You’ve heard about this thing with the baseball, right? This thing where the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. That. And, um, just in case you didn’t … well, they did. And so what does that mean to football? Two things. First, and most exciting, it means baseball season is over. So now we can all just concentrate on the real sport. Right? I mean, after the parade and whatnot. Also, it means that none of that ridiculous sports stuff counts anymore. Not that it ever did. But if you thought it did, stop thinking that. Because the Sox winning the series doesn’t mean the so-called Curse of the Bambino has been broken or lifted or reversed. It means there never was a stinkin’ curse to begin with (which, of course, we all knew anyhow). And if there never was a curse to begin with, then neither was there every any of that other stuff. There’s no billygoat thing in Chicago. And there’s no Redskins as predictors of the election outcome. And there’s no none of that stuff. What there is is teams playing against other teams and mostly trying to win and sometimes trying not to lose and some other times trying not to lose too badly. So there you go.
OK, football. It looks like we’re in for some very watchable games this weekend. And, with upset week just behind us (they never come two in a row), the straight-ahead picking is mostly pretty simple. Except where it isn’t. And even then, with the handful of close games on the board, you don’t really need to wrack your brain or scour the stat sheets looking for clues. Just go ahead and toss a coin. Heads, Kansas City has the ball last and wins. Tails … well, you get the point. Things are, of course, a good bit more complicated against the spread, but even there some of this stuff looks pretty cut-and-dry to me. But then, as I may have mentioned once or twice before, listening to me is a good way to ensure you’ll lose money. (Except on my final pick of the week. That one’s a mortal lock.)
Arizona (+3) at Buffalo
If this game were happening two weeks from now, when it’ll be clear that Arizona is getting better as the season goes on, the spread would be reversed. But it isn’t. So you’ve got a chance to get in on a bargain here. Take the Cardinals with the points, because they’re winning this one outright.
Baltimore (+8) at Philadelphia
Donovan McNabb should do his pal and new teammate Terrell Owens a favor and not throw any short passes to the loudmouth wide receiver. Because if Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis gets an opportunity, he’s gonna make T.O. pay for his off-season dis of the Ravens in broken bones. And, you know, much as I dislike Lewis, I kinda hope he gets to take his shot. One way or the other, Baltimore’s gonna give Philly a game. The Eagles are having trouble against the run, which means Chester Taylor and Musa Smith should do well. (If Jamal Lewis weren’t serving a suspension, the Eagles would be in real trouble.) Go ahead and take Philly straight up, but you can count on Baltimore to cover.
Cincinnati (+3) at Tennessee
Oh, man, I’m glad I don’t have to watch this game. I don’t even really want to think about this game. So let’s say … ohhhhh, I don’t know … let’s just go with Tennessee to win and Cincy to cover. But I’m really, really just pulling this one out of my ass.
Detroit (+3) at Dallas
I like this. This watching Bill Parcells lose his shit as his career nears an end. And I’ll tell you, I’d just love, love, love seeing Detroit go into Dallas and beat the Cowboys. I’m not counting on it, though. But, you know, I have a long, long history of picking Lions games wrong. So maybe I’m just taking Dallas to cover because I think that means it’ll go the other way.
Green Bay (-2) at Washington
No, this game doesn’t really have any bearing on who will win the presidency (see above). It does, however, have quite a bit to do with which team will have half a chance of salvaging its season and which will continue the slide toward a top-10 draft pick in 2005. Yeah, Brett Favre’s ailing. And he’s had another awful week in his personal life. But Favre’s shown over and over again that difficulties in his personal life don’t affect him professionally. Instead of getting distracted by that stuff, let’s look at where the strengths lie here. Green Bay’s offense has come on like crazy of late, with both Favre and Ahman Green finding their game. Washington, meanwhile, continues to rely on Clinton Portis for much of its offense. That’d be OK if it were Green Bay’s run defense that had suffered some key injuries of late. But the run D’s getting healthier, and the Skins don’t have the stuff to exploit Green Bay’s issues in the secondary. Look for a close, high-scoring game and look for Green Bay to pull it out at the end or in overtime by way of Mr. Ryan Longwell’s always accurate leg.
