Several Divisional Showdowns On Tap
No Inter-Conference Games This Week
There's nothing like waking up on a fall morning in New England to a great cup of coffee, despite the spring-like weather. Unfortunately, all I had to day was Starbuck's French Roast. Not even a very good French roast, much less generally good coffee.
Don't worry, I'm not going to get all Peter King on you. Besides, Seattle coffee is for suckers. Besides, we have Green Mountains Coffee Roasters just up the road a piece here in Waterbury, Vt. I have my single-cup Keurig coffee maker at work, and lately I've been enjoying their Autumn Harvest blend, maybe the best seasonal coffee ever. See, we're not so much coffee nerds in New England as we are snobs. Just like we are with ice cream, pizza, Italian food, beer.
Of course, we're not really snobs either. New Englanders just expect more from themselves. New England: birthplace of Western freedom, home of the Hub of the Universe, masters over all we survey. Can we help it if we're just better than everyone else?
Geez, no wonder everyone hates us. (Yes, there's a potential double meaning there.)
Here are the picks:
Sunday, Oct. 21
Baltimore (4-2) at Buffalo (1-4), 1 p.m.
Buffalo is coming off a bye; Baltimore is heading into one. If Buffalo didn't have so many players on injured reserve, this game would sport the longest injury report in history. Both teams are in second place in their respective divisions. (Yikes.) For some reason, I've been pulling for Buffalo this year, possibly because I said they'd be better. Of course, outside games against New England and Pittsburgh, they're 0-3 by a total of 5 points. Baltimore hasn't exactly been tearing up the league. I'm very tempted to pick the upset here.
Prediction: Ravens, 23-20.
Tampa Bay (4-2) at Detroit (3-2), 1 p.m.
I can't be reading this right. These two teams are also in second place in their respective divisions? (Yikes!) Oh, wait, Tampa Bay is tied for first! Possibly more unbelievable, this is one of only two games this week pitting teams with records better than .500. (Yikes!) If Detroit wins, they'll both still be better than .500 next week! (Yikes!) Detroit is coming off a bye, and Tampa squeaked by the Vince Young-less Titans. Maybe Philly let go the wrong guy?
Prediction: Buccaneers, 27-20.
Tennessee (3-2) at Houston (3-3), 1 p.m.
These teams would be battling for elite status in the NFC. Instead, they're third and fourth in the AFC South. They're fairly diametric. Tennessee scores few, allows few. Houston scores a lot, allows a lot. Neither to extremes, but you get the point. It's a toss-up.
Prediction: Texans, 22-20.
New England (6-0) at Miami (0-6), 1 p.m.
This is the only game New England plays on natural grass this season. Seems there are fewer and fewer natural grass fields. Of course, these new technology fields aren't as completely different as grass and dirt vs. the old artificial turf. You know what's sad about it? Fewer dirty uniforms. It's not right. Anyway, check out the full game preview posted Saturday night.
Prediction: Thank you for reading Pats Pulpit.
Atlanta (1-5) at New Orleans (1-4), 1 p.m.
Both teams have score 79 points this season; New Orleans has allowed 5 points more than Atlanta. Atlanta is 0-3 on the road; New Orleans is 0-2 at home. I think New Orleans turned a corner last week. Not sure where they're headed though. Atlanta is constantly changing velocity vectors, but that's what happens when you swirl down a drain.
Prediction: Saints, 24-14.
San Francisco (2-3) at N.Y. Giants (4-2), 1 p.m.
San Francisco started 2-0 and since have gone 0-3. New York started 0-2 and since has gone 4-0. Tom Coughlin not longer looks like he's ready to kick out the stool. San Francisco's former first-round pick (in 2008) looks better and better every week.
Prediction: Giants, 28-14.
Arizona (3-3) at Washington (3-2), 1 p.m.
