This week's picks come early and there's a theme: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Lies. Carolina leads the league in passing defense.
Part of that is because they give up 4.4 yards per rush and so most of their opponents haven't bothered to pass much. But will Arizona be able to take advantage, having averaged only 3 yards per rush so far this season? The key is to look beyond the NFL's use of ranking defenses by yards per game. Carolina's passing defense has actually given up a 65.6 completion % as well as a 91.3 QB rating. It's not that Carolina's been good against the pass, but just that opponents haven't had to pass the ball much. Arizona's run defense, however, is legit after another strong display against the Giants, and is averaging 3 yards per rushing attempt by opponents. If Carolina's run game gets stopped and Delhomme (this season's INT leader so far) is asked to keep them in the game, this could get ugly fast.
Damned lies. Buffalo ranks 2nd in the league in opposing QB's rating with 58.
If we look closely at those opponents, we'll see that they've faced Delhomme, Sanchez, and Derek Anderson, three of the lowest rated QBs in the game this season. Other quarterbacks haven't had as much trouble with the Bills, with even Byron Leftwich going for almost 300 yards and 3 TDs.
Damned lies. Buffalo gives up 5.2 yards per rush but Houston also gives up 4.7 yards per rush.
Yet in Houston's last three games, including against rushing leader Cedric Benson, their opponents have averaged less than 3.1 yards per attempt.
Buffalo just barely won their last two games, thanks to a combined 10 takeaways. Can that trend continue? Unless Buffalo comes up with a lot of takeaways again, they won't be able to generate momentum on offense and won't be able to stop Houston on defense. Because Buffalo's run defense is so bad, Houston will probably protect a lead better than they have so far this season.
How can a team that lost by 5 TDs one week be favored by 2TDs the next? Cutler has played pretty much as expected, with high TD and INT numbers. This week should get him back to high TD numbers without the pressure of having to come from behind or much pressure from Cleveland's defense. Statistics. Cleveland managed no sacs last week against Green Bay, a team that had been giving up an average of 5 sacs per game.
The Bears are coming off two tough road losses and will enjoy returning home where they are unbeaten so far this season. The return of Tommie Harris should help Chicago's defense. The Bears will be hungry and want to run it up to vent their frustrations.