Mac's Picks - Week Seventeen

In the final "Mac's Picks" of the 2006 regular season, intrepid correspondent Brian McIntyre brings the point spreads to life one more time, discusses the merits of award eligibility in the face of substance-related suspensions, and weeps once again for the days when play-by-play was actually tolerable.

There are many reasons to like Jason Taylor. He’s durable (he’s missed just 4 games in 10 years), he’s productive (106 career sacks) and this year, his 10 th in the NFL, the undersized defensive end (he’s a dozen or so cheeseburgers from his listed weight of 255 pounds) is having one of his best seasons as a pro. Taylor has 13 ½ sacks, 10 passes defended, 9 forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns.

But the real reason I like Jason Taylor is for what he had to say about Shawne Merriman:

“You really shouldn't be able to fail a test like that and play in this league, to begin with,” Taylor said. “To make the Pro Bowl and all the other awards, I think you're walking a fine line of sending the wrong message.”

Since Taylor is also in the mix for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, his comments are somewhat self-serving and he probably shouldn’t have been the one to say anything at all. In fact, I think that his comments will likely steer votes away from both himself and Merriman.

(In fact, I think that this award is going to either Champ Bailey or Brian Urlacher now)

Still, Taylor is right.

Players who are caught cheating should not be eligible for Pro Bowls and post-season awards. The problem with that is the NFL currently lacks a policy that restricts players who violate the rules from participating in the Pro Bowl or receiving post-season awards. Despite his suspension, Merriman was still selected to the Pro Bowl, which indicates that the players and coaches throughout the league were appeased by Merriman’s league-issued vacation.

The “Defensive Player of the Year” award, however, is up to the Pro Football Writers of America. Surely, the PFWA will step up and show that guys who are caught cheating shouldn’t be rewarded, right? I wouldn’t count on it.

In 2002, the NFL suspended Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers for the season’s final four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. After a rookie season where he had as many sacks (12) as games played, Peppers was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year by a panel of writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL. So the precedent exists for Merriman to get another post-season award he doesn’t deserve.

Last Week: 6-10
2006 Season: 110-125-5  

NY Giants (-2 ½) at Washington – There are going to be major changes within the New York Giants organization after the season, so this is likely the last chance I have to point out that I called the Giants “Downy soft” before the season began.

This week is simple for the Giants. If they win, they have the inside track for the last spot in the NFC playoffs. If they lose, they’ll need some help to get in. We’ve seen enough from this team to know exactly what this team does when their backs are against the wall. Pick: Redskins +2 ½

Carolina (-3) at New Orleans Jake Delhomme is back behind center for Carolina, and if you don’t think that’s a huge development, you didn’t see how the Panthers handled most of their 3 rd down situations a week ago. Allow me to describe it:

John Fox analyzed the situation and decided the best chance the Panthers had at converting on 3 rd downs last Sunday was to remove his starting quarterback (Chris Weinke) and have the ball snapped directly to DeAngelo Williams. I’ve never seen anything like it, and with Chris Weinke’s days as a staring NFL quarterback mercifully over, I don’t expect to see it again anytime soon. Pick: Panthers -3

Cleveland at Houston (-4) – It was great to see the reaction on the Texans sidelines after Kris Brown drilled that 48-yard field goal as time expired to give the Texans their first ever win over the Indianapolis Colts. It’s about time that franchise had a good feeling heading into the off-season. Pick: Texans -4

Detroit at Dallas (-12 ½) – Weren’t the Dallas Cowboys the best team in the NFL about 5 minutes ago? What the hell happened? I mean, besides Tony Romo playing like the rookie he basically is, Terrell Owens acting like the turd he definitely is, and the defense averaging over 30 points allowed per game the last few weeks. Besides all that, what happened to the Cowboys? Pick: Lions +12 ½

Jacksonville at Kansas City (-2 ½) – Technically, both teams have a shot at the playoffs. Realistically, both teams need so much help that even with a win, their odds of making the tournament aren’t very good.

The Jaguars need the Jets, who are hosting the Raiders, to lose. That’s simply not going to happen. The Chiefs need the Broncos, who are hosting the 49ers in Blizzardville, USA, to lose and that’s definitely not happening.

Still, this will be a fun game to watch. Pick: Chiefs -2 ½

New England at Tennessee (-3) – It appears the odds-makers are expecting to see the New England Patriots rest up for the playoffs this week. Why else would the Titans be giving points to a team like New England?

Personally, I don’t think the Patriots should rest their starters. A bye in the AFC may be out of the Patriots’ reach, but New England can still get the #3 seed and I think that’s something worth playing for. Pick: Patriots +3

Oakland at NY Jets (-12 ½) – The Jets will win this game and get into the playoffs. Art Shell all but confirmed it when he announced today that Aaron Brooks is on target to start this week. Pick: Jets -12 ½

(Ok, here’s the real reason why I want New England to get the #3 seed: I want to see a 1st round playoff game between the Jets and Patriots. Belichick still refuses to utter Eric Mangini’s name, and in the playoffs, subplots like this are interesting to watch.)

