Mac's Picks - Week 13

Last fall, I railed hard against the NFL for scheduling football games on Thursday nights. Not because I can't bear the thought of missing "My Name is Earl" or anything like that, I just thought it wasn't a good idea to make teams play two games within five days of each other this late in the season.

I couldn't believe that the players have sufficiently recovered physically from the previous games, and that the game-plans would be hastily thrown together and that teams wouldn't have the proper time to fine-tune them, all of which could potentially result in sloppy football that bordered on being unwatchable.

And for the most part, that perfectly sums up what it was like last year. Wasn't how horrible Bryant Gumbel is at being a play-by-play announcer the only memorable aspect of the NFL Network broadcasting games last year?

Now, I'm sure last night's Cowboys-Packers game has the NFL positively beaming this morning. That game had a playoff-type atmosphere and was thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end.  How could anyone say something about a game like that?

They're right. Hey, if it weren't for Brett Favre getting hurt (could lack of prep time have something to do with him not recognizing a Cowboys' blitz package?), the referees being utterly incompetent, and Bryant Gumbel, last night's game would've been perfect.

Thursday night: 0-1

Last Week: 10-6

2007 Season: 82-88-6

Detroit at Minnesota (-3 ½) – The choking sounds you heard last Thursday wasn't caused by dry turkey. Nope, that was just the Detroit Lions, who haven't quite figured out how to swallow the big ol' piece of playoff pie their 6-2 start provided them.

And now the Lions are just a game ahead of the Vikings and Bears, and will need to go 4-1 in order to fulfill Jon Kitna's prophecy of a 10-win season. Just like I thought in August, that 10-win and a trip to the playoffs won't happen for the Lions this year. Kitna may have Jesus on his side, but the Vikings have Purple Jesus. And everyone knows Purple Jesus > regular Jesus.

It's science. (Editor steps away from column to avoid lightning blast) Pick: Vikings -3 ½

Seattle at Philadelphia (-3) – In week 1, the Eagles were impressive in a narrow road loss to the Packers. In week 2, they were unimpressive in a home loss to the Redskins. In week 3, the Eagles racked up 56 points against the upstart Detroit Lions. In week 4, the Eagles scored 3 points against the New York Giants. After a bye week, the Eagles played pretty well in a win over the Jets. In week 7, they choked away a home game to the Chicago Bears.

Do you see the pattern at work here? We're thirteen weeks into the season and the Eagles are yet to string two good games together. Additionally, the only offensive weapon the Eagles have (Brian Westbrook) hasn't practiced all week due to a knee injury. I'm not saying it's going to be as easy as the 42-0 shellacking the ‘Hawks laid on the Iggles two years ago, but I do think it's a game the Seahawks will win outright. Pick: Seahawks +3

San Diego (-5 ½) at Kansas City – If there was a low-point in the San Diego Chargers season this year, it was getting stomped 30-16 at home to the Kansas City Chiefs in week 4. Things have changed for both the Chargers and Chiefs since then (Chargers are 5-2, Chiefs are 2-5), and I think that this is going to be a "revenge" game for San Diego, who actually need this win to keep ahead of the 5-6 Denver Broncos in the "no, you take it" race in the AFC West. Pick: Chargers -5 ½

NY Jets at Miami (-1 ½) – I'm sure Cam Cameron isn't rooting for his team to finish 0-16, since that would be a historically embarrassing mark that would pretty much ensure that he never gets another head coaching gig in the NFL or any other level of organized football.

However, when you're 0-10, and the score is 0-0 late in the 4th quarter, and a delay of game penalty has pushed you back into an area of the field where the footing actually improves the likelihood of your veteran kicker making the field goal, you have to take the points, don't you?

You can't put the ball in the hands of your rookie quarterback, who was making his second NFL start, on a 4th and 1 play on the road against the NFL's best defense, which is exactly what Cameron did. So maybe he is rooting for that 0-16 record. Pick: Jets +1 ½

(Here's a stat I liked: In their last 16 games, the Miami Dolphins are 1-15. That one win: A 21-0 shutout of the New England Patriots.)

