NFL Picks Week 7

p> Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Chicago Bears — Sunday, Oct. 23, 1 p.m.

Don’t look now — Tampa Bay is on top of the NFC South, and their only two losses have come at the hands of the only two teams in the NFC whose success thus far is more surprising: the Lions and 49ers.

Two out of their four wins have been against the worst teams in the league — the Vikings and Colts.

But their other two wins are the most telling: divisional victories over the Saints and Falcons. If you beat the best teams in your division on a consistent basis you will make the playoffs 99 percent of the time.

The Bears are coming off of a win against the Vikings in a snoozer last Sunday night and sit at 3-3.

Other than their opening week win against Atlanta, Chicago has beaten the bad teams and lost to the good ones.

This doesn’t bode well for Chicago, whose upcoming schedule after Tampa Bay is at Philadelphia, vs. Detroit, vs. San Diego and at Oakland.

Chicago is looking up at Detroit and Green Bay in their division and need to start winning against the better teams in the NFC if they want to have a shot at playoff contention.

I think Tampa Bay is flying high after their win over New Orleans, and the fact that they are playing at home on Sunday gives them the edge.

The Pick: Tampa Bay

New York Jets vs. San Diego Chargers — Sunday, Oct. 23, 1 p.m.

Sure, it’s only Week 7, but this game is a make-or-break game for the Jets. If they win, they will be going into their bye week with a 4-3 record and quality wins against Dallas and a good San Diego team.

They will have a quality win to build off of as they prepare for Buffalo and New England in two consecutive weeks after the bye. If they lose, however, I think it is safe to say that the Jets are an average team in the AFC.

San Diego is interesting in that everyone acknowledges that they are a good AFC team and should compete with the Raiders for the AFC west crown, yet the combined record of the four teams they’ve beaten is 4-17.

In no way am I suggesting that the Chargers aren’t a good football team. Instead, I’m interested to see how well they play in a tough road atmosphere against a team that desperately needs to win a meaningful game.

Antonio Gates has been out the last two games but is expected to play Sunday, and his presence over the middle, or lack thereof, could very well be the difference maker.

Couple the fact that the Chargers haven’t won a big game this season with the fact that the Jets are on the brink, and

I’m putting my money on the Jets making a statement to the National Football League.

The Pick: New York

Detroit Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons — Sunday, Oct. 23, 1 p.m.

Detroit finally came back down to earth last week against San Francisco, but I don’t think anyone doubts the Lions are here to stay.

Atlanta sits at 3-3 and have been able to win games that they are expected to win while falling just short against teams that can be considered top tier in the NFC.

There is a really interesting matchup at quarterback here with two young up-and-coming stars.

Matt Ryan certainly has more experience under his belt, but

Matthew Stafford is finally putting together a healthy and productive season.

I think the experience helps Ryan on the road, but if receiver Julio Jones cannot play, that takes away a serious playmaker from Atlanta’s offense.

I am really tempted to take Atlanta here, and I’m really interested to see how Detroit reacts to a bad loss against the 49ers.

If this game was in Atlanta, I would pick the Falcons easily, but because of the fact that Detroit is hosting the game, I have to take the Lions as they try to stay even with Green Bay in the NFC North.