I hate to brag. Wait. Got nabbed by Fact Checkers. I love to brag, it’s just that I get so little chance! Last week’s 13-1 record (.929) was my best week in 22 years on The Friday Page. Only Doug Martin’s craziness for the Bucs at Oakland prevented my perfection. Our buoyant 10-4 against the spread was much needed as well. Three outright upset calls led our preening parade: Steelers over Giants (“Aawwk!”), Panthers over Redskins and Colts over Dolphins. “Why can’t I do this all the time?” I ask myself, rhetorically, dreaming. [Thursday pick: Colts (-3) over Jaguars, 24-16]
TITANS (3-6) at DOLPHINS (4-4)
Does the game being in South Florida mean it’ll be early Wednesday before all of the points are counted and a winner is finally declared? Can’t recall when Miami was last favored by as much as it is this week. It is largely because the Titans’ sink-like-the-Titanic defense is on pace to allow 547 points and break the durable NFL season record of 533 set by the 1981 Baltimore Colts. Owner Bud Adams, 89, called last week’s 51-20 loss to Chicago his franchise’s most disappointing home defeat in his 50-year ownership dating to the Oilers days, saying his team was “grossly out-coached and outplayed.” In other words, Dolphins, y’all had BETTER not lose this one! Miami simply does not have the margin of error in the playoff chase to afford a stumble here. Titans QB Jake Locker returns after five games out injured, but that won’t matter much if MIA’s stout run defense limits Chris Johnson and extends to a league-best 23 games its streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher. As for that Titans’ D? It’s so bad that we might well expect fat stats from Ryan Tannehill and Reggie Bush.
TEXANS (7-1) at BEARS (7-1)
If the average game is a bag o’ fast-food burgers, this one is the finest piece of Kobe beef at Prime 112. Talk about a match-up ready for the solitary night stage! The teams rank 1-2 in point differential and are a combined plus-24 on turnovers, with Bears on a six-game win streak and Texans 3-0 on the road. Game also features the two defensive player of the year frontrunners in HOU sackman J.J. Watt and Chitown havoc-wreaker Charles Tillman. Tillman thought he might miss this game because his wife was due but she’ll deliver Monday. Good thing. Otherwise the infant would have been named Least Popular Baby in Chicago. Give me that awesome Bears defense and the chilly home field in a game I’d pay to see.
FALCONS (8-0) at SAINTS (3-5)
“AAAWWWK!” bugles the Upset Bird. “Last unbeaten falls! Mercury Maawwk! ’72 Daawwk!” This might not be a huge upset by the point spread, but here is what makes it big: Atlanta is 29-0 when Matt Ryan has a 100 passer rating, and N’Awlins’ pass defense could only be worse if the starting cornerbacks were my wife and I. Seriously. What am I thinking? Well, ATL is the 15th team to reach 8-0 since 1978, and nine of the other 14 have reached the Super Bowl, but I’m still not sold on the Falcs as a superpower. They have fed on a soft schedule. So give me Drew Brees at home. Give me a Fleur de Lis squad on a 10-2 run in this division rivalry. (When the Saints are on defense, I’ll be the guy praying.) “Have a feeling Don Shula might have an interest in this result,” notes U-Bird. “Shoes ready to pop that bottle of champaaawwwk!”
CHIEFS (1-7) at STEELERS (5-3)
The Dog panel convening to select the worst match-up of each week always has a safe default starting point in the moribund Chiefs. Particularly when they are playing at Pittsburgh, which has 14 consecutive Monday night home games. (Fourteen!) KC has lost five in a row, is a gruesome minus-20 on turnovers, and still has not had a single lead in regulation. Surely stranger things have happened than this game not being a rout. I just can’t think of any at the moment.
The home team has won all eight meetings in this series, but every trend must eventually end, yes? Eli Manning and his Biggies offense haven’t played well lately — that’s why kicker Lawrence Tynes is on a record pace for most field goals — but slumping ’Gals have lost three in a row at home. The times Andy Dalton gets sacked will outnumber A.J. Green’s catches.
Motown had won three in a row in this division series before Minny won 20-13 on Sept. 30 — thanks to kickoff and punt-return TDs. Not many pigskin-pickin’ brethren agree, but I’m hunching a slight upset here for a Vikings season sweep. Minnesota has become a pretty stout home team (4-1) and hot Adrian Peterson has 458 rushing yards in past three games under roof at The Humph.
You might not find a more lopsided division series in the NFL. Patriots have owned Buffs in 22 of past 24 meetings including a 52-28 late-September rout in which Tom Brady threw for 340 yards and the Pats had two 100-yard leg men. Brady Bunch also has won 11 in a row at home over the Williams, and are coming off a bye. Just too, too much firepower on the home side.
Upset! I know Josh Freeman and Tampa have been hot, putting up 28-plus points in four consecutive games. And I know Bucs rookie RB Doug Martin went nuts against Oakland last week. But I like Diego’s stout run D limiting Martin more than I like the Tee Bees’ horrific secondary stopping Philip Rivers. Pick has a high bust potential, but I gotta listen to my gut when it grumbles.
Peyton Manning’s next TD pass ties Dan Marino for second all-time with 420, and Peyton has been as hot the past five games as at most any point in his storied career. Carolina’s pass defense is not bad, but I just cannot envision Manning being outscored by the Cats’ offense. Happy plane home for Broncos’ John Fox against the team he coached for nine years.
Oakland is not a very good traveling team, and Baltimore is one of the great home squads — winner, in fact, of 14 consecutive regular-season games in Crowtown, league’s longest such streak. Ravens are a bit of a shaky 6-2, but Ray Rice’s fantasy owners should be smiling like Obama voters, because he’ll run for miles against Raiders’ awful ground D. Rice, I mean, not Obama.
Rex Ryan, newly voted league’s most overrated coach, is talking playoffs. Although I suspect the volume on that will decrease sharply when his team falls to 3-6 here. Rookie QB Russell Wilson is hugely better at home, and Marshawn Lynch could roll a 150 on Planes’ lousy run D. See it close, though. Bonus fact: Cornerback Brother Bowl with ’Hawk’s Marcus Trufant and Jets’ Isaiah T.
St. Lou on a three-game skid and winless on the road this season, while Frans have taken eight of past 10 in series including a 2011 sweep. Rams tempt with points, but nothing about this game says close to me. Can’t see Sam Bradford seeing much end zone. Bears’ D and others are noisier and get more attention but Niners are giving up fewer points than anybody.
Two proud old rivals come in stumbling. Desperate Philly is enticing as a (slight) home ’dog; Birds have won three of past four over ’Boys. But Phils lead the league in reeling, and I’m not sure how poor Mike Vick stays in one piece behind that decimated offensive line of his. DeMarcus Ware is licking chops. No result would surprise me here, but the safest play is Dallas extending Andy Reid’s misery.
OFF THIS WEEK