Here come the Week 3 picks, and I'm just trying to get back to .500. Not a great Week 2 (6-9-1) and since Week 1 was my bye I stand three games under for the season as we head into this weekend. Somewhere Stu Feiner is shaking his head in disgust.
So let the march to mediocrity begin. Here are the picks (home team in caps) …
Cincinnati (-3) over CAROLINA
Jimmy Clausen in, Matt Moore (40.8 completion percentage, 41.8 passer rating) out. I wonder sometimes how a franchise like Buffalo thinks. Clearly they weren't sold on Trent Edwards -- two games isn't exactly a lot of rope -- so why not take Clausen with the 41st pick? Even if it's a 30 percent chance he's the guy they've been missing for 15 years it's still worth a shot, isn't it? You're telling me they sat in that draft room and spent the whole offseason convinced that Edwards was the guy?
I think Carolina is on the 3-13 train, and I think Cincy finishes 9-7, so I'll go with the Bengals here. I think Clausen is going to be OK, actually, but the Cincy defense will make a couple of plays and TO ends our long national nightmare and finds the end zone.
And TO and Ochocinco weighed in on Sarah Palin this week, deciding that she is "cute" but "nothing … that is Playboyish." Remember who said it first, because you know Huckabee is going to use it in the first Iowa debate.
KANSAS CITY (+2.5) over San Francisco
I know Mike Singletary was intense as a player, but he's coming across as the crazy second banana of the bad guy group in a Michael Bay movie from 1996. These are now the eyes of a madman. The image of him running onto to the field to call a timeout at the end of the 49ers-Saints game will not stand next to The Catch and Montana-to-Taylor in franchise lore. I smell trouble, but the good news that 7-9 could win the NFC West (I'm serious -- tell me there's a team in that division that couldn't go 5-11).
Detroit (-11) over MINNESOTA
I've seen nothing from the Vikes to convince me to take them as a double-digit favorite.
I love that Favre is now bitching that he needs receivers. No bigger fraud in sports not named Lance Armstrong. If you get paid a million dollars a game -- not counting incentives -- to be the quarterback of a team you better be able to get it done with Hall and Oates as your starting wideouts.
Dallas (-3) over HOUSTON
I'm putting stock in the "playing for the season" angle here. If the Cowboys lose this game they'll be 0-3 with games at Minnesota, Green Bay, Indy and Philly left on the schedule, plus a home game with the Saints. Tough to get to 10-3 with that slate, which is what you'd assume they'd have to do if they lost Sunday.
And I'm leaving the Texans in the also-ran category until I see some big stops from that defense. They might win nine or 10 games, sure, but they won't go far in the playoffs if they keep giving up these huge drives. Same goes for the Pats, of course.
NEW ORLEANS (-4) over Atlanta
Doesn't this seem like a low number? I know that the Saints have had a little Lombardi Hangover the first couple of weeks, but what have the Falcons done to deserve this? A road loss to Dennis Dixon and a blowout home win over Derek Anderson isn't enough for me to assume they are ready to go into New Orleans and steal one.
Pittsburgh (-2.5) over TAMPA BAY
Charlie Batch will stay out of the way (who's the Pats fourth-string quarterback, anyway? Michael Bishop?) and let the Steelers defense win this game. The Bucs have beaten the Browns and Panthers, two teams that may not combine to win 10 games this year. If they had opened with the Saints and Packers they'd be an ugly 0-2 and a six or seven point 'dog on Sunday. Lock of the week. Well, the lock of the week is that I'll tell my wife I'm going to the office but instead sneak out and see Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps by myself. Small victories.
BALTIMORE (-10.5) over Cleveland
Looking at the Browns schedule, I think they'll be favored in exactly one more game this year (home Carolina, Week 12). I think they have about a one in five shot of going 0-16, which would mean that Eric Mangini went from the next Bill Belichick to the next Rod Marinelli in five years. That'll give him a reason to cry on Season Nine of "Celebrity Fit Club" when he's sharing a room with Balki and A.J. Benza.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-3) over Tennessee
No faith in either team, this is purely a home-field pick.
