Dubs' Pigskin Picks & Preview - Week 7

Bob Levey

The St. Louis Rams are coming off a convincing win against the Houston Texans. The Rams continue on the road this week, to face the Carolina Panthers. The 2-3 Panthers, despite their uneven start to the season, will present a formidable challenge for the Rams. Can the Rams win their third game in a row? Can Dubs continue gaining ground on the leaders, in the weekly picks race?

Week 6 of the NFL season is in the history books. The St. Louis Rams are coming off an impressive 38-13 win over the Houston Texans. The Rams travel to Carolina this weekend, to face the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have had mixed results this season. They are coming off a convincing 35-10 win against the Minnesota Vikings, and will present a formidable challenge for the visiting Rams. Can the Rams climb above .500, and win their third game in a row?

Week 6 Results

The accompanying chart presents the results of my picks for Week 6, and the season totals to-date:

Week Wins Straight Up Wins vs Spread Rams Straight Up
Last Week 10 5 9 6 0 1
Season 61 31 53 39 3 3

With 7 of the 15 games having very close point spreads, Week 6 was a difficult one for picks, both straight-up and against the spread. Despite the difficulty, it was a successful week picking both straight-up, and against the spread [10 wins straight-up and 9 wins versus the spread]. This season continues to be difficult to predict. Many teams that were expected to perform well this year are having poor seasons [Washington, Houston, Atlanta, Minnesota]. Conversely, teams such as New Orleans, Kansas City, Detroit, and Miami continue to impress. Week 7 promises to be another difficult week, with 5 games too close to call, and 10 games where the spread will be tough to navigate.

How am I faring against the 93 experts Pickwatch is tracking? (link). My 10-5 record gained ground on the leader, as I am now only 6 wins behind Ron Jaworski's 67 wins. My 61 wins is tied for 14th in the standings. It's one win away from being tied for 5th place. The leaderboard is quite bunched up in the top 20. The chart below identifies the top 25:

Rank Expert Affiliation Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Wins Losses Win %
1 Ron Jaworski ESPN 11 12 12 12 11 9 67 25 73%
2 Gregg Rosenthal NFL 11 13 8 11 8 14 65 27 71%
3 Matt Miller Bleacher Report 14 12 10 10 8 10 64 28 70%
4 Prediction Machine CBS 11 13 11 9 7 12 63 29 68%
5 Mark Schlereth ESPN 11 12 8 10 9 12 62 30 67%
6 Black Tie NFL 13 11 6 11 10 11 62 30 67%
7 Joel Beall FOX 11 11 11 9 9 11 62 30 67%
8 Michael David Smith PFT 12 12 10 9 8 11 62 30 67%
9 Don Banks Sports Illustrated 11 14 10 9 8 10 62 30 67%
10 Michael Silver NFL 12 14 9 9 8 10 62 30 67%
11 Jamey Eisenberg CBS 11 13 12 8 8 10 62 30 67%
12 Henry Hodgson NFL 10 11 11 11 10 9 62 30 67%
13 Ty Schalter Bleacher Report 11 13 9 12 8 9 62 30 67%
14 K.C. Joyner ESPN 12 12 9 7 10 11 61 31 66%
15 Andrea Hangst Bleacher Report 10 11 12 9 9 10 61 31 66%
16 Chris Brockman NFL 9 14 11 9 8 10 61 31 66%
17 Cris Carter ESPN 12 13 10 8 9 9 61 31 66%
18 John Halpin FOX 9 11 11 10 7 12 60 32 65%
19 Rick Drummond ProFootballFocus 8 12 10 10 9 11 60 32 65%
20 Lindsay H. Jones USA Today 9 11 10 10 9 11 60 32 65%
21 Ben Stockwell ProFootballFocus 12 11 8 11 7 11 60 32 65%
22 Mike Golic ESPN 9 13 8 10 10 10 60 32 65%
23 Warren Sapp NFL 11 11 9 9 10 10 60 32 65%
24 Mike Ditka ESPN 10 11 11 10 8 10 60 32 65%
25 Simon Samano USA Today 10 12 10 10 8 10 60 32 65

How did my weekly "Hot Picks Versus The Spread" fare? None of my three hot picks [Indianapolis, New Orleans, and the NY Jets] covered the spread. My "hot picks" record for the week: 0-3. Overall, my "hot picks" record for the season is 13-5.

