Ah, autumn - the leaves turn, the schools open, and football starts. For once the Giants look like they might have an offense with more than one guy, which is encouraging. But of course, it's time for Big Al to run the office pool, and an excuse to waste a Friday afternoon with my picks. Home team in Caps, of course, and my pick in bold - but remember that I've won this thing one week out of four years, so if you believe me it's your own fault.
RAMS v. Titans (+6.5): I'm pretty sure that Tennessee will win this outright. At the least, they play well enough on offense to keep up with the Increasingly Slower Show on Turf. (I mean, Marshall Faulk has nine touches total in two games - that's runs plus receptions.) Finally, Jeff Fisher is in the half of the NFL coaches who know what they're doing. (16)
EAGLES v. Raiders (+7.5): Sooner or later, Oakland always falls to pieces. That starts with the man up top, and in this case, Norv Turner was not an improvement over last year's failure, Bill Callahan. Randy Moss could be the first guy to clear 2000 yards receiving for a season, and they'll still lose 12 games. But the offense still scares me; I wish this spread was less than one score. (4)
Bengals v. BEARS (+2.5): They lost terribly to Washington, and clocked the always-suspect Lions. I think that Cincy's got enough in the tank to break into double-digits against them. (14)
JETS v. Jaguars (+3.5): Until Pennington's arm and Martin's legs begin to show a little more life, I remain a skeptic. In fact, if you're in a survivor pool and have already wasted the Colts and Eagles, this may not be a bad spot to grab the Jax. (10)
VIKINGS v. Saints (+4.5): Or, for that matter, New Orleans. Coach Medavoy will have them ready despite the travel weariness. More importantly, it looks as if the Vikes have thrown a wheel. Did the Madden Cover Curse take a couple years to reach Daunte? (13)
Panthers v. DOLPHINS (+2.5): Nick Saban's defense seems to be getting a lot of respect from the Gambling-American community, if the line has to be this low to get folks to bite on the Fins. The Panthers may look at this as a letdown game after beating the champs, but they should win anyway. (15)
COLTS v. Browns (+13.5): Not even if Brian Sipe was back in town, though they look all right so far on offense. Bill Simmons has it perfectly for this game, saying of Indy: "Has a team ever been 10-point favorites or more in five straight games?" (5)
BILLS v. Falcons (+2.5): It breaks my heart to do this. Mike Vick is something else. Unfortunately he can't catch his own passes. I mean, Jim Mora should have been camped out on Randy Moss' lawn waiting for the signing period like it was a Kiss concert circa '78. Hell, at least they could have called Plaxico Burress... (6)
Bucs v. PACKERS (3.5): It comes to this, in the end - the Pack, home dogs in the Battle of the Bays. Favre's been that brutal. Of course, he could pick this week to have his Turn Back the Clock farewell performance (you know it's coming), but I can't shake the look of him on ESPN with all that grizzled grey in his buzz cut. He looked like R. Lee Ermey, only older. (7)
SEAHAWKS v. Cardinals (+6.5): Every year this game costs me, because Seattle always does the same thing - they come out for the second half of the game with avocado pits jammed down their throats. This could also be one of the visually ugliest games in league history, as both teams have A) tried to make their logos look angry (the Cards' helmets are almost as ridiculous as this story about them); B) switched from uniforms to pajamas. (3)
STEELERS v. Patriots (+2.5): Two things - one, this is a huge revenge game now, as New England will be smarting from that Panther debacle; two, no way they want people to think that Pittsburgh has passed them in the AFC heirarchy. Now, the other possibility is that the defense really misses Tedy Bruschi and Corey Dillon isn't the same back. In that case the Steelers will roll them. But it's only week three. Until that happens, those gaudy rings mean they get the benefit of the doubt. (BONUS - this will probably be the best-coached game in football this week, college or pro.) (12)
Cowboys v. 49ERS (+6.5): Dreadful as they are, they can keep up with Dallas. That was some stinkeroo the 'Boys laid down in the fourth quarter - the sort of sequence that can wreck your whole season, the same way that the Giants' debacle against Dallas two years ago sank them and got Jim Fassel fired. Football karma done come around... (11)
CHARGERS v. Giants (6.5): I'm not sure I believe yet. They were losing that Cards game until the second half, and looked lousy doing it; the Saints gained a million yards but turned it over so often the Giants couldn't help but win. Now Eli Manning goes to play in the stadium he didn't want to play in after being drafted... I think that he's going to try way too hard and the Chargers are good enough to punish him for it. (On the bright side, at least New York has an offensive line now.) (8)
Monday Night: BRONCOS v. Chiefs (+3.5): I do believe that this defense may be legit. Larry Johnson is playing a credible Watson to Priest Holmes. Granted, these next two weeks (at Denver, v. Philly) are tougher than the first two (punchless Jets, underachieving Raiders), but they took care of business each time and looked great doing so. Should handle the Broncos, who are amazingly short of running backs right now. (9)
Survivor Pick - I'm saving both Philly and Indy. Carolina.
At work we don't go by straight W/L: we give each game a number from 16 down (each number used only once) and add up the points for each W. That's what those green numbers are. (For example, last week was one of those times I wished I could give every game a four - I went 9-7 but it was such a dogfest that I only earned 73 points; the winner had 100 out of a possible 136.) This prevents ties, but means entertaining ways for the 'Fly to lose each week, including one I've feared for some time, but hasn't happened yet.
(And now that I look at the points - I'm trusting San Fran with 11? Crap.)