I've been working on the second part of the College Basketball outlook, and it's almost ready. For now, though, here's the NFL picks for this week.
Last week: 10-6
NY Jets -4.5 @ Denver: I picked the Jets because I thought their defense would be able to stop the Broncos' one dimensional offense, and for three and a half quarters that was mostly true. I didn't realize, however, how much better Denver's defense had been getting in recent weeks, which is giving the opportunity for Tim Tebow to work his late game magic. I'll give him this, his teammates definitely play hard for him. And of course, Von Miller is living up to his draft status.
Buffalo +2.5 @ Miami: I'm surprised the Dolphins are favored here, even with the Bill struggling. The league has caught up to Ryan Fitzpatrick short passing game in Chan Gailey's system (ironically right after he signed a big contract extension), and the defense hasn't been able to sustain the absurd amount of lucky turnovers. However, I think they're still better than Miami and have a good matchup here. I'm a bit concerned about the Bills' banged up offensive line in pass protection, but I think things fall in their favor at the end of the day.
Baltimore -7.5 vs. Cincinnati: I'm so angry at myself for picking the Ravens last week after writing about how it was going to be a trap game. I'm going with them and the high spread again, however, because they're still the superior team this week. Their sporadic offense needs to generate big plays in the passing game to have balance with Ray Rice and the running game, and they're getting a Bengals team who just lost their stud corner, Leon Hall to a season ending Achilles injury. On the other side, Andy Dalton didn't play that great against the Steelers last week and would be severely limited if A.J. Green is out this week.
Jacksonville -0.5 @ Cleveland: I can't see the Browns scoring much on this Jags defense with their lack of weapons. Jacksonville, on the other hand, should make things easier for Blaine Gabbert by running Maurice Jones-Drew down Cleveland's throat early and often.
Dallas -7.5 @ Washington: The Cowboys are hitting their stride now with their young offensive line meshing and providing running lanes for DeMarco Murray to maintain balance on offense. Now that Tony Romo is fully healthy, their offense is dangerous, and Laurent Robinson is filling in for Miles Austin admirably. The defense won't have much of a challenge this week against the Redskins' revolving door of quarterbacks and runningbacks.
Detroit -6.5 vs. Carolina: Cam Newton struggled last week and has to deal with the Lions' pass rush this week. I think he can bounce back with a nice game here, but a win on the road will be tough. This would be a great game for Jahvid Best to come back for the Lions because Carolina has a poor run defense. I'm counting on Matthew Stafford to not be bothered by his finger injury and make much better decisions.
Tampa Bay +14.5 @ Green Bay: The Packers should continue their roll against a struggling Buccaneers team, but I'm taking the points. Josh Freeman is due for a big game, and Green Bay is susceptible to giving up long plays through the air. Aaron Rodgers is playing some of the best football I've ever seen, but he has struggled against Tampa in the past. I could see the Packers leaning on the running game a bit more than usual because the Bucs were gashed on the ground last week.
Oakland +1.5 @ Minnesota: This is a surprising line considering how each team played last week in nationally televised games. Adrian Peterson should have a huge game against the Raiders' poor run defense, but I think Christian Ponder might struggle with their team speed in the passing game. For Oakland, Carson Palmer should be able to take advantage of this secondary if they can protect him and block Jared Allen. Michael Bush is coming off a huge game, but the Vikings are still stout against the run and could bottle him up.
St. Louis -2.5 vs. Seattle: These teams are pretty even, and I think being at home swings it in the Rams' favor. Their pass rush could force Tarvaris Jackson into some mistakes as long as they can stop Marshawn Lynch, who's been playing great lately. The rapport between Sam Bradford and Brandon Lloyd seems to be growing nicely.
San Francisco -9.5 vs. Arizona: The other battle of powerhouses in the NFC West! John Skelton has led Arizona to back to back wins and looked good doing it, possibly making them regret their drastic overpay for Kevin Kolb. Larry Fitzgerald should be getting extra attention from safety Dashon Goldson, and the Niners front seven should dominate this poor Cardinals offensive line. I'm a little worried that the Niners will have a letdown against a division rival after the big win last week and with the "Harbaugh Bowl" coming up on Thanksgiving, but they're at home and Jim Harbaugh has addressed that possibility and will be ready. Alex Smith aired it out nicely against the Giants, and that should be the game plan again this week against a poor Arizona pass defense. He's been getting great protection from his offensive line, which should continue to get better.
Atlanta -6.5 vs. Tennessee: This line is a bit high, and Chris Johnson is finally starting to perform...but I'm laying the seven. The Falcons run defense led by Curtis Lofton is playing lights out, and they must be anxious to make up for last week's overtime debacle. The Titans defense has been playing well, but I think Michael Turner can keep the chains moving for Atlanta.
San Diego +3.5 @ Chicago: I don't have a great feel for either of these teams, but I think the Chargers pull the upset on the road with the long week to prepare. Philip Rivers has to make sure not to turn the ball over against this swarming defense, but he has the advantage with his big receivers against this small-ish secondary. I liked local product Vincent Brown out of San Diego State in the draft, and he's starting to emerge as a legit receiving threat. Similarly, Earl Bennet has really stabilized the Bears' passing game as a receiver Jay Cutler really trusts. On the ground, Matt Forte continues to be dynamic, but I think San Diego will be ready for him with the extra days to plan how to stop him.
NY Giants -3.5 vs. Philadelphia: This is a big game for the Giants after their tough loss last week because their schedule is ridiculous the rest of the way with the Cowboys just a game back in the division. Eli Manning continues to play great, but he probably won't need another fourth quarter comeback since Vince Young will be the QB opposing him this week. This game should be "flexed" out of prime time because it could get ugly.
New England -14.5 vs. Kansas City: The line is always too high for the Patriots, but they're being gifted Tyler Palko this week in place of former Patriot Matt Cassel. Tom Brady was incredible last week in that second half, and Rob Gronkowski is becoming one of the most difficult covers in the league, especially in the red zone. The Chiefs will certainly have their hands full trying to keep it close for Palko and probably have to rely on the running game with Jackie Battle. Lay the 14.5.