I remember my first time taking Driver's Ed; more specifically, I remember the freeway test. I remember that my fingers were leaving imprints in the steering wheel and my right leg felt like petrified wood. I remember taking the gentle left off of King St and onto I-5 N. I remember forcing my timid foot down on the gas and shuddering slightly as I accelerated up to 60 mph. There was a semi-truck in the merging lane that was late getting over. I may have yelped as I eased the car into the "slow" lane. The speed I was traveling at was terrifying, and it took me a while to acclimate to the seemingly blinding rate at which I was racing.
That's what it feels like to be making picks this season. After another 13-3 week, we sit at 47-15 (.758) since this column started, and a top-1%-worldwide 144 correct picks since Week 1. Let's keep the right foot pressed, shall we?
Circumstances dictate that these picks be somewhat truncated, but hey, less reading for you!
How do the Jaguars keep getting prime time games? And why has the Thursday lineup been so weak this season? So far the Thursday lineups (not counting Thanksgiving when everyone plays on Thursday) has featured teams with a combined record of 41-45. This one doesn't get much better, at least in terms of being compelling (unless you're a fan largely-haunched running backs, in which case Maurice Jones-Drew and Michael Turner will have you titillated). Jacksonville is the least exciting team in the league, except for maybe the Browns, and there's no reason to think they'll be capable of keeping this one close beyond three quarters. THE PICK: FALCONS
PS - Don't let the Jaguars' big win over the Bucs last week fool you, that's like scoring 41 points against a fleet of overturned tomato carts. Speaking of which...
Has there been a bigger disaster this season than the Bucs? Coming into the season, the NFL's youngest team was being praised for their maturity and rapid acceleration into the sphere of true contenders and may thought we were seeing the establishment of a new mainstay near the top of the NFC. Regression is a bitch, eh? I like the Bucs, but they have shown their age this year and the wheels are all the way off for them this season. Raheem Morris started the season as the darling of the coaching world; now I'm not sure if he makes it through the season
As if coaching / playing for the Cowboys wasn't second-guessed enough, Dallas has managed to find a way to turn the magnification of every play up even higher. Fifteen of the team's last 19 games have been decided by one score, and the last two (both losses) came after Dan Bailey, Cowboys kicker was
iced iced shortly before making game-winning / tying field goals, only to miss the second attempt. I can't imagine what it's like, week to week, to be Tony Romo or Jason Garrett and have to face so much heat all the time. I bet the paychecks make it a little easier, though. THE PICK: COWBOYS
I hated to see Tony Sparano lose his job. Sure, the 'Phins were 4-9 and it was opportunistic to fire their coach after a loss, but damn did that team play hard. I'd also be curious to see when the last time a coach of a team with a positive point-differential was fired this late into the season. Anyhow, I don't buy into the idea of letdown games as much as some do, but I see this being one for Miami. Buffalo has been all kinds of bad since their hot start, but a cold home game in front of fans deserve credit gives them as good a shot as they'll have the rest of the way. I say they take advantage. THE PICK: BILLS
Vegas has the Bears giving 4.5 at home against Seattle, but I can't help but feel that the line would zoom quickly the other way if this game were being played in Seattle. The Seahawks, winners of four out of their last five, also had the rare benefit of playing back-to-back home games, the first of which came on a Thursday and the next on a Monday. You will never see a team better-rested in Week 14 than the 'Hawks were. Now it's a short week before a cross-country road game, which should spell disaster for them.
The Bears are coming off of a loss that SportsCenter has been playing the last few minutes of on repeat since Sunday. Their defense is still awesome, but their offense is absolutely punchless. Seattle should lose this game, but they are also likely to win the battle of ball-control, as Caleb Hanie can't sustain a drive and the 'Hawks defense isn't letting teams do much of that anyway. Hopefully Steven Hauschka can make some kicks in the cold, because touchdowns will be at a premium. I say he can. THE PICK: SEAHAWKS
If I'm right, get ready for a fun last few weeks on this site.
Also, in one of the wildest stories you'll hear all year, Bears wideout Sam Hurd just got nabbed in a federal cocaine sting. Dude was allegedly running four kilos a week and coordinating everything through Mexican cell phones.
