Week 8 NFL Picks: History Will Not Look Kindly Upon the AFC South

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The intro to my weekly picks column usually leans towards talking about either quarterbacks or head coaches. I guess that means I’m just like everyone else in loving the soap opera-y / professional wrestling storylines of the NFL’s two most high-profile positions. So here’s the latest.

There’s as high as a 25% chance that all four coaches from the AFC South will be fired by the end of the year. That might not seem like a high probability, but based on any info I have in my head or could find online, this has never happened. You gotta figure Chuck Pagano is a no-brainer in Indy and Bill O’Brien is as good as gone in Houston. That leaves Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee and Gus Bradley in Jacksonville. In this case the odds that both are fired is 1-in-4. Both coaches are in year three at the helm of his respective team and progress doesn’t seem to be happening quick enough. And while Bradley is a first-time head coach, Whisenhunt has an 8-year head coaching sample size to tell us he’s terrible. The guy’s 48-70 as a head coach! He hasn’t coached a winning team since 2009! So I think there’s a definite three gone, but probably all four teams will clean house with its coaching staff.

The rest of the league is 15-4 already against the AFC South in 2015. It’s only going to get worse. And if you look at the quarterbacks in that league—Luck in Indy, Mariota in Tennessee, Bortles in Jacksonville—only in Houston can the head coach point to the QB position as the main excuse for why things are so bad.

There are upwards of five other coaches across the league who are also on some spectrum of the hot seat, but our focus for the rest of 2015 will be squarely on the hopelessness that litters the AFC South’s coaching positions. Together we can make history.

Here are the week 8 picks.

Miami at New England (-9)

The Pick: Miami

The Score: New England 31, Miami 27

Since this is the Thursday night game, it’s probably getting talked about a little more than if it was slotted for Sunday at 10am. So you probably know the dilemma with making a pick: On the one hand, the Dolphins’ “resurgence” has come at the hands of the Titans and Texans, and my intro already made it crystal clear how those two teams are doing this season. On the other hand, the Patriots’ had a moderate struggle against the Jets last week, and we know New England’s offensive line is still beat up while the Suh/Wake combo in Miami has recently come to life.

By the way, I don’t know that we should be waiting on a huge scoring outburst from New England that ends in them destroying four or five teams in a row and looking like the ‘07 team. I decided if 2007 was the perfection of Tom Brady, his physical abilities and the Randy Moss hyper-charged offense, then 2015 is the perfection of Bill Belichick, his intelligence, the crazy player depth and the “whatever it takes” mentality. It might not be pretty, but they’re going to get the job done nine times out of 10.

And thus the reason for my pick.

Detroit vs Kansas City (-5) (Game in London)

The Pick: Detroit

The Score: Detroit 11, Kansas City 2

Are the Kansas City fans still going to travel well this week considering: 1) The game’s all the way in London, 2) Their team is 2-5 and without its best player for the rest of the year, and 3) Their city’s baseball team, the Royals, will be playing in the World Series over the weekend, concluding with game 5 on Sunday? I doubt it. And, hey, after Detroit played such a thrilling game in London last year against the Falcons, maybe they have a growing, raucous fan base across the pond. So because I care so very little about these two pathetic teams, I’m taking the Lions on the off chance they have some fans at the game.

(This is where I need to urge you, once again, to read Grantland’s Bill Barnwell on the new low the NFL reached in terms of coaching competency during that Falcons/Lions game in 2014.)

Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-7.5)

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 30, Tampa Bay 17

The Falcons have exclusively beaten NFC East teams (four) and AFC South teams (two) so far this year. It’s not their fault that all but one of these early games ended up being against the two worst divisions in football. But because of that, it’s very hard to be impressed with any of those wins.

I’d really, REALLY love to see this line go to -7 before I bet it, but I’m banking on Jameis Winston’s wild inconsistency to give Tampa the nudge back that they need after almost winning two in a row.

Arizona (-4.5) at Cleveland

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Arizona 24, Cleveland 21

Are there still people out there dumb enough to want Johnny Manziel starting over Josh McCown? Why? For the excitement? Newsflash: He wouldn’t be replacing Alex Smith, who was voted for the 11th straight year “Quarterback Most Likely to Induce Sleep Across America.”

