Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Week Twelve NFL Picks, In Which We Give Thanks

My Fellow Tools,

Sometimes it's a burden, really, to have the amount of knowledge that makes one a True Masstermind. You get so tired, on a day to day basis, of the ignorance, jealousy and vindictiveness -- every last bit of it unwarranted, given our past performance of only bringing joy, light, sportsmanship and honor to the world -- that is directed towards the Patriots, or, as I like to call them, The Forty Five Best Human Beings To Ever Grace The Planet With Their Existence. (Best Team Ever is *so* last month.)

It's difficult for the Haters -- and that is all they are, Haters -- to accept that Coach is a better person than they are, especially when they are getting ready for Thanksgiving. Because, let's face it, what in your life do you really have to give thanks for, beyond the fact that you are alive at the same time as This Unspeakably Wonderful Team?

Your health means nothing when stacked up against that of Mike Vrabel. You may love your kids, but not as good as Wes Welker loves his. (I'm assuming he has them, by the way. He's just so virile, you have to assume.) And you may provide for your loved ones, but even if you didn't, the Patriots would still be undefeated. And that's all that matters, now and forever.

Thankfully, some in the mainstream media (or as I like to call them, the Handmaidens) are finally starting to see the light on the Patriots. In SNF's game against the Bills, as the Patriots were going for it on 4th down while up by 5 touchdowns in the second half, Al Michaels and John Madden didn't take the easy way out and point out that this was running up the score, showing poor sportsmanship and causing traditional American values of fair play and honorable competition to be tossed aside like so many pieces of turkey offal. (Which, by the way, is the de facto condition of every Patriot opponent by the second half. But I digress, an indulgence that Coach and His Fellow Gods Among Men would never succumb to.)

Instead, Michaels and Madden talked about how much Coach *respected* Dick Jauron, the coach of the Bills. COACH RESPECTS HIM!

And I, for one, was moved by the fact that Coach respected some other, lowly, inferior, substandard, capitulating and compliant coach.

It speaks of Coach's inherent charity, a condition that he does not get nearly enough credit for from the ravenous media hordes that hound his every step and do all they can to try to take a good man down. The coverage of his all-too-understandable efforts to have sex with other people's wives (as if they should put their own needs before Coach's) alone have been relentless, if, by relentless, you mean the NY Post and a few bloggers. Meanwhile, it's been *hours* since Andy Reid's kids have been on my television, and considering that I live within 100 miles of them, I'm concerned for the safety of my children. I ask you, my fellow Tools, where is the fairness? WON'T ANYONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?

Coach's respect for Dick Jauron, and his likely respect for that guy whose wife he slept with, has inspired me. So I've started respecting more things this Thanksgiving, starting with the live turkey that I killed with my bare hands in front of the kids for our dinner. When the Shooter Wife failed to support me in that decision, I showed my Belichick-esque respect by slapping her around for a while. Next, I went out and asphyxiated a prostitute when the experience didn't last long enough, out of respect for her skills. Finally, I strangled a hobo when my respect for the prostitute hadn't calmed down enough. I never knew respect could be so good for your hand muscles!

Truly, this Thanksgiving, I respect you all. Nearly as much as the Patriots will respect the Eagles. Now, on to the picks!

* * * * *

Green Bay covering 3.5 at DETROIT. It's a little hard to say, given that this is the Bestus NFL Season Forever And Ever... but all of this holiday games are going to, um, suck. The Lions are determined to prove that running plays are the work of the devil, which is making them extremely easy to defend, and this Pack team has been able to feast on pass-wacky offenses all year. Besides, it wouldn't be the holiday without various announcers getting well and truly sloppy over Brett Favre.

DALLAS covering 14 against the Jets. Now that the Jets have their face-saving win for the year against the stumbling Steelers, they'll be more than ready to tuck in and take the confetti from the Cowboys. Expect a monstrous day from Jones and Barber as the Jets try to keep Owens from being the lead clown, and with Patrick Crayton iffy, maybe this score will be close for a while... but Kellen Clemens on the road to me says Short Fields, and Tony Romo knows what to do with this. A big day, as well, for Jason Witten's owners.

