Obviously, the thoughts of all sports fans are with those affected by the awful fires in San Diego. With today's news that the Chargers will play at home on Sunday as scheduled, here's hoping the NFL steps up and helps with the relief effort, and that the mere presence of a football game will help San Diego residents in the recovery process.
Even three hours of relief from reality can be a great thing, and this is what makes sports as cool as they are. People can turn away from the travails of real life. Trust me, there are many, and not just in San Diego. This is just the latest and most notable right now.
The Chargers and Texans don't highlight the schedule, but they'll get a little more attention than usual now. And it has the chance to be a really good game.
As far as the football goes, the weekend sets up to be quite interesting. The unbeatens, Indy and New England, clash next week, but both have tough games this week first. The Monday Night game should be interesting, and Philadelphia needs a win...badly...to stay in the NFC East race, which sets up for now as a two-team (maybe three if the Redskins get lucky) show.
Last week: 9-5
Washington at New England and Indianapolis at Carolina: I lump these games in together because of the unbeaten battle next week. First, the Patriots have to get by the Redskins, who likely present the toughest defense the Pats have faced so far. That 16-point spread is ridiculous, and shows too much love to New England. They're deserving of a lot of love, but Washington will keep that game close. The Redskins should be able to at least make New England sweat on offense, and their running game could cause problems to the Pats' defensive front.
The Carolina game is interesting because of the news today that Vinny Testaverde will start for the Panthers. Their season could be in the hands of a retired 43-year-old quarterback. Be afraid. Expect Indianapolis to pin the ears back and make the Panthers run the ball to win. Testaverde won't be allowed to pick the Colts' defense apart. If Carolina's defense plays well, they actually have a better shot at the outright win than Washington does, but it won't happen.
It'll set up the battle of unbeatens next week at Indianapolis. Unfortunately, Phil Simms will be working. Sorry. I can't control those things.
The picks: New England and Indianapolis
Green Bay at Denver (Monday night): What a zoo out here. I just wish I was staying here for this one. It's okay, though, because based on what I saw in a walk around my hotel today, there will be plenty of Packer fans in attendance Monday night. At least, they'll be here. Maybe they can scalp their way in.
The Packers will run for over 100 yards in this game. Denver's run defense is atrocious, and they appear to be expecting a Brett Favre air assault. Instead, look for the Packers to come out like they did against Chicago (only minus, hopefully, the fumbles and stupid mistakes and bad officiating). They'll make Denver crowd the line of scrimmage, and then take their shots down the field. I just don't think Denver has the secondary to shut the Packers down, especially if Green Bay makes them defend the run.
The pick: Green Bay
Philadelphia at Minnesota: So, Tarvaris Jackson has a broken finger. On his throwing hand. And he might play Sunday!
In other news, Adrian Peterson will probably have his carries held down again on Sunday. Turns out he was moving some furniture in his house during his off-day this week, and Vikings head coach Brad Childress is concerned that Peterson will tire quickly on Sunday if he's overused.
The pick: Philadelphia
Other games (Home team in CAPS)
ST. LOUIS over Cleveland
N.Y. Giants over Miami (at London)
Pittsburgh over CINCINNATI
CHICAGO over Detroit
TENNESSEE over Oakland
N.Y. JETS over Buffalo
TAMPA BAY over Jacksonville
SAN DIEGO over Houston
New Orleans over SAN FRANCISCO