Anquan Boldin

NFL Picks, Week 9: what happened to the Cardinals?

In a matchup that epitomizes the NFC West to observers from coast to coast (but especially the east coast), the 1-6 St. Louis Rams will face the equally 1-6 Arizona Cardinals. The Rams appear to be on the way up, relatively speaking — after a completely unexpected win over the Saints it looks like they might get Sam Bradford back this Sunday (which may not seem like that great of news since A.J. Feeley was a major reason why they beat the Saints, but Bradford’s clearly the more talented player).

The Cardinals have lost five straight, their latest loss to the Ravens coming after Arizona took off to a 21-point lead in the first half before the Ravens came back and knocked the Cardinals from their perch as time expired. Bird metaphor.

Now Kevin Kolb, who they traded Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd-rounder in 2012 to get, looks like he doesn’t just have turf toe. There’s turf toe, a mid-foot sprain and a bone bruise, which means the Cardinals will probably have to start John Skelton, who’s tall but not much else.

What happened to the Cardinals, who’ve gone from nearly winning the Super Bowl in 2008 and prevailing in one of the most exciting playoff games of all time in 2009 (51-45 over the Packers in overtime, a game in which the teams combined for over 1,000 yards) to the worst team in the NFL’s weakest division (excluding the Niners, of course)?

It’s easy to point at the departures of Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle after the ’09 season and say that’s the main cause of the Cardinals’ free-fall. After giving $50 million guaranteed to Larry Fitzgerald it’s clear they’re putting all their eggs in the Kolb/Fitz basket (sorry, last bird reference). So far, the early returns are not good.

Onto the Week 8 picks, with odds courtesy of from around noon today (11/4/11):

Falcons (-8) @ Colts
The Colts aren’t nearly as bad at home, and the Falcons are coming off a bye week and will probably look past this game with New Orleans coming up next week.
Pick: Colts

Jets @ Bills (-1)
For some reason I think this whole Bills thing is ripe for a major collapse.
Pick: Jets

Browns @ Texans (-12)
The Niners were only favored by 9.5 points against the Browns last week at home; are the Texans that much better than the Niners without Andre Johnson? TOO MANY POINTS!
Pick: Browns

Dolphins @ Chiefs (-4)
The Chiefs’ defense is pretty good, to the point where I’d be surprised if Miami scores 10 points.
Pick: Chiefs

Buccaneers @ Saints (-10)
TOO MANY POINTS! (And LeGarrette Blount’s back.)
Pick: Buccaneers

Seahawks @ Cowboys (-13)
THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH! TOO MANY POINTS! (Seriously, did you see the Cowboys last week? When they’re bad…)
Pick: Seahawks

Bengals @ Titans (-1.5)
With how Cincinnati’s done this year and how Chad Ochocinco has completely disappeared in New England, one has to wonder how valuable he is. Doesn’t he pretty much have negative value at this point, like Aubrey Huff in 2011?
Pick: Bengals

Giants @ Patriots (-10.5)
It’s hard to trust the Pats’ defense to keep games from getting close, even if the Giants will be without Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks. TOO MANY POINTS!
Pick: Giants

Rams @ Cardinals (-1)
For the reasons listed above (Skelton, especially).
Pick: Rams

Packers (-5.5) @ Chargers
This will probably end up sounding like a home game to Green Bay considering most Chargers games are blacked out these days, plus we all know how good the Chargers are against good teams.
Pick: Packers

Ravens @ Steelers (-3.5)
This idea that Pittsburgh’s old and ready for a decline seems more and more like me being overly hopeful. This game’s also a nice little opportunity for revenge after Baltimore’s 35-7 rout over the Steelers in Week 1.
Pick: Steelers

Bears @ Eagles (-9)
TOO MANY POINTS! NFC East games are screwy, so I’m not taking the blowout win over Dallas that seriously. The Eagles still can’t stop the run and Matt Forte’s having a hell of a season (leads the Bears in rushing and receiving yards; leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 155.9 per game).
Pick: Bears

Broncos @ Raiders (-9)
First off, every time I’ve picked the Raiders this year they’ve let me down (and every time I pick against them they cover, so go figure). But even though Tim Tebow became a national punchline this week, with religious people up in arms that other players would dare mock Tebow’s little take-a-knee move, I still don’t know how the Raiders can be trusted to score that many points this week.

Sure, it’s Denver, but the Raiders are working in a new quarterback, wide receiver (the very much past-his-prime T.J. Houshmandzadeh) and they’re without Darren McFadden. Can’t help but picture the Raiders winning a close game here.
Pick: Broncos

49ers (-3.5) @ Redskins
This is the time to start passing a little. Washington’s offense is hampered by their quarterback situation and the losses of Santana Moss, Tim Hightower and Chris Cooley. Also, leading Redskins receiver Fred Davis is questionable with an ankle injury. So in effect the Niners are facing the Browns again, only on the road.

The Redskins don’t respect the Niners’ passing game, as well they shouldn’t. But it would be surprising, and probably harmful, to expect Frank Gore to carry the ball 31 times again. And the 49ers showed glimpses of joining the land of the living with Braylon Edwards’ return opening things up for Michael Crabtree, but look for the return of the tight ends this week. Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker were blockers for the most part against Cleveland. At least one of them will probably catch a TD pass. And isn’t it crazy that the 49ers don’t seem like a lost cause in 1 pm EST games across the country anymore?
Pick: 49ers

Last week: 6-7 (If you haven’t figured it out already, I lost on every four double-digit favorites — every game except Titans/Colts: TOO MANY POINTS!)
Overall: 56-59-2

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