|Drink, Andy, Drink|
It makes a man wistful, it does.
Maybe I should just retire the blog when the Fat Man goes down, since, like Ahab, my existence is entirely tied to the passing of the great white whale. (It was the whiteness of the thing that made it evil.) Then, Andy and I can form an unlikely friendship as I make a pilgrimage to his home every morning to boo the way he gets the mail, walks the dog, and lumbers into his car for the first of the day's drive-through meals. It's certain to be a viral Web wonder, the latter-day Roger And Me, and I'm pretty sure that I'll eventually impress him with my perseverance. Buddy Picture!
On the other hand, there's football, especially now that we are more or less rooting for the rest of the league openly. A fantasy team that, if everything breaks just right, will land on the bubble. Woo! And just enough parley ticket hits to bring me back to a room where I never cash in the poker tournament. Everything's coming up Shooter!
And with that... on to the picks!
* * * * *
MIAMI at Buffalo (-1)
Go with the team that laid a world-class egg against the Titans last week, or the one that hung around the slumming Patriots for a moral victory cover? I'm going with the Fish for the bounce-back game, and because they've really shown no warm-weather characteristics to date. Besides, I picked up RB Daniel Thomas off my league's scrap heap a few weeks ago, and he's gonna EXPLODE now that I need him for that bubble stretch drive. Do not doubt my powers towards getting to the bubble.
Dolphins 24, Bills 20
Arizona at ATLANTA (-10)
Ready for the vengeful beatdown game from the once-unbeaten team that's getting a home game against a cookie team? Atlanta sure is, especially after becoming the first non-Eagles in 2012 not to score on the Saints when they really, really wanted to. Arizona can rush the passer and is coming off a bye, which means this won't be a total walkover, but they don't have the talent to hang in this spot on their best day. Their chance to pull off the upset died last week when the Saints ruined any chance of this being a letdown game.
Falcons 31, Cardinals 17
CLEVELAND at Dallas (-7.5)
Too big of a number for any four win team at home, even if it is against the threadbare Browns. Cleveland is coming off the bye, can run the ball, isn't terrible in pass coverage and could easily have a few more wins on the season with a little better luck and play. Dallas is about to go on one of those Annual Delusion runs that ends shortly after Thanksgiving, but you've got to admire their pluck in believing in the Big Momentum, year after year. It's adorable, really. And won't be slowed at all by one of those fourth quarter comebacks that QB Tony Romo gets to lead a few times a year, just to give his apologists some outs.
Cowboys 27, Browns 24
GREEN BAY at Detroit (+3)
The Packers off a bye, in a climate-controlled environment, against a team that doesn't run the ball consistently and has secondary issues? And it's a division game where the Pack can't possible be looking that far past their opponent? This is a high-confidence pick, folks. Even if the Lions do have the ability to score plenty once it gets to the fourth quarter and the game devolves to chuck it and chuck it some more against a defense that doesn't get to the QB. (But will, eventually, get a pick.)
Packers 34, Lions 20
CINCINNATI at Kansas City (+3.5)
Did you see that MNF game this week? The Chiefs held a lead! And covered! And otherwise stunk up the place in Pittsburgh, losing to a disinterested Steeler team using its backup QB and putting the ball on the ground all over the place. That might be the high water mark for them for a while, as the Bengals come to town to get after the QB, throw to the shockingly open WR A.J. Green, and otherwise show the few remaining Chief loyalists what a .500 team with delusions really looks like. (In other words, like the best Chiefs team of the century.)
Bengals 27, Chiefs 16
NY Jets at ST. LOUIS (-3)
End of the line time for Rex Ryan? Jets Fan certainly hopes so, but only if he can fire everyone else involved with the year as well. Meanwhile, the Rams were a few hopeless mistakes away from getting an actual win, rather than a tie, with the Niners in Candlestick. They've got a defense, and the Jets are just reeling right now, and, well, not ever good. At all. It also doesn't help that the game is on the road, in a loud dome, and Jets Fan stopped traveling for this team in September.
