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Week 8 NFL Picks

Tony Romo and the Cowboys need another win over the Giants to turn around a disappointing season. I offer a potential solution to improving the lousy level of play on Thursday nights. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Please Note: Over a 58 hour stretch between 4PM ET Monday and 2:15AM Thursday I was in a Toyota Camry with a 4 month old and a 2 year old for a total of 25 hours. Needless to say, I’m short on sleep, behind on running my business, and out of gas money. I wrote my Week 8 picks while delirious and sleep deprived. My apologies.

Last Week:  12 – 1 – 0
Season:      68 – 36 – 0

Thursday Night (8:20PM ET)

Buccaneers 36 at Vikings 17
I spent most of Thursday night patting myself on the back. Not because I picked the game correctly (I didn’t), and not because Vincent Jackson had a big night (he didn’t). No, I was congratulating myself on being right about the Minnesota Vikings. All along I knew the Vikings were being overrated. A lousy schedule and a fluke win over the 49ers got everyone excited about a team that lost to the Colts and needed overtime to beat the Jaguars. The Minnesota defense isn’t good enough to overcome Christian Ponder’s growing pains. Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson can’t do it all. Maybe next year, Minnesota.

Not missing the NHL, not even a little (Bye Week)

Bills
The Bills have certainly been a disappointment in recent years. However, I’m not sure the organization should have expected anything different when you hire Chan Gailey to run your NFL team. Has he accomplished anything… at any level?

Bengals
The Bengals are struggling because the defense is about 1/4th as good as it was in 2011. Bengals fans are also learning first hand why the Patriots were willing to let BenJarvus Green-Ellis depart the premises with no resistence.

Ravens
It may be time for someone to explain “contract year” to Joe Flacco. After a hot start, Flacco has digressed rapidly. He’s completed less than 50% of his passes in two of his last three starts and thrown only 2 touchdowns to go along with 3 interceptions in that time. With Baltimore’s defense aging and struggling, Flacco has to carry the load. Apparently, he’s not up to the task.

Texans
The media doesn’t like the Texans because they’re not flashy, they don’t have drama, and they don’t have a superstar plastered on NFL billboards and broadcasted on national commercials. Regardless, the Texans are the Superbowl favorites at this point, unless of course they meet the Packers in the title game. We already know how that one ends.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Panthers at Bears
I needed a convincing win from the Bears Monday night in order to count them among the NFL’s elite. It didn’t happen. I refuse to put any trust in Chicago’s 5-1 record until they have a signature win under their belt or the offense finds more consistency. Wins over the Colts, Rams, Cowboys, Jaguars, and Lions don’t exactly scream “unstoppable” to me. And let’s not forget the age of that dominant Bears defense. Are we sure they can maintain this level of play all year. At some point, the offense will need to carry the team. The Bears are coming off a short week following a nationally televised division win. Cam Newton needs a win. I smell upset. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers +9

Chargers at Browns
Philip Rivers’ play makes me think of the color brown. Speaking of Rivers, this is his 9th season. Brandon Weeden is a rookie. Weeden is less than two years younger than Rivers. Cleveland fans are not impressed. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -3

Seahawks at Lions
Based on the complicated formula I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Lions will win this game. In case you forgot, the formula is: Russell Wilson at home = good. Russell Wilson on road = bad awful. Thus, Seahawks at home = win. Seahawks on road = loss. Sometimes life is easy. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions -2.5

Patriots at Rams
I don’t get the fascination with having a game in London every year. And if you’re going to do it, why not make it a bigger deal stateside? Does anyone from Europe read this blog? Is the game a big deal over there or is it considered U.S. imperialism? Anyway, this really hurts the Rams. St. Louis can contend with tough teams at home but they struggle on the road. Surrendering a home game in such a tight conference is costly. I like the Patriots for that reason and because Tom Brady will finally play a game outside of the United States… where, you know, he hasn’t won a big game since 2008. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -7

Dolphins at Jets
A few weeks ago this was a matchup of AFC basement dwellers. Now, it’s an AFC Wildcard battle. Look around the conference; Pittsburgh is a likely Wildcard team based on pedigree and then you have a muddled mess of mediocrity. I’m legitimately excited about the AFC Wildcard race. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins +2.5

