I laid out a few things in my Thanksgiving picks story, but all you need to know is that I'm one game under .500 through 160 games. That's incredibly frustrating, so I've decided to make my picks and see if I can beat a coin flip this week. Fortunately, the coin (heads for home, tails for road) ended up making three different picks on Thanksgiving, so there's going to be some separation this week.
(Home team in caps.)
Jacksonville (+3) over HOUSTON
Coin flip pick: Jacksonville
I know, I can't stomach picking Jacksonville either, but I just can't for the life of me envision Matt Leinart doing anything on the football field that is not a horrible thing to do. He's thrown three touchdowns and eight interceptions since 2007. He's run for negative-2 yards since 2008. He hasn't thrown a pass since the final week of the 2009 season.
It's great that he'll have Andre Johnson, but against the third-ranked Jaguars defense, Leinart's in trouble.
And you couldn't pay me to watch this football game.
NEW YORK JETS (-8) over Buffalo Bills
Coin flip pick: New York Jets
I'm already borderline sick to my stomach over the self-satisfactory smile Rex Ryan is going to have after this Jets blowout, as he happily believes his little trick with Mark Brunell in practice somehow made his team better. So I'll take this preemptive strike — the Jets win by 10 or 13 only because the Bills are in absolute freefall and are smelling a whole lot like 6-10 right now and are without Fred Jackson, and not because some 41-year-old took a couple of snaps at practice.
Someone better be prepared to tell Rex that these Bills got waxed by the Dolphins last week before he gets too proud of himself.
RQFLWP: "Never have I seen a team go from Sports Illustrated cover to underdog against the 2-7 Dolphins so quickly. They can't be this bad."
Note: The Bills, as it turns out, are indeed that bad.
CINCINNATI (-7.5) over Cleveland
Coin flip pick: Cincinnati
Picture this: You're Andy Dalton. You're the quarterback of the Bengals. You've got red hair. All of that. You just faced the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens in back-to-back weeks, and all things considered, you didn't do so bad. You went 39-for-75 (52 percent) for 543 yards and three touchdowns. The downside? Well, you threw five interceptions, nearly doubling your season total to that point.
Don't worry, though, because after facing those two defenses, you're now facing Cleveland, which has just six interceptions on the year (if you interject right now by saying the Steelers have just four picks on the season then I will kindly ask you to leave). Have yourself a day, Andy Dalton. You deserve it.
Oh, and the Browns are averaging about nine fewer points than the Bengals on the season. My math says you should probably stay away from Cleveland.
ATLANTA (-9.5) over Minnesota
Coin flip pick: Minnesota
That is a whole lot of points. What makes this tricky is that the Falcons' average margin of victory in their six wins is exactly 9.5 points. The Vikings' average margin of defeat in their eight losses is 12.25 points, but since Christian Ponder took over for Donovan McNabb, it's 16.67.
I'll begrudgingly take Atlanta with the hope that:
Did you know that Minnesota's second-leading rusher this year, behind Peterson, is Percy Harvin? And behind Harvin, it's Ponder? The fourth-leading rusher is running back Toby Gerhart, which probably isn't a good sign for the Vikings without Peterson.
ST. LOUIS (-3) over Arizona
Coin flip pick: Arizona
There's no way I have the time or energy to look this up, but I'd estimate in my three seasons of writing these picks, I'm about 11 percent successful when picking the Rams or Cardinals. I regularly doubt them, then they prove me wrong with a big win, then I finally come around to picking them, only to see them fall flat on their face and remind me that they are who I thought they were.
Like last week, when I said, "Hey, let's pick John Skelton's team!" I definitely deserved to lose that one. I also picked the Rams over the Seahawks, just because, and I was rewarded with one of the more craptacular performances in recent memory from St. Louis.
So this week, I will choose to not watch this game, because that's my right, and I'll pick the Rams, because I have to pick somebody. Their pathetic one win at home is better than Arizona's more-pathetic zero wins on the road. I guess.
RQFLWP: "I won't be stunned it the Cardinals pull off the upset [of the 49ers]."
Note: The Cardinals lost by 16. Almost!
Carolina (-3.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
Coin flip pick: Indianapolis
I said last week that I've picked against Indy 10 times, and I'm 7-3 in those games. That's what they call a "sure thing." You might want to borrow that strategy. Unless you're a coin, apparently.
TENNESSEE (-3) over Tampa Bay
Coin flip pick: Tampa Bay
I don't make decisions without conviction, so when I decided in Week 11 that Tampa Bay is just not a very good football team, then I must still believe they're not a very good football team in Week 12. Otherwise, I might as well open up a constantly revolving door in my Fabulous Fifteen, or something crazy like that.
