One man's Week 11 NFL picks (note: I took Miami (PK) over Chicago in the Thursday night game) …
Cleveland (+1.5) over JACKSONVILLE
If you wiped out the records and started the season over today, is there any doubt that the Browns would be a top-five team in the AFC? Really good on both lines and it looks like Colt McCoy might be the guy. And we kind of forgot that Eric Mangini can coach. That Jets loss was a killer, clearly. Now at 3-6 you have to write 'em off for any playoff chance. But at 4-5 I would have given them a puncher's shot for sure. Either way (barring injury) you are looking at the hip AFC pick heading into 2011.
Oakland (+8) over PITTSBURGH
I don't love this pick -- I can see the Steelers all fired up after the Sunday night disaster and a 14-for-32 performance for 122 yards and three picks from Jason Campbell isn't exactly out of the question -- but I think the Raiders will be able to put pressure on Roethlisberger (27 sacks this season -- second in the NFL) and make enough plays on offense to keep it close.
CINCINNATI (-5) over Buffalo
No Clue Game of The Week, so let's take a moment and give thanks that the Celtics didn't walk out of the 2007 NBA Draft with Greg Oden. Remember how crushed we all were when the Celtics finished with the fifth pick after the lottery? If the ping-pong balls bounce another way and it ends up Oden, the Celtics would be totally irrelevant today. There is no Kevin Garnett, no Ray Allen, probably no Paul Pierce (didn't want to be part of a rebuilding plan). It might be Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge and not Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson with Mike Breen on ESPN. And who knows how Rondo would have progressed without The Big Three? Getting their hopes smashed in that lottery is just about the best stroke of luck in Celtics history, which is no mean feat.
(Though I still think I might trade the last three years for 10-15 years worth of Rondo-Kevin Durant.)
DALLAS (-6) over Detroit
Debated this with Mike Mutnansky last weekend on the radio: Which rookie would you rather have for the next 10 years -- Dez Bryant or Devin McCourty? I'm in the McCourty camp on this one. I just think you can always find a wide receiver, but a potential No. 1 lockdown corner is a much tougher discovery. Not saying that McCourty is definitely going to be Ty Law, but I think we've seen enough to know that something is there. (And Mutnansky still isn't ready to give up the ghost on Darius Butler. I think he's take Butler over McCourty and Bryant. It's a UConn thing, I guess, which would at least explain the Kara Wolters tattoo.)
KANSAS CITY (+7.5) over Arizona
NFC West teams are 3-15 on the road this season, with eight of the losses by 20 or more points. Yup, the Patriots have as many road wins as the NFC West. The 5-4 Miami Dolphins actually have more road wins than that entire division. Every other division has at least two teams that have outscored its opponent in 2010 -- the NFC West has none. Kansas City is 5-4 and on its way to 7-9 -- the collapse is on -- but I can't pick this Arizona team (with the worst defense in the NFL) on the road.
Green Bay (-3) over MINNESOTA
Aaron Rodgers has 74 career TDs and 30 interceptions. You know how many TD passes Tom Brady had in his career when he threw his 30th pick? Forty-six. How about Peyton Manning? Twenty-eight. Drew Brees? Also 28. Joe Montana? Fifty. The only guy I could find who had thrown more TDs with 30 career picks was Dan Marino. OK, Rodgers had a couple of years to sit in the bench and take it all in, but this is one of the top half-dozen QB's in the league. Assuming he stays healthy and has a 10-year career as a starter (not unreasonable), that would give the Packers 26 years of elite play at the hardest position to fill in the NFL.
Baltimore (-10) over CAROLINA
Yes, that Brian St. Pierre. Don't know much about him? Well, played at BC, was picked in the fifth round by the Steelers in 2003, threw a pass in 2004, another four in 2009 and was out of the league until two weeks ago. What else do we know about St. Pierre, Mr. Terrell Suggs?
"I know how to get after his ass," Suggs told Baltimore radio station WNST on Thursday. Now I think we're fully briefed.
(Lock of the week. Now 8-2, thanks to an OT miracle in Cleveland.)
Washington (+8) over TENNESSEE
Mike Shanahan press conference, Wednesday afternoon:
Q: Can you confidently say that Donovan will be the quarterback of the team next year?
