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Pro picks

Identifying new cameraman is no snap

JOHN CARNEY At least he was available JOHN CARNEY At least he was available

"Excuse me, sir," said the security officer. "May I see your credentials?"

The man in the black trench coat and shark's-tooth hat snarled, but pulled back his lapel to show off a laminated ticket. The security officer grimaced, but stood back to let the man in.

"You're new here, aren't you, Mister . . . ?"

"Mata Hari," said the man.

"You're new here, aren't you, Mr. Mata Hari?"

"Yes," said the man, who pulled the fedora down over his eyes. "I'm working the sideline camera for Coach Belichick. Matt Estrella is out sick - for the season."

"That's curious," said the security officer. "But another guy with a proper credential went in five minutes ago. Said he was the new Patriots camera guy."

"This man," said Mata Hari. "What did he look like? Where did he go?"

"Said his name was Nathan Hale. Mumbled something about having only one game to give for his Patriots," said the security official. "Anyway, he went toward the field."

A minute later, the phone rang. The security officer answered it, and it was the front office. Excitedly, a voice said, "In a few minutes, a man will show up. His name is Bond James Bond. Let him in. He's our new camera guy."

"But I just let Mata Hari in. He said he's our new camera guy," said the officer.

The front office man gasped.

"Mata Hari is here? That's awful. He's not our camera guy. He's the Chargers' camera guy. They say they don't have one, but they lie. All teams have camera guys, and Mata Hari is one of the best."

"What should I do?" asked the security officer.

"Explain to Bond James Bond what you told me. He'll take care of Mata Hari."

"And Nathan Hale?" asked the security officer. "What do I do about him?"

"Nathan Hale is here, too?" bellowed the club official. "How? When?"

"A half-hour ago. Said he was our camera guy. He had the proper credentials."

"Of course, he did. It's not your fault. He's brilliant. Used to work for the KGB before he flipped. The NFL pays much more - and he gets free NFL Sunday Ticket on DirecTV. But it is not good if he is here, too."

"So he's not our team cameraman, either?"

"No, I told you. Bond James Bond is our cameraman. Mata Hari works for the Chargers. And Nathan Hale? He could work for anyone. He's a mercenary, for the most part. Worked for Al Davis in the '70s. Now? Who knows? He could be with the Steelers or Bengals. We play both those teams later this season."

"We'll get working on it," said the security official, "but I've got to go. A fella by the name of Maxwell Smart is trying to get through the gate. But it's funny, he's talking into his shoe."

"Contain him," barked the club official. "He's the slickest of all. He's working for four teams at once."

The picks

San Diego at New England (-3 1/2) - Fortunately, it's not against NFL regulations to film the opposing team's cheerleaders, so the feature-length documentary on the New York Jets' flight crew, complete with Denise Garvey shouting out choreographing instructions to Gina, Meredith, and the rest of the ladies, will be released next week. Pick: Patriots.

Oakland at Denver (-10) - JaMarcus Russell has ended his holdout and signed a $61 million contract. That's enough for him to get my vote for Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Week. Heck, he gets my vote for Air & Ground Player of the Week, too. Pick: Broncos.

Dallas (-3 1/2) at Miami - The Dolphins' Jason Taylor needs half a sack to move into 16th place on the career list. Imagine Barry Bonds moving ahead of Hank Aaron by hitting half a home run, which is a double. Pick: Dolphins.

Houston at Carolina (-6 1/2) - Not for nothing, but what do you think is higher, the national debt or Skip Bayless's blood pressure when he screams about meaningless things? Pick: Panthers.

Seattle (-3) at Arizona - Traded to the Seahawks from the Browns, Charlie Frye was told his first duty was to run the Arizona offense for the scout team. Told that he'd be extremely helpful before the Nov. 4 game against Cleveland, Frye shook his head. "Can't help you there," he told his new team. "The Browns don't have an offense, so there's nothing to run." Pick: Cardinals.

NY Jets at Baltimore (-10) - Chad Pennington is hurt. That means Kellen Clemens could start at quarterback for the Jets. No, he's not Roger's son. He just spells his first name like he's one. A "K" kid, you know? Pick: Jets.

New Orleans (-3 1/2) at Tampa Bay - The Saints are 19-11 against the Bucs. I'm still crunching the numbers to see what the Bucs' record is against New Orleans. Pick: Bucs.

Kansas City at Chicago (-12) - Ron Turner, the offensive coordinator for the Bears, lost to his brother, San Diego head coach Norv Turner, last week. Then again, Norv Turner doesn't have Rex Grossman. Pick: Bears.

Cincinnati (-6 1/2) at Cleveland - During an attempt to simply punt the ball last week, the Browns were called for four penalties: two for holding, one for an illegal formation, one for having a man downfield. The coaching staff couldn't explain what happened until they discovered on game film that they had lined up with guys named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, Moe, Larry, Curly, Laurel, Hardy, Abbott, and Costello. Pick: Bengals.

Atlanta at Jacksonville (-10) - The Jaguars have signed kicker John Carney, 43, but only because Morten Andersen and Gary Anderson didn't answer the phone and Pamela Anderson was busy refereeing that fight between her ex-husbands, Kid Rock and Tommy Lee. Pick: Jaguars.

Buffalo at Pittsburgh (-9 1/2) - Speaking of Pamela Anderson and her exes, what do you figure their conversations were like? I have to figure that the question "Paper or plastic?" would stump all three of them. Pick: Bills.

Minnesota at Detroit (-3) - Don't look now, but the Lions are over .500 this far into the season for the first time since Colonel Hogan was imprisoned at Stalag 13. Pick: Vikings.

Indianapolis (-7) at Tennessee - Vince Young went 11 of 18 for 78 yards last Sunday. Talk about your pitch counts. Pick: Titans.

Green Bay at NY Giants (pick) - The Giants' team doctor reportedly diagnosed Eli Manning with a second-degree separation of the right shoulder. The heralded Dr. James Andrews viewed an MRI of Manning's shoulder and pronounced him day to day. Asked for a third opinion, Dr. Hook said, "Wanna buy five copies for my mother. Wanna see my smiling face on the cover of the Rollin' Stone." Pick: Giants.

San Francisco at St. Louis (-3) - The Rams' Richie Incognito didn't play last week, nor is he expected to this week. Then again, how do we know? Maybe he's playing as somebody else. Pick: Rams.

Washington at Philadelphia (-6 1/2) - More bad news for Jon Jansen. The Redskins' right tackle broke his fibula and dislocated his ankle and is out for the season. In previous years, he has ruptured his Achilles', broken his thumb twice, and torn a calf muscle. On a bright note, he's had wonderful cholesterol readings. Pick: Redskins.

Last week: 7-6-2.

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