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Week Sixteen Picks

December 21st, 2006

I’ll say this for competitive balance (parity, whatever you want to call it): I can’t remember a time when there were 24 teams with something meaningful to play for heading into week 16 (and one of the teams that has nothing to play for is the one that has clinched home field through the NFC playoffs). So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice. Now, if I could just get to the point where all the damned parity didn’t make it so entirely impossible for me to figure out what’s gonna happen in most games. Here’s what not to expect in week sixteen.

Minnesota (+3.5) at Green Bay
So ya think maybe years from now someone will note that Tarvaris Jackson’s first NFL start came in the same game as Brett Favre’s last start at Lambeau Field? Neither do I. Packers by a touchdown.

Kansas City (-6.5) at Oakland
Who cares about the outcome of this game? Well, Kansas City fans, certainly. And Denver fans. And, of course, Brady Quinn, Troy Smith and a select number of other young men who may be doomed to begin their careers with a team with no hope of becoming competitive any time in the foreseeable future. If the folks in Colorado and the 2007 draft class could will Oakland to win, they’d pull off the upset. But since that’s not gonna happen, Kansas City takes this game by six.

Baltimore (+3) at Pittsburgh
I don’t care who the Ravens start at quarterback or where the game is played. Baltimore’s a better team than Pittsburgh. The Ravens brutalized the Steelers just four weeks ago. And Baltimore’s playing for a first-round bye, while Pittsburgh is, at best, playing to keep the fantasy of a wild card berth alive for another six days. The Ravens probably won’t have quite the day they had in week 12, but they still win this one by no fewer than four.

Carolina (+6.5) at Atlanta
You could have looked at the schedule all the way back in August and felt certain that this game would have some kind of playoff implications. Maybe you’d have thought it would be the game to decide the NFC South championship. Or the game in which Carolina could clinch home field through the playoffs, or at least a first-round bye. But you’d never in a million years have guessed that this game would find the Panthers all but officially eliminated from playoff contention and striving to pull what’s left of the rug out from under the Falcons. And still, here we are. Falcons by three.

Chicago (-5) at Detroit
Lovie Smith’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding, something tells me there will be more Chicago starters than Detroit fans watching this game before all is said and done. And still I expect the Bears not only to win, but to cover. Nice work if you can get it, eh Matt?

Indianapolis (-9) at Houston
Wake me when it’s over. Colts by 17.

New England (+2.5) at Jacksonville
Yup, sure is nice for the Patriots that they were able to “right the ship” by pounding on the hapless Texans last week. (OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh. It was a good win for the Pats. But … well, you know.) Now let’s see New England put a hurting on a good team. Or at least turn in a solid performance and walk away with a well earned victory. If that happens, and if the team can find a way to start getting healthier, I’ll start truly expecting great things from the Pats in January. Facing the Jags just as they’re beginning to experience injury problems of their own should help, as should the fact that New England matches up fairly well against Jacksonville. I’m looking for an upset here, if a narrow one.

New Orleans (+3) at NY Giants
You know what? I was just typing the words “I’d love to believe the Giants have a chance to win this game,” and then it occurred to me that what I was saying was a load of bullshit. Because I’m done rooting for the Giants for the 2006 season. Done. I’ve put up with the team having not only a Manning, but the lesser (least, I guess) Manning (a guy who looks more and more like bust and whose name sounds more and more like Herschel Walker with each game) at quarterback. I’ve done my best to ignore the tiresome antics of King Douchebag. And maybe I’ll continue to do that (or resume doing it) next season. But right now, this minute, I’m done pretending Tom Coughlin is anything other than an overrated college coach who has no business running (or in this case failing to run) an NFL team. So I’m rooting for the Giants to lose their last two games in hopes a 7-9 finish will be enough to do Coughlin in and give the Giants a chance to turn things around next season. It should help that this week’s game pits New York against a New Orleans team that has them outclassed in ever conceivable aspect of the game. Saints by a touchdown.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Cleveland
Chances are one of these teams is gonna win this game. Merry Christmas, Cleveland. Browns by a point.

Tennessee (+4.5) at Buffalo
Both teams are looking to finish the season strong and build some momentum for 2007. One of them is at home. The other one allows more yards per game than any team in the league and more points per game than 26 others. So I’m taking the Bills to win it by a field goal. And if it turns out I’m wrong, I’ll neither be surprised nor terribly disappointed.

Washington (+2) at St. Louis
I guess when all is said and done I agree with the oddsmakers. St. Louis is about two points less bad than Washington. So there you go.

Arizona (+4) at San Francisco
The Niners are trying to play their way to a playoff berth, maybe even a NFC West championship (the latter’s unlikely given that Seattle has a two-game lead and closes at Tampa Bay, but possible just the same). Arizona is just counting down the days to the end of the Dennis Green era (the count should be no more than nine at the close of this game). 49ers by 10.

Cincinnati (+3) at Denver
Carson Palmer may or may not have a bum shoulder. Javon Walker definitely has a bum shoulder. And if Walker can’t catch balls, you probably can’t expect much out of young Mr. Cutler. And still, you have to feel like the Broncos can probably win this game, especially if Palmer’s hurt worse than the Bengals are letting on, based on the fact that Denver runs the ball better than Cincy (both teams stop the run rather well). On the other hand, since neither team defends the pass very well, maybe it’ll be the team that fares better in the air that’ll come out ahead. I didn’t know what to make of this game three days ago, and I still don’t know now. So I decided I’d pick the team with the better giveaway/takeaway ratio, which is Cincinnati (+7; while Denver is dead even). And that’ll probably sink me.

San Diego (-4) at Seattle
If you wanna pretend Seattle has a shot here, you go right ahead. Me, I live in the real world, the one where San Diego runs the ball down Seattle’s throat all afternoon and comes out ahead by 14 or more.

Philadelphia (+7) at Dallas
I know who I’ll be rooting for in this game. I’d love nothing more than to see the Jeff Garcia-led Eagles rip the division lead away from asshole Owens and the Cowboys. But it’s not gonna happen. Dallas by three.

NY Jets (+2) at Miami
You know how I know the Dolphins are gonna run away with this game? Because I keep hearing Jets fans talk about how winnable it is and how their team’s headed for the playoffs. Maybe next year, folks. Dolphins by a field goal.

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