McCown has been legitimately exciting with some great plays to Gary Barnidge and Travis Benjamin throughout the season. His Browns also played in three straight games decided by three points earlier this month. And the bonus McCown gives you is epically clumsy plays like these:

I stand with McCown.

Anyway, I’m ready to start fading the Cardinals. I don’t know that they’ll lose to Cleveland, but a 3-point win seems about right. The Cardinals were at home on Monday night, coming off a loss and needing a win badly to stay ahead of Seattle, and they were facing 1-6 Baltimore (a team that’s not as bad as their record, but still pretty bad this year). And this team’s supposed to have all these offensive weapons, an intimidating defense and a genius head coach. And I saw none of that on a consistent basis throughout their narrow win. Then you look at the schedule that got them off to this 5-2 start and you really start to wonder. So yeah, I think this line is 1.5 points too high.

San Francisco at St. Louis (-9)

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: St. Louis 20, San Francisco 0

First of all, the over/under (aka game total) for this matchup is 39.5, by far the lowest in week 8. And it should be. Don’t go thinking you’ll make an easy couple of bucks by betting the over. Both teams should struggle to crack 20 points. That’s where the big hesitation is for me in picking St. Louis. Their offense is pretty atrocious, even after accounting for Todd Gurley immediately being the best running back in football. That, and the unrelenting desire of Jeff Fisher to always be at a .500 record throughout each season (or as close as humanly possible).

I’m still picking them because the 49ers are right around rock bottom and we need to take advantage. They won’t always be this low, but for now, the Rams should do very bad things to them. I don’t think I’ve ever predicted a team to score 0 points in this column before. The real question is whether or not the Niners will ever enter St. Louis territory.

NY Giants at New Orleans (-3)

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: NY Giants 31, New Orleans 31

More picks column history is made: I predict a tie! The Saints and Giants deserve to tie because they are the same enigmatic, roller coaster ride, never ever ever ever trust us, team. There’s nothing to be too impressed about with either team, nothing to be too depressed about with them either. Either QB is capable of a five interception game or a three touchdown, 400 passing yards, 75% completion game.

If you want to argue for the Saints because they need it more, I’ll give you that. The Giants are still in the thick of the NFC East “race” with a loss, whereas the Saints are already in trouble in the division and are more likely chasing teams like the 4-2 Vikings and 3-3 Rams for a wildcard spot.

Minnesota at Chicago (PICK)

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Chicago 23, Minnesota 16

You know, I thought the Vikings should be favored by a field goal, but now I’m coming around on the Bears. They almost won three in a row before last week’s bye, losing the third game at Detroit in overtime. Four weeks ago they got Jay Cutler back, last week they got Alshon Jeffrey. It’s not surprising that they’re at least competitive when the majority of their starters are playing.

I also can’t wrap my head around the Vikings being 5-2. It doesn’t seem like they should be that good. So I’m going to hold them back a little while longer. I’m sure this is probably idiotic.

San Diego at Baltimore (-3)

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 54, San Diego 49

Gross. This is the most unappetizing game I’ve seen in a long time. Our best hope is that Rivers and Flacco agree ahead of time to exclusively throw bombs to their receivers all day. Then we can have some fun with this game. No running or short passes, get rid of the kickers too.

But if they play with normal rules, I’m taking the Ravens to soundly beat the Chargers. Don’t ask why because I don’t know. I flip a coin to determine over half my picks in any given week.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-1)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 30, Pittsburgh 24

Um, yes, I will take the undefeated team, the one who is GETTING a point against a 4-3 team that hasn’t even played a single game at full strength this season. If you’re just dying to pick against the Bengals, and especially if you still think Andy Dalton’s a fraud, just wait until week 9. That is the first of their back-to-back Primetime games. Wouldn’t back-to-back losses to Cleveland and Houston be just what the doctor ordered for anyone dying for some Cincy meltdown?

Tennessee at Houston (-4)

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 20, Houston 9

It’s amazing that Tennessee is 3-19 since the start of the 2014 season and that franchise has more hope right now than the Texans, who went 9-7 last year and have generally been competitive over the past five seasons. That’s what the mystery of Marcus Mariota does for an organization. Until he plays enough for us to decide whether he’s worthy or not, there’s always the hope that he is.

