On Tuesday, Texans receiver Jerome Mathis was cited by police after four pit bulls escaped from his home and began "acting aggressive." The Associated Press picked up the story, and soon the churning wheels of the Internet had it popping up on nearly every major sports Web site.
So apparently this is the new post-Mike Vick NFL. It's a place where players' dogs are as newsworthy as the players themselves. The next time Devery Henderson's pit bull poops in his neighbor's pool, you will know. If Antonio Pierce's dog has his way with some young pup in Central Park, it will be in the papers. That is why I am calling on Roger Goodell to hold a "dog symposium" that teaches NFL dogs proper off-field conduct. It's the only solution to the league's image problem.
And now, onto the week 15 picks.
Atlanta at Tampa Bay (-13.5): Last Monday some Falcons players paid tribute to their incarcerated teammate by painting "M.V." under their eyes. This week they will pay tribute to their departed coach by painting "F.U." Pick: Atlanta
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (-3.5): Anthony Smith decided to tone down the pregame rhetoric this week. So far his only guarantee is that the Steelers will win the opening coin toss. Pick: Pittsburgh
Buffalo at Cleveland (-5.5): Bills offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild is leaving the team to become the new head coach at Colorado State. Fairchild didn't intend to abandon the team, but when he heard Bobby Petrino was leaving he just assumed the NFL season was over. Pick: Cleveland
Baltimore at Miami (+3.5): It cannot be beneficial for one's health to coach this Dolphins team. I wouldn't be surprised to find Cam Cameron in a mental institution 10 years from now. His only solace is that he doesn't have to worry about being a candidate for the Michigan job -- Les Miles made it clear he will be the next Wolverines coach. Pick: Miami
Green Bay at St. Louis (+9): Over the last 12 weeks Marc Bulger has suffered a bruised knee, a bruised thumb, broken ribs, and a concussion. The good news is that the concussion has made it hard for him to remember about his other injuries. Pick: St. Louis
Tennessee at Kansas City (+3.5): Larry Johnson was officially ruled out this week ... again. Is there any reason why the Chiefs are still pretending he's going to play this season? Do they really think the Titans will somehow be tricked into game planning for him? The jig is up, Herm. You're not fooling anybody. Pick: Tennessee
Cincinnati at San Francisco (+9): Alex Smith finally had season-ending surgery on his ailing right shoulder. Afterwards he made sure to get a doctors note so he could show Mike Nolan why he won't be able to play this week. Pick: San Francisco
New York Jets at New England (-24): I do not see an epic, mind-blowing, ghastly blowout coming. There is just no way Bill Belichick is going to run up the score when people expect him to. He would rather give Peyton Manning a full body massage than give anyone the satisfaction of predicting his behavior. Pick: New York Jets
Seattle at Carolina (+9): This week the Panthers had to sign Chris Weinke (2-18 career record as a starter). That is not an optimal situation. The team's offense is in so much trouble that the Mitchell Report even has a section about it. Pick: Seattle
Arizona at New Orleans (-3.5): The Saints aren't putting Reggie Bush on injured reserve because there's a slim chance he'll be available if the team makes a deep playoff run. There's optimism, and then there's just plain stupid. What the Saints are doing is not optimism. Pick: New Orleans
Philadelphia at Dallas (-10.5): Wade Phillipsloves celebrating. Every time the Cowboys make a big play in a close game he raises his arms and springs into his full eight-inch vertical leap. Though he's clearly been the most exuberant man in the NFL this season, the Saints just signed Martin Gramatica. Now the two of them will go toe-to-toe to see who can out-celebrate the other. Pick: Dallas
Indianapolis at Oakland (-10.5): The Colts needed only 18 minutes to completely dismantle the Ravens last week -- it happened so fast Ray Lewis didn't even get a chance to finish his pregame dance routine. Of course if Peyton Manning had been allowed to use his Sprint NFL Mobile phone, the Colts would have played even better. Pick: Oakland
Detroit at San Diego (-10): Shawn Merriman claims Jeff Fisher told Titans players to go after him last week as payback for knocking Vince Young out of the game. Although Merriman said he would let it go, two days later Fisher woke up and the head of the Titans mascot was in his bed. Pick: San Diego
Washington at New York Giants (-4.5): I bet that when Todd Collins saw the previews for I Am Legend he assumed it would take a similar apocalyptic scenario for him to start a game with important playoff implications. Well....Kaboom! Jason Campbell's knee is hurt and now Collins' is the Redskins' only hope. Pick: Washington
Chicago at Minnesota (-10): While people like to make a big deal out of Kyle Orton's neck beard and his affinity for being photographed (with his good friend Jack Daniels), there's a lot more to the Bears new starting quarterback. Did you know he's a comic book superhero? Yeah, that's right. Pick: Chicago
Last Week: 7-8Season: 96-99-10
Got something to say to Eric? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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