Saturday, November 18, 2006

NFL Picks, Week 11

Well, well, well... finally, a reasonably good week in this ass-backwards NFL season. The final record from week 10 was 8-8, bringing the season mark to 59-66-5. This is the week that we pull closer to .500. I can feel it in the darts.

Before we get to the NFL, though, we are just mere hours away from the titanic Ohio State-Michigan game this afternoon. No. 1 vs. No. 2. Blood rivals. And to top it off, legendary Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler passed away suddenly yesterday. Absolutely surreal. Growing up, I was a huge Michigan fan. Loved the maize and blue uniforms, and the helmets. Still do, in fact. When it came time to think about applying for colleges, Michigan was my out-of-state choice and I actually got in. But I ultimately decided to stay close to family and friends. That remains my one major college regret - not being able to experience a Saturday in the life of big-time college football. Cowell Stadium up at the University of New Hampshire didn't quite cut it. Anyway, even though I'm partial to the Wolverines, I don't see how Ohio State loses this game at home today to cap off its all-around dream season. Buckeyes 21, Wolverines 17, and I wouldn't mind being wrong.

Now, for the guys who get paid to play football for a living...

Atlanta (+4) @ Baltimore: Strictly a pick based on the fact that Ray Lewis will be out again and Mike Vick might have a better time dancing through the middle of the line. This is actually a matchup of the two teams that have given us major fits all year long so maybe it will end up in a tie. I'm going with the Falcons and the four.

@Houston (-2.5) vs. Buffalo: On paper, this looks like a cure for insomnia but this could actually be a competitive ballgame between two perpetually crappy teams. To its credit, Houston for the most part has been playing people pretty tough this year, and while Buffalo has an edge on defense, their offense is still being led by Jonathan Paul Losman. I'm going with the Texans in their house.

@NY Jets (+6.5) vs. Chicago: Could be a letdown game for the J-E-T-S after an inspiring win over the Patriots last week, but I think they'll keep it close. Mangini will figure out a way to keep the pressure on Grossman. Interesting factoid: the Bears will be playing in the Meadowlands for the second week in a row. Jets are the pick.

@New Orleans (-3) vs. Cincinnati: That loss to the Chargers last week - where San Diego roared back from a 28-7 halftime deficit and put up 42 points in the second half - had to deflate the Bengals, who have really underachieved all year long. With 5 losses, their margin for error the rest of the way is razor thin. The Saints on the other hand are in control of the NFC South and they've played well at home. I'm going with N'Awlins in this one.

@Miami (-3) vs. Minnesota: The Daunte Culpepper Bowl, only he'll be watching from the sidelines with a backwards baseball cap on. The Vikings' decline has been precipitous. It's one thing to get pasted by the Patriots, quite another to not even put up a touchdown against the 49ers. The Dolphins have been steadily improving, so they get the call.

New England (-6) @ Green Bay: The Patriots keep getting six, it seems, and I keep taking them each week and losing. This week, goddammit, it stops. On the frozen tundra. Tom Brady will distribute the ball like a Vegas card dealer, the Dillon/Maroney tandem will awaken (still can't figure out why they're not using Maroney more), and the D will rise to the occasion. Brett Farve-ray won't know what hit him. Pats 31, Packers 14. (TV, CBS, 1:00)

Oakland (+9.5) @ Kansas City: I've been riding the Raiders the last couple of weeks and it's worked pretty well. I know Arrowhead is a difficult place to play, but I don't think the Chiefs are good enough to be favored by this much. This game marks the return of Trent Green, who was severely concussed on the first Sunday of the season. Warren Sapp just needs one lick to send Trent back to la-la land. Oakland covers.

Pittsburgh (-3.5) @ Cleveland: Cleveland keeps talking about the 41-0 shellacking it took at the hands of the Steelers last year, and odds are Romeo Crennel will use that to his team's advantage. But it won't be enough to stop Fast Willie Parker. Jerome who? The Steelers take care of business and keep their season alive - for now.

@Carolina (-6.5) vs. St. Louis: The Panthers may have rediscovered their mojo in the second half Monday night against Tampa Bay. They - along with the Dolphins - get the award for co-enigma of the year, but it's pretty hard to bet against Steve Smith and Julius Peppers. Cool name, Julius. Remember Orange Julius? Sorry, I digress. I'm going with the Panthers.

@Philadelphia (-13) vs. Tennessee: My first instinct: that's a boatload of points. My second instinct: I think the Eagles have found their stride and should lay a beating on the Titans. I'm going with the second. Eagles in a (moderate) rout.

@Tampa Bay (-3) vs. Washington: Wow, this one's a complete head-scratcher. Who the hell cares who wins? There is some excitement in that the 'Skins are starting former Auburn QB Jason Campbell for the first time to see what he can do. Tough to make your debut against a good defense like this one - at least I've heard they're still pretty good. I'll take Tampa at home.

@Arizona (-2) vs. Detroit: Another big-time snoozer. My goodness. I really have nothing to say, except I'm going with the Cardinals.

Seattle (-3) @ San Francisco: Niners coach Mike Nolan has been given permission by the league to wear a suit on the sidelines - not sure if it's for this game or for a future one, but I think it's pretty cool in a Tom Landry kind of way. Pretty interesting that baseball managers wear uniforms, basketball and hockey wear suits, and football coaches wear kind of a mixture of casual/golf course clothes, or hooded sweatshirts that look like they were found in a long-forgotten cardboard box. Can you imagine football coaches wearing pads? Anyway, on to the game -- all signs point to the Seahawks getting both Hasselbeck and Alexander back, which means the line will undoubtedly go up by tomorrow. That's why I do this stuff the day before. Seahawks should be able to win by more than a field goal. (TV, FOX, 4:15)

@Dallas (E) vs. Indianapolis: At first glance, it's a bit surprising that this is a pick 'em game, but then you look a little deeper at the numbers and the matchups and it really is pretty even-steven. The Colts may be 9-0 but it's one of the weakest 9-0's in recent memory. Peyton will get his, but Tony Romo will also be able to exploit the Colts secondary, and I like Julius Jones over Joseph Addai. The Colts go down to the Cowboys and the '72 Dolphins are tipping back champagne Sunday night. (TV, CBS, 4:15)

San Diego (+2.5) @ Denver: Did NBC pay extra for these games? In successive weeks, they've had Pats-Colts, Bears-Giants, and now Broncos-Chargers. Not too shabby. I think the Chargers and LT are the real deal this year, and QB Philip Rivers is vastly underrated. I understand the Mile High advantage, but I think a bet on Tomlinson is a bet well placed. Chargers will win, or at least cover. (TV, NBC, 8:15)

NY Giants (+3.5) @ Jacksonville: A few weeks ago, these two teams were mentioned as being postseason probabilities. Not anymore. Jacksonville is going through a quarterback crisis, and the Giants are banged up - and probably wishing they had drafted Philip Rivers over Eli Manning during that whole ridiculous charade. Tough call, but I'll go with the G-men to win or at least keep it tight.

That's my story - and I'm sticking to it. Let's be careful out there.

Kampy, I'm thinking Cleveland covers the ever rising spread (especially if it gets to 5-6). Two disclaimers on this game though and I'd like a full medical report prior to 12:50pm on Sunday: 1. What is the status Droughns?; and 2. will Palomalouallouualmallouu play?
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