Archive for November, 2007

Week Thirteen, Pt. 1

November 29th, 2007 Comments off

I thought I might have time to run down all of this weeks games before the big Thursday night affair that virtually no one is going to see got started. But I was wrong. So here’s my take on that game. I’ll get to the rest later.

Green Bay (+7) at Dallas
You know, I know the thing about how Brett Favre has never won in Texas Stadium. I get it. I also get the fact that the Cowboys are the home team, and in an evenly matched game, you take the home team. I get all of that. But I’m still taking Green Bay. Here’s why: 1.) Field Turf. Part of Favre’s problems at Texas Stadium had to do with the crown on the old field there. Favre, like a lot of quarterbacks, would overthrow his receivers on outs, because they’d be so far downhill from him. And outs are dangerous patterns as it is, because they can result in picks. That crown is gone. And I think a lot of Favre’s issues will be gone with it. 2.) I don’t think Dallas has the depth in its defensive backfield to cover Green Bay’s receivers. The Packers will spread the field and pick apart the Cowboys’ secondary. 3.) I don’t think it’ll matter that the Dallas D is great against the run, because Green Bay doesn’t run the ball well (or much) anyhow (and the Packers have still made it to 10-1. 4.) I don’t think it’ll matter much that Dallas runs the ball very well, because Green Bay’s D is also great against the run and because Dallas is gonna have to go to the air in order to keep up with Green Bay’s offense. 5.) If the game is close late, as I expect it to be, and it comes down to a quarterback leading his team to victory, I like Green Bay. 6.) If the game is close late and it comes down to a team needing one big defensive play to close the deal, I like Green Bay. That’s all I’ve got. Packers by three.

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Week Twelve Picks, Pt. 2

November 23rd, 2007 Comments off

So far, this week’s given us exactly what anyone thinking about it logically would have expected. You know what that means, don’t you? It means everything goes completely nuts the rest of the way through. Or not. Here’s what not to expect in the remaining baker’s dozen.

New Orleans (-2) at Carolina
The crazy thing about this battle of uneven and largely inept 4-6 squads is that the winner will remain alive in the race for the last NFC wild card slot (the first is going to the Giants). I mean, neither of these teams is going to the playoffs. It’s just the fact that you can be 5-6 and have a shot that’s amazing to me. (Of course, it’s also true that a 6-5 team will lead or tie for the lead in the AFC West after this weekend. So there’s that.) Here’s the deal: Neither defense can stop a damned thing. But the Carolina offense does a pretty solid job of stopping itself. So I guess I’ll go with the Saints to win by a touchdown.

Denver (+2) at Chicago
The Broncos come off a short week after playing a very physical game against Tennessee on Monday night. That and the fact that the Bears are, statistically speaking if not in the win-loss column, the better team here points not only to a Chicago win but a Chicago win by rather a comfortable margin. And yet I’m taking Denver. Why? Not sure. They looked like they had some kind of spark to me on Monday night, mostly. Broncos pull off the upset by virtue of a late field goal.

Tennessee (-1) at Cincinnati
OK, Jeff, I respect the hell out of you and all, but do you really believe the answer to the problems in your receiving corps is to sign Mike Williams? Seriously? The only problem Williams is likely to solve is that there’s too much food going to waste at team dinners. The solution to the issues in your passing game is to remind your current receivers that their job includes catching the damned ball when it’s thrown directly to them. The Tennessee receivers’ collective case of butterfingeritis and the short week are the only things that keep this game close. Otherwise, it’s the Titans in a rout over the foundering Bengals. Under the circumstances, Tennessee only wins by three or four.

