Well, I’m three-for-three on the week so far. That probably means I’m in for a bloodbath on Sunday. Or that the Thanksgiving games were absurdly easy to pick. Or, you know, both. Here’s what not to expect.
Jacksonville (+7.5) at NY Giants
The Giants aren’t getting any healthier. And I rather suspect they’re on their way to challenging the Racial Slurs for third place in the NFC East – and earning a bye for all four weeks of the post-season. The Jaguars, meanwhile, have won three straight and are tied with the Colts at the top of the AFC South. I’d be more impressed with that if Jacksonville had beaten better teams to get there, or if they’d won their games more convincingly. That type of win may yet be coming for Jacksonville, but I don’t think it’s coming here. The Giants’ pass rush is still impressive; New Jersey should be able to force David Garrard into the kind of situations in which he’s prone to making costly errors. Jacksonville’s defense, on the other hand, doesn’t do much of anything well. And while you can count on the Giants’ inability to hold on to the ball to bite them in the ass two games out of three, the Jags can’t seem to stop handing the ball to their opponents either. I’m not ready to give seven and a half points in this game, but I’ll definitely take the home team straight up.
Pittsburgh (-6) at Buffalo
The Bills now have won two in a row. That’s a nice little streak, I suppose. Still doesn’t make them a good team. Or even an average team. And since the Steelers are probably slightly above average, I’m looking for them to cap Buffalo’s little run at mediocrity. Pittsburgh by seven.
Tennessee (+6.5) at Houston
A month ago the Titans looked like one of the teams to watch in the AFC. They were 5-2. They had just beaten up on Philadelphia. They were doing nearly everything right. It seemed they were unquestionably on the ascent. Now, the Titans are a .500 team with a locker room that appears to be disintegrating. If they can’t turn it around here, they can probably call it a season. And I don’t think they can turn it around here. Texans by four.
Green Bay (+2) at Atlanta
I’ve looked this game up and down and from every conceivable angle and it just keeps coming up even. I think the Packers may be a marginally better team, but I can’t find anything to rest that on other than gut sense. That makes this game a coin toss. And since I don’t have a coin on me at the moment, nor any kind of rooting interest in this game, I’m just gonna play it safe and go with the home team. Falcons by a point.
Carolina (+10.5) at Cleveland
Quarterbacks? Who cares about quarterbacks. Damned overrated position if you ask me. I can only thank my lucky stars I don’t have to watch this fiasco. I’ll take the Browns, but I’m not giving that many points. Not even against a team as bad as the Panthers.
Minnesota (+2.5) at Washington
In which the Racial Slurs make it appear they’re still alive in the NFC by beating up on a team that refuses to admit it’s got a giant liability behind center. Washington by four.
Kansas City (-1) at Seattle
There’s essentially one aspect of the game in which the Seahawks don’t outright stink. It’s run defense. Seattle isn’t great at stopping the run, mind you. They’re just OK enough at it that have to consider the possibility that they’ll match up well against the Chiefs’ one-dimensional offense. That makes this game tough to pick. I’m taking Kansas City, but that’s mainly because I have so little regard for the NFC West that I can’t bring myself to pick the Seahawks against any team from outside their own division. Chiefs by a field goal.
Miami (+3) at Oakland
You know what’s crazy? One of these teams is gonna get to pretend its still in the hunt after this weekend. Crazier still: It’s gonna be the Raiders, whose own home town fans aren’t buying it. Oakland by seven.
Philadelphia (-3.5) at Chicago
The Bears are probably a better team than they get credit for being. Their defense certainly appears to be for real. But the Eagles are almost certainly every bit as good a team as they’re being heralded as. And I just don’t see Chicago being able to muster enough offensive production to keep up. Philly by six.
St. Louis (+4.5) at Denver
OK, quick, someone give me a reason to care about this game. It could affect the draft order, you say? Well, OK, that’s something. Maybe. Or, you know, not really. Denver by three.
Tampa Bay (+7.5) at Baltimore
It’s conceivable that both of these teams could finish at, say, 10-6 and that Baltimore could win a division with that record whereas Tampa Bay could miss the playoffs entirely. What does that have to do with anything? Not much, really. So what do I see here? I see reasons to like both teams in this game. The Buccaneers take way better care of the ball. If it comes down to turnovers, as so many NFL games do, they should win. What the Bucs don’t do very well, however, is stop the run. And that has the potential to prove costly. I’m gonna take the Ravens, because they’re at home, but I’m not giving seven and a half. More like three. Maybe.
San Diego (+3) at Indianapolis
Would it be possible – I mean, I’m just asking here – for both of these teams to lose this game? I don’t mean I want a tie, mind you. I mean it would make me extremely happy if both squads could manage an actual loss. Because, look, Colts losses are always satisfying (especially when their quarterback is acting like the petulant child he is). But it would also be nice to see the “watch out for those Chargers” crowd forced to find a way to keep singing their song with San Diego at 5-6. Since a double loss almost certainly (OK, certainly) isn’t gonna happen, however, I suppose I ought to make a pick. Look, the Chargers should win this game. They’re probably better. They’re definitely healthier. And, Peyton’s reluctance to admit it aside, they appear to have the Colts’ number. But, you know, the thing is, I can’t see Indy losing big conference games back-to-back. Just can’t. So I’m going with the Colts straight up, though I’m looking for a push with the points.
San Francisco (-1) at Arizona
Between them, these two teams have a giveaway/takeaway differential of -14. That goes a long way to explaining why they’re both 3-7. And why it’s virtually impossible for me to care about this game. I’m taking the 49ers, because their defense stinks slightly less than the Cardinals’. And that’s as far as I’m willing to go with this mess. San Fran by some number of points greater than one.