Carolina Panthers @ Jacksonville Jaguars -10.5
Mazzone: Last week’s game against the Colts wasn’t as close as the score indicates, and though they’re a really good football team, the Jags still have a little ways to go before being considered with the best. It’s difficult to take the Panthers, but I think 10.5 is tough with a trip to Pittsburgh looming for Jax next week.
Pick: Panthers +10.5
Durden: Before beating up the hapless 49ers last week, the Panthers had ripped off 5 straight losses. I expect them to revert back to form and lose not only on Sunday, but for the remainder of the season. Jacksonville should bounce back big after last week’s loss to Indy, and getting back Marcus Stroud certainly won’t hurt.
Pick: Jaguars -10.5
Dallas Cowboys @ Detroit Lions +10.5
Mazzone: A week ago, I gave the Lions one last chance, but they look like a team that’s done and now they’re without Roy Williams. Dallas is rolling and it seems like only they can keep themselves from representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Pick: Cowboys -10.5
Durden: While Detroit is well on its way to a 6 or 7 win season, they did a hell of a job of tricking a lot of us into thinking that they may have been for real. Still, it means Kitna will be wrong about his team winning 10 games this year. Unfortunately for him, that may be nothing compared to the trouble that awaits him this Sunday, as a result of him opening his big mouth.
Pick: Cowboys -10.5
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills -7
Mazzone: Another easy win for the Dolphins. I just hope they don’t fall into the trap of looking two weeks ahead to the highly anticipated matchup with the Patriots.
Pick: Dolphins +7
Durden: Before last week’s game, Dolphins DT Vonnie Holliday shouted to Jets LB David Bowens, "Today's gonna be our day!" To which Bowens responded, "I bet you felt like that about 11 other teams" Fortunately for Miami, they’re expecting snow in Buffalo on Sunday. Bad weather has already helped slow down Miami’s opponent in games this year, and Buffalo is certainly worse than the Giants or Steelers.
Pick: Dolphins +7
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles -3
Mazzone: Donovan McNabb is BACK! That should lead to quite a bit of my brother’s favorite play in football - Donovan McNabb getting sacked. It’s going to be sad when he’s playing elsewhere next year. Since Kevin Kolb is white, it’s going to take longer for people to turn on him.
Pick: Giants +3
Durden: This game might be the toughest pick of the week. Their first game this season isn’t much help, as the Eagles will have William Thomas, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook this time around, while the Giants will likely be starting Reuben Droughns. Of course, that may not matter as it’s impossible to know which Eagle team will show up this season, but the Giants just haven’t been the same since their loss against the Cowboys. I’ll take the Eagles at home, splitting the season series against the Giants.
Pick: Eagles -3
Oakland Raiders @ Green Bay Packers -10.5
Mazzone: It was actually smart of Favre to leave the Cowboys game early with an injury. Now, if they meet again in the playoffs the team will still have hope. “We played them pretty close without Brett!” Whereas if he had stayed in and continued to play like he was, they would have been blown out and morale would have been low heading into a playoff rematch. That’s why he’s one of the greatest. Raiders have won 2 in a row, they’re due to play like the Raiders again.
Pick: Packers -10.5
Durden: The half point was just what I needed to pick the Raiders and against the Packers, which is always my preference. Plus, with Aaron Rodgers recently getting hurt, Green Bay is down to their 3rd stringer if Favre really is banged up and gets injured again. Would it kill him to throw back some painkillers?
Pick: Raiders +10.5
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots -11
Mazzone: This has all the makings of one of those games where everyone finally starts to doubt the dominant team and they revert back to the machine they were earlier in the year. But at the same time, it’s so easy to hate the Patriots and drum up reasons why they could/should lose. Also, I mentioned a few weeks ago in this column how I thought the Steelers matched up alright and had a shot against the juggernaut. The deciding factor is…how can you possibly go against an Anthony Scott guarantee?!
Pick: Steelers +11
Durden: After close games against the Eagles and Ravens, I think it’s fair to start asking the question. Did the Patriots not have tape on Baltimore and Philly?? However, what they lack in videotape on their opponents, they clearly make up for in help from the officiating. Look for New England to “bounce back” and stick it to Pittsburgh.
Pick: Patriots -11
San Diego Chargers @ Tennessee Titans -1
Mazzone: This is one of the few games I’m really looking forward to watching this week. Haynesworth is back and winning football games for the Titans while Vince Young’s almost looked like a real QB the past few weeks.
At the same time LDT is coming off a huge game and the Chargers are on a roll with the defense flying all over the field. In the end, I’m going with the Titans for a couple reasons: 1) they’re home 2) Philip Rivers, even in his good statistical games, hasn’t looked that impressive and I always feel like he’s going to cost them the game against good defenses.
Pick: Titans -1
Durden: RIP “Albert Haynesworth just wins football games”
Pick: Chargers +1
St. Louis Rams @ Cincinnati Bengals -6.5
Mazzone: I don’t care how bad the Bengals have been, or that the Rams are on a bit of a roll, there is absolutely no way I’m betting on Brock Berlin.