I never thought the Bengals were as good as their 6-2 start, but I don't think they're as bad as teir 1-4 mark since then. 7-6 does sound about right, though. 2-11 sounds about right for the Rams, too. THE PICK: BENGALS
Last week, against the Raiders, the starters were on the sidelines while Matt Flynn mopped up an ugly-for-the-second-straight-week Raiders team. This week shouldn't be any different.
The best thing* about this team is that they legitimately seem like they want to win all 16 games. There's arguments to be made for resting starters once you've clinched home-field advantage, but as a fan, you can't help but sheer for "perfection." Side note: it's amazing how much more well-received this pursuit of 16-0 is than Belichick's run a few years ago. I don't know about you guys, but I'm ready to live in a world where Aaron Rodgers is the face of the league. THE PICK: PACKERS
If Matt Hasselbeck can't go, one of the starting quarterbacks will get their first career win. It will either be Jake Locker (1st start) or Dan Orlovsky (14th). Poor, poor Dan Orlovsky. THE PICK: TITANS
This game will be 14-0 Saints after the coin toss. I expect Adrian Peterson to have success in his first game back, and Percy Harvin is playing out of his mind right now, but these days it takes nigh 40 points to beat New Orleans on turf and I don't think Christian Ponder can muster that. Big day for Drew Brees, too, as the Vikings insist on running the worst version of a Cover-2 that I've ever seen. THE PICK: SAINTS
Fun fact: The NFC East, the best, toughest, meanest division in football, has a combined record of 23-29. The NFC West, which many people still think should stop polluting the grandeur of the NFL with it's mediocrity and join the Arena League, is 24-28. Until ESPN moves to Portland, the perception shift will never take place. THE PICK: GIANTS
It's official: I love Cam Newton. Love him. Unfortunately, he doesn't play defense. Arian Foster is gonna go nuts on Sunday. Just absolute, out of his mind, namaste-all-day bonkers. Just watch. I've said all year that Houston is the best team in the league for a non-elite quarterback, and now no one is more aware of that than T.J. Yates. THE PICK: TEXANS
This is one of those games where I defer to the home team. If it were in Detroit, I say it's Lions by a touchdown. In Oakland, I think the Raiders get back into the AFC West title mix while the Lions' once solid grip on a playoff spot continues to slip. THE PICK: RAIDERS
All of the excitement 'round these parts about the Seahawks' re-emergence as a playoff hopeful has obscured the fact that the Cardinals are playing every bit as well as we are. Don't assume that game in Tempe later on is going to be an easy win. Kevin Kolb and the guy I think is the most talented (key word there, don't get all hissy) wide receiver who ever played, Larry Fitzgerald, have that team in the midst of a 5-1 stretch. Bonus: Seneca's back! THE PICK: CARDINALS
The magic may not stop here, but it's going to take a breather. Denver has played some excellent football of late and I expect Tom Brady to spend a lot of time picking himself up from under Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, but there's just no answer for Rob Gronkowski. There just isn't. Similarly, I've long believed that no adequate defense exists for perfect-route / perfect-throw, and if Brady's feeling it, Welker will have a big day too. Te one thing I'll be watching for in this one, is John Fox letting Matt Prater try a 70-yard field goal. He's capable. Think about it. If you're 4th and 12 on your own 47, and you're in Denver, don't you think about it? THE PICK: PATRIOTS
Have I mentioned how much I hate picking Eagle games? I'd rather give birth to a refrigerator than have to stake a large amount of money on an Eagles prediction. THE PICK: EAGLES.
Call it my upset pick, but I think the Chargers are playing well enough of late to score on anyone, and I think they put up about 27 against the Ravens. Terrell Suggs is having a DPOY type of season, but Joe Flacco is as capable of wetting the bed as any major contender's QB and I don't think he can afford an off night in this one. I say Chargers in a close one. By the way, if San Diego makes a run, does Norv Turner keep his job? I say no way. San Diego is attractive enough of a gig (talent, location) to lure the best candidates. THE PICK: CHARGERS
This is the best prime time matchup of the season so far, assuming Ben Roethlisberger plays. No two defenses are hotter right now, and I expect this one to get nice and ugly. I'm so tempted to take San Francisco at home here, but I see either Antonio Brown or Mike Wallace getting losse deep at least once and I'm not sure the 49ers will match. Really tough pick, but I'll take Pittsburgh in a 16-13 type game. THE PICK: STEELERS
See you in the winner's circle.