Still sick to my stomach over that horrid Patriots' performance last Sunday night. Ostrich Society types will praise the Patriots for a stirring comeback from a 31-3 deficit, and claim that the 49ers were lucky to win. But, the sad truth is that the Pats allowed a West Coast team to fly cross country into Foxborough, and manhandle them, before a national television audience. Yes, the Pats came back...but the 49ers had an answer. It had nothing to do with luck.
The question is, did the 49ers pound the Patriots because (a) they are the better, more physical team; (b) because all the injuries finally took their toll on the Pats; (c) because the Pats were coming off a short week; (d) because the Patriots had an off-day; or (e) sloppy weather conditions favored the 49ers? It could be all of the above, or any combination thereof. Over the next several weeks, we'll have our answer. Whatever the case, the Patriots made their trek to New Orleans a much more difficult one with this lousy loss.
On to this week, with the "Game of the Week" being:
1.) (8-6) NY Giants @ (9-5) Baltimore Ravens (+2.5): Both of these teams appear to be in a bit of a free fall...especially the Ravens, who have now lost three straight games. The Giants embarrassed themselves last week with an horrendous performance in Atlanta, losing 34-0. They now find themselves fighting for their playoff lives, stuck in a three way tie with Washington and Dallas, atop the NFC East. Though the Ravens have clinched a playoff spot, it's still conceivable that they could lose their remaining games, and the AFC North title in the process. Though I had a very low opinion of Cam Cameron, a/k/a "Mr. Fail Fast First", as a head coach, I thought that he was, and is, a capable offensive coordinator. Rumor has it that Cameron got axed because Buzzard QB Joe Flacco wanted him gone. Big mistake: PICK: Giants;
2.) (12-2) Atlanta Falcons @ (4-10) Detroit Lions (+4): The Falcons need one more win to clinch the #1 seed in the NFC. After crushing the Giants last week, will they have a let down? The pathetic Lions lost to the Cardinals last week. Can a team sink any lower? This may be a huge game for coach Jim Schwartz, whose job may be hanging in the balance: PICK: Falcons;
3.) (5-9) Tennessee Titans @ (10-4) Green Bay Packers (+13): Having beaten the Jets Monday night, the Titans are coming off a short week. The Packers need this game , as they strive to earn a #2 NFC seeding, ahead of the 49ers. Titans can't score enough to cover: PICK: Packers;
4.) (4-10) Oakland Raiders (+8.5) @ (5-9) Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are coming off two straight impressive wins, over Atlanta and San Diego. The Raiders beat the punchless Chiefs last week, but have been terrible for the greater part of this season: PICK: Panthers;
5.) (5-9) Buffalo Bills (+4.5) @ (6-8) Miami Dolphins: The Bills reached a new low, even for them, in getting pancaked by the Seahawks, 50-17, last week, in Toronto. Meanwhile, believe it or not, the Dolphins still have a shot at a wildcard birth. A tough game to pick, because it's difficult to gage whether the Bills will play for their jobs, or have packed it in: PICK: Dolphins;
6.) (8-6) Cincinnati Bengals (+4) @ (7-7) Pittsburgh Steelers: Nearly went with this game as the "Game of the Week". It's a game that both teams must have, to earn a playoff spot. Though I haven't taken the time to research it, I believe that the loser of this game is done. Though one never knows what to expect from the Bengals, the Steelers have also been an enigma this season. Since their Charlie Batch led win in Baltimore, they are 0-2. PICK: Steelers;
7.) (10-4) New England Patriots @ (2-12) Jacksonville Jaguars (+14.5): Had to say how the Patriots will react after waiving bye bye to a bye week, last Sunday night. With Houston and Denver likely to win out on the rest of their games, the Pats appear to be locked in to the 3rd or 4th playoff seeding. Meanwhile, this is a huge game for the Jaguars. They are currently tied with the Chiefs at 2-12, for the worst record in the league, and the rights to the #1 overall draft pick in April. Let's get out of this one healthy, boys: PICK: Patriots;
8.) (9-5) Indianapolis Colts @ (2-12) Kansas City Chiefs (+6.5): The Colts need this game badly, in order to secure an AFC wild card birth. Kansas City got shut out last week by the pathetic Raiders, 15-0. The Chiefs need to lose in order to keep pace with Jacksonville: PICK: Colts;
9.) (6-8) New Orleans Saints (+3) @ (8-6) Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys must win to retain their share of the top spot in the NFC East. Though the Saints seemingly have nothing to play for, they demolished Tampa Bay last week, 41-0. Drew Brees is always dangerous: PICK: Saints;
10.) (8-6) Washington Redskins @ (4-10) Philadelphia Eagles (+4.5): Odds are that RG III will be ready to return this week. Philly appears to be just going through the motions: PICK: Redskins;
11.) (6-7-1) St. Louis Rams (+3) @ (6-8) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: After getting blown out by the Saints, 41-0, the Bucs look to bounce back. The Rams are extremely inconsistent: PICK: Buccaneers;
12.) (8-6) Minnesota Vikings (+7.5) @ (12-2) Houston Texans: The Texans clinched their division last week with a win over Indy. They are one win away from locking up the top seed in the AFC. Somehow, someway, the Vikings continue to hang in there. RB Adrian Peterson appears to be the lone obstacle to the 5th MVP award for the Denver Horseface: PICK: Vikings;
13.) (5-9) Cleveland Browns (+13.5) @ (11-3) Denver Broncos: Oh...that loss to the Arizona Cardinals!! With a win this week, and an all but certain win next week when the lowly Chiefs come to town, the Denver Horsefaces will secure a bye week, and, at a minimum, the second overall AFC seeding. Ostrich Society members will strain to point out that the Browns have been playing better of late. But, come now. These are the Browns: PICK: Broncos;
14.) (8-6) Chicago Bears @ (5-9) Arizona Cardinals: The Cards showed some pride in bouncing back from a trouncing of epic proportions in Seattle, to beat the Lions, last week. Will their momentum carry over? The Bears are the NFC's answer to the Ravens, only worse: PICK: Cardinals;
15.) (10-3-1) San Francisco 49ers @ (9-5) Seattle Seahawks (+1): Another challenger for "Game of the Week" honors. Both teams are rolling, with the 49ers beating the Pats, 41-34, and the Seahawks having served up two straight 50 burgers. The 49ers need a win to keep their lead over Green Bay, for the second seed in the NFC tournament. Seattle may yet steal the NFC West crown, or at least pressure the 49ers to win out, by scoring a win: PICK: Seahawks;
16.) (5-9) San Diego Chargers (+1.5) @ (6-8) NY Jets: Huge game to determine the turnover champion in the NFL. Jets' QB Mark Sanchez seemingly has command with 50 give aways, while Chargers' QB Philip Rivers is in desperate catch-up mode, with 47. Rivers may get his chance to close the gap, as Rex Ryan has yet to name his starting QB this week: PICK: Chargers.
BEST BETS: Giants, Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Redskins.
As always, your comments and your predictions are welcome.