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-7) – It kind of surprised me that the Colts were giving this many points to the Jaguars, because there's this belief that the Jags always keep it close when they play Indianapolis. Then I looked at their last 5 meetings and found that in the four games the Colts won, they've done so by margins of 7, 8, 7 and 22 points.

Indianapolis is getting healthier, they're well aware of how good these Jaguars are, and they know that the AFC South title is at stake. Peyton Manning knows they don't offer commercials to quarterbacks on wild card teams. Pick: Colts -7

San Francisco at Carolina (-3) – It's sort of sad, but when I found out that Carolina Panthers quarterback Vinny Testaverde woke up on Sunday with a bad back, and David Carr was going to replace him, I wanted to change my pick to the Saints last week. Pick: 49ers +3 (Don't worry, Charlotte. College hoops season is underway.)

Houston at Tennessee (-4) – If I had my pick of occupations right now, my distant second choice behind "Scarlett Johansson's personal stress reliever", would be "Albert Haynesworth's agent".

Haynesworth can be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and there's no denying how valuable he is. In the 1st half of the season, Tennessee went 6-2, played some stifling defense and was in the mix for the AFC South title until a hamstring injury forced him out of the lineup. In the three games he's missed, the Titans are 0-3 and are allowing over 30 points per game.

Haynesworth is expected to play this week. Pick: Titans -4

Atlanta at St. Louis (-4) – What can you expect when the leading passer for the 2005 Miami Dolphins (Gus Frerotte) goes up against the leading passer for the 2006 Miami Dolphins (Joey Harrington)?

A local TV blackout. Pick: Rams -4

Buffalo at Washington (-6) – All week long, I had Buffalo winning this game. I just didn't think there would be any way the Redskins would be emotionally prepared to play or a football game, nor would I have blamed them.

Then Pedro Taylor, Sean Taylor's father, flew up to Washington to speak to the team and told them to win out and make the playoffs. How could I pick against that? Pick: Redskins -6

Cleveland at Arizona (-1) – The Arizona Cardinals placed not one, but two starters from their secondary on injured reserve this week. Just in time to face the pass-happy Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks in back-to-back weeks. Here's what I'm going to write in the Arizona Cardinals' yearbook:

"Thanks, Arizona. You kept it interesting for three months. I can't wait until you're the darlings of all the NFL preview issues next year." Pick: Browns +1

Denver (-3 ½) at Oakland – I can understand why a team would want to challenge Devin Hester. Football is, after all, a man's game, and how manly is a pooch kick? And every special teams coach would have to turn in every man-card he's ever earned if he/she told his kicker to just kick it out of bounds.

But why, after he already returned a punt for a touchdown, would you kick the ball to him again? I'll applaud you for challenging him, but once you get burnt, you have to play it smart from then on. Pick: Raiders +3 ½

NY Giants (-2 ½) at Chicago – Speaking of Devin Hester, if there was going to be one head coach who misses the memo that Hester is the only legitimate scoring threat the Bears have, wouldn't the smart money be on that coach being Tom Coughlin?

In the same way that even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut, I think the Giants realize that as long as Hester doesn't touch the ball, they'll win. Pick: Giants -2 ½

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-3 ½) – Injuries have been the story for the Buccaneers all season long, and now they've hit them in the one place they could least afford: Jeff Garcia? Garcia's back is so sore, he can't throw a football, which is not how Jon Gruden wanted to go into this week's game against the schizophrenic New Orleans Saints. Pick: Saints -3 ½

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-7) – I'm sure I've referenced it before, but one of the best fake commercials Saturday Night Live did in the ‘90s was the one for "Bad Idea Jeans":

"Normally I wear protection, but then I thought ‘When am I going to make it back to Haiti'?"

With that in mind, who thought it was a good idea to place sod on top of sod, and not expect drainage problems? Pick: Steelers -7

New England (-20 ½) at Baltimore – I'm sure after the scare the Patriots got from the Philadelphia Eagles this week, Vegas is seeing a lot of action on the Baltimore Ravens plus the 20 ½ points this week. Sorry, but I'm not buying it.

New England still hung up 31 points in their "worst" performance of the season, and have you seen the Baltimore Ravens offense? Dogs humping fire hydrants are more productive than Brian Billick's "3 yards and a cloud of suck" attack. Pick: Patriots -20 ½ Top Stories