I haven't played darts in a long time. I used to play a lot when I was younger - always in the bar, of course. A wife and kid changes that - in good ways, mostly. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it a little, though. Luckily, I feel like I get to relive old times and play darts each week of this NFL season when I make these picks. Or rather, I probably wouldn't be any worse off if I did use a dartboard to choose my teams. It has been a bizarre year, and I'll fully admit that I have often been helpless and hopeless when it comes to figuring out what is going to happen - much more so than any other year I've seen, and I've been doing this for a lot of years now. Fearlessly, though, I'll attack this week's straight up picks with enthusiasm and, hopefully, some insight:
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Green Bay at Detroit: How hard is it to believe that we could even consider choosing the Lions here? Yet here I am. The Packers have lost four of five, and the cracks are definitely showing in the locker room. Detroit, meanwhile, has won three straight and were very impressive on offense last time out. I don't feel great about it, but the Lions are the pick. And this is proof of just how odd this season has been.
New York Jets at New York Giants: No travel concerns in this one. Neither team is any good, but the Giants have lost two straight, and Eli Manning looked just awful last week. Take the Jets.
Arizona at St. Louis: I've heard you need a quarterback to compete in this league. If that's the case then the Rams are in trouble. They are a mess under center, and that would be a problem against even an average team. Unfortunately for them, the Cardinals are far from an average team. Take the Cardinals.
Atlanta at Tampa Bay: What a mess the Falcons are. Matt Ryan has regressed yet again, and the team has dropped four straight. Tampa Bay is far from a perfect team, but they are determined and are playing with youthful enthusiasm and cohesiveness. Take the Bucs.
Seattle at Minnesota: Seattle's offense has been clicking lately. The defense is vulnerable, though, and they are facing a team that is grittier and more competent than others. Very tough game, but take the Vikings.
Houston at Buffalo: Houston has woken up on both sides of the ball lately and has been playing solid football. Buffalo, meanwhile, isn't nearly as sharp now as they should be capable of. The pick would have been very different a month ago, but take the Texans.
Baltimore at Miami: What a horrible, horrible game. The Ravens are really banged up, but they won on Monday in one of the odder ways we have seen recently. Miami is a mess and seems to have given up on their second coach of the year. They should just cancel this one. Take the Ravens. I guess.
Cincinnati at Cleveland: Cleveland signed Terrelle Pryor this week. That's all that needs to be said. Take the Bengals.
Jacksonville at Tennessee: Jacksonville should be somewhat better than they have been this year. Tennessee lost to the Raiders last week, but they played reasonably well for the most part - at least in relative terms. Tight game, but take the Titans.
San Francisco at Chicago: The job Adam Gase has done working with Jay Cutler and this Chicago offense is just remarkable. At home against a really bad team they should be able to continue their success. Take the Bears.
Denver at San Diego: I was wrong about Brock Osweiler - at least through two games. I thought he would be outclassed and in trouble. He has been just the opposite. Against a team with the issues that the Chargers have he should continue his winning ways. San Diego was strong offensively last time, but not against a defense like this. Take the Broncos.
Kansas City at Oakland: the way things are playing out, it isn't going to take much more than .500 to get a wild-card spot in the AFC, so this game between 6-5 K.C. and 5-6 Oakland is suddenly absolutely crucial. Tough call, but Kansas City is playing tough ball right now, and I am starting to believe. Take the Chiefs.
Carolina at New Orleans: Carolina might be as unlikely an 11-0 team as we have seen, but they are good. Certainly much, much better than the Saints are right now. They should also be hungry - a win clinches the division and solidifies their claim on the top seed. Take the Panthers.
Philadelphia at New England: Tough way for the winning streak to end against the Broncos, and the loss of Gronkowski will hurt - especially when compounded with every other injury that has happened on offense. It won't happen, though - this is Philadelphia, after all. Take the Patriots.
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh: As I write we don't know if Big Ben will be ready - though it seems doubtful. That could lead to the Hasselbeck-Jones battle that everyone was hoping for from the second this game appeared on the schedule. Ugly game in that case, but I'll take the Steelers at home.
Dallas at Washington: Weird game - the Redskins are in first place, and the Cowboys in the cellar. That's exactly the opposite of what seemed likely. It's a lost season for Dallas, so we are forced to trust Washington. I don't like how that feels. Take the Redskins.
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