Raiders (+9) over CHARGERS – I feel the need to preface that I’m not picking the Raiders to win, per se. I actually suspect the Bolts, liberated from damn near any chance of making the playoffs, can play one of two ways: say “fuck it” and light the rest of their opponents up, or say “fuck it” and completely collapse amid the poor playcalling by Norv Turner, the effect of losing Lorenzo Neal to block for both LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles (don’t you dare tell me that doesn’t matter; Good Lo/Bad Lo is now blocking in B’more and you see what their combo of backs is doing this year.) I’m betting on the latter, although I’m peeved that I won’t be able to watch the deflating of a team in person. The Chargers’ soap opera is quite possibly one of the most entertaining in pro sports because no one can understand how a team with that much talent can suck. Most rational people know where to put the blame, though. I can’t write anything new about the Raiders that you don’t know. They’re gonna suck until The Cryptkeeper dies or is exposed to sunlight, but they’re feisty enough to cover if not win outright.
BEARS (-6.5) over Jaguars – Jacksonville just looks like it completely gave up on being anything resembling a competent team, and I think it’s because the players HATE their coach. Jack Del Rio’s motivational tactics of shoving guys out the door as soon as they don’t buy in any more has probably reached its limit (tell me how demoting your defensive captain’s worked for your defense, huh?), and I wonder if we won’t see the Jags struggle just as much next year. This is probably the only reason he isn’t on the hot seat, along with the usual “no one gives a good goddamn about Jacksonville in general” thing. It is mildly amusing that Del Rio is turning into a younger version of Tom Coughlin, except he is more Coach Buzzcut than Sgt. Hartman.
Vikings over LIONS – This is strictly a pick because the game’s been taken off the board, in another embarrassing moment for a franchise on the way to 0-16, with the train’s brakes completely out. Gus Frerotte would need to throw at least three picks to start for Detroit to have a shot, and even that’s asking a lot.
Texans (+5.5) over PACKERS – Anyone with a bit of suss will realize that the Pack is going finish at no better than .500, and it isn’t Aaron Rodgers’ fault. The rush defense has been absolutely killing Green Bay, and expect Steve Slaton to do enough of that up north to allow Sage Rosenfels not to have to throw andything big unless Andre Johnson is so open that he could run to a Kum & Go and get a soda while coming back to the end zone.
Bengals (+13) over COLTS – Indy still wins, mind you, but be fair: do you think the team you saw in Cleveland is gonna beat the bad teams by two scores any more? Not at this time, unless Peyton Manning is comlpetely and 100% on his game and the line is blocking for him. 8-10 points and I would have gone with the Colts. Also, Lucas Oil Stadium has absolutely removed the home-field advantage for them. That tinny RCA Dome actually had some intimidation built into it. (Yes, that’s a Simmons rip-job, but he had a point.)
Falcons (+3) over SAINTS – If you can go to San Diego and beat the Chargers, you can certainly go into New Orleans and knock off the Saints, because while Drew Brees is a better passer, the Saints are similarly one-dimensional and still don’t handle running backs well on defense. Michael Turner is going to make it easy for Matt Ryan to throw for somewher ein the 200-yard range and a TD or two as the Falcons go to 9-4. These three points for New Orleans are merely the complementary three for a home game (the Saints are 5-1 at home), but at most they should be -1.
GIANTS (-7) over Eagles – Philly has rotated into a nexus of alternating awesome and suck that would likely drive its fans crazy if they still weren’t totally swept up in the Phillies’ World Series win, although that’s just about worn off by now. IThey’re not going to get absolutely humiliated, and Donovan McNabb will be productive (I’m hoping more from Brian Westbrook because I’m in the fantasy playoffs now), but we’re talking about 10 points in my eyes as far as a margin of victory goes.
Additional note: I’m never drafting an Eagle in fantasy ever again. Too many injuries all over that team in skill positions, too much inconsistency at wideout, and too much Andy Reid capriciousness with offensive philosophies. He has become nearly as frustrating as Mike Shanahan has for fantasy players for completely different reasons. Shanny won’t stick with an RB unless forced to. Reid keeps changing his fucking gameplan. I thought the West Coast offense had a basic set of principles here. Donny Mac, please go to Chicago or some place where I can draft you without shame or fear and root for you to succeed again, maybe Minnesota…..oh wait, Coach Major Dad is still there. Don’t do that.
TITANS (-13.5) over Browns – Cleveland puts the funk in dysfunctional this year. 13.5 with Ken Dorsey starting is being very kind. The realy question is whether Tennessee’s management has completely burned the bridge with Vince Young — so much so that they may have to deal him and hope Kerry Collins holds up for two more years. If I were Young, I wouldn’t be terribly pleased with the way the whole depression thing was handled by the team to the media, but then again, I would also shut my mouth, ride it to a ring, and maybe try to pick up as much as I could from Collins. Someone will offer the Titans something stupid for him or he’ll get his chance in another year again.