It’s also amazing that any team in the AFC South is favored by more than a field goal against another AFC South team. It shouldn’t be like that. Home team gets the 3-point respect and that’s it. Doesn’t matter who’s starting at QB for the other team. It certainly doesn’t matter who’s coaching. I won’t waste another word on this division.

NY Jets (-3) at Oakland

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: NY Oakland 23, NY Jets 20

I knew the Raiders were doing well and that Derek Carr was playing decent, but I didn’t know just how decent…

  • Carr is 6th in the league in passer rating, 9th in touchdown passes, 10th in completion percentage
  • Carr also does well in the advanced metrics on footballoutsiders.com, ranking 5th and 6th in their two main QB stats

We’ve left that world where we could just assume a loss out of Oakland 90% of the time.

My biggest concern with the Jets is that we haven’t seen a “Fitzy Three-Picks” performance out of Ryan Fitzpatrick yet, and there has to be one coming soon. Maybe Charles Woodson could be the catalyst for that type of game?

A win would give Oakland at least a temporary lead in the AFC Wildcard race. When’s the last time that was the case through eight weeks?

Seattle (-6) at Dallas

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Seattle 30, Dallas 10

You could construct a nice little story around picking the Cowboys. Even though they’re 0-4 without Tony Romo, three of the four games (all except the one against New England) have been very close until the end. You could even say Dallas blew a couple of those games. And it’s not like Seattle has been a great team this year. Their offensive line, especially, could get worked by Greg Hardy and company on Sunday. See? It wasn’t that hard to make you think about grabbing the six points.

But for me it comes down to the fact that at some point in this game, Matt Cassel will have to make several plays. Dallas won’t be able to run all over Seattle so what will they do if the Seahawks take a 10-0 lead? Cassel throwing into Seattle’s D excites me as a gambler.

Green Bay (-3.5) at Denver

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 20, Green Bay 12

How many times in six games this year would you guess Aaron Rodgers has gone over 250 passing yards? If you said anything other than “twice,” you’re wrong. While the Packers are undefeated and have won every game by at least a touchdown, it still doesn’t feel like they’re cruising on offense. Now they get to play a defense unlike anything they’ve seen this year. The Broncos have a secondary on par with the Seahawks and a pass rush that rivals the Rams’. (It sounds like DeMarcus Ware has a good chance to play, which helps Denver big time.)

I really do expect the Packers to struggle again on offense, so betting the Broncos comes down to whether or not you can stomach the idea that your money is tied to Peyton Manning leading his team to a decent offensive day. I can (barely) stomach that.

Indianapolis at Carolina (-7)

The Pick: Indianapolis

The Score: Carolina 26, Indianapolis 23

Bonus prediction: Chuck Pagano will cry, tell his team the scoreboard doesn’t matter, and then talk to the media about how the 26 points they gave up is unacceptable but he’s damn proud of the 23 points they scored. And all will be well in his tiny little brain.

I think Carolina is going to run the ball down Indy’s throat all night and ultimately win, but that type of gameplan doesn’t usually lend itself to blowing the opponent out. Even if Andrew Luck marches the Colts down the field a couple times in the final minutes when the game’s already decided, I think this one will look close.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 4 Favorites, 9 Underdogs, 1 Pick
  • 5 Road Dogs, 3 Home Dogs, 1 Neutral Dog
  • 7 Home Teams, 6 Road Teams, 1 Neutral Team
  • Season Record: 53-48-4 (6-8 in Week 7)
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NFL Week 8 Recap: Stability in the AFC, Chaos in the NFC

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Some week soon I’ll be diving deep into all of my preseason predictions and bets to see where I’m looking good and where I’ve gone horribly wrong. It’ll be a midseason progress report of sorts. But today is not that day. Today we’re keeping it short and sweet with a quick look into each conference and some quick thoughts on the state of this season.

