Jason Friedman’s NFL Picks, Week Eight: Staring Zeus in the Eye, Daring Him to Flinch

The ancient Greeks had a great word to describe the sin I’m about to commit. It’s called hubris. Okay, so their definition differed somewhat from the way we interpret it today. That’s not the point. You, the reader, know what I’m talking about when I summon that word. And if you don’t, I have a suggestion for you: Stop reading, Britney. It’s never going to work with us. Sucking up by reading my blog won’t help your chances. Maybe Fred Durst is still available. Check that. I guarantee Fred Durst is still available.

Anyway, my point is that it’s usually bad business to stand before the gods and call attention to one’s self. Life below the radar is so much easier; no pressure and no unwanted attention. But everything changes the moment you step forward, hold your head high and dare to go eye-to-eye with the denizens of Mount Olympus. It’s kind of like challenging Brit-Brit to a Whopper eating contest (No, not the kind. Get your mind out of the gutter!). It might sound like a good idea at the time, but you know it’s going to end with your head in your hands, tears down your cheeks, mustard on your shirt and Britney begging for more. In other words, badly.

Nonetheless, that’s what I’m prepared to do today (challenge the gods, not everyone’s favorite deadbeat mom). After a stunning 10-4 week, my NFL picks are now sitting pretty with a 54-42-7 record against the spread. So the time for humble silence is over. I’m ready to lay claim to my rightful place upon the mountaintop.

From such lofty heights, I see the peons toiling below me. Bill Simmons, John McClain, John Royal; they all want to know the secret to my prognostication prowess. I’ve heard the whispers. Some say I’m the love-child of Miss Cleo and Dr. Sam Beckett (of Quantum Leap fame, as if you had to ask). Others wonder if I’ve somehow procured a De Lorean pimped out with a state-of-the-art flux capacitor. But my favorite rumor is the one which suggests I’m God himself, only misfiring on the occasional prediction simply to throw people off the scent. If I had a perfect record, my true identity would be revealed, and I’d have to stop helping the Rockies and Lions (my favorite pastime) in order to tend to the incessant whining of the sick and the poor. Please. Like I want anything to do with them. They’re so… needy.

But alas, I’m not God, I don’t own a De Lorean, and I just can’t picture Cleo and Beckett knocking boots (though God knows I’ve tried). My only secret: I’m just that good. So hop on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride. And when the gods punish my insolence by smiting me with an 0-13 week, just chalk it up to nothing more than good old-fashioned hubris.

On to the week 8 picks (home team in caps):

SAN DIEGO (-9 ½) over Houston

So let’s see, over the last four weeks, the Texans have made middling quarterbacks such as Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon, David Garrard and Kerry Collins look like Pro Bowlers. Against winless Miami, they knew the only player they had to stop was Ronnie Brown and they couldn’t. So what do you think is going to happen when Houston’s defense faces off against Phillip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates and the Chargers this week?

Also looming overhead is the very real possibility the Texans could be nursing another post-Titans hangover. Last year, after Vince ripped their heart out, a devastated Texans team went to New England with its tail between its legs and got spanked. I know Bryan Pittman says he doesn’t think that’s an issue this time around, but I’m skeptical to say the least.

And let’s not forget Houston hasn’t played a good game since week 2 of the season. I know Norv Turner is prominently involved, but so is Gary Kubiak. Since neither has proven to be a winning head coach thus far, I say that’s a wash. Which means the Chargers’ superior talent should rule the day.

Oh, and one more thing: don’t underestimate the emotional lift the Bolts will receive if this game is played in San Diego. Warrants mentioning.

Chargers 27 – Texans 13

Cleveland (-3) over ST. LOUIS

You know how much I hate taking road favorites. But you know what I hate more? Taking the Rams.

Browns 34 – Rams 30

CHICAGO (-5) over Detroit

This line seems kind of high, but then you remember that the Lions have been outscored by an average of 33 points in their last two road games. Apparently, God is only a Jon Kitna fan when he’s playing in front of the home crowd.

Bears 31 – Lions 24

Indianapolis (-7) over CAROLINA

Let’s see, it’s David Carr and Vinny Testaverde against the unbeaten, defending champs. Need I say more?

Colts 34 – Panthers 10

New York Giants (-9 ½) over MIAMI (at London)

All week long, I’ve been telling myself I’m taking Miami here. Why? Because everyone is hammering the Giants. Always a bad sign. Then when the moment of truth arrived, I chickened out. Now I’m no fan of the Giants. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: they’re fool’s gold. But there’s a reason everyone is taking New York here: Miami is absolutely atrocious. I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.

Giants 30 – Dolphins 13

Oakland (+7 ½) over TENNESSEE

Talk about defying the Gods. Picking the Raiders over Vince? Hey, when you’re locked in a staring contest with Zeus, you better be prepared to go all-in.

Titans 22 – Raiders 19

MINNESOTA (+1) over Philadelphia

Can anyone tell me what the Eagles have accomplished this season that makes them worthy of favorite status in this game? I mean, I know Tavaris Jackson is involved, but so is Adrian Peterson. And that counts for a helluva lot in my book.

Vikings 20 – Eagles 17

Pittsburgh (-3 ½) over CINCINNATI

As far as I’m concerned, this is the easiest line of the weekend. The Steelers will be looking to bounce back while the Bengals will simply be looking to bounce when the inevitable boos start cascading from the stands. The Steelers have already sent Carson Palmer to the hospital once in his career. Considering the current state of the Bengals’ O-line, Pittsburgh might do it again.

Steelers 35 – Bengals 17

TAMPA BAY (-4) over Jacksonville

On second thought, this might be the easiest call of the weekend. Quinn Gray on the road against the Bucs? This is gonna get ugly.

Buccaneers 24 – Jaguars 10

Buffalo (+3) over NEW YORK JETS

The first one to provide a rational reason as to why Noodles is still the starting quarterback for the Jets wins a prize. Keep your answers to 200 words or less, double-spaced, MLA format. I’ll forward the best response to Eric Mangini. He clearly needs outside help at this point.

Jets 23 – Bills 21

SAN FRANCISCO (+3) over New Orleans

The Saints win the award for least impressive two-game winning streak of the 2007 season. In other words, I’m not convinced that they’re back. Not even close.

49ers 17 – Saints 13

NEW ENGLAND (-16 ½) over Washington

In case you haven’t noticed, New England is pretty good.

Patriots 38 – Redskins 13

Green Bay (+3) over DENVER

I do not feel good about this pick at all. But when the Broncos play, they either get crushed or win on last second field goals. That’s it. That’s all they do. So until Denver proves it can win a game by more than three, I have to take the points.

Broncos 21 – Packers 20

Last week against the spread: 10-4 (54-42-7 in ’07) Last week straight-up: 10-4 (61-42 in ’07)

-- Jason Friedman

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