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.
• Buff @ GB (-13.5). I’m a big fan of the Bills. I’ve liked this team for years. And a few years ago, when I learned that a guy I admired greatly, Tim Russert, was a huge fan of the Bills, I liked them even more. Problem is, no matter how much you like a team, when morons control personnel decisions and morons control decisions during the games, liking them won’t help them win. This game is simply unfair. Packers 40, Bills 16.
• Pitt @ Tenn (-5.5). Interesting spread. Would be a different spread if Big Ben were playing. While there are questions about Dennis Dixon and Pitt’s QB play right now, the best safety in the game has returned to the defense and so has their defensive swagger – not many teams will hold Atlanta to 9 points this year. If there is one defense that can bottle up Chris Johnson, it’s Pitt. (By “bottle up” I mean Johnson will only have 110 yards or so). Pitt 24, Tenn 16.
• Sea @ Den (-3.5). I wonder what Josh McDaniels would have been like had he come out from under the Pete Carroll coaching tree vs the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Would he be bubbly, gracious with the media, and liked by all the players? Everything McDaniels says is controversial and he’s developed a Belichick-like persona. Problem for him is that he doesn’t have the massive history of success that Belichick does – a history, by the way, that gives Belichick a strange sort of immunity to do and say whatever he wants. It’s sort of like musician’s immunity – when a musician totally takes advantage of his/her platform saying absolutely ridiculous things on stage between songs that are simply absorbed by the audience because they are in a position of awe and deference as the entertainees, if you will. Total immunity. Den 19, Sea 17.
• StL @ Oak (-3.5). A bit early in the season for a “nobody cares” designation, but this game gets a “nobody cares” designation. Not even giving a score here.
• Jax @ SD (-7.5). SD almost came back and tied that game on Monday night when they looked dead at halftime. This is a good team when the offense opens up like they did in the second half at KC. One mystery surrounding SD though, is how Phillips Rivers actually gets the ball to his targets throwing the ball like he does. Jon Flacco has a beautiful throwing motion. Aaron Rodgers throws with a certain effortlessness. Michael Vick has such a distinctively smooth throwing motion. Phillips Rivers, on the other hand, throws like his right elbow is attached to the right side of his body. It’s a miracle that the ball ends up near his targets. SD 31, Jax 23.
• Hou @ Wash (+3.5). Few have Wash making the playoffs. I do. I like Wash this year. And, despite taking Hou to go fairly far in the playoffs, I have Wash taking Hou down this weekend. Next week’s stories around Washington will be about whether Mike Shanahan’s winning ways may have already transformed Wash. There will be lots of excitement. Then they’ll lose to the Rams in Week 3. Wash 27, Hou 24.
• NYG @ Indy (-5.5). Bob Sanders is like a Volkswagon Jetta. Sanders can be so good when healthy but he just can’t remain healthy. When was the last time you saw a Volkswagon Jetta without seeing or hearing something very obviously wrong with it (a light out, broken side-view mirror, loud muffler/other weird sounds, etc)? (Consumer Reports, by the way, supports this low opinion of Jetta reliability.) Fortunately for Indy, they have a decent replacement for Sanders in Melvin Bullett and they’ll need him Sunday night against the NYG and their soon-to-be superstar tight end nobody has heard of: Travis Beckum. This is a very important game for Indy and ultimately, I think it goes to Manning the Elder. Indy 34, NYG 27.
• NO @ SF (+4.5). There are two guys named “Crabtree” in the NFL – WR Michael Crabtree of SF and TE Tom Crabtree of GB. Ancestry.com indicates that “Crabtree” is an old English name meaning “someone who lived by a crabapple tree”. I’ve always been fascinated by names that are objects. There was an English teacher in my school years ago by the name of Cupboard. What I like to imagine is the moment in a family’s history when some family member declares that (random object) would be the family name. SF here because it is a more important game for them than NO. Also, this just might be the week that Crabtree blossoms. SF 28, NO 24.
To view last week’s column, click here.
Andy Hayes is a workplace consultant and a weekly sports columnist for TheDC. He lives in Brookfield, WI and has been a Green Bay Packer fan since age one second. Andy is the editor of Packergeeks.com, a Packer blog. He is married and the father of an active 3 year old boy (whom Andy is grooming to be an NFL place-kicker, or punter).