|Woodstock, You Filthy Cannibal|
And for this, I am intensely thankful. And probably won't say anything about it, at least not directly, for fear of jinxing it.
Finally, there's this: work has been an absolute crushing mess for the past three weeks, which is just what happens in the online advertising game, when you try to get stuff out for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Christmas season. So if these picks seem a little punchy, or withdrawn, or lacking in the usual pep and zazz... well, I'm just operating on very little sleep, or sense. Which means that they are *bound* to crush and pay off big.
And with that... on to the picks!
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HOUSTON at Detroit (+3)
When it comes to the holidays, I'm a traditionalist: give me the same dishes, do the same stuff, and let me wonder why the NFL continues to insist that an annual look into the sad netherworld of Detroit Football is required, with some triumphant visitor making the game dull as dishwater by 3pm, then scoring some late points to make the game seem more interesting than it actually was. I realize that Detroit has weapons now and some athletes on defense, and made the playoffs last year, and the Texans gave up a ton of points and yards to the awful Jags last week... but, dammit, tradition! And a terrible Lions secondary, and a turnover-prone Lions team.
Texans 31, Lions 24
Washington at DALLAS (-3)
Am I getting sucked into the celebrity of Robert Griffin The Sexy? Probably, and as bad as the Redskins have been on defense this year, they usually pick it up a bit in rivalry games. But three points is just one too few for the cover, and Dallas has a fan base to suck into thinking they have a chance, just like every Thanksgiving. See, I told you I was a traditionalist.
Cowboys 24, Redskins 20
NEW ENGLAND at NY Jets (+7)
This series is either a blowout or an ugly nail biter; if you are betting the cover, it's because you think the Jets are going to make mistakes on offense that will blow the game open. I have a hard time imagining the Jets playing a clean game two weeks in a row, and QB Mark Sanchez is more comfortable on the road than at home. Besides, when in doubt, bet on a terrible game for a national audience.
Patriots 34, Jets 19
Minnesota at CHICAGO (NL)
There's no line for this game because no one knows it QB Jay Cutler will play, and the longer he's out, the better he looks. Back-up QB Jason Campbell, behind this line, is just meat on a stick, a festival of weak blocking and check downs that puts no defense in bad situations. Under Cutler, they resemble a functioning unit, which is usually all that the Bears need to get by. That's also why I'm going with them here, because I just can't see the Vikings getting credible QB play on the road.
Bears 20, Vikings 13
Oakland at CINCINNATI (-9.5)
Vengeance Game for Bengal Fan! And also one more opportunity to sneak up on the Steelers and Ravens. The Bengals really aren't all that good -- the defense is one of those turnover, sack or huge play outfit that loses starch quickly, and they are turnover-prone on offense -- but they won't have to be to slap the Raiders around.
Bengals 31, Raiders 20
PITTSBURGH at Cleveland (NL)
Charlie Batch is back, and will have his vengeance! Or, um, manage the game just a teensy bit better than Byron Letfwich, who was lost in the SNF loss to the Ravens. He'll face the usual struggling mutts from the banks of the Ohio, and while I think that the Steelers are in real trouble unless they get healthy... but the Browns are a team to get healthy against.
Steelers 17, Browns 13
Buffalo at INDIANAPOLIS (-3.5)
The Bills are coming off a win, have extra days, and are facing a Colts team that got turned into road kill by the Patriots last week. But the Colts have come back from worse in their home dome, and I'm not buying the idea that the Bills' defense is going to come back to respectability this year. It's also telling that the Colts are starting to develop additional weapons.
Colts 27, Bills 20
DENVER at Kansas City (+10.5)
Even on his worst day, the Broncos under Peyton Manning should be able to score two touchdowns against the Chiefs. And on their best, I'm not sure that the Chiefs can score more than a field goal, especially now that WR Dwayne Bowe is banged up, and they are playing full-blown QB Roulette. Besides, I think RB Ronnie Hillman is going to be fresh and have a breakout game, because RB Willis McGahee just isn't all that great.
Broncos 31, Chiefs 10
SEATTLE at Miami (+3)
Time for the Seahawks to finally put it together on the road and on the East Coast? They've done it more than you think in recent years (remember that shocker in the Meadowlands against the Giants?), and the Dolphins haven't played in a good game in a month. Part of the reason why is that RB Reggie Bush has turned back into a guy that goes down on first contact, and the Dolphin WRs have always been suspect. Not a good mix to have against what might be the best secondary in the NFL.
