I had a charmed week for the most part with the Titans heroically sacrificing any hope of winning for the ultimate backdoor cover - a last play TD that cut the margin to two, Maurice Jones-Drew breaking away for a TD (in a game with a four-point line) when he should have knelt at the one-yard line and let the Jags kick a game-winning FG and the two-point dog Redskins botching a game-tying PAT that would have sent the game into OT.
It was almost perfect until Monday night when the three-point dog Texans made a furious comeback, unfortunately *made* the two-point coversion to go to overtime, then gave up a dreaded pick-six one play after narrowly avoiding a safety. So instead of going 12-4, I had to settle for 11-5. While the more equanimitous part of me shrugs and says, "you can't win 'em all", I'm mostly livid about it. I invested my heart and soul in that game, and the Texans had the Ravens on the ropes with an exhausted defense, but they threw it all away for no reason. Moreover, the Monday night game sets the tone for your entire week, and it's no coincidence all these miracles came after the Pats annihilated the Jets on the previous Monday night and put me in the positive and hopeful state of mind required for me to access my paranormal abilities.
So the last two days I've been trying to cleanse myself of that jarring collapse (which also cost me $70 for the weekly prize in my pool and ensured Arian Foster didn't get a chance to win me my fantasy playoff game in overtime). Ranting on the Sirius XM show helped a little, but I don't think I'll be whole until that team is contracted. Anyway, knock on wood that it didn't taint my picks this week. I'm three under .500 for the year, and I need another big week.
I honestly don't love any of the games on this slate. Maybe the Titans, Bengals, Chargers, Giants and Steelers are my best. I hate my Redskins pick and was very close to changing it and probably should have. Three games (Pats-Packers, Chiefs-Rams and Bears-Vikings don't even have actionable lines, but I used a source that's usually ballpark given the uncertainty for those three.
49ers +9 at Chargers
The Chargers seem like right call here - Alex Smith played well last week, but that was at home against a much weaker defense. Moreover, without Frank Gore, it's hard to see the Niners playing the physical style that Oakland used to get the upset two weeks ago. Back the Chargers.
Chargers 28 - 17
Bills +5.5 at Dolphins
This is probably the right line. The Dolphins are better defensively, have Brandon Marshall back and are playing at home. Miami can beat the Jets and Raiders on the road, and they can also get shut out by the Bears and lose to the Browns at home, so it's hard to get a good feel for this team. The Bills can hang with almost anyone, and while this is a fair line in Miami, I think I have to take the points. Back Buffalo.
Dolphins 20 - 19
Browns +1.5 at Bengals
The Bengals keep losing thanks in large part to Carson Palmer's abominable play, but I have to take them at home getting less than the full three against a division rival that scored only six points against the Bills last week. I'd rather see Jake Delhomme out there for Cleveland, but even if Colt McCoy plays, he's a rookie coming off a long injury layoff and going on the road. Back Cincy.
Bengals 20 - 16
Lions +6 at Buccaneers
I've been fading the Bucs every week, and it finally paid off thanks to a perfectly executed missed extra point. I think I'm going back to the well here - the Lions usually hang around, and I expect that to be the case this week. Back Detroit.
Buccaneers 19 - 17
Jaguars +5 at Colts
I had a lot of trouble with this game. The Jaguars strike me as the obvious play because games are always close between these two teams, and that's even in years when the Colts are great and the Jaguars are bad. Now, the two teams are about equal, and the only thing bumping the spread to five is Indy's desperation and the presence of Peyton Manning who had a good game last week against the Titans. I think I have to do the obvious and take the Jaguars whose big offensive line and running game should match up well. Back Jacksonville.
Colts 24 - 20
Cardinals +2.5 at Panthers
Backing the Panthers as favorites seems borderline insane, but it has to be the right play here. Sell the Cardinals high and buy Carolina dirt cheap.
Panthers 23 - 20
Saints +1 at Ravens
I would honestly love to fade both of these teams - the Saints on the road outdoors against a physical team, and the Ravens coming off two absolute wars against Pittsburgh and Houston, the latter off a short week. I think the game sets up slightly worse for Baltimore. Take the Saints.
Saints 23 - 21
Eagles +3 at Giants
I'm biased here, so please ignore this pick. Unless I had a huge Eagles lean (which I don't), there's no way I'd pick against the Giants in a game of this magnitude. The Giants corralled Michael Vick well in the second half the first time they played in Philly, and had it not been for two fluky plays (Jason Pierre-Paul jumping offsides on 4th and 1 and Eli Manning falling on his face and losing the ball), I think the G-Men would have won outright in Philly. Back the Giants.
Giants 27 - 23
Chiefs +1 at Rams
Obviously, this game hinges on Matt Cassel's availability, and this line assumes he's going to go. It's probably safer to take the Rams in that case, but I think KC is the better team, and I'll gamble on Cassel's availability. Back the Chiefs.
Chiefs 27 - 19
Redskins +6 at Cowboys
The Cowboys have played better of late, covering the spread every single week since Jason Garrett took over, but I don't like them here as six point favorites with that dink and dunk offense against a division rival. Back the Redskins.
Cowboys 20 - 17
Texans +1.5 at Titans
Tennesee was a disaster against Indy in the first half, but then pulled off the purest backdoor cover in NFL history, sacrificing any chance it had at winning for the game-covering touchdown. The Texans did the opposite, engineering one of the most thrilling comebacks in recent memory, then abruptly tossing the game (and the cover) away with an overtime pick six. Which team is more damaged? I'd say Houston – especially with the short week to get ready and heading out on the road. Back the Titans.
Titans 27 - 24
Falcons -7 at Seahawks
I keep fading the Falcons and getting burned, and Seattle's just a soft, undignified team that I'm embarrassed to back. But I think I have to hold my nose and take the home dog out of prinicple here. Back the Seahawks.
Falcons 24 - 23
Jets +6 at Steelers
On paper, six points is more than enough, but on paper, the Jets should have beaten the Pats two weeks ago. My theory about the Jets is they're the bully who's been unmasked, and now the swagger's gone. Picking up the pieces in Pittsburgh is a tall task, and one I don't think they're up to. Back the Steelers.
Steelers 27 - 6
Broncos +6.5 at Raiders
The Broncos just got blown out by Arizona - the same Cardinals who are now underdogs in Carolina. I can't think of a better time to buy low in a division rivalry. Back Denver.
Raiders 27 - 26
Packers +11 at Patriots
This line assumes Aaron Rodgers probably won't play, and it's looking like that's the case given that he's coming off his second concussion. The Packers don't run the ball well, and the question is whether their defense is good enough to keep this game close enough with Matt Flynn at quarterback. Barring strong winds, I don't think it is. Back the Pats who roll again.
Patriots 27 - 10
Bears -3 at Vikings
The Vikings looked awful against the Giants last week, and now they might be down to Joe Webb if he can even go. In fact, there's even an outside chance Brett Favre will be back at the helm. The other major variable is the location of the game. With the Metrodome roof still being repaired, the Vikings might move to the University of Minnesota's outdoor stadium which would likely entail frigid, snowy and possibly windy conditions. In short, there's so much up in the air here that it's very hard to make a pick this early in the week, and I'm not going to waste any more time on it. Back the home dog.
Vikings 16 - 13
We were 11-5 last week to go 100-103-5 on the season. We were 131-122 last year against the spread. From 1999-2009 we've gone 1439-1262 (53.3%, not including ties)