Big Lead Sports Bar


Picking This Weekend's Winners

It's that time again...time for you to do better than me at picking five football games for the coming weekend.

For those of you scoring at home, readers now have a three-game lead on yours truly for the season. This experiment is quickly turning against me. Regardless, I will keep trying. On to the slate:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints (Pick 'em), Sunday, 8:20 PM

My pick: Two things concern me about this one: Drew Brees throwing four picks last week (which I can guarantee will not happen again) and an already-shaky Steeler pass defense (24th in the NFL) dealing with changes up front on the pass rush. I have faith that Ziggy Hood will be a great player, but a first start is a first start, and this one comes in a big spot.

On the New Orleans side, it looks like they're in full-fledged Super Bowl Hangover mode this season, something we're all too familiar with in Pittsburgh. The Saints have been bitten by the pesky injury bug (a distant relative of the stink bug), their defensive turnovers are down, and Brees (who threw 11 interceptions in 2009) is not being nearly as careful with the football, already throwing 10 picks.

On the New Orleans injury front, Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush are doubtful for Sunday, and they're also dealing with injuries to center Jonathan Goodwin (groin), linebacker Scott Shanle (hamstring) and cornerbacks Jabari Greer (shoulder) and Tracy Porter (knee). Obviously, the Steelers will be without Smith, but LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) and Flozell Adams (ankle) both practiced Thursday and should play.

Staring at a potential 4-4 record, the Saints have a lot more to lose than the Steelers in this one, and they're going to throw everything out at Pittsburgh in this matchup of the last two champs. Vegas is right: this one could go either way. But I'm picking with my heart. Steelers 24, Saints 20

Your Pick:

2. Louisville at Pitt (-9.5), Saturday, 12 PM

My pick: Pitt's been the toast of the Big East through two weeks, if that's even considered a compliment (it's not, I know). Nonetheless, the Panthers have straightened things out after a rocky start to the season, and if they can at least dominate the conference, the 2010 campaign could be salvaged on some level.

The game will feature a matchup of last year's Big East rushing champ (Dion Lewis - remember him?) and Bilal Powell, this year's top back thus far in the conference. But for Pitt to really open things up, they need to take advantage of the mismatch that exists between their receivers and the Louisville secondary. It could be a signature day for Tino Sunseri, and not a moment too soon. Pitt 31, Louisville 20

Your pick:

3. Michigan (-2.5) at Penn State, Saturday, 8 PM

My pick: After starter Robert Bolden suffered a concussion at Minnesota last week, the Nittany Lions are turning to sophomore Matt McGloin at QB against the Wolverines, although Bolden has been cleared to play. McGloin completed 6-of-13 passes for 76 yards with two touchdowns and an pick last week out of the bullpen, and will be making his first career start.

On the other side of the field will be a 5-2 Michigan squad riding a two-game losing streak. Permanent hot seat resident Rich Rodriguez needs a win here, and for that to happen, big things need to come from QB Denard Robinson, who's thrown for 1,319 yards and run for 1,096, with a combined 18 TDs. In Michigan's two losses, Robinson was either knocked out of the game (Iowa) or ineffective (Michigan State), so the blueprint is simple: minimize Robinson as best possible and the odds of beating the Wolverines increase exponentially.

Speaking of coaches with pressure for a win, Joe Paterno could sure use one on Saturday, but the presence of a new quarterback against a talented, desperate Michigan team might be too much to overcome. Michigan 27, Penn State 21

Your pick:

4. West Virginia (-6) at UConn, Friday, 8 PM

My pick: West Virginia has been one of the great mysteries of the 2010 college football season, and they'll put their necks on the line once again on Friday night for an ESPN2-televised game against the 3-4 UConn Huskies.

The Huskies are reeling after two straight losses to open the Big East campaign, losing 27-24 to Rutgers and 26-0 to Louisville; their only wins are over Texas Southern, Buffalo, and a 2-5 Vanderbilt team. Their season so far has been a disastrous mix of injuries and suspensions, with a healthy dose of losing. In short, they're counting down the days to basketball season.

This is a "can't lose" game for WVU coach Bill Stewart, who doesn't exactly have a stranglehold on his job, especially after losing to Syracuse and nearly losing to Marshall in the same season. The Mountaineers need to do a better job protecting the football (QB Geno Smith threw three picks in the loss last week), and that philosophy can pretty much be applied to any football team at any level. If they can do that, there's no reason why their talent cannot easily handle that of UConn's. WVU 27, UConn 13

Your pick:

5. Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts, Monday, 8:30 PM

My pick: In week one, Arian Foster made a splash with 231 yards rushing and 3 TDs in a rare Texans win against their division rivals. All-time, Houston is just 2-15 against Indy, so it's safe to say that the "rivalry" has been rather one-sided. To boot, the Texans are 0-9 all-time in Indianapolis, so they're due for a win in that department as well.

The Colts are 0-2 in the division, while both teams are knotted at 4-2 overall and chasing the 5-2 Tennessee Titans. This is a hugely important game in the AFC South, with the Titans traveling to San Diego against an extremely desperate Chargers team. The winner of this game could very well be tied for the division lead by the end of the weekend, and that should be quite the motivational factor.

While the Texans sport some healthy offensive numbers, their defense is dead last against the pass, never a good thing against a Peyton Manning-led team. I'm not as concerned with Manning losing Dallas Clark and Austin Collie as others, because he could probably drive down Forbes Avenue and make a few guys off the street 1,000-yard receivers.

The Texans have alternated wins and losses each weekend since week two, and that trend will continue again as the Colts get revenge for that early-season embarrassment. Colts 30, Texans 24

Your pick:


My picks: 3-2 last week, 21-14 season (.600)

Your picks (via polls): 4-1 last week, 24-11 season (.686)

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc:


Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

I restrained from being homerific and took the Saints over the Steelers.

Steve said...

@ Louis - Smart move. Me too. Saw this coming a mile away from the Steelers secondary, although I didn't think the offense would be so bad. Seems every teams supposed weakness (Saints defense in this case) is turned into a strength when they get the Steelers.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

My decision didn't have much to do with how bad or good the secondary was (they did hold Brees in check for a half, NOBODY keeps Brees or Manning down for a whole game no matter how good they are).

More to do with the Saints being a good team trying to redeem their season with a HUGE home game, at night, in front of a "well-lubricated" crowd after an embarassing loss to Cleveland.