Well, you need to trust me: It hurts a lot more to be terrible.
And over the past two weeks, I’ve been brutal, awful and terrible. But in my defense:
- The Lions scored 44 points. They had scored that many points once since Nov. 4, 2007. Sue me for not seeing that one coming.
- The Chargers allowed two blocked punts and had a fumble returned for a touchdown. Against the Raiders. There are unpredictable moments and then there are unpredictable moments. These were unpredictable moments.
- The Saints outgained the Cardinals 358-194 … and lost 30-20.
- Todd Collins went 6-for-16 for 32 yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions for the Bears. And the Bears won 23-6. What?
- Brett Favre and the Vikings had the four-point spread covered, but ol’ No. 4 did the only thing possible to blow it: a touchdown returned for an interception.
OK, so everything but that last bit was unpredictable. This week, it’s make or break time.
And as always, there will be no shortage of Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week’s Picks.
(Home team in caps.)
San Diego -8.5 over ST. LOUIS
The Chargers disgust me. They’re just a gross team. How gross? They’re lose-to-the-Raiders gross. They’re lose-to-the-Seahawks gross.
Though with their NFL-best 461.8 yards per game on offense, they may not be lose-to-the-Rams gross. And when they win, they win big (outscoring the Jaguars and Cardinals 79-23). So consider this my very shaky support for the Chargers, who either win big or lose horribly.
Kansas City (+4.5) over HOUSTON
I’ve been riding the Romeo Express since Week 1, and it has been something to watch. Anyone in New England watching the Chiefs baffle Peyton Manning last week felt a little pain in their heart, remembering the glory days of the Patriots’ defense with Romeo Crennel in charge.
OK, back to the present, where Houston is not a tough place to play. The Texans have been outscored 85-57 in their own building, and they’re giving up the most passing yards in the league. Even Matt Cassel can take advantage of that.
NEW ENGLAND (-3) over Baltimore
This one, frankly, makes no sense, but at this point I’m coming close to abandoning hope on logical Patriots picks. I gave them no chance to beat the Dolphins or the Bengals this year, and they had both games won on the opening kick of the second half. I thought they’d beat the Jets and dominate the Bills, and neither happened.
So really, I think the Ravens are a nightmare for the Patriots, but I’ll throw my eggs in the Tom Brady–Deion Branch basket and see what happens. It’s also never a bad idea to stick with Bill Belichick coming off a bye (8-2 record).
RWFLWP: “I haven’t seen anything out of the Ravens that make me think they’re a big-win kind of team.”
Note: The Ravens went ahead and opened up a 17-0 lead in the first half. Point taken.
New Orleans (-4.5) over TAMPA BAY
The Saints’ utter inability to run the ball is getting problematic. With injuries to Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, the Saints are 31st in rushing yards per game (75.6). It’s definitely taking its toll on the 3-2 defending Super Bowl champs.
They’re no longer a team that inspires confidence, but I think it’s worth staying on the Saints’ ship for one more week. We know the Bucs are 3-1, but we don’t know much more about them. This game will swing the seasons of both teams, one way or another.
RQFLWP: “I also feel a little better [picking the Saints because] the Cardinals don’t have a quarterback. It’s always tough to win in the NFL when you don’t have one of those.”
Note: Max Hall must have read this and gotten fired up, because the guy got his head knocked off (literally) and missed just 2:19 of game time. Sure, his passing numbers were ugly, but this guy might just be the man.
Atlanta (+3) over PHILADELPHIA
The reports say that Michael Vick may or may not play on Sunday, but with a game against the Falcons, it’s going to be hard to keep him off the field. What kind of an impact he’ll have, that’s another question.
How much he’ll be able to handle the ball is yet another question. The Philly defense allows the 25th-most rushing yards per game (125.8). Unfortunately for the Eagles, they’ll be going against the second-best rushing team in the league.
Thanks to Michael Turner and Jason Snelling, Atlanta should be able to eke out a close one.
Detroit (+10) over NEW YORK GIANTS
I’ve been rallying hard against the Giants all season, but the defensive line has thrown that strategy out the window.
That doesn’t make picking them to cover a 10-point spread easy, though. Their locker room headaches (looking at you, Mr. Jacobs) and unpredictablity have this one looking like the perfect letdown game. The fact that the Lions just put up 44 points isn’t the main factor for this pick as much as the way they’ve kept their games close, despite the 1-4 record. They’re outscoring opponents 126-112, and they’re playing more like a middle-of-the-pack team than a bottom-of-the-pack team.
