The month of December has to be the most chaotic 31 days of the year. Every day, there are holiday parties to attend, shopping to be done, lousy weather to get in your way and, most importantly, football games to watch.
Soon, the NFL will consume as many as four days of the week, and just as quickly, the NFL season will be gone before you know it. So, too, will the ancient art of trying to beat Las Vegas. It's time to make the most of the time left.
(Home team in caps.)
CLEVELAND (+10) over Pittsburgh
The week starts out with a bang with perhaps the least-watchable game possible. This one's tough. You've got a Steelers team with no Troy Polamalu (they're 2-5 without him this year) and likely no Hines Ward. They lost to the Raiders just five days ago. And they're playing a Browns team that has resembled an NFL team in recent weeks.
Cleveland probably won't really threaten to win, but the Steelers haven't beaten anyone by 10 points since Week 9. They're a team trending in the wrong direction. I like the points.
New Orleans (-10) over ATLANTA
"We're going for it."
Those are the words of Saints head coach Sean Payton when asked about seeking a 16-0 record. And I love it.
Green Bay (-3) over CHICAGO
Chicago's 5-7 record is almost respectable, until you look at who they've beaten: Pittsburgh, Seattle, Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis. That's a combined record of 15-45. The teams that have beaten the Bears have a combined 54-30 record.
Simply put, the Bears aren't good.
Denver (+7) over INDIANAPOLIS
The Jim Sorgi injury will just be too much for the Colts to overcome. Who will hold the clipboard?
Buffalo (pick 'em) over KANSAS CITY
Is this game really happening? I'll go with the team that doesn't employ a veteran linebacker who flipped off the opposing team's sideline last week. And Mike Vrabel is supposedly part of the missing leadership in New England? Solid.
MINNESOTA (-6.5) over Cincinnati
This is an infinitely interesting matchup. There is no unimaginable scenario for this one. Brett Favre could throw 13 picks, or the Vikings could roll by 40. Ultimately, I like Minnesota's top-10 rushing defense to win out.
Carolina (+13.5) over NEW ENGLAND
This one could also go any way, but there's no denying it's been a bad week in Foxborough. The whole sending-players-home-to-make-a-statement attitude from Bill Belichick could backfire. Tom Brady spoke last week about how important Wednesdays are to the Patriots, then the team was forced to work without four players (and Brady's wife went ahead and had a baby on Tuesday).
I think the Patriots can win without a problem, but two touchdowns? Unlikely.
New York Jets (-3) over TAMPA BAY
They say this is a quarterback's league. Well, hold on to your hats for the Kellen Clemens–Josh Freeman showdown in Tampa.
Freeman is coming off a fantastic five-interception performance against the Panthers, while Clemens put his skills on display in relief duty last Thursday, completing one of two pass attempts and getting sacked three times against the Bills.
Fortunately for the Jets, they have Thomas Jones.
Miami (+2.5) over JACKSONVILLE
The Dolphins have to be flying high after beating the Patriots, and considering this one will hardly be a road game, it'd be hard to rely on the spotty Jags.
Now let's move on quickly before I realized I picked Chad Henne.
BALTIMORE (-13) over Detroit
Has a 13-point spread ever looked so good?
Seattle (+6) over HOUSTON
The 5-3 Texans turned into the 5-7 Texans quickly. Yikes. There's just no stabilizing force on that team. Seattle has been as unreliable as it gets, so I'll just close my eyes and pray the points are enough.
TENNESSEE (-13) over St. Louis
Here are a couple favorable numbers: The Rams are 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games on grass, and the Titans are 9-3 against the spread against teams with losing records. And now that that whole "can the Titans run the table and make the playoffs" talk is all but eliminated, maybe Tennessee will play a little more loosely. Something tells me that won't be a problem for Vince Young.
Washington (-1) over OAKLAND
God bless your little soul if you watch this one from start to finish.
San Diego (+3) over DALLAS
This one just seems too easy. For two weeks now, the leading storyline in the league seems to be that the Chargers are something like 698-4 in December over the past five years, while the Cowboys are something like 2-978. My numbers might be off a little. But still.
Philadelphia (+1) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Yeah, the Giants got their big win last week against the Cowboys, but like I said before, my high school team could apparently beat the Cowboys in December (go Cougars!). That's not even taking into account how good the Eagles looked last week as they absolutely dismantled the Falcons in Atlanta. It just seems like an odd line to me, so I'm hopping on the Eagles train.
Arizona (-3) over SAN FRANCISCO
I just can't shake the image of the frenzied San Francisco sideline on Monday night in Week 10 last year. If you don't remember, the Niners had already blown a big league over the Cardinals in Glendale, but they still had a chance to come back. Shaun Hill got the ball inside the red zone, but the Niners lost all sense of timing and eventually handed the ball to Michael Robinson at the 2-yard line. Predictably, he was stuffed short of the goal line.
It's just impossible to remember that night and still have any sort of confidence in the Niners.
Now, for me, last week was rock bottom. Let's see if we can turn things around for the holidays.
Last week: 5-11