There’s been a great deal of outcry and consternation over Mario Williams’s Pro Bowl snub. To be sure, it’s quite a shock, especially when one considers Williams’s place among the AFC’s sack leaders (he’s No. 1). But—call me crazy—I actually see this as a blessing in disguise.
Before the year began, Mario said his goal was to break the single-season sack record. Everyone laughed at the time—including yours truly—considering the paltry numbers he put up during his rookie year. But while he’s nowhere near Michael Strahan’s mark of 22 ½, no one’s laughing anymore. Mario’s been on an epic run the last five weeks, collecting nine sacks in that span. His performance has been Pro Bowl worthy to be sure, and it was even enough to prompt me to send a “Please forgive me!” letter his way.
So why is it a good thing that he got dissed? Because—as we’ve seen so many times in sports—nothing motivates an athlete more than the feeling of having been wronged. I hope Mario feels the sting of that snub every day this summer while he’s working out. Combine his freakish talent with some good old fashioned fury, and there’s no telling what sort of havoc he might unleash upon the league. Who knows, that sack record might be within his massive reach after all.
I love you, Mario.
On to the week 16 picks (home team in caps):
Houston (+7) over INDIANAPOLIS
The RCA Dome has been nothing short of a house of horrors for the Texans over the years. But the Colts don’t have much to play for right now. They’ve already locked up the AFC’s No. 2 seed, and their number one priority is simply making sure everyone’s healthy for the playoffs. Combine that with a Texans team playing its best football since week two, and I think you’ve got the makings of a tight game.
Colts 24 – Texans 20
CAROLINA (+10 ½) over Dallas
I was ready to pick the Cowboys here, since I think they’re due for a bounce back game, and the Panthers are atrocious. But Romo’s injured right hand really concerns me. I mean, with a few days on the road away from Jessica, how is he going to service himself? It’s the little things that are the keys to the game, folks.
Cowboys 24 – Panthers 14
Cleveland (-3) over CINCINNATI
Very tempted to take the Bengals here, but the weather is supposed to be ugly in the Queen City this weekend. That means you have to be able to run the football. And since Cincy can’t run and can’t stop the run, well, my choice is pretty easy.
Browns 17 – Bengals 13
Green Bay (-8 ½) over CHICAGO
I think we’re headed for a Super Bowl for the ages: Green Bay against the undefeated Pats. Brett Favre vs. Tom Brady. Can you even begin to imagine the hype surrounding that game? I don’t know whether I should be giddy with excitement, or desperate to book a vacation to Italy for those two weeks.
Packers 21 – Bears 10
Kansas City (+4 ½) over DETROIT
I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen in this game. And for that matter, anyone who says they do is lying. That much I do know.
Chiefs 27 – Lions 24
NEW ENGLAND (-22) over Miami
I know the Patriots defense is overrated, but please tell me how Miami is going to score in this game. I hope Cleo Lemon enjoyed his AFC Offensive Player of the Week award, because there certainly won’t be a repeat.
Patriots 38 – Dolphins 3
BUFFALO (+3) over New York Giants
My lock of the week. I’ve been high on Buffalo ever since I saw this game on the schedule. Then when I heard Kevin Everett is planning to attend, the outcome was set in stone. The Bills won’t just cover, they’ll win outright. And I don’t even think it will be that close.
Bills 24 – Giants 14
OAKLAND (+13) over Jacksonville
Don’t get me wrong, I’m starting to come around on this Jags team. But the Raiders are surprisingly frisky, and this contest has let down game written all over it.
Jaguars 24 – Raiders 17
Philadelphia (+3) over NEW ORLEANS
I’m sorry, I just refuse to believe in the Saints. They’re sort of like the NFL’s version of Jamie-Lynn Spears. They might seem cute and innocent, but their affiliation makes them destined for disaster. On the plus side however, the Saints probably don’t have to worry about Drew Brees getting knocked up anytime soon.
Eagles 31 – Saints 24
MINNESOTA (-6 ½) over Washington
Seems like it’s about time for Adrian Peterson to explode for another one of those 175 yards, 3 touchdowns, force of nature performances.
Vikings 27 – Redskins 17
ARIZONA (-10) over Atlanta
You know what’s crazy about the Falcons and--by extension--the NFL? Despite Atlanta’s horrific play and drama-filled season, I would not be the least bit surprised to see them become a playoff team in 2008. Seriously.
Cardinals 30 – Falcons 16
SEATTLE (-10) over Baltimore
Let’s see, the Ravens are starting a third string quarterback (rookie Troy Smith) on the road, and have looked like a team content to simply play out the string ever since its heartbreaking loss to New England a couple weeks ago. I don’t see this ending well.
Seahawks 24 – Ravens 13
New York Jets (+9) over TENNESSEE
I’ve said from the beginning that I thought Vince would make the leap in year three, similar to what he did at UT. He’s begun to show signs of progress of late, so the third round of Mario / Reggie / Vince should be quite a show.
Titans 23 – Jets 17
Tampa Bay (-6 ½) over SAN FRANCISCO
Don’t be fooled by San Francisco’s surprising win over Cincinnati last week. The 49ers are still one of the worst teams in the league, and I fully expect them to return to form against Tampa.
Buccaneers 24 – 49ers 10
Denver (+8 ½) over SAN DIEGO
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For all those slowly starting to believe in the San Diego Chargers, I have two sobering words for you: Norv Turner. Don’t be fooled, people. I warned you about the Giants six weeks ago. And mark my words, a similar fate awaits San Diego. It’s only a matter of time.
Chargers 27 – Broncos 24
Last Week Against the Spread 5-11 (113-101-10 in ’07) Last Week Straight-Up: 9-7 (131-93 in ’07)
-- Jason Friedman