Week Seven handicapping column

Posted Oct. 20, 2011 @ 4:35 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

Two of this week's selections played one of Week Six's more boring games. In fact, it may have been the snoozer of snoozers.

As you'll see, I'm hoping this works in my favor. 

On to the picks:

San Diego (-2) at N.Y. Jets

On Sunday night, the Jets opened as 2½-point favorites at the Las Vegas Hilton. However, by Tuesday, the Chargers were consensus favorites throughout Nevada.

Call it the "Monday-night style points effect."

While the Jets beat the Dolphins 24-6, New York started slowly, and Miami, if it had a better red-zone offense, might have given Rex Ryan's club a real scare. In the end, the Jets pulled away and won comfortably, outscoring the Dolphins 17-0 in the second half. Was this a case of the Jets simply wearing down a club starting a backup quarterback and lacking a win to its credit in 2011? Perhaps it is. The Jets were widely expected to win, and they did.

They just didn't do it impressively in the eyes of the public.

This is a rather unique line swing. The Jets suffered no major injuries on Monday night, and they won by 18 points against a club that played San Diego to within 10 points in Week Four. The Jets are not without their flaws; the defense isn't quite as stout as it was in 2010, and the offense has underwhelmed. Like the Chargers, the Jets' wins haven't exactly come against top competition (though their triumph over Dallas trumps any of San Diego's four wins).

Nevertheless, I'm a little surprised the Jets aren't favored. I liked them, warts and all, when they were laying points. Now, I like them even more. In addition to the Chargers playing their first game after their bye week and having to travel across the country, they lost to the Jets when the clubs last met in the '09 playoffs. Note that teams coming off their bye were 1-5 in Week Six.

Wilkening's pick: N.Y. Jets

Denver (+1½) at Miami

Here's another case where I'm going against public perception, as Miami opened as a three-point favorite. The Dolphins are winless, but their schedule has been brutal. This is their first home game since Week Two.

I know, I know: the Dolphins have had a tough time at home recently. They have lost 11-of-12 at Sun Life Stadium since the final weeks of '09, posting just a 2-10 ATS record in that span. However, I am inclined to pick them at this price. The Broncos are coming off a bye and have changed quarterbacks from Kyle Orton to Tim Tebow. I believe the Dolphins are catching them at the right time.

Wilkening's pick: Miami

Washington at Carolina (O/U 43)

According to VegasInsider.com figures, 4-of-6 Panthers games have gone Over the total in 2011. The two exceptions were their Week Three win vs. Jacksonville, when heavy rains affected the game; and Week Six at Atlanta, where the 31-17 final fell just below the total of 49.

While the Redskins' defense is allowing only 16.6 points per contest, the Panthers' offense is a challenging matchup for any defense given QB Cam Newton's skill and versatility and the quality of the talent surrounding him.

As well as the Panthers' offense has played, however, their defense has had problems stopping the run and the pass. Carolina is allowing 27.2 points per game and the fourth-most yards per play.

The Redskins have changed quarterbacks, benching Rex Grossman in favor of John Beck, who showed some potential in relief last Sunday at Philadelphia. Beck gets a favorable matchup in his first start. Considering my confidence in both offenses, the Over is the play here.

Wilkening's pick: Over 43

Baltimore at Jacksonville (O/U 39)

I suspect this Over, as totals in prime-time games do, will inch higher closer to game time on Monday night. The Ravens, who are averaging 29.6 points, have a balanced offense that's capable of grinding out drives with the running game and striking quickly in the passing game.

The Jaguars have reached 20 points once in six games, but I have seen subtle signs of progress from their offense in QB Blaine Gabbert's recent starts. Possessing good mobility and a strong arm, Gabbert can stretch the field. The Ravens' secondary, while solid, is still the most vulnerable part of the defense. If the Jaguars' offense continues to improve, as I believe it will, the Over is very much in play, given the Ravens' ability to score.  

Wilkening's pick: Over 39

Last week: 2-2
Season to date: 10-14