Houston (+3.5) at Cleveland
You know, at first I looked at the spread on this game and thought it was a bit of an insult to the Browns. After all, the Texans have done nothing this season but fail to live up to expectations, while the Browns have clearly exceeded them. That’s still true. And it’s fun to see the Browns doing well and giving the Steelers a run for their money in the AFC North (though, let’s face it, we all know how that’s gonna turn out). But the fact of the matter is that these teams simply aren’t that far apart when it comes right down to it. Both defenses give up far too many points (Cleveland’s 29.4 per game is the worst average in the league) and allow far too many yards on the ground. And in the end, Cleveland has fared slightly better largely because it has a somewhat more balanced offense that has managed to do more to compensate for its defensive deficiencies than Houston’s O has. Can’t see any reason to expect a reversal in the trends here. So I’m looking for the Browns to come out ahead by three.

Buffalo (+7.5) at Jacksonville
The little engine that could runs into a hill it can’t climb for the second consecutive week. The Jags continue to dog the Colts in the AFC South contest, while the Marshawn Lynch-less Bills (a prettier squad, but not a better one, than when Lynch is in the game) ensure that the Patriots have clinched the AFC East title before their Sunday night matchup with Philadelphia ever kicks off. Jacksonville by 10.

Oakland (+6) at Kansas City
Has anyone picked up Kolby Smith in your fantasy league yet? If not, you might wanna think about it, because he’s gonna run for about 700 yards this weekend. Whatever happened to the Oakland defense of 2006? Chiefs by a touchdown (yes, with the extra point).

Minnesota (+7) at NY Giants
Yes, of course, losing Mathias Kiwanuka is gonna hurt the Giants. It’s gonna hurt bad, in fact. The real question is whether Kiwanuka’s absence is gonna hurt them badly enough this week that they’ll end up a dropping a game they really ought to win. I’m thinking the answer’s no. With Adrian Peterson probably out again (or at best, playing at way less than 100 percent), the Vikings are gonna have to rely more heavily than they’d like on their passing offense. That’s a problem, because the Giants are adept at bringing pressure on the quarterback (they lead the league in sacks with 34, four and a half of which were Kiwanuka’s), and Tarvaris Jackson ain’t so adept in performing under pressure. On the other side of the ball, we’ll see the strength of the Giants offense, the pass, matched up against a rather pronounced weakness for the Vikings D. Minnesota allows a league-worst 288 passing yards a game. That means New York should be able to put enough points on the board to cover for whatever Kiwanuka’s absence costs the D. And that should be enough to get them a win. This week. Though not by more than six.

Seattle (-3.5) at St. Louis
Five weeks ago, in Seattle, the then-winless Rams could do nothing right. But the Rams are a different team now. They’ve got Steven Jackson back in the lineup, and he appears to be getting healthier and better week after week. The Seahawks are a different team, too. They don’t have their star running back available. And they haven’t looked terribly sharp without him the past few weeks. The Seahawks almost certainly remain the better team, but it’s hard to sweep division rivals even when you’re playing well. And since the Rams have been playing their best football of late, while the Seahawks have looked off, I’m going with the home dogs to pull off an upset.

Washington (+3.5) at Tampa Bay
I don’t see Washington matching up well at all here. The Bucs defense is simply too strong for the Skins to put any kind of points on the board. Washington should have no success passing whatsoever, which should allow Tampa Bay to focus on neutralizing Clinton Portis. Meanwhile, the Bucs short passing game should allow the Bucs to keep the Redskins defense on the field, setting them up to break down as the game wears on. I’m guessing this one is fairly close through the first three quarters, but Tampa takes control early in the fourth and ends up winning by around nine.

San Francisco (+10.5) at Arizona
And the Niners collapse continues. Good thing for them that they didn’t trade away what looks like it could be the second overall pick in the draft thinking they were an O lineman away from a division championship, isn’t it? I’m taking the Cards and giving the points.

Baltimore (+9.5) at San Diego
Is there a more up-and-down team in the NFL than the Chargers? You’re doing a hell of a job there, coach. This, of course, should be an up week considering the fact that the Ravens can’t seem to get out of their own damned way. Not on offense, anyhow. Baltimore’s D, on the other hand, is still playing fairly well, particularly against the run. So I don’t anticipate the Chargers covering a spread this big. Winning, yes. Covering, no.

