Thursday Night Game: San Francisco @ Seattle
Just a few weeks ago these teams squared off for the first time this season. This game had the somewhat surprising result of a San Fran upset. It was Shaun Alexander's first game back from his foot injury, but he was ineffective in the game, finishing with 17 carries for 37 yards. Matt Hasselbeck had not returned from his injury yet, either. This meant that Seneca Wallace was starting at quarterback in the previous game. However, as of now Alexander and Hasselbeck are both healthy, and ready to rock. Apparently, the 49ers' wide receivers have started learning how to get open, particularly Antonio Bryant. Because of this, the 49ers' offense has of late improved. In the end, though, I shall give this game to Seattle.
Saturday Night Game: Dallas @ Atlanta
Well well, it is quite nice to not have to endure a week of the media praising their latest darling, Tony Romo. Romo did not endear himself in the blowout loss to New Orleans. Of course, I'm sure the Dallas media outlets were covering for him. Julius Jones found the endzone, every body. Who won the office pool? Joe Shmoe from Accounting? Atlanta managed to dispose of Washington even after spotting them fourteen points, but they cannot afford to do that with a team like Dallas who can put up points at will, seemingly. Excepting, of course, that disastrous 42-17 loss to New Orleans in which Romo looked like the backup quarterback he has been for the past several years. But hey, even the ‘greatest' quarterbacks have off days. I am expecting the Cowboys' D to avenge its poor performance against New Orleans and the Cowboys' O to put up more than 17 points as they beat Atlanta in the Georgia Dome.
Cleveland @ Baltimore
Unfortunately for me, Baltimore decided not to allow Kansas City to win, thus depriving me of my upset game selection. Whilst I am pondering this desecration of my predicting powers, I shall pause a moment to simply say this: Derek Anderson shows great poise for a second-year quarterback with comparatively little NFL experience. He did an impressive job slicing and dicing the Steelers' D considering he had absolutely no running game to speak of. He also knows how to improvise. Kudos to him for his valiant performance in a losing effort last week against the Steelers, but the Ravens' D this week will prove to also be too much for him as the Ravens vanquish the Browns.
Detroit @ Green Bay
Brett Favre is not washed up, people. Various prominent sportswriters have all tried to paint that picture and all fail, in my estimation. Sure, he is getting up there in age, but that is not the problem. The problem is the supporting cast, of which he has practically none. Offensive line? Nobody except Chad Clifton manning the left tackle spot. Wide receiver? An aging but still effective Donald Driver and an injured rookie in Greg Jennings are all that resides there. Running back? Ahman Green is coming off of major knee surgery and so far is holding up halfway decently. Oh, and he doesn't have much of a defense either. Yeah, I'd say it's not all Favre's fault. Well, on to the selection. Detroit obliged me by losing last week, and I'll ask them to do it again. Green Bay wins at home.
Houston @ New England
"Well well well, you just can't tell. Well well well, you just can't tell, my…" I'm sorry, I got distracted. Where was I? Oh yes. New England is steaming after a 21-0 loss to Miami, and Houston is trying to figure out how they failed to stop Vince Young in overtime last week. Now, I'm just a high school football player, but I know enough to know that it's the defensive end's job to contain. That first overall draft pick is really working out for Houston, isn't it? Houston gets beaten by New England this week as Tom Brady and Tedi "I came back from a stroke" Bruschi mete out some punishment. By the way, did I ever mention that the media is playing up this stroke thing WAY too much? I can't watch a Pats game without either my mother or myself cracking a joke about it.
Jacksonville @ Tennessee
I REALLY dislike this Jaguars team at the moment. I mean, I knew they would run all over Indianapolis. I just failed to realize this meant that Indianapolis would deign to lose. On the other hand, the Titans are red hot. This is a pickle, it certainly is. When in doubt, check the gut. My gut tells me the Titans come back down to earth with a loss to Jacksonville this week, as Fragile Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew run over the Titans.
Miami @ Buffalo
JP Losman to Lee Evans. Willis McGahee from 50 yards out. Dare I say the Bills are more than a one-trick pony on offense? This should be a nice, close, hair-raising game for the fans of these teams. In fact, on my way to football practice during this past season, I noticed that there is a household in the state of Carolina where a Buffalo Bills flag is prominently displayed. I'm mulling over whether I want to be in Buffalo or Miami at the moment. Guess what? I'd rather be in neither place. Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas shut down the Bills offense this week allowing the Dolphins to take home a win.
NYJ @ Minnesota
I wonder if there's any relation between Chad Pennington and Ty Pennington? Probably not, but still. Head on over to wral.com/entertainment if you want to see some clips of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition building a house in the Raleigh area. Brad Johnson showed last week against Detroit that he is still capable of good performances in this league. He gets a chance to have one this week, and I am having trouble deciding here. See, the Jets have a new running back every week, and the Vikings' only consistent attribute has been run-stopping. Ergh. That basically tells me there'll be no running game from the Jets this week. Vikes, on the other hand, will have at least a semblance of one against the Jets. So, does the Jets passing game outweigh the Vikings offense? Does the Jets D outweigh the Vikings' D? I'd tend towards Minnesota in this game but will take a flier on the Jets to win.
