Last week was a reasonably straightforward week for office pool players — largely because favorites took care of business like they were supposed to. If you picked a lot of them you did fine. This week we’ll be relying on something a little different — road teams. Of the 14 matchups this week I expect at least six to be won by the visitors. If that does indeed materialize then it will be a very good week. Without further ado, here’s a look at all 14 games with winners picked straight up:
Indianapolis at Jacksonville - When I first saw this game on the schedule I thought it had a very good chance of being the worst game on the schedule all year. Jacksonville has done their part this season to live up to that expectation, but the Colts have far exceeded what seemed possible. They are 4-1 in their last five, and are in the playoff picture despite having a rookie QB and a real lack of talent. They’ll be 6-3 after this. Take the Colts.
New York Giants at Cincinnati - The Bengals are lousy, and each week lately they have found a way to prove it. They have lost three of four at home, and the Giants are better than any team that has beaten them. Take the Giants.
Tennessee at Miami - The Dolphins were a disappointment last week, but they are still a tough team that is better than their 4-4 record. Their defense will control the Titans and that will be the difference here. Take the Dolphins.
Detroit at Minnesota - The Vikings are coming back to earth after a torrid start. The Lions are waking up after a very slow beginning. I liked the Lions a lot more than the Vikings heading into the season, and finally both teams are looking more like I expected. Take the Lions.
Buffalo at New England - New England hasn’t been nearly as good as they should be, but the Pats are by far the better team in this one, and are going to be well positioned to come out on top. Take the Patriots.
Atlanta at New Orleans - The Saints have been better recently, but they still have a whole lot of issues. Atlanta hasn’t lost yet, so I’d rather go with the trend than against it. Take the Falcons.
San Diego at Tampa Bay - Both teams have the same 4-4 record, but they couldn’t be more different. Tampa Bay plays relentlessly and with a lot of heart despite some talent issues in spots. San Diego has plenty of talent but a total absence of heart. I’ll take effort over skill almost every time. Take the Bucs.
Denver at Carolina - Cam Newton and the Panthers played by far their best game of the season last week. I can’t yet trust them to replicate that, though. Denver is in a groove and feeling confident, and the Panthers will struggle to keep up with Manning and Company. Take the Broncos.
Oakland at Baltimore - Baltimore is a good team that is very tough at home. Oakland is a bad team that is particularly weak on the road. This one is easy. Take the Ravens.
New York Jets at Seattle - Seattle is tough at home, and their defense is strong. The Jets have been lousy, and they are on the verge of totally unraveling. This is the kind of game that the Seahawks have to win if they want to compete. They will. Take Seattle.
Dallas at Philadelphia - Which underperforming team with lousy attitudes, frustrating quarterbacks and too many issues to count do I want to pick? If “none of the above” was an option I’d take it for sure. Since it’s not, though, I’ll take the Cowboys.
St. Louis at San Francisco - In six of eight games this year the Niners have been the best team in the league. St. Louis has lost all three road games, and the Rams have struggled to be competitive on a consistent basis. Take the 49ers.
Houston at Chicago - This is a great game on paper. Both teams are 7-1. The Texans are unbeaten on the road, and the Bears haven’t lost at home. Strength against strength. The difference is, though, that I feel like the Texans are playing well within themselves while the Bears are overachieving. Houston really is this good. Take the Texans.
Kansas City at Pittsburgh - There is not a single situation right now in which I would pick the Chiefs. They could be at home or away, against any team in the league, and I would automatically pick the other team. Total mess. The only slim reason for hope is that Romeo Crennel finally got smart enough to fire his defensive coordinator — himself. Take the Steelers.
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