Can you hear that sound? Can you hear the woofing? Can you hear the barking? Yup, it looks like the dogs are going to be unleashed in Week 14. Let's hope the guards at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Richmond, Va., stick Michael Vick in isolation just to be safe.
Here are the Week 14 picks (home teams in caps):
Bears (+3) over REDSKINS
I know, I know, this game already happened. (Note: I picked the Bears in Thursday's blog about Jason Kidd. The Sports Gal had the Skins. Any time we go head-to-head like that, bet the house on her. No, seriously.) But after the runaway success of the Norv Turner Second-Half Collapse Checklist, I had to break out the Tom Landry Memorial Our-Coach-Has-Lost-It Checklist in honor of Joe Gibbs' incredible double-timeout call to blow the Bills game last Sunday and his admission he didn't know defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was starting with a 10-man defense in honor of Sean Taylor's memory. Just for the record, I'm always willing to add more categories. Anyway ...
- Legendary career that peaked at least 10 years ago? (CHECK)
- Fans asking each other during games, "Seriously, is he awake right now?" (CHECK)
- Team routinely blowing second-half leads and close games? (CHECK)
- Ability to singlehandedly blow a game with a coaching screw-up? (CHECK)
- Kid-glove treatment from the media until they couldn't stand it any longer? (CHECK)
- Poor communication with assistants? (CHECK)
- Drive-killing penalties that suck the life out of the team? (CHECK)
- Star players underachieving? (CHECK)
- Willingness to invoke religion to excuse any problems? (CHECK)
- Studio show analysts unable to have a conversation about him without someone saying, "I think the game may have passed him by ..."? (CHECK)
Paul Spinelli/Getty Images
The Cowboys look absolutely great -- until you look at the guy on the sideline.
I'm just coming out and saying it: Right now, the Cowboys look a little crisper than the Patriots; Terrell Owens looks a little more larger-than-life than Randy Moss; the Dallas defense looks better than New England's defense; Dallas' running game looks decidedly better than New England's running game; and unlike the Pats, Dallas is only looking at one tough playoff game before Arizona instead of two. So why not move the Cowboys ahead of the Patriots in the Week 14 Power Poll? Because of the picture directly to the right, that's why.
(Fritz in L.A. submits an interesting theory: "Maybe I'm crazy, but I think Jerry Jones hired Wade Phillips so Jason Garrett could secretly run the team without media scrutiny. What better way to audition Garrett than to hide him behind a figurehead coach who just smiles and makes everyone think the Cowboys have veteran leadership? If it worked for the Bad News Bears in 'Breaking Training,' why couldn't it work for Jerry Jones?")
BILLS (-7) over Dolphins
Don Shula's interminable "Monday Night Football" cameo during the Pats-Ravens game was the interminably long cameo by which all other interminably long cameos should be measured: I didn't find anything that he said to be interesting; he openly rooted for one of the two teams; he wouldn't even leave when Mike Tirico thanked him for stopping by 25 different times; and if that's not enough, when they went to a wide shot of the four guys crammed into the booth, we had to see how high Shula was wearing his pants and, um, the ensuing results of Shula wearing his pants too high. Did you ever think Don Shula's "results" would get unleashed in HD?
(Hold on, I have to go wash my eyes out with hydrochloric acid again. I'll be right back.)
Giants (+2.5) over EAGLES
Honestly, I'm still recovering from the Eli-Rex duel in Week 13. That was like seeing Adrian Grenier and Keanu Reeves appear in the same buddy-cop picture -- maybe it wasn't winning an Academy Award, but it was perversely entertaining and you could fire off 10,000 jokes while it was happening. I loved that game. I really did. Anyway, I'm taking the G-Men and ignoring the overwhelming potential of another December collapse.
THE WEEKLY POWER POLLTHE ROD RUST DIVISION
THE BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
(nine deep this week!)
31. San Fran
30. N.Y. Jets
28. Kansas City
23. St. Louis
HOPE IS NOT A GOOD THING
18. New Orleans
THE "GOOD" BAD TEAMS
12. N.Y. Giants
11. Tampa Bay
9. San Diego
THE EARLY BLOOMERS
THE LATE BLOOMERS
4. Green Bay
1. New England
Panthers (+10.5) over JAGUARS
Trap game for the Jags since they played Indy last week and have the Steelers looming in Week 15. (In fact, that's a great nickname for Vinny Testaverde at this stage of his career: "The Human Trap Game.") Anyway, poor David Carr is headed out of the league after getting demoted to third on the Panthers' QB depth chart (in their defense, they didn't have a spot lower than No. 3), leading us to an absolutely inexplicable statistic:
Of the 20 players selected in the top four of the NFL draft from 1998 to 2002, a whopping 10 of them are already out of the league, including three No. 1s (Courtney Brown, Michael Vick, Tim Couch), three No. 2s (Charles Rogers, LaVar Arrington, Ryan Leaf), two No. 3s (Andre Wadsworth, Akili Smith) and two No. 4s (Peter Warrick, Mike Williams). Three more top-four picks from that era (David Carr, Joey Harrington and Gerard Warren) were major disappointments and should be joining them soon. Even stranger, the other seven top-four picks ended up succeeding and making a ton of money for themselves: Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Donovan McNabb, Edge James, Leonard Davis, Justin Smith and Julius Peppers. Can you get more hit-or-miss than that? And how could a top-four pick be that hit-or-miss for five solid years? I just thought that was crazy.
