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Week Ten Picks

November 12th, 2004

You know, I don’t have one damned clever. observation to make about how it’s the middle of the NFL season. Not one. I guess I’m the only person in America. I’m sorry to let you down. How about I write some extra long explanations of my picks this week instead? Will that make it up to you? I sure do hope so. Here we go, with the usual warning not to pay attention to me amplified this week by the fact that the picking is extra tough and I’m expecting more than a few upsets:

Baltimore (+1) at N.Y. Jets
As if beating up on New York in an important division matchup last week wasn’t damaging enough to the Jets’ season (and hopes for success in the post-season), the Buffalo Bills also went and put Chad Pennington out of commission for two to four weeks. That puts Quincy Carter under center just in time to face the Ravens’ punishing D. The Jets have a damned tough defense, too, so Jamal Lewis and the Ravens offense will probably have a slow first half. But as the game wears on, and the Jets’ D spends more and more time on the field, Baltimore should be able to open it up a bit. Look for a 13-6 Baltimore victory.

Chicago (off) at Tennessee
Steve McNair is back. Chris Brown is gone. And Craig Krenzel is still taking snaps for Chicago (that’s right, folks, it’s the Bears’ third straight game with the same starting quarterback.) So, you know, this game comes down to … I don’t know. Something. Take the home team. It’s safe.

Detroit (+3) at Jacksonville
The Jags, who have been looking dangerous of late, have to see if they can get it done without Byron Leftwich under center. The Lions, who looked like they just might turn out to be dangerous for a change, until they started sucking it up two weeks ago, need a win to stay in the tight NFC North race with big games against Minnesota and Green Bay just over the horizon. The Jaguars D should prove the difference. Jacksonville edges Detroit straight up. Against the spread it’s a push.

Houston (+9) at Indianapolis
There are two ways to approach picking this game. You can put your faith in the alleged Monday night jinx (you know that thing where only one team that has won a Monday night game this season has gone on to win the next week) and pick Houston in the giant upset. Or you can look at the fact that Houston just gave up 364 yards and four touchdowns to Denver, and pick Indy to win by scoring five or six times. There are gonna be some points scored by both teams in this thing, so definitely take the over. And nine points is a lot to give, even for the Colts, so take Houston with the nine. But don’t pick based on jinxes. The Colts win straight up.

Kansas City (-3) at New Orleans
Saints coach Jim Haslett says his team plays dumb. That can’t be good for morale. Of course, you don’t have to play smart to score against Kansas City, which gives up an average of 26 points a game. And with the Chiefs playing on the road and without Priest Holmes, I see no reason to believe they’ll be able to put up 27, never mind 30. I like the home team to pull off the upset here.

Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Cleveland
Pittsburgh’s players are feeling pretty fucking good about themselves after knocking off the league’s top two teams (the Patriots and Eagles) on successive weeks. The Steelers are being heralded as the new team to beat in the NFL. And here come the Browns to do the job. Pittsburgh’s gonna have a mighty tough time stopping Lee Suggs and William Green, which should open things up a bit for Jeff Garcia, who’ll find Antonio Bryant for a handful of big completions, including at least one touchdown. The Browns smart D, meanwhile, will outsmart rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Take Cleveland with the points, because they’re pulling off the upset here.

Seattle (-1) at St. Louis
Mike Martz mad. Rrrrrarrrgh! Mad at his lazy players, who can’t beat teams like the Patriots (even though what really caused the Rams to lose at home to a better, but severely banged-up, team is that Martz was majorly outcoached) and the Dolphins (everybody involved deserves blame for that fiasco). Mad at the St. Louis sports press, who keep asking questions about why his team keeps losing and why he’s so mad about it. And, one might guess, maddest of all about the fact that he’s got a team full of talented players, but he can’t seem to win games. The fault, Mike, is not in your stars (that’s a pun; get it), but in yourself. That is, you’re a suck-ass coach, dude. And this week yet another talented coach is going to drive that point home, as Seattle comes in to extend the Rams’ losing streak to three games. Take the Seahawks and give the point, ’cause they’re gonna win it by no less than a touchdown.

