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Bye (Finally). Week 9 NFL Picks

Another year, another boring World Series. Thankfully, the NFL is about to unleash it’s top-of-the-line winter model. The further the temperature drops, the higher NFL intensity rises. November is here, and with it comes a week full of playoff caliber football. Leaving the Browns at home won’t hurt either.Of the 13 games, I would only consider missing three of them. (Please note, I only said “consider.”) In case you’re curious, the reason for the plethora of exciting games can be attributed to the organizations with the week off. Excluding the Vikings, the combined record of the week 9 bye teams is 11-29. As we’ll witness on Sunday, eliminating the 31st, 30th, 26th, and 23rd ranked teams from the same week will do a lot for competition. If we could only put the Buccaneers on a 2009 bye, we’d be all set.

Last Week:  7 – 6 – 0
Season:       72 – 44 – 0

Decorating Floats for the Yankees 2009 Championship Parade (Byes)

Bills
A 3-5 record isn’t what Buffalo was expecting after their impressive performance in week one. Unfortunately, the team has appeared unable to recover from that loss. I hope Dick Jauron enjoys his last bye week in Buffalo. You too, Terrell Owens.

Browns
When you’re ranked 30th in total offense and 32nd in total defense, it’s safe to assume that Cleveland isn’t the only city happy to see you take a week off. Our TVs were beginning to protest.

Jets
Nothing says, “enjoy your week off,” than an ugly home loss to a division rival. Somehow, the Jets (and their coach) still managed to believe they’re the better team. Dear coach Ryan, When you lose to the same team twice within a month’s time and call yourself the better team, you kind of look like a big dufus. Sincerely, Common Sense.

Raiders
Any washed-up, overpaid football players looking for work? Now is the time to head to Oakland. Please make sure to wear your helmet at all times. If JaMarcus Russell doesn’t hit you with an errant pass, Head Coach Tom Cable might get you with an errant fist. Enjoy!

Rams
What a roll for the St. Louis Rams. Two consecutive weeks without a loss for the first time since Dick Vermeil and Kurt Warner were in town. (Ok, it hasn’t been that long.) Why did Spags declare Marc Bulger his starter? If you offered me odds on whether Bulger would throw a TD or get a concussion, I would take the concussion…….every time.

Vikings
With the Vikings off, Minnesota will have very little to get excited about other than Ricky Rubio playi….. oops. I keep forgetting. He’s overseas and won’t play in Minnesota until 20NEVER. On a positive note, the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA landed the top pick in the upcoming WNBA draft. Favre could finish the season 0-8 and fans wouldn’t even know. The Lynx are back, baby!

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Redskins at Falcons
I have no logical explanation as to why I’m a little excited about this game. I know the Redskins are sports column fodder, but I think they have a chance to steal some wins. Coming off a bye against a banged up Falcon team is a tempting scenario. The Redskins can respond to all their adversity in one of two ways. 1. They can let all the negativity enter the locker room, give up on the season, and selfishly complain about how bad things are within the organization. OR 2. The Redskins can rally; ignore the reports, the controversy, and the coaching conundrum. When things go bad, it’s natural for people to bunker down. If the Redskins bunker down in their locker room, they could very easily make some noise. A 2-5 record does not afford them time to choose, so this will have to be the week they begin their resurgence. As much as I want to pick the Redskins here, I don’t think they have the necessary leaders to pull the off a revival. FALCONS.

Cardinals at Bears
The battle of “pretender contenders” will be an interesting one to watch. Which team shows up? I don’t think either head coach knows the answer to that question. The Cardinals are the luckiest team in the league. They can flounder all year, beat the bad teams in their division, and still make the playoffs by winning the NFC West. While this game is important to both teams, it holds more significance for the Bears. Heading into the toughest part of their schedule with a 4-4 record will make a playoff berth very unlikely. It’ll take Matt Forte finding the end zone twice a week for the remainder of the season in order for me to forgive myself for drafting him over Maurice Jones Drew in my fantasy football draft. My 2009 fantasy football motto: “If it plays with Jay Cutler, it’ll stink like Jay Cutler. Stay away. Stay far, far away.” BEARS.

Ravens at Bengals
The first great division battle in a week that offers five of similar magnitude. Of those five, this is likely to be the most physical. The Bengals and Defensive Coordinator, Mike Zimmer have built their own AFC North defense to rival the Steelers and Ravens. As a result, we get treated to six games of uninhibited violence (unless the QB is involved). The Ravens will be out for revenge after their last minute loss to the Bengals in week 5. Baltimore can ill afford to fall to 1-2 in the division before playing the Steelers once. The Bengals on the other hand, could easily establish themselves as the division champs with a win here and one next week in Pittsburgh. Knock-down, drag-out AFC North battles are some of my favorite games to watch. I’m certainly excited for this one. RAVENS.