(By the way, if you think this wasn't a convoluted excuse for me to sift through old NFL drafts for an hour, you're kidding yourself. Thank you, David Carr.)
TITANS (PK) over Chargers
Phil Rivers on the road. Norv Turner versus Jeff Fisher. The Chargers spending the week issuing those "We're coming together!" quotes and knowing, if they pull this one out, they finish with an easy Detroit-Denver-Oakland sked and could be looking at 11-5 and a No. 3 seed. You can already smell the "unexpected" stink bomb that's coming in Tennessee, can't you? I mean, can't you?
(Meanwhile, Andy in Daytona Beach, Fla., has a question I couldn't answer: "What has happened with the accuracy of the first-down line on NFL telecasts? When those lines first came out, they were deadly accurate. Now, they are lucky to be within a yard. What happened? Is this some conspiracy by the networks to keep anticipation in the game?")
Rams (+7) over BENGALS
Look, I hate watching the 2007 Bengals, and I think they're better off firing the coaching staff and starting over next year. But is it possible -- again, just possible -- that they're 4-8 partly because of their schedule? In Week 2, they lost a shootout to a "crappy" Browns team that turned out to be pretty good. They lost by three in Seattle (always a tough road game), then the Pats killed them on Monday night (no surprise). In Week 5, they caught a peaking Chiefs team in Arrowhead. They lost twice to the Steelers (no shame in that), blew a road game in Buffalo (a tough place to win) and self-destructed at home against a decent Cards team. For their four wins, they beat Baltimore twice; the Jets in Week 7; and Tennessee in Week 12.
Here's the point: The Bengals have three game left against terrible teams (the Rams, Niners and Dolphins), and they have a home game against Cleveland in Week 16 when they can get fired up and do the whole "playoff spoiler" thing. It's entirely possible that (A) they'll finish 8-8, and (B) after three months of fantasy suckdom, Carson Palmer will light it up in the fantasy playoffs and swing thousands of league titles over these next three weeks. I just wanted to prepare you emotionally.
(And after all of that ... I'm still taking Brock Berlin and the points on the road. It's just too ridiculous of a combination. I can't resist.)
Raiders (+10.5) over PACKERS
Since three of them are involved in this game, I present to you the top-seven most startling individual numbers of the season through 13 weeks:
- Adrian Peterson is averaging a remarkable 6.5 yards a carry.
- Greg Jennings has only 44 catches ... 10 for touchdowns!
- Tom Brady had thrown 41 touchdown passes and five interceptions and cracked a total of three smiles.
Derek Anderson is on pace for 4,000 yards and 32 TDs, only not in the Arena League.
- Justin Fargas has 863 rushing yards (ninth in the league). Justin Fargas!!!
- Terrell Owens is on pace for 18-19 touchdown catches and nearly 1,700 receiving yards... and he's not the highest-ranked fantasy receiver right now.
- On ESPN, Steve Young has been bewildered by Emmitt Smith 144 times, an average of 11.1 times per week.
(Random Packers note: I really enjoyed Alan Shipnuck's "Sportsman of the Year" feature on Brett Favre in Sports Illustrated this week. Very well done. For different reasons, I enjoyed the SI editor's front-of-the-book essay about how they're reinventing the back page in the post-Rick Reilly era and returning to how the magazine handled that column in the 1980s, when multiple people wrote it and "they were a long heave from the narcissism and relentless self-promotion creeping into journalism." That slayed me. I'm sticking myself in the front of my own magazine for a editorial; I'm not going to mention Rick Reilly or wish him luck even though he was our signature guy for more than a decade; and then, I'm going to rail against narcissism and relentless self-promotion. Sports Illustrated, everybody.)
Steelers (+10.5) over PATRIOTS
Adam from Indy writes, "Congrats! You and the rest of New England are rooting for the '04 and '05 Colts: record-breaking offense, iffy defense and no running game. The Colts, on the other hand, have had some tough losses, a great running game, a physical defense and they're completely out of the spotlight. Sound familiar?"
(Um ... yes ... yes, it does ...)
TEXANS (+3) over Bucs
The Matt Schaub trade might be headed for the "worst trades of the decades" list: Atlanta's season was killed because the Falcons were stuck without a decent QB when the Vick thing happened, and Houston's season was killed because they gave up two second-round picks for a guy who's apparently made out of paper-mache. Has anyone else killed two teams in the same year? I'm making him my 2007 Anti-MVP. Meanwhile, every sports bar in the country had a Double McCown going last Sunday in the late games -- Josh and Luke lighting it up in victories at the same time. And you wonder why I bought earthquake insurance for my house.