Indianapolis covering 11.5 at ATLANTA. Seriously, we can't get some NBC Flex Time Magic happening on the one day a year where the NFL football should really Not Suck? The Falcons will be a trendy cover pick against a Colts team that's still a triage scene, but without some starters of their own on the DL, the Colts will simply run Joseph Addai and Kenton Keith on their way to a 28-point day. Also, now that Peyton Manning has had a little more time to work with the back-ups, I'm expecting a little uptick in production. After last week's washout against the Bucs, this Falcons team is just about ready to mail in the rest of the year.

JACKSONVILLE covering 7.5 against Buffalo. The Jaguars are starting to look more than frisky after last week's mouth-smacking win against the Chargers; when your scatback levels the defensive MVP in what was probably the week's most replayed highlight that didn't involve Moss or Owens, that's a sign that your year isn't going to include a trip against a Bills team that only moved a little more than Kevin Everett against the Pats on SNF. (What, too soon?) Historically, this is just the kind of game that the Jags gag on, but I'm guessing this is the time when the wolf actually shows up.

CLEVELAND covering 3.5 against Houston. As much as it kills me to lay out the extra nickel on the Browns, who can only win games by 3 points, I'm going to here. For once, the Kardiac Kids (and yes, Browns fans, I do remember Brian Sipe) are going to lay the smackdown on a Texans team that's just kinda there. Seriously, name me a Texan that isn't Mario Williams, Matt Schwab, Ahman Green, Ron Dayne or Andre Johnson. It's an entire team of no-names, playing on the road against a Browns team that's beginning to think it has Destiny on its side. They might be right.

KANSAS CITY covering 5.5 against Oakland. The Chiefs had to take a little bit of a good feeling away from last week's close but no cigar game in Indianapolis, with Brodie Croyle hooking up with Dwayne Bowe for a tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. I'm expecting more this week despite the sudden retirement of Priest Holmes days before what would have been another nice little burst of free agent production against the Raiders defense. As for the Silver and Black, they hardly ever win in KC even when they are good, not that too many people remember when they were good by now. (2001. Our attention spans keep shrinking, don't they?)

ST. LOUIS as a 3-point dog against Seattle. Is the NFC West the worst division in league history? Very likely, really, but I am a little surprised by the short margin given the division leaders, given their rousing 2-game winning streak and all-around better-looking game in the post-Alexander era. So why am I taking the Rams? Is it the 2-game winning streak (albeit against those world-beating Saints and Niners), the dome-field advantage, or the known gutlessness of the Seahawks as a road favorite? All of the above, really, but if you are betting this game heavily, you need to get out more often.

NEW YORK GIANTS covering seven at home against the vikings. I hate this Giants team. Just when you think you have them figured out for the second-half choke, they turn around and become the first time this year to get out of Detroit with a win. Now they get the AP-less Vikings at home, with some QB To Be Determined To Suck Later, in a setting that's just made for them. Worse yet, with the Eaglevisceration that will happen in New England later on Sunday, and the Skins a year too early for Jason Campbell and 20 years too late for Joe Gibbs, they are a near-certain wild card bet. And they still suck. Gah. Burress and Shockey with the big days here.

TAMPA BAY covering 3 against Washington. A week after giving it their all and coming up just short in Dallas, the Skins continue on the road against a Bucs team that probably had harder practices than their win against the Leftwichian Falcons. Everyone wants to slag the NFC South for its bad play, but this Bucs team looks OK to me, and should even win a home playoff game before getting crushed on the road. If the Skins do win, it will be all on Campbell; the Bucs will not let Clinton Portis take them out.

New Orleans covering 3 in CAROLINA. So, who do you like in this game -- the talented offensive team that periodically stinks up the joint, or the defensive-minded home team that starts a QB that's older than most of the league's coaches? Bad choices abound in this one, but I'm going to go with the idea that this will be one of Drew Brees's good weeks, and that the Saints know enough to treat Steve Smith with deference and respect, especially in pre-game warm-ups.

