Jack Thomas Picks 'Em

Here's the new NFL, where parity and surprises reign supreme. The Steelers and the Bears lead their divisions after winning 4 in a row, both of them behind a good running game and very good defenses.

The Colts are .500 after they got trashed for the second time this year (this time at home) by the Pats. Tom Brady is playing great. The Redskins finally got their first win behind Rod Gardner's 200 yard receiving day. Are the Rams human? They looked phenomenal and didn't miss a beat without Faulk. That reverse option with Hakim pitching to Canidate was one of the nicest plays I've ever seen.

Also last week, the Pack continue their up and down season as the Vikes whipped them and I thought the Chiefs had something this year, but after a loss to Arizona, they're now (1-5). Denver and Baltimore both got trounced by division foes, the Seahawks and Browns, respectively. The Saints lose at home to the Falcons, and the Lions fall short for the second week in a row to give the Titans their 2nd close win.

I've got mass changes in my top ten this week. There is no Denver, no Baltimore, and no New Orleans. With the Vikings, Seahawks, Jets, and Chargers sitting on the bubble, here goes: (last week's ranking in parentheses)

1) St. Louis (6-0) (1)
2) Oakland (4-1) (UR)
3) Green Bay (4-2) (2)
4) Miami (3-2) (9)
5) Pittsburgh (4-1) (10)
6) Philadelphia (3-2) (6)
7) N.Y. Giants (3-3) (3)
8) San Francisco (4-1) (UR)
9) Cleveland (4-2) (UR)
10) New England (3-3) (UR)

This week's marquee matchups: (*--who I'd take)

New Orleans @ St. Louis* (-12 ½) (It's not a sure thing just because of what the Saints defense did to them last year.)

San Francisco @ Chicago* (-2 ½) (I love the Niners offense, but I'll take defense at home and five in a row.)

Minnesota* @ Tampa Bay (-3) (A must win for the Bucs doesn't stop Daunte, although even Brad Johnson could have a game against the Vikes' secondary.)

Miami (-2 ½) @ Seattle* (The ‘Hawks are tough at home. A tough call.)

Oakland* @ Philadelphia (-1) (I don't think the Eagles have enough offense to take this one.)

New England* @ Denver (-7 ½) (Too many points to give to a hot Patriots team.)

(Monday Night):

Tennessee @ Pittsburgh* (-3) (Like the Bears, I don't see any reason for the winning streak to come to an end here.)

Last week, I went 2-1 on my picks and should have been 3-0. St. Louis and Pittsburgh were both easy covers. I still think the Giants was a good take, but you're asking for it when you can't get in the end zone and you've got a 50 year old kicker.

This week, I like the Jets (-2 ½) at Carolina and the Cardinals only giving (-1) against the Cowboys whose QB is going to be Clint Stoerner backed up by Ryan Leaf. Dallas is really heading in the right direction, huh?

My take of the week, though, is Oakland (-1) at Philadelphia.

On to college football, where nationally, everyone's crying about Miami getting screwed again. Now, I thought they should have played OU in the title game last year, but screw the Hurricanes. If Oklahoma or Nebraska run the table along with UCLA, they deserve to play for it all. Miami chose to play in the Big East because they knew they couldn't come out of the SEC or ACC undefeated. I don't feel bad for them at all.

Oregon finally snagged my overrated tab by losing to an unranked Stanford team last week. Texas finally turned it on against Colorado, but it's too late for the ‘Horns. Clemson had a great homecoming game getting stomped 38-3 by UNC. Fresno State is done after the loss to Boise, but at least their coach took it like a man. Do you think somebody in Tuscaloosa is going to tell Alabama that in football there are 4 quarters, not 3. They could have beaten Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Tennessee, but continue to sit on small leads and let the other team have the ball for 12 to 13 minutes of the 4th quarter. That's not a formula for success, Franchione.

This week's intriguing games: (*--who I'd take)

(2) Oklahoma* @ (3) Nebraska (-4) (I'm rooting for the ‘Huskers, but the Sooners have burned me too many times against Top 10 teams.)

(UR) Syracuse @ (4) Virginia Tech* (-18) (If it was in the Carrier Dome, maybe, but the Hokies will roll until Miami whips them.)

(5) UCLA* (-7 ½) @ (22) Stanford (The Cardinal's not good just because they beat Oregon. The Bruins will feast in Palo Alto.)

(16) Georgia @ (6) Florida* (-19) (The Gators are pissed after steaming for 2 weeks after the Auburn loss. 19's a lot, but I'll take Florida.)

(14) South Carolina* @ (9) Tennessee (-7 ½) (I don't know if the ‘Cocks can pull it off in Knoxville, but I think it's gonna be a close one.)

(12) Maryland @ (18) Florida State* (-8) (I'm not taking anything away from Friedgen, but I like FSU to put the Terps in their place.)

(13) Oregon @ (15) Washington State* (-2 ½) (I think the Cougars will play with UCLA in Pullman, so for me, this one is a no-brainer.)

I went 2-1 in my picks last week with easy covers by LSU and Ole Miss. I can't believe Southern Cal let Notre Dame play like that in the second half. Another pick of the week gone astray. This week, I like Clemson to cover (-9) at Wake Forest and Florida State to cover (-8) at home versus Maryland. My take of the week though is UCLA by (-7 ½) over Stanford. The line is skewed because everyone thinks the Cardinal can play now because they beat Oregon.

On to baseball, where I nailed Arizona and the Yankees. Game 4 against the Mariners Sunday Night was a classic. I'm looking at a low scoring series that might go 6 games. While everyone can't stop talking about Schilling and Johnson, smart money's going on the Yankees. This reminds of the last of the Bulls championships when everyone thought the Jazz would win. Even the Braves found a way to pinch a run or two off of Schilling and Johnson. The Yankees play smallball and have that postseason magic to beat these guys. How many runs will the D'backs offense get off Mussina or the rest of the Yankee staff? Arizona might get back home for a 6th or 7th game, but I'll take the Yanks in five.

By the way, I finally agree with a decision by Bud Selig. I hope the Marlins and Expos do fold. The attendance is embarrassing and it would be an interesting little draft with players like Vladimir Guerrero and Cliff Floyd.

Finally, a note for the NBA. I am excited about the regular season in the first time in forever. Jordan's still got it, and while they won't win it all, he may carry the Wiz to the playoffs. What's gonna be great is watching him play against Kobe, Iverson, McGrady, Vince, Sprewell, etc.

Well, go Yankees and look for the Boys to go to 2-4 this weekend!

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