After this week every team will be at least halfway through their season. Eight games should be enough that we have a good sense of where teams are at and which ones are legitimate. At least that's the theory. What we know already is that, with a few notable exceptions, there are a whole lot of really mediocre teams this year. There are only 11 teams in the league at this point that are above .500, and three of those 11 are just barely there at 4-3. Last year there were 16 teams that finished the season above .500. The recurring theme for too many teams has been inconsistency. That makes it tough to be consistent in your office pools - as I have proven too often this year. This will be a good week, though - I can feel it. Here are my straight up picks for the 13 games on tap this week:
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Cleveland at Cincinnati: The Browns are facing quarterback uncertainty, and reports are that they were trying hard to trade Joe Thomas at the trade deadline. That doesn't sound like a team with a whole lot of self belief right now. And they shouldn't in this game . I have long-term doubts about Cincinnati, but none in this spot. Take the Bengals.
Green Bay at Carolina: Interesting game. I feel like I would have had a tougher time picking it before last week, though. Green Bay finally showed they are mortal, and Carolina is good enough to take advantage of that at home. Take the Panthers.
Washington at New England: If I have to say anything more here than 'Take the Patriots' then I give my audience more credit than I should.
Tennessee at New Orleans: The Titans have health issues. They just made a moronic coaching change. They are playing lousy football. They have no particular talent in too many spots on the roster. New Orleans is rolling offensively. This one could get ugly. Take the Saints.
Miami at Buffalo: For a brief window the Dolphins were good. Really good. Then they remembered they were the Dolphins. Buffalo should get some good injury news this week, and that will be a big boost here. Take the Bills.
St. Louis at Minnesota: Both these teams quietly have pretty elite defenses. Neither has a great offense, though Minnesota has been better overall. It's a small edge, but when combined with playing at home we have to go with the Vikings.
Jacksonville at New York Jets: The Jets' previously-impressive defense has been exposed the last two weeks. They don't have much of an offense at the moment, either. They aren't in a good spot. Unfortunately, the Jaguars have been terrible defensively and inconsistent on offense. Ugly game. Take the Jets.
Oakland at Pittsburgh: I probably shouldn't, but I am going to take a gamble here. The Steelers are inconsistent, and the loss of Bell at running back is a big blow. I believe in what the Raiders have done lately. David Carr is playing great football, and they are fearless. It's an uphill battle, but take the Raiders.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay: I hate this game. Everything about it. The Giants are coming off a very good offensive game, but they could suffer mentally for the way in which they blew the lead at the end. They could have another big game, or they could struggle mightily. We've seen them do both. The Bucs aren't particularly good, but they are feisty, and they are at home. Literally tossing a coin here. Three heads out of five means take the Bucs.
Atlanta at San Francisco: I really don't like how Atlanta is playing lately, though it is the most predictable thing ever. After all, the last two weeks they are just playing exactly like they have for the last few years. This is a mentally fragile team. Lucky for them though, they have the best possible solution in sight. The Niners will fix whatever is wrong with any team - at least for a week. This is a team in the midst of a total, graphic implosion. Ugly stuff. Take the Falcons.
Denver at Indianapolis: Pretty simple algorithm to handicap any game involving the Colts lately. Is their opponent in the AFC South? Not in this case. That means that the Colts will lose. A record of 3-0 against the division this year. And 0-5 outside of it. They were 6-0 in the division last year and 5-5 out of it. Same thing the year before. Denver's offense raises some real questions - though Vernon Davis is an intriguing answer to some. Their defense is playing great, though, and they will have a big day against Andrew Luck and his mostly awful recent play. Take the Broncos.
Philadelphia at Dallas: The Eagles aren't very good, but they have had a week off to sort out some of their issues and get back on track. The Cowboys have all sorts of injury woes, though - and more than a little drama surrounding the organization, too. With Tony Romo active I'd take the Cowboys. He's not, though, so I won't. Take the Eagles.
Chicago at San Diego: San Diego is 2-6 and is a massive disappointment this year. The Bears are 2-5 and pretty much exactly the team I expected. Both teams are very lousy on defense. The difference is that the Chargers have a much more competent offense. That will be tested because pretty much everyone on the team was injured last week, but I still have to take the home team. Take the Chargers.
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