By serious, I mean no more taking the easy way out. No more saying "I won't pick this team until such and such happens." That method has proven to be a one-way ticket to Mediocrity Land, which is a place I don't like to be. I am a lot of things, but I'm not mediocre — well, unless you look at my height and weight (5-foot-10, 170), talk to any of my high school teachers (2.99 GPA) or look at any of my athletic stats from my life. Other than that, I am excellent!
The impetus for this change of strategy comes from Monday night's horrific display of football in Tampa. There was a penalty every 15 seconds and the Buccaneers seemed determined to lose that game. At the very least, they wanted to make sure they didn't cover the 10-point spread. Remember, this was against a Colts team that very well may be the ugliest looking squad in the league. Rather than get rolled over, like we all expected them to be, they darn near won the football game.
You could either chalk that up to complete chance or use it as a reason to change your philosophy. After an 8-8 week of picks and with a 26-36-2 record through four weeks, I'm choosing the latter.
And don't worry — there are plenty of Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week's Picks (RQFLWP) to share with you.
(Home team in caps.)
Philadelphia (-2) over BUFFALO
I rarely, if ever, put stock in the "must-win" reasoning for picking a team. Saying the Eagles are going to win because they need a win more than the Bills is ridiculous, because both teams typically want to win when they suit up on Sunday. In Philly's case, though, I'm buying in. The Philadelphia Supervickasomughas can't fall to 1-4. They just can't. No, sir.
Tennessee (+3) over PITTSBURGH
There are a lot of statistics out there, but the only one that really matters is points. The Steelers rank 27th in points scored; the Titans rank first in points allowed. Add in that James Harrison broke his face last week, and Ben Roethlisberger's hobbled, and that Harrison's backup has an injury, as does running back Rashard Mendenhall, and I'm comfortable taking the Titans for the second straight week.
You can file that under "sentences I never anticipated writing."
Kansas City (+2) over INDIANAPOLIS
Don't be fooled by that Monday night atrocity — the Colts still aren't any good. Granted, neither are the Chiefs, but if this game becomes a battle of field goals, you know Kansas City has the legpower to come out on top.
Plus, I liked Matt Cassel flipping out on the sidelines last week. Any time a quarterback and coach have to be separated by a running back, you just have to pick that team the following week. It's a no-brainer, really.
RQFLWP: "It took a 15-point spread for the Chiefs to finally cover a spread this year. Am I going to pick them to cover a 1.5-point spread a week later? No. No I am not."
Note: I didn't anticipate Cassel calling a coach an [expletive] [expletive]. That's on me.
Arizona (-1.5) over MINNESOTA
Last week, I said, "When in doubt, pick against the NFC West." That rule obviously doesn't apply to games against the Vikings, especially when Donovan McNabb inexplicably remains the quarterback.
Oakland (+6.5) over HOUSTON
Generally, every year, the Texans start to get way too much love — both from the media and from Vegas. It took a little longer this season, but we're finally there. The Texans aren't a touchdown better than the Raiders right now. Easiest pick of the week.
CAROLINA (+6.5) over New Orleans
The Panthers have lost by seven twice and lost by five once. They've also won by six. At the very least, you have to like Carolina's ability to keep things tight, but no matter which way you go on this one, you'll be sweating it out.
Cincinnati (+1.5) over JACKSONVILLE
The Bengals are getting no respect this year. Remember how high on the Bills everyone was last week? Remember when the Bengals beat those same Bills? And now they're an underdog to the … Jaguars? That's just cruel.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-10) over Seattle
Last week, I outright mocked the Giants line — they were a 1-point favorite over the lowly Cardinals — and what did that get me? It nearly got me embarrassed, as I was just one bizarre Victor Cruz call from losing that one badly.
(Speaking of that call, what a joke. You've seen dozens of examples of players doing the exact same thing and the play being ruled a fumble. Even Eli Manning doesn't want to win like that.)
