Bill Belichick hasn't lost a game coming off a bye week since 2002. Back then, Rob Gronkowski was 13 years old, BiBi Jones was 11 and Twitter hadn't yet been invented. That was a long time ago.
Since '01, the Patriots are 9-1 when coming off their bye week, outscoring opponents 282-137. Their average margin of victory was 17.
Long story short: They're good when coming off a bye. Just look at the man in the photo above. Does that look like a man who plans to lose this weekend? I didn't think so.
Add in that Tom Brady is 4-1 and has thrown for 12 touchdowns and just three picks against Pittsburgh (plus 2-0 with two more touchdowns in the playoffs), and that only Matt Cassel's Patriots have lost to the Steelers since Halloween of 2004, and you've got yourself one easy pick this week.
The rest of them? Not so much.
We'll get into those while reliving some Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week's Picks (RQFLWP) while we're at it.
(Home team in caps.)
Jacksonville (+10) over HOUSTON
This is a classic case of how to deal with overreacting from last week, and it works both ways. Are the Jaguars not a disaster anymore because they won the ugliest football game I've ever seen? No, they still are. Very much so.
But are the Texans really a 41-point-scoring juggernaut? In the words of the almighty Al Borlin, I don't think so, Tim.
Now as much as I hate the Jaguars here, the average score of their games this year is 20-12 in favor of the opponent. That's tightened in recent weeks, too (10-point loss, four-point loss, five-point win). Maybe they're improving just enough to lose 20-13 this week. I trust that more than I trust back-to-back weeks of two Texans running backs each going for 100 yards.
TENNESSEE (-9) over Indianapolis
I wanted to pick Indy. I really did. But I can't. There are things in this world that some of us just can't do, and picking Indy needs to be one of those things.
RQFLWP: "Until [Andre Johnson] returns, I expect a lot of inconsistency out of Houston, enough so that I'll take a chance on the Titans. They're not exactly as bad as they looked last week."
Note: The Titans lost to the Texans 41-7. They're actually not as bad as they looked the previous week. No — they're much, much worse. Still, they'll probably blow out the Colts.
Arizona (+13.5) over BALTIMORE
Only in the NFL can you gain 146 total yards of offense one week in a loss to a 1-5 team and be favored by two touchdowns the following week. And only in the NFL does that two-touchdown spread present a difficult challenge.
Sure, the Cardinals have lost five straight and have no chance of winning this game, but the Ravens have much too much work to do on a short week to have an offensive outburst against anyone, let alone the … oh, wait. The Cardinals allow 388.3 yards and 25.6 points per game. This one's tricky.
When it gets tricky, though, you just pick against Joe Flacco when he needs to cover a 14-point spread. It's easy, really. Look — I just did it!
RQFLWP: "Who wouldn't get excited to watch the 32nd-best passing attack air it out to see if it can reach its weekly average of 138 yards?"
Note: What's funny is that the Jaguars didn't even come close to that mark — they finished with 73 passing yards. Seventy-three! In the NFL! And they ? won by five. That's just one of those things that makes you want to stop watching football altogether.
New Orleans (-13.5) over ST. LOUIS
Even if the Saints hadn't won 62-7 last week, I'd like them big here. But they did win 62-7 last week, so this is even easier.
RQFLWP: "I understand the Rams are horrible, but the Cowboys are 2-3, may be without their top running back and have won their two games by a combined five points. You understand why this line is crazy, yes? Good.
Note: The Rams are so much worse than any of us could have ever imagined. My bad.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-10) over Miami
Tom Coughlin's record with the Giants coming out of a bye week (4-3) isn't exactly as pristine as Belichick's, but they're 3-0 in the last three seasons and have averaged 40 points in those wins. Against a Dolphins defense that allowed Tim Tebow to draw comparisons to John Elway (for a few minutes at least), I like their chances to keep that up. (Then, the 5-2 Giants will lose five straight, but we'll wait another week for that one.)
CAROLINA (-3) over Minnesota
It's crazy how if Donovan McNabb were still the Vikings' quarterback, this line would be seven, without question.
In other news, I have a feeling that Minnesota's 29th-ranked passing defense will have trouble containing Cam Newton (another rookie who is better than McNabb) and Steve Smith.
BUFFALO (-6) over Washington
Make or break time for the Bills. Do you want to continue this dance as a legitimate contender, or are you going to fade away like you've done before?
I see Buffalo hanging on for another week, if only because the Redskins are as mediocre as it gets. Seriously, they're 3-3, have a point differential on the season of zero, rank 14th on offense, rank 12th on defense and their quarterback is John Beck. If that's not destiny for an 8-8 season, I don't know what is.
Detroit (-2.5) over DENVER
Sorry, Tebow Time, it'd be real fun to stick around with you for one more week, but I know how lucky you were to win that game last week against one of the worst teams in football. Combine that with the fact that Detroit has lost two in a row and is really, really, really angry about it, and I can state with full confidence that this Sunday will not be Tebow Time.
Hopefully, though, I'll see you soon, because these ridiculous songs on YouTube are too awful for me to live without.
New England (-2.5) over PITTSBURGH
I was really expecting an 8.5-point line for this one. That's partially due to the Patriots' bye week success, as mentioned earlier, partially due to the Patriots' dismantling of the Steelers last year, partially due to Gronkowski's three touchdowns in Pittsburgh last year and his motivation to shut everyone up about his porn star pictures this week, and partially due to the fact that I could not possibly feel any more foolish than if I picked Pittsburgh and then watched Brady pick apart that same defense he's been picking apart forever.
SAN FRANCISCO (-9) over Cleveland
It's like this sick joke the NFL has where it can't have a slate of games on a Sunday without one that makes you downright nauseous. The thought of even watching this game is making me a little queasy. I'll go with the team that has scored more than three touchdowns since the beginning of the month and move on. Quickly.
Cincinnati (-2.5) over SEATTLE
I started going through the process where I anticipate what the spread for each game will be then decide if I'd make a pick based on that spread. For 12 games this week, I either wrote "Y" for "yes" or "N" for "no." For one game this week, I wrote "K" for "kill me, please." I'll let you guess which one.
Then I picked Cincinnati, just because.
PHILADELPHIA (-3.5) over Dallas
Because I continue to doubt the Cowboys, because I continue to believe the Eagles can win the NFC East, because I have seen Tony Romo throw about 250 interceptions on nationally televised games, because no team needed a bye week more than Philadelphia, and because the Eagles are actually as good as we all thought they'd be in August, I am picking Philadelphia.
Feel free to take Romo in prime time, though. That's always a good decision.
San Diego (-3) over KANSAS CITY
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I said last week that Norv Turner would probably blow the game against the Jets (which he did) but I somehow went against my gut and picked the Chargers to win and cover in New York. Was it stupid? Yes. Would it be just as stupid to pick San Diego to win and cover on the road in a place where Phillip Rivers and Co. looked completely lost last year on a Monday night? Yes!
But I can't in good conscience pick the Kansas City Chiefs. They've won three straight, but that's against the Vikings, Colts and Raiders (combined record of 5-16).
I may not be able to actually stomach watching as I put my trust in Turner and the Bolts on the road again, but I must pick San Diego.
Norv me once, shame on you. Norv me twice, shame on me.
Please don't Norv me twice.
Last week: 5-7-1