For starters, I have some instant excuses at the ready for the misses on the Atlanta and Arizona picks (Matt Ryan leaving early, Kurt Warner not playing at all). Matthew Ice is likely good for nine points against the Bucs, and you know that captain Kurt would have torched the league's second-worst passing defense.
There's also some solace in knowing I missed on Monday night due to one of the most complete football games ever played. If the Saints can play like that every Sunday, they'll win the Super Bowl. By 40 points.
Then there were the disastrous three picks on Thanksgiving. I can just chalk those ones up to the weirdness of having three games on Thanksgiving. A valid excuse? Of course not. But in my own mind, my dismal 7-9 week just became a magnificent 13-3 week.
Sometimes, delusion is the only way to deal with reality.
(Home team in caps.)
New York Jets (-3) over BUFFALO
I'm not particularly buying Buffalo's big win last week, and the fact that this game is in Toronto kind of kills the Bills. The temperatures are expected to dip into the 20s in Buffalo by kickoff, with a chance of some rain showers to boot. Mark Sanchez is a Southern California guy, so it's not hard to envision a repeat of his five-interception performance at the Meadowlands against the Bills from earlier this season.
But instead, this game will be played in the fine conditions of the Rogers Centre. And last time these two teams met, Thomas Jones ran for 210 yards, and now-injured Leon Washington added 99 more on the ground. By comparison, the Bills rushed for 142 yards total. If the Jets can exploit the Bills' rushing defense again and keep Sanchez from throwing five picks again (maybe Rexxy will only ask him to throw five total passes), they should be OK.
Philadelphia (-5.5) over ATLANTA
There's a big deal being made about Michael Vick's return to the ATL. Last time I checked though, Vick is 3-for-9 for six yards, and he's rushed for 65 yards on 15 carries. The boos or cheers won't play any sort of role in this one.
What will play a role, however, is Matt Ryan's turf toe, which will keep him out. And while Chris Redman won the game last week (on his sixth try … against the Buccaneers), the Falcons have been too unpredictable to put any kind of faith into this year.
CHICAGO (-9) over St. Louis
If there's any team that appears to be constantly poised to be upset at home, it's the Bears. But not this week. The Rams can't score. Their 130 points is third-worst in the NFL, trailing only the Browns and Raiders.
(At the last moment, I decided to spare you from a Missouri loves company pun. You're welcome.)
CINCINNATI (-13) over Detroit
OK, I learned my lesson last week to never, under any circumstance, pick the Lions. Not even on Thanksgiving, not even if they get a rare sell-out at Ford Field and not even if Matthew Stafford is coming off one of the coolest pieces of NFL Films history.
Also, I hear those Bengals aren't too bad.
Tennessee (+6.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
I recognize that the trendy thing to do this week is to go with Vince Young and his unbeatable troupe. There's also the line of thinking that the Colts like to lose a game late in the season to remove any pressure that comes with the whole undefeated thing.
I, however, believe Jim Caldwell will try to go for the undefeated season, and because I've yet to see him actually speak into his headset, I refuse to believe he's capable of accomplishing such a task.
Plus, as good as the Colts' 11-0 record looks, they've won their last five games by an average of 3.6 points. And, you know, the coach thing.
Denver (-4.5) over KANSAS CITY
All the Broncos will be trying to do is win a [super-expletive] game!
New England (-5.5) over MIAMI
Remember last November when the Patriots traveled to Miami to avenge the embarrassing loss from earlier in the year? Matt Cassel threw for a million yards (read: 415) and three touchdowns. Randy Moss was dominating Miami's single-coverage and even tossed the "disrespect" bomb in his always-entertaining postgame news conference.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Tom Brady has replaced Cassel, the Patriots are looking to rebound from another embarrassing loss and their 27-17 victory from earlier in the season likely leaves them wanting more. I'd expect nothing short of a 14-point win.
PITTSBURGH (-14.5) over Oakland
Get fooled once by the Raiders, shame on them. Get fooled twice by the Raiders, shame on me.
WASHINGTON (+9.5) over New Orleans
This may seem crazy, but consider these two facts:
— Washington has given up an average of 15.6 points per contest in five home games this year.
— The Saints have played down to their opponents on several occasions. They trailed 24-3 to Miami (before pulling off a miraculous cover), they were tired with the Panthers (4-7) after three quarters, and they could only manage a five-point victory over the 1-10 Rams.
That's no guarantee that the Saints won't roll through the Beltway with ease, but with the short week and the potential emotional letdown from Monday night, a slow first half could mean this one ends a lot closer than you'd think.
Tampa Bay (+6) over CAROLINA
The Panthers gained 179 total yards last week. This week, Matt Moore starts at quarterback. The Bucs aren't that bad. Are they?
JACKSONVILLE (pick 'em) over Houston
When two pretenders meet in Week 13, who do you pick? I'll take the team that pays Maurice Jones-Drew to hold a football.
San Diego (-13) over CLEVELAND
Here's a shocker: The Browns' pass defense ranks 28th in the NFL with 7.8 yards allowed per passing attempt. Here's another shocker: Phil Rivers loves that.
Dallas (-2) over NEW YORK GIANTS
I just can't believe in the Giants anymore. Each week, I convince myself that this team is too good to keep losing, that this team isn't all that different from the one that won a Super Bowl just 23 months ago.
But last week's Thanksgiving disaster was it for me. A more uninspired effort these eyes have not seen.
San Francisco (pick 'em) over SEATTLE
Neither of these teams can win consecutive games (the Niners did in Weeks 1 and 2, the Seahawks have yet to conquer the feat), yet one presumably has to win this one.
I liked San Francisco's dismantling of the Jags last week. It was the kind of football that is played by a team that still believes. Seattle won in a half-empty dome in St. Louis.
Whichever way you look at it, let's all be thankful for yet another marquee matchup courtesy of the NFC West.
Minnesota (-2.5) over ARIZONA
I almost felt like getting cute with this one. Almost. But I won't.
Baltimore (+3) over GREEN BAY
It's just too tough to believe in either one of these teams in the Monday night matchup, so I'm going to take the points, go to bed early and hope for the best. Sometimes, that's all you can do.
Last week: 7-9