AFC

  • The playoff seedings if the season ended today: 1) Denver 2) New England 3) Cincinnati 4) Indianapolis 5) San Diego 6) Buffalo
  • The top four seeds are exactly the same as last year’s playoff bracket. We might not get a ton of drama in the second half of the season when it comes to the AFC’s best. The Patriots and Colts are almost certain to win their divisions. The Broncos probably are too, but we’ll wait to see how things go for them and the Chargers over the next few weeks. The division leader that looks the weakest right now is Cincinnati, but we’ll find out soon if the return of A.J. Green gets them back into a semi-dominating groove.
  • But how about the extraordinarily deep middle class of the AFC. Eight teams appear to be vying for a wildcard berth and all of them sit at .500 or better right now. That’s where things will get interesting in the weeks to come in this conference. You’d think San Diego and Baltimore would have the inside track because it just feels like they’ve been the best teams outside of the top four. But would you really bet against Kansas City, Pittsburgh or Miami to reach the playoffs? And while our eyes tell us Buffalo, Cleveland and Houston will fall out of contention soon enough, crazier things have happened.
  • Out of those eight teams, only the Chargers and Ravens lost in week 8, tightening things up even more. Out of the six winners in that group, be careful with Miami in your picks and bets. They got dominated by the Jaguars in every way on Sunday except turnovers, where Blake Bortles gave them the ball three times. They also play four games in 21 days starting Sunday, three of those games are against San Diego, Detroit and Denver.
  • After Denver’s easy win over San Diego on Thursday, I jotted down a note that said if anyone else is going to beat the Broncos this year, it’s going to take a perfect game by that team. My concern for the Patriots this coming Sunday is that they just played their perfect game against Chicago two days ago. If Denver wins in New England this weekend, you’d have to consider them a lock for the #1 seed, especially since they’d have wins over the Patriots, Colts and Chargers already.
  • No matter what happens from now until the end of the season, we will be able to say definitively that both Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden were better quarterbacks in 2014 than any QB who played for the Jets.

NFC

  • The playoff seedings if the season ended today: 1) Arizona 2) Detroit 3) Dallas 4) Carolina 5) Philadelphia 6) Green Bay
  • ANARCHY! The top three seeds as of this moment didn’t even make the playoffs last year.
  • We already know that the NFC South winner probably isn’t getting to 10 wins, but after losses by Dallas and Philadelphia in week 8, would it really shock you to see the NFC East settle back into their expected state of mediocrity? Wouldn’t it be just like the Cowboys to go 3-5 the rest of the way? Won’t we be kicking ourselves for not seeing it coming when Washington runs the table in the final three weeks against its division and sneaks into the playoffs? (@Giants in week 15, vs Eagles in week 16, vs Cowboys in week 17)
  • Did you know the NFC South has exactly one win across its four teams since October 5th? As of this coming Sunday, it will be one win for that division in the past 27 days. Phenomenal.
  • At 9:25 a.m. Pacific Time on Sunday morning, my fiancee was about to call for an ambulance. She saw me convulsing on the living room floor in our apartment and was convinced I was having a seizure (or that demons had taken over my body). Nope. I was legitimately rolling around on the floor in hysterics from the final two minutes of that Detroit/Atlanta game in London. The two pictures at the top of this column give you a pretty good idea of what went down, but it was such an epic ending to a game that I highly suggest you…no…BEG YOU to read the first half of Bill Barnwell’s week 8 recap article on Grantland.com. It’s entirely about this final couple minutes in London, and you won’t be disappointed. If you somehow didn’t catch the end of that game live, or you did but you weren’t fully paying attention, I promise that you missed the most confounding, utterly inexplicable, everyone-who-played-or-coached-in-this-game-should-be-fired sporting event that’s ever taken place. Seriously, spend five minutes reading Barnwell’s detailed recap of it.
  • Even though it cost me some money, I was glad to see Tony Romo do some classic Romo’ing on Monday night. A nearly catastrophic injury, almost getting outplayed by Brandon Weeden, a fumble and an intentional grounding on their last drive of regulation to ruin any chance they had to win the game before overtime. It was all there, and it was good to see. We missed that for the past seven weeks. I’m counting six tough games on Dallas’ schedule for the remainder of the year. Guys, we can still witness 8-8!
  • This is the god’s honest truth: In my week 8 picks column, I had originally taken Washington to cover and was going to write that a dramatic loss at home on national TV against the NFC East rival that seems to be the easiest to beat currently is exactly what the Cowboys were born to do. That this would be the turning point that course corrects them and gets them pointed towards .500 once again. But I chickened out and decided week 10 in London against Jacksonville would probably be that turning point instead. I regret chickening out for so many reasons.
  • And last but not least, is this Jeff Fisher going into “Peter from Office Space after he stops caring” mode? Is he daring Rams management to fire him? Did he spill marinara sauce on his polo shirt at halftime and this look was his only option for the 2nd half?