Cards (+7) over SEAHAWKS
No Mike Holmgren team has covered for five straight weeks since the Cleveland Rams did it in 1942. More importantly, one of my editors (KJ) is a lifelong Seahawks fan. On Thursday, he was driving to work in Seattle and listening to "Seahawks Round Table" on his radio. Right at the part when the gang was about to make predictions for the Cards-Hawks game, the guy driving behind KJ rear-ended him and caused a four-car collision. Everyone ended up being OK, but I'm supposed to pick the Seahawks after hearing that story? No way.
NINERS (+8.5) over Vikings
We're in December, which means we're in the month when bad teams start covering artificially pumped-up spreads like this one. Regardless, the contest for "Coolest Newcomer of the Year" is down to two candidates:
- Great Adrian Peterson
- Isaac from "Real World Sydney"
SPORTS GAL'S PICKSThe Sports Gal is like Terry Glenn -- she keeps saying she's coming back, but she always ends up becoming a late scratch at game-time. Here are her Week 14 picks: Car +10.5; Dall -10.5; Buff -7; NYG +2.5; GB -10.5; NE -10.5; Tenn PK; Cincy -7; Hou +3; Sea -7; SF +9; Cle -3.5; Den -6.5; Indy -9; NO -4.
This week: 1-0
Last week: 7-9
Here's why I'd give a slight edge to Isaac with a month to go: I haven't gotten an e-mail about Peterson nearly as glowing and psychotic as the Isaac-related e-mail from my friend Jacoby after he saw the fish tank scene: "I mean for [expletive's] sake ... can this guy get any awesomer? He is now so awesome that I am experiencing internal Isaac blacklash as a self-defense mechanism so I don't get too down on myself. I would seriously go to one of his 'speaking engagements' just to be in the same room as him. I am an Isaac groupie. I would never talk to any of my current friends again if I could trade them for Isaac, Cahutta and Ace."
(Now there's your "Sportsman of the Year!" Imagine if SI had put Isaac on its cover instead of Brett Favre? I would have been fine with this.)
JETS (+3.5) over Browns
The three dumbest ongoing rules or nonrules in professional sports that we continue to avoid changing: 1. The NFL's idiotic forceout rule (which forces officials to guess in 0.57 seconds what would have hypothetically happened on a play that just happened at warp speed); 2. no instant replay for home runs and ground-rule doubles (although that's coming, thank God); 3. NBA officials throwing a jump ball in the air themselves.
(The last one bugs me the most -- really, we couldn't create a mechanical device that the officials could hold and shoot the ball straight in the air, almost like how the T-Shirt gun works? Have you ever been totally satisfied with the results of a jumpball? Nine out of 10 times, either someone steals the tip; they get whistled for stealing the tip; or both guys bang into each other and they end up having to do it over. And this is the way it has been since 1946. Nobody seems to mind. I don't get it.)
Chiefs (+6.5) over BRONCOS
The amazing thing about Gibbs' double timeout: Even Herm Edwards hadn't done that before. By the way, I loved CBS' strategy for this game -- you have a reeling Chiefs team working on a five-game losing streak and heading to Denver to face a reeling Broncos team that just choked away any chance of making the playoffs, so what do you do to inject some life into such a lifeless, depressing, meaningless matchup? You send Gus Johnson, that's what you do. If this game doesn't get decided in the last minute with Gus' voice reaching decibels that only dogs can hear, then I don't know anything.
Colts (-9) over RAVENS
The 10-2 Colts continue to chug along toward a first-round bye. I hate everything that's happening with this season -- my beloved Pats look completely worn out by the quest to go undefeated, the fallout from CameraGate and three straight months of the media's glare, and on the flip side, the Colts are quietly biding their time for a home playoff game in Week 19 and a cold weather war in Foxborough in Week 20. Everything about this scenario makes me nervous. Everything.
(Random NBC question that nearly made me light myself on fire, from Pete in Oregon: "During yet another John Madden fawning session over Hines Ward last Sunday, I got to wondering -- if Brett Favre somehow threw a touchdown pass to Hines Ward, would Madden have an orgasm on the air? If so, would he break it down for us? 'Boom, right there!' ")
FALCONS (+4) over Saints
Note to all the college kids who are finishing up exams and looking for any excuse to get drunk during this game:
- Drink every time Ron Jaworski says the words "National Football League."
- Drink every time someone mentions the name "Michael Vick."
- Drink every time Tony Kornheiser makes a joke about the fact Chris Redman was out of football and selling insurance last year.
- Drink every time we see Arthur Blank dejectedly staring out to the field with one of those looks that says, "I hope Michael Vick is getting treated in prison right now like the Sistas treated Andy Dufresne. I really do."
Actually, just drink every time Jaws says the words "National Football League." You'll be passed out by the fourth quarter. Considering this game, that's a good thing.
This week: 0-1
Last week: 9-7