Saturday, December 22, 2007

NFL 2007 - Week 16, Part II

COWBOYS @ Panthers +10.5

Apparently, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has some sort of romantic relationship with a singer or something. Now, I know I'm the only person who'd ever suggest something like this, but, I think there's a possibility that the woman's presence at last week's Cowboys game may have been a distraction for Romo and contributed to his shoddy play.

Really, it's to the point where my wife this week caught a glance at "SportsCenter" when they were discussing the Romo-Jessica Simpson business and couldn't believe that they were still talking about that. I don't really think the fact that Jessica Simpson was in the stands was the reason that Tony Romo had a crappy game... I think it had more to do with the fact that he's Tony Romo!

Back in Week 11, in fact, I wrote that "Tony Romo is... capable of turning back into a toad for three hours on any given Sunday." That's the thing about the Cowboys: if he puts up one of those patented Tony Romo stinkers, anybody can beat them (well, maybe not anybody). I'm not ready to blame Jessica Simpson's presence.

Besides, didn't Cowboys safety Roy Williams used to date Kelly Rowland from Destiny's Child? She must have come to some games, and I don't remember reading any stories about him being distracted. And if this doesn't distract an NFL player, then, my brother, nothing will.

Anyway, the Cowboys still have home-field advantage in the playoffs to play for, so I think they'll take care of Carolina (who's technically still alive for the payoffs, but technically also 6-8 and not that good). Even if the spread is 10.5. Wish it was lower. All those big spreads went against me last week; most of the favorites won the games, but not by enough points, allowing the underdogs to cover the spread.

Giants @ BILLS +2.5

It seems as though the Vegas oddsmakers have decided to get into the Christmas spirit, giving gamblers everywhere the gift of the Giants being favored on the road by 2.5 during their annual Tom Coughlin late-season choke job, which began in ernest last week with what some called a "baffling" 22-10 home loss to Washington. I saw it coming, of course, and picked against New York.

Also, Buffalo's Kevin Everett will probably walk back into the stadium where, in Week 1, he was injured so badly that many thought he may never walk again. There's a pretty decent chance that might provide some sort of extra inspiration for the Bills, don't you think?

So, you've got that, coupled with the annual Tom Coughlin late-season choke job, and still the Giants are favored by 2.5. Merry Christmas, gamblers!

PACKERS @ Bears +8.5

Hmmmm... again, another really high line, another team (the Packers) still alive for home-field advantage in the playoffs; if home-field wasn't out there (and if Kyle Orton wasn't their quarterback), I might pick the Bears. Gotta take the Packers, though.

BROWNS @ Bengals +2.5

The last time these two teams got together, we got that crazy 51-45 Browns win that left everyone saying, "What? The Bengals lost to the Browns?" This time, with Cincinnati sitting at 5-9 and the upstart Browns in line for an AFC playoff berth, it would be "What? The Browns lost to the Bengals?"

CHIEFS @ Lions -4.5

Blech. I don't imagine too many sports bars will have this one on the big TV, even in Michigan or Missouri. The Lions have lost six in a row, and the Chiefs have lost seven. Let's pick the Chiefs, if only because a tie, though statistically unlikely, is the only way we could have neither of these two teams win. Which is really what ought to happen.

TEXANS @ Colts -7

You've got to feel for Texans fans; their team is bound to be the sexy playoff sleeper pick for 2008, which means they're bound to crash and burn just like sexy playoff sleeper picks always do (Exhibits A and B: the 2007 49ers and the 2006 Cardinals).

This year's Texans, though not alive for the playoffs, have a chance to finish with the franchise's first-ever winning record, and beating the Colts in Indy would be a big step not only toward that but toward building some momentum for next year in an effort to defy that sexy playoff sleeper pick curse. Probably won't happen, but, I'm feeling frisky for some reason, so let's pick Houston to cover that spread.

Raiders @ JAGUARS -13

The Jaguars can clinch a playoff berth with a win, and can also wrap up the title of "Team Nobody Wants to Face in the Playoffs" for 2008 (that's January 2008 I'm referring to. That's when the playoffs for the 2007 NFL season will be conducted).

I can't see the Jaguars -- after their impressive win over Pittsburgh last week -- slowing down against a bad Oakland team. Not when there's still something left to play for. Or even if there wasn't, to be honest. I think they'll manhandle the Raiders. In fact, if it weren't for the Colts and the Patriots, I'd think the Jaguars might be a legitimate threat to make it to the Super Bowl.

Eagles @ SAINTS -3

As a Vikings fan and an incurable pessimist (the chicken or the egg, there), I must believe that the Saints will take care of the Eagles, thereby making it impossible for the Vikings to clinch a playoff berth this weekend no matter what happens.