Philadelphia (+22) at New England
If you’re a Patriots fan headed to Foxborough for the game, think about bringing a little extra cash. AFC East Champion T-shirts should be on sale by the time the gates open (what with Buffalo losing to Jacksonville in the afternoon). The Pats, of course, will still have plenty to play for, including the conference one seed (they’re four wins away from clinching), their determination to knock the teeth out of every team they meet through the end of the post-season, and, of course, their moral imperative to teach the Eagles why it’s a good idea to keep your big yap shut sometimes. With that latter factor in mind, I’m looking for the Patriots to win this one by 49.

Miami (+16) at Pittsburgh
Well, if you can lose to the Jets one week, you ought to be able to lose to the Dolphins the next, right? Yeah, you’re right. Probably not. Another fine piece of work by the schedule makers. Miami gets abused in front of a national TV audience. Steelers by 24.

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Week Twelve Picks, Pt. 1, Thanksgiving

November 21st, 2007 Comments off

Well, at least the NFL managed to slot the one worthwhile game this Thanksgiving right smack-dab in the middle of the dinner hour (here on the East Coast, anyhow). But, you know, I guess that means no one will mind too much if the tryptophan does them in before the Dallas-Jets game gets rolling. Here’s what not to expect on the holiday (I’ll be back on Friday with the rest of my bad predictions for week twelve). Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

Green Bay (-3.5) at Detroit
Blah, blah, blah, Brett Favre on turf. Blah, blah, blah, the Lions always beat the Packers when they play on Thanksgiving (well, 11 out of 16 times so far). Blah, blah, blah, whatever stupid thing you’ve got. Here’s what I’ve got: The Packers own pretty much every matchup in this game, a factor particularly pronounced when you look at Detroit’s offense vs. Green Bay’s D. The Pack should be able to bring a ton of pressure on Jon Kitna, who is going to find, as the pass rush closes in, that his outlets are very well covered. That’s gonna translate to picks. It’s also gonna translate to the Lions continuing their late-season collapse. Packers by 17.

NY Jets (+14) at Dallas
It’s tempting to think this could work out to be a trap game for the Cowboys. I mean, if ever there were a setup for a trap, this is it. Dallas essentially locked up the NFC East title over the last three weeks with its string of wins over Philadelphia, New York and Washington. And they’re a week away from a showdown with Green Bay that’s likely to decide which team gets home field through the NFC playoffs. And right in the middle of all that, here come the lowly Jets. Easy to overlook. That’s how you get caught in a trap. Problem is, the Jets have next to no ability to capitalize even if the Cowboys come out soft. In fact, if Laveranues Coles is unable to play (did he get hurt, or did he just wake up and realize he was still trapped on the Jets?), the Cowboys likely will be able to sleepwalk to a win. That ain’t much of a trap, is it? Cowboys by the two touchdowns Vegas is taking away.

Indianapolis (-11.5) at Atlanta
Man, I’d love to see the Colts struggle again this week. But they’d probably have to play an actual professional football team for that to happen. So Indy rolls (winning by 14 or better) and all of the shameless Colts fans in the national media start talking breathlessly about the team’s resurgence. Ugh. I, for one, will not be thankful for that.

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Week Eleven Picks

November 16th, 2007 Comments off

Here we go, then. The home stretch. Teams fighting for the playoffs. Teams struggling through injuries. Teams planning for next season. I know which ones are which, but I don’t know much else, which is to say, please don’t start taking my advice now. Here’s what not to expect in week eleven.

Tampa Bay (-3) at Atlanta
Hey, the Falcons have resolved the burning question regarding their quarterback situation. So that means the Falcons don’t totally suck anymore, right? Bucs by a field goal.