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Week 9 Picks coming on Thursday.

The NFL’s Scheduling Problems, the Packers’ Offensive Problems, the Bears’ Jay Cutler Problem and the Rest of Week 8 in Review

As much of a football expert as I am, even I can’t pretend to understand what the NFL was thinking with its Thursday Night Football schedule. It’s almost like someone purposely decided to take the worst matchup of each week and schedule it for Thursday night on the NFL Network. Through seven Thursday games, we’ve had one great matchup where the game didn’t live up to the hype (Green Bay 23, Chicago 10), one game that came down to the wire despite an undesirable matchup (Tennessee 26, Pittsburgh 23), and five awful matchups with correlating hideous outcomes (NY Giants 36, Carolina 7; Baltimore 23, Cleveland 16; St. Louis 17, Arizona 3; San Francisco 13, Seattle 6; Tampa Bay 36, Minnesota 17).

And then there’s the NFL Network’s schedule the rest of the season: Kansas City @ San Diego, Indianapolis @ Jacksonville, Miami @ Buffalo, New Orleans @ Atlanta, Denver @ Oakland, Cincinnati @ Philadelphia.

Seven of those 12 teams have essentially been eliminated from the playoffs already. Only New Orleans @ Atlanta is semi-interesting because the Falcons might be going for 11-0 at that point, and the Saints still draw a crowd even though they’re looking at a 6-10 record at best.

If I was making the NFL TV schedule, I wouldn’t give a shit about making sure every team has a nationally-televised game. I would prioritize the most popular teams and the teams most likely to have a strong season (unless of course there’s a legality in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement or the TV contracts that states every team has to have a national game. If that’s the case, disregard the previous 250 words).

Anyway, I’m sick of telling my girlfriend to go find something to do every Thursday night from 5:30 – 8:30, and then realizing the game is awful and wishing she was around so we could continue catching up on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta.

Let’s quickly recap what I thought was noteworthy from week 8:

-Speaking of the NFL TV schedule, can someone please explain the logic behind the unbalanced Sunday schedule? This past weekend there were nine games on at 10am PT and only two at 1pm PT. Someone tried to tell me it has to do with the World Series being on, but that can’t be true because the schedule continues to be extremely heavy on the early games for the rest of the season. It can’t have anything to do with too many games being on the east coast because they  schedule plenty of eastern time zone games into the later game slate when they want to.

-Two negative things come from this Sunday schedule: 1). Andrew Siciliano’s head almost explodes live on the Red Zone Channel because he can’t keep up with the dizzying pace of touchdowns and big plays that he has to update us on during the early games, and 2). I end up feeling like I never saw a second of a couple early games because it’s impossible to stay on top of them all.

-This week’s “game that I had no idea was even on because the Red Zone Channel never had time to flash over to it” was Jacksonville vs Green Bay. Here’s what I found out about that game when I read the recap on Sunday afternoon: the Packers somehow only put up one offensive touchdown at home in the first half against a Jaguars team ranked 23rd in passing defense. And with about nine minutes left in the 3rd quarter and the Packers up by 2, this happened: From the Jacksonville 38 yard line, on 4th & 4, the Packers lined up to punt, but decided to run a fake and have their punter Tim Masthay throw what had to be one of the worst passes in NFL history for a lucky incompletion (lucky because it wasn’t picked and returned for a touchdown). So they wanted to convert a 4th down in a key spot and the best way to do this was taking the reigning MVP of the league out of the game?  I continue to think something is terribly wrong with the Green Bay offense. How else can you explain the recent trend of them calling for some trickery to generate points? This week it was the fake punt, two weeks ago it was a surprise onsides kick. I’m just saying either Mike McCarthy is outcoaching himself or there’s worry that they can’t put up enough points with a traditional offense.