It's pretty incredible that the Titans are 5-5 despite ranking dead last in rushing yards … and it's even more incredible that it's the same team that employs Chris Johnson, who ranks 26th in rushing yards behind people named Beanie Wells, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Shonn Greene. Alas, the Titans are in lose-win, lose-win mode, and they're right on schedule for that next W.
OAKLAND (-4.5) over Chicago
Coin flip pick: Chicago
I'm miffed beyond belief that just as I finally accept Chicago as a team that's going to win much more often than not, Jay Culter goes and breaks his thumb while flailing after someone who intercepted his football.
Now I have to go with Carson Palmer, on the basis that he's not throwing three picks every week anymore. That's tough. But I watched Caleb Hanie on that cold day last January, and that was much, much worse.
Washington (+4) over SEATTLE
Coin flip pick: Washington
Whenever the Seahawks are supposed to win, they lose. Whenever they're supposed to lose, they win. And I think they're supposed to win this one.
While I have a moment, I will share this great tweet from Covers Sports: "11 weeks into the season, NFL favorites are 77-76-7 [against the spread] and home teams are 76-77-7 ATS."
That at least made me feel a little better for my startling mediocrity.
RQFLWP: "In case you missed it: I'm more comfortable with John Beck than I am with Rex Grossman. That's disgusting. Grossman will be back under center on Sunday. Cowboys roll.
Note: OK, all of you who predicted Grossman would throw a game-tying touchdown with a few seconds on the clock, raise your hands. Anyone? Bueller?
Denver (+6.5) over SAN DIEGO
Coin flip pick: Denver
I think, sadly, we're all going to remember what a Tim Tebow loss feels like. However, I don't think this one will be short of any magic. I'm thinking Philip Rivers, against the 21st-ranked passing defense, snaps out of his funk (he's just not this bad) and the Broncos trail by 10 late. Tebow will lead one of those trademark drives to score a touchdown, but the onside kick won't work, and the Bolts will hang on to the game and their season by a few points.
RQFLWP: "The Jets catch a major break with Tim Tebow, who was an astounding 2-for-8 last week."
Note: Suffice it to say, the Jets got Tebowned. As did I.
PHILADELPHIA (+3) over New England
Coin flip pick: Philadelphia
This line obviously might shift dramtatically if Michael Vick is deemed healthy enough to play, but regardless, New England is going to have some tough matchups in this one. Who's going to cover DeSean Jackson? Will it be Kyle Arrington? Sterling Moore? Philip Adams? And what if Jeremy Maclin can play? Sure, if Vince Young is under center again, then the Pats' D will run into a pick or two, but with Nnamdi Asomugha and Bill Belichick's old pal Asante Samuel there to at least minimize the Rob Gronkowski–Wes Welker–Aaron Hernandez damage, the Eagles are going to come out on the winning end of an old-fashioned shootout.
Unless Tyler Palko gets traded to Philly.
Pittsburgh (-10.5) over KANSAS CITY
Coin flip pick: Kansas City
I don't care that Ben Roethlisberger has a broken thumb. That dude is not a human being, and I'm convinced he could play with one leg and no helmet (actually, he'd probably prefer no helmet). I watched with millions of my closest friends on Monday night and saw a Kansas City Chiefs football team that is not good at football. They have some players who are individually exceptional — Tamba Hali, Dexter McCluster, Dwayne Bowe – but as a team, and with Palko under center, and with Todd Haley dictating the show, it's ugly.
And lucky you — you get to watch the Chiefs get blown out on national TV for two straight weeks!
NEW ORLEANS (-7) over New York Giants
Coin flip pick: New Orleans
Nobody — and I mean nobody — feels more foolish than I do for falling into the trap of believing in Eli Manning and the New York Giants. Honestly, it was one of those situations where if enough people say the same things — you can't spell elite without Eli! — that you can't help but start to believe it.
And then you get 18-for-35, one touchdown and one pick. Oh sure, his receivers dropped a decent number of passes, and he had no running game to help him out, but the dreadful showing on Sunday night against the Eagles looked almost exactly like every important Giants game I've watched for the past few years. (If you mention a certain important game in Arizona in February 2008, I'll kindly ask you to leave the country.)
The stats in this matchup are almost a wash (6-4 record versus 7-3 record, great passing offenses, middle-of-the-road defenses) so you have to try to account for that which is unaccountable. I look at the Giants and I see a team that's much more likely to crumble than thrive when their backs are against the wall — especially in the Superdome, and especially when the Giants already celebrated winning the Super Bowl back in New England in Week 9.
Last week: 6-7-1