Cleveland (-3) at Baltimore
I’ll start with the answer: The Ravens and their fans reportedly are very excited to have Kyle Boller back under center. Now the question: Exactly how bad are things in Baltimore right now? Man, it’s too bad the Ravens didn’t draft a guy like Derek Anderson when they had the chance. (What’s that? Oh. Really? Huh. That’s kinda sad.) OK, then, the new Browns wipe the floor with the old Browns, behind a guy who could have been taking snaps on the other side. (Man, that really has to hurt.) And, uh, yes, I’m giving the damned points.

Arizona (+3) at Cincinnati
The Bengals need to start winning some games this week if Marvin Lewis is gonna have any chance of remaining employed come early January. Sorry, Marv. Cards by a touchdown.

Carolina (+10) at Green Bay
If a quarterback (any quarterback) starts for Carolina and no one’s there to catch passes, is he really starting at all? You figure it out. I’m giving the points.

New Orleans (pick ’em) at Houston
After puzzling over this game for most of the week, I turned to my Magic 8-Ball. Here’s what it said, “Don’t ask me. Just bet the damned over and have done with it.” I’m taking that advice. And just for fun, I guess I’ll go with New Orleans to win.

NY Giants (-2.5) at Detroit
The Lions had a nice little run to start the season. They come into this game 6-3, which is more than anyone other than Jon Kitna thought was possible. The question now is can they make Kitna look like a true prophet? All they have to do is go 4-3 the rest of the way. So that should be easy. Except it really isn’t. And they won’t. Giants by six.

Kansas City (+14.5) at Indianapolis
Yeah, you can assert the opposite all you want, but those of us who are looking at the situation realistically are full aware that losing Dwight Freeney for the season is going to create serious problems for the Colts. Eventually, that is. Not this week. This week Indy wins by two touchdowns (which, you may note, is half a point less than they’re giving).

San Diego (+3) at Jacksonville
I spent the whole damned week trying to figure out which team has the edge in this game. And I’ve got almost nothing to show for it. These teams are even up and down the line. Except maybe here: the Jaguars have been fairly effective scoring through the air and Chargers’ D has had a tendency to allow passing touchdowns. That ain’t much, but with nothing else to go on, I’m hitching my wagon to it. Jacksonville by four.

Oakland (+5.5) at Minnesota
No AP? No problem. Not this week, anyhow. Jerry Springer’s pal Kenny could manage 120 yards and three TDs against the Raiders. Minnesota by seven.

Miami (+10.5) at Philadelphia
Welcome to the NFL, John. Hey, um, if you should find yourself in need of a little something after the game (you know, for the pain), you should probably talk to Ricky. Even if they have to go without Brian Westbrook, the Eagles should be able to win this one (though they only cover if Westbrook plays, so keep your money away from this game).

Pittsburgh (-9) at NY Jets
Apparently, Laveranues Coles no longer has fog in his noggin. That, no doubt, is a mixed blessing for Coles, who’s bound to notice at some point that he still plays for the Jets. Steelers by 14.

Chicago (+5.5) at Seattle
Oh, hooray, Rex is back. Let’s have a party or something. Or not. I’m taking the Seahawks and giving the points.

St. Louis (-3) at San Francisco
Dah-dum, dah-dum, dah-dah-dah-dah-dum. Dah-dum, dah-dum, dah-dee-dum. Dah-dum, dah-dum, dah-dah-dah-dah-dum, Dum, dum, dah-dee-dum. This is a goddamned joke. Yeah, the Rams are actually favored. They’re actually the better team for once this season. Start doing your little dance, Pats fans. Rams by seven.

Washington (+11) at Dallas
A week after they put the Giants away, the Cowboys effectively wrap up the NFC East. After this, it’s all about the battle with Green Bay for home field through the playoffs. Cowboys by 10.

New England (-15.5) at Buffalo
The Bills would have had a difficult enough time keeping up with the Patriots with Marshawn Lynch in the lineup. Without him, they’re as good as done. Pats by the standard 23.

