My point: Our knowledge of the sports we love will always fall pitifully short when compared to that of the players and coaches who eat, sleep and breathe the games for a living. But that doesn’t mean those same players and coaches are any better than we are at predicting the outcome of said games. In fact, a fair amount of the time they’re actually worse. The same single-minded focus which helps them succeed on the field can also be blinding off of it. They’re too close to the action to see the entire picture. It’s like those friends who are stuck in a dead-end relationship destined for destruction, only they can’t see the truth because they’re in too deep. Meanwhile, with the benefit of distance and the absence of emotion, you know the outcome months before the final moment actually arrives.
Similarly, you and I know the Texans’ season is going to end for good December 30th. There’s just too much baggage, too much pain, and the timing is all wrong. Sure, things looked promising at the start. They usually do. But soon after that breathless beginning, reality set in. It just wasn’t meant to be. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. You pick up the pieces, learn from your mistakes, and come back better prepared for the next time.
The players and coaches don’t know this yet. In their minds, there’s still a chance to make this thing work. You love them for their determination and will to succeed. But rest assured, the end is coming and when it does, it likely won’t be pretty. Tears and heartache are inevitable. For their sake, and your own (after all, those whiny friends get pretty annoying after awhile), you just hope there are better days ahead.
While we’re on the subject of seeing the future, I guess it’s time for my weekly back tap. Over the course of the last four weeks, my NFL picks are a staggering 37-17-1 against the spread. If more people were using my crystal ball, Vegas would be organizing a hit on me as we speak. So come on, people. Spread the word. I’ve laughed in the face of the gods. You think I’m scared of a little Mafioso action? Bring it on.
There’s one teeny-tiny caveat: This week’s lines are the toughest yet. It’s almost as if I’m playing a video game where the degree of difficulty increases after I successfully complete each level. And if you think I’m doing my best to pad the landing of my inevitable fall from grace, well, you’re probably right.
On to the week 11 picks (home team in caps):
HOUSTON (-1) over New Orleans
Wait a second. Didn’t I just spend the previous 500 words waxing poetic on how the Texans’ season was already doomed? The thing is, the Saints’ season is headed down the same path. They can’t play a lick of defense and their offense, while good, is not operating at the spectacularly high level it did a year ago.
Still, I’m stunned the Texans are listed as favorites for this game. I was really hoping the bookies would give me a couple points, but oh well. I’m taking Houston anyway in a game which could approach 70 combined points and 700 passing yards. In other words, if you’re feeling a bit queasy about taking the Texans, go with the “over” instead.
Texans 34 – Saints 31
San Diego (+3) over JACKSONVILLE
Ugh. Here’s the first of about eight games this week where you might as well just flip a coin. Who knows what you’re going to get with either one of these teams? You know the rule: When in doubt, take the points. It’s served me well thus far.
Jaguars 21 – Chargers 20
INDIANAPOLIS (-14 ½) over Kansas City
This spread is ridiculously high. I mean, half of the Indy lineup is stricken with injuries. But the Colts are at home, and you have to think Peyton Manning is going to unleash some fury after that ugly six-pick debacle Sunday night. And there’s also the little matter of Kansas City practically waiving the white flag by making Brodie Croyle its starter. What’s the best thing I can say about Brodie’s quarterbacking skills? Well, his wife is pretty hot. Sorry, Brodie my boy, that’s the best I can do.
Colts 27 – Chiefs 10
MINNESOTA (-5) over Oakland
True, the Vikes won’t have Adrian Peterson for this one, but fantasy owners who held on to Chester Taylor during a brutal dry spell will finally be rewarded for their patience. I’m thinking 150 yards and 2 TDs. And by the way, I also have a sneaky suspicion we won’t be seeing Peterson again in 2007. Call it a hunch.
Vikings 17 – Raiders 10
BALTIMORE (+3) over Cleveland
Yuck, yuck, yuck. I hate myself for taking the Ravens here. Really, I do. But you know how I feel about road favorites not named the Patriots. And I actually think Baltimore is in much better shape by going with Kyle Boller as their starting QB. Yes, I just typed those words and, yes, I just hurled all over my keyboard as I was typing them. By the way, if you ever want to know why Boller has been such a bust up to this point, check out his companion in this picture. That should explain everything.
