Thursday, November 27, 2008

NFL Picks, Week 13

Thanksgiving:

Tennessee (-11) at Detroit - Yes, I know that I've committed to taking Detroit every week until they win one. And had Tennessee not just gotten embarassed in its own stadium by the Jets, I might even go with the Lions this week for the Thanksgiving upset special. Under the circumstances, however, the relevant question seems to be this - in how many of the four quarters that they play will the Titans fail to cover 11?

Seattle at Dallas (-12) - In one way, the Thursday afternoon schedule is going to work wonders for the NFL. They are going to draw tremendous ratings for games that look to be absolute dogs. On the other hand, they are going to "treat" that massive captive audience to some football that may turn off even real fans, never mind the casual fans in the room. It strikes me as extremely implausible that either of these games will appear remotely competitive after halftime. The Cowboys are a fraud team, but they're a bully fraud team, a team that will beat up on a weakling. The Seahawks - well, I think I've said this before, but starting the season with a lame duck coach is not the greatest idea.

Arizona (+3) at Philadelphia - After the NFL shows the entire country two dreadful games, they'll treat the 278 people with the NFL Network to what is clearly the best match-up of the day. "Best" is, of course, a relative term. Calling a game the "best" of this set is an exercise in damning with faint praise. The Cardinals lead one of the worst divisions in football and are 0-3 east of the Mississippi. The Eagles are in a state of complete disarray, with significant questions about the quarterback, the head coach, and the relations between the two. This could go either way, and there's really no possible result here that would be shocking. But the Cardinals look like the better team, and that'll have to do.


San Francisco (+7) at Buffalo - I read somewhere that no west coast team has won on the east coast this year. I don't know whether that's true or not, but, their performance in Kansas City last week notwithstanding, the Bills are primed to end that streak.

Baltimore (-7) at Cincinnati - Is commentary really necessary for this game?

Indianapolis (-5) at Cleveland - Or this one?

Carolina at Green Bay (-3) - I've got an opinion about the Lions. And the Falcons. The rest of the NFC North and South are teams that I don't normally see, and really don't think much about. I think that the Packers are a better team, and they're at home, and therefore, I'm picking them. This generally means a Panther victory.

Denver at N.Y. Jets (-7.5) - As always, I approach this task with an air of absolute neutrality, performing this function in an objective, unbiased ("Go BRONCOS!!! Go BRONCOS!!!") fashion. (Think MSNBC covering Obama vs. McCain.) And I'm certain that, if I wanted to spend a little time on it, I could talk myself into the Jets letting down after two big road wins, a Favre interception-fest, Shanahan outcoaching Mangini, the Broncos controlling the clock and shocking the Jets. But that would be a lie. I do not see anyway that Denver wins this game. (If they do, of course, I'll come back on Monday and gloat about the jinx pick working...)

Miami (-7) at St. Louis - 7? Why not 17? 27? 77?

New Orleans at Tampa Bay (-3.5) - Listed in order, from most closely to least closely followed, the NFC South comes in 9th of the 8 NFL divisions. I suspect that my opinion of the Saints was formed in 2006, and my opinion of the Buccaneers in 2005.

N.Y. Giants (-3.5) at Washington - Earlier in the season, it looked as if the NFC might have passed the AFC again. It doesn't look like that now. The NFC looks like the Giants and everyone else. The AFC looks to have a group of strong teams. It's hard to imagine any NFC other than NY winning the NFC Championship. But there are six teams (Tennessee, NY, New England, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Indianapolis) that one can easily picture facing the Giants. I guess the takeaway here is that the Giants are a much better team than the Redskins, and while the latter could conceivably win, the former is a much better bet.

Atlanta (+5) at San Diego - Every team has a couple of plays that they can look back on and say "if only..." The Chargers have a half dozen, and each of them cost them a win. Here's another that they lose late or close or both.

Pittsburgh at New England (-1) - If the season ended today, the 6-5 Denver Broncos would host a playoff game as the AFC West Champion, while the 7-4 New England Patriots would miss the playoffs. The season doesn't end today, but if they want to avoid that scenario, the Patriots need to keep winning. I think they will. The Steelers have great defensive numbers, partly because they've got a very good defense, and partly because they've played Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Cincinnati twice. The Patriots aren't going to put up 48, but they'll move the ball and score. New England wins by a touchdown.

Kansas City at Oakland (-3) - As bad as the Raiders have been, they've looked like Champions when compared to the Chiefs.

Chicago at Minnesota (-3.5) - Is either of these teams a threat to go beyond the NFC Championship game? I don't see it.

Jacksonville at Houston (-3) - The AFC South has two strong teams. This game features the other two. Unlike Thursday's games, this irrelevant match-up between two not-quite-mediocre teams at least has the potential to be competitive.

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