a chance to win, but I think the Schaub, Foster, Johnson, Daniels tandem is going to be too much, especially at home.
THE PICK: TEXANS
Bad teams. Home team.
THE PICK: RAIDERS
The AFC East is the only division besides the NFC West that can boast having zero teams with a losing record. The difference is that the NFCW has three teams with winning records while the AFCE has none.* That's right, every single team in the AFC East is 3-3, meaning that the Bills and Dolphins have every bit the shot at a divisional crown as the Patriots and Jets. That said, it only takes a heartbeat and a brain to see that the Patriots' 3-3 is nothing like the Jets' 3-3. That diparity should be made very plain on Sunday, as Rex Ryan's traveling group of clowns become the unfortunate recipients of Tom Brady's rage. I honestly won't be surprised if the Pats hang 50 on New York.
*Fun fact: the NFC West has more teams with winning records than the entire AFC does. You read that right.
THE PICK: PATRIOTS
This is the hardest game of the week for me to pick. Everything I've known about football since I as born tells me that the Steelers are good, but reality is telling me otherwise. The "Steel Curtain" has been more of a floral print nightshade this season, accruing losses to deadbeats like the Raiders and Titans.
I still think they're better than Cincinnati, which is basically just a one-man team (A.J. Green), but if they lose this one, I'll finally come off this notion of Steelers privilege.
THE PICK: STEELERS
I know we all love our own defense here in Seattle, but have you guys seen what they're doing over in Chicago? The Bears have far and away the best defense in the NFL (by DVOA) and have scored five defensive touchdowns in the last three weeks. Five. Besides, Jay Cutler isn't as bad of a quarterback as his occasional 12-interception games and apparent lack of a soul would have you believe. He's actually quite good and with Matt Forte back and fully healthy, and Brandon Marshall continuing to be one of the five hardest guys to cover in the league, it'll take a Superman performance from Matthew Stafford and/or Calvin Johnson to beat this Bears team on the road.
THE PICK: BEARS