Dolphins (+1) over BILLS – How much do you think Buffalo management thinks they’ve pissed away a couple of home wins by going to the freakin’ Rogers Centre in Toronto? I mean, it’s probably going to be chilly in upstate NY and you just gave away the home field advantage against a warm weather team, one playing much better than you are. Miami could run the table and get into the playoffs by winning the division (at this rate, I’m convinced that the AFC Wild Cards will be the Colts and either PItt or Baltimore, so there’s only one team coming out of the East) a year after going 1-15. Insane, and makes you question what the hell was really up with Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller last year.
Chiefs (+9) over BRONCOS – Put this to me as a straight up pick and I’m taking the Broncos, but nine points is too much to give up to a team showing some offensive pique with Tyler Thigpen in a pistol formation stolen straight from Nevada’s Chris Ault, who should go after K.C. O-coordinator Chan Gailey for royalties — the Chan Gailey Equilibrium does not produce offense in that manner normally. Also, you have to chalk up the Chiefs’ win earlier to a legit old-school stadium in Arrowhead, where Shanahan just does not win, and after last week, let’s just say Denver will be particularly motivated not to lose back-to-back games at home to division rivals.
I’m still finding it surreal that a white dude from U-Pig (Arkansas) named Peyton Hillis is toting the rock for Denver. I thought the NFL had outlawed white running backs in the last round of negotiations with the NFLPA and limited receivers to one “possesion guy” per team. The best part: I remember Hillis as an H-back for the Razorbacks, catching backfield passes and blocking for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, but apparently Houston Nutt had to shift him there when those two came in — he had a bunch of Arkansas state running records. Fucking insane.
49ERS (+3) over Jets – I don’ think a return trip to the Bay Area will suit the Jets a whole lot better than their initial trip to Oakland, because they play down to really poor and/or inconsistent teams at times, and they’ve lost both trips out West so far this year (Week 2 loss to the Bolts). Their run defense is being exposed; give Frank Gore a chance this week if you like. Then again, we are talking a Niners’ secondary that doesn’t do a whole lot of pass defense.
Patriots (-4) over SEAHAWKS – Even with Matt Cassel, the Pats are in much better shape than Seattle’s JV team. Good Lord, if there’s any type of fan I don’t want to be this year, it’s a Seattle fan. Sonics stolen from you, Mariners an absolute disaster, and your reliable football team is looking old and useless right before your eyes. A sports fan’s mood is likely as gray as the weather can be out there.
CARDINALS (-14) over Rams – St. Louis is lucky Detroit exists so no one can really notice how hapless they are. The Kurt Warner 3000 is having the occasional burnouts, but with wide receivers that good, you can paste over the fact that Arizona is not really a serious playoff team and benefits from its lousy division. At least you knew in the past few years that Seattle could take its Wild Card home playoff game and win it. Say Arizona hosts either Carolina or Atlanta in the first round: how many of you would put money on the Cardinals? Sucker bet.
My dad, living in Mesa these days, gets the experience of watching this team every week (at his age and with the movement teams have done, he no longer cares for the NFL in a fan sense, but merely as an observer — such is the lot of someone who picked up on pro football late in life and with the Los Angeles Rams) and he describes it like this: “They always have a chance to play up to their expectations, and fail miserably at that. This is why they have no fans.” Additionally, I only noticed a while ago that they literally have “RED ZONE” signs in the stands at the end zones in the Pink Taco. I should have seen this when The Starter Wife road-tripped there for a Steelers game, but yeesh.
STEELERS (-3) over Cowboys – The whole “good defense tops great offense” maxim, plus the Cowboys have not exactly played the greatest team talent since getting Tony Romo back. However, the Steelers get yet another nice test. If there’s a potential playoff team that’s been tested week in and week out like this, with a completely gimpy O-line, I’ve not seen it. For some reaosn, I’m thinking high scoring, but close.
RAVENS (-5) over Redskins – This is where the wheels probalby come off completley for the Redskins’ playoff chances, because they’re going up against another defensive brick wall a week after the Giants and one with a rookie quarterback that’s outperforming expectations. And despite all of this, there’s really no team I want to see less in the playoffs than Bailtmore. There’s still the stink of Modell’s Move on this team, plus the fact that they are probably made up of a negative sort of charisma — call it the anti-charm. They’ll kill you on the defensive side of the ball, and as Holly noted earlier this week, there is really no facial expression Ray Lewis can muster that does not make him look like he’s going to cut you and enjoy it.
(Thanks to Holly for granting permission for the image borrowing.)
I write this knowing he was found not guilty, has found God, etc. I don’t presume to think him a bad person. The man would scare me if I ran across him and had never heard of him before. This is an admirable quality in football.
Buccaneers (+3.5) over PANTHERS – The Panthers are winning in spite of Jake Delhomme more than because of him in the past month or so — it’s all been on the back of DeAngelo Williams. Expect this to come to a drastic stop with the Tampa Bay linebacking corps — despite him being older now, I have already imagined that Derrick Brooks was likely the inspiration behind Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. #56 jersey, menacing look…maybe that was just an excuse to note that someone designed a Lego version of Terry.
(Delhomme forgot to file his TPS reports. Punishment coming on Sunday.)