-Speaking of less-than-impressive NFC North performances, did you know the Bears defense didn’t allow an offensive touchdown to Carolina on Sunday? Even with the Panthers controlling the ball for 37 minutes? And yet somehow it took a last-second field goal for Chicago to pull off the comeback win? I guess the fact that Jay Cutler had -8 fantasy points for me at halftime partially explains how this game was so close. Is there any difference between the 2012 Chicago Bears and the 2006 Super Bowl-losing Chicago Bears? Historically good defense complimented by an atrocious offensive line trying to protect a quarterback with a propensity to turn the ball over? No difference, right? And yet they still look like one of the best four teams in football.

-Do we even have to mention the hideous Pittsburgh Steeler uniforms from Sunday? It’s a common misconception that those uniforms were throwbacks to what they looked like back in the 1930’s. Actually it turns out they just wanted to honor Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite Simpson’s character because the actor who voiced him died recently. That character of course is the Bumble Bee Man:

-Love how the suicide picks this week were supposed to be a gimme. In my pool, half the people still remaining picked Green Bay and the other half picked Chicago. Yep, didn’t have to sweat those picks out at all. But we all survived, and now sadly I’m looking at the possibility of having to pick the 3-4 San Diego Chargers in week 9.

-Speaking of the Chargers, WTF happened to them on Sunday? I know they aren’t very good, but they only turned the ball over once, Philip Rivers was only sacked once, they had a time of possession advantage over Cleveland, they had more total yards…and they lost 7-6? And Norv Turner still has a job, right? There is no one steering the ship down there in San Diego, huh?

-No matter how bad you think you have it as a football fan—I’m talking to you Cleveland, New Orleans, Buffalo, Dallas and Tennessee fans—just remember there are people in Kansas City who are not only spending their money on tickets to see their horrific 1-6 team sink to a new low every week, but also on hiring planes to fly signs over their stadium begging for Chiefs GM Scott Pioli to be fired.

-Julie spent the entire Giants/Cowboys game being amazed that one of the pregame analysts predicted Tony Romo would throw three interceptions and that he was actually doing it (he threw four, actually). I had to explain that this was one of the safest predictions any analyst could have made in all of sports.

-Gronk’s touchdowns dances have been talked about enough at this point, but I just wanted you to know that when he caught his second TD and did that suggestive hip-thrusting dance, I made a note in my journal that said, “Gronk’s 2nd TD dance?? Rubbing his cock all over a stripper’s face? Tits??”

-I haven’t been this happy about a Patriots win in a long time. They did an incredible job over the first seven weeks lowering my expectations to the point where I had none. And then on the Rams’ first drive when Sam Bradford connected with Chris Givens on a 50-yard touchdown, my expectations went even lower than “no expectations.” So to have the defense not let up another long pass all day and come away with a 45-7 win, it was quite the surprise. I will continue to expect only the worst from them.

-I thought I had an off week in terms of my picks against the spread. After all, I bragged about how locked in I was last Friday and came out of the weekend with a modest 9-5 record. But I suspect a lot of people missed badly this weekend because somehow in my two Pick ‘Em leagues, I still came in 2nd place. Let’s all try to be better next week, OK?

-My record for the season now sits at 67-46-5.

Week 8 NFL Picks: Pink Flag Priorities, the Browns Burst Through the Basement of Putridity, Andy Reid’s Anomaly and More

The first thing I do every Tuesday morning is guess the line on each of the coming week’s games. And then I compare my guesses to the actual lines of the games. I get no compensation of any kind for doing well, and it’s not for any fantasy-like league with my friends so bragging rights don’t even come into play. But it’s one of my favorite football-related activities for the week. Being a smart, successful gambler is one thing, but being the guy who sets the lines is on a whole other level of badass.

Usually I’m happy just to correctly pick which team is the favorite. That’s hard enough with some of these games (see “Atlanta @ Philadelphia”). But for week 8 I thought I’d give you the news well in advance of Sunday morning’s kickoffs: I’m locked in. This Tuesday I guessed nine of the 14 lines within 1.5 points of the actual line. I got four of them dead on. Maybe it’s not that incredible, but I’ve just never done that before. Anyway, do what you will with that information. By the end of Sunday, I’m expecting to be able to pay off the rest of my college loans and secure a down payment for a future house in Malibu. No, I’m not really setting my expectations that high…just assuming this is the week of 14-0.

