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Week Fourteen Picks

December 7th, 2006

Well, this isn’t getting any easier, is it? I have a feeling I may reach new levels of wrongness this week. Isn’t that exciting?

Cleveland (+7.5) at Pittsburgh
You know, it’d be nice to see Cleveland pull off yet another upset here. Not because the Steelers need to lose any more games. They don’t. They’re done. It’s just kinda nice not to have to deal with Steelers fans constantly crowing, and the more Pittsburgh loses, the quieter it gets. And, you know, with two of Pittsburgh’s best players out of the game, you’d almost think the Browns had a chance. But they probably don’t. And you certainly can’t pick ’em. I’ll take Cleveland to cover, but I expect the Steelers to manage a win.

Atlanta (-3) at Tampa Bay
Sure, the Falcons appeared to get back on track last week vs. the Redskins. And, yeah, Tampa Bay actually does suck even more than Washington (the Bucs allow about the same number of points as the Skins, but they score only about two thirds as many). But it’s still hard to pick Atlanta to win a second consecutive road game given how inconsistent the Falcons have been this season. I mean, I have to take Atlanta. I just don’t feel confident (or happy) about it. And I’m not giving three, though neither am I taking three (it’s a push, baby).

Baltimore (+3) at Kansas City
Shit, yeah, I think the Ravens can win this game. The Chiefs can’t do shit when they can’t run the ball. And I don’t care who your running back is, you don’t run the ball successfully against the Baltimore Ravens. Kansas City’s defense isn’t exactly soft, mind you, so I’m not expecting a huge day out of anyone on the Ravens’ offense. But I do expect the Ravens D, as usual, to force some turnovers and give the offense the opportunity to take advantage of a short field just enough to come out ahead by a point or two. That’ll bring the Ravens a step closer to clinching their division and make the Chiefs’ road to the playoffs a bit harder to travel (with the Bengals and Jets looking likely to win this week and the Jets facing a fairly soft schedule for the remainder of the season).

Indianapolis (-1.5) at Jacksonville
So this one’s a goddamned bitch. I mean, you tell me: are Indy’s losses in two of its last three games (and the week 13 loss to Tennessee, in particular) a function of the law of averages catching up with a team that started 9-0 in a highly competitive league, the inevitable result of late-season letup by a team that knows it’s headed for the playoffs, or the unavoidable fate of a team that doesn’t run the ball very well and can’t stop the run at all? If it’s option C, the Colts are in serious trouble, not just this week, but going forward. If it’s A, there’s no telling what might happen here. And if it’s B, the Jags are probably gonna get their asses kicked, since there’s no longer room for letup by the Colts, who are now in dire jeopardy of losing home field through the playoffs to the increasingly hot San Diego Chargers. But I can’t begin to guess what the situation really is, so assessing the possibilities ultimately doesn’t help me much. I also have no way of guessing whether Dave Garrard will look like a guy who should be starting every week, or just another career backup. Garrard’s managed to look like both by turns since he stepped in for Byron Leftwich and I simply haven’t seen enough of him to feel like I know which is the real quarterback. The smart thing to do, probably, is to take the 10-2 squad that’s playing for something concrete over the 7-5 team trying to hold on to the hope of making the playoffs. But I’m not doing the smart thing. I’m taking the Jags to pull off the minor upset. And I’m expecting to be disappointed.

Minnesota (+2.5) at Detroit
You know, I could try to find some intelligent way to break down this game, but I’m not going to. Because in the end, I still wouldn’t feel remotely good about picking either of these awful teams. So I’m just gonna pick the team I want to win. Or rather I’m gonna pick against the team I want to lose. That’s the one that needs to wise up and fire its CEO before things get even worse. Vikes by two.

New England (-3.5) at Miami
This game could have come at a better time for the Patriots. And for me. Because if the squad that played Detroit last weekend shows up in Miami, it’s gonna be a long, ugly afternoon. But if New England has somehow figured out that, more than simply needing to win in order to edge closer to clinching the AFC East and a home playoff game, it needs to continue to battle for the hope of bye week in January (not to mention just getting itself straightened out as the playoffs approach) then it should roll over a Miami team that’s increasingly banged up. Problem is, no one will know what’s up with the Patriots until this game is over. Me, I guess I’ll take my chances with New England straight up until I have a reason to do otherwise. I do like Miami to keep it to less than three, however.

NY Giants (+3) at Carolina
One of these teams keeps its playoff hopes alive for another week. The other gets to start planning for 2007. Now, you tell me which team is which, because I have no freaking idea. In fact, I can’t even tell you which of these teams is likely to show up to play. Maybe neither. Guess I’ll take the home team, for whatever little that’s worth, to win it by a field goal.

Oakland (+11) at Cincinnati
If there’s one hard and fast rule of picking NFL games in 2006, it’s don’t take the Raiders. So I’m not. And that’s the only bit of thinking I’m doing about this game. Cincy wins this one by 20.

Philadelphia (-1.5) at Washington
Good old Jeff Garcia. You know, I’ve always liked the guy and I didn’t think he could get it done under center in Philly. Glad I was wrong (not so much for the Eagles, who I don’t care about one way or the other, but for Jeff). And I’ve gotta figure that if Jeff can figure out a way to get things done against Carolina, he can figure out a way to get things done against Washington, a team that’s given up 25 more passing yards a game and six more passing touchdowns than the Panthers (and that apparently is back to having an offense that can move the ball, but can’t score). Philly by six.

Tennessee (+1.5) at Houston
It’s kinda starting to look like maybe Vince Young was the best quarterback taken in the 2006 draft, isn’t it? Titans by a touchdown.

Buffalo (+3.5) at NY Jets
I’m not at all sure this game is the gimme for the Jets that it’s being made out to be by the “experts.” Excitement about their playoff run aside, New York continues to have some fairly significant defensive issues (in essence, they don’t stop anything well or consistently). And I have a feeling those issues may allow Buffalo to stay competitive into the fourth quarter of this game. I do expect the Jets to manage a win here, and probably even to beat the spread, but I don’t think it’ll be over before the last offensive possession.

Denver (+7.5) at San Diego
This much became clear on Sunday night: the decision to start Jay Cutler under center isn’t about giving the Broncos their best chance to win this season. The team’s offensive line issues are clearly too great for them to have any real chance of advancing far into January this season no matter who their quarterback is. The Broncos may not be saying so, but they’re getting Cutler, and the team, ready for 2007. This game is already a Chargers win. By 10.

Green Bay (+4.5) at San Francisco
I don’t care about this game. And chances are neither do you. Niners by a touchdown.

Seattle (-3.5) at Arizona
Yet another opportunity for the Seahawks to play poorly and come away with a win. What fun. Seattle by four.

New Orleans (+6.5) at Dallas
Man, like I know Tony Romo is, like, god and everything, but are the Cowboys really so good with him at quarterback that they should be giving most of a touchdown to a Saints team that’s 8-4 and features a damned talented quarterback of its own? I don’t think so. I mean, I think Dallas wins, but not by six and a half.

Chicago (-6.5) at St. Louis
Just so you know, Lovie’s sticking with Rex at quarterback. And I’m sticking with the Bears — to win this week, to clinch home field through the playoffs, and to lose their first game after the January bye. But that’s more than a month from now. Right now, Chicago crushes the Rams, by two touchdowns or more.

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