So enjoy the picks and I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving! Also, if you have any beer suggestions, feel free to pass them along to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Week: 10-5-1 (Shocking, eh?)
2006 Season: 68-87-5
Miami (-3) at Detroit – It’s obvious what Joey Harrington is thankful for today. A year ago, he was in Detroit fighting for the job he’d eventually lose. A year later, he’s the starting quarterback for the resurgent Miami Dolphins and heading back to the Motor City to face the Lions, who will need a heaping helping of luck to match last year’s 5-11 record. Get to the stadium early, Lions’ fans, and remember to bring the “Fire Millen” hand turkeys you spent all night making. Pick: Dolphins -3. Result: Miami 27, Detroit 10.
Tampa Bay at Dallas (-11) – Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that breeds dysfunction, and the Bucs-Cowboys game on Turkey Day is no exception. This game has the belligerent uncle who screams at his kids all day and scowls at whoever ate the last piece of pumpkin pie (Gruden), the guy napping on the couch after too much turkey (Terrell Owens) and a huge, immovable centerpiece serving absolutely no purpose (Bledsoe). Should I mention Parcells’ turkey neck? I believe I just did. Pick: Cowboys -11. Result: Dallas 38, Tampa Bay 10.
Denver (-1) at Kansas City – Arrowhead Stadium is one of the toughest places for a visiting team to play, and Denver is about to do it on a short week. That’s nearly impossible. Denver is only marginally more talented than Kansas City (and even that is debatable), and if the NFL Network’s Adam Schefter is to be trusted, the only reason Jake Plummer wasn’t replaced by Jay Cutler this week is because Denver only had 4 days to prepare. It’s a shame that so many people won’t be able to see this. Pick: Chiefs +1. Result: Kansas City 19, Denver 10, in a game that did more for sleep than all the tryptphan in the world.
Arizona at Minnesota (-6) – After the Vikings lost to the Patriots, it was alright, they were playing San Francisco the next week. After they lost to the 49ers, it was okay because they were playing the Packers at home the next week. After the Packers beat them, it was alright, because they were playing the Dolphins the next week. As you may have guessed, the Vikings lost. With the Arizona Cardinals coming to town, this will be the week the Vikings get back on the winning track, right? Pick: Vikings -6
Carolina (-4) at Washington – Peyton Manning leads the NFL in QB rating with a 100.5 mark. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 103.0 against Washington, and the ‘Skins defense sacks the opposing QBs about once per game, which is pitiful. Clearly, Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith are likely in for a big, big day. Pick: Panthers -4
Cincinnati (-3) at Cleveland – Ever since Chad Johnson complained about how he was being used in the Bengals offense, he’s gone off for 17 catches, 450 yards and 5 touchdowns…in the last two weeks! The Bengals have obviously opened things up offensively, and with the Browns secondary, this one has the potential to get out of hand pretty quickly. Pick: Bengals -3
Houston at NY Jets (-5 ½) – There must be something in the water at Reliant Stadium. How else can you explain how Mark Brunell can set the NFL record for consecutive passes in a single game (22) there in September, and then have David Carr match it this past Sunday? That type of efficiency is next to impossible in the swirling wind at the Meadowlands. Pick: Jets -5 ½
Jacksonville (-3) at Buffalo – There’s a theory that teams from warm weather cities struggle in cold weather. Well, Jacksonville has the 4 th best rushing attack in the NFL, and Buffalo can’t stop the run (25 th in the NFL), so I wouldn’t be too concerned about the temperature in Orchard Park, New York this Sunday. Pick: Jaguars -3
New Orleans at Atlanta (-3) – After getting off to great starts, both NFC South teams are reeling. Atlanta is struggling to overcome injuries to key defensive players (John Abraham, Patrick Kerney, Aundray Bruce), and Michael Vick, aka “Coach Killer”, has been his normal up & down self.