Tennessee (+2.5) at Denver
You don’t win games in the NFL by giving up 151 yards on the ground. Especially not when you face an opponent with a running game that doesn’t need a lot of help. Titans by a touchdown.

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Week Ten Picks

November 9th, 2007 Comments off

Consider this: Ten of this week’s 14 games are division matchups. Eight of those mark the second time the teams have met this season. And in seven of those eight, the team that won the first round is favored to come out ahead again this weekend. That ain’t happening. Anyone who isn’t brand new to professional football knows very well that season sweeps are hard to pull off in the NFL except for true juggernaut teams. And there aren’t seven juggernaut teams in the league. Indeed, there are no more than two, possibly one, and neither of the candidates is playing a rematch this weekend (in fact, the better of them has a bye). So what does that mean? It means we’re looking at four outright upsets this weekend, minimum, and probably more like six. Now, your challenge is to tell me where they’re gonna happen. I say it’s your challenge, because I’m not taking it on myself. I tried, trust me. The games all came out pretty much the way the oddsmakers have predicted. And I’m just not up for trying to figure out where everyone, including me, has gone wrong. So, you know, here’s what not to expect this weekend.

Atlanta (+4.5) at Carolina
Chances are, one of these two teams is gonna find a way not to lose this game. And since the Panthers are both slightly less awful than the Falcons and playing at home, I’ll take my chances on them straight up, though I can’t see them winning by more than a field goal.

Adrian Peterson (+6) at Green Bay
No, that’s not an error. I’m just breaking this game down to what it really is. And, look, as one-man shows go, you could certainly do a lot worse than AP. Indeed, were it not for two factors — Green Bay’s stout defense and Minnesota’s complete inability to stop the pass — you’d have to figure Peterson had at least half a chance of winning single-handedly yet again this week. Of course, the Packers do have a stout D. And the Vikings are completely awful against the pass (which just happens to play right into Green Bay’s one-dimensional offensive attack). So while I expect Peterson to please fantasy team managers yet again this week (even the best defense probably couldn’t hold him to fewer than 100 yards and a TD at this point), in reality football I’m still gonna take the Packers. And give the six.

Denver (+3.5) at Kansas City
I’ve been having a lot of trouble bringing myself to make the pick I have to make in this game. On some level, no matter what the records and the stats say, I can’t quite bring myself to believe that the Broncos are as bad as they are or that the Chiefs are as … well, as goshdarned average as they are. But what else am I going to go with? Because, look, the bottom line is that while neither of these teams is ultimately impressive in any way, Denver is becoming more than a bit of a laugh. Most telling, the Broncos D can’t stop the run. At all. Denver’s giving up a league worst 161 yards a game (and 4.9 per carry, which is second worst in the league). So even without Larry Johnson, the Chiefs should have a fairly easy time moving the ball and controlling the tempo of the game (welcome back Priest. Factor in Kansas City’s solidly average passing game and the fact that the Denver D has a propensity for allowing passing touchdowns (15 so far this season), and you’ve got yourself a formula for a Chiefs victory. By about a touchdown. Unlikely as that may seem in the inner workings of my brain.

Buffalo (-3) at Miami
Hey, Jake Long, you watching this? Buffalo by 10.

St. Louis (+12) at New Orleans
Hey, Glenn Dorsey, you watching this? New Orleans by 17.

Cleveland (+9.5) at Pittsburgh
The over/under on this game is 47.5. Is that some kind of a joke? These two teams will have topped that by halftime. This is the bet of the week, kids. Between Cleveland’s high-scoring offense going at a Pittsburgh D that’s been tough as nails but is coming off a the kind of performance you can’t hope to repeat in the NFL (and working on a short week, no less) and Pittsburgh’s offense facing a Cleveland D that’s as weak as you’re ever likely to see from a contending team, it’s hard to imagine the total points put up in this match not topping 60. It’s also hard for me to imagine Pittsburgh winning this game by more than a touchdown. So that’s what I’m going with: Pittsburgh straight up, Cleveland with the points, and the over.

