Stefan is traveling this week, so Brooke will go it alone, giving us his picks on the big NFL matchups.
While NE is off getting their nails done, we get to focus on the other teams in the league. Eight of the league’s best 12 teams play each other, and a ninth (Green Bay) gets to confront its demons. Cleve-Pitt, Jack-Tenn, Indy-SD, and NYG-Big D, are all games featuring playoff teams against their closest pursuers. Particularly intriguing is the SD-Indy tilt. For Indy, it’s a trip to the West Coast after a physical and emotional loss at home. For SD, this is their chance to prove they will matter this year.
This week’s NOT game: Chicago at Oakland. (Unless JaMarcus plays).
Buffalo (-3) at Miami (41)
Was it 1983 or 84? The Player’s Union went on strike and the scab players came in. For some reason, the Redskins’ scab players kicked ass, and won three straight, each week playing against more and more regulars. Then, about halfway through week four the strike ended. Due to some obscure league policy, the SkabSkins lined up against and beat the legit Dallas Cowboys. It might even have been a Monday Night Game and everything. The reason I bring this up: Some Division rivalries have lives of their own. It just doesn’t matter who inhabits the jerseys. This is by far the worst Miami team I have ever seen which makes me feel certain they will beat my almost-ready-for-prime-time Bills, and that somehow this loss will be what keeps the Bills from the playoffs. I can’t bear to write it, but you watch. It’ll happen.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-9.5 47.5)
This is another one of those conference rivalries, but unlike Bills/Fins, Minn/GB and the Gints/Boys the Steelers have had a big advantage recently. (9-1 in the last 10) But every now and then a Browns team covers. It won’t happen this year, but they will score a bundle of points. Sit back, crack a Natural Light, take the Over and pray for clear skies in Warholville.
Jacksonville at Tennessee (-4 35)
What impresses me most about the Tennessee defense is that they have succeeded with one of the most inept offenses in the league. Tennessee is the winning-ugliest team since the Raven’s mini dynasty, and they are a mediocre passing game away from putting some pressure on the Colts. I think Vince Young finds his range this week. Take the Under or a tease on Tenn and the Under.
Minnesota at Green Bay (-6 40)
In a way this is the ultimate “find out what’s what” kind of game for Green Bay. I know they can stop the pass pretty well, and that they can pass the ball very well, but I am not sure if they can stop a top-flight runner, or if they can run against a top-flight Run D. This is where Minny comes in. If G.B. can show progress on defense by stoning A. Peterson (for less than 100 yds) and if Grant can run for a few short yardage first downs and total 50 yds against Pat Williams and Co., GB will have gone a long way to proving that they are the best in the NFC. GB wins by 14.
Dallas (-1.5) at NY Giants (49)
This game screams Under to me. These teams play twice a year in the regular season. One of those games has a pinball score, and the other has a ping pong score. We already had the former, and now we get the latter. I also like the Giants to get the win 22-20. Stay away from the tease with this game.
Philadelphia at Washington (-2.5 38)
I read somewhere that after the AFC South, the NFC East is the second best Division in football. (BTW: The AFC East was considered the second worst.) This was before the then 4-3 Skins overwhelmed the then 1-7 Jets in overtime. The most excellent thing about that win for Washington was that their strong Defense held NY to 20 measly points. In two games versus the Bills weak defense, the Jets scored only 13 points. The Bills get a chance to settle this argument for me as they play the Gints, Eagles and the Skins over the next eight weeks. As for pickin’ this game, I will use LOGIC. The Eagles score more than the Jets do; the Skins big-play offense wins the game by another field goal in OT; therefore give me Philly and the Over as a tease. Then watch how the 6-3 Skins are declared one of the best eight teams in football.
Indianapolis (-3.5) at San Diego (49)
Will the Chargers beat the Colts? No, they won’t. The bigger question for SD is will they be able to beat Tennessee in the first round of the playoffs. Take Indy and the Under. Or tease Indy with the Under.
San Francisco at Seattle (-10 40)
The line suggests a 25 – 15 victory for the Hawks. Those don’t happen very often. Give me Seattle by 10.5. Or better yet, don’t, and I’ll put the note I was going to put here on Indy. In any case don’t blame me. Stefan made me do it.