Thursday Night Game: Baltimore @ Cincinnati
Both teams coming off of shut-out victories in convincing fashion, with the Ravens beating the hapless Steelers 27-0 due mainly to a suffocating defense, and the Bengals crushing the overmatched Browns 30-0. What does this mean? Well, it means that an awesome offense in Cincy is getting to face in awesome defense in Baltimore. Now, usually, a great defense beats a great offense any day of the week and twice on Thursdays; however, that rule is only rock-solid in the postseason. We've seen great defenses lose to great offenses in the regular season before, and you know what? I'm betting we see that again this week. Cincinnati wins this one.
Editor's Note: This column was submitted before the game was played on Thursday.
Arizona @ St. Louis
Wonder if Edgerrin James still thinks he made the right decision in coming to ‘Zona? He still does not have a 100yd game yet (although he's been within 5 yards at least twice) and Arizona, as a team, is pretty darn bad. Meanwhile, he looks over to Indianapolis, who replaced him with Joseph Addai, who is coming off a 171yd 4 TD day, not to mention 34 yards receiving. Looks like Indy doesn't mind, huh? Less money, same impact. Anyway, if there were ever a week in which Edge might be able to get himself 100 yards, it'd be this week against St. Louis. Same goes for Steven Jackson, St. Louis' running back. He's had more 100 yarders this season though. Torry Holt, wherefore art thou? Looks like he's been running out of gas the past few weeks. Anyway, Matt Leinart threw for 400 yards and still lost last week to Minnesota. He might throw for near the same this week, but he'll lose again. Rams win it.
Atlanta @ Washington
Man, this is just one of those games you don't even want to bother picking. Carolina's deadliest rival, vs. the team that managed to beat us due to a fluke play to a guy named Cooley. Chris Cooley, in fact. But hey, if you started him on your fantasy team because you're smart enough to know we can't cover a TE to save our lives, you just got lucky. There's the silver lining for you. As the Falcons are in a huge rut and it will continue to get worse, I'm actually going to go with Washington, the lesser of two evils, this week. Redskins win it before falling back into the pit of mediocrity.
Detroit @ New England
Who in their right mind would dare pick Detroit this week? Not me. I successfully called New England over Chicago last week, and I feel quite justified to take them over the Lions this week. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! And guess what? If they knock off the Lions, they'll have handled all three of those (since a Bengal is a kind of tiger). I'm feeling for Junior Seau at the moment, he's had a great career and was enjoying a productive season for the Patriots, but that broken arm looked excruciatingly painful against the Bears. My best wishes go out to him and his family during his recovery. (Win one for the…oh never mind.) Patriots win this week.
Indianapolis @ Tennessee
Wow, Indy won in a way against Philadelphia that I did not see coming. I mean, I knew Joseph Addai was being fairly productive this season, but that's definitely stepping up your play for national television. I'll repeat it again, 171 yards rushing, 34 receiving, and 4 TDs en route to a victory over Philly. Tennessee's also been enjoying some surprising victories the past few weeks, crushing Philly after knocking McNabb out of the game, and subsequently the season. Never thought I'd say it, but maybe Vince Young was a good draft choice after all. They've also managed a 21-point comeback against the Giants this past week (I'm not happy about that one at all!), but they won't find a miracle victory this time. Ricky Proehl, a clutch receiver for the Panthers over the past few seasons, is expected to sign with the Colts and will be an immediate upgrade over the nicked-up Brandon Stokely. Actually, I'm expecting some fairly decent numbers from Proehl over the rest of the year. Colts win this game, end of story.
Kansas City @ Cleveland
Kansas City surprised me Thanksgiving night by knocking off Denver. Cleveland surprised me by not scoring at all against Cincinnati. So we've got an overachiever facing an underachiever this week. Well, that overachiever happens to have Larry Johnson as their running back, and the Browns defense is not prepared to face a guy of that caliber. I would expect the Browns to be able to do something offensively, though. Kansas City wins this week.
Minnesota @ Chicago
Chicago is looking to dish out some pain this week after turning the ball over not once, not twice, but FIVE times against the Patriots. I am willing to bet Lovie Smith issued some discipline out after that performance. I wonder if we'll see any Brian Griese if Rex Grossman keeps playing this way. It's been discussed in a few Chicago-area outlets, I've heard. Minnesota is coming off a scare against Arizona, but for once (or actually, twice this season), they've actually done what I told them to do. Unfortunately, I'm rewarding them with a loss to Chicago this week. Chicago's D hands them another loss, and provides the tenth victory for Chicago this season.
New York Jets @ Green Bay
Well, that was a heck of a snowstorm down at Lambeau field Monday night. Didn't seem to offer much comfort or help to the Packers though, as they lost in pretty dismal fashion to the Seahawks. My man Brett Favre didn't play that hot either. Jets put up 26 points on Houston, so I won my bet if anyone took it. To make up for giving the Packers a loss last week, I'll give them a victory this week, though not by much. Should be a fairly close game, but Green Bay pulls it out. And who the heck is Dave Rayner? I'd never heard of this guy before, but he's the one who replaced Ryan Longwell this season.
