Many years ago I wrote an NFL column for a sports handicapping magazine. Typically my picks came in at about 60 percent, but one year, the fates and Vinny Testaverdue conspired against me and I was closer to 30 percent. A guy in a bar found out who I was and bought me a beer because he'd been betting against me all season. So if you were smart enough to go against my Titans-over-Bears pick last week, you owe me a beer. I might as well have picked the Washington Generals.
This week I'm on the prognosticator hot seat. Hopefully my picks will respond to the pressure.
The way this season's going, you'd think the Colts would beat the Jaguars by 30. But funny things happen to the road teams on Thursday night, and Andrew Luck is inconsistent on the road (2 TDs, 6 INTs). And remember, the Jags won in Indy back in Week 3.
As well as Chicago has played, its offensive line still hasn't proven it's reliable. The Bears have allowed 28 sacks this season, third-worst in the NFL. The Texans are going to bring a lot of pressure in what could be a defensive struggle.
The Jets have had a bye to consider everything that is going wrong this season, and they have to conclude establishing Greene early gives them their best shot of winning. Greene has only one 100-yard game this season and has taken a lot of flak in New York, but he's capable of being productive if they feed him the ball and wear down the defense. The Seahawks' defense is brutal for opposing quarterbacks, but they've shown some vulnerability on the ground of late.
Denver has scored over 30 points in three straight games and five of the last six. But Carolina has held their last four opponents to under 23 points or less. The Panthers should have some success controlling the ball at home. Even though they may not win, they'll slow down the red-hot Peyton Manning.
Martin has run for 386 yards in his last two games and has emerged as the Bucs' main weapon. But he's also had 54 rushes, and Tampa Bay may want to limit his touches so he'll last all season. You never know exactly what you'll get from the Chargers' defense, but they do rank fourth in the NFL against the run.
The Niners have just nine giveaways this season (five interceptions, four fumbles) and the Rams have just nine takeaways (29th). Alex Smith is as careful as any quarterback in the league, and won't have to throw much to keep pace with the Rams. Don't expect St. Louis to strip San Francisco's runners either -- the Rams have a league-low one recovered fumble.
The Pro Bowl tight end is tied with Doug Martin for the NFL lead with eight drops. This is a huge contest, and Drew Brees will look to Graham often. For the Saints' sake, hopefully he'll pull in all his passes, but it's not likely.
K.C.'s offense has actually averaged 357.5 yards per game -- turnovers are the reason they're not putting enough points on the board. But the Steelers defense has quietly returned to a dominant level. The Chiefs could fall behind quickly -- after all, they haven't led in regulation once this season -- and start to throw like crazy. But that could just lead to more interceptions, not yards.
Manning has had just two touchdowns in his last four games, and didn't throw for a score in his last two games. The Giants have been coming up with fewer big plays, and are settling for field goals in the red zone too often. But facing the Bengals' secondary will help Manning get back on track.
Fitzpatrick has thrown for more than 250 yards just once this season and it was against New England. Fitz threw for 350 yards in their Week 4 52-28 loss to the Pats. These teams always have wacky games and the Bills have been able to move the ball against Bill Belichick's suspect defense.