Ravens 21 – Browns 20
NEW YORK JETS (+9 ½) over Pittsburgh
I really must have a death wish this week. Or perhaps I think spurning success will increase my street cred. How else can you explain the fact I’m going with the Jets and Ravens -- two of the league’s most horrifically putrid teams -- this week? I really should have just gone all-in and taken Kansas City, too, just so I could brag to my friends about taking the Brodie Croyle, Kyle Boller, and Kellen Clemons unholy trinity of NFL quarterbacks.
That having been said, let it be known that I really like this Pittsburgh team. In fact, I’m convinced that everyone looking forward to another New England-Indianapolis showdown in the AFC Championship game is going to be sorely disappointed. The Steelers will be there. Indy won’t.
Steelers 27 – Jets 20
Tampa Bay (-3) over ATLANTA
I hate my picks this week. Fortunately for you, the reader, that usually bodes well when the final tally is calculated. I’m not sure what that means. But I do know taking Tampa as a road favorite is risky business. On the flip side of that coin, however, lie the Atlanta Falcons. And I want nothing to do with them.
Buccaneers 20 – Falcons 10
CINCINNATI (-3) over Arizona
Can’t bring myself to take Kurt Warner and his bionic left arm on the road, sorry. I know the Bengals are bad. But I just don’t trust the Sultan of Stubble. I feel a four turnover game coming on.
Bengals 27 – Cardinals 17
PHILADELPHIA (-10) over Miami
Finally, a game I like! No, I’m not buying the Philly resurrection. But a rookie QB (John Beck) making his first career start + a winless, hapless Dolphins team on the road = good times for Jason (and the Eagles, of course).
Eagles 30 – Dolphins 13
New England (-16) over BUFFALO
My lock of the week. They couldn’t make this spread high enough. The Pats are coming off a bye week where they got to listen to Don Shula tell them their possibly perfect season is tainted. Just what this team needed: More motivation. I actually feel bad for Buffalo in this game. The Bills don’t deserve this. They also don’t stand a chance.
Patriots 45 – Bills 10
Washington (+10 ½) over DALLAS
Seems like everyone is getting themselves all hot and bothered about Dallas again. Don’t get me wrong, the Cowboys are a good team. But they’re not great. And Wade Phillips is still their coach. If you don’t think that’s a problem, you’ll learn soon enough. Just wait until the playoffs roll around.
Cowboys 24 – Redskins 21
GREEN BAY (-9 ½) over Carolina
The Packers are having one of those old-school Notre Dame seasons. You know, back when the Fighting Irish used to be good. It just seems like every week Green Bay is playing a cupcake at home. Maybe it’s just me. Oh, and just in case you’re worried about this pick: David Carr might be starting for the Panthers. You’ve been warned.
Packers 27 – Panthers 10
DETROIT (+3) over New York Giants
I love this game. I mean, I really LOVE it. For some reason, the majority of the population still seems to think the Giants are good. I’ve been warning you about their impending free-fall for weeks. Come Sunday evening — after New York gets rolled for the second week in a row -- I expect people will want to start calling me Nostradamus. Hey, go right ahead. I’m cool with that.
Lions 34 – Giants 17
St. Louis (-2 ½) over SAN FRANCISCO
How bad are the 49ers? The Rams just won their first game of the season last week, and now they’re a road favorite. And I’m taking them.
Be careful with this one. Don’t bet on it, and for the love of God, don’t watch it. I fear the foolhardy fans who do so are in for the same fate as the Nazis who witnessed the opening of the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Rams 20 – 49ers 13
Chicago (+5 ½) over SEATTLE
I don’t care if rancid Rex Grossman is back under center for the Bears. This Seattle team doesn’t deserve to be favored by 5 ½ points over anyone. Well, anyone except the 49ers, of course.
Seahawks 17 – Bears 13
Tennessee (+2) over DENVER
Time for the Titans to bounce back and Denver to return to reality.
Titans 20 – Broncos 17
Last week against the spread: 9-4-1 (81-55-8 in ’07) Last week straight-up: 8-6 (85-59 in ’07)
- Jason Friedman