By Rich Levine
Merry Christmas, all! Or Merry Christmas Eve, I guess. And welcome back to another installment of everyones favorite CSNNE.com-related NFL picks column.
Its been 15 long weeks here, many ups and downs, ins and outs, and more than anything else . . . mediocrity!
Im up 131-124-4 on the year, thanks to the new weighted system I introduced a few weeks backand that means this week is big. Im talking big like Peyton Mannings forehead. Ha-Yuge.
Basically, with a good week, I can seal a .500 season, which may not be much to you, but is all-important in my pathetic world. And why not just wrap it up now instead of having to sweat out next Sunday with my pride fully on the line? Right? OK, cool. Glad we agree.
So, without further adieu . . . The picks
CATEGORY 3 (Bets are worth three units)The Game: N.Y. Jets at Chicago (-1)
Chicagos supposed to get some snow this Sunday, but regardless of how many feet come down you know it wont be enough for Sexy Rexy.
What? I mean that he just likes playing in the snow. You know, because its so soft . . . and he kinda likes how it smells.
Im talking about snow here, guys. Just snow.
Anyway, Id be more worried about the consequences of the ihaveprettyfeet scandal if this wasnt already the 15th scandal the Jets have played through this season. Will it really be anymore of a distraction than all those HBO camera crews, the Braylon Edwards DUI, Sal Alosi or any of the other less-than-ideal circumstances that the Jets have had to deal with? I dont think so. I mean, think about all theyve gone through and theyre still 10-4. Im not saying that the Jets wont ever pay the price for the all-around lack of focus and discipline that surrounds the organization. It will probably rear its ugly head down the stretch in a key playoff game, and ultimately submarine their season, but thats still a few weeks away.
In the meantime, the Bears are 10-4, too, but we can all agree that its not the same 10-4 as the Jets. Chicago showed two weeks ago that theyre still not ready to compete with the best and Mondays win over the Vikings their old manyoung kid QB combo shouldnt turn anyone into a believer. The Bears have some obvious weaknesses. So obvious that you can, uhh, smell em.
The Pick: Jets (1) The Game: Indianapolis (-3) at Oakland
If Oakland can somehow pull this one out, the Colts and Raiders will head into Week 17 with identical records. What were the odds on that coming in? Not even bizarro-world Biff from Back to the Future 2 could have predicted that.
But its true. Or its almost true. One game to make it happen. Bill Polian and Al Davis . . . they deserve each other!
The game will come down to the ground games.
On one hand, the Colts' rushing attack had disappeared like Randy Moss prior to last week. Joseph Addai and Mike Hart were hurt. Donald Brown was useless. Javarris James could punch it in from the goal line, but so could I if you gave me enough chances. The run game was shot, and Peyton paid the price. Do you realize that they hadnt run for 100 yards in a game, as a team, since November 1? Realize!
But last week, against Jacksonville of all teams, Brown emerged as the guy the Colts (and desperate fantasy owners) had been waiting for all season and his 129 yards set the tone for Indys eventual win. So Brown looks like he might have found something, not to mention it looks like Addai might actually find the field for the first time since October 17. Will Brown and Addai combine for enough quality to get Peyton going in the play action?
As for the Raiders, they have the second-most rushing yards, and the most rushing touchdowns in the league. And theyll be taking on a Colts run defense that, outside of last week, has easily been one of the NFLs worst.
So whos my pick? Im tempted to go with the Colts, and wouldnt be surprised if they win big. But how can you resist the Colts and Raiders standing even after 16 weeks? 8-78-7. Here we come!
The Pick: Raiders (3)The Game: N.Y. Giants at Green Bay (-3)
Hey, New York Giants, you just blew the biggest game of the season! What are you going to do next?
Were going to one of the toughest stadiums in the NFL to take on a team playing for their playoffs lives! And oh yeah, our coach is nuts!
