That's because the Indianapolis Colts, mercifully, are on their bye week, which is good for them, because for the first time since last season, they can't lose! It's bad for me, though, as I've picked against them every single week and gone 7-3 in that span. That's as close to a sure thing as you can ever get in the NFL, and I'll certainly miss seeing Jim Caldwell standing in silence on the sideline, thereby guaranteeing me another victory.
As it is, though, it's still not so bad, as I'll welcome Matt Leinart and Tyler Palko into my world. They should make some picks over the next few weeks a bit easier, as will Michael Vick's broken ribs. When a quarterback has his best asset taken away from him but is still somehow getting respect from Vegas, you've got yourself an easy decision.
I'll be clear that as a human being and as a football fan, I never root for or celebrate injuries. That would just be sick. But I'll tell you, when I'm making my picks each week, I certainly don't mind them.
We'll get into all of that, plus Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week's Picks (RQFLWP), when I went a frustrating 8-8, below.
(Home team in caps.)
New York Jets (-6) over DENVER
With the Jets' season on the brink, and with an extraordinarily short week combined with a long flight across the country, and with a painful loss to a hated rival still stinging, I really wish the Jets were playing a football team which employs a quarterback who can pass. I really do, because then it'd be so easy to pick against the Jets on Thursday.
As such, the Jets catch a major break with Tim Tebow, who was an astounding 2-for-8 last week. (Hilariously, that was good enough for a 102.6 quarterback rating. Sweet stat!)
The Jets are reeling, but they're good enough to beat the Broncos, who are 2-4 in games against teams with a winning record, losing by a combined score of 180-129. The Jets will win by 10, and we'll ride another leg of the Rex Ryan roller coaster. One week they're great, the next week they're awful. They're great, they're awful, great, awful. This week, they'll be great again.
RQFLWP: "All the Broncos can do is run the football. … Problem is, Kansas City can stop the run with pretty good success."
Note: The Broncos ran for 244 yards.
Tampa Bay (+14.5) over GREEN BAY
I'm slowly accepting the fact that Tampa Bay is just not a good team. It's unfortunate, because I had such high hopes, but it's pretty evident that they can't even hang with good teams, let alone beat them.
They're 1-4 in their last five, outscored by an average of 22.5 points in those losses. However, I always hate these two-touchdown spreads. Unless Mike McCarthy throws this one on purpose to avoid the 16-0 talk, there's no way the Packers lose, but, they haven't put together back-to-back blowouts this season.
They beat Denver by 26, but then beat Atlanta by 11 the following week. The beat the Rams by 21, but then only beat the Vikings by six points the next week. It doesn't make sense, no, but neither does this sport. I have the Bucs losing by 13.
CLEVELAND (pick 'em) over Jacksonville
I've literally never been this confident to pick the Browns. Something's wrong here. That something is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars went into last week's game against the 0-9 Colts averaging 124 passing yards per game. Amazingly, they came out of it averaging 122.1! They got worse against the Colts. Meanwhile, the Browns, somehow, are the NFL's best passing defense, surrendering just 163.3 yards per game through the air.
That's just one matchup, sure, but it's a rather significant one. In other news, Jack Del Rio still has a job as the Jaguars coach. The world is a funny place.
Oakland (-1) over MINNESOTA
Some teams rally together after getting slaughtered on national television on a Monday night against the best football team in the world. The 2011 Minnesota Vikings are not one of those teams.
RQFLWP: "The Oakland Raiders can't stop anybody."
Note: They stopped the Chargers. Right in my face.
Carolina (+7) over DETROIT
How relieving it is to see the Carolina Panthers back as a big underdog, where they belong. Their specialty this year is scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown to cover a six-point spread by the skin of their teeth.
I'm not as down on the Lions after they've lost three of four as some other folks might be, but seven points is an awful lot for a team that's looked downright bad for the better part of a month.
RQFLWP: "I pick against the Bears as often as possible, because they're the Bears, but especially on a short week. Detroit will roll. Thanks for the 2.5 points, though, just to be safe."
Note: By far the worst prediction of the week. That game was over in the first quarter.