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Week 7 Picks

For reference, the accompanying chart presents the straight-up, against the spread, and over/under records for all 32 teams, after Week 6:

NFL RANKINGS
Straight-Up Against The Spread Over/Under
Team Total Home Away Total Home Away Total Home Away
Arizona Cardinals 3-3-0 2-0-0 1-3-0 4-2-0 2-0-0 2-2-0 2-4-0 0-2-0 2-2-0
Atlanta Falcons 1-4-0 1-2-0 0-2-0 1-4-0 1-2-0 0-2-0 4-1-0 3-0-0 1-1-0
Baltimore Ravens 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 4-2-0 3-0-0 1-2-0 2-4-0 0-3-0 2-1-0
Buffalo Bills 2-4-0 2-2-0 0-2-0 4-2-0 4-0-0 0-2-0 4-2-0 2-2-0 2-0-0
Carolina Panthers 2-3-0 1-1-0 1-2-0 2-3-0 1-1-0 1-2-0 1-3-1 0-2-0 1-1-1
Chicago Bears 4-2-0 3-1-0 1-1-0 1-4-1 0-3-1 1-1-0 5-1-0 3-1-0 2-0-0
Cincinnati Bengals 4-2-0 3-0-0 1-2-0 3-2-1 3-0-0 0-2-1 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0
Cleveland Browns 3-3-0 2-2-0 1-1-0 3-3-0 2-2-0 1-1-0 3-3-0 2-2-0 1-1-0
Dallas Cowboys 3-3-0 3-1-0 0-2-0 5-1-0 4-0-0 1-1-0 3-3-0 2-2-0 1-1-0
Denver Broncos 6-0-0 4-0-0 2-0-0 3-3-0 2-2-0 1-1-0 6-0-0 4-0-0 2-0-0
Detroit Lions 4-2-0 2-0-0 2-2-0 4-2-0 2-0-0 2-2-0 3-3-0 2-0-0 1-3-0
Green Bay Packers 3-2-0 2-0-0 1-2-0 2-3-0 2-0-0 0-3-0 3-2-0 1-1-0 2-1-0
Houston Texans 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 0-6-0 0-3-0 0-3-0 4-2-0 3-0-0 1-2-0
Indianapolis Colts 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0 2-4-0 2-1-0 0-3-0
Jacksonville Jaguars 0-6-0 0-2-0 0-4-0 1-5-0 0-2-0 1-3-0 3-3-0 0-2-0 3-1-0
Kansas City Chiefs 6-0-0 3-0-0 3-0-0 5-1-0 2-1-0 3-0-0 1-5-0 0-3-0 1-2-0
Miami Dolphins 3-2-0 1-1-0 2-1-0 3-2-0 1-1-0 2-1-0 4-1-0 2-0-0 2-1-0
Minnesota Vikings 1-4-0 1-2-0 0-2-0 2-3-0 1-2-0 1-1-0 4-0-1 2-0-1 2-0-0
New England Patriots 5-1-0 3-0-0 2-1-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0
New Orleans Saints 5-1-0 3-0-0 2-1-0 4-2-0 3-0-0 1-2-0 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0
New York Giants 0-6-0 0-2-0 0-4-0 1-5-0 0-2-0 1-3-0 4-2-0 2-0-0 2-2-0
New York Jets 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0
Oakland Raiders 2-4-0 2-1-0 0-3-0 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0 1-5-0 0-3-0 1-2-0
Philadelphia Eagles 3-3-0 0-2-0 3-1-0 3-3-0 0-2-0 3-1-0 5-1-0 1-1-0 4-0-0
Pittsburgh Steelers 1-4-0 0-2-0 1-2-0 1-4-0 0-2-0 1-2-0 2-3-0 1-1-0 1-2-0
San Diego Chargers 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 4-1-1 3-0-0 1-1-1 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0
San Francisco 49ers 4-2-0 3-1-0 1-1-0 4-2-0 3-1-0 1-1-0 3-3-0 2-2-0 1-1-0
Seattle Seahawks 5-1-0 3-0-0 2-1-0 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0
St. Louis Rams 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 5-1-0 3-0-0 2-1-0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-5-0 0-3-0 0-2-0 1-4-0 1-2-0 0-2-0 1-4-0 1-2-0 0-2-0
Tennessee Titans 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 4-1-1 1-1-1 3-0-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0
Washington Redskins 1-4-0 0-2-0 1-2-0 1-4-0 0-2-0 1-2-0 2-3-0 1-1-0 1-2-0

