Encore. Week 11 NFL Picks

Only Michael Vick could overshadow the NFL’s golden boys. While Peyton Manning and Tom Brady do battle for the 7th time in 8 seasons, Michael Vick leads the Eagles into a slugfest under the Sunday night lights with 1st place in the NFC East on the line. Can you feel the intensity rising?

(Tom Brady was out with injury in 2008.)

Last Week:  8 – 6 – 0
Season:     88 – 61 – 0

Thursday Night (8:20PM ET)

Bears at Dolphins
You know that no one believes you’re a solid NFL quarterback when the opposing team sends out their third string backup and people still trust him more than you. Welcome to the life of Jay Cutler. I can’t tell you how excited I am to root against the Bears tonight. Nothing against Lovie Smith or the rest of the team, but I want some breathing room for my Eagles. Besides, any time you can find a solid rooting interest for the Thursday night contest, you’ve gotta go with it. Football is always more enjoyable when there’s something at stake. Maybe this is why betting is so popular? Hmmm. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins -2

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Lions at Cowboys
Guess which two teams rank in the bottom three in rushing yards and in the top seven in passing yards as well? Times up. If you guessed the Lions and Cowboys, you’d be correct. (Technically, if you guessed the Broncos, you’d also be right.) While futile running games and large deficits have attributed to inflated passing numbers, both Detroit and Dallas boast three of the most electrifying receivers in the NFL. Calvin Johnson, Miles Austin, and Dez Bryant should put on a show for the Dallas fans that still care about their 2010 Cowboys. I can’t say Dallas’ victory last week was predictable because I didn’t predict it, but it certainly wasn’t surprising. However, it will take more than one good win to signify a culture change in Big D. If the Cowboys look past the 2-7 Lions, they’ll lose and once again be the butt of jokes from Jersey to Cali. Because after all, who doesn’t hate the Cowboys? By the way, Chris Bosh was born to play for the Cowboys. Check out this quote from the Miami Heat’s not so powerful power forward; “He (Head Coach Erik Spoelstra) knows that he has to meet us halfway. So, Ya know, he wants to work, we want to chill. But, we’re going to have to work to get everything down.” Niiicccee. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions +7

Bills at Bengals
I’m typing this as I watch the Bulls/Spurs game on ESPN and “Greg Oden out for season” just flashed across my TV. I made sure to check that this game wasn’t from last year or three years ago. After a few minutes, I confirmed; Oden is indeed out for the 2010-2011 season. To say the least, it’s been a rough run for Ohio sports fans. To speed the healing process, let’s recall the past 12 months. Bengals are putrid. Browns have a losing record. Indians are laughable. Evan Turner has bust potential. Oden’s injury. Reds swept from playoffs AND fall victim to postseason no hitter. I can’t name a single player on the Blue Jackets. Cavaliers collapse in Eastern Conference Semifinals. Am I forgetting anything? No, that’s about it. Oh. I forgot. Some player publicly stabbed the state in the back on national TV. So yeah, Ohio could use some positive momentum. Hosting the Buffalo Bills is a nice start. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills +6

Redskins at Titans
The team that just extended a potentially washed-up quarterback battles the team that just claimed an absolutely washed-up receiver off the waiver wire. And guess what? Neither team will make the playoffs. Look at the Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, Giants, and Colts. These are the teams that are competitive year after year. They don’t collect depreciated assets. They draft well, develop talent, cut ties with aging players, and effectively scour the league for underused or undervalued talent. The Redskins may one day be competitive again, but not until Daniel Snyder is running a McDonalds instead of an NFL franchise. Believe or not, I’m tempted to take the ‘Skins. After last week’s embarrassing loss, they’ll be out for blood. However, Tennessee has also lost two straight, so they’re desperate too. The home desperate team is a safer pick than the road desperate team that apparently quit on its coach after just ten weeks. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins +7

Cardinals at Chiefs
Why can’t the Chiefs play the Buccaneers this week? I was hoping Todd Haley would wag his finger at Raheem Morris and then get sucker punched by LeGarrette Blount. Except this time, no one would ridicule Blount for the malicious attack because no one likes Haley anyway. Seriously, other than whoever coaches the Cowboys, I like Todd Haley less than any other coach. Wagging your finger like you’re a school principal? Please. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -8

