It’s the showdown of the year as the NFL Golden Boys face off in Indy. Remember defenses, no touching. Tackle with your minds, not with your hands. Elsewhere, the AFC North is on the line in the Steel City and the Saints and Vikings take on the equivalent of third world countries.
Only two bye teams this week as the bye season comes to a close. That means were treated to two more games this week and the entire 16 game platter the rest of the way. Needless to say, I’m pumped.
Last Week: 5 – 8 – 0
Season: 77 – 52 – 0
Researching how someone can sneeze 12,000 times a day (Byes)
I’m sure the Giants would take a sneezing problem over a choking one right about now. Not only are the Giants out of first place in the NFC East, but they’d be out of the postseason if the playoffs were to start tomorrow. Don’t fret New Yowkers, these Giants will rebound. If they don’t, look at the bright side: there will be plenty of time to perfect the LeBron James to NYC proposal. Please keep in mind, when LeBron rejects New York, ask yourself if you would want to play for the Knicks. If you answer yes, please put the drug paraphernalia down, and find the nearest clinic.
The bye comes at the perfect time for the wildcard hopeful Texans. Getting a week of rest before the season’s second half is an incredible advantage when competing for a playoff spot. Houston’s remaining schedule will provide them a legitimate shot at finishing 10-6. Whether that is good enough to make the playoffs in the rugged AFC is still up in the air. My guess is no, unless the Bengals collapse (Houston beat Cincinnati head to head in week 6).
Thursday Night (8:20PM ET)
Bears at 49ers
The first game of the NFL’s Thursday schedule features two very desperate teams. Desperation makes for entertaining (and sometimes pathetic) competition. (Think of two eighth grade boys pursuing the same girl.) In the end, the winner still has a shot at glory while the loser will need a year to bounce back. Regardless of the enormity of a situation, we can always revert back to an identical situation from junior high school (in theory). Life is neat like that. This may come as a shock to many, but the Bears still have a reasonable shot at the NFC North. If they can pull out two wins against Minnesota, they’ll only be a game back. Obviously, the Bears would have to somehow get their act together and hope the Vikings drop an additional game or two, but a small chance is a chance nonetheless. Ok, a revival in Chi-town is unlikely, but it’s fun to consider all scenarios and hope that something exciting happens. (UPDATE: I nailed the pathetic part. Absolutely nailed it. The Pick? Ehh, not so much.) BEARS.
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Saints at Rams
My sources have informed that President Obama has already sent the National Guard into St. Louis to assist with the impending disaster scheduled to hit on November 15th. Maybe the NFL should adapt a mercy rule. Once the Saints are up 27 points, they should be forced to either insert their backups, or completely swap their offensive and defensive units. Drew Brees at cornerback would certainly give the Rams a realistic chance of getting back into the game. SAINTS.
Buccaneers at Dolphins
The Dolphins are impressive. If they had a decent receiver, they could easily be 5-3, not 3-5. The Buccaneers are probably planning a parade after their first victory, so they’ll be out of commission for the next few weeks. Seriously though, don’t players feel a little ridiculous when they douse their coach with Gatorade after winning a game for the first time all season? Have we grown to celebrate ineptitude that much? First mediocrity, now ineptitude. What’s next, celebrating failure? DOLPHINS.
Lions at Vikings
My perfect week 10 Sunday would play out like this: Eagles win, Lions win, Saints lose, Cowboys collapse, Cardinals lose, Panthers win, and Jim Zorn signs a 5 year extension. The chances of this happening are less than .00067%, but it never hurts to dream. The line for this game is currently at 17. I am tempted to take the points just so I can emotionally invest myself in the Lions’ cause. VIKINGS.
Jaguars at Jets
Do we have any idea how good or bad the Jets are? Other than their head coach, does anyone consider them a good team? I’m not on board. After an impressive start to the season, New York has looked inconsistent and unimpressive. If you require further proof, look at their previous five games. They are 1-4 in those contests and their lone victory came against the Oakland Raiders. So yes, they aren’t very good. Less than two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars stormed into Pittsburgh and knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs. It’s amazing what can change in that time. Let’s be clear, even though they have only seven fans, the Jaguars are a decent team. While they’re a lousy 1-3 on the road, I’m going with Jacksonville. Why? Because I can… and I don’t trust Mark Sanchez and the Jets. JAGUARS.