CINCINNATI as a 1.5 point underdog against Tennessee. I was so looking forward to betting on Vince Young on the road here, coming off his triumphant win in Denver, against a Bengals team that took out the Cardinals and looked to be playing for more than their lack of pride. So what happens? Denver takes advantage of yet another home game under the lights, and the Arizona Football Cardinals win what has to be their first game in cold weather in a decade, thanks to two INT returns for touchdowns against Carson Palmer, both of which counted against my desperation hunch play of the Bengals defense in the Beyond Stupid CBS Sportsline fantasy football scoring system. Someone needs to start a class-action lawsuit against that site, by the way. Anyhow... I'd take the Titans here, but without Haynesworth in the lineup, they are a sieve against the run, and if Jay Cutler and Some Martinez can light up the Titans, what will Palmer and the best WR corps that isn't New England do, at home?

ARIZONA covering 10.5 against San Francisco. In case you haven't noticed, I'm looking for a lot of blowouts against dog teams this week, and while the Niners did show the speck of a heart against the Rams at home last week, they still lost. Also this: they start Trent Dilfer at QB, which makes one wonder just how they have been getting the 11 points a game they've been scoring. I hate to give the Cards double digits against anyone; the defense is very erratic, and they are always one good hit away from many quarters of Tim Rattay. But this Niners team may actually be the worst team in football, 2 wins or no, and the Cardinals still have their division to play for. Besides, 11 + 10.5 is still less than the Cards will score.

Baltimore covering as a 9.5 point underdog in San Diego. How many times will Norv Turner suck a gambler into a big cover? Once more this year at least, but not this week. I'm looking for the Ravens to come out with a little bit of anger after the win that wasn't, and for Kyle Boller to continue to grow into the role a bit against a Chargers defense that just isn't as good as advertised, especially in the secondary. I don't think they'll win, but I do think they'll cover, late.

CHICAGO as a 2-point home favorite against Denver. One of the best bets historically has been to go against the home winner of a MNF game the next week on the road, and that describes this Broncos team perfectly. The Bears will counter with the Rex Cannon and a running game that showed a hint of life last week, as Fat Ced Benson finally broke a long one, then sat on the bench and bogarted the oxygen tank for the rest of the day in Seatttle. Between Jason Elam and Todd Sauerbrun, I think the Denver kicking game will give Devin Hester some chances.

NEW ENGLAND covering 22 - no, 25 -- against the Eagles on SNF. This line could move in the next few days depending on the health of Donovan McNabb, but it really shouldn't, and if the Eagles were smart, they'd probably play it safe and keep him out of the game anyway. If they want to try to cover the spread, they should run Westbrook for even more than the career-high 32 carries they gave him last week, and try to get Buckhalter and Hunt to get that number up to 40... and if Feeley starts, that's what they'll try to do, until the Pats pack 9 in the box and make Feeley and the WRs try to carry the mail. But the offense isn't really the Birds' problem here, just as it isn't really the problem for any of the Pats' opponents; the problem is that Brady has time, and he has receivers all over the field that just can't be covered. Look at the highlights, and every receiver is open by yards; the throws aren't hard, really. I know this is sacrilege and all, but a fair number of QBs would have 45+ TDs on the year with this system, which means the opponent's defense is getting burned 3 times a game at a minimum. Now, add that to a secondary that gave up 3 TDs to James Thrash, Keenan McCardell and Jason Campbell in their last road game... and it's hard to imagine, really, the Patriots having to punt while the game is in doubt. If the Pats had somehow lost a game before this one, I wonder if this game would have been flexed out. The Birds' ability to have an entertaining night game is under serious suspicion right now, and you never know what the ratings will do in a blowout. But no matter what, you can trust on one thing: the Handmaidens will not talk about running up the score, and no defensive player will hit Brady when the game is out of doubt. Because they all know better now, you see. They've been taught.

PITTSBURGH covering 16 against Miami. As Johnny Rotten sang, anger is an energy... and the Steelers will take a lot of frustration out against a Dolphins team that, for no reason I can fathom other than to make sure they have the first pick in the draft, is starting John Beck. I haven't seen a QB this gun shy since the halcyon days of Bobby Hoying, or maybe Andrew Walter. For Pittsburgh, this may be the last best hope for Willie Parker's owners to realize anything more than an overpaid Fred Taylor level of production for their first round pick; he's barely a step up from freaking Julius Jones right now. YOU HEAR ME, PARKER? JULIUS JONES! FRED TAYLOR! WHAT MORE DO I HAVE TO DO TO INSULT YOU INTO SOME ACTUAL FREAKING PRODUCTION?

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Last week: 7-7-2
Year to date: 73-76-11

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