New Orleans hasn’t been dealing with injuries. Their defensive problems can be traced to probably not being as talented as their 1 st half record indicated. Still, the Saints are very talented on offense, and I don’t see any reason why that won’t continue against the Falcons. Pick: Saints +3
Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-2 ½) – Pittsburgh may be trying to turn their season around, but with the AFC playoff picture as competitive as it is, the recent winning streak is like Ben Roethlisberger applying the brakes after he hit the Chrysler. Pick: Ravens -2 ½ (It’s good to see the 2003 pre-incarceration version of Jamal Lewis start to emerge)
San Francisco at St. Louis (-5 ½) – Jesse Palmer, aka “The Bachelor”, is the analyst for the FOX telecast of this game. Will he hand out roses to the players who perform well? Please? Pick: Rams -5 ½
Oakland at San Diego (-13 ½) – The last time these two teams played, Art Shell removed Aaron Brooks for his safety. Now that Brooks has finally returned from the injuries sustained in that game, he gets to face the Chargers once again with an offensive line minus left tackle Robert Gallery . Do I really have to say anything else? Pick: Chargers -13 ½
Chicago at New England (-3 ½) – This week’s USA Today Sports Weekly had an interesting stat: In their last 15 games against teams with a winning record, the Patriots are 5-10. This year, Denver and Indianapolis have walked into Gillette Stadium and walked out winners. Losing at home to the Jets, and star players like Richard Seymour saying that the Patriots were “out coached” afterwards, shows that the “mystique” the Patriots once had is somewhat faded. The Bears did struggle against the Jets in the Meadowlands last week, and who is better at dismantling inexperienced starters like Rex Grossman than Bill Belichick? Pick: Patriots -3 ½
NY Giants (-3) at Tennessee – If you’ve read this column before, you already know that I’m not a big believer in the New York Giants. Between the dropped passes, penalties and in-fighting, I don’t think they’re a mentally strong team. Now that they’re dealing with some adversity (injuries to Strahan, Arrington, Umenyiora), the Giants have lost two straight and the inconsistency of Eli Manning shows that he’s not developing as quickly as the Giants hoped he would.
This week, the Giants have two huge games ( Dallas, at Carolina ) coming up, the Giants could fall victim to the dreaded “trap” game. If any team on a 2-game losing streak could fall prey to the “trap” game, it’s the 2006 New York Giants. Pick: Titans +3
Philadelphia at Indianapolis (-9) – The loss of McNabb effectively ended any playoff aspirations the Eagles may have had. Jeff “Crisp” Garcia may have been a former Pro Bowl quarterback, but right now he’s a journeyman signal caller on his 4 th team in as many years. There’s nobody on the Eagles who can replace McNabb’s leadership, and the defense isn’t the type of group that can dominate the opposition.
Meanwhile, the Colts finally lost a game. Though they’ll never admit it, not having the pressure to remain perfect may actually help them in January. 16-0 in the regular season is great and all, but this is a team, the coach and QB in particular, that needs to start producing in January and early February. Pick: Colts -9
Monday Night Football
Green Bay at Seattle (-6 ½) – I know you’re sick of hearing about it, but for Brett Favre to start this week’s game, after the way in which he was hurt last Sunday, I’m convinced that Brett Favre isn’t human. When he first got injured, I was convinced that the streak was over. How sad would that be for Favre to see his streak end the week before he’s scheduled to face his old coach, Mike Holmgren, in one of the few buildings (Qwest Field) that he hasn’t played in? For Favre, I’m sure that would’ve been devastating.
For Seattle, it doesn’t really matter who is playing QB for the Packers, as they have their own issues to worry about. They’re about to get their full complement of offensive talent back, and they’ll need this unit to jell, and to do so quickly, not simply “for the playoffs”, but to even get to the playoffs. They’re only one game ahead of the 49ers, and while the “B” squad played admirably, the results have been well below Mike Holmgren’s standards.
You could argue that the inconsistent play of the offense has contributed to the erratic, often downright lousy play of what was supposed to be an improved Seahawks defense. Getting the starters (Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander, Robbie Tobeck, Sean Locklear and Bobby Engram) on offense back from injury should help the defense woes that have plagued the ‘Hawks in 2006. Pick: Seahawks -6 ½