Buffalo (+2) over MIAMI
OK, what is going on here? The 0-7 Dolphins beat the Chiefs and then Rex and the Grossmans, and they're all of a sudden a two-point favorite over the team that was everyone's darling a month ago?
I know a 44-7 beatdown from Tony and the Romos doesn't help matters, but never have I seen a team go from Sports Illustrated cover to underdog against the 2-7 Dolphins so quickly. They can't be this bad.
RQFLWP: "DeMarco Murray may run wild against that leaky run D, but Fred Jackson will answer right back."
Note: This turned out to be true (Murray rushed for 135, while Jackson ran for 114), but it didn't prevent the Bills from losing by 37 points. Go figure.
Any Team for the Rest of the Year (-13.5) over Matt Leinart
The Houston Texans aren't playing this week, but if you think I'm going to wait a week to chime in on Mr. Leinart, then you don't know me well at all. It's unfortunate for Texans fans, who literally watched as the NFL paved a perfect path to the playoffs for Houston. No Peyton Manning, an awful Jaguars team and a mostly mediocre Titans team, combined with a two-headed rushing attack of Ben Tate and Arian Foster and a talented receiving corps that hasn't been hurt with the loss of Andre Johnson for most of the season, and it was all there for the taking.
Now, Leinart will line up under center for the foreseeable future, meaning that 7-3 record could really end up at 8-8 by season's end. Unless, you know, Leinart's career 14 touchdowns and 20 interceptions were just a fluke. They still might make the playoffs, but it'll only be by default, and they'll be down 20-0 after their first postseason quarter. What a shame.
Brett Favre Rumors (-3 million) over Rumors That Actually Make Sense
Look, from an entertainment standpoint, I'd love nothing more than to see the ol' gunslinger back under center getting his body buried into the ground as he throws pick after pick after pick, but let's be real. The guy is done. His career ended, unfortunately, with a concussion. He's 42. He's done. He's not going to Houston.
Dallas (-7.5) over WASHINGTON
Last week, I picked the Redskins because I thought John Beck was going to be their quarterback. Had I known Grossman was going to get the start, I'd have never picked them.
Let's say that again, in case you missed it: I'm more comfortable with John Beck than I am with Rex Grossman. That's disgusting.
Grossman will be back under center on Sunday. Cowboys roll.
RQFLWP: "I've stated many times this season that I believe Washington to be the perfect picture of mediocrity. And a mediocre Washington team should beat a horrible Miami team."
Note: I'm coming around to the possibility that Washington is slightly worse than mediocre.
BALTIMORE (-7) over Cincinnati
I was hoping deep down that the oddsmakers wouldn't take too much from Baltimore's pitiful showing last weekend and only make the Ravens a two- or three-point favorite. No dice.
I know for a fact that the Bengals will lose this game. In their six wins, their opponents have a combined record of 19-36; in their three losses, the opponents are 19-9. They're just not nearly as good as that 6-3 record indicates, and a rookie quarterback against an angry Ed Reed and Ray Lewis is a recipe for disaster. I'd be nervous if the Bengals really only lost by seven last week, but if you watched that game, you know it wasn't that close.
UPDATE, Friday: It looks like angry Ray Lewis won't play. I'm still not sure that will be enough to save Andy Dalton.
As an aside, Marshawn Lynch faking Lewis out of his jockstrap was by far my favorite play of Week 10. Such a violent head fake. Woof.
RQFLWP: "There may be a planet somewhere in this universe where I could pick the Seattle Seahawks as a seven-point underdog against the Baltimore Ravens. I do not currently inhabit that planet."
Note: If there's anyone on this planet who did pick the Seahawks, I'd like to meet him. And then smack him in the mouth.
Arizona (+9.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
Picking San Fran seemed too obvious, too easy, so I desperately started searching for a reason to believe in Arizona. A two-game win streak behind John Skelton (John Skelton?) was a good start, as was Larry Fitzgerald's best game of the season coming last weekend. I'll add in my completely unmeasurable assessment that San Francisco is due for a mini-letdown after all but clinching their division and inching closer to a first-round bye with last week's win over the Giants, and I see at the very least a close game. I won't be stunned it the Cardinals pull off the upset.