So let’s get on with it (home team underlined):

Tampa Bay (+7) over Minnesota: [Editor’s Note: This entire paragraph was written before Thursday night’s game.] Uh oh, be careful with this game. The underdog is now 6-1 on Thursday nights. And we’ve all seen the rapid regression of Christian Ponder the last three weeks, meaning running is Minnesota’s only offense…problem is Tampa has one of the best run defenses in football. I’d be a little stunned if the Bucs win outright, but I certainly see this being a touchdown or less. Even though I have no evidence to back this up, I think Minnesota is slightly worse than they’ve played through seven weeks and Tampa is slightly better than they’ve played.

NY Jets (-1) over Miami: One of my favorite things about football season is how every TV and radio analyst picks each game as if there’s a 1-point spread on it. All the pregame shows have their personalities compete with one another for the best record picking the games all year. And they spend so much time thinking about and discussing their pick, like it’s a tough choice. Try doing it each week according to the actual handicapping the oddsmakers have settled on. Wait, where was I? Oh, yes, the NFL is using pink penalty flags in this game. So that’s happening. I love that a random 11-year-0ld boy can send a request to Roger Goodell for something like using pink flags, and the NFL acts on it immediately. Yet when the majority of NFL players and the entire football fan base is calling for an end to the replacement referees, the NFL just sits there for weeks doing nothing. Good to know the type of shit that gets to the top of the priority list. Oh, and the Jets will win this football game.

Cleveland (+3) over San Diego: I hate betting on or against the Chargers. Is there a team in the NFL with less of an identity than these guys? They’re not really good at anything, and they’re not really terrible at anything. I have no read on whether they’re an OK 8-8 team or a pretty bad 6-10 team. I’m taking the Browns because it feels like they’re knocking on the door of mediocrity. They’re about to burst out of the basement of putridity and into the ground level of averageness. And what better team to do it against than the Chargers? San Diego’s had two weeks to prepare for this game, but if I know Norv and Philip like I think I do, they’re just dying to come out disorganized and confused on Sunday.

Indianapolis (+3.5) over Tennessee: The Titans haven’t earned the right to be favored by more than a field goal yet. After this week, the Colts have six winnable games in their final nine. It seems like they have an outside shot at a playoff spot, and I’m thinking the dream scenario is a wildcard game between Andrew Luck’s Colts and Peyton Manning’s Broncos. But first they gotta start with a minor upset in Tennessee.

I can’t continue to blindly pick the Patriots, especially when they’re constantly a touchdown-or-greater favorite. So what I’ve decided to do is let Molly blindly pick between the Patriots (-7) and the St. Louis Rams. Big responsibility for Molly considering it’s the Patriots, it’s in London, and she’s putting her 4-3 record at stake. Let’s see what she decided:

Green Bay (-15) over Jacksonville: I’m so terrified of double-digit lines at this point that I’m tempted to pick Jacksonville. After all, they did just play an inspired overtime game in Oakland last week after losing both Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert. Except the Raiders might just be the worst team in football at season’s end. A quick look at Jacksonville’s stats shows that they’re last in the NFL in passing offense, 25th in rushing offense, 24th in passing defense and 29th in rushing defense. Why am I even dedicating a whole paragraph to this game? Only a jerk would pick the Jaguars. The Packers are my suicide pick for the week too.

Atlanta (+3) over Philadelphia: Here’s a game where you can feel good that a push is your worst case scenario. That’s because Philly doesn’t win games by more than three. It’s a rule. For me, this was the surprise of the week. The last undefeated team is an underdog against the extremely lucky 3-3 Eagles? Doesn’t make much sense, does it? The only semi-logical reason I can think of for why this line is favoring the Eagles is that it’s become very popular to reference Andy Reid’s record after a bye week. I bet almost everyone reading this has heard that Reid’s teams are 13-0 in the game following a bye. Does Vegas expect a lot of the public to take Philly simply because of that statistical anomaly? Honestly, I can’t come up with a better reason for this line. I’m picking Atlanta, but what I’m most excited for is to see the Philly fans react when the Eagles are down 17-3 in the 2nd quarter. It’s probably wise for Michael Vick to continue wearing his kevlar vest during home games.