Texans at Colts
Arguably the biggest game in the Houston Texans’ short existence. A win here would put them in contention for the AFC South and solidify themselves as a playoff contender. A loss would all but guarantee the Colts another division title and make the Texans a long shot for the postseason. Despite his fumbling issues, there’s no way the Texans can keep RB Steve Slaton off the field on Sunday. The Texans will need points to contend and Slaton is an electric offensive player. I will be shocked if he doesn’t touch the ball 20 times (unless of course he fumbles on touch #2 as he did last week). Has anyone noticed the Colts are injury prone…and still winning? Peyton Manning is amazing. I would send him to the White House to work on the unemployment issue. He’s that good. COLTS.

Dolphins at Patriots
The Dolphins are the best 3-4 team I’ve seen in a long time. I would like their chances here if Chad Henne weren’t the quarterback. Think about it, Henne’s going on the road to battle the division leader and take on a fellow Michigan Wolverine quarterback who is widely considered one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play. That’s a lot of pressure. On top of that, Henne isn’t very good. The Dolphins always find away to compete so a blowout would surprise me, but a Patriots win is inevitable. PATRIOTS.

Packers at Buccaneers
This is game 1/3 in the “should I go for a run or sit here and eat?” division. Warren Sapp would like to make a statement: “You’re so tough, put a jersey on! Win some more games.” Thank you, Warren. PACKERS.

Chiefs at Jaguars
Game 2/3 in the “only Gus Johnson could save this game” conference. Unfortunately, he’s not scheduled to call a game this week. ESPN did a nice write-up this week about how the NFL situation in Jacksonville is in dire straits. No one cares about the team, they can’t fill the stadium to 70% capacity, and they’re on pace for local blackouts in every single one of their home games. The saddest part is that the Jaguars aren’t a horrible team. A win this week would put them at 4-4. JAGUARS.

Game I’ll Watch: Ravens at Bengals
Game I’ll DVR: Texans at Colts

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Panthers at Saints
The Saints continue to win but look more vulnerable in the process. New Orleans has a talented offense, no one can argue that. Unless you’re up three scores with four minutes left, the Saints are still in the game. Unfortunately, the same holds true for the opponent because the Saints’ defense is not a championship caliber defense. When was the last time a team without a respectable defense won a Super Bowl? Over the past decade, only the 2007 Colts won with a questionable defense and their defense turned into a monster at the end of the season and into the playoffs. Based on their previous outings, I believe the Saints are ripe to be picked off. I’m going to continue my, “Jake Delhomme: Back from the dead” epic into week 9. Here’s this week’s recipe for an upset. The Panthers must, must, must run the ball…ALL game long. Carolina should drop Delhomme back to pass less than 20 times. Steve Smith should total 13+ touches; receiving, running, reverses, trickery, it doesn’t matter. Just get the ball in his hands. Finally, the defense has to hit Drew Brees. He was rattled early last Monday night, but the Falcons couldn’t sustain the pressure. Brees adjusts quicker than most quarterbacks, so the Panthers’ secondary must play a near perfect game. There’s a 24% chance the Panthers win this game. Why do I like picking the Panthers so much? Because I love teams that can run the ball and play solid defense. A team with that formula can beat any team on any Sunday because it’s all about lining up and physically beating the man across from you. While the Saints are good, I wouldn’t take them in a physical street fight. A street fight is exactly what Carolina has to make this game. Sorry. That was way too long. PANTHERS.

Lions at Seahawks
(Thinking of something to say.) (Still thinking.) (Oh, this will work…) If Lions WR Calvin Johnson plays, the Lions will score more than 17 points. If it rains in Seattle over the next two weeks, the Seahawks will miss the playoffs. This is game 3/3 of the “considering other activities” league. SEAHAWKS.

