Back-to-back 8-8 weeks have me spinning my wheels here, and it's time to make the move toward the top. s has been stated previously on more than one occasion, several teams have proven next to impossible to pick. based on the from-the-gut picking methos, which I am sticking with, I submit the picks for the week, with a heavy emphasis on home teams for some reason. Note a subtle format change, as the predicted score will now be the heading for the choice as the old way seemed a bit redundant. This week also marks the return of Saturday games, though now they are shown only on the rarely seen NFL Network. Seriously, at what point do we just go to a seven day NFL schedule? Does anyone else think that diluting the product somehow makes it better?
I picked Seattle, and lost, before I had the chance to post the picks. Here's what I thought when making that rotten choice:
SEATTLE 24 San Francisco 10
Hawks tough at home, and by winning here take one step closer to locking up NFC West. While they've been up and down this season, typical of a post Super Bowl letdown, this is where they can out it into gear and make a late season run in the wide open NFC.
ATLANTA 27 Dallas 24
I haver no idea why I would take the Falcons here, as they are one of the prime examples of teams which offer no consistency, thus are impossible to rely on when picking. Cowboys coming off embarrassing loss at home to Saints last week, and perhaps were exposed there. Tony Romo has come back to Earth of late, and Atlanta might have enough to pull this one out late, but it also would not surprise me if Dallas ended up winning by 20.
MINNESOTA 21 N.Y. Jets 17
Vikings a bit tougher in the dome, and Jets might have blown their season by losing to Bills last week. Something tells me the Minny D will put together a big effort and force Chad Pennington into mistakes, resulting in a W.
TENNESSEE 27 Jacksonville 22
All aboard! Despite SI cover jinx, the Vince Young love train is leaving the station with room for more folks to hop on. Jags don't travel well, and have had trouble putting together decent back-to-back games. Blowing out Colts last week has to lead to a bit of a letdown, and the young exciting Titans will seize upon that and rock to a thrilling win.
GREEN BAY 30 Detroit 17
Pack showing some signs of life, at least when facing mediocre teams. Liions are perfect cannon fodder here, and Favre and Co. have shown the ability to put up some points against teams like this. Outside of the Favre TD pass watch, there really isn;t any other reason to pay attention to this one.
CHICAGO 30 Tampa Bay 3
Let's see, an offense which can;t move the ball going up against the toughest defense in the league. Sounds like an ugly, ugly day for the Bucs. Bears would love to boost Rex Grossman's confidence, and there was never a more perfect chance to do so. You can make book on the fact that the Bear D will outscore the Bucs, easily. Also, if John Gruden instructs his punter or kicker to kick the ball anywhere near Devin Hester, he is an idiot.
NEW ORLEANS 21 Washington 16
Classic opportunity for a big letdown for the Saints after last week, but they seem to be rolling here, and Sean Payton will not let things get away with the division title in sight. Redskins have been tough, but seem to play just well enough to come up short each week, which speaks to either a talent gap, or coaching, or both. Drew Brees can enhance his MVP candidacy with another mistake free game, while the McAlister/Bush combination will give Joe Gibbs fits.
CAROLINA 23 Pittsburgh 10
The Disappointment Bowl. Two teams who should have been much better that this, but have stumbled. Hard to choose Chris Weinke, but the Steelers have been so bad on the road, and Panthers have a tiny bit more to play for, so the pick here is Carolina.
BALTIMORE 27 Cleveland 10
Ravens back on track in KC last week, and should coast at home against rookie QB. As is the case with the Bears, I would not be shocked to see the Raven D outscore the Browns offense here. With home field advantage in their sights, Baltimore will not slip up here. Anyone else looking forward to a potential Ravens/Chargers playoff matchup?
NEW ENGLAND 19 Houston 10
Maybe, just maybe, the Pats just aren't that good this year. They seem to be getting by in a mediocre division, but it looks as if they're headed for an early playoff exit. Surprisingly tough Texans can keep this close, and there is a sentence I never thought I'd type.
BUFFALO 22 Miami 16
Bills have been a tough out all season, and despite the lack of severe typical December weather in the forecast, can get past the Fins. Miami did an amazing job bottling up Tom Brady last week in shutting out the Pats, but Rich Stadium has been a traditional House of Horrors for the franchise, and the gloom and doom continues here.
ARIZONA 27 Denver 24
Wow, what the hell am I thinking with this one? Here's what: Cards have been playing much better lately, as Matt Leinart has made some nice adjustments to his game after the league seemed to catch up to him. That, coupled with the Jay Cutler experiment going on in Denver, leaves just enough wiggle room for the home team to pull off the upset. I'm still having trouble understanding why Mike Shanahan would cash in the season by starting Cutler when his team was 7-4 and headed for the playoffs. Then again, I;m just a stupid internet blogger, while he is a genius.
N.Y. GIANTS 27 Philadelphia 21
Wow, this game actually has large playoff implications, which didn;t seem possible as revently as two weeks ago. Eagles have surged with Jeff Garcia at the helm, but the defense is nowhere near the fearsome unit it once was. G-Men have returned to a more conservative approach on offense, trying to minimize mistakes by Eli Manning, and it's worked. Giants, with Tiki Barber carrying the load in a windy Meadowlands, prevail.
Kansas City 31 SAN DIEGO 24
One of only two road teams I'm picking this week is my beloved Chiefs. The rationale is simple, KC desperatley needs the game to keep any playoff hopes alive, while San Diego clinched the division last week. LDT already has the touchdown record, which should lead to him sitting out large parts of the second half no matter the score. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Chiefs lost their owner, Lamar Hunt, this week, and should be inspired to go all out and leave everything on the field. Chargers would love to have this one to maintain the edge for home field advantage, but the factors above point to Kansas City pulling one out on national TV. At least that's what I keep telling myself. I'm holding out hope that KC can run the table and win the Super Bowl as a tribute to Mr. Hunt. Wouldn't that be awesome?
Cincinnati 31 INDIANAPOLIS 24
...and here is my other road selection. Colts were absolutely horrid in losing at Jacksonville last week, as the run defense finally imploded. Make no mistake, it's been bad all year, but that was cover-your-eyes awful. Cincy is one team that can exploit that with Rudi Johnson capable of carrying the rock 30 times and pounding away at that porous front. Should that not be enough, the passing game is one of the league's best, and I honestly don;t see how INdy can keep them under 30 pts. Bengals have been much improved on defense of late, but even with a sub-par week they can still get out of here with a win.
Last week: 8-8
Season total: 127-81 (61.1%)