Jacksonville (+4) at Tennessee
I’m not sure it matters that David Garrard might be back under center for the Jags. I mean, it’s not like Jacksonville was lighting teams up with its passing game before Garrard got hurt. And given that Tennessee’s run D hasn’t yielded much to anyone thus far this season, I’m really not expecting Jacksonville’s offense to be able to accomplish much of anything in this game. Then again, I wouldn’t count on seeing the Titans put up a whole ton of points either. Tennessee by three.

Philadelphia (+3) at Washington
Man, wasn’t it just like two seasons ago that there was only meaningful question regarding the Eagles: When would they finally close the deal? Now, questions abound. Like who’s to blame? Who should be starting under center? And who’ll be the next head coach? This is ugly. Washington by a touchdown.

Cincinnati (+4.5) at Baltimore
Chris Henry a bad seed? Whatever gave you that crazy idea? Jesus, this Cincinnati team can’t get out of its own way. Well, at least this gives the Ravens a chance to take out their frustrations on someone. I guess it’s just as well it’s someone nobody particularly likes. Ravens by six.

Detroit (+1) at Arizona
You’ve gotta figure that sooner or later the fact that the Lions really aren’t a very good team is gonna have to catch up with them. I’m guessing sooner. As in this week. Cardinals by four.

Dallas (-1) at NY Giants
As I see it, this game’s all about running and stopping the run. I don’t believe the Giants’ defensive front, as well as it’s been playing, will be able to bring pressure on Tony Romo. But neither do I believe that the Dallas secondary can effectively cover New York’s wide receivers. So I see both teams moving the ball well through the air. The difference, then, is which team will be able to bring balance on offense. I think it’s Dallas. The Giants have run the ball marginally better than Dallas so far this season (138 yards per game, 4.7 per carry vs. 128 per game and 4.6 per carry — though Dallas has 10 rushing TDs to New York’s eight), but they’ve done it against weaker opponents. The Cowboys D, on the other hand, has proven a good bit more reliable against the run than the Giants D (84 yards per game, 3.6 per carry and four TDs as opposed to 101, 4.2 and six). And, again, Dallas has faced stiffer opposition. I don’t see any reason why I’d expect the trends to shift dramatically in this game. So I’m taking the Cowboys and figuring they’ll win by something on the order of three or four.

Chicago (-3) at Oakland
Here’s an almost foolproof formula for logging sacks when you take on the Oakland Raiders: field a defense. How’s that for insight? Bears by three.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at San Diego
Did you watch that Colts-Patriots game last weekend? Because if you did (and certainly if you caught the Chargers-Vikings tilt earlier that same day), you don’t need me to tell you how this game is gonna turn out. Colts by seven.

San Francisco (+9.5) at Seattle
Oh, boy. Monday can’t come soon enough, can it? Seahawks win. Niners cover. And that’s all I can bring myself to say about this game.

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Week Nine Picks

November 2nd, 2007 Comments off

What a week. The good meet the good, the bad meet the bad, and the mediocre cast awkward glances at each other at midfield. Makes for easy picking, doesn’t it? Want some betting advice: Throw a dart. Every bet’s as good as the next this week. And that’s not very. Here’s a look at what probably won’t happen.

San Francisco (+3) at Atlanta
Oh, goody, it’s a stink off. Neither defense can stop anything. And neither offense has anything that actually requires stopping. The home team does have a giveaway/takeaway ratio of plus five to the visitors minus three, however, so I guess I’ll hang my hat on that. Atlanta by four.

Cincinnati (-1) at Buffalo
Nope. Sorry. Not buying it. Cincinnati’s probably a better team on paper (somehow, in spite of how poorly they’ve played), but Buffalo’s the team with all the heart out on the field. I don’t care who’s starting under center for Buffalo, because even if I weren’t inclined to pick the Bills to win (which I’m doing), I’d pick the Bengals to lose. The difference is a field goal.

