NFL Insider

NFL INSIDER: It's all about the parity

2012-10-18T16:00:00Z 2012-11-01T18:43:09Z NFL INSIDER: It's all about the parityMatt Erickson NFL Insider
October 18, 2012 4:00 pm  • 

Go ahead. Try to figure out the National Football League.

Eleven teams are at 3-3 six weeks in. Only four teams have one loss or less, and only one of those is unbeaten. No one's going to go winless this season.

So in other words, the parity in the NFL is more evident than ever. And that makes picking games a pretty brutal proposition.

Take the Patriots, for example. They're .500 with three wins by an average of 18 points. But their three losses have come by a total of just four points. And this kind of thing is happening all over the league, with teams picking crazy times to tank – crazy as in, just when you thought it was safe to pick them to win.

Typically, things start to sort themselves out a month in. It's longer this year. And who knows? Maybe we'll never get enough trends in 2012 and we'll have a whole bunch of 7-8 and 8-7 teams fighting in Week 17 to make the playoffs.

But this week, teams I expect to see start to come around a little more include the Packers, who went into Houston and put up big numbers last week and should do the same in St. Louis this week. And the Giants made a big statement at San Francisco, and could start separating themselves from the National Football Conference East pack.

The Bears, too, have a chance to find out just how real they are against the Lions, a pre-season hot pick to win the NFC North. If the Bears are real, this is a must-win game – and they've given many indications that they are, save for that Week 2 debacle against the Packers.


Cleveland (1-5) at COLTS (2-3)

Noon Sunday, CBS. Colts -3 (45)

The skinny: Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden brought the winless Browns back to beat the Bengals last week, while Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck had none against the Jets just a week after upsetting the Packers. The Browns have dropped 10 straight on the road, but guess where their last win was away from Cleveland? You guessed it. Indy. If the Colts can get running to give Luck some room in the passing game, they can hit .500 again.

MattE’s pick: Colts 27, Browns 23


Tennessee (2-4) at Buffalo (3-3)

Noon Sunday. Bills -3 (46.5)

The skinny: The Titans get the benefit of an extra couple days of rest after their upset of Pittsburgh, and that may be the edge they need. The Bills snapped a dreadful two-game skid to beat Arizona on the road, but I smell upset.

MattE’s pick: Titans 26, Bills 20


Green Bay (3-3) at St. Louis (3-3)

Noon Sunday, Fox. Packers -5.5 (44.5)

The skinny: The Packers came alive last week and knocked off the unbeaten Texans thanks to six touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers. Six more may be asking a lot, but the man does love playing indoors.

MattE’s pick: Packers 31, Rams 20


Arizona (4-2) at Minnesota (4-2)

Noon Sunday. Vikings -6 (40.5)

The skinny: It was back to reality for both these teams last week, as the Cards lost for the second straight week and the Vikings gave up 38 points on the road. But at home, they should be back on track defensively.

MattE’s pick: Vikings 27, Cardinals 13


Washington (3-3) at N.Y. Giants (4-2)

Noon Sunday. Giants -6 (50)

The skinny: Eli Manning and the Giants struggled against the 'Skins last year. But coming off a huge statement win on the road at San Francisco last week, the Giants are hot and confident.

MattE’s pick: Giants 29, Redskins 20


New Orleans (1-4) at Tampa Bay (2-3)

Noon Sunday. Saints -3 (49.5)

The skinny: Coming off their bye should help the Saints, and they'll need a big game from Drew Brees – who typically is hot and cold against Tampa. They'll get the hot version.

MattE’s pick: Saints 34, Bucs 27


Dallas (2-3) at Carolina (1-4)

Noon Sunday. Cowboys -2 (45.5)

The skinny: The Panthers have lost three straight, which is a good way for the Cowboys to snap a two-game skid of their own. They nearly beat the Ravens last week, and this should be a much easier task.

MattE’s pick: Cowboys 27, Panthers 17


Baltimore (5-1) at Houston (5-1)

Noon Sunday. Texans -6.5 (48.5)

The skinny: Amazingly, only two teams in the American Football Conference are above .500, and they play each other this week. The Texans will be running and running plenty after seeing how much success the Cowboys had running the ball against Baltimore last week.

MattE’s pick: Texans 28, Ravens 20


N.Y. Jets (3-3) at New England (3-3)

3:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS. Patriots -10.5 (47)

The skinny: Historically, this matchup usually is over before it begins. But the Jets are coming off a nice win over the Colts and could find a way to keep this reasonably close.

MattE’s pick: Patriots 31, Jets 23


Jacksonville (1-4) at Oakland (1-4)

3:25 p.m. Sunday. Raiders -4 (43)

The skinny: The Jaguars got their bye just at the right time after giving up 38 unanswered to the Bears in the second half of a 41-3 home loss. But the Raiders will be too strong at home.

MattE’s pick: Raiders 27, Jaguars 20


Pittsburgh (2-3) at Cincinnati (3-3)

7:20 p.m. Sunday, NBC. Steelers -2.5 (46)

The skinny: The Steelers aren't going to fall to 2-4 – not against a Bengals team that QB Ben Roethlisberger only loses to once every two years on average. Pittsburgh will get its first road win this season.

MattE’s pick: Steelers 27, Bengals 20


Detroit (2-3) at BEARS (4-1)

7:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN. Bears -6.5 (47.5)

The skinny: The Bears have won three straight by an average score of 33-9. The Lions had a nice come-from-behind win over Philly last week, but the Bears' defense has been playing lights-out and has been opportunistic. Against Matthew Stafford, who isn't shy about lobbing balls up there, will another pair of pick-sixes be in the cards?

MattE’s pick: Bears 34, Lions 17

Week 7 Byes

Atlanta (6-0), Denver (3-3), Kansas City (1-5), Miami (3-3), Philadelphia (), San Diego (3-3)

2012 record

Last week: 6-8 straight up, 7-7 against the spread. Season: 49-42 (.538) straight up, 44-47 (.484) against the spread.

– Matt Erickson is an award-winning journalist whose NFL picks have appeared in The Times for 10 seasons. He also covers mixed martial arts for The Times, USA Today and is the assistant editor of

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