Jason’s Friedman’s NFL Picks, Week Seven: No Light at the End of the Tunnel Just Yet

I have to admit, I’m starting to lose faith in the Gary Kubiak era. My concern has very little to do with Gary Kubiak the coach. Actually, it has very little to do with Gary Kubiak at all. Sure, his clock-management too often evokes memories of Jack Pardee, but he’s a decent enough coach overall; seemingly possessing little that would make him either extraordinary or horrible at his job. His 9-13 record as head coach is less than stellar to be sure, but when you account for the fact he took over a 2-14 team, it’s hard to judge the man too harshly at this point.

No, my major concern lies with the talent at Kubiak’s disposal. Namely, there just isn’t enough of it. Now that’s no news flash of course, but hear me out.

Let’s assume the Texans finish the year somewhere in the vicinity of 8-8. That would be a modest improvement upon last season and would be more than enough to ensure Kubes comes back for his third year with the team. But year three is when things get dicey, because it almost has to be approached with a playoffs-or-bust mentality, doesn’t it? I say yes. And considering the talent in the top-heavy AFC, one has to wonder if the Texans would be able to hit the post-season jackpot in 2008, even after another off-season of improvement.

Perhaps I’m being too negative. The Texans’ great start got everyone fired up (me included) and gave birth to unrealistic expectations. Hey, it happens. As fans, sometimes you get so accustomed to sloppy, boring, pathetic football that it’s easy to get carried away by the slightest hint of something different; even if it’s only two games. Now having watched the Texans muddle their way through the last three weeks, reality has returned: this is a .500 team at best.

Is that so bad? Before the season began, I predicted an 8-8 record for the steel-blue crew and said it would feel like “a ray of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.” But six weeks into the season, 8-8 doesn’t look too attractive anymore. Maybe that’s because mediocrity is still mediocrity, any way you slice it. Or perhaps it’s because – six years into its existence – this franchise still has no discernable on-field identity of which to speak.

Like it or not, the Texans are still defined by draft day 2006. That decision continues to dominate the airwaves and message boards. Its impact is felt on the field and in the stands. And all the while, the principals involved play their roles as if governed by the pen of Shakespeare, himself: Reggie, the golden child with a hidden dark side (or so it would seem). Vince, the forever-doubted hero who clears every hurdle and always prevails. And Mario, the man-child whose overwhelming physical blessings become an unasked-for burden, impossible to bear.

It’s a tale that has all the makings of an all-time classic; unless, of course, you’re a Texans fan. For those poor unfortunate souls who bleed battle red, right now this story reads more like a James Patterson novel: one filled with uninspired dialogue, mundane plot twists and a transparent, trashy ending you see coming from a mile away.

Let’s hope a rewrite is coming soon.

On to the Week Seven picks (home team in caps).

Tennessee (-1 ½) over HOUSTON

You didn’t think I’d pick the Texans after reading that Debbie Downer of an intro, did you?

Titans 22 – Texans 20

WASHINGTON (-8) over Arizona

Kurt Warner or no Kurt Warner, I don’t think the Cards have a chance in this one.

Redskins 23 – Cardinals 13

Atlanta (+8 ½) over NEW ORLEANS

Sorry, it’s going to take much more than a win over an overrated Seattle team for me to truly believe the Saints are back on track and ready to dominate.

Saints 24 – Falcons 20

BUFFALO (+3) over Baltimore

With just a smidgen of good fortune, the Bills would be 3-4 right now. So they’re better than you think they are. Baltimore, meanwhile, is not.

Ravens 19 – Bills 17

DALLAS (-9 ½) over Minnesota

I – like the rest of the football world – have a major man-crush on Adrian Peterson. If the Vikes ever consider organizing another Love Boat cruise, I’m going to sneak on board so I can have some alone time with the object of my desire. But even though love is blindness, there’s no way in hell I’m dumb enough to take Tavaris Jackson on the road against a pissed-off Cowboys team.

Cowboys 34 – Vikings 17

New England (-16 ½) over MIAMI

Speaking of things I’m not dumb enough to do: Under no circumstances will I ever be picking anyone over the Pats this season. Not even in an obvious trap game. What? You want to take Cleo Lemon over Tom Brady? Go right ahead.

Patriots 38 – Dolphins 13

San Francisco (+9 ½) over NY GIANTS

I keep waiting for the wheels to fall of this Giants team. It might not be this week, but trust me, it’s going to happen.

49ers 17 – Giants 16

DETROIT (-2 ½) over Tampa Bay

My philosophy when picking NFC games: almost all teams will eventually gravitate back toward the .500 mark. That means it’s Tampa’s turn to tumble.

Lions 17 – Buccaneers 13

OAKLAND (-3) over Kansas City

I’m sorry, there’s just no way the Chiefs are a 4-3 team. I refuse to believe it. They’re terrible.

Raiders 13 – Chiefs 9

CINCINNATI (-6) over New York Jets

Take heart, Texans fans. At least you’re not supporting one of these two moribund franchises.

Bengals 38 – Jets 27

Chicago (+5 ½) over PHILADELPHIA

Do you think Rex Grossman will ever be a starting quarterback again? He may not have single-handedly destroyed what appeared to be an almost-great Bears team, but he damn near came close. I don’t even think a CFL team would touch him at this point.

Eagles 23 – Bears 20

SEATTLE (-8 ½) over St. Louis

The Rams are the anti-Patriots right now. What a mess.

Seahawks 30 – Rams 17

DENVER (+3 ½) over Pittsburgh

I do believe the Steelers are good. But the fact remains, they still haven’t beaten anyone of consequence. So while Denver isn’t actually a quality team either, I’m curious to see how Pittsburgh responds to the challenge of a night game at Mile High Stadium.

Broncos 23 – Steelers 20

JACKSONVILLE (+3) over Indianapolis

The game of the week. I’m a wee bit concerned that the Jags are a little too pleased with themselves after trouncing the Texans. But Jacksonville’s smash-mouth brand of football always gives Indy fits, so I’m going against my gut and taking team teal.

Colts 24 – Jaguars 23

Last week against the spread: 5-6-2 (44-38-7 in ‘07) Last week straight-up: 8-5 (51-38 in ’07)

-- Jason Friedman