Bills at Titans
My friend Drew attended Buffalo’s second half collapse against Houston two weeks ago. He couldn’t say enough about how lazy and worthless Terrell Owens was/is. According to Drew, Owens refused to block, jogged downfield, and kept looking at his abs in the reflection of his helmet. (Ok, that third point wasn’t true, but we could all picture it happening.) Owens is injured and hates his life right now. Unfortunately for him, no one in America cares. He’s earned his misery. Whether or not he plays won’t matter. The Bills are lost and the Titans have recently found their mojo. A healthy (aka unstoppable) running game, a defensive revival, and (deep breath) a solid Vince Young have all contributed to Tennessee’s resurgence. With six losses, the Titans are all but eliminated from the playoffs. They will, however, cause some headaches for teams seeking an easy victory. TITANS.
Bengals at Steelers
The Bengals have beaten the Steelers, Ravens (twice), and lost a heartbreaker to Denver in week one. Somehow, this team is still being questioned by the game’s “experts.” Any team that can run the ball and play defense like Cincinnati is clearly a legitimate football team. While I don’t think they’ll win this week, they are no doubt a team to fear come playoff time. Carson Palmer has done an excellent job leading that offense. He relies on the running game and his star receiver to the move the ball. When necessary, Palmer will conduct a game winning 4th quarter drive as well. This team is for real, as are the Steelers. That mauling of the Denver Broncos on Monday was brutal. It looked like a street fight between Rocky and Forrest Gump. STEELERS.
Broncos at Redskins
It’s fitting that I began writing this paragraph as Jay Cutler threw his fifth interception. No, not of the season, of the game. As poor as Kyle Orton has been over the past two weeks, he’s never been THAT bad. It’s amazing how far the Redskins have fallen this season. Experts had them as a playoff team. The Broncos have been struggling recently. This would be an ideal situation to steal a victory from a better team. However, the Redskins are too beat up and have already lost interest in the 2009 campaign. Despite traveling across the country on a short week of preparation, Denver should dominate the lifeless Redskins. Lame duck coaches are a waste of time. Zorn clearly won’t quit, so pay him his money and put someone in the locker room that can unify the team. As I mentioned earlier in the week, Washington owner Daniel Snyder is a buffoon. That’s about the nicest thing you’ll hear about him nowadays too. BRONCOS.
Falcons at Panthers
I’ve picked the Panthers about every week since opening weekend. If they didn’t wander from my game plan last week, they would be back in the playoff hunt. The loss of linebacker Thomas Davis will severely cripple the Panther’s talented defense. The Falcons biggest weakness is in the secondary. Therefore, the Panthers will need to open up the offense. Wait, what?!?! Forget that suggestion. There’s no way Jake Delhomme slingin’ the ball all over the field leads to victory. Not a chance. The Panthers need to continue to run the ball and rely on their stout defense. The Falcons have a formidable rushing attack with the league’s biggest bruiser, Michael Turner. Carolina must stop the run and force the sophomore slumping Matt Ryan into a few mistakes. This is a real tossup. If Carolina sticks to the running game instead of handing the game to Delhomme, then I’m with the home team. Delhomme + 25 Pass Attempts = Defeat. PANTHERS.
Game I’ll Watch: Bengals at Steelers
Game I’ll DVR: Falcons at Panthers
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Chiefs at Raiders
What’s there to say about this game? Nothing really. Although, kudos to Chiefs fan for making sure that Larry Johnson didn’t break the Chiefs all time rushing record. Good for them. No sports fan wants a record belonging to a self-absorbed clown like Johnson. He’s clearly a coveted talent as many teams have lined up for his services… or not. (He remains unsigned and only his agent claims teams are interested in acquiring Johnson.) CHIEFS.
Seahawks at Cardinals
Seahawks wide receiver, Nate Burleson, came out this past week and guaranteed a Seattle victory. I was prepared to pick the Seahawks until this proclamation. I don’t know if I have enough faith in the Jekyll and Hyde Seahawks to back them after they’ve upset a superior opponent. I’ll admit that I’ve been harsh on the Cardinals thus far. Not that they care, but they’ve earned my respect. I don’t like them enough to say too much else, so I’ll stop there. CARDINALS.
Cowboys at Packers
Go Pack Go! That’s right; this is the, “Ryan’s an idiot pick of the week.” I think the Cowboys are good. Whether they remain at this level in December is something we all must see to believe. With that said, this pick is more about the Packers than it is an indictment of the Cowboys. The Packers are completely, totally, and unequivocally desperate. The Cowboys are sitting pretty and don’t have as much riding on this game. The intensity on the Green Bay sideline will give the Packers the edge. I’m also a huge fan of team meetings where players clear the air. The Packers are talented, they just need some fire. You know, the type of fire that a certain quarterback in Viking purple would provide. I’m just saying. PACKERS.