“Take a look at my contract, I got a five-year contract and I am sure hoping that I am here in five years. I think anytime you sign a contract you are always hoping that you fulfill that contract. You don’t sign contracts thinking that the person won’t be here.”
Not exactly ringing, right? And I don't blame Coach Wooden Teeth, either. McNabb is 29th in passer rating and is going to turn 34 next week. And now it's absolutely fair to wonder if he was a system QB in Philly. Coin flip at best if he's even back in Washington next year. If I'm Shanahan I look somewhere else -- McNabb is not the answer.
NEW YORK JETS (+7) over Houston
Anyone notice that LaDainian Tomlinson has really slowed down over the last month? In the first five games of the season he averaged 87 yards rushing per game with a yards per carry of 5.7. The last four games? Just over 55 yards per game and a 3.4 YPC. Nice time to get fat and happy, though, against a Texans team that ranks 31st in the league in yards allowed per game. Houston looks like they are about to fall off the 2010 cliff. I think they struggle to finish 8-8.
(And I'm Gus Johnson'd out. Why was the fact that Gus Johnson called the Hail Mary last week a bigger deal than the actual play? I get that he goes crazy and he's the Zelig of wacky sports finishes, but it's crossed over to an act now. Something to be said for an in-prime Pat Summerall -- "Montana … Rice … touchdown." Timeless.)
NEW ORLEANS (+12) over Seattle
In a wide-open NFC, doesn't it seem strange that the defending Super Bowl champs -- healthy enough and 6-3 -- are flying under the radar? Don't count them out for the top seed in the conference. Next four weeks: Seattle, at Dallas, at Cincy and home for St. Louis. Saints and Falcons on December 27 is going to be the biggest NFC regular-season game of the year. Too bad we're stuck with the Monday Night Football crew. I really wish we could have Bob Papa, Joe Theismann and Matt Millen calling the game. What a group on Thursday night on NFL Network. My only wish is that Theismann would come out of his shell and act like he knows something. But I wouldn't change a thing about Papa, every play-by-play guy should sound like he's 5,000 feet underwater.
SAN FRANCISCO (-3) over Tampa Bay
Ugh, who knows? Can I interest you in a rare WEEI.com list of five instead?
Semi-Bold Celtics prediction No. 1: No Celtics player will complain about playing more than 40 minutes in a game or suggest that they want to "chill."
Semi-Bold Celtics prediction No. 2: Glen Davis wins Sixth Man Award.
Semi-Bold Celtics prediction No. 3: Rondo finishes top-three in MVP voting.
Semi-Bold Celtics prediction No. 4: Jermaine O'Neal will play exactly zero post-season minutes.
Semi-Bold Celtics prediction No. 5: But Rasheed Wallace will.
Atlanta (-3) over ST. LOUIS
Guess we have to throw Matt Ryan into the MVP mix. Quarterbacking the team with the best record in the NFC and on pace for over 4,000 yards passing and 30 TDs? I'd put him in the top five, behind Brady, Manning, Vick and Clay Matthews.
PHILADELPHIA (-3) over New York Giants
Look, I have no idea if Michael Vick has turned his life around. Neither do you. For all I know he has 30 dogs in the basement of his house and they have a canine Royal Rumble every night. But it's funny to me how badly people want to believe that Vick has seen some light. It's just not possible that he's figured out how to be a great quarterback and that he remains a creep. Nope, I'm reading and hearing that his growth on the field is a direct result of the learning process off of it. I recognize that is a possibility but I think a little healthy skepticism with this guy might be the best route. And that's one to grow on.
Denver (+10.5) over SAN DIEGO
Jon Gruden has now joined James Gandolfini, Martin Sheen, Kim Cattrall and Jeremy Piven as "people who now believe they are the character they play on TV." Gruden is all schtick now, it's as if he thinks he has to be the Jon Gruden persona -- sneering with short, clipped, tough-guy phrases, as opposed to a Super Bowl-winning coach who was a breath of fresh TV air in his first season on MNF.
NEW ENGLAND (-3) over Indianapolis
Doesn't seem like there is a ton of juice surrounding this one. Don't know, just feels like a Manning-Brady game should be a bigger event. Again, these are two of the five best quarterbacks in history at pretty close to the absolute peak of their powers. Maybe we'll get that two, three more times?
Last Week: 5-9