Packers at Vikings
Wherever you watch this game, be sure to take a mental picture because this very well could be the last time we see Brett Favre in a uniform on Sunday. At 3-6, Minnesota is virtually finished. A loss against the Packers to fall to 3-7 would be the final blow. I highly doubt Favre will sit around the Vikings facility for the remainder of the season just to further tarnish his stats and limp along with an ailing shoulder, ankle, elbow, ego, marriage, and public image. At some point, enough is enough. I think a loss on Sunday will be enough for Favre. Aaron Rodgers has been a class act through the Favre drama over the years, so it’s only fair that he’s the one to deliver the TKO. Brad Childress can’t wait to join Andy Reid’s 2011 coaching staff. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -3

Texans at Jets
The Jets salvaged victories in overtime over the past two weeks while the Texans have fallen to a back-breaking interception on a potential game-winning drive and an unlikely Hail Mary pass. Do the tables turn this week, or do the Texans fall off the proverbial cliff? I watch Houston on a weekly basis because Arian Foster is my fantasy running back. I’ve learned two things about the Texans. First, their defense is beyond bad. If Houston needs a stop, they’re not getting it. Second, Matt Schaub is simply average. Sure, he puts up nice statistics and throws a decent ball, but he takes inopportune sacks, commits bad turnovers, and obviously can’t get the Texans over the playoff hump. Gary Kubiak has built a talented team and gotten the franchise to a point where it competes for a playoff spot almost annually. On the other hand, it looks like it will take another coach to actually get the Texans into the playoffs. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans +7

Raiders at Steelers
Steeler fans are secretly panicking about the current state of their team. At 6-3, Pittsburgh appears destined for at least a wildcard berth. Right? Wrong. Turn back the clock to week 10 of the 2009 NFL season. At 6-2, the Steelers hosted their division rival Cincinnati. Pittsburgh lost and fell to 6-3. They then went on to lose their next four and missed the playoffs despite a late season rally. Now return to 2010. The Steelers again lost at home in week 10 to fall to 6-3. Yeh, but they have Oakland and Buffalo on deck, you say. So what. During their 2009 five game skid, Pittsburgh fell to Kansas City, Oakland, and Cleveland, who combined for a record of 14-34. Will the Steelers hit another five game slide? Doubtful. But this is team is battered, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. Furthermore, with the exception of garbage time on Sunday night, the offense has looked out of sync. Oakland isn’t a walk-through as in years past, so it’s time for Ben Roethlisberger to carry the team. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -7.5

Ravens at Panthers
If you had Brian St. Pierre starting at quarterback in week 11 in your “when will Brian St. Pierre return to the NFL” office pool, congratulations, you won. The Panthers are unbelievably bad. In fact, I’ve had to monitor my brother’s status throughout the season just to ensure he wasn’t going to quit the NFL entirely. The move to bring St. Pierre off his couch doesn’t make sense to me. Why not see what Tony Pike has to offer? At this point, there’s very little difference between 1-15 and 2-14. Take inventory, see who can play and who wants to play, and work toward 2011. One thing is certain; after ten days to reflect on Matt Ryan shredding their defense, the Ravens will gladly welcome St. Pierre back to the NFL. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -10.5

Browns at Jaguars
The Browns are coming off wins against the Saints and Patriots, and an overtime loss to the Jets. Those are three of the top ten teams in football. Depending on the week, the Jaguars aren’t such a bad team either. I’m a big Eric Mangini fan. However, getting your team psyched to battle the NFL’s elite is significantly easier than getting them fired up about traveling to Jacksonville to play in an empty stadium. JAGUARS If I were Charles Barkley; Jaguars -1.5

Game to Watch: Raiders at Steelers
Game on Call: Redskins at Titans

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Buccaneers at 49ers
The campaign to save Mike Singletary’s job continues with Troy Smith in the driver’s seat. Even better, with the Seahawks falling to the Saints, the Falcons beating the Rams, and the Cardinals losing because they’re the Cardinals, the 49ers could be a game out of first with a win. I can’t explain it, but I’ve already accepted the 49ers as the NFC West champion. It’s going to happen. They stink, but they stink less than their division rivals. A San Francisco win won’t come easy, though. The Buccaneers are scrappy on the road, and for you betting folk, they’ve covered in all four road contests. Josh Freeman and the Bucs might battle, but they won’t win. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers -3