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (-6) – Before everyone starts calling Brad St. Louis and Kyle Larson, the snapper and holder on the infamous botched extra point that will likely keep the Bengals out of the playoffs, the Scott Norwoods of the Queen City, they really should look on the bright side: Neither of them were arrested this week.

After 148 wins, 15 years, 8 division titles, 2 Super Bowl appearances and 1 Super Bowl win, this may be the last time Bill Cowher’s jaw patrols the Steelers sideline. The players know it, and call me crazy, but I don’t think they’ll let him leave the ‘Burgh with a loss. Pick: Steelers +6

Seattle at Tampa Bay (-3 ½) – Seattle may have the NFC West wrapped up, and they are locked into the #4 seed in the NFC, but the Seahawks have just as much to play for as the teams fighting just to get into the tournament do. Seattle needs to play well to get on some sort of roll heading into the playoffs. Pick: Seahawks +3 ½

St. Louis (-2) at Minnesota – St. Louis is another team that can get into the post-season if a convoluted series of events were to happen. I think it goes something like this: The Rams will clinch a playoff spot with a win + losses by Carolina, New York and Atlanta + a shootout loss by the Detroit Red Wings. Fortunately, they play the Minnesota Vikings, who are fresh off an offensive performance so inept the Rams defense actually might look good at the end of the day. Pick: Rams -2

Arizona at San Diego (-13 ½) – The NFL made this game a lot easier to predict by moving the start time of the Bills-Ravens game to 4pm. Had Baltimore lost to the Bills at the normal start time for east coast games, San Diego would’ve known if they had home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs all wrapped, and therefore wouldn’t have risked injury to their key players.

Since the Chargers have to keep playing for the #1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and Kurt Warner is starting a road game for the Arizona Cardinals, this one is relatively easy to call. Pick: Chargers -13 ½

(On a side note, you have no idea how nervous I was when Matt Leinart sprained his shoulder last Sunday. I had the Seahawks-Chargers on the TV hooked up to the dish, and the Cardinals-49ers game was on the local FOX affiliate on the other TV. With Seattle trailing the Chargers, and the Cardinals holding onto a 10 point lead over the 49ers, the image of Kurt Warner trotting onto the field prompted me to start praying…and drinking…heavily.)

Atlanta at Philadelphia (-7 ½) – You thought the AFC playoff picture was confusing? Look at what Atlanta needs to happen to clinch a playoff spot:

  • Win, plus a loss or tie by Green Bay, New York and Carolina
  • Tie, plus losses by Green Bay, New York, Carolina and St. Louis

If it weren’t for that pesky “Win” thing, scenario #1 had a chance of actually happening.

Meanwhile, Jeff “Crisp” Garcia took some time off from building toys in Santa’s workshop this year to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs, something no one thought possible when Donovan McNabb tore his ACL in November. No team in the NFC is hotter than the Eagles are right now. Pick: Eagles -7 ½

Buffalo at Baltimore (-9) – The Buffalo Bills would love to finish 8-8 and they are good enough to take advantage of a less-than-focused Ravens team, so you can bet that Brian Billick will have the out-of-town scoreboard disabled on Sunday. Pick: Bills +9

(JP Losman started his NFL career with a 39.2 QB rating. Last year, it rose to 64.9. This year, it’s at 86.8. If Losman continues improving like this, by 2008 he’ll have a QB rating in the 130s. I have no idea where I’m going with this. I just think it’s strange that JP Losman has a passer rating that’s 0.2 (can we call that “Grossman”?) behind Tom Brady. And they say the NFC is mediocre?)

Miami at Indianapolis (-9) – Vegas did acknowledge that the Indianapolis Colts, despite losing 3 of their last 4, still has a shot at a 1 st round bye in the AFC. They’d get a week off to search for a run defense with a win and a Ravens loss. Miami is giving Cleo Lemon (Hey, if Chris Weinke can start an NFL game, why can’t Cleo Lemon?) his 1 st NFL start, so it’s possible, Indy. It’s possible. Pick: Colts -9

San Francisco at Denver (-10 ½) – Another week, another blizzard for the people in Denver. As much as I love watching NFL games played in the snow (there’s just something inherently “old school” about it), there is a limit on the number of times I could hear the announcers mention that Jay Cutler is from a town called Santa Claus (Indiana) before I’d go postal. Most important television feature when watching the NFL this season? The mute button. Pick: Broncos -10 ½

Green Bay at Chicago (-2 ½) – To hype what may have been Brett Favre’s last game in Lambeau Field, the NFL Network used the Rolling Stones “The Last Time” in their commercials for the Packers-Vikings game last week.

When the NFL “flexed” the schedule and moved the Packers-Bears game to prime-time, I had hoped that a real network, like NBC, wouldn’t resort to the predictable theme of this possibly being Brett Favre’s last game in the NFL in their promos. But there it was: Clips from Brett Favre’s long career mixed in with clips from NBC’s hit show “Heroes”.


And just think: We’ll be doing this again a year from now. Pick: Packers +2 ½

Brian McIntyre will not be playing the John Madden/Brett Favre Drinking Game on Sunday night. Not when the over/under is 500! If you have any better ideas, feel free to contact him here. Top Stories