Falcons at Eagles
Andy Reid is 13-0 out of the bye… blah, blah, blah. Who cares. The Eagles don’t have to win this game. All we need to see is improvement in two areas; turnovers and 4th quarter defense. That’s it. Also, if the Eagles don’t burn Asante Samuel on at least three double-moves Marty Mornhinweg should be the next guy on the chopping block. Oh yeah, the Eagles are gonna win. The Falcons are frauds… 13-3 and frauds, but frauds nonetheless. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -2.5

Redskins at Steelers
The Pittsburgh defense was impressive a week ago against the Bengals and Andy Dalton. Dalton and Robert Griffin III have a lot of similarities. They’re both quarterbacks. They both have unique hair. They both played college football in Texas. So really, the Steelers can just implement their Cincinnati game plan against the Redskins and be fine. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -4.5

Jaguars at Packers
Aaron Rodgers has been scorching hot since the NFL stole a victory from the Packers. I’m interested to see how the Packers respond here. A few weeks ago Rodgers called out his teammates for not focusing and taking practices too lightly. These are the sort of games teams typically lose focus. Drubbing bad teams is the sign of a dominant team. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -14.5

Colts at Titans
A few weeks ago this was a matchup of AFC basement dwellers. Now, it’s an AFC Wildcard battle. Look around the conference, Pittsburgh is a likely Wildcard team based on pedigree and then you have a muddled mess of mediocrity. I’m legitimately excited about the AFC Wildcard race. (Yep, you already read this paragraph. I figured it worked here, too.) TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans -3.5

Late Games (4:25PM ET)

Raiders at Chiefs
Umm, no thanks. Let’s talk about something else instead. How about what to do with Thursday night football? There are two sides here. Obviously, the NFL loves it because it’s more money and more eyes watching the league’s channel, which means even more money. The other side is less concerned with money and more concerned with the product on the field and player safety.

Thursday night contests have been underwhelming, to say the least. The players aren’t fully recovered, the game plans have not been perfected, and it’s an overall sloppy display. Additionally, injuries are more likely to occur as players get worn down over the season. Playing on three days rest in Week 14 isn’t good for the body. So what’s the solution? Compromise, of course.

Let the NFL keep its Thursday night games and give players an extra bye week. Each team will have a normal bye week (a complete week off) and a second bye week leading into a Thursday night game. Instead of playing on Sunday and turning around and playing three days later on Thursday, teams will have 10 days prior to their Thursday night obligation. Obviously, there are extensive logistics to work out, but the idea of an 18 week season (NOT 18 games) and two bye weeks is necessary for player health. And if it lets the NFL keep its Thursday night love child, then we’re all winners. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders +1.5

Giants at Cowboys
About eight weeks ago the Cowboys opened the NFL season by knocking off the defending champion Giants in dominating fashion. Fast forward eight weeks and the Cowboys need another win over the Giants just to save their season. If I’m a Dallas fan, don’t I want the Cowboys to collapse over the next few weeks? Isn’t that the only way Jason Garret – who has proven time and time again he’s a lousy head coach – gets fired?

This is why I love the Cowboys: Typically in this situation, I pick the team that has its back against a wall and is desperately in need of a win AND just lost one of its best players for the season. But the Cowboys shrink in big moments. Everything is bigger in Texas except for Dallas’ marbles. The Cowboys only hope is an offensive explosion. New York’s dirty little secret in 2012 is that its defense stinks. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -2.5

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Saints at Broncos
I’m not really comfortable with the Saints jumping back into the NFC Wildcard race with a win Sunday night. Is their defense atrocious? Yes. But Drew Brees is still Drew Brees. If he thinks he needs 45 points to win, he’s certainly capable of scoring 45 points. Besides, I’m not sure the Broncos defense is much better. In four of Denver’s six games this season, Peyton Manning needed a 2nd half rally just to make the game competitive. Brees and the Saints offense don’t normally stop producing just because they’re up 20. If the Broncos fall behind early, they won’t be able to catch up. I still think the Broncos win the AFC West. They just won’t win Sunday night. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints +6

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

49ers at Cardinals
Please just stop with the NFC West matchups on national TV. I love defense as much as the next guy, but I can only take inept offenses for so long. Also, I love stories about how deep and talented the NFC West is and how it’s the best division in football. Um, it’s also the worst offensive division in football. You could probably find four backup quarterbacks from the other 28 teams that would be as good, if not better starters than Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, Russell Wilson, and whomever the Cardinals’ piñata is that week. In conclusion, the NFC West is overrated. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers -7

*****

If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 7 – 5 – 1
Season:    51 – 50 – 3

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