Washington (+4.5) over Pittsburgh: Redskins fans are having so much fun right now. The team could lose the rest of their games this season, but as long as Black Jesus stays healthy and they continue to play in close, exciting games the fans would still be psyched. Can you blame them? I was talking to one of my buddies from D.C. today (by the way, he’s terrified of Roethlisberger throwing to Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown against the Skins’ secondary, but thinks they’ll still keep it close), and we agreed that the Redskins’ two biggest moments of the last 10 years were the 2006 wildcard playoff win over Tampa Bay and their 2003 regular season win over the Patriots. It’s been a rough 10-years for these guys. I’m picking the Skins to keep it close, but I have no clue whether they can win or not.

Detroit (-1) over Seattle: Love the Lions in this game and I don’t even know why (Oh, because the Seahawks are my nemesis. Now I remember). While researching this game (yes, I actually research the teams before I make up random shit about them), I was shocked to see that Detroit is 2nd in the NFL in passing yards. To the naked eye, doesn’t it seem like Matty Stafford and Calvy Johnson are having terrible years? Well, from a touchdown standpoint they sure are: Stafford has thrown only five in six games while Johnson has only one. But Megatron’s still on pace for nearly 1,600 yards this year. Long story short, they can’t put the ball in the end zone. Sure, there’s no logical reason why that would change the week they’re playing one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses, but I like them at home against an awful rookie quarterback.

Chicago (-9) over Carolina: It would be great for this game to be an ugly 3-3 tie where every unit for both teams is completely inept. It would be so much fun to watch Jay Cutler and Cam Newton one-upping each other for who can throw their teammates under the bus quicker and more often…both during the game and at the press conference. A battle for the ages. You can’t possibly pick the Panthers in this game unless you’re a complete psycho.

Kansas City (-1) over Oakland: Home or not, it’s amazing that the Chiefs are favored in any game for the rest of the year. What does it say about the Raiders that Jacksonville lost MoJo and Gabbert and it still took overtime before Oakland finally won? Its says the Raiders should be positioning themselves in the draft for a quarterback because this year is already over. Brady Quinn will get his first win in nearly 12 years if the Chiefs pull this off.

NY Giants (-2) over Dallas: What do we root for in this game? A tie? A bomb to explode in Cowboys Stadium? The Giants to be crushing the Cowboys so badly that Jerry Jones fires Jason Garrett at halftime? I guess we just hope for both teams to look terrible and for those of us smart enough to bet on the Redskins to win the NFC East, we root for a Cowboys win. But I’m taking the Giants. Can’t see this Dallas team beating New York for the second time this year.

Denver (-6) over New Orleans: My instincts are saying to take New Orleans with the points. After all, they’re not really scoring less than 28 against any opponent these days. So to take Denver, you’d have to think they’ll drop at least 35 on the Saints. And this is also another must-win game for the Saints. At 2-4, they can only afford to lose two more games and they still have Atlanta (twice), San Francisco and the Giants. But I’m taking Denver because I think they’ll finally put together a full 60 minutes, and winning by a touchdown isn’t that hard. If this line was 7 or 7.5, I’d probably be taking New Orleans.

San Francisco (-7 ) over Arizona: Insert joke here about Jim Harbaugh declining another safety this coming Monday that causes the 49ers to win by six instead of eight. HAHA, very funny, guys. What can I say about Arizona that I haven’t already said? They’re terrible. Anyone still lumping them in with Seattle in terms of their identity clearly hasn’t watched a minute of football this season. On a side note, do you think this game will be the least-watched 9ers game by their fans since the good old days of Mike Singletary? After all, it’s pretty likely the baseball Giants will be playing in game 5 of the World Series at the same time on Monday. I don’t know what the Bay Area did to deserve all of this good sports fortune. Considering most of the people there became baseball fans in September of 2010, it’s hard to say they were a long-suffering fan base. If the Red Sox could have just snuck into the playoffs, I’m certain they could have handled the Giants. Just barely missed it, too.

Here’s the breakdown of my picks this week:

Favorites: 9

Underdogs: 5

Home teams: 7

Road teams: 6

Neutral site: 1 (Patriots in London)

Home underdogs: 1

Road underdogs: 4