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Week Six handicapping column

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Posted Oct. 11, 2012 @ 4:43 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

I have not picked an Over-Under since Week One. I was planning to change that this week. I had a game I liked. However, as I was writing my analysis, I started to find myself cringing.

Alas, I had soured on my selection. The more research I did, the less I liked it. It was time to press the delete button.

Thankfully, I liked several other plays — all sides —on the Week Six card:

New England (-3½) at Seattle

When I handicap, I always consider a club’s margin for error relative to covering the spread. To use a poker term, I’m looking for as many “outs” as possible. The more limited the team, the more points I need. Yes, that’s common sense for many handicappers, but it’s a point especially relevant to this game and spread.

The Seahawks have my utmost respect. I love their defense, and I am comfortable with the strengths and weaknesses of their ball-control offense. They also are sound in the kicking game. There is much to like.

However, I could not take them at this price against this opponent. The Patriots have a strong, balanced offense, one with many dangerous elements. The Seahawks surely will provide some stern resistance, and it’s possible they could even have the edge early in this game as New England figures out what will work against Gus Bradley’s excellent defense.

At some point, though, the Patriots likely will string a few drives together. And when that happens, what will the Seahawks do? Seattle has a strong running game, but New England’s defense is best against ground attacks. The Seahawks’ offense just doesn’t have a lot of punch, which could leave them compromised Sunday.

This matchup reminds me quite a bit of the Seahawks’ Week Three game vs. Green Bay. Yes, the Seahawks won, but the Packers had more yards and first downs. And as Russell Wilson lofted that Hail Mary pass toward the Green Bay endzone, here’s how many second-half points the Seahawks had scored: zero.

The Seahawks figure to play a respectable game against the Patriots, and a win wouldn’t shock me, given their defense and material home-field advantage. However, the more likely outcome, in my view, is a Patriots win, the result of wearing down a stout defense over four quarters. The Patriots’ offensive edge figures to be the difference.

Wilkening’s pick: New England

Oakland (+9) at Atlanta

I will lay more than a touchdown in the right spot, and here’s one. The Raiders, who have been outscored 72-19 in two road games, just don’t match up well with Atlanta. Oakland is hurting in the secondary, which leaves them vulnerable against the Falcons’ strong passing game. The Raiders’ run defense also could have some problems stopping the stout Michael Turner.

In my estimation, the Raiders have played one game that would put them in close range of the Falcons: their Week Three home win over Pittsburgh. Their overall form suggests Atlanta might be too much, especially in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons probably have room to improve after consecutive narrow wins vs. Carolina and at Washington. If they do, the Raiders will really have their hands full.

Wilkening’s pick: Atlanta

Cincinnati (-1) at Cleveland

This is a line-in-the-sand game for me. At this price, I’m going to let the Browns beat me.

Since the beginning of 2011, the Browns have won four games. They have lost 11 in a row dating back to last season. Two of those defeats were to the Bengals, who had just a little more playmaking punch each time.

The Browns are certainly capable of giving the Bengals a tough game, especially with CB Joe Haden returning to the lineup. However, if these clubs were to play 10 times in Cleveland, I would expect Cincinnati to win the bulk of them.

The Bengals aren’t perfect, but they are the clear side for me against a Browns club that hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record since 2010. 

Wilkening’s pick: Cincinnati

Denver (+1½) at San Diego

I’ll take the points. While the Chargers have given the Broncos and the Peyton Manning-led Colts some problems in recent years, I believe Denver is more equipped to deal with San Diego than in past campaigns. The Broncos’ offense is much stronger than in past seasons, and their defense is solid, too.

The Broncos have had an absolutely brutal schedule to begin the season, with games against Pittsburgh and Houston and at Atlanta and New England the toughest of the group. Facing the Chargers in San Diego is no picnic, either. Nevertheless, I am inclined to side with the underdogs, whose three losses (Atlanta, Houston, New England) can’t be held too much against them. While the Chargers have a winning record, they faltered in their lone game against top competition, falling 27-3 against Atlanta at home. 

Wilkening’s pick: Denver

Last week: 2-2

Season to date: 12-7-1

Click here to see the analysis of PFW's consensus selections.

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