Seahawks at Saints
As an Eagles fan, I couldn’t be more discouraged that, despite their early season struggles, the Saints come out of their bye at 6-3. What’s worse, of the NFC contenders, they have the easiest remaining schedule. Barring a catastrophic event, I can’t see them losing more than two games. Credit Drew Brees and Sean Payton for grinding their way through the post Superbowl blues. Dome teams thrive at home in the playoffs. Atlanta or New Orleans winning the top seed in the NFC is bad news. Seattle is barely decent at home. On the road, against a good opponent, they’re terrible. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -11.5

Falcons at Rams
This is usually the time of year when the weaker teams head in one of two directions. 1. They find a groove and terrorize playoff contenders for the final two months. Or 2. They hit a wall. Mentally, they’re exhausted from scrapping for wins. Physically, they’re battered from playing superior opponents. Most of the time, the head coach determines which direction the team heads. For example, Eric Mangini had the Browns competitive down the stretch in 2009 while Jim Mora Jr.’s Seahawks finished 2-6 and were outscored 189 to 66 in those six losses. Guess which coach got canned in the offseason? Which way will Steve Spagnuola and the Rams go? Considering they’re 4-1 at home and have only lost by more than 4 points in one of their five losses; I’m going to go with competitive. In fact, if the Falcons are too high from their big win over Baltimore, the Rams could win. If Atlanta is really a legitimate NFC title contender, they win this game. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -3

Colts at Patriots
One of my favorite matchups of the NFL season. Due to congestion in the AFC East and South, there’s uncertainty about where the Colts and Patriots will finish in the 2010 standings, so unless both retain their division titles or finish in the same position within their division, we may not get the Brady v. Manning bowl in 2011. I always assumed the Patriots owned Manning at home. My research proved otherwise. Well, sort of. Dating back to 2003 (the beginning of the Brady v. Manning bowl), New England is only 2-2 at home against Manning in the regular season (2-0 in postseason). Similarly, the Colts are only 2-2 at home against the Patriots (1-0 in postseason). Without trends of home field advantage, I guess I’ll just pick the better team. Other than the Colts, the rest of the AFC South is tailing off, so a win here is more important to the Patriots to keep pace with the Jets. Indianapolis is walking wounded too, and still a couple of weeks from getting some key players back. Of course, Manning will keep it close. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts +4

Game to Watch: Colts at Patriots
Game on Call: Buccaneers at 49ers

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Giants at Eagles
How amazing was Monday’s Eagles game? Allow me to explain. Last Friday, I was unexpectedly left with my 5-month-old son for the entire day. Because I had an enormous amount of work to finish, I put him in front of the TV for his first Disney DVD viewing. I chose The Lion King because Mufasa was the coolest animated character ever. (Even though it’s total garbage that he would get outwitted by his weak brother and ultimately killed by stampeding wildebeests, but I digress.) My son loved it. During songs, he’d scream like a girl, laugh, and frantically thrash his arms and legs as if he were drowning. Now, if you were to ask my wife to describe my reaction to Michael Vick’s annihilation of the Redskins, she would probably say I was worse than our son during The Lion King. In my defense, though, my voice is much deeper than his. Moving on. If the Eagles don’t beat New York, Monday’s performance in Washington becomes irrelevant and Philadelphia could find themselves in danger of missing the playoffs. This is the best set of receivers the Eagles have seen this year, so it will be interesting to see how the defense performs. Coming off a bad loss at home to the Cowboys makes the Giants even scarier than normal. Wincing even as I type this… EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -3.5

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Broncos at Chargers
Kyle Orton, Brandon Lloyd, Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates – we could see 900 passing yards if the weather holds up. Similar to my feelings about the 49ers in the NFC West, I’m convinced the Chargers will again rebound to take the AFC West. Denver is lousy, the Chiefs are collapsing, and I’m hesitant to buy into any team quarterbacked by Jason “my facial expressions imply my coaches speak Mandarin” Campbell. San Diego is a game out of first and will face both teams ahead of them in the division standings. With the exception of the Colts, San Diego’s toughest opponents are behind them (only OAK, KC, SF, CINC, DEN remain). Furthermore, Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd will return soon, and the Charger defense is perhaps the most underrated in the league. Not only will they win the AFC West, but the Chargers will make some noise in the playoffs. That is, of course, assuming they win this game. If not, pretend you stopped reading this paragraph after the first sentence. Thanks. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos +10

Last Week: 5 – 9 – 0
Season:    59 – 80 – 5

(Lines as of 11/18, 7:01PM ET, from bodog)

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