Indianapolis (-1) at Kansas City
I don’t know who’s gonna win this game. Neither do you. Know why? Because neither of us knows who’s gonna have the ball last. Figure that out and you own this thing. Otherwise, do what I did: Take the home team. (But, really, keep your money away from this. Unless you wanna be the over. That’s pretty safe.)
Jacksonville (+1) at Houston
Byron Leftwich and David Carr make this one of the most exciting games of the week between two teams no one was supposed to care about. And here, again, there’s almost no telling which squad will come out on top. So, once again, you take the home team.
N.Y. Giants (+6.5) at Minnesota
I used to have the Giants D on my fantasy team. They were awesome. Then I waived them the week of their bye, ’cause I simply will not carry two Ds on my roster. And some other guy snatched them. I was pissed until they got smoked by Detroit. And then I looked at their schedule and realized I’d have waived them this week anyhow. Look for both offenses to have big days on the ground. But the Vikes will do better in the air, and that’s why they win this by four.
Atlanta (+6.5) at Denver
Who bounces back from their big, embarrassing week-seven loss? Could be either of these squads, but you’ve gotta go with the home team over the guys who are on their second-straight road game.
Carolina (+8) at Seattle
In which the Seahawks get of the schneid and commence a four- or five-game winning streak, KoRo or no KoRo. They’ll cover, too.
New England (-3) at Pittsburgh
For at least the fourth time this season, the Patriots face the team that experts claim is certain to end New England’s amazing winning streak (now at 21 games). The strategy, it appears, is keep picking against the Pats because eventually they’re going to lose and you’ll get to say you saw it coming. And, of course, any team can beat any other team … blah, blah, blah. But there’s a reason the Pats are favored by three on the road. Pittsburgh is 5-1 and looking pretty good, but, much like the Jets, they haven’t beaten anybody. The Steelers’ opponents this season are a combined 14-25. They’ve played exactly one team that currently has a winning record: Baltimore (4-2), who beat them 30-14. Now, the Steelers did have Tommy Maddox under center that day. And they’ve come on since switching to rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger. But the kid has yet to be truly tested. That changes Sunday. The Pats D will have the rookie’s head spinning out of control by the middle of the second quarter. He’ll throw no fewer than three picks, one of which will go for six the other way. The Pats win 27-10.
Oakland (+6) at San Diego
Man, do the Raiders ever suck. All the changes this team made in the off-season. All the big free-agent acquisitions. All the promising draft picks. And they just suck, suck, suck, suck, suck. If I didn’t have the amazing Pats to fall back on, I’d be depressed beyond belief. The surging Chargers win this one by 10 or more (which sucks).
San Francisco (+1.5) at Chicago
One of these teams is gonna have to lose this game. That won’t be easy by any stretch, though it could prove a bit easier for Chicago if the Niners remember they’ve got Kevan Barlow on their team.
Miami (+6.5) at N.Y. Jets
You know what I learned watching the Jets-Pats game at Gillette last weekend? The Jets are a good team. Much better than I’d like them to be. They still never had a chance of winning that game with New England, but I’d bet they can probably beat at least 28 teams in the league on a good day. Miami could beat maybe one or two. And none of them are the Jets. Take New York and give the points. Miami’s secondary is tough, but their run D isn’t, and Curtis Martin’s gonna go on a major tear.
John Kerry (pick ’em) vs. George W. Bush
I’m not a big fan of either team in this contest. They both spend too much time working the right sideline for my taste. And I’ll be voting for neither. Still, given the facts, if it’s a decision between one or the other there’s only one way any sane person can go. The incumbent is certainly liar, probably a criminal, and without question an incompetent. He may be the single worst president in U.S. history. And although the polls say half of America hasn’t figured that out — or is too greedy, self-righteous, hateful or stupid (or some combination) to care — my sense is that the polls are missing some important voters. I also look at the fact that, historically, voters still undecided on election day go 65-85 percent in favor of the challenger. So go ahead and put your money on Kerry. He’s gonna win this one by at least a touchdown.