Denver (+3) at Detroit
I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent going over this game in my head trying to figure out a reason to pick Denver. Why? Because as well as they’ve been playing, I still have an incredibly hard time believing the Lions are for real. Crazy, right? Crazier still, all that time has been a complete loss, because Denver isn’t beating Detroit this weekend. Because, here’s the thing: neither defense can stop a damned thing, but somehow, some way Detroit’s offense actually has more to not stop. So, whatever, I’ll take the Lions, give the points and hold my breath.

Green Bay (+2) at Kansas City
Pass. No, I don’t mean the quarterbacks. I mean me. I’d like to pass on making a pick here. Is that OK? No. Fine. I’ll go with the team with that knows where to find the end zone. Green Bay pulls off the upset.

San Diego (-7) at Minnesota
I can think of exactly one way that next big thing Adrian Peterson is like every other running back in the NFL: Even he can’t pick up yards if the running lanes aren’t there. San Diego by 13.

Jacksonville (+3.5) at New Orleans
When it comes right down to it, there’s only one reason I’m pick the home team in this game. His inarguably adequate performance last weekend aside, I still don’t believe in Quinn Gray. So I’m taking the home squad straight up even though I halfway believe turnovers are going to kill them. Saints by three.

Washington (-3.5) at NY Jets
I know the Patriots are famous for their focus on the game at hand, but has anyone else wondered if Bill Belichick had Washington’s schedule in mind as his team went about humiliating one of the league’s best defenses a week ago? Wouldn’t it just be awful if the Skins D decided to take out all that anger on the Jets? Washington by 10.

Arizona (+3.5) at Tampa Bay
Yet another game I just really don’t wanna pick. Still like that Jeff Garcia, though. And I’m OK with Tampa Bay’s D. So I’ll go ahead and take the home team to come out ahead by three.

Carolina (+4.5) at Tennessee
If David Carr can sometimes up against competent when his health is at 100 percent, what exactly can one expect from him at 80 percent? Kinda scary to think about, isn’t it, Panthers fans? Tennessee by a touchdown.

Seattle (+2) at Cleveland
I see this game coming down to quarterback and running back play. And what’s insane is the way I see it going. The Browns can’t bring enough pressure on Tim Hassselbeck to shut down the Seahawks’ passing game. And even though it’s pretty clear Shaun Alexander can’t get it done without great run blocking (which Seattle no longer has), he still doesn’t go down unless you hit him, which means the Browns D is going to have to at least account for the run, which means Cleveland can’t drop extra players in coverage, or at least not on first and second down. So my guess is that the Seahawks are gonna be able to score more in this game than the 14 points they’ve been averaging on the road thus far this season. Lot of good it’ll do ’em. I look for Derek Anderson and Jamal Lewis both to be able to do some damage against Seattle’s suspect D. Probably just enough for the Browns to squeeze by the Seahawks. I’m looking for a one-point victory by Cleveland.