The accompanying chart presents the format [and my selections] for each game this week: home team - away team - the spread - my straight-up winner, which team covers/beats the spread, and the outcome of the game:

Home Away Spread Straight Up Vs. Spread Score
Carolina St. Louis Car 6 St. Louis St. Louis 17  13
Arizona Seattle Sea 6 1/2 Seattle Seattle 20  13
Atlanta Tampa Bay Atl 7 1/2 Atlanta Atlanta 24  17
Detroit Cincinnati Det 1 Cincinnati Cincinnati 20  17
Jacksonville San Diego SD 7 San Diego San Diego 24  14
Miami Buffalo Mia 8 Miami Buffalo 24  17
NY Jets New England NE 3 1/2 New England New England 21  16
Philadelphia Dallas Phi 2 1/2 Dallas Dallas 23  20
Washington Chicago Pick Chicago Chicago 23  17
Tennessee San Francisco SF 4 1/2 San Francisco San Francisco 24  17
Kansas City Houston KC 6 1/2 Kansas City Kansas City 24  16
Green Bay Cleveland GB 10 Green Bay Green Bay 27  16
Pittsburgh Baltimore Bal 1 Baltimore Baltimore 21  17
Indianapolis Denver Den 6 1/2 Denver Indianapolis 31  27
NY Giants Minnesota NY 3 NY Giants NY Giants 21  17

Hot Picks Versus The Spread

Kansas City over Houston - Houston is reeling from 4 straight defeats. Matt Schaub is not likely to play on Sunday. The team is in disarray. Kansas City keeps rolling along, and should stay undefeated. Their defense will cause fits for the undermanned and beat-up Texans.

Atlanta over Tampa Bay - Atlanta is a very tough team at home, despite their difficulties this season. Tampa Bay is reeling, and have been a huge disappointment this year. Atlanta wins going away.

San Francisco over Tennessee - San Francisco is riding a 3 game win streak, against a Tennessee team that misses QB Jake Locker. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been too inconsistent as Locker's replacement.

Nfl-carolina-panthers-vs-st-louis-rams_medium

Keys For The Rams vs. Carolina

  1. One of the bigger problems the Rams had in their first four games was getting off to slow first half starts. The Rams played much better in the first halves of their games against Jacksonville and Houston. Getting off to a good start, and into a rhythm, is a key against Carolina.
  2. In a game I expect will be very close, turnovers will play a crucial role. The Rams will need to win the turnover battle to win this game.
  3. Pressuring Cam Newton and keeping him in the pocket is a key to this game for the Rams. Newton has thrown 3 of his 5 interceptions while under pressure. When pressured in drop backs, Newton has been sacked 24.2 % of the time. The Carolina offensive line is vulnerable to being exploited by the Rams' defensive front four.
  4. Behind Zac Stacy and improved blocking, the Rams have established their rushing attack in the last two games. They face a Carolina defense that is 2nd in points allowed, 4th against the rush, and 3rd overall. Using multiple tight end sets, and solid blocking from the offensive line, are keys to the running game, and to creating mismatches with the Panthers outside linebackers. Although the Panthers haven't faced many potent offenses, the young and talented defensive front seven is close to the same quality as the Rams'.
  5. Field position will be a key in this game. The Rams must stop committing penalties on punt returns. A timely punt return by Tavon Austin could make the difference in this game.
  6. The Rams are ranked 30th in run defense after 6 games. The Panthers rushing attack [keyed by Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams] is ranked 7th in the NFL. Containing both Newton and Williams will force Newton to the air, where his receivers have been inconsistent and prone to drops.

