This past week of NFL football was a mixed bag. If you were lucky, you saw a tight, hard fought game that came down to the wire or even went to OT (and hopefully a win). If you were unlucky, you live in Denver. The great thing about midseason is that the playoff picture is beginning to take shape and, in the AFC particularly, a loss or two now and you might as well start making tee times.

Both the Steelers and Pitt Panthers are sitting pretty in their respective conferences right now, but not that pretty. The Steelers and Panthers have targets on their backs, which means that this week’s games, and all that follow, are going to be hard fought. Let’s take a look at these and a few other gems on this week’s schedule. Shall we!

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Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints – Sunday, Oct. 31, 8:20pm

The 2010 Saints have not looked like Saints we remember from the last few years. Drew Brees threw 4-interceptions last week against the Browns, something he has not done since early in the 2007 season. The bigger concern for New Orleans is that the Saints have not been able to score with the ease that they have in years past. Despite allowing only 11-touchdowns by their opponents, the Saints have made costly mistakes and allowed opposing teams to make their way into redzone regulary.

The Steelers are coming off a close win in Miami that ended with a controversial call and some key injuries. Pittsburgh’s league-leading defense loses DE Aaron Smith, which is big, don’t get me wrong, but not insurmountable with the depth the Steelers have to back up their front seven. That said, the Saints are coming off an embarassing loss to a, for lack of a better word, crap team. The complacency that comes with a Superbowl victory gets quickly erased after a loss like that; like getting hi-fived in the face.

The Steelers need to be ready for an angry, aggressive Saints offense with something to prove. Namely, that teams like Cleveland and their 59-151 record (39%) this decade have no business winning  in New Orleans. Teams boasting a 166-57-1 record… well that’s another story all together.

My Pick: Steelers 38, Saints 30
Can the Steelers beat the defending Superbowl champs at their house?

Louisville Cardinals at Pittsburgh Panthers – Saturday, Oct. 30, 12:00pmHave you heard? Pitt is sitting high atop the Big East. Relax people, 2-0 means nothing and there is a big game at Heinz  Field this weekend against the best Big East opponent Pitt has faced this season. Louisville is allowing only 18.6-points-per-game, they are fresh off a shoutout against UConn and running back Bilal Powell is averaging 7.1-yards-per-game. Yeah, that many.

Panthers Tino Sunseri, Dion Lewis and Jonathan Baldwin are going have to be firing on all cylinders against the Lousiville defense. That doesn’t seem as though it will be a problem, however, given the fact that Tino Sunseri has shown significant improvement in every game since the debacle against Miami, and has looked spectacular in his last two games (38-51, 588-yards, 7-TDs). Everything runs through a team’s quarterback and this team’s quarterback is playing at a very high level. This won’t be as easy as the last two games, but it will be a win.

My pick: Panthers 35, Cardinals 27
Can Tino keep things rolling to give the Panthers their third-consecutive win?

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Let’s take a minute to watch one of the best plays of the past week…

Normally, I hate to feature a clip of a Cleveland Browns plays that is positive, but let’s give credit where credit it due. Most times, the Browns produce highlights like this one. And now, back to your regularly scheduled program.

Oregon Ducks at USC Trojans, Saturday, Oct. 30, 8:00pm

The #2 Oregon Ducks have been thrashing teams all season. Get this, the Ducks are averaging 55.1-points-per-game this season. 55.1! Through seven games they have beat their opponents by an average of 39.2-points. Oh yeah, and Ducks’ quarterback Darron Thomas is on pace to challenge the Ducks’ school record for passing touchdowns (32). So why won’t Oregon head to the Coliseum and trounce the Trojans?

The Trojans are 4-2 in their last six games against Oregon and are undefeated at home against the Ducks. By the way, Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley, is having a pretty good season himself. Barkley is completing 65% of his passes for 1869-yards and 20-touchdowns… keep in mind this is still late October. Both of these teams are littered with future professionals. This one is going to be more fun to watch than a baby monkey riding a pig… backwards! I’m going with the upset here.

My Pick: Ducks 42, Trojans 45
Do you think USC can knock off the #2-ranked Ducks?

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts – Monday, Nov. 1, 8:30pm

This may be the most important game of the season for both of these teams. Both are 4-2 in a division that could have a team with double-digit wins left out of the playoff arena. Indianapolis has lost both of their divisional games and can not afford to be 0-3 in the AFC South. The Colts have played well, especially (and to no surprise) Peyton Manning, who has 13-touchdowns to just 2-interceptions and almost 2000-yards. Manning and reciever Reggie Wayne will have to hoist the offense on their shoulders (which hasn’t been a problem in the past), as pass-catchers are dropping like Randy Moss’ imaginary pants.

If Houston can win, they would have doubled their win-total all-time against the Colts. That’s right, since their inception in 2002, the Texans record against the Colts stands at 2-15. One of their wins was the opening week of this season and the other was late in the 2006 season, by which time they the Colts already had a playoff berth in-hand (then this happened). With a win, Houston would not only be sending a message to the NFL that they are a legitimate contenders, but they would also be putting the Colts in a desperate position with a tough schedule left to play.

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My Pick: Colts 28, Houston 17
Can the Texans do something they’ve never done and sweep the Colts?