All bye weeks are done. We move back to full 16-game weekends. The picks get even quicker and more dismissive. The jokes are punchier. The patience is thinner. The logic is dimmer.
Baltimore at Tennessee - The Ravens are in first place. At some point you'd think that situation would correct itself, wouldn't you?.
Buffalo at Indianapolis - Matchups like this make me understand why people have problems with our 300-character minimum. What's the point?
Chicago at NY Giants - This is the first "flex" game, selected mid-season to be the Sunday night contest on NBC. That's because the Giants' locker room looks a lot like ER right now.
Cleveland at Atlanta - Phil Dawson kicked six field goals for Cleveland last week, accounting for all the Browns' scoring until the final 75 seconds of the game against the Chargers. This week, the Browns' offensive game plan might be even more exciting!
Green Bay at Minnesota - If the season ended today, the Vikings would make the playoffs. Wisconsin just likes the sound of "if the season ended today."
Houston at Jacksonville - The two teams that almost ruined my Survivor season meet again. This time, the Jaguars are dead set on restoring my good name.
Kansas City at Miami - Just to refresh your memory, this is what I said about last week's Dolphins-Bears game:
New Orleans at Pittsburgh - Every instinct in my body is telling me the Steelers, despite their season heading into the tank*, have the better chance to win this game. As we have seen lately, my bodily instincts are on the fritz. Which do you have more faith in -- the Steelers free-falling or the Saints being exposed?
Pick: New Orleans, with almost no confidence whatsoever.
NY Jets at New England - I still insist the Jets aren't actually contending in the AFC, but they certainly look good not doing it.
Pick: New England.
San Diego at Cincinnati - How did the Bengals turn into WKRAP in Cincinnati? (Yes, I've been waiting to drop that pun all season. Not as great as I thought it would feel.)
Pick: San Diego.
San Francisco at Detroit - If they relocate to Santa Clara, it would be the first time in years that the 49ers have moved their offense more than 300 yards in one day.
Washington at Philadelphia - Unlike last week, I don't think the Redskins will have Rod Serling on their side.
Denver at Oakland - I made up this joke last week in the stands at Qwest:
A: Drive him to the stadium.
St. Louis at Seattle - Yeah, I'm gonna homer on this one, even as I feel the Rams will throw on the Seahawks defense like housewives tossing panties at a Tom Jones concert.
Dallas at Arizona - The Cardinals' season is so bad, it's even starting to depress me. And they're our divisional rivals.
Tampa Bay at Carolina - Everything points to the Panthers rising out of mediocrity right now. Then again, I thought Studio 60 was going to get better too.
Last Week: 7 and 7, which is what I might as well have been drinking while making the picks.
Season: 78-50. If I were an ESPN expert, I'd be tied with Golic and Schlereth for second.
*Following up on last week's question: The worst season record ever (not counting strike-shortened seasons) for a team who had won the Super Bowl in the previous season is... 6-10, by the 1999-2000 Denver Broncos, who had just lost John Elway to retirement. The Steelers must play .500 ball the rest of the year to avoid matching that low.