The Pick: Packers (-3)The Game: San Francisco at St. Louis (-2)
Sam Bradford is 0-for-December. Three games. Zero passing touchdowns. And its no surprise that the Rams have lost two of those last three games.
Now this probably wont affect Bradfords run to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, but if the Rams are serious about becoming the NFC Wests sad playoff rep, then he needs to pull a few TDs out of his stocking this Sunday. And I think I speak for everyone when I say, Please, Sam . . . please! Make this happen! Dont let the underachieving 49ers one of the least deserving potential playoff teams weve ever seen sneak their way into a division title. Please, Sam . . . please.
OK, so obviously you know where my heart lies here, and thats also where Im laying my fake money. This is the Rams biggest game since the 2005 playoffs. The crowd will be bonkers. Even if Bradford doesnt light up the end zone, he wont kill the team with INTs. And most of all, the 49ers arent that good. Theres a reason theyre still a game behind in the worst division in NFL history. And that reason will be obvious on Sunday. And our long, painful, San Francisco nightmare will be over.
Im sure Mike Singletary will take it well.
The Pick: Rams (-2)The Game: New Orleans at Atlanta (-2.5)
Four reasons the Falcons take this:
1. Matt Ryan has won 19 of 20 home games in his career, including 15 straight. So you know hes up to the task.
2. The Falcons are coming off three straight road games, so you know the home cooking will be extra tasty.
3. With a win, the Falcons will clinch the NFC South, as well as home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, so you know the motivations there.
4. The Saints have still beaten only one winning team on the road this season. And that team is still THE Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yeah, NO showed a little spunk in Baltimore last Sunday, but it will take a lot more than spunk to beat the Falcons. Also, this is the last time Im going to use the word spunk for a while.
The Pick: Falcons (-2.5)The Game: Seattle at Tampa Bay (-6)
Im shocked that Pom Pom Petes act has gone stale in Seattle. I mean, who knew there was more to coaching NFL football than giggling on the sidelines, slapping players on the ass and walking, talking and acting like a frat guy fresh off three bong hits? Hey, I guess you learn something new every day.
The Seahawks obviously still have a chance to emerge as the winner of the NFC West, and the Bucs still have a slim chance to grab an NFC Wild Card spot (although their chances may improve after Tom Coughlin goes postal and strangles half his team). I dont think either of them will make it, which isnt really going out on a limb, but I do believe the Bucs have more to play for down the stretch. Even if they dont make the playoffs, the final two weeks of this season are still important for their big-picture development. The Seahawks, on the other hand, dont really have a big picture. Or, if they do you can hardly make it out.
They give great high fives, though. That comes from the top.
The Pick: Bucs (-6)CATEGORY 2 (Bets are worth two units)The Game: New England at Buffalo (-8.5)
Im torn here. On one hand, this Bills offense is just crazy and unpredictable enough to keep this game close much the way it did in the first meeting. Theres also the fact that the game is in Buffalo (not the easiest place to play) and the very real temptation to take the Bills lightly.
But then again, I feel like theres too much on the line for the Pats to let this one slip away, or even let it stay close. First of all, they havent clinched anything but a playoff spot. The AFC East? Home-field advantage? That only comes with one more win, and theres no way they want to wait until Week 17. Also, dont think the Pats wont want to send a message on Sunday. Not with how everyone was talking about their defense after barely beating the Packers. Theyll use that Green Bay game as a wake up call, and the Buffalo game to vent all their frustrations.
The Pick: Patriots (-8.5)The Game: Washington at Jacksonville (-7)
You ever play Black Jack with someone who has no idea what hes doing? You know, theyll hit on 16 against a three, split 10s or do any number of things that youre very simply just not supposed to do at the table? Of course you have. Either that, or you are that person. Either way, my point is that everyone once in a while that strategy works. You hit on 16 with the dealer showing three and you draw the four or the five. You split 10s, and you get back-to-back aces. Sometimes you just get lucky. But that doesnt mean its the right move, and eventually that strategy will catch up and bite you.