As for the Eagles, Brian Westbrook's non-touchdown at the end of Sunday's Eagles-Cowboys matchup bears mentioning here (even though it's been mentioned to death everywhere else). For those of you who didn't see it, Westbrook ran for a first down with about two-and-a-half minutes left and the Eagles up by four, and had a clear path to the end zone. Instead of scoring the touchdown, though, he intentionally stopped at the one yard line so that the Eagles could subsequently run out the clock and win the game (the Cowboys had no time outs left). A score would have allowed the Cowboys an opportunity to get the ball back and attempt the ol' "Score, Recover an Onside Kick, and Score Again" scenario, would have been extremely unlikely but certainly possible.

Aside from the ceaselessly amusing fantasy football implications of Westbrook's play, it was amazing to me to see him to what he did because it was exactly the sort of thing that a fan, sitting at home, wonders why more players don't do. Like, if you're trailing by just a few points at the end of the game and need a defensive stop, but the opponent runs for a first down, why not let up at that point and provide him a clear path all the way to the end zone if that's the only way you're going to get the ball back (hoping that your opponent won't pull a Westbrook and refuse to score)? If you need a touchdown on the final play of the game and you're too far away to attempt a Hail Mary, why not just keep lateralling the ball until it goes out of bounds or someone somewhere gets called for some type of penalty (this is my "How can you possibly allow yourself to get tackled?!? What on earth could be the downside of just blindly chucking the ball behind you, if you're going to lose anyway!?!" lament)?

I swear, as Westbrook was running for the end zone, I thought to myself, "he should just go down, but nobody ever does that," and, lo and behold, he did it. Great play.

Falcons @ CARDINALS -10

The Cardinals, favored by ten? Come on! What am I supposed to do with that? Sure, the Falcons are a complete mess, and the Cardinals are 4-2 at home this year, with three of those wins coming over likely playoff teams. Still, the Cardinals? By 10? How can anybody pick that? You have to, though, don't you?

Once in a while, you just have to give the Vegas oddsmakers a nice mental slow clap while saying, "You magnificent bastards."

If the Giants-Bills line was a Christmas gift, this one is a lump of coal.

BUCCANEERS @ 49ers +5.5

The Buccaneers have the NFC South title wrapped up and essentially nothing else left to play for. They should still beat the 49ers by at least a touchdown.

DOLPHINS @ Patriots -22

I'm not sure the Patriots are all that interested in running up the score to prove that they don't need to cheat to win. I think, at 14-0, they know we've all gotten the message.

Wouldn't it be fun to see the Dolphins win this one? They won't, but, as they showed last week by finally winning a game (and in dramatic overtime fashion, no less), they're still playing with some pride. I don't know if they'll keep it particularly close, but they could lose by three touchdowns and still beat a 22-point spread.

Oh, and, Tony Romo? Tom Brady spent the year ditching the hot actress he knocked up in favor of an international supermodel, and none of that has seemed to distract him at all. Something to keep in mind.

[by the way, I thoroughly enjoy this trend of pop singers, actresses and models dating athletes instead of movie and/or rock stars. I can't imagine how great it would be to be Tom Brady: "Hi, famous hot chick. I'm as good looking as Leonardo di Caprio or Matt Damon, but I actually do stuff. There aren't 1,200 waiters in the San Fernando Valley who could do what I do just as well, if not better. Plus, I'm not all artsy and crap, and I had a pretty normal childhood." Gotta love it]

RAVENS @ Seahawks -11

The Ravens have lost eight in a row, which is probably the longest current losing streak in the NFL (I don't feel like looking that up). The Seahawks have only lost one in a row, but it was a bizarre loss to a sub-par Carolina team that was starting an undrafted rookie quarterback. This line's too high for a Seattle team that, after last week, no one trusts.

JETS @ Titans -8.5

Tennessee is still sort of alive for the playoffs, in a Terry Schiavo kind of way, so they have plenty of incentive to show up and kick butt. Still, these Jets tend to play teams pretty tough, don't they? 8.5 seems awfully high.

REDSKINS @ Vikings -6.5

Misery insurance.

By the way, anybody who had quarterbacks Todd Collins and Tarvaris Jackson going at it in Week 16 with the inside track to a playoff berth on the line, raise your hands.

There, in the back? You. No? Just stretching?

Anybody else? Anybody have quarterbacks Todd Collins and Tarvaris Jackson going at it in Week 16 with the inside track to a playoff berth on the line? Yeah, I didn't really think so.

Broncos @ CHARGERS -8.5

The Chargers may be interested in a little payback from Denver's 41-3 pantsing of them back in Week 5. That's the only angle I could come up with for this dog of a Monday nighter.

The five I feel good (or, if not good, better than the others) about:

Giants @ BILLS +2.5
BROWNS @ Bengals +2.5
Raiders @ JAGUARS -13
Eagles @ SAINTS -3
DOLPHINS @ Patriots -22

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