That’s not great, but it’s enough for me to take the 10 points.
CHICAGO (-6.5) over Seattle
As mentioned earlier, if Chicago can win by 17 points behind the worst quarterbacking performance of all time, they should be able to win every week. With Jay Cutler back in there, all should be well.
RQFLWP: “Granted, we all watched Julius Peppers beat the Packers almost singlehandedly two weeks ago, but Chicago must have the worst backup quarterback situation in the history of football.”
Note: While the second point remains true, the first point was undervalued. Peppers, in front of his former home crowd, had four tackles and the coolest interception ever made.
Miami (+3.5) over GREEN BAY
This one is obviously dependent on Aaron Rodgers‘ status, and the line is likely to shift once he’s officially ruled out. Should it shift, and should this be a pick ’em, I still might take Miami, a team that shot itself in the foot too many times against the Patriots two weeks ago. The final score was ugly, but the Dolphins didn’t really get the chance to get going.
Cleveland (+13.5) over PITTSBURGH
Ben Roethlisberger will almost undoubtedly win his first game back, but I wouldn’t count on it being a rout.
The Browns are a competitive team. Even if their 1-4 record doesn’t show it, and even if they’re in the bottom third of most statistical categories, they can keep games close. They’re only getting outscored by 3.8 points on average, and the Steelers offense will need some time to find its rhythm with Roethlisberger.
RQFLWP: “You just can’t pick the Browns if they’re getting anything less than a touchdown. Just not a good business move.”
Note: The Browns were only trailing 13-10 for what seemed like seven hours last Sunday before Jake Delhomme threw a pick-six. Definitely too close for comfort.
New York Jets (-3) over DENVER
I don’t see any reason to pick Denver. Literally not one.
They can throw the ball with the best of them, but you’ll need to run the ball to win consistently in this league. Broncos’ backs yards per carry numbers are just atrocious:
Knowshon Moreno: 2.8
Correll Buckhalter: 1.9
Laurence Maroney: 1.9
Obviously, Darrelle Revis‘ questionable status makes this one difficult, but even without him, the Jets are athletic enough to slow down Kyle Orton‘s offensive attack.
Plus, it’s Kyle Orton. How long can this madness really continue?
SAN FRANCISCO (-6.5) over Oakland
I think San Francisco picks up its first win of the season this week, but why does that line have to be so agonizing? Are the 49ers, a team that hasn’t beaten anybody, a touchdown better than the Raiders?
I’ll say yes, with the hope that Alex Smith turned a corner last week. Know, though, that it’s hope and nothing more.
RQFLWP: [Upon seeing the Chargers only being favored by 6.5 points over the Raiders] Really? Granted, it hasn’t turned out so well for me this year when I start questioning spreads with rhetorical questions … but really?”
Note: It’s probably time to stop the rhetorical questions.
MINNESOTA (-1.5) over Dallas
I believe it was Mike Tirico on Monday night who dubbed this the “Panic Button Bowl.” It’s certainly appropriate.
It was just a few short months ago that these two teams were squaring off in the playoffs. Now, they’re both 1-3 and are facing a must-win in mid-October. Yikes.
Favre, despite milking his elbow injury for all its worth, will be tossing that deep ball up for Randy Moss all day long in front of the home crowd. Fortunately, just about the entire country will get to watch.
Indianapolis (-3) over WASHINGTON
The Colts are a team that can be messed with this year, but not this week. The Redskins allow 298 passing yards per game, good enough for third-worst in the league. You can win a few games with a defense like that, but you can’t beat Peyton Manning. Especially not on national television.
Tennessee (-3) over JACKSONVILLE
Is this really the Monday night game? Do I have to watch? Really?
I guess, at some point, you have to buy into the fact that the Jaguars are 3-2. But you also have to understand that they’re susceptible to the blowout loss. They lost to the Chargers by 25 points and the Eagles by 25 points … right before they beat the Colts.
Translation: You should probably stay away from touching any Jacksonville game this year.
For this one, I like the Titans’ resume just a little more than that of the Jags. Really, though, I don’t like much else.
Hopefully by Monday night, I like my record for the week. I’m starting to forget what that feels like.
Last week: 5-9