NFL Week 8 Picks: First Place In AFC At Stake When Steelers Host Patriots

PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 14: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown under pressure from Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 14 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

First place in the AFC is on the line when the Steelers (5-2) host the Patriots (5-1) at Heinz Field on Sunday.

It's been two weeks since I've had been able to file picks. Since then, the Pittsburgh Steelers have extended their winning streak to three games and moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC North. The Steelers now face their toughest test of the season -- a home tilt against the hated New England Patriots. All that's at stake is first place in the AFC heading into the halfway point of the 2011 season.

The Steelers and Patriots aren't the only two teams with big games this Sunday. Let's see what else is on tap across the league on Sunday and Monday.

Week 5 Picks: 8-5

Season to Date: 38-38-1

 

Arizona Cardinals at Baltimore Ravens (-13)

  • My gut tells me that John Harbaugh has the Ravens ready to trounce whoever is in their way after last Monday night's debacle in Jacksonville. But that's a big line. And I think about the Steelers win over the Cardinals last week. Pittsburgh dominated the game but a late touchdown by Arizona made it a 12 point game. The Cardinals have the passing game to get that garbage time touchdown, so I can't take a Baltimore team laying that many points. Pick: Arizona

Minnesota Vikings (+3.5) at Carolina Panthers (-105)

  • Two rookie quarterbacks meet in Charlotte. Christian Ponder completed a low percentage of his passes in his NFL debut last Sunday, but he showed some promise at the same time. I don't know what it is with me, but I feel inclined to take Minnesota every week, I suppose because I think the public thinks the Vikings are in the same class as bottom-feeders like St. Louis and Indianapolis. I don't think they are, despite all the losing. I'll take Minny and I wouldn't be surprised to see them win outright. Pick: Minnesota

Jacksonville Jaguars (+10) at Houston Texans (-105)

  • Lost in the impressiveness of actually winning against Baltimore on Monday is the fact that the Jaguars played horribly on offense. The Texans are an enigma, and one of the reasons is they will pull convincing wins out of the hat on a moment's notice. I think this Sunday will be one of those games. Pick: Houston

Miami Dolphins (+10) at New York Giants (-105)

  • Eli Manning and the Giants aren't exactly the best in the business at handling inferior teams at home (see: Week 5 vs. Seattle), but this Miami team is ready to implode, and though it has not been a recipe for success so far this year for teams around the league, I think the week off for the Giants will prove to be beneficial. Pick: New York

St. Louis Rams at New Orleans Saints (-14)

  • Can they make this line high enough? I certainly don't think 14 points is in the ballpark. The Rams are the lowest scoring offense in the league, and I see no way they can keep pace with the well-oiled machine that is the Saints offense. Pick: New Orleans

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (-9)

  • Not what I'd call an intriguing matchup. Both teams are coming off of blowout losses. Tennessee though still has something to play for. I like them to rebound against a totally dysfunctional Colts squad. Pick: Tennessee

Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills (-6)

  • The Redskins 2-0 start was all smoke and mirrors. Their defense is still better than average, but there is absolutely no pop to that offense, particularly with Chris Cooley out for the year and Santana Moss out this next month with a hand injury. This line opened at 4 and has since climbed to 6. Don't be surprised if it moves up to 7 by kickoff. At 6 though I'm taking the Bills. Pick: Buffalo

Detroit Lions (-3) at Denver Broncos (-115)

  • Tebow Mania to continue for another week? We'll see. I do think that Detroit is going to begin their descent back down to earth this next month. It's hard for me to take a Broncos team with this many holes on both sides of the ball, but the Tebow factor will at least have the Denver crowd rocking and engaged. Pick: Denver

New England Patriots (-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (-120)

  • Call me a homer, call me what you will, I believe Pittsburgh plays very well on Sunday and finally gets the best of a Tom Brady led Patriots team. First place in the AFC is at stake at Heinz on Sunday. Go Steelers! Pick: Pittsburgh

Cleveland Browns at San Francisco 49ers (-9)

  • Even though they destroyed Tampa Bay in Week 6, the 49ers have won just one other game by double digit points, a Week 1 win over Seattle that was actually closer than the 33-16 final score suggested. The 49ers may well win, but not by that many points. Pick: Cleveland

Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) at Seattle Seahawks

  • If Tarvaris Jackson plays, I think Seattle has a solid shot at winning. Not so much if Charlie Whitehurst is under center. The uncertain status of Jackson is why some books don't have lines for this game, but I suppose I'll just assume he's playing and take the team with one of the league's very best home field advantages. Pick: Seattle

Dallas Cowboys (+3.5) at Philadelphia Eagles (+115)

  • It's do or die for the Eagles this weekend. At 2-4, they're just two games back of the first-place Giants in the NFC East. Not insurmountable. That's why I like them to play as if their season is on the line, and I think they'll respond favorably. Pick: Philadelphia

San Diego Chargers (-4) at Kansas City Chiefs

  • Finally a semi-intriguing Monday Night Football matchup. The Chiefs have bounced back from an 0-3 start to win their last three. The Chargers meanwhile are coming off their bye week looking to establish some sort of consistency. Arrowhead is a tough place to play, but I just don't like what the Chiefs offer offensively. Matt Cassel has been pretty average during the win streak. Pick: San Diego

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