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Week Fifteen Picks

December 14th, 2006

Let’s see how many ways I can be wrong about football games this week. Fun, isn’t it?

San Francisco (+9.5) at Seattle
Man, I’d love to believe the 49ers had it in them to become the second straight NFC West opponent to catch the Seahawks napping and pull off an upset (completing a surprise season sweep in the process). But I don’t. To begin with, this round isn’t being played in San Francisco. And more important, the Seahawks are playing to clinch the division and to remain in contention for the NFC two seed (or at least the three). I will take the Niners to make it a bit of a game, however. I’m guessing they’re in it until just after halftime, and they ultimately lose by only a touchdown.

Dallas (-3) at Atlanta
In which Dallas, which matches up much better against Atlanta than it did against New Orleans, ensures that it will be able to hold on to its tenuous one-game lead in the NFC East for at least one more week (possibly longer depending on the outcome of Giants/Eagles on Sunday) and Atlanta, which matches up against Dallas rather less well than it did against Tampa Bay, reconvenes its slide to 8-8 or 7-9. I’m gonna go ahead and give the points.

Cleveland (+11) at Baltimore
The Ravens are gunning for the AFC two seed. The Browns are staring at the possibility of a top five pick on April 28. I don’t see any likelihood that this game throws either team off its current track. I’m not giving anything like 11 points, though. And I’m betting the under.

Detroit (+5) at Green Bay
I understand why there are once again questions about whether Brett Favre will be back in 2007 (he will). There simply always are. And I totally get why there are questions about whether Kevin Jones will be able to play next season (I bet he won’t; I’ve got an eight-year-old Lisfranc sprain that still hasn’t fully healed, and I don’t do anything one one-thousandth as punishing as playing running back in the NFL). What I can’t for the life of me understand is why there is any question about whether Matt Millen will still be running the Lions organization a month from now. How clear can it be that this guy is a bum? How stupid can the Ford family possibly be? “Indications are the Millen will be out”? Indications are? Why is he still in right now? The only thing sadder is the fact that the Lions are still better than the Oakland Raiders. (And only God can fire Al Davis.) Green Bay by a touchdown.

Houston (+11.5) at New England
What’s there really to say here? The Patriots had damned well better win this game, because the Jets still have a soft schedule and the Pats have to travel to Jacksonville and newly hot Tennessee in the final two weeks of the season, and chances are, the way they’ve been playing, they’re going to drop one of those games. Fortunately for New England, Houston is statistically even worse than Detroit. So that should make this one easy. (But I’m still taking the Texans to hold the margin to something more like 10.)

Jacksonville (-3.5) at Tennessee
Can hot-handed Uncle Rico lead the Titans to a fifth-straight win? Probably not, given that the Jags are playing to keep their wild card hopes alive and know they’ve got a tough finish ahead with a week 16 home game against the Patriots and a week 17 road trip to Arrowhead Stadium. That should prove motivation enough to boost Jacksonville over a Tennessee team that still has the league’s worst defense. The Jags hold off this week’s Titans comeback attempt and win it by a point.

Miami (+1) at Buffalo
If Ronnie Brown were healthy and playing, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to take Miami here. But Brown isn’t healthy and he may not be playing. So I’m hesitating, for exactly two seconds — ready, one … two … — and now I’m taking Miami.

NY Jets (+3.5) at Minnesota
I’d love to believe that the Jets won’t find a way to win this game. I’d also love to believe that the Vikings won’t find a way to lose it. But, much as the statistics favor Minnesota, I just know that this one isn’t going the Vikings’ way. The Jets pull off the upset and keep their hopes of overtaking the Patriots with a late push alive for another week (though quite likely just that).

Pittsburgh (-3) at Carolina
I only know one thing about this game. It’s not who’s gonna start at quarterback for the Panthers. It’s not which Carolina team or which Pittsburgh team is gonna show up to play. It’s that whichever team I pick is gonna lose. So I’m picking the Steelers, because what’s having the god-like power to affect the outcome of football games worth if you don’t use it to screw a team like Pittsburgh?

Tampa Bay (+13.5) at Chicago
Three points: a win here assures the Bears of a week-one playoff bye (not that they aren’t getting it anyhow, with the Lions coming in next week) and puts them one win away (again, Detroit) from clinching the one seed and being able to rest starters (and maybe, you know, get a peak at how Brian Griese can perform under center) in week 17. The Bears score more than twice as many points, on average, as the Bucs. And the Buccaneers allow half again as many points as the Bears. So shit yeah, I’m giving the points.

Washington (+9.5) at New Orleans
No, Drew Brees isn’t gonna be breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing record. Not unless he manages something on the order of 400 yards here. And that’s not gonna happen. Brees should still be able to light up the Redskins for something on the order of 300, though. And in the end, since the goal is to win games and make the playoffs, not to set individual records, I’m guessing that’ll be more than enough. I’m giving the points.

Denver (-2.5) at Arizona
Darrent Williams says some of his Broncos teammates have given up on the season. Should that really come as any kind of surprise, considering Mike Shanahan did exactly the same thing two weeks ago? Still, it’s kinda hard to lose to the Cards. And I don’t think anyone on Denver’s roster is quite that quit yet. Broncos by six.

Philadelphia (+5.5) at NY Giants
Maybe if Philly had any ability to stop the run they’d have a shot at this game. But they don’t. So they don’t. I expect to see a lot of scoring. And I expect to see the Giants come out ahead by about four.

St. Louis (+2.5) at Oakland
I don’t know. St. Louis’ defense doesn’t suck as much as Oakland’s offense. So I guess I’ll take the Rams. Who cares?

Kansas City (+8.5) at San Diego
If this game were being played at Arrowhead, I’d take the Chiefs to win won in honor of the great Mr. Hunt. But it’s in San Diego. Plus, the Chargers are better than the Chiefs on both sides of the ball. And Kansas City barely managed to hold on and win when they did have San Diego in their stadium. So I’m taking the Chargers straight up, though I like the Chiefs with the points.

Cincinnati (+3) at Indianapolis
The Bengals need a win to ensure they’ll stay out ahead of the Jets, Broncos and Chiefs in the wild card race (no, Cincy isn’t catching up with Baltimore in the AFC North chase). The Colts need a win both to stay alive for the one or two seed (and the attendant playoff bye) and to stop their two game skid (and keep from falling to 1-4 since their 9-0 start). Indy can’t stop the run. Cincy can’t stop the pass. Both teams can put up points like there’s no goddamned tomorrow. I’m taking the last team to hold the ball … coin’s up, it’s down, it’s Cincinnati, to win it by a field goal. But the only bet I’m placing is on the over. Way, way, way the hell over.

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