When it comes to the "science" of picking games in the National Football League, sometimes you are the proverbial windshield, and sometimes you are the proverbial bug.
Ladies and gentlemen, last week, yours truly was definitely in the role of the bug.
Absolutely brutal week in Week Seven, where I managed to go under .500 just picking the games straight up, and only batting .250 picking games with the spread. The latter gives me a losing record ATS for the season, but the straight-up record is still pretty good. And, after all, the spread picks are for entertainment purposes only (unless you're winning), so hopefully none of you out there have lost homes, cars, or large sums of cash as a result.
Back on the horse for this week, ladies and gentlemen. Here we go!
Two of the NFL's marquee franchises will be getting together in one of the late games this week. The Patriots are coming off of their bye, while the Steelers are coming off of a victory in the desert over the Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers are currently atop the AFC North, with both Baltimore and Cincinnati one game back, while New England has a one-game lead over Buffalo in the AFC East. As good as both of these teams are, Tom Brady just seems to have Pittsburgh's number, and as good as the Steelers' defense is, I have a hard time picking against New England in this one, particularly after they've gotten the extra week to prepare.
Straight-Up: Patriots, ATS: Patriots
It doesn't look like Sam Bradford will play for the Rams in this one, but I honestly don't think it would make much difference if he did. The Saints won their game over Indianapolis last week by 55 points. In six games this season, the Rams' offense has generated 56 points. . .total. Need I go on?
Straight-Up: Saints, ATS: Saints
The Chiefs started this season looking absolutely horrendous. Now, with a victory in this one, they could find themselves riding a four-game winning streak and sitting atop the AFC West. I really don't know what has happened to Philip Rivers this season. He still completes a high percentage of his passes, but has thrown more interceptions thus far (nine) than he has touchdowns (seven), and spent most of last week's game at the new Meadowlands looking terrible. Arrowhead Stadium is a tough place to play, and there's a good chance that the Chargers find that out on Monday night.
Straight-Up: Chiefs, ATS: Chiefs
The Rest of the Week
It's not every day that a team that lost by 34 points the previous week is made a double-digit favorite. Of course, I suppose it's also not every day that they host a team that lost by three touchdowns more than they did, either. The Titans are one of the two teams that has a shot at winning the AFC South, and after getting thumped by the other one last week, they need this one to get back on track. I'd tell you that I think Indy can keep this close, but I respect you too much to lie to you.
Straight-Up: Titans, ATS: Titans
Speaking of the AFC South, their other two teams are getting together this weekend, too. The Jaguars are coming off of their big upset of Baltimore this past Monday night, and now they have to face an offense in Houston that has been surprisingly good without Andre Johnson. If Matt Schaub can manage to turn in a better performance than Joe Flacco did, the Texans will win this game, but the Jags might actually keep it within the spread.
Straight-Up: Texans, ATS: Jaguars
Arizona Cardinals at Baltimore Ravens (-13)
After that slop the Ravens put out there on Monday night, we're making them nearly a two-touchdown favorite? Nicely done, Vegas. Yes, Arizona is one of the NFL's worst teams this season, with the Kevin Kolb experiment looking worse with each passing week, and it's entirely possible that they do get blown out in this one, but I'm certainly not taking Baltimore to crush anyone at this point.
Straight-Up: Ravens, ATS: Cardinals
After last week's game, there's no way you're going to convince me that the Dolphins aren't flat-out trying to lose at this point. The Giants should be able to give them a hand with that this week. Oh, and thanks for fueling Tebow-mania, Dolphins. That's something I could have gone all week without having to listen to.
Straight-Up: Giants, ATS: Giants
The last two weeks, I have taken the Redskins as my "Upset of the Week." They have failed me both times. I will not make the same mistake again, and this week they shall pay for their insolence. The Bills know they have to win this one to keep pace with the Patriots, and with the mess the Redskins have going on at quarterback, Buffalo should have what it takes to win this one, and do so in relatively comfortable fashion.
Straight-Up: Bills, ATS: Bills
I'm not going to make the "Christian being fed to the Lions" joke here, because I'm above that kind of thing. The Lions have had a couple of tough losses the past couple of weeks, and now have to travel to Mile High to take on Tim Tebow and the Broncos. Yes, Tebow led the comeback last week in Miami. . .he also spent the first 55 minutes of that game looking awful, and the Lions are a slightly higher caliber of opponent than the Dolphins are. I wouldn't expect a repeat performance.
Straight-Up: Lions, ATS: Lions
The Browns have somehow cobbled together a .500 record this year, even with Peyton Hillis showing us that the Madden Curse is, indeed, alive and well. The Niners are one of the NFL's bigger surprises, having only lost once all season, and would actually have a first-round playoff bye if the post-season started today. I would expect the Niners to come out on top in this one, as I don't think they'll have much trouble with Colt McCoy and company.
Straight-Up: 49ers, ATS: 49ers
Speaking of surprises, the Bengals have already matched their win total from a year ago and are keeping pace in the AFC North, thanks to the performance of two rookies. . .the "Red Rifle," Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green. The Seahawks are terrible, because their quarterback play is terrible. If Seattle managed just three points against the juggernaut that is Cleveland last week, they're going to struggle against Cincinnati as well. The Bengals get a big road win here to keep pace with Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
Straight-Up: Bengals, ATS: Bengals
The Eagles have found themselves embroiled in a bit of controversy this week, with Asante Samuel taking shots at the team's front office for playing "fantasy football." Philly did get a big win in their previous game against the Redskins, at at 2-4 need to start putting it together if they want to have any shot at living up to their lofty pre-season billing. The Cowboys have been maddeningly inconsistent, thanks to the play of quarterback Tony Romo, and have gotten themselves to a .500 record. The Eagles need this prime-time match-up more than the Cowboys do from a psychological standpoint, and I think they'll get it.
Straight-Up: Eagles, ATS: Eagles
Straight-Up For Season: 61-33
ATS For Season: 43-46-4
Lock of the Week: 5-1
Upset of the Week: 2-4