Last week, I also mocked the NFC West, and the Seahawks had to go and shove it in my face by nearly beating the Falcons.
Those two decisions obviously leave me with a little bit of egg on my face, but I'm trusting the Giants to put together a big day at home and get New Yorkers' spirits up before the G-Men lose four of their next five.
RQFLWP: "Really? The Giants beat the dream team and they get treated like this? Against a team that lost to the Seahawks? Am I missing something here?"
Note: The NFC West continues to be the bane of my existence.
SAN FRANCISCO (-2.5) over Tampa Bay
What in the world is going on in San Francisco? They're 3-1 right now — don't they realize that it only takes seven wins to make the playoffs in the NFC West? Slow down, Jim Harbaugh!
I don't put too much stock in wild statistics, but I do like to check out Covers.com every week, just to see what's going on. This week, the site says three experts have picked Tampa Bay and zero experts have picked San Francisco. I'm obviously smarter than everyone, so the Niners are my pick here.
(That's not the real reason. I don't like what I saw out of Tampa at all on Monday night, and I like them even less on a short week traveling to the West Coast.)
RQFLWP: "When in doubt, go against the the NFC West."
Note: I might still stand by this one. Yeah, I'm going to do that.
New York Jets (-9.5) over NEW ENGLAND
Nine and a half points? Is Plax gonna play defense?!
Sorry, don't click that link if Super Bowl XLII still haunts your life. I shouldn't have done that.
Anyway, you'd have to be nuts to think the Jets are as bad as they looked Sunday night in Baltimore. Granted, I myself wrote that last week would be the beginning of the end for Rex Ryan's high and mighty Jets, but I don't think they're going to be losing by double digits every week. Plus, with Jerod Mayo out and Nick Mangold possibly back in, the Jets can get back to that running game that's eluded them thus far this season.
As they showed in January, controlling the ball — and the clock — is often the best way to beat the Patriots. If they can't win, it'll at least help 'em from losing by 10.
The likely absence of Aaron Hernandez is just as important, too. In their first two meetings last year, Hernandez had nine catches for 152 yards and a touchdown. When he was hobbled in the playoffs, he had just one catch for four yards, and the Patriots got beat soundly. He may be the key cog in the Patriots' offense against the Jets, and if he doesn't play, you have to like Rex's chances to slow down Tom Brady.
DENVER (+4) over San Diego
On the surface, this is my most insane pick of the week. But hear me out.
The Chargers are so Norv Turner it's not even funny. That team DNA is represented clearly by the fact that the Chargers are 2-6-1 against the spread in their last nine road games (thanks, Covers.com!).
The Broncos, also, aren't half-bad at home. They lost to the respectable Raiders by a field goal and beat the half-decent Bengals by two. Sure, they got slaughtered by the best team in the NFL last week, but that's no reason to think they can't take advantage of the Norvness of the Chargers, who looked like hell in their only road game this year (35-21 loss to New England).
Green Bay (-6) over ATLANTA
I'm coming around to the fact that Atlanta just is not a very good football team. I watched the high-flying Falcons last year, and I don't understand it. But at this point, I know longer believe in Mr. Ice.
RQFLWP: "To this point, [the Packers are] not a big win team. … I can't in good conscience pick the Packers to win by two touchdowns right now."
Note: The Packers scored 49 points after I wrote this. Awesome.
DETROIT (-6) over Chicago
This will be the first real show-me test for the Lions. They've won their last eight games (12 if you count preseason, but you'd only count the preseason if you're a fool) and finally they're a big favorite over a good team — a team that went to the NFC Championship Game last year.
The only reason I'd steer clear of the Lions is because they may be losing that underdog edge that has motivated them to be as good as they've been this year. But boy, that's a silly reason to pick against Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh.
Oh, and as a rule, I like to pick against the quarterback who spends his Tuesday nights at Dancing With the Stars. That's just unacceptable.
Last week: 8-8