Week Eight handicapping column

Posted Oct. 27, 2011 @ 3:43 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

I have picked against the Broncos in Tim Tebow's lone two wins as an NFL starter.

Let the record show I am passing on making a pick for Detroit-Denver this week, primarily because it is hard to watch a game when you're covering your eyes and shrieking, "Oh no, not again!"

On to the selections:

Miami (+10) at N.Y. Giants

So, yeah, I picked the Dolphins to cover last week.

Even if Miami would have beaten Denver, I would have been dubious about the Dolphins' ability to be competitive going forward. The Dolphins' offense, which showed promise early in QB Matt Moore's first start in Week Six, didn't play well at all. Miami converted 3-of-14 third downs and had only one offensive play of longer than 16 yards. Moore was sacked four times and made a criticial, game-changing error when he held on to the ball too long in overtime and blitzing LB D.J. Williams forced a fumble. When QB Tim Tebow and the Broncos' offense finally got going in the last, desperate stages of regulation, Denver very clearly looked like the superior club.

This week, the faces a Giants defense that has a superior pass rush to Denver's. While teams are just 3-9 straight-up off the bye this season, New York, which has thrived in spite of injury after injury, might have relished the rest.

In Moore's two starts, the Dolphins, after holding leads, have been overpowered by the Jets and the Broncos. If the Giants, who have a potent offense, start better than those clubs, the Dolphins aren't going to keep up.

I'm not one to back double-digit favorites without giving it a lot of thought, and the more I've considered this line, the more confident I am that the Giants should win comfortably.

Wilkening's pick: N.Y. Giants

Cleveland (+9) at San Francisco

In one of my columns, I once wrote something to the effect of, "Every game is interesting." I know — Pul-it-zer! Anyway, a reader took me to task on this, and I don't believe I was called a hack in our correspondence, so all things considered, a win for yours truly. 

So here I go down this road again. OK, I sort of enjoyed Seattle-Cleveland. I like my silver linings. Both defenses played really well. So that was neat. Blue ribbons and gold stars for all, I say.

The Browns, who improved to .500 with the 6-3 home win over Seattle, play a style that doesn't lend itself to being an "NFL Sunday Ticket" favorite, but it has been relatively effective. On offense, they convert third downs at an above-average rate. On defense, they are physical and sound. 

The 49ers are more talented than the Browns, but I believe Cleveland will be competitive in this contest. San Francisco's offense, while a solid group, is among the 10 worst clubs in yards per game and per play. The Browns might be plodding, but they are persistent.

Wilkening's pick: Cleveland

Minnesota (+3½) at Carolina

This looks to be a favorable matchup for the Panthers. The Vikings' pass defense is not a strength. Also, while rookie QB Christian Ponder played well in his first start at home vs. Green Bay, he will be making his first road start at Carolina.

There is little doubt the athletic Ponder makes the Vikings' offense more formidable than it was. But Minnesota's defense is weaker than it has been in recent years, and it has regressed in the past two weeks.

The Panthers' defense is even worse than Minnesota's, but it has made some strides of late, especially vs. the run. Carolina should be able to get enough stops to defeat Minnesota. I liked what I saw from the Vikings last week, but the Panthers are further along in their development.

Wilkening's pick: Carolina

Cincinnati (-3) at Seattle

I will take the points. The Seahawks are better at home than they are on the road, and they match up well with Cincinnati. The Seahawks are tough vs. the run, and the Bengals will be without RB Cedric Benson, who is one of the keys to their offense. Yes, the Seahawks' offense has been very, very bad at times, and particularly at Cleveland last week, but RB Marshawn Lynch (back) is expected to return, which should give the offense a boost. 

The Bengals are a sharp 3-0 ATS and 2-1 SU on the road this season, but this is a tough assignment for them. If they win, it will be a grinder.

Wilkening's pick: Seattle

Last week: 2-2
Season to date: 12-16