Right now, Mike Shanahan is that crazy blackjack player and Rex Grossman the card hes asking for on 16. Youre going to bust, Mike. Last week was just luck.
The Pick: Jacksonville (-7)The Game: Tennessee at Kansas City (-5)
Ive refused to follow the latest Randy Moss story. I know it has something to do with a local radio station in Nashville, but thats it. Im done. His downfall has spiraled way too fast, and at this point, is far too upsetting. I know Id find the story hilarious, too, which makes it even harder to ignore. But its too much, Randy. Please just go away. Its only getting worse.
The Pick: Chiefs (-5) The Game: Baltimore at Cleveland (-3.5)
The Ravens havent quite sealed their playoff fate, and there are very few teams who would get more joy out of temporarily ruining the Ravens than Cleveland. Well, maybe the team itself doesnt hold as much hatred, but the city does. And its the city that will converge on Browns Stadium on Sunday looking for blood. Granted, the blood will instantly freeze when exposed to the frigid temps, but still blood!
If Terrell Suggs can step away from his Tom Brady obsession long enough to toss Colt McCoy on his ass a couple times, then I think Baltimore runs wild here. Thats a huge if, though. I think McCoy finds a way to keep the Browns close.
The Pick: Browns (3.5)The Game: San Diego (-7.5) at Cincinnati
For the last few months, after San Diego finally turned the ship around, everyone just assumed that the Chargers would make the playoffs. Of course, the Chiefs will fade! And SD, oh man, theyve got it all figured out now!
But the truth is that its not looking good for Norv and the boys. Theyre two games back in the Wild Card so thats not happening. And as for the AFC West? Theyre only a game back of the Chiefs, but they need to win out, and will still need some help from KC who plays their last two at home, where they havent lost all season.
Its not looking good for the Chargers, but theyll put up a fight. And it helps that the Bengals stopped fighting long ago.
The Pick: Chargers (-7.5)The Game: Minnesota at Philadelphia (-14.5)
As we learned last week, Joe Webb might be good at jumping over large stacks of weight-room equipment, but hes not yet that good at throwing a football at least not to guys that play for his team.
This one could get uglier than glimpse through Brett Favres cell phone camera roll.
The Pick: Eagles (-14.5)CATEGORY 1 (bets are worth one)The Game: Dallas (-7) at Arizona
Over the course of my career as an NFL fan, Ive learned to accept just how unpredictable the league can be. Nothing is ever set in stone. Everything can change at the drop of a helmet. You think youve got this thing figured out? Then BANG! Curveball! The worlds upside down,
But even with that knowledge, I never thought Id see the day when Jon Kitna and John Skelton would start a late-season game with absolutely ZERO playoff implications. I mean, how is that even possible? Kitna and Skelton, and nothing on the line?
The NFL. Its weird, man.
The Pick: Cowboys (-7)The Game: Detroit at Miami (-3.5)
The Dolphins have a chance to do something special here. Really special. I mean, its hard enough to lose a home game to the Bills, right? After all, it had been more than a year since anyone had pulled that off, and the Dolphins did it last Sunday. Nice work, guys. But heres where special becomes really special. Im talking about back-to-back home losses to the Bills AND Lions. Yes, the same Lions team that has won only one road game since 2007!
Devin Hesters all-time kick return record was impressive and all, same goes for Tom Bradys super human TDINT ratio. But if the Dolphins can pull this loss off this week, THAT is what people will be talking about. Thats what well remember about 2010.
This is a pick for history.
The Pick: Lions (3.5)
The Game: Houston (-3) at Denver
Um, so, yeah, I dont know . . . Tim Tebows playing, I guess? Maybe thats a reason to watch? Or, I dont know, how about . . .
Eh, forget it. Youre not watching.
The Pick: Broncos (3)
RECORD:Last Week: 11-24Overall: 131-124-4