One man's Week 16 NFL picks ...
Carolina (+15) over PITTSBURGH
Not even the golden trio of Bob Papa, Matt Millen and Joe Theismann can save this Thursday night stinker. Lucky for the NFL Network this is championship week in most fantasy leagues or nobody outside of Pittsburgh would be watching this game. I'm sure the Steelers win semi-easily but this is just too many points for a team that has struggled on offense the last couple of weeks and has to once again play without Troy Polamalu.
Dallas (-6.5) over ARIZONA
Figuring out which team is the best in the NFC West is kind of like figuring out which Nicolas Cage toupee has been the most authentic on-screen. In both cases eventually you get waist-high in crap, give up trying and watch the last the last half hour of "The Wicker Man" instead. How many games does this Cowboys team -- with Jon Kitna -- win in the NFC West? My best guess is they'd go 9-7. That would probably be enough to win the division by two games (though I'm still holding out help for a 6-9-1 winner). I don't know which Hall of Fame voter will have to make the case for Kurt Warner when the time comes but all he should do is put together a five-minute highlight clip of last week's Cardinals' loss to the Panthers. I still think they win the NFC West this year if Warner had come back.
KANSAS CITY (-4.5) over Tennessee
It's almost sad to watch Randy Moss at this point. The Titans scored 31 points last week vs. an awful Texans defense and Moss didn't have a single catch. He wasn't even targeted once. Has there ever been an in-season decline to match this? If, in August, he had blown out both ACL's I think he'd be a more attractive free agent than he will be this offseason. At least there would still be some hope attached to his name.
CHICAGO (PK) over New York Jets
The reality is that the Jets aren't playing for much at this point. At 10-4 they could probably lose out and be the six seed and win out and be the five seed. The Bears need this game to lock up the two seed, they lose this week and they'll have to beat a Green Bay team playing for its playoff life in Week 17. So I'll go with the Bears here while recognizing this strange stat: The Jets have won two more games on the road this season (6-1) than the Bears have at home (4-3). But, more importantly, teams in the week their coaches have been outed as YouTube foot-fetish directors? Just 2-11 vs. the spread.
JACKSONVILLE (-7) vs. Washington
I guess you could argue that Donovan McNabb could give Moss a fight for in-season decline honors, but I'm not so sure. An hour before kickoff of the Week 1 games where would we have ranked Moss among receivers in the NFL? No worse than top five, right? How about McNabb vs. the other quarterbacks? Maybe in the top dozen, and that seems like a reach. I'll say this, though: If I'm the Cardinals, I'd give up a fourth or fifth-rounder for McNabb (and that's all it would take). He's still serviceable, which is a huge upgrade for Arizona (Cards QB's in 2010: eight TDs, 17 INT's, 50.5 completion percentage). Even if McNabb means a two-game difference next season that could be enough in the NFC West. Plus it could buy some goodwill with Larry Fitzgerald, who is starting to make some noise about not wanting to waste his prime years diving for grounders from Max Hall and John Skelton. (Can anyone think of a team that A) can win a Super Bowl and B) has a bunch high draft picks? Fitzgerald to New England makes too much sense not to at least be a healthy rumor in the offseason).
MIAMI (-3.5) over Detroit
This would have been a seven-point spread a week ago. But let's give the Lions some credit: In the last month they had a halftime lead over the Patriots, were a lousy unnecessary roughness call against Ndamukong Suh away from beating the Bears and then knocked off both Green Bay and Tampa Bay, a couple of teams in must-win spots. Really impressive, and I think if Matthew Stafford can stay on the field next year (huge if, the guy is basically Samuel L. Jackson in "Unbreakable") this could be a legitimate playoff contender. But I'm going with a Miami team playing for Tony Sparano's job. They seem to really to like him in those locker room clips I see on the NFL Network and that seems as good reason as any to pick a team in a toss-up spot. I'm about 3,000 games under .500 for the season on these picks so I might as well lean toward sentimentality from here on in.
ST. LOUIS (-2) over San Francisco
The Dolphins, Jets, Bears, Eagles, Falcons and Steelers all have as many wins on the road (six) as the entire NFC West. That's why I'll ignore the fact that Sam Bradford has smashed into the wall (no TDs, five picks the last three picks) and go with the team that doesn't have to get on a plane. The Rams have been the closest thing to a mediocre NFL team the NFC West has seen this year. They've only been outscored by 37 points for the season -- the other three teams have been outscored by a combined total of 263 points. If any team in this division has earned the right to go 7-9 and lose a home playoff game to the Saints by 20 points it has been the Rams.
Baltimore (-3) over CLEVELAND
Think the Browns lose this week and to Pittsburgh in Week 17? I think they will, and that would mean a 5-11 season and curtains for Mangini. What a bizarre year -- this is a team that in the same season beat the Saints and Pats by a combined 33 points in back-to-back games and also lost back-to-back games to the Bills and Bengals. I still don't think the Browns are that far off from being OK, though, and firing Mangini would be a mistake. But I'm sure Mike Holmgren wants to bring one of his guys in (Marty Mornhinweg fits the bill) and getting rid of a guy with a 10-22 record isn't a tough sell. I suppose Mangini will have to take a job as a D-Coordinator somewhere -- he'll have the whiff as a two-time loser -- but he's still not yet 40 years old and I think will eventually be a success as an NFL head coach (though I guess we can rule New England out).
