Jason Friedman’s NFL Picks, Week 17: Are the Texans Half Empty or Half Full of It?

I don’t know what to make of the Texans. Are they an up-and-coming squad destined for a playoff push in ’08? Or are they still a sorry bunch of misfits who just so happened to play a weak schedule this season, allowing them to make a run at .500?

There are no easy answers. On one hand, the Texans looked mostly competent whenever Andre Johnson was healthy enough to suit up. On the other, I can only think of two weeks this season where the team left me with warm fuzzies: Week 2 after the Carolina thumping, and Week 15 after their dismantling of Denver on national TV. That’s it. Two measly weeks. Still, that’s two weeks more than we’re accustomed to getting from them, so I guess we can’t complain.

The truth is, the Texans are right where I expected them to be. Back in April I went game by game through their schedule the day it was released and predicted a 7-9 record. After a solid pre-season that left me more optimistic, I upped the ante to 8-8.

While it’s nice to be right, I’ll admit I expected a more consistently competitive group. The Texans lost by double digits a whopping five times this season (including once to lowly Atlanta). That’s not encouraging. Neither is their 1-7 record against teams currently sitting above the .500 mark. Yikes.

So no matter what happens this weekend, there’s still a great deal of work left to be done in Texans Land. They’re better, but not nearly good enough.

Speaking of “not nearly good enough,” my limp toward the finish line continues this weekend as I attempt to bounce back (once again) from my second straight 5-11 week. The good news is that the playoffs are almost here, and that’s my time to shine. The bad news: Just five weeks ago I was loving life and eying an epic 50 games over .500 season. Now? Scroll down to the bottom and see for yourself. The picture’s about as pretty as Amy Winehouse after a night on the town.

Anyway, the regular season can’t end soon enough for me. It doesn’t help that the games this weekend are abysmal from both a viewing and prognostication standpoint. You never know who’s going to show up, and who’s going to lay a giant Najeh Davenport on the field. So for the sake of everyone involved, let’s pray these games fly by so we can finally get to the good stuff.

On to the week 17 picks (home team in caps):

HOUSTON (-6 ½) over Jacksonville

A confession: I wasn’t going planning to take the Texans. 6 ½ points is quite a bit for a 7-8 team going up against the red-hot Jaguars, even if Jacksonville has little to play for. But the Texans desperately want to finish .500 for the first time in franchise history. They’re also aching to avoid an 0-6 record against the AFC South. Throw in the fact the Jags will almost certainly rest all their starters by the second half, and you’ve just watched a man talk himself into the Texans. God help me.

Texans 27 – Jaguars 20

New England (-14) over NEW YORK GIANTS

This is awesome: I haven’t had a clue when picking Patriots or Giants games for eight weeks, and now I get to predict what’s going to happen when they face each other. Needless to say, I’ve got nothing. But picking Eli Manning over Tom Brady is like choosing Rosie O’Donnell over Jessica Alba. So in other words, I’m taking the Pats.

Patriots 38 - Giants 14

PHILADELPHIA (-7 ½) over Buffalo

I’ve had it with the Bills. Losing at home to the Giants by 17? When Eli Manning was his typically horrific self? How is that even possible?

Eagles 27 – Bills 17

Carolina (-2 ½) over TAMPA BAY

I think the Bucs started resting guys for the playoffs about a month ago. No need to stop now. Must be nice playing in the craptastic NFC South.

Panthers 13 – Buccaneers 10

MIAMI (+3) over Cincinnati

What does it say about Cincinnati that I’m actually fairly confident Miami will not just cover, but win outright? I think it says Marvin Lewis needs to be fired, ASAP.

Dolphins 17 – Bengals 14

WASHINGTON (-9) over Dallas

Washington has everything to play for, Dallas doesn’t. Sometimes it’s just that simple.

Redskins 24 – Cowboys 14

Detroit (+4) over GREEN BAY

Even though the Packers are simply killing time before the playoffs, I hate this pick. It probably has something to do with Detroit burning me so many times this year. There’s nothing like repeating the same mistake over and over again. But hey, it’s picks like this that keep me humble. And stupid. Very, very stupid.

Lions 20 – Packers 16

CHICAGO (+2) over New Orleans

I can’t believe the Bears are the last place team in the NFC North. What were the odds of that happening before the season? 100-1? The NFL never ceases to blow my mind in the strangest ways.

Bears 17 – Saints 13

Pittsburgh (-3 ½) over BALTIMORE

This one’s easy. The Steelers want no part of Jacksonville next week. So you know they’re going to do everything in their power to obliterate Baltimore and then jinx San Diego.

Steelers 24 – Ravens 10

Seattle (+2) over ATLANTA

Do the fans in Seattle and Atlanta even care enough to watch this game? I had a hard enough time just utilizing the brain power necessary to make this pick.

Seahawks 14 – Falcons 13

CLEVELAND (-10) over San Francisco

If there’s a lock of the week, this has to be it. The Browns not only have to win, they have to atone for that stinkbomb they unexpectedly dropped on their fans last weekend.

Browns 31 – 49ers 17

INDIANAPOLIS (+6) over Tennessee

Don’t ask why, I just have a feeling the Titans are going to blow this game and their shot at the playoffs. Consider me uncon-Vinced.

Colts 23 – Titans 20

DENVER (+3) over Minnesota

By the time this game is played, the Vikings should know their playoff fate. And since I’m expecting a Washington win, that means Minny will be pretty bummed come kick-off.

Broncos 24 – Vikings 13

San Diego (-8) over OAKLAND

Since San Diego—like Pittsburgh—also wants nothing to do with Jacksonville, the Chargers shouldn’t have a problem dispatching Oakland and its rookie starting quarterback. I’d make this my lock of the week, but Norv Turner is involved and, well… you know.

Chargers 27 – Raiders 7

St. Louis (+6) over ARIZONA

Will anyone ever pick the Cardinals as their pre-season sleeper team again? Haven’t we established that they suck, always and forever?

Cardinals 31 – Rams 30

NEW YORK JETS (-6) over Kansas City

Wow. And I thought Seattle-Arizona was a snoozer. Good gravy. If only you could sim games like you can in Madden.

Jets 17 – Chiefs 10

Last week against the spread: 5-11 (118-112-10 in ’07) Last week straight-up: 10-6 (141-99 in ’07)

- Jason Friedman

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