Remember, 8-1 record or not, these are still the 49ers.
ST. LOUIS (-2) over Seattle
Some games just make me ill. They usually involve either the Rams or Seahawks. You can imagine my feelings toward this game. We have the 25th-ranked Rams offense against the 15th-ranked Seahawks defense. We have the 29th-ranked Seahawks offense against the 24th-ranked Rams defense. It boggles my mind that, barring a tie, one of these teams is going to win two straight games for the first time all season.
I'm picking the Rams at home, but you'd have a better chance of getting a first-grader with boogers dripping out of his nose to explain calculus than you would asking me to explain why I like St. Louis.
RQFLWP: "The St. Louis Rams aren't very good, but they're not 1-15 bad. They're going to win again, and why not against the Browns?"
Note: After a 13-12 St. Louis victory, this actually turned out to be the most clairvoyant thing I said last week. That, however, doesn't make it any less ridiculous.
ATLANTA (-6) over Tennessee
At least once a week, I'll admit that I get completely stumped. In this case, with two teams that both might not be as good as their 5-4 records indicate, I'm right there. In those instances, I go to Covers.com for what I can only deem as Ridiculous Justifications for Picking an NFL Team Against Another NFL Team. RJPNFLTAANFLT for short, of course.
Right off the bat, I learned that the Titans are 6-13 against the spread in games against opponents with a winning record. That's ridiculous enough for me.
CHICAGO (-3.5) over San Diego
At some point, I'm going to have to stop doubting Jay Cutler and the Bears, who are on an absolute roll since getting embarrassed on Monday night in Week 5. They're 4-0 since then, and even when Cutler completes nine passes for 123 yards on the road, they can still beat the Lions by 24 points.
The Chargers, meanwhile, are going in the exact opposite direction, as their 4-1 pre-bye record has quickly turned into a 4-5, Norv Turner-is-terrible record.
I'm a little perplexed as to why this line is only 3.5, so I'm just going to make the pick and move on quickly, before anyone notices.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-4) over Philadelphia
Michael Vick is a tough guy, no doubt, but he's making a mockery of his own health every single year. The cracked ribs he suffered last week will likely keep him out this week, but it's silly to even think he'd play through that pain. What good is he if he can't get hit, which he does on just about every play? And what good is he if he can't run freely around the football field, which is his biggest strength?
There's certainly reason for doubting the Giants, but they can win a must-win divisional game in Week 11 — they're good enough for that, especially with Matt Dodge no longer a part of the equation.
P.S. — While I know reports say Vince Young will likely be the starter, I have my doubts. I base that on a Falcons-Patriots game from October 2005, when the Patriots prepared all week for Vick, only to see Matt Schaub start on Sunday. The Patriots were miffed that the Falcons manipulated the injury report to mislead them and affect their preparation, and from that point on (if I'm not mistaken) you saw Tom Brady listed as probable on the injury report for just about every single week thereafter.
I know it was the Falcons, not the Eagles, who did that, but it's the same unique quarterback. The Eagles would be smart to give the Giants hints that Young will start, only to surprisingly throw Vick under center on Sunday. I still don't think it'll be enough.
P.P.S. — If Young does play, tell Mathias Kiwanuka to wrap up this time.
NEW ENGLAND (-15) over Kansas City
Tales of the New England defense becoming a legitimate NFL squad are far too premature (they still rank 32nd in total defense, and by a healthy margin). Those stories are only going to increase in quantity, though.
That's thanks to Mr. Palko, who I had legitimately never heard of before Tuesday. (I used him in the photo for this story, but I am just taking The Associated Press' word for it. That could literally be anyone in the world, and I wouldn't know the difference.) I don't pretend to be a college football guru, but I pay enough attention to know the names that are worth knowing. Never heard of Palko. Sure, maybe I did back in 2004, but that was long time ago. Since then, I just haven't kept up on who was quarterbacking the UFL's California Redwoods or the CFL's Montreal Alouettes.
Now, in his first NFL start, all the guy needs to do is win on the road, in New England, against Bill Belichick, on Monday night on national television. This is going to get ugly.
Last week: 8-8