Here's two more teams I can't quite figure out. I really think Washington is the better team, but they don't always play that way. Arizona is a complete mystery, but I think it's safe to say that Ken Whisenhunt is who we thought he was. (You really just can't get tired of that, can you? It's better than Jim Mora Sr.'s "Playoffs?!" and far more universally applicable.) You just can't find this kind of analysis anywhere else, huh? Well, except maybe from Tony Kornheiser.
Prediction: Redskins, 31-13.
N.Y. Jets (1-5) at Cincinnati (1-4), 4:05 p.m.
This is shaping up into one of those 100-point games -- except that New York has barely scored double that through six games so far. Cameramen at this game will be distraught by the inability to find a single fan or pair of fans carrying a D and a fence. The question here is: Which offense won't be able to score against the non-existent opposing defense? The answer is: New York.
Prediction: Bengals, 38-24.
Kansas City (3-3) at Oakland (2-3), 4:05 p.m.
These teams are still battling for the division lead. (YIKES!) Kansas City has one of the league's better passing defenses, but I don't think Oakland is going to be throwing the ball a whole lot. Oakland likes to run, and K.C. has been less than stellar but not awful defending. Meanwhile, Kansas City activated Priest Holmes. Larry Johnson broke it out a little last week, and the activation of Holmes may stoke that fire. Maybe it won't. It's another toss-up.
Prediction: Chiefs, 17-13.
Minnesota (2-3) at Dallas (5-1), 4:15 p.m.
I wonder if Dallas will say Minnesota's defense isn't for real around 7:30 p.m.? Or maybe Adrian Peterson. I'll go with the latter. Minnesota might have the No. 2 rushing defense, but they have the No. 32 passing defense. Dallas will (or at least should) follow New England's blueprint from last year: Don't run the ball. Tony Romo is no Tom Brady, but he should be good enough to throw on Minnesota.
Prediction: Cowboys, 34-17.
Chicago (2-4) at Philadelphia (2-3), 4:15 p.m.
Dononvan McNabb may be finding his stride since he's been concentrating more on running his offense than his mouth. Chicago hasn't been able to overcome all those defensive injuries, and that's going to be the difference -- again -- today.
Prediction: Eagles, 21-10.
St. Louis (0-6) at Seattle (3-3), 4:15 p.m.
Not exactly sure what the heck is going on in Seattle this year, but I know what's going on in St. Louis: Nothing.
Prediction: Seahawks, 24-14.
Pittsburgh (4-1) at Denver (2-3), 8:15 p.m.
After starting the season with wins over Buffalo and Oakland by a total of 3 points, Denver has lost three straight to Jacksonville, Indy and San Diego by about 2.4 million (actually 65). I don't think the extra week (they're coming off a bye) is going to help them a whole lot in this one, because, well, Pittsburgh had a bye last week too.
Prediction: Steelers, 27-10.
Monday, Oct. 22
Indianapolis (5-0) at Jacksonville (4-1), 8:30 p.m.
Here's the other game pitting two plus-.500 teams. Should be a doozy. Jacksonville is 4-0 since a 13-10 loss to Tennessee in Week 1, but they haven't exactly been steamrolling anyone. The defense has been carrying them, so this game is the proverbial barometer for both teams. Indy's high-powered offense against Jacksonville's stingy defense, and Jacksonville's inconsistent offense against Indy's improving defense. Indy will be throwing; Jacksonville will be running. Personally, I think Jacksonville, Tennessee and Houston are not nearly as good as their collective record indicates.
Prediction: Colts, 28-20.
Open Date: Carolina (4-2), Cleveland (3-3), Green Bay (5-1), San Diego (3-3)
Last week: 9 - 4.
I was 9-4 in Week 6 last year, too. There's some weird trends here. And that's bad news, because last year's Week 7 was one of those "let's never speak of this again" performances.
Season: 63 - 34. (.649)
Still pretty much on pace with last season, when I was 58-29 (.667). Still not as good as I'd like picking games straight up. When I was a younger man, I used to push 70 percent. Then again, I had a lot more time to waste in those days.