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Jimmy The Roman

. . . NFL Week 7 Analysis

The old football saying goes, "When you throw the ball, one of three things can happen, and two of them are bad." They're wise words that many NFL coaches swear by, and to hear the way the coaches talk every week about needing to

establish the "running game" early, you might think they actually practice that mantra. A close look at the statistics through week 6 proves otherwise.

Fifteen different NFL quarterbacks have thrown for more than 1,200 yards through week 6, and only a handful of those have actually played six games (actually five of them have played six games). So five of those quarterbacks are averaging at least 200 yards per game. The other 10 are averaging at least 240 yards per game. Either way you look at it, all of these quarterbacks are on pace to register the coveted 3,000-yard season.

Fifteen quarterbacks on pace to break 3,000 passing yards in a season. It's unheard of in the NFL, and it has as much to do with the true change in philosophy as it does with the lack of depth at both the running back and defensive back positions. OK, so defensive back is easy to understand, right? If so many quarterbacks are throwing for 3,000 yards in a season, obviously the defensive backs are mediocre at best.

But I submit there is another reason for this oddity. The lack of depth at running back is a serious concern. And not just because there isn't the wealth of quality as before, but that the wealth of quality isn't running as deep or as far onto the bench as before. Second and third string guys are simply not anywhere as good as some of the first string guys--so when a team that relies on a guy like Duce Staley (as Philadelphia has done all season) loses their biggest rushing yardage producer, they look to the "bench" and lower their heads in dismay.

Consider this lack of depth the reason that teams like Denver, the Jets and others are playing their first string RBs despite lingering injuries. The fact of the matter is, without them, they have no running game at all. Look at the statistics for proof. Generally speaking, we consider a RB successful if he has earned 100 yards in a game. However, through week 6 of the NFL, only TWO RBs are averaging 100 yards per game. Granted, that's a pretty lofty standard to meet on a consistent basis, but consider that the difference between the number 2 and number 3 RBs in rushing in the NFL thus far is 100 yards (in essence, a full game). That's quite a gap for players that are among the leaders in this category--especially after only six weeks of play.

So, in the absence of the running game, NFL coaches are throwing caution to the wind--literally--and it's creating a deluge of parity among the quarterbacks. If 15 QBs finish this season with over 3,000 yards passing, you can bet there will be an off-season scramble to find the best defensive backs and running backs. Don't be surprised to see that position at the top of next year's draft.

As usual, the following picks are completely unscientific, and much like the Reuters/MSNBC polls of the presidential race, they are statistically insignificant. In other words, don't blame me if you use my picks to bet with and lose a bundle.

San Diego at Buffalo: When a team is 0-6, there starts to develop a hunger for a victory that grows and grows. San Diego is feeling that hunger big time. QB Jim Harbaugh should be slightly more at ease after getting a game in this system under his belt. The Bills, after three straight losses, look like easy prey. Pick: San Diego

Oakland at Kansas City: No team in the NFL has a home winning percentage that is as good as the Chiefs' over the last decade. The red hot Raiders hope to put a dent in that home field advantage, but something tells me the biggest dramatic moments of this game will be the "lovers spat" between Raiders QB Rich Gannon and coach Jon Gruden on the Oakland sideline. Pick: Kansas City

Atlanta at St. Louis: It was bad enough when the Falcons got their asses kicked in their own backyard by the lightning-fast Rams, but now they have to travel to St. Louis for likely more of the same. Isn't there a point where this kind of punishment starts to feel like S&M? The Falcons don't look like they're excited for it, either. Pick: St. Louis

Carolina at New Orleans: Finally, the Saints offense clicked last week as QB Jeff Blake threw for 217 yards to complement RB Ricky Williams' 128 yards on the ground in clocking their second consecutive win this season. Carolina is coming off a hot win at home against Seattle. Pick: New Orleans

Dallas at New York Giants: The Cowboys got a much needed week off last week, and hopefully they've corrected the offensive woes that have limited their attack all season. Defensively, they'll have a handful with the thunder-and-lightning combo of the Giant's RBs Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber. Pick: New York

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: Though they still haven't done it, the Bengals actually view this game as winnable, if Akili Smith can step up and play as he did against Tennessee, and if Corey Dillon can survive an entire game. The Steelers, however, are coming off their biggest game of the season in which they upset the previously undefeated New York Jets. Pick: Pittsburgh

Baltimore at Washington: The Redskins suffered another close call in Philadelphia last week where they squeaked out a 17-14 victory. Unfortunately, the high-priced defense gave up 201 total yards to Eagle RB Duce Staley. The Ravens are ruling the roost atop the AFC Central after sweeping the season series with Jacksonville by winning in Jacksonville last week, and are viewed as the "team to beat" in all of the AFC. Pick: Baltimore

Cleveland at Denver: Once again, the Browns squandered a very winnable game last week in Arizona, and their young team seems to have a problem with focus. Their silver lining this week is the potential to do serious harm to Broncos QB Brian Griese and RB Terrell Davis (both of whom are playing injured). The Broncos needn't think, however, that this will be an easy win. Pick: Denver

New York Jets at New England: The Patriots have put together a nice little winning streak, after a victory last week at home against the Colts. The Jets looked flat in their embarrassing loss to Pittsburgh, and need to seriously regroup if they hope to bounce back. The Jets would love to spoil Belichick's streak with a loss at home. Pick: New England

Indianapolis at Seattle: After a humiliating loss to the Panthers, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren may be eating some humble pie for benching the experienced QB John Kitna (who directed the team to the playoffs last season) in favor of unknown and unproven Brock Huard. The Colts need a big game from RB Edgerrin James to bounce back from a loss to the Patriots. Pick: Indianapolis

San Francisco at Green Bay: The Packers can't seem to decide if they're going to win or lose games this season. QB Brett Favre seems to have lost his "comeback" magic. The 49ers are reaping the benefits of a ground game, thanks to league leader Charlie Garner (609 yards). Terrell "Sideshow Bob" Owens is coming off of a 12-catch, 176-yard game against Oakland in that loss, and he now leads the NFC in receptions. Pick: San Francisco

Philadelphia at Arizona: Jake Plummer enjoyed modest success against the defenseless Cleveland Browns, but the Eagles are something altogether different. The Eagles signed veteran free agent RB Amp Lee after losing Duce Staley for the season following surgery to repair an injury to his foot. This could prove a costly loss for the Eagles. Pick: Arizona

Minnesota at Chicago: They don't do it pretty, but they do it. That's all that can be said for the undefeated Vikings, who won a sloppy game at home against Tampa Bay Monday night. Chicago, still struggling on offense, could prove to be the big spoiler for Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper (my "homeboy"). Pick: Minnesota

Jacksonville at Tennessee: Four weeks ago, this was billed as a potential revenge match for the Jaguars, who sought to avenge a sweep by the Titans last season (including a heart-breaking shellacking in the playoffs). But now, the Jaguars are sharing the cellar with the second-year expansion Browns, and the Titans are lost somewhere in the middle of the NFL pack, after narrowly escaping with victories against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Pick: Tennessee

The Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all have bye weeks.

Last week's picks: 7-7 (overall 21-19--OK, so I'm not doing so hot--BITE me!)

Jimmy The Roman, a salute to the deceased sports journalist "Jimmy the Greek," is a periodic columnist at YourMVP.net

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