Seahawks 20, Dolphins 16
ATLANTA at Tampa Bay (NL)
Not quite getting this line. Yes, the Falcons are a bit of a paper tiger, and the Bucs have slipped into the playoff picture and have home field advantage... but don't the Bucs still have a terrible secondary, whereas the Falcons are seriously due for a big bounce-back game from QB Matt Ryan's 5 INT-fest last week? This will be a fine game for your fantasy league players, but at the end of it, it will be yet another Falcons win, leading to a too-easy division win and home seed. Try not to be too surprised when they rest too many players down the stretch, then come out flat for their playoff loss against The Hot Team. (Inevitably, the Giants. Life is not fair.)
Falcons 34, Bucs 31
Tennessee at JACKSONVILLE (+3)
Ready for the Chad Henne Era, Jags Fans? That's a joke -- the Jags have no fans. But the sudden emergence of WR Justin Blackmon, Not An Absolute Washout, is going to be good for you in a theoretical way. Also, the Titans are about a year away from realizing that QB Jake Locker has about as much of a future in Nashville as QB Blaine Gabbert has in Florida.
Jaguars 24, Titans 20
BALTIMORE at San Diego (Pick 'Em)
The Ravens have issues -- erratic offense, overrated defense, penalty-prone and conspiracy-addled -- but the Chargers are a secretly terrible team, propped up only by the fact that they play in the AFC West, which means you get to make yourself feel better against the Chiefs. It'll be interesting to see if Raven Fans travel for this one, since everyone travels for Charger home games. Oh, and if you are on the fence about this one, just take a good look at QB Philip Rivers' work this year. Woof.
Ravens 23, Chargers 17
San Francisco at NEW ORLEANS (+1)
Classic letdown game for the Niners, who looked like a Super Bowl champion against the Bears on MNF. This week, they get the short week, the road dome game, the opponent that can actually pass block and get rid of the ball quickly, to people who can do things with it. The Niners probably won't have a QB controversy after this one -- Colin Kaepernick just gives them a much higher ceiling, and they'll need that since the defense isn't really at the level they were last year -- but they'll definitely have a little more pause about how much they need the home field in the playoffs.
Saints 31, Niners 24
St. Louis at ARIZONA (-1)
Which team do you like here -- the team with no QB at all, but home field, special teams and a more explosive defense, or the road club with meh QB/RB/WR options, a middling defense and a coaching staff that's 2-3 years away from the top of their arc? I'll take the home team and just try to get on with my day. Mostly because I'm still bitter that the Rams gave us four extra days of Jets Football that can't be completely ignored.
Cardinals 20, Rams 17
GREEN BAY at NY Giants (-2.5)
One more week of fail to shake the last fair weather Giants fans from the bandwagon -- it's November, remember? -- and give us all the sense that the first month of the season, when the Eagles were above .500, and Green Bay and the Saints were in trouble, just didn't happen at all. Despite the Giants coming off the bye, having a pass rush that might put QB Aaron Rodgers on the ground a half dozen times, and Giants QB Eli Manning being wildly past due for a bounce-back game against a giving Packer defense... I still like the road team here. Mostly because this Giants team is just putting the ball on the ground a lot right now, and you can't do that against Rodgers. At all.
Packers 34, Giants 27
CAROLINA at Philadelphia (NL)
If the Eagles really wanted to win this game, they'd offer the people who are coming to the game face value for their ticket to just go home, rather than come in and watch. This would confuse and bamboozle the most hate-filled, and thin out the crowd by up to 50%. Then, for the remaining crowd, announce an 80% off sale on concessions (not beer), so that the remaining fans are too busy stuffing their holes to boo very hard, and also make them good and sleepy. Then, fake a couple of serious injuries (simple, just have a special teams player lay down on the field after a tackle until they can get the crash cart) to push us way past the midnight hour, and hey presto... the only kind of atmosphere they can win, which is to say a game where the Panthers also are fat and sleepy.
But since they aren't that creative, don't want to admit that they are a terrible franchise that might not win another game this year, and that they really should have fired Coach For Way Too Much Of The Rest Of Your Life sometime in the last five years. But since they didn't... bet the Panthers. Hell, bet Temple. And Penn. Does Drexel have a team?
Panthers 24, Eagles 16
Last week: 7-7
Year to date: 81-75-2