Point taken, football gods.
This week, it might be just as bad, with only a handful of games having any meaning whatsoever. There will be seven matchups in which the two teams don't even combine for more wins than the NFL-leading Patriots and Falcons (11). Considering that the Patriots and Falcons have games of their own, that's seven of a possible 14 matchups that are serious stinkers.
Facts which, obviously, make picks infinitely harder.
(Home team in caps.)
SAN DIEGO (-9) over San Francisco
Listen, if the Chargers can't win this game by 50 points, then they don't deserve to even play their last two games.
Ridiculous Quote From Last Week's Picks: "Let's go with … the … Niners. Because I love the color of their pants."
Note: I rest my case. I'm a genius.
Cleveland (+1.5) over CINCINNATI
Out of habit, I've just been picking Cleveland as an underdog. Admittedly, I'm doing so to a fault. But let's see if Peyton Hillis can't shred that 26th-ranked rushing defense that allows 4.6 yards per carry. Given how miffed he was last week after rushing for 108 yards and eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark, my money's on him.
DALLAS (-6) over Washington
As soon as you read the words "Mike Shanahan considering starting Rex Grossman over Donovan McNabb," it's time to run far, far away.
Houston (+1.5) over TENNESSEE
Helluva comeback from the Texans at home. It must have been a thrill for Matt Schaub to throw a game-winning touchdown in overtime at home, even if it was to the other team.
Despite the pick-six that let Baltimore cover and helped me go 8-8 for the week, you have to stick with the team that still has at least some of its soul left in Week 15. I'm just hoping we get to see Finnegan-Johnson II.
RQFLWP: "Come on, three points? I know Joe Flacco's bouncer on fourth-and-you-need-to-complete-this-pass was bad, but what exactly is Houston going to do against Baltimore?"
Note: Well, I looked good for a little while, and then I looked really dumb when Houston charged back, but in the end, I looked OK thanks to the pick-six to lose the game. So, yet again … genius.
Jacksonville (+5) over INDIANAPOLIS
Is this finally the end for Peyton and the Mannings? They certainly haven't been their usual unbeatable selves at home lately.
Maybe, just maybe, we'll see a changing of the guard in the AFC South.
Or we'll see Peyton Manning go into serial-killer mode and crush the hopes of the Jaguars. It's one or the other. I'll take the points.
Kansas City (+1) over ST. LOUIS
As it turns out, that Matt Cassel fella is rather valuable to the Chiefs. He'll probably be back, so the Chiefs will probably score a point this week.
Buffalo (+5.5) over MIAMI
I've been harsh on the Bills, because they're the Bills, but looking at how disappointing Miami's been at home (2-4 against the spread, 1-4 as a home favorite) and how surprising Buffalo's been on the road (4-2 against the spread), let's believe in the Harvard guy for a minute.
Philadelphia (+2.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants put forth the least inspiring 21-3 victory in recent memory. Now, they're dealing with an unplanned short week to prepare for Michael Vick.
Tampa Bay (-6.5) over DETROIT
Interesting tidbit that Gregg Easterbrook publicized this week: Tampa is 8-0 against opponents with a losing record but 0-5 against teams with a winning record. The Lions — surprise of all surprises –are 3-10.
With data like that, who needs to think?
Arizona (+2.5) over CAROLINA
The Cardinals aren't good. We know this. But they scored 43 points last week. And they're playing the worst team ever. The Panthers are really favored?
Either way, let's just hope that you're all sitting down on Sunday, so as not to collapse from the sheer joy you'll be feeling while watching the quarterback battle of John Skelton and Jimmy Clausen.
New Orleans (+1.5) over BALTIMORE
The battle of underachievers. Who wins? Let's apply that same Dolphins logic (the Ravens are 2-4 as a home favorite) and add in that the defending Super Bowl champs will be an underdog for the first time all season.
I've spent the last decade in New England, and I know what can happen to a defending Super Bowl champion that gets labeled as an underdog. It's usually not good for the "favorite."
RQFLWP: "Here's hoping it takes a week for the [New Orleans] offense to get its groove back."
Note: The Saints led 14-0 by the end of the first quarter, 21-3 at halftime and 31-6 just 16 minutes later. So much for that prophecy.
Atlanta (-6.5) over SEATTLE
You know, sometimes it's just no fun to take the clear favorite. Sometimes, you want even the slimmest of reasons to take the underdog that nobody can even imagine could win. This is one of those times, but unfortunately, once you read stories like Steve Kelley's in The Seattle Times, you just can't do it:
"The Falcons are the worst kind of team for the Hawks to face at this time of the season. A balanced offense. A hungry defense. A team with Super Bowl dreams. We're in the midst of another Seahawks swoon. A downward spiral out of which no amount of cliches and pep talks can pull them."
Bummer. Cliches and pep talks are all Pete Carroll is good for. But at least he doesn't regret cutting T.J. Houshmandzadeh and trading Deion Branch. Way to go, Pete! Stick to those guns!
OAKLAND (-6.5) over Denver
Since Week 5, the Broncos have gone 1-8, been outscored 291-182, had their head coach fired, had an assistant coach get caught taping an opponents' practice and lost on two different continents and in five different time zones.
Unless they're getting 45 points, you'd be a fool to even think about taking them. And 45 might still give you pause.
RQFLWP: "Let's just jump on the "You can't really explain it, but teams seem to win the week after they fire their coach" theory."
Note: Uhh. That did not work out. Not even a little.
New York Jets (+6) over PITTSBURGH
Hmm. What to make of these two teams. Ben Roethlisberger looks like he just had very unsuccessful plastic surgery, while the lasting images of Mark Sanchez from last Sunday look like this. And this. Also, this.
You get the point.
Ultimately, I'll go with the Jets, because as fun as it would be to sit here and laugh at the Jets for having no mental toughness and all of that, they do have it in them to rise up and win a big game late in the year.
(Sure, maybe those two games were gift-wrapped last year, and sure, maybe they've never won in the state of Pennsylvania, but I see this team rallying around the whole "Tripgate" drama and winning a big game.)
(I also see them losing the following week.)
NEW ENGLAND (-11) over Green Bay
Based on Mike McCarthy's comments Wednesday, when he said Aaron Rodgers couldn't even sit through film, you shouldn't hold your breath for a Rodgers-Tom Brady quarterback showdown. And with the way the Pats are playing, and with Matt Flynn lining up under center for Green Bay, you have to think a two-touchdown victory should come pretty easily for New England.
RQFLWP: "The only concern I have about the Patriots taking care of business is that Soldier Field turf."
Note: Clearly, with 475 yards of offense and 40 minutes of ball possession, the Pats were hampered tremendously.
Chicago (-3) over MINNESOTA
"Oh yeah, it's frustrating. Just look at my face right now. I'm disgusted a little bit. Not a little bit, a lot. I'm disgusted a lot."
Just look at his face right now, America. Just look at the man's face.
Last week: 8-8