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Throwing Darts: Backing the Hawks at home

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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That's not what Xavier McDaniel told me (AP)

No fancy preamble here, let's get to the matter at hand. We pick five games a week, using the spread from Yahoo! Pro Football Pick'Em. There must be a posted number for us to touch the game. You're invited to offer your own five picks in the comments, discuss your opinions, slants, hunches and what not.

Seahawks +3 vs. Cowboys: This is one of the standard handicapping plays, a zig-zag or a buy-low, sell-high. Dallas impressed in a National TV win last week, while the Seahawks slogged to an ugly loss at Arizona. Perfect time to go the other way, swim against the current.

Seattle's reliable home-field edge also helps the cause. The Seahawks are 56-30 SU and 47-35-4 ATS since the new stadium opened, and while in theory this should be factored into the number, it appears that most of this line is driven by a public team (Dallas) coming off a strong opener. Seattle has a good chance to spring the mild upset — the Seahawks still boast a strong defense and deep secondary, while Dallas has to contend with a messy offensive line — and the plus-three gives us a backboard even if the Cowboys win.

Jaguars +7 vs. Texans: Although Houston has been the better club in this rivalry over the last three years, the Jags have defended home turf reasonably well. Jacksonville sprung a mild upset in 2009 and won here as a pick-em in 2010, and last year's game was competitive (a 20-13 win for Houston). I'm impressed with Mike Mularkey's tutelage of second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert — he's not a star, of course, but he might be competent — and Houston's big opening-day victory didn't look as good in the secondary numbers as it did on the scoreboard. There's nothing buzzy about the Jaguars, but they can hang around.

Dolphins +2.5 vs. Raiders: While Miami's offense was a turnover-producing mess in Houston, the defense was respectable (the Texans ran for just 2.4 yards a carry and managed a modest 19 first downs). Oakland has to play this game on a short work week, and Carson Palmer looks uncomfortable in the new Greg Knapp offense. Denarius Moore is a key returnee for the Raiders, but how much can we expect off a sizable layoff? Look for an ugly home-opener victory for Johnny Fish and The Fins.

Steelers -5.5 vs. Jets: What the heck do we do with Gang Green these days? The Jets offense was a disaster in preseason, then Mark Sanchez & Co. threw a 48-spot at the stumbling Bills (man, does that Tebow inspire greatness). Maybe Buffalo is simply an easy matchup for New York; the Jets have won six in a row in that series, four of them decisive wins.

I'd like to see Sanchez play that well if he's pushed into a deficit this week, if he's forced to throw when the opponent knows it's coming. The Steelers defense doesn't have the same thump we're used to — a host of big names are hurt or gone completely — but there's enough on roster for me to side with the hosts.

And while the Pittsburgh offense is still feeling things out, at least they're attacking a Jets secondary that's absent shutdown ace Darrelle Revis. Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley should have a blast picking on exploitable corner Kyle Wilson, and I can also envision Jonathan Dwyer producing against a New York front seven that didn't tackle well in Week 1.

Survivor: I'm going to take the heavily-favored Patriots, but not without pause. I don't see the Cardinals as a guaranteed patsy — the Arizona defense is a lot better than many realize — and you can at least build a pot-odds case for going against New England, given that 44 percent of Yahoo! survivor players are siding with Brady and Belichick.

I don't see any other side I'm completely comfortable with. I'm not touching the Texans or Redskins on the road. Norv Turner in September? Nope. The Bengals are on a short week and Cleveland's defense (even without Joe Haden) isn't that bad. The Giants should beat Tampa Bay, but Greg Schiano's crew impressed me in Week 1.

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 4-1
2011: 41-39
2010: 49-34

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