Titans at 49ers
Have you seen the Motorola cell phone commercial where the guy is being chased in a field by a plethora of content and he ultimately chooses the girl? No? Ok, click here. How random is the inclusion of the San Francisco 49ers? Unless Motorola has an ownership stake in the 49ers, I can’t make sense of the selection. The 49ers haven’t been relevant in nearly a decade. They’re beginning to claw their way back, but still have a way to go. I would have loved to attend one of the meetings where they chose the 49ers.
Director: Ok, let’s get an NFL team in this thing. The NFL is huge. Any ideas?
Intern: Yes, the 49ers will be perfect. They have two great quarterbacks named Joe Young and Steve Montana, and have the best receiver in the game, Gary Rice. I’m telling you, this is the team you want.
Director: Great idea, let’s do it! Any objections?
Other Members: (looking around the room with bewildered looks, afraid to stand up to the director.) Uhhh, no.
The 49ers need this win or they’ll be in for a whipping from the local media. 49ERS.

Chargers at Giants
The Giants can’t possibly lose four in a row, can they? If ever there were a time to go on a three game losing streak culminated by a beating from a division opponent, it’s the same week the local baseball team won the World Series. As of tonight, the Yankee parade will be over and the Giants will return to bear the blunt of the New York sports wrath for the next few months. A fourth consecutive loss would put Tom Coughlin on the hot seat and Eli Manning on the front cover of, “Oh crap, he sucks again” magazine. The good news for the G-men is that the Chargers have no/zero/zilch running game. The Giants can tee off on Philip Rivers and hope Eli can rebound against an injury-plagued defense. GIANTS.

Game I’ll Watch: Chargers at Giants
Game I’ll DVR:
Panthers at Saints

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Cowboys at Eagles *Game of the Week
I know, I know, I know. An NFC East battle was my game of the week last week. I’m sorry. Despite a schedule full of what should be close games, this contains the most animosity, intensity, and significance. The winner will be in sole possession of first place in the division. If the Eagles win, they’ll move to 3-0 in the NFC East. Both teams field explosive offenses, aggressive defenses, and excessively overweight head coaches. All three will make for a compelling Sunday night affair. Besides, any time you can feature Wade Phillips’ “what am I supposed to do now face” in your game of the week, you have to take advantage. If the Eagles wear green, they’ll win. For some stupid reason, the Eagles have historically (in the Andy Reid era) put Dallas in blue when they meet in Philadelphia first. I hate this. It will be cold. It will be dark. The fans will be rabid. Midnight green is the way to go. A body bag reference or two wouldn’t hurt either. EAGLES.

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Steelers at Broncos
It would be too easy and cliché to offer, “possible preview of the AFC championship game.” 1. I don’t expect either team to make it that far, and 2. It’s waaaayyyyy to earlier to speculate who will be playing on Sunday, January 24th. I was all ready to confidently pick the Steelers in this game. The Broncos were, to some degree, exposed last week against Baltimore. Pittsburgh’s defense is as, if not more, physical than the Ravens’ defense. Therefore, the Steelers were a comfortable pick for me… until I saw that the Broncos were giving 3 points…….at home! Teams just don’t waltz into Denver and leave with a win. The geographical factors alone (altitude, weather), make it tough to win there. Add to the equation a rowdy fan base that is one of the NFL’s best; the Broncos as a three point dog does not make sense. The Broncos will certainly use this to their advantage. The Steelers are also inconsistent with their running game. This is something the Ravens were successful with last week against Denver. If the Bronco defense can stuff the run, and blitz Ben Roethlisberger at will, they should force some turnovers. While I still like the Steelers, Vegas’ line gives the Broncos the whole, “us against the world,” mentality. It’s hard for me to pick against that when that team is at home. BRONCOS.

If I were Charles Barkley…

Weekly Reminder: I pick every game so I don’t look like a pansy and only pick the easy ones. The 2009 season has been a real struggle thus far. I finally clawed my way back to .500. Maybe I should just publicly state that I can’t wait for it to end a la Cole Hamels. My goal is to be around 60% at season’s end (unlikely). As is the weekly custom, there is one over/under as well (because they’re too much fun not to have at least one).

Picks
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars (-7)
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (+3)
Houston Texans (+9) at Indianapolis Colts
Washington Redskins (+10) at Atlanta Falcons
Green Bay Packers (-10) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Arizona Cardinals at Chicago Bears (-3)
Miami Dolphins (+10.5) at New England Patriots

Carolina Panthers (+13) at New Orleans Saints
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks (-10)
Tennessee Titans (+4.5) at San Francisco 49ers
San Diego Chargers at New York Giants (-5)

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-3)

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (+3)

Last Week: 7 – 6 – 0
Season: 50 – 50 – 1

Over/Under
Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons Over 41

Last Week: 1 – 0 – 0
Season: 4 – 4 – 0

(Lines as of 11/6, 12:13AM ET, from bodog)

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