New England (-4.5) at Indianapolis
Here’s an idea. Let’s pretend there’s a way to discuss this highly anticipated game without getting bogged down in nonsensical debates (I can’t have an opinion on whether the Patriots have been running up the score on opponents, because there’s no such thing as running up the score in professional sports), idiotic and poorly considered pseudo-moralizing (can one more unimaginative and uniformed dolt passing for a football expert write about Colts-Pats as a contest between good and evil, please?), or the psychology behind the issuance, or veiled issuance, of unconscionable suggestions (from sources that include supposedly respectable journalists) that someone take out a hit on the best quarterback in the game (apparently, since it’s the only way to stop the Patriots, it’s OK — I’d love see the gasping, horrified reaction of the national press were someone to make the same suggestion regarding the second best QB in the game, their saintly darling boy, naked butt and rectum and all). You know what I’m saying? Let’s just set all that stuff aside for a minute and maybe talk about football a little. How’s that sound? Not good to the national press. Know why? Because when you start looking at the football aspects of this matchup (as opposed to the pure hype bullshit), it starts to look a lot less even than the press wants it to be. This is a blowout in the making, folks, regardless of what you may have been led to believe, and regardless of the fact that the Colts are an excellent football team, a team that at least 26 teams in the league couldn’t hope to beat. But as good as the defending champs are, the Pats are better. The fact of the matter, and this is where the growing hatred of the Patriots truly comes from, is that a the Pats are a team that 31 teams in the league can’t hope to beat. Look, I agree that the Colts defense this season is better than it was last season. That’s very nice. But the Indy D hasn’t improved nearly so much as the New England offense. Nor has the Indy D changed significantly in the way it’s structured. The Colts defense simply doesn’t match up at all well against the reconfigured Patriots offense. Indy doesn’t put pressure on the passer (which is why the Colts have fewer sacks than all but eight teams, six of which have losing records). That’s a problem when you’re facing a quarterback who already has more time in the pocket than any other in the league. Brady should be able to relax and wait for one of his considerably talented targets to break free. Moreover, the Colts zone defense is gonna struggle to slow down guys like Wes Welker and Donte’ Stallworth, the latter of whom is murder to stop once he has the ball in his hands. If the Colts attempt to adjust by dropping additional bodies into coverage, or by going totally against character and blitzing, it’s going open up lanes for Laurence Maroney. The Colts simply are not going to be able to keep the Patriots from scoring. Fine, you say, but do I really believe the Pats D can keep the Colts offense from putting up points? Not entirely, no. But I think New England’s D as currently configured poses significant enough problems for Indy that it’s going to make it very tough for the Colts to move the ball. Specifically, I don’t think Manning can account for #96. Certainly not in the early going. Linebackers like Thomas, who can show up anywhere on the field on any given play, give Peyton fits. If the Colts come into this game planning to get big production in the short passing game, particularly with Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai leading the way, Peyton’s gonna end up putting the ball in Thomas’ hands once or twice. And when Manning attempts to adjust his game to account for #96, he’s going to start having difficulty with #50, #59, #93 and #75, which will lead to unpleasant (for Peyton) experiences with #22 and his old friend #27. I simply don’t see a way out of trouble for Manning, particularly if he’s attempting to keep up with the New England scoring machine (which is averaging nearly 10 more points a game than Indianapolis). I expect to see Manning make some very good plays, but also some costly mistakes. And in the end, I expect the scoreboard to read something along the lines of New England, 42, Indianapolis, 17.

Houston (+3) at Oakland
The Texans are giving up way too many yards on the ground (nearly 121 a game and 4.6 per carry) to feel good about going up a team that cranks out 138 rushing yards a game and 4.3 a carry. I just don’t see Houston’s defense being able to get off the field in this game, which spells an Oakland victory, if only by about the field goal the Raiders are giving.

Dallas (-3) at Philadelphia
There’s this thing in my gut telling me the Eagles are gonna find a way to pull off the upset here. It think it’s that stupid free taco. (Thanks a lot, Jacoby.) But then there’s this thing in my head (which I really don’t use nearly enough) saying, “No fucking way.” I mean, OK, the Eagles D has an outside chance of slowing down the Cowboys’ run game. And Philly’s offense can probably score a few TDs. So maybe that puts some pressure on Mr. Moneybags and causes him to make one or two stupid mistakes (he’s certainly no stranger to those). But overall, the Eagles don’t match up well against the ‘Boys. I expect Philadelphia’s secondary to get torched on a few key plays. And that should make the difference. To the tune of something like a seven-point Cowboys victory, I think.

Baltimore (+8.5) at Pittsburgh
The Ravens are getting healthier in some key areas. The Ravens really, really need to win this game. And the Ravens ought to be able to beat the Steelers. But I don’t think Willie Parker cares about any of that stuff. My respect for Baltimore’s formidable run D notwithstanding, Parker carries his team to a four-point win.

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