It’s time for another week’s worth of straight up NFL office pool picks. Last week was fine, but far from overwhelming -- there were some surprises like there are so often in the NFL. This week we will look to do better, and it feels like we have a reasonably straightforward card to choose from here.
Panthers at Falcons - The Falcons are a team in trouble. What was most striking about their Sunday not loss was not that it happened -- there is no shame in losing to the Packers -- but that they didn’t seem to care. They got out to a 14-0 lead and then failed to mount a convincing fight as the game slipped away. Talent isn’t an issue, but heart sure is. Carolina has no absence of heart, and they came very close to beating the Saints in a great game. I’m very tempted to pick the upset here, but the Falcons are at home and should still be capable of a win. Take the Falcons.
Colts at Bengals - With a win here the Bengals will move to 4-2. There isn’t a more surprising stat in the NFL right now. The Colts blew a lead to the Chiefs, and made Matt Cassel look like Joe Montana in the process. This is a really lousy team, and they will struggle on the road. Take the Bengals.
49ers at Lions - If I had told you six months ago that San Francisco at Detroit would not only be the best game of week six but one of the very best games of the year to date, you would have thought I was insane. I am telling you that, though, and it’s true. Both teams have been wildly impressive, and both teams are coached exceptionally well. I have to take the Lions because they are at home, but I would be surprised by nothing in this one. It could be a classic.
Rams at Packers - When you put a rabbit in a cage with a tiger you know without question what is going to happen to the rabbit. It’s not going to be pretty. The Rams are the rabbit in this case. Take the Packers.
Bills at Giants - It is officially time to take the Bills seriously. They are 4-1 and they deserve that record. Their last road effort was a real concern, but they are still a real squad. The Giants should be ashamed of their performance last week, and that makes them hard to trust. Buffalo is the tougher team and should make this one interesting. Take the Bills.
Jaguars at Steelers - Remember what I said earlier about a tiger and a rabbit? The Jaguars are like the rabbits, too. Take the Steelers.
Eagles at Redskins - Philadelphia is a total mess. They can’t get out of their own way, they play very sloppy football, and they are sniping in the media. It’s a toxic environment and they have real problems. Washington still hasn’t convinced me that they’re legitimate, but they have been good at home and are coming off a bye. Take the Redskins.
Browns at Raiders - I like the emotion and determination that the Raiders showed last week to come back and beat the Texans. They had the memory of Al Davis to play for then, but they showed a toughness we have seen from them before this week. The Browns have been surprisingly solid, but they are playing in a tough building, and should come up short here. Take the Raiders.
Texans at Ravens - Houston disgusts me. They have the world in the palm of their hands this year and they have talent to spare, but they threw away the game last week, and they just can’t seem to win when they need to. I hate trusting them, and I sure don’t here. The Ravens are looking strong, and they will be rested and well prepared. Take the Ravens.
Cowboys at Patriots - Tony Romo has taken a whole lot of criticism lately. He deserves most of it, and I have no faith that the team is going to rally around him. New England has issues, but they are tough in general and especially tough at home. Take the Patriots.
Saints at Buccaneers - Two weeks ago I would have really been tempted by the Bucs in this spot. After their total and utter humiliation at the hands of the Niners last week, though, I don’t like them at all. In the long term they could be okay, but I can’t trust them to bounce back strong in the short term. New Orleans is a good, tough team that is already 2-1 on the road. Take the Saints.
Vikings at Bears - The Bears have obvious problems, and the Vikings put forward one of the most shocking performances of last week. Still, I don’t believe that the Vikings can be sustainably strong with Donovan McNabb playing like he is -- especially on the road. Take the Bears.
Dolphins at Jets - ESPN must really be thrilled about broadcasting this dog of a game. What a mess. The Dolphins will be breaking in a new starting QB, and that won’t help them deal with all of their other issues. Take the Jets.