You know how the Dolphins are embarrassed by their Bullygate scandal? That’s about how much I’m embarrassed by my 2013 season of NFL predictions thus far. I deserve to be punched by a marauding and perhaps drunken Richie Incognito. Last week began with such promise as I nailed Miami’s upset of Cincy and also bull’s-eyed Tampa-with-points over Seattle. But after that my week was epitomized by Colts-Texans. Had Houston in an upset and looked golden, ’til the Texans got bullied late. Misery has a face: Mine. [Note: Thursday-game pick was Vikings (+2 1/2) over Redskins, 28-24].
DOLPHINS (4-4) AT BUCCANEERS (0-8)
What a bizarre framework for this game. The winless home team with the embattled coach and the quarterback upheaval is the font of tranquility compared to the visiting Dolphins. Miami’s Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin/Bullygate mess has been a major — and ongoing — distraction to the team, not to mention further depleting an already bad offensive line. And you know the controversy will get the big rehash and full, grave sociological examination in prime time Monday. It is a franchise nightmare. It’s impossible to say how it will affect the team’s performance here, but I’d guess not favorably. The game is ripe for Tampa to get off the schneid. Monday home dogs tend to be money anyway, and Tampa Bay is due after forcing strong Seattle into overtime last week. Bucs have lost five games by a single score; they are not Jacksonville awful, and they are due. T-Bay’s defense is decent and rookie QB Mike Glennon is 5-0 on TDs/picks the past three games. (Neat subplot: Dueling ex-Canes running backs in Lamar Miller vs. Mike James). There is a chance, of course, that Bullygate will have a rallying effect on Miami, but I think there’s a greater chance that a chaotic week and a too-easy-to-overlook opponent will turn out bad for the Dolphins.
COWBOYS (5-4) AT SAINTS (6-2)
Four Week 10 games had the GOTW panel’s attention but this one offered prime time, Drew Brees vs. Tony Romo and the entertaining likelihood of a competitive shootout. Saints have dropped two of past three but should get back on the rails in N’Awlins, where they are 4-0. Saints also have won two straight and seven of past eight vs. the Boys. You may also be assured the Cajuns defense will be amped up for Rob Ryan, who hasn’t forgotten he got fired by Dallas. The bet on Saints outright assumes Jimmy Graham plays. Liking Cowboys with the points, though. Dez Bryant says he will be good to go, and DeMarco Murray should get that ground game untracked against an iffy NO run-D. Cowboys had 54 passes to nine runs last week — highest ratio ever for a winning team — and will need better balance here.
“AAAWWWK!” screams the Upset Bird. “Atlantaawwk!” Reasons I might be nuts: Seattle is a better team, is 4-1 on the road, and (mostly) is out to avenge last year’s last-second 30-28 playoff loss in the Georgia Dome. Reasons I might NOT be nuts: Pete Carroll is 0-4 vs. Falcons, Birds should have Roddy White back for first time since Week 5, and Seattle — which struggled to beat to beat Tampa last week — has serious offensive line injuries and recent fissures in run defense. Hey, what the hell! When you’re having a season like me and the Falcs, you go for broke. “You got for braawwk!” concurs the U-Bird, who pondered calling himself the Upset Bully this week but thought it might be in poor taste. “Roddy Whaawwk!”
JAGUARS (0-8) AT TITANS (4-4)
No one game stood out as the week’s worst for the Dog deliberators, in which case the default choice tends to be whatever game involves the Jaguars, who are to NFL excellence what Miley Cyrus is to role modeling for pre-teens. Jake Locker has a 103.1 passer rating in three home games, and Chris Johnson (150 yards last week) should stay hot vs. an abysmal Jax run defense. Only profound overconfidence imperils Tennessee. J-Ville is so bad, not even the law of averages applies.
Chicago QB Jay Cutler is cleared to play and expected to start, a late fact the point spread here likely does not reflect. Call it a bank error in my favor. I predict games based on the lines that appear in Thursday’s newspaper, period. Truthfully, I might have picked Bears even if Cutler-less. Chitown is 3-1 at home and Motown (which won in September) hasn’t swept this series since 2007. Also, Lions have lost six consecutive division roadies and five in a row at The Soldier.
Here is the difference Aaron Rodgers’ injury absence means: A Vegas sportsbook buddy of mine said Pack would be favored by 10 if Rodgers was throwing. Instead, backup Seneca Wallace makes it a near pick-’em game. This will be only third time in past 372 games that somebody other than Brett Favre or Rodgers starts for Gee Bees. Nevertheless, in Lambeau I Trust!
Sometime it is best to not overcomplicate things: Andrew Luck is 10-2 at home, the Rams are 1-3 on the road and — Bernie Kosar was right! — Kellen Clemens isn’t very good.
The point spread seems too big — it’s the Giants! — but keep in mind NYG is coming off a bye after beating Philadelphia, and Oakland just lost (very badly) to those same Eagles. A Raiders pass-D just whipped for seven TDs by Nick Foles should be a get-well card for Eli Manning, and Oakies have lost seven consecutive road games and 10 of past 11.
Buffalo exalts over the expected return from injury of QB EJ Manuel. mainly because Jeff Tuel makes anybody else seem like Joe Montana. Also think Williams’ ground game could be good matchup vs. Pitt’s run-D. But I’m stubborn. Still have trust in Ben Roethlisberger at home.
Here’s an intriguing matchup. Reeling, defending-champion Crows trying to avoid first four-game losing streak since 2007, and Bengals trying to assert that THEY own the division now. Should be an emotional game. Cincy’s injury-loss of DT Geno Atkins will open up running room for struggling Ray Rice. Let’s see how much pride champs have left. Upset!
Game of the Week finalist, for sure, with 49ers on five-game win streak (by a combined 174-61 margin) and Panthers on four-game run (by 130-48). Two teams en fuego, but Cats and Cam Newton have gotten fat on weak foes, their four-game streak against teams a combined 8-33. Uh oh. Here comes a quality opponent.
It’s a dice-rolling week. This is our fifth upset call (including Thursday’s game), and it relies on our not quite trusting Zona as much as it does our waning belief in Houston. And, yes, I DO know Arian Foster (back) might not play. QB Case Keenum has looked really good, and Texans’ defense is too strong to keep losing. Wade Phillips fills in as HOU coach Gary Kubiak recovers from a mini-stroke. Win one for the Kubber?
Another Game of the Week finalist, because Peyton Manning at Philip Rivers should be good for one of those Saturday Oregon Ducks/FSU scores. Jack Del Rio fills in for Denver as John Fox recovers from heart surgery. What is it with these coaches and their health issues? (Joe Philbin’s the guy who need a stress test right now!) Give Bolts a large upset shot here.