Rams 25, Jets 13
Philadelphia at WASHINGTON (-3.5)
If Eagle Fan actually still cared about this season, this is yet another one of those Schedule Games from Hell, as they face yet another team with extra prep time (Washington is coming off the bye). Which means that Robert Griffin The Inevitably Injured will be fresh, but the Skins' biggest weapon in this game will be Eagles QB Nick Foles, who looks like he's really been studying every turnover-addled moment of the previous starter. Oh, and the additional lovely moment of this game is that despite being a rookie QB on the road, Coach For Way Too Much Of The Rest Of Your Life Andy Reid will still throw the ball 2/3rds of the time, maybe to the point of getting him hurt behind that turnstile offensive line. You're going to miss this level of comedy when he's gone, folks. In only 420 more minutes of game time...
Redskins 27, Eagles 20
TAMPA at Carolina (+1)
The Bucs are starting to look for real, while Carolina is starting to look like they want to get their coach fired. Mighty fine turnaround for the team looked that they just wanted to be known for cheap shots on kneeldowns. As for the Panthers, this is one of those games they should get well on offense, but just don't.
Bucs 30, Panthers 24
Jacksonville at HOUSTON (-15.5)
A big line that just screams out back door cover against a home team on a short week, and yet I still can't pull the trigger for the Jags, who just seem like a DOA club with turnover issues and no ability to move the ball laterally. This line is going to take a while, because Houston really isn't that explosive, but the Texans are eventually going to get there. Methodically.
Texans 31, Jaguars 13
NEW ORLEANS at Oakland (+4.5)
I've gotten sucked in to the Raiders in what seem like good spots far too many times this year, and I'm not going to let it happen again. Give me the Saints, who might be the NFC's version of the Patriots this year -- i.e., a team with a terrible defense that everyone thinks is a pretender, and yet actually isn't. But now that they are showing signs of having a running game (coincidentally at the same time that RB Darren Sproles hit the pine with a hand injury), that defense really doesn't seem quite so terrible after all. Football, she's a funny game, she is. Also funny: the Raiders' effort when they get behind, and their ability to fall down while going for it on fourth. Yeesh, what a franchise.
Saints 31, Raiders 20
San Diego at DENVER (-7.5)
Boy, that's a big number... but the Chargers are rarely good at altitude, it's November already, and if QB Philip Rivers isn't actively trying to get HC Norv Turner run, I'm an airplane. Just look at that TAInt against the Bucs last week, which is straight from the 2011-12 Michael Vick catalog of horror. Meanwhile, the Broncos seem to be hitting on all cylinders, and might be able to lock this division -- and a first round bye, and Week 17 off -- with some solid work in November. I think they get it done.
Broncos 30, Chargers 20
INDIANAPOLIS at New England (-9.5)
Patriot wins this year come in two flavors: the kind when they get turnovers on defense and overwhelm the opposition (see Buffalo and St. Louis), or the kind when they keep trading punches all game long and play a last serve wins model. This one feels more like the latter, especially with the Colts having extra time to prepare, a bit of a pulse on defense, and options in the running game. I also think that the continued injury woes of TE Aaron Hernandez, along with the thinning of the herd at RB with injuries and drug suspensions, starts to take some of the air out of Team Belichick. Witness last week's way too close win against the beatdown Bills. And wouldn't this be the ultimate jump start to the quasi-Colts-Pats rivalry that seemed like nothing more than Brady-Manning?
Patriots 34, Colts 28
BALTIMORE at Pittsburgh (-3.5)
I'm basically going with the idea that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger isn't going to make the start due to that separated shoulder, or that if he does, he's not really going to be 100%. Which leaves the Ravens with the best RB and QB, and it's hard to overcome that, even at home. But still, I have no real confidence in this pick, since Baltimore's defense really isn't that solid any more, and this game is always decided by a last-minute field goal, officiating weirdness, odd turnovers, in-game injuries, and so on. Basically, just stay away from this game. With a vengeance.
Ravens 24, Steelers 20
Chicago at SAN FRANCISCO (-5)
A nationally televised game between two teams that could meet in the NFC Championship Game... and it's going to be Jason Campbell against Colin Kaepernick. It's almost like a trick being played on ESPN and America, really, and with both teams quasi-losers (well, the Niners tied, but still, at home) last week, they both really need the game.
I'll take the favorites, because I believe that Kaepernick will move the chains more than Campbell, and that the Niner ground game will have more (which is to say, any) success. But the points are still a concern, and so is, as always, the Bears' freakish ability to score on defense and special teams. Basically, it's another stay away game, but that's not how the column is written, so...
Niners 24, Bears 17
Last week: 9-5
Year to date: 74-68-2