DENVER (+3) over Houston
How many fantasy owners are going to roll the dice with Tim Tebow against that hideous Houston defense? Takes some grapefruits but I can understand why you'd do it if you don't have one of the must-play guys. All the hours you spend looking at mock drafts, debating on email chains about who you are going to pick, all the times you hit the refresh button on NFL.com to see if Mike Goodson caught any passes on the final drive of a 45-14 game, all the work time you wasted trying to make trades, and it'll all come down to a rookie QB with no throwing arm in the championship game. Probably not what you had in mind when you drafted Tony Romo, Brett Favre or Donovan McNabb.
Indianapolis (-3) over OAKLAND
Austin Collie is a walking (or, more accurately, stumbling) example why the NFL should never go to an 18-game regular season. Looking at Collie with his head down on the sideline last week you have to wonder: Is it so important that NBC and CBS and FOX get two more weeks worth of games?
San Diego (-7.5) over CINCINNATI
Wow. Didn't take long for the Bengals to become the Bengals again. Remember Week 1? There was a serious "playoff preview" vibe going on in Foxboro with the two teams. And sure, they lost that game but beat the Ravens and Panthers the following two weeks and stood at 2-1 with Cleveland and Tampa Bay next on the schedule. Everything seemed to be following script. They didn't win another game until last Sunday. This season in Cincinnati is exactly why going over your team's schedule in the offseason and trying to figure out wins and losses is a massive waste of time. Total disaster in Cincy this year. They are going to cut bait with Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens in the offseason. Probably Marvin Lewis will be gone also. Basically whoever takes over for Lewis will be exactly where Lewis was when he started in 2003 (fresh off a 2-14 2002 season -- and I think this would actually be a good spot for Mangini, but he'll never get the job).
TAMPA BAY (-5.5) over Seattle
The NFC West is 2-17 in road games outside the division this year … Pete Carroll on Matt Hasselbeck's tricky habit of throwing the ball to the team wearing helmets that do not feature a drawing of a Seahawk: "Honestly, I’m not as well prepared for this as I wish I was" … Only Brett Favre, Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clasuen have a higher passer rating than Hasselbeck … I wish Bill Devane acted more (sorry, the "dot dot dot" format gave me flashbacks to Larry King's old USA Today column. Thanks for the memories, LK. I'll never forget the time you asked Gene Hackman his favorite memory of making "The Godfather").
New York Giants (+3.5) over GREEN BAY
I think I'd give Aaron Rodgers another week off if I'm looking at it from a big picture scenario. Even if the Packers beat the Giants on Sunday, is this a team that's going to win the Super Bowl? Probably not. Not impossible, I guess, but it'll have to be three road games just to get to face the Patriots or Steelers or whoever gets out of the AFC. A longshot. Rodgers is a no-doubt franchise quarterback, the kind of guy you can build around for the next decade. I'm not sure it's worth risking another concussion to play him against a Giants team that rank third in the NFL with 43 sacks (the Packers have allowed 13 sacks in the last three games). I know this isn't how NFL teams, coaches or players think, but if the Packers announced today that they were sitting Rodgers down for the rest of the 2010 season both for his safety and the franchise's long-term future I'd be on board with it. Any chance that'll ever happen?
Minnesota (+15) over PHILADELPHIA
The one thing I learned after devoting 300 words or so in my mailbag to the idea that Tom Brady is an easy MVP pick over Michael Vick? There are a lot of Eagles fans who think I'm not an attractive man. Come on guys, I know the photo is lousy. We can do better than that. But there were a few comments/emails that I thought were valid in defense of Vick. Here's one that at least has some reasoning attached to it:
Vick averages more total yards per game then Brady.
He averages more total touchdowns per game then Brady.
To say that Brady is better statistically is dubious at best.
Yes, he does have slightly better passing efficiency numbers and throws for a whopping FOUR more yards per game
And the Kolb argument is also dubious at best. Remember when Brady went down and first-year starter Cassel went 11-5? Granted that was a truly great team that obviously could have done better with Brady. The truth is though (this may shock you) that we have no idea how the Pats would do this year if someone else was playing...... because someone else hasn't been playing. Therefore the Kolb argument is bogus. And Kolb would be 8-6 you say? Pure speculation. Your bias is obvious.
Vick is statistically better then Brady and I believe he is a better player as well. I will concede that he has better deep threats but his line is nowhere near is good as Brady's. In a lot of these games Brady has all day to pick apart the defense and find the open receiver. I think that Vick is a better player then Brady, and he is inarguably statistically more prolific.
OK. Fair enough. I'll still take a better record, 10 more TDs, fewer INTs (in 120 more attempts) and a higher passer rating. And I do think Vick has more to work with (McCoy, Jackson, Maclin) and I don't believe that the Eagles would be in bad shape with Kolb under center. I guess the question is this: Which is more likely, the Patriots would be 12-2 with Vick or that the Eagles would be 10-4 with Brady? But I appreciate the feedback and understand that Vick has been terrific this year. And I might even make a trip to Glamour Shots this weekend to update the photo.
ATLANTA (-1) over New Orleans
And lost in the Brady vs. Vick stuff is Matt Ryan, who is having what would usually be an MVP-type of season. He's on pace to throw 30 touchdowns and 3,800 yards for a team that could finish 14-2. He's not going to win the MVP this year but I'll put the over/under on career MVP's at 1.5 and take the over.
New England (-8) over BUFFALO
If the Patriots had beat the Bills 48-10 in Week 3 I might have felt different about this one. But it was a 38-30 game, with the Bills putting up almost 400 yards. I'm sure that has been a big theme all week. Combine that with the chance to lock up the one seed in the AFC with a win -- which could really mean two weeks off -- and the lackluster effort vs. the Packers and I think you're looking at a two-touchdown win. Call it 38-24, Pats.