Pick: Bengals -6.5
Durden: Quick, name a DB or two on the Rams. If you couldn’t come up with anything, then I won’t bother asking you to name ones that are actually healthy. Anyways, those are the guys covering Houshmazilli and the Chad this week. I don’t see how the Rams can keep this one close, and that’s before taking into account that the Rams will be without both Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte. Brock Berlin, enjoy your first career NFL start.
Pick: Bengals -6.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Houston Texans +3
Mazzone: Gotta continue to give credit to Gruden with this Bucs team. I thought they were going to be pretty awful and then when some key injuries set in I really thought it was going to go downhill. But they’ve beaten everyone they’re supposed to beat (4 losses to – Indy, Seattle, Jax, Detroit when they were decent). There isn’t a team the Bucs shouldn’t beat left on their schedule (@Hou, Atl, @SF, Car) but if they do that, they’ll finish 12-4 with 8 consecutive wins, and I can’t see that happening. I think Houston at home has the best chance of any of the remaining teams to knock off the Bucs.
Pick: Texans +3
Durden: While Sage Rosenfels proved to be serviceable earlier this year, he did so behind an offensive line that was fully intact. This time around, it’s down to at least one third-stringer and the Bucs come into this one on a roll. The Saints gave away the game last week, but I think they’ll take care of this one on their own.
Pick: Buccaneers -3
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks -7
Mazzone: The Cards are running out of weapons and the Seahawks are playing like we thought they would earlier in the year. Regardless of the outcome of this one, with NO, ATL, and STL left on Arizona’s schedule, they’ll likely be in the playoff hunt ‘til the end in the woeful NFC.
Pick: Seahawks -7
Durden: I have to admit, I’m incredibly wary of picking Seattle in a game which could seem them all but clinch the division, on their own. However, it does appear that they’ve been taking care of business on their field this season, while the Cards continue to lose guys on both sides of the ball to injury.
Pick: Seahawks -7
Minnesota Vikings @ San Francisco 49ers +8.5
Mazzone: There’s a lot of talk about Tim Tebow potentially getting snubbed from the Heisman (which he undoubtedly deserves, as much as I like McFadden) because he’s a sophomore. It’ll be a shame if it happens, but certainly not the first time. Adrian Peterson should have won it as a FRESHMAN in ’04. He’s been that much better than everyone else his whole life, no one should be surprised by his NFL success, which will continue against the ‘Niners. In other news, Tarvaris Jackson might not be half bad, to be continued…
Pick: Vikings -8.5
Durden: The 49ers go into games with Frank Gore as their only hope to stay in games. The Vikings’ top rated run defense should remove that hope easily, allowing their suddenly hot offense to take care of the rest.
Pick: Vikings -8.5
Cleveland Browns @ New York Jets +3.5
Mazzone: I’m really pumped for everything about the return of American Gladiators this January. To the point where I don’t think I’d mind in the least if the commercials for it were played more than Frank TV promos and “this is our country” combined.
Pick: Browns -3.5
This is an all-new kind of trap game. It’s the “our minds won’t be on the Browns because the beating of a lifetime awaits us next week” game.
Pick: Browns -3.5
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos -7
Mazzone: I haven’t been able to figure out Denver all season. Coming in, I thought they were rated too highly by the experts, but I also didn’t think they were as terrible as they looked their first 5 games. KC on the other hand is still bad, but slightly better than I thought they’d be as I had them winning about 3 games or so for the whole season (they’re at 4 with some winnable games left). They’re getting something out of this Kolby Smith character, Tony Gonzalez is still really good and Dwayne Bowe’s legit. I think they’ll at least keep it close enough to make it worth taking the points.
Pick: Chiefs +7
Durden: If Denver wins, it’ll be their first win in three weeks. If Kansas City wins, it’ll be Brodie Croyle’s first win in…ever.
Pick: Broncos -7
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens +9.5
Mazzone: The Ravens followed the Eagles blueprint for almost beating the Patriots to a T, right down to finding a way to give the game away in the fourth quarter. Devastating loss, and it will be interesting to see if they have anything left to give for this one. I’m guessing no, and I can’t really blame them.
Pick: Colts -9.5
Durden: While I really feel the officiating cost the Ravens all game, they also failed to win the game on their own. It’s easy as a fan to complain about that and be miserable over it, but it’s difficult watching your team do the same during and after the game. There’s really no way to predict how the Ravens will come out for this game, but after last weeks’ performance, I gotta keep the faith.
Pick: Ravens +9.5
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons +4
Mazzone: Something tells me this wasn’t what the NFL had in mind when they set up a rematch of last season’s Katrina game. Michael Vick is in jail, Deuce McAllister is hurt, Reggie Bush is likely out “with a knee, a shin and a rib”, but hey, I’ve always wanted to root for Chris Redman in prime time.
Pick: Falcons +4
Durden: Somewhere, Inmate #85067 wants to know: Who let the dogs out?!?!?
Pick: Saints -4