Hochuli is far from absolved, guys.
Let's assume for a moment that Hochuli got the call right back in September and the Chargers won that game. Assuming that everything that has happened since that game goes exactly the same way, Denver and San Diego would've entered Week 16 with identical 7-7 records. When the Chargers beat the Buccaneers last weekend, and the Broncos lost at home to Buffalo, if Hochuli had gotten the call right in Week 2, San Diego would've clinched the AFC West and tomorrow's game wouldn't have been flexed into primetime.
So Hochuli is still very much on the hook, and while it's been reported that Hochuli's crew has graded out at a high enough level to earn a playoff assignment, there's very little chance he'll ever be assigned another Chargers game. Just ask Walt Coleman, who hasn't worked an Oakland Raiders game since the "Tuck Rule" playoff game against New England in 2002. Or Bill Leavy, who hasn't been assigned a Seattle Seahawks game since Super Bowl XL.
Pick: Broncos +8 (Chargers win, but Denver covers.)
Chicago at Houston (-2 ½) – Bears rookie running back Matt Forte should have a big day against the Texans porous run defense. However, the Texans are playing for their first non-losing season in franchise history and the Bears don't have an answer for Andre Johnson. Pick: Texans -2 ½
NY Giants at Minnesota (-6 ½) – Tom Coughlin is expected to play his starters, but I don't think he's going to stick with that approach for too long Sunday. The Giants have nothing to play for, and even with an upcoming bye week, risking an injury to Eli Manning or Brandon Jacobs would be a foolish thing to do. Pick: Vikings -6 ½
Carolina (-3) at New Orleans – No division has played better at home than the NFC South. Heading into this week, the division is a combined 26-3 at home, and no NFC South team has lost a home divisional game. Pick: New Orleans +3
St. Louis at Atlanta (-14 ½) – And seeing how I picked the Saints, I may as well go ahead and pick the Falcons to win. There can't be any people left in Atlanta who still think the team would be better off with Michael Vick at quarterback, right? Pick: Falcons -14 ½
Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-10 ½) – Romeo Crennel's soon-to-be 0-8 record against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be in the first line of the Crennel Era's eulogy on Monday morning. Pick: Steelers -10 ½
Oakland at Tampa Bay (-13) – Hosting the Raiders is the last chance for the Buccaneers to get a win in what's been a December from Hell. I think they'll get it, but 13 points is way too many points to give up. Pick: Raiders +13
Tennessee (-3) at Indianapolis – Both teams clinching and locking into playoff seeds has turned this game from a must-watch game to decide the AFC South to a chance for Jim Sorgi and Vince Young to get their most extensive playing time since August. Pick: Colts +3
Detroit at Green Bay (-9 ½) – To avoid going 0-16, the Detroit Lions will have to win in Lambeau Field this Sunday. It's been awhile since they've done that. In fact, the last time the Lions won in Lambeau Field, Lindy Infante was the Packers head coach and Brett Favre was an Atlanta Falcon. Pick: Packers -9 ½
New England (-6 ½) at Buffalo – New England is at their best in December (23-2 since 2003), and against Buffalo, having won 10 straight against the Bills. Pick: Patriots -6 ½
Kansas City at Cincinnati (-3) – For you problem gamblers out there, Sunday could potentially be the last time you get to bet on or against Herm Edwards and Marvin Lewis. Pick: Bengals -3
Jacksonville at Baltimore (-12) – The Baltimore Ravens haven't come this far just to blow a "win and you're in" opportunity against an inferior team on their home turf. Pick: Ravens -12
Miami at NY Jets (-2 ½) – Brett Favre is suggesting that there's something wrong with his right shoulder and has been waffling about whether or not he'll be back in 2009. Eric Mangini is dodging questions about his job security and Kris Jenkins is taking the blame for a once stout run defense that's gone south in the last month. Doesn't really sound a like team poised to make a run into late January, does it? Pick: Dolphins +2 ½
Seattle at Arizona (-6) – The Seahawks can end the Mike Holmgren Era with a three-game winning streak. More importantly, they can keep the Arizona Cardinals from posting a winning record and send them into the playoffs on a three-game skid along with the message that their reign atop the NFC West is only temporary. Pick: Seahawks +6
Washington at San Francisco (-3) – One of the reasons head coach Mike Singletary will (and should) have the interim tag removed from his job title next week is the play of the 49ers defense over the last month. That unit is allowing just 11.8 points per game in the four weeks, despite playing three road games at 1pm ET. Pick: 49ers -3
Dallas at Philadelphia (-1) – Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says Wade Phillips will be back as the head coach in 2009. If I'm Wade Phillips, I'd want to win a playoff game before I took Jones' comments to the bank. Pick: Eagles -1
Last week: 6-10
2008 Season: 114-121-5
Brian McIntyre lives in the Boston area. In addition to writing for Seahawks.Net, Brian maintains his own blog (www.macsfootballblog.com) and charts games for Football Outsiders. If you'd like to e-mail Brian, you may do so here.