Eagles at Chargers
Several, and I mean SEVERAL, national columnists have joked about this being the matchup of the two worst game managers in the NFL. Unless someone can prove that either of these coaches gambles on his own team, it’s hard to argue that assertion. Although, I believe I have an explanation for Andy Reid’s struggles. A football game is three to four hours long. I don’t weigh more than 170 lbs., and I CAN’T make it through an entire football game without snacking. If I try, the TV turns blurry and I hallucinate that Troy Aikman is sitting beside me explaining why Drew Brees is amazing. It’s ugly. Reid weighs at least 100 lbs. more than me. Assuming he doesn’t grab a hoagie (yeah that’s right, it’s a hoagie, not a sub), Reid is pushing four hours without nourishment when the 4th quarter rolls around. No wonder he can’t make coherent decisions at critical junctures of the game. Poor guy is starving to death! Why not put a tray of finger foods back by the Gatorade jugs? Seriously, give it a try until Reid is faced with his next significant crisis. If he makes the right call, problem solved. If he still blows it, maybe we should bring in Pete Rose to mediate. As for the game, the outlook for Philadelphia is bleak. Injuries continue to mount and the linebacking core is almost completely decimated. (Remember when we brought Trotter back to help?) If Westbrook plays, the Eagles will win because McNasty is due for a big game, and Westbrook will provide him time to look downfield. If BWest sits out again, you can find me on my couch with a pillow over my face as Aikman details Brees’ footwork. EAGLES.
Game I’ll Watch: Eagles at Chargers
Game I’ll DVR: Cowboys at Packers
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Patriots at Colts *Game of the Week
Rarely does a conference game receive game of the week recognition over a division street fight in the AFC North. Patriots vs. Colts is an exception. Over the past several years, this NFL matchup has risen to Red Sox vs. Yankees status. Jason Whitlock of FOXSports briefly argued in his weekly column that the Brady/Manning matchup is a creation of TV promotion. His point is somewhat valid in that the two never actually line up opposite each other as boxing, basketball, and hockey legends do. On the other hand, legendary quarterbacks driving their respective offenses up and down the field one after the other is, in my opinion, equally exciting as watching Kobe Bryant and LeBron James go shot for shot. Brady and Manning are two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Hopefully, we’ll be treated to an offensive onslaught that will come down to the final possession. While I’m all for defensive battles, I want to see these quarterbacks air it out on Sunday night, even if they aren’t on the field at the same time. COLTS.
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Ravens at Browns
Rumor has it: this game isn’t very intriguing. Before you make plans for your Monday evening, let me give you a few reasons to actually watch this game. 1. The NFL is only available for less than a year. Missing this game will haunt you in February (the worst sports month of the year). It may not haunt you immediately, but when you’re watching the 76ers, Knicks, Nets, and Raptors battle for, “we only lost to the Celtics by 12” bragging rights, you’ll remember. Ohhh trust me, you’ll remember. 2. May I remind you that the 1-3 Cleveland Browns defeated the 4-0 defending Super Bowl champion, New York Giants, last year on Monday Night Football? While the Browns are far worse in 2009, it could still happen. (Stop laughing! Anything is possible! Don’t believe me? Fine, who’s the governor of California? (Pausing while you answer the question.) …Told you! Anything is possible. 3. Brady Quinn returns to the starting lineup. There’s always potential for a classic, “where did that come from,” performance immediately after a player comes off the bench. This happens all the time in sports. 4. Ray Rice. Ray-Ray is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the NFL. Probably because he reminds of Brian Westbrook before Westbrook’s body retired after the 2007 season, but that’s beside the point. RAVENS.
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. I’m back below .500 again. It may be time to have my wife pick for me. This week, I’m going with nine underdogs. I’m not happy about it either. 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).
Chicago Bears (+3.5) at San Francisco 49ers (Line as of 5:20PM ET)
Jacksonville Jaguars (+7) at New York Jets
Denver Broncos (-4) at Washington Redskins
Cincinnati Bengals (+7) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans (-7)
Detroit Lions (+17) at Minnesota Vikings
New Orleans Saints (-14) at St. Louis Rams
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (+2)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Miami Dolphins (-10)
Kansas City Chiefs (+2) at Oakland Raiders
Seattle Seahawks (+9) at Arizona Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles (+3) at San Diego Chargers
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers (+3)
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (-3)
Baltimore Ravens (-11) at Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 6 – 7 – 0
Season: 56 – 57 – 1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Miami Dolphins Over 43
Last Week: 1 – 0 – 0
Season: 5 – 4 – 0
(Lines as of 11/13, 12:13AM ET, from bodog)