On to the week 12 picks (homes team in caps):
CLEVELAND (- 3 ½) over Houston
If the Texans have any playoff aspirations whatsoever, this is essentially a must-win game (unless you think they can finish the season with a five-game winning streak. Didn’t think so). I do think this tilt will be close. After all, the Browns last three games have all been decided by three points. But there’s just no way I can take the Texans on the road. Especially since I’m not buying the team’s supposed defensive resurgence.
Browns 31 – Texans 27
DETROIT (+3 ½) over Green Bay
Brett Favre in a dome + a Packers team due for a dud + desperate Detroit =
Lions 24 – Packers 21
DALLAS (-14) over New York Jets
My lock of the week. Remember last year’s Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas, when Tony Romo treated Tampa Bay like a week-old turducken? I sense a sequel, only this time the Jets will play the role previously held by the Buccaneers.
Cowboys 42 – Jets 13
ATLANTA (+12) over Indianapolis
I know the Falcons are trash. And I know Joey Harrington will be prominently involved. But the Colts needed a last second field goal at home to dispatch a Chiefs team featuring a QB making his first career start last week. In other words, I don’t expect Indy to cover such a large spread this time around.
Colts 24 – Falcons 17
Denver (+2) over CHICAGO
No, I’m not yet sold on the suddenly surging Broncos. But at least they’re showing some signs of competence these days, which is more than I can say for Chicago.
Broncos 23 – Bears 20
Tennessee (-1 ½) over CINCINNATTI
After back-to-back losses, the Titans need a bit of a confidence booster. And few teams can provide them quite like the bungling Bengals.
Titans 27 – Bengals 20
Buffalo (+7 ½) over JACKSONVILLE
Good to see people are starting to climb aboard the Jaguars’ bandwagon again. That must mean it’s just about time to hop off.
Jaguars 24 – Bills 23
KANSAS CITY (- 5 ½) over Oakland
I’m not crazy about taking the Chiefs here. This match-up often comes down to a last-minute field goal. But the Kansas City defense should be good enough to win this game on its own. Considering their offense (or lack thereof), they might have to.
Chiefs 20 – Raiders 10
ST. LOUIS (+3) over Seattle
Good to see my preseason sleeper finally showing a pulse. Too bad it took the Rams two months to do so.
Rams 28 – Seahawks 27
NEW YORK GIANTS (-7) over Minnesota
There’s nothing too mysterious about the Vikings. You take them when they’re at home and you run far, far away when they hit the road.
Giants 27 – Vikings 17
CAROLINA (+3) over New Orleans
Stay away from road favorites not named the Patriots. That’s been my mantra all year. And it has served me quite well.
Panthers 20 – Saints 19
Washington (+3) over TAMPA BAY
I don’t know what it is about this Tampa team, but I just can’t really muster any enthusiasm for them. Yet, somehow, they’re headed to the playoffs and will probably even advance to the second round. Yes, the NFC is really that bad.
Redskins 20 – Buccaneers 17
ARIZONA (-10) over San Francisco
I know Miami is winless. But for my money, the 49ers are the worst team in the league. You’ll never convince me otherwise.
Cardinals 27 – 49ers 10
SAN DIEGO (-9 ½) over Baltimore
You have no idea how much I detest taking the Chargers here. I just have a feeling this is one of those weeks when San Diego’s talent shines through, fooling people (Peter King, I’m talking to you) into thinking the Chargers are back on track and ready for the stretch run. Guess what? They’re not. And they never will be as long as Norv Turner and Ted Cottrell remain involved. What a waste.
Chargers 31 – Ravens 13
NEW ENGLAND (-23) over Philadelphia
How high will New England’s spreads go? Not high enough for me to stop taking them, that’s for sure. It kills me how many people have shied away from picking the Pats this year, just because the spread is 17 points. Have you seen this team play!?!?!? They’re freaking unbelievable! Yet, somehow, far too many people get duped into taking the points each week. Don’t be one of those people. Please. You’re smarter than that.
Bonus prediction: Since the Pats own San Francisco’s first round pick in the upcoming draft, it’s looking increasingly likely that New England may have the No. 2 overall selection. If that happens, get ready for Bill Simmons and a host of other writers to churn out columns comparing the Pats juggernaut to the tremendous ’86 Boston Celtics team. After winning a title with one of the all-time great squads, the Celts also found themselves with the No. 2 pick. The man chosen: Len Bias. The Celtics — and the NBA -- were never the same.
Patriots 45 – Eagles 17
PITTSBURGH (-16) over Miami
I know, I know. The Dolphins are looking increasingly frisky while the Steelers are limping into this contest. I just think Pittsburgh will have something to prove and there’s no doubt this is a different team when playing in front of the home crowd.
Steelers 34 – Miami 13
Last week against the spread: 8-6-2 (89-61-10 in ’07) Last week straight-up: 11-5 (96-64 in ’07)
- Jason Friedman