San Diego @ Buffalo
Naturally, Oakland did give the Chargers some trouble last week. That's okay, as Mr. LaDainian Tomlinson decided he'd give that "defense" some fits also. Turned out that was enough to win, as the Chargers took it 21-14. Now this week the Chargers get a pretty mediocre team in Buffalo. Frankly, if I were Buffalo's GM, I'd start looking at Brady Quinn in next year's draft. They have a good running back, a decent offensive line, productive wide outs, and a fairly good defense. All they need is a good quarterback, and I'd have to say I don't think that is JP Losman. Chargers do enough to win it this week also.
San Francisco @ New Orleans
Wow, talk about a game with high-scoring potential. Frank Gore is running all over everybody this season, and Drew Brees is passing his way into the record books this year. According to my calculations, he'll finish this season with around 4,993 yards at this present rate, so he has quite a realistic shot at 5000 passing yards. That's just incredible. I'm considering a San Francisco upset pick this week, but I'm afraid I can't do that in good conscience. I think I'm going to go with New Orleans this week, keeping them one game ahead of my Panthers in the NFC South.
Houston @ Oakland
This game wins the award for the game the least amount of people care about this week. Unfortunately, one of them is me, as I'm pulling for David Carr for a buddy of mine. Andre Johnson and David Carr should definitely hook up a few times in this game. Who knows, maybe this'll be one of the weeks Randy Moss actually decides to show up for. What is he, too busy making smoothies? He's getting paid millions of dollars to play professional football, for crying out loud. You know how many people don't even get a shot at that? He drives me nuts. After a good season for LaMont Jordan last year for Oakland, he's sure not enjoying this year. It was revealed earlier this month that he will be out for the remainder of the season. I'm going to go with Houston on the road this week.
Jacksonville @ Miami
I think Jacksonville is the new Minnesota for me. Of late I've actually been able to call Minnesota's games with a surprising amount of accuracy, but I'm hitting and missing quite frequently with these Jaguars. Miami played a great game against the Lions on Thanksgiving, but I am not sure they can beat Jacksonville. Then again, I didn't think Buffalo could either. Until Jacksonville proves otherwise, I'm going to have to go with Joey Harrington and his Dolphins to win at home this week. So much for the ‘sexy' preseason Super Bowl pick, huh?
Dallas @ New York Giants
Now here's a first-class game, a battle for division supremacy between the red-hot Cowboys and the ice-cold New York Giants. Frankly, I've heard there's nothing better than red hot buffalo wings and an ice cold Coors, but as I'm still in HS, I wouldn't know. But I do know cold usually means water precipitation in some form or another, and as water puts out fire, I'm going to go with the Giants for the sake of my grandmother, a lifelong Giants fan. Where the heck is Tiki Barber, though? Maybe he's making more NFL Sunday Ticket commercials…Giants take down the Cowboys this week.
WEEKLY UPSET GAME: TAMPA BAY @ PITTSBURGH
Yep, you guessed it. One week after picking Pittsburgh to win in my upset game, I'm picking them to lose. Bruce Gradkowski gets a rare Bucs win, as Ben Roethlisberger keeps wondering what the heck went wrong this year. Troy Polamalu is also supposed to miss this game, as is Hines Ward, thus weakening both sides of the ball, giving me justification for this pick. Tampa Bay wins it this week.
Seattle @ Denver on Sunday Night Football
So, has everybody heard about Shaun Alexander's 201-yard rushing night on 40 carries against Green Bay? What a day for him, I'd say he's healthy now, what do you think? If he keeps that up, he's still got a shot at a 1000 yards this season, which would certainly be an impressive feat and might change me of my opinion that he's a good, but not a great, running back. Jay Cutler, first round rookie draft choice, gets to start his first career game in prime time, which should be quite interesting. I, for one, like this kid and think he'll have a very good professional career. However, I don't know that he'll do all that well against Seattle's secondary, which is a cohesive group of solid NFL players, such as Kelly Herndon and Ken Hamlin. I expect the Seattle defense to shut down the Denver offense this week, with Cutler showing promise. Besides, if Seattle can win on the road in the snow at Lambeau Field, I think they can handle Mile High Stadium. Seattle wins it this week.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL-CAROLINA PANTHERS @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Both teams are coming off of demoralizing losses, but the Eagles already knew their season was over beforehand. We Panthers fans, however, are dealing with a team that shows flashes of brilliance, but all to often turns out to be a light bulb going out in the next-door neighbor's house. Inconsistency, thy name is Carolina. Jake Delhomme's been having a somewhat rough year, and the offensive line has had a lot of problems, with season-ending injuries sustained by Travelle Wharton and Justin Hartwig. Where are you, Jeff Mitchell? As it turns out, Steve Smith hasn't been healthy that much this season either, dealing with hamstring problems and influenza. Despite all this, I'm still going with Carolina to defeat Jeff Garcia, Brian Westbrook, and Company.
Last week I went 11-5, and am now 97-50 on the season.
Robert "RingLeader" Gilbert is a columnist for PantherInsider.com and boasts a self-proclaimed 70% prognosticating average. Gilbert, a high school student that doesn't have cable television, loves Brett Favre and hopes to attend UNC in the near future.