Philadelphia @ New York Giants
In a key NFC Wildcard matchup, the Eagles play the Giants in the Meadowlands. Jeff Garcia has done quite an adequate job replacing McNabb, and far from being automatically eliminated from the playoffs like many people including myself first believed, they have a good shot at this here post season thingamajig. Does anyone aside from my grandmother remember the good old days when the two best teams played each other for the championship? I guess that wouldn't do much for the whole revenue issue, though. On the other hand, one huge game for all the marbles would make regular season games bring in more revenue due to more meaning. Hmm. Anyway, this is not helping me make my pick. In fact, all this is doing is causing me to procrastinate because I really don't want to pick Philadelphia but will do so. Eagles win it.
PITTSBURGH @ CAROLINA
It's tough times to be a Panthers fan, I'll tell you that. But we still love our team. I suppose you could say it's been a rough year for Steelers' fans, but as of now they're still the reigning champs. I have not heard yet whether or not Jake Delhomme starts this week, but either way, I still pull for the Panthers. It's hard to believe that last week we were discussing how interesting it was that Carolina could basically be anywhere between the 6th and 32nd picks of the NFL Draft and now we're talking about likely top ten scenarios. Scary stuff, I'll admit. For the second consecutive year, the Panthers knock off the reigning champs at home.
Tampa Bay @ Chicago
Right now, I am willing to bet 31 other teams in the NFL wish they had taken Devin Hester. It's pretty sick what a good return man and great special teams blocking do for you, isn't it? Rex Grossman managed to not embarrass himself that much in primetime, but I think he's got defense, special teams, and two good running backs to thank for that. I'm going to ignore Tampa Bay, as for some odd reason I can think of nothing positive to say to fans of that team aside from, "This was a rebuilding season, wait for next year!" Chicago takes this game.
Washington @ New Orleans
Wow, New Orleans has done a fine job of piecing together an excellent offense and getting its defense to over achieve. I'm actually rather impressed. Drew Brees certainly got back on track for 5000 yards with his great game against Dallas. Did I mention Tony Romo was ineffective in that game? Oh, I did? Many paragraphs ago? Whoops, sorry. Wouldn't want to feed my readers the same stuff over and over again. After all, it IS possible to get tired of pizza. While I have never experienced this phenomenon, I have heard of it. On a side note, New Orleans wins at home.
Two rookie QBs get to face off against each other, Jay Cutler and Matt Leinart. Cutler showed some brilliant flashes of potential to the world against San Diego with two electric touchdown passes to Tony Scheffler, leaving Broncos fans everywhere to wonder if Cutler-Scheffler will become a recurring theme over the next several seasons. I certainly would not be surprised. And wow, where did that come from? Consecutive 100-yard rushing performances from Edgerrin James while wearing an Arizona Cardinals uniform? Unbelievable. I gotta doubt in his ability to do that against Denver, though, and as such, Jay Cutler gets his first NFL win this Sunday.
Kansas City @ San Diego
I made KC my upset pick last week, and I won't make that mistake again this week. It's Larry Johnson vs. LaDainian Tomlinson, the rematch. Not quite Ali-Frazier, but still a heavyweight battle. Also, it would be remiss of me to not mention Tony Gonzalez vs. Antonio Gates, the rematch. Again, not quite Federer-Nadal, but still pretty tight. I'll go with Tomlinson over Johnson, Gonzalez over Gates, and the Chargers over the Chiefs.
St. Louis @ Oakland
Man, poor Oakland fans. I'm sure all 27 of them are really happy about this season. *Orders a tropical smoothie and slurps noisily* Guess what? After maybe another 5 years of top five draft picks, they might be able to win some games. Oh wait, that hasn't worked for the Texans yet. Silly me. Steven Jackson had a great game against the Bears, as did Torry Holt, but they still lost. Both should have good games this week and win, as the Rams beat the Raiders.
WEEKLY UPSET GAME: MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL CINCINNATI @ INDIANAPOLIS
This game pits Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson against Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, or, in plain terms, the students against the masters. Rudi Johnson had a very good day against the Raiders last week and as a reward gets to run over, under, and through that Swiss cheese "run defense" in Indy. The Colts are steaming after a last second loss to the Titans and a blowout defeat suffered to the Jaguars, and would be looking for redemption this week against the Bengals, but as an upset, I'm taking the Bengals to win over the Colts, giving the Colts a three-game losing streak.
Last week I went 9-7, and am now 113-66 on the year.
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.