Prediction: Rams 17 - Carolina 13

20130510_gav_af5_348

Perspective On The Rams Versus Carolina

Jamal Collier [Bleacher Report] breaks down St. Louis' game plan against the Panthers (link).

ESPN' Mike Sando presents his "Inside Edge" on the Rams - Carolina game (link).

Carolina Panthers stat facts:

"Running room may be limited, though, with Carolina ranking fourth in the NFL with 88.8 yards allowed per game, after holding the Vikings to 75. The Panthers are third in the league in total defense, yielding an average of 299.2 yards, and they've given up 230.0 over the past three games, while creating eight turnovers."

On the Rams' struggles against the run:

"They're surrendering an average of 165.3 yards over the past four games, but the defense has created seven turnovers in the last two."

Both quotes are courtesy of the Wall Street Journal (link).

Advanced NFL Stats takes an in-depth, statistical look at the game between Carolina and the Rams. (link)

CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan and Pete Prisco preview the Rams vs. Panthers game (link).

Weekly prediction from Ramblin' Fan:

"The St. Louis Rams are coming off of one of their most convincing wins of the past decade, and yet they are still heavy underdogs to the 2-3 Carolina Panthers. The storyline regarding this game has largely been the front 7 of the Panthers, and the Rams inability to slow down the running game. The Rams certainly need to do a better job of slowing down the opposing ground game, but much of their poor statistics came against 2 of the NFLs most powerful run blocking teams (49ers & Texans). On the other hand the Rams offense has become much more balanced and dangerous since installing Zac Stacy as the starting RB. If Stacy can continue to grind out yards and keep the Panthers defense honest the Rams should win this game. The Rams special teams unit is one of the best in the NFL (aside from return yards) which could provide the edge needed for the Rams to get their 3rd win in a row. Rams win 27 – 20."

From Rant Sports NFL:

"The two offenses match up pretty evenly with St. Louis averaging 23.5 points per game and Carolina averaging 21.8 points per game. Carolina has a tendency to lean on their strong run attack (135.8 yards/game), while the Rams have leaned on Sam Bradford most of the year. St. Louis has experienced a surge in the running game since Zac Stacy took over the starting spot in Week 5. This trend must continue for the Rams to win against the Panthers."

ESPN's Nick Wagoner and David Newton provide their analysis and predictions for Sunday's game:

MATCHUP ANALYSIS
Nick Wagoner: Two similar teams with Jekyll and Hyde tendencies play this one down to the wire, but the Panthers' defense is ultimately enough to keep the Rams from putting together a late drive to pull out a victory.
Panthers 20, Rams 17
David Newton: The last time the Panthers came off a dominating performance this season they laid an egg at Arizona, but they had a bye week in between. It's hard to see that happening again at home with the league's eighth-best running game going against the No. 31 defense against the run.
Panthers 27, Rams 13

Team Red Zone Scoring Percentage

Rank


Team


2013


1

Denver

82.14%

2

Miami

71.43%

3

St Louis

66.67%

4

Dallas

65.22%

5

Cincinnati

64.29%

6

Carolina

64.29%

7

Chicago

63.64%

8

Detroit

61.90%

9

NY Giants

61.54%

10

Cleveland

60.00%

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