sistaff
Thursday October 27th, 2011

Expect Joe Flacco to bounce back from his rough Monday night when the Ravens take on the Cardinals. (Phil Sears/US Presswire)

Last Week: 3-4-1; Season: 23-31-2

If the first seven weeks of "Bet On It" predictions were a trick-or-treating haul (it is Halloween weekend, after all), here's what you would find in your bag: three mini Snickers, a lollipop with no wrapper, about two pounds worth of those godawful circus peanuts and a quarter from the 90-year-old woman down the street.

But like a zombie you keep shooting in the chest -- in the head! Always in the head! -- the picks just keep coming.

And so here we are at kind of, sort of the halfway point of the NFL season, at least for most teams in the league. Last week wasn't all that bad, either, despite the 3-4-1 mark (Darren McFadden's early injury voided the prediction about him. Hey, they're my picks -- my rules). It could have easily been a 5-2-1 week, except Brandon Lloyd dropped a TD pass in the waning seconds at Dallas, and John Beck ran for a touchdown, instead of throwing for a second one as I predicted he would.

Oh well. Life goes on. Especially if you're a zombie.

This week's guesses:

Joe Flacco will throw at least three TD passes

Flacco has one touchdown toss in Baltimore's last three games, so we're not exactly playing the odds here.

But Week 7 was a debacle for Flacco and the Ravens -- they stunk up the joint on Monday night against Jacksonville, mustering just seven points and losing a game they never should have lost. Hosting Arizona at home in Week 8 provides a great chance for a bounce-back performance, both from Baltimore and its quarterback.

Adrian Peterson will rush for 150 yards

Carolina has been brutal against the run this season, allowing 133.4 yards per game and nearly five yards per carry. Peterson, meanwhile, broke out against the Packers last week with a 175-yard performance.

Chalk the latter up to Christian Ponder's presence in the lineup. It's probably unfair to pin all the blame for Minnesota's offensive struggles on Donovan McNabb, but here goes anyway: The Vikings looked like a new team with Ponder at the helm.

Assuming the rookie jolt doesn't wear off this week, Minnesota should have some success against the Panthers.

Darren Sproles will score multiple touchdowns

No idea if Sean Payton is holding some sort of grudge against Jim Caldwell and the Colts -- and not sure why he would, given that the Saints won the Super Bowl matchup between the two teams. But Payton went all Georgia Tech-vs.-Cumberland on Indy in a 62-7 win last Sunday night.

Now, the Saints get another winless team: St. Louis. This time, though, New Orleans could be without running back Mark Ingram, who injured his heel in the bloodletting of the Colts.

That means more action for Pierre Thomas, and definitely more action for Darren Sproles, who has been a terrific addition to New Orleans' offense. Be it running the ball, catching passes or returning kicks, Sproles continues to show off his big-play potential. The Rams will be on the receiving end Sunday.

New England will rush for less than 75 yards

The Patriots are averaging 124 yards rushing per game, so why would they have such a big drop-off vs. Pittsburgh? The short answer: They won't need to run.

Tom Brady has had the Steelers' number over the years, and he hasn't done the job by handing off. Pittsburgh's defense has stepped up in recent weeks, despite a string of injuries, and has spearheaded the Steelers' rise back to the top of the AFC North.

It'll get a big test Sunday, as Brady figures to spread the field -- heck, we might even see Chad Ochocinco!! -- and air it out from start to finish.

Tim Tebow will be sacked at least three times

Sooner or later, Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit Lions' defensive front is going to break loose. Sunday could be that day.

Suh has just three sacks on the year, and teams have turned the Lions' aggressiveness on the D-line against them -- both San Francisco and Atlanta enjoyed big rushing days in Detroit. But part of why offenses have been able to negate Detroit's pass rush has been the presence of veteran quarterbacks able to make quick decisions.

Tim Tebow does not fit the bill. Denver's new QB might wind up having a big game with his legs and could even bust a long run or two on a scramble/QB draw. But if Detroit gets him in passing downs, Denver is in trouble.

A.J. Green will top 125 yards receiving

The Bengals' rookie WR has been terrific this season, pairing with new quarterback Andy Dalton. His best game came in Week 2 at Denver -- 10 catches for 124 yards. He's got a chance for an even bigger performance Sunday.

With suspended running back Cedric Benson out of the lineup, Cincinnati will turn to Bernard Scott in the backfield. Scott is a capable fill-in, but the Bengals could find themselves in more passing situations than they have recently. More than that, Cincinnati may opt to just come out firing, in an effort to quiet Seattle's rowdy home crowd.

Either way, Dalton will look Green's way plenty, and Green should have a solid afternoon.

Dallas and Philadelphia will combine for more than 30 points in the first half

We all know about the talent on the Eagles' defense, and the Cowboys are actually leading the league in rushing yards allowed. But there will be some fireworks in this critical Sunday night affair.

Dallas suddenly finds itself with a run game, thanks to DeMarco Murray's team-record-setting performance in Week 7. Combine that with a healthy wide receiving corps, and the Cowboys should be able to move the ball on Philadelphia, regardless of who the Eagles trot out there.

And on the other side of the ball, Michael Vick is due to just go nuts one of these games. Chalk Sunday night up as the time for that to happen.

Philip Rivers and Matt Cassell will combine for at least four turnovers

One of the big mysteries so far this NFL season surrounds Philip Rivers' unexplainable struggles. San Diego sits in first place in the AFC West, almost in spite of its QB, who has thrown nine interceptions to just seven touchdowns.

Matt Cassel has his own frustrating stat line, with seven interceptions and just eight TDs this season. The San Diego and Kansas City defenses have to be foaming at the mouth for Monday night's showdown. That'll be even more true if neither offense can get the ground game going.

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