One man's Week 9 NFL picks ...
New Orleans (-6.5) over CAROLINA
The Panthers have scored 85 points this season, or seven less than the Raiders have put up the last two weeks. They are last in points scored, 31st in passing yards and 28th in rushing and have given us the worst QB controversy of all time in Matt Moore vs. Jimmy Clausen. Even after a win over Pittsburgh I'm still not sure about the Saints as a legit Super Bowl contender, but they won't need to be on Sunday.
HOUSTON (+3) over San Diego
This is a playoff game for the Texans. If they lose this week they drop to 4-4 with a brutal six-game stretch lurking (at Jacksonville, at Jets, home Tennessee, at Philly, home Baltimore and at Tennessee). They'd do well to split those six games, which would mean 8-6 (and a playoff pulse) if they beat the Chargers and 7-7 (and locking in Gary Kubiak as the color analyst for CBS' No. 6 announcing team in 2011) if they lose. Now do I think the players sit around and figure out what is going to happen eight weeks from now? Of course not. But I'm sure they can feel the season slipping, so I'll go with the more desperate team playing at home. The Chargers can still lose and compete in the AFC West (where an 8-8 winner isn't impossible) but the Texans need to get to 10 wins to have any chance at the postseason.
New York Jets (-4) over DETROIT
The Jets burned me as Lock of the Week Sunday (still 6-2, though), but I'm quasi-tempted to give them another shot here. This is one of those lines that has been overly influenced by one week of games. If the Jets had beaten the Packers and the Lions had lost to the Redskins (both possible -- one-score games in the fourth quarter) you'd be looking at a six or seven-point line. Should one week (with no injuries) have that kind of pull?
BALTIMORE (-4.5) over Miami
Hey, it's the Quarterbacks That I Guess Are Pretty Good But I Don't Trust Them At All Bowl! Marc Bulger and Kerry Collins will be at midfield for the commemorative coin toss.
Arizona (+9) over MINNESOTA
Watching Larry Fitzgerald trying to catch passes from Max Hall is like watching Laurence Olivier acting with Neil Diamond in "The Jazz Singer." This is a guy we thought was going to be one of the all-time greats at his position and now he's stuck with a rookie QB (or Derek Anderson) and no other skill players to take any kind of heat off him. Pretty sure he didn't think he'd basically be on an expansion team 18 months after setting a million playoff records and nearly winning a Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay (+9) over ATLANTA
Ugh, can't get a read on either team. I think the Falcons are a better team, but what have they done so far in 2010 to be a nine-point favorite over a team that A) has the same record and B) hasn't lost on the road?
BUFFALO (+3) over Chicago
The Bears gave up two first-round picks for Jay Cutler, paid him $50 million and have watched him throw 33 INTs in 22 games. The Bills signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, paid him $300,000 and have watched him put up a 12-5 TD/INT ratio and a 91.1 passer rating in 2010. The lesson, of course, is this: No matter how many times you are caught with hookers and drugs in a hotel room, CBS will keep you on a sitcom if the ratings are good.
SEATTLE (+7) over New York Giants
It's Week 9 and I still have no idea who the best team is in the NFC. I guess the Giants are as good a pick as any, and yet I have zero faith that they will go into Seattle and beat a team that lost by 30 to the Raiders last week.
Indianapolis (+3) over PHILADELPHIA
Nothing gets a rise out of the emailers like writing that Peyton Manning is better than Tom Brady. Usually the emails are "Brady just knows how to win!" pink hat garbage (or ones that make fun of my lousy voice on the radio and receding hairline) but I thought this one was at least well thought out (though I deleted his joke about my hairline). Kinda longish and wanders a little bit but points for effort.
Manning has played three games against two of the worst passer rating defenses in the league. He will have his fourth coming soon. That's a quarter of a season in games. Are you taking that into account? Quarterbacks like Matt Cassel, Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kerry Collins and Vince Young have had some of their best games against those same two defenses. Manning has played five games against defenses ranked 22nd or worse in passer rating. That's not quite the competition Brady has faced with a less talented offense.
You are comparing apples to oranges. That's not even adding in the lack of continuity or consistency Brady has had with his receivers or offensive coordinators as they get changed on him every couple of years. What Brady has done with what he's been dealt far outshines what Manning has done with his hand. Rod Woodson of the NFL Network scoffed at the idea of Manning being in the Top 10 of the greatest players of all-time and also made a comment on his MVPs that he didn't really deserve two of them. He says everyone is caught up in the Manning hype and I agree. You may be one of those people. The same thing was being said about Favre in his hype-filled years. Now look where he's at.
As for Brady playing less seasons than Manning, isn't it a greater accomplishment to earn more in a shorter amount of time ? That's less chances at winning Super Bowls, right? Less playoff appearances, etc... Manning is close to having more playoff appearances than any QB of all-time and almost twice as many as Brady. Yet he has one ring to Brady's three and two appearances to Brady's four. He already has the most first-round exits of any QB of all time, too. You're discounting Brady for not playing as many years but not crediting him for achieving more in less time. That doesn't make sense.
Kansas City (+2.5) over OAKLAND
When we first got a look at the schedule we all figured this would be one the three biggest games of Week 9, right? How dark has it been in Oakland the last half-decade? This is the first time since 2002 that they have played a game in November that has even a whiff of playoff buzz to it. No Nnamdi Asomugha (or at best limited) is too tough for the Raiders to overcome, as Matt Cassel (who has been GREAT the last month -- as good as any QB in the league) makes enough plays to steal a road win in the lowest-scoring game of the week.
GREEN BAY (-7.5) over Dallas
I'm now at the point where it's weird to see Jerry Jones' old face.
If the Cowboys go completely into the tank and finish 3-13 (not impossible, a killer schedule left) or 4-12 would Jones take a QB with a top three or four pick? Or is he still sold on the idea that Romo (who will be 31 years old with one career playoff win the next time he steps on the field) is a guy who can take you to the Lombardi?
Pittsburgh (-4.5) over CINCINNATI
Only one manager in my lifetime as a sports fan could ever pull off putting his hands in his back pockets when he came out of the dugout and only one manager in my lifetime as sports fan could smoke a pipe in the dugout and look authentic, not some Connie Mack knockoff. Sparky Anderson will always be known as the manager of the best team of the 1970s (take your pick, 1975 or 1976 Reds) and the 1980s (the '84 Tigers, who started the season 35-5, never trailed in the AL East race and lost just one postseason game). I've spent about 30 hours of my life in Cincinnati but I have to think with the overall lack of championships, Sparky has to be looked at as one of the two or three biggest sports figures in the history of the city. As a kid who grew up in the 1980s, Sparky always struck me as baseball's version of the brilliant older uncle who never got married and lived by himself in a house full of old books and magazines. Baseball for me hasn't been quite the same without him and he will be missed.
(And this is your lock of the week.)
New England (-4.5) over CLEVELAND
Give the Browns credit -- they have played hard since the beginning of the season. They aren't going to roll over on Sunday, but I just don't think Colt McCoy is going to beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Easy to point to this as a trap game, but I think the offense and defense are both still buying the "us against the world" stuff from Belichick, who might want to beat Mangini one more time before he takes mercy and hires him as the assistant to the assistant secondary coach next season. Patriots 24, Browns 17.
Last Week: 8-6 (two winning weeks in a row, may I introduce you to my Uncle Mo?)