There are 14 games on the NFL schedule this weekend, but if you listen to ESPN/FOX/CBS/NFL Network, there is only one.
Sadly, that's how the media works now. A game that is undeniably big, but will be rendered virtually meaningless when the two meet in the AFC Championship Game, is getting all the attention of the NFL "experts". Then, in January, you'll hear these "experts" talking nonstop about how they learned so much about the teams when they met in November. These words will be uttered just in time for both teams to do something completely different in their playoff matchup, and that will be followed by nonstop credit and "darling" status being given to the head coach of the winning team.
If the January winner is different than the November winner, we'll hear excuses made why they "came up short in Week Nine". The reality is that these players are going to treat this like any other game. Sure, there is a rivalry here, and there are some neat storylines, but compared to what we'll see in January, this is a pre-season game.
It'll be a really good pre-season game, but that's all it is.
My analysis of this game?
OMG PEYTON MANNING OMG TOM BRADY OMG BELICHICK GENIUS OMG DUNGY CLASSY OMG PEYTON MANNING FUNNY COMMERCIALS OMG TOM BRADY BABE MAGNET DREAMY OMG RANDY MOSS IS BACK OMG JOSEPH ADDAI EDGERRIN WHO? OMG REGGIE WAYNE OMG BOB SANDERS IS SHORT OMG BOB SANDERS IS GOOD ANYWAY OMG HOW DO THOSE LINEBACKERS DO IT THEY'RE ALL OLD? OMG RODNEY HARRISON NOT BAD FOR A CHEATER OMG TOM BRADY TD RECORD OMG RUN UP THE SCORE OMG PEYTON MANNING CALLS HIS OWN PLAYS OMG TONY DUNGY RELIGION OMG BILL BELICHICK CUTOFF HOODY SLEEVES
Note that I've avoided the whole "running up the score" topic this week. It's not that I don't think New England is running up the score, and it's not that I'm comfortable with the idea. However, I'm not comfortable with trying to tell a team when enough is enough. I am relatively certain that 38-0 in the fourth quarter is a good place to stop throwing the ball all over the field with the starters, but I still think that New England's behavior is dumb because of the risk involved. As was finally discussed this week (note that the "experts" never figure things out until most of us have already beaten the topic to death), the risk that one guy on the other team will snap and try to take out Brady exists when you keep throwing in 38-0 games, and it's not a risk worth taking.
If Brady ever gets hurt pulling such a stunt, I'm convinced that people will label Belichick an "idiot" for doing what he has been doing. However, since Brady is still healthy, Belichick is still a genius.
As for the game, have you been watching the Patriots? Granted, Indy's (by far) the best team New England has faced, but the path of destruction they've left so far is historic in its proportions. And they're not losing this game. Talk to me in January. My son has hockey practice on Sunday afternoon, and I'll miss a good chunk of this game. I have a feeling the one they play in January will mean a bit more, and I'll make more of an effort to watch.
The pick: New England
I'm not going to dog every other game on the schedule, because there are some good matchups on the slate.
By the way, I almost forgot:
Last week: 9-4
Carolina at Tennessee: David Carr likely starts for Carolina, and that would be a guaranteed loss if you didn't think about it. However, when you do think about it, you realize that Tennessee can't throw much, either. This will come down to the two old cliches of football games: defense and turnovers. Since "turnovers" are involved, I'll go ahead and pick against Carr's team.
The pick: Tennessee
Green Bay at Kansas City: I know I run the risk of turning into a cocky fanboy Bill Simmons type, but as long as the oddsmakers are picking against the Packers, I have another reason to firmly stand in their corner. Favre is playing well, the run game has a shot with Ryan Grant (I like him a bit, as he seems to have a good grasp of the system, and he doesn't miss chunks of playing time with cramps), and the defense makes plays when they need to be made. Stuff like that Cutler fumble Monday night (the one that was forced by one of Cutler's linemen) makes me think that Lady Luck is hanging out with the Packers for some reason, but I'm not going to turn that down.
The pick: Green Bay
Dallas at Philadelphia: Philly showed some life last week. After a horrifically tough loss to Chicago, they got off the mat and beat the Vikings. But Minnesota moved the ball well at times, and Dallas' pass defense isn't nearly that bad. The TO stuff is pretty much over now. He's basically just like every other opponent in that Philly fans hate him.
The pick: Dallas
Other games (Home team in CAPS)
Arizona over TAMPA BAY
BUFFALO over Cincinnati
Denver over DETROIT
NEW ORLEANS over Jacksonville
San Diego over MINNESOTA
ATLANTA over San Francisco
Washington over N.Y. JETS
CLEVELAND over Seattle
OAKLAND over Houston
PITTSBURGH over Baltimore