Last week was a good one for picks – 12 wins, 4 losses. So this week will likely be far worse.
• Mia @ MN (-5.5). My 3-year old son said the other day, totally unsolicited: “daddy, I don’t like two things: mosquitoes and the Vikings”. As a lifelong Packer fan, I was so proud I went and bought him a Lightening McQueen car and found myself too emotional to explain why. This year I have Mia in the playoffs and the Vikes at 7-9. While winning at the hideous Metrodome is always tough, Mia might be the kind of stingy team that could do it. In the end, I’ll take MN to win, but Mia to cover. MN 23, Mia, 20.
• AZ @ Atl (-6.5). Check out this footage of Atlanta coach Mike Smith pulling a hamstring trying to call a time out. This is what I like to call an “Old Man Injury”. It is a classic example of age by itself, causing injury. I had a recent OMI the other night when I pulled something in my neck…badly. I was swatting at a moth in our house – swatting extra hard like it would hurt me if it landed on me or something. (Actually, I am allergic to bees, so flipping out when small flying objects get close is habit.) Anyway, I could barely move around the next 2 days – then as suddenly as the injury began, it went away. Even though I think AZ may be a team this year that pulls out unlikely win after unlikely win – because coach Ken Whisenhunt is the real deal – I’ll take Atlanta to cover here. This is almost a must-win game for Atlanta (if they truly are the deep playoff team I think they are) and it’s at home (which tends to be a more significant factor at the beginning of each season). Atl 31, AZ 23.
• KC @ Cleve (-1.5). I’m pretty sure that ESPN hired several cameramen from from Mexican TV network Univision for the Monday Night game between KC and SD. If you’ve ever watched Univision’s coverage of soccer, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve missed goals because the producers/cameramen were more focused on getting shots of nice looking women. In the KC game, it seemed that the cameramen were clearly charged with the task of getting nice shots of the ladies of KC – but what made it especially, ummm, entertaining, was that it was raining really hard most of the game. Anyway, even though I think KC will win the AFC West at 10-6, strangely, I think they may lose this one. Cleve 17, KC 14.
• TB @ Car (-2.5). Crack pick alert. Very few people are considering Tampa here (at cbssports.com, 81% have picked Car to cover), so it may seem that crack use may be the only viable explanation for picking Tampa. But Tampa showed guts coming back to win last week at home. Meanwhile for Car, the question often is: which team will show up – the solid running team that controls games by possession or the wild, mistake-prone team that takes itself out of ball games? TB 21, Car 20.
• Balt @ Cincy (+1.5). Ray Lewis hit NYJ tight end Dustin Keller so hard in the game Monday night, I still can’t believe Keller got up. If you didn’t see it, check this out. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a harder hit on a such a big victim. Keller is a 250 lb TE, not some scrawny little running back. Unbelievable hit. For this game, I can’t shake the memory of Cincy’s absolutely lifeless effort last year in the playoffs at home against the NYJ. So, Cincy being at home doesn’t scare me – especially against a likely participant in this year’s Super Bowl. Balt 24, Cincy 17.
• Chic @ Dal (-7.5). Interesting tease for Sunday Night Football last week when Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones engaged in a little innocent but very lame trash talk. Can you imagine having to hang out with those guys for more than 3 minutes? Just you, Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones? Awful. Dal 26, Chic 24.
• NE @ NYJ (+1.5). Belichick vs. Rex Ryan. Now imagine being thrown into a room with these two, Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones. Definition of “a bad time”. Have to give the nod here to NE. I know Balt’s D was very good, but the Jets’ offense was positively anemic on Monday night. Mark Sanchez definitely graduated from the Pete Carroll school of enthusiasm, but I think he’s finding that enthusiasm alone doesn’t really work in the NFL. NE 27, NYJ 13.
• Phil @ Det (+4.5). I have a theory on NFL officiating – call it the Naked Gun theory. It holds that officials, like Leslie Nielsen as the umpire in the Naken Gun, thoroughly enjoy making popular calls for the home team – practically responding to the applause. (Actually, there is evidence that this is the case – Rich Gosslein of the Dallas Morning News gathered some stats that support this theory a few years ago.) Hard to imagine an official calling back Calvin Johnson’s TD last weekend if the game had been in Detroit. In the end, if a decision is close, it’s really quite simple reasoning for the head referee: do I give the call to the away team, appeasing 75 people, or do I call it for the home team and lift the spirits of the 85,000 who paid to come to this game? Easy call. For some reason though, I don’t think this unfortunate situation will break the spirit of the Lions – I bet they surprise this week with a well-earned victory. Det 26, Phil 20.