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at Atlanta
The Bucs are getting better by the week. Their offense has come on since the return of Michael Pittman, so much so that even perennial fuckup Brian Griese has managed to excel under center (though how long Griese will stay hot is anyone’s guess). And their D isn’t exactly the powerhouse it used to be, but it’s hard as hell to pass against. That said, Michael Vick is growing more and more comfortable with the West Coast offense. I think he has a breakout game here and leads the Falcons to a victory. I’d give the points, too.

Cincinnati (+3) at Washington
How do I know this is gonna be a defensive struggle? Is it because Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis are defensive masterminds who have their respective squads stopping just about everything that’s thrown (or run) at them? Mmm, kinda, I guess. But not mostly. Mostly it’s because neither team’s offense can score for shit, which is why both have the same losing record (3-5) in spite of the fact that they’re playing good D. The Bengals are averaging 19 points per game. The ‘Skins can’t even boast that much potency. They’re averaging 14 points a game; and they’ve not scored more than 18 in any week this season. It’s pretty simple to figure it out from there. Except then you get to who wins. Me, I’m thinking Cincinnati pulls off the upset here, because I’m thinking more and more that good old Joe Gibbs just isn’t up to coaching in the modern NFL. I like the Bengals by a point, 14-13.

Carolina (pick ’em) at San Francisco
Even the oddsmakers can’t be bothered to take a close look at this matchup of 1-7 teams. This is the kind of thing where you take the home team because they’re the home team and it’s just too depressing to take things any further.

Minnesota (+4) at Green Bay
Minnesota had damned well better find a way to win this game. They’ve lost their last two. And Green Bay, winner of three straight, stands just a win away from tying them for the division. The Vikes showed they could score without Randy Moss when they played Indy Monday night, which is good, because they’ll need to do it again this week. But you can’t count on 91-yard kick-return touchdowns. So unless Onterrio Smith steps up and has a huge game, the Vikings are gonna find themselves in second place come Sunday afternoon. I think Smith will do well, but not quite as well as Ahman Green, which is to say I like Green Bay straight up, though I like Minnesota to keep the difference to more like a field goal.

N.Y. Giants (-2) at Arizona
It’s fitting these two teams should meet here in the middle of the season. The Cardinals are on their way up, while the Giants (now playing without either of their standout defensive ends) are on their way down. Take Arizona with the points or straight up.

Buffalo (+7.5) at New England
This is a big game for the Pats, believe it or not. With Buffalo beating the Jets last week, a win here and another December 20 in Miami would put the AFC East tiebreaker solidly in the Patriots grasp (i.e. even if the Jets beat New England at the Meadowlands the day after Christmas, the Jets and Pats could only split head-to-head, since the Pats have already beaten the Jets once, so if the Pats are perfect in the division, they own the next tie-breaker). That would mean the Jets would have to come out a game ahead of the Pats in order to win the east and with what’s going on with Chad Pennington, that seems unlikely. Anyhow, it’s a division game, which Bill Belichick always considers important. So look for the Pats to find ways to shut down Willis McGahee and stop the Bills. I think it’s closer than a touchdown, but not much closer. A five- or six-point margin of victory for New England strikes me as reasonable.

Philadelphia (-6.5) at Dallas
The Cowboys are probably showing up as a popular upset pick in office pools around the country this week. The Eagles are coming off a humiliating loss to Pittsburgh, the kind of loss that can start a mid-season mini-slide. The Cowboys are playing under threat of death from Bill Parcells (who’d have started planning for the future and getting young quarterback Drew Henson some playing time by now if it weren’t for the fact that he knows somewhere in the back of his mind that he’ll be calling it quits at the end of the season). And lots of folks just like picking the upset on Monday night, ’cause they figure maybe it’ll keep ’em in the hunt (which is a stupid philosophy). Forget it. The Cowboys have no chance of stopping Terrell Owens and little chance of putting any points on the board themselves. Take Philly in your pool and get a leg up on the competition. And if you’re tempted to bet, either take the points or bet the under (’cause the Cowboys will be lucky to score 10 and the Eagles won’t quite make up the other 32).

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