This is Vince Young's fifth season in the NFL. He's a two-time Pro Bowler (though the worst two-time Pro Bowler in history -- a 34-41 career TD-INT ratio. I think 26 QB's backed out of the AFC Pro Bowl team last year before Vince got in, including Brian Hoyer and Scott Bakula) and has played in postseason games. So if I'm Jeff Fisher I have to be wondering why I still need to do things like bench Young in order to send him a message. Once Fisher (or Young, I guess) leaves Tennessee how long until he rips Vince for being a lousy QB (which he is, better in Madden than reality) with no real desire to improve? I'll go with 12 weeks and take the under.
NEW ENGLAND (-14.5) over Buffalo
The Pats are Rob Lowe in St. Elmo's Fire and the Bills are Mare Winningham. A much-needed sure thing to give the ego a boost after a failed conquest.
(Oh, I can match up each of the remaining characters with an NFL team. Judd Nelson's smug, Republican, skirt-chasing Alec? OK, maybe I can't. But I'll tell you this with no shame: I can still feel St. Elmo's Fire burning in me.)
I don't care if the final is 488-2, this game means nothing when it comes to measuring where the Patriots are. Nothing. But I suspect we'll know a great deal about this team after they play the four games after the Bills (at Miami, home Ravens, at San Diego, home Vikings). Would you sign for a split and a 4-3 record?
Philadelphia (-3) over JACKSONVILLE
I still think this Vick story might be more heart-warming if he hadn't electrocuted and drowned dogs, but that's just me.
Washington (-3.5) over ST. LOUIS
The Rams have hung in the first two weeks, but after Derek Anderson, Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski they get Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan looking to blow off some steam after a brutal loss to the Texans. This is the kind of game a good team wins 34-10.
San Diego (-5.5) over SEATTLE
Pete Carroll vs. Norv Turner. It would be a chess match, if the two could figure out how get the chess board out of the box.
Vincent Jackson's agent called Chargers' GM A.J. Smith "The Lord of No Rings" this week, which is a great quote. It would be a better one if Jackson was more like Troy Brown and less like Vincent Jackson. Last we saw this guy he was picking up a key 15-yard penalty for kicking a challenge flag in the playoff loss vs. the Jets. That was, if you were wondering, the same day he was pulled over and handcuffed for a couple of driving violations. And he's currently serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy (DUI No. 2). So maybe -- just for a year or so -- he should just shut up, stay sober and just be glad to be in the NFL and not demand a trade from a team that has done everything to try and keep him happy.
Oakland (+4.5) over ARIZONA
This game is actually being blacked out to those in attendance.
I picked Oakland because their defense is the least crappy unit of the four between the teams. By the way, "Least crappy unit" is the 14th playoff tiebreaker, the name of Gary Cherone's first post-Van Halen album and an AVN award.
Indianapolis (-5.5) over DENVER
The Giants could be awful and we just don't know it yet, but that was a scary-good performance from the Colts on Sunday night. Even Al Michaels' toupee was impressed, and that's usually one tough critic.
MIAMI (-2) over New York Jets
The Dolphins swept the Jets last year, head into this game with a ton of confidence and don't have to worry about Revis. I don't think they win going away -- the Jets' defense is too good even without Revis -- but they win and get to 3-0.
And the next time Braylon Edwards is about to do something stupid enough to get him on the cover of the Post and Daily News he'll take a moment and remember how he was benched for three snaps in the Dolphins game. One to grow on.
Green Bay (-3) over CHICAGO
I'll take Aaron Rodgers over Jay Cutler, but I have a sneaky feeling this game is going to be 37-31 with a ton of big plays. If you have zero rooting interest in any team I think this would be the one game to watch this week.