It's rivalry week on campus, but as great as Auburn-Alabama might be, how can it compete with Texans-Browns? Wait, let us rephrase that ...
Yeah, they’re playing pro football this weekend but the big news is college football’s rivalry week. The big one isn’t even a big rivalry game, Oklahoma-Texas Tech, but there’s the usual menu of matchups that often make or break the season for the teams involved, even if the rest of the season has been nothing to text home about.
This is one of the ways college football has it all over the NFL. The bitterest NFL rivalry, Washington-Dallas or New England-Indianapolis, let’s say, doesn’t come close to the white-hot intensity of, oh, Montana-Montana State.
It sounds like I’m joking because you’re always joking when you mention Montana and you’re talking about college football and you don’t live in Montana, or maybe Wyoming. But I’m not joking. Never mind Auburn-Alabama, Army-Navy, Ohio State-Michigan. Even including the Super Bowl, the NFL has nothing that can match the fierce enmity of BYU-Utah. It can’t touch Bowling Green-Toledo.
Of course, that’s next week, so let’s not worry about it now. Instead, we’ll turn to Week 12, which does have a Baltimore-Philly game. Speaking of which — see what I did there? — don’t miss Mike Tanier’s Walkthrough column at Football Outsiders.
Dynamite football analyst by night, Tanier is a high school math teacher in South Jersey by day, and he writes about his close-knit community’s anticipation of Sunday’s Eagles-Ravens game. South Jersey is Eagles country, but rookie Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is a local kid, and, as Tanier notes, “South Jersey isn’t West Texas or Dade County, Florida. High school football isn’t a big deal, and local heroes are rare.” Great stuff.
On to the picks. Winners in caps, and the prognostications of Buster and Daisy, the game-pickinest 5-year-old and the coin-flippinest 3-year-old to ever not wear red on a football Saturday — and fierce rivals to each other — included.
Sunday early games
Houston (3-7) at CLEVELAND (4-6)
Brady Quinn’s broken finger against the Texans’ broken defense. A bad finger always beats a bad defense. And vice versa.
BUFFALO (5-5) at Kansas City (1-9)
I was crowing in unseemly fashion a few weeks ago because the Bills were playing well after I’d written a season preview saying they might make the playoffs. Now they’ve lost four straight, quarterback Trent Edwards has melted down, they’re in last place in the winnable AFC East and while they’re only one game out in the wild-card race, there are four teams ahead of them for the two spots. But the Chiefs are really bad.
Daisy: Kansas City
New England (6-4) at MIAMI (6-4)
Sometimes rivalry week serves to remind one of the rivals that there is, in fact, a rivalry. So: New England Patriots, meet the Miami Dolphins. Remember them? They don’t like you. The first time these teams met, the Dolphins won with a bunch of whizbang Wildcat stuff that’s now become old hat. The Dolphins won’t fool ‘em again, but they won’t have to.
N.Y. Jets (7-3) at TENNESSEE (10-0)
The Titans might be looking ahead to their titanic matchup with winless Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, but I think they’ll force Brett Favre into some crazy turnovers and show that while the Jets are a legitimate playoff contender, they’re not an elite team.
Buster: New York
Philadelphia (5-4-1) at BALTIMORE (6-4)
No team that’s played a tie game in the 21st century has gone on to win the Super Bowl that year, so the Eagles are cooked. Mmm, cooked eagle. Would we be eating that next week if Ben Franklin had gotten his way on the national bird?
San Francisco (3-7) at DALLAS (6-4)
For a significant chunk of NFL history, this was a Grade A rivalry. Now it has rout written all over it.
Kids: Dallas (10.5-point favorite)
Tampa Bay (7-3) at DETROIT (0-10)
The Lions might be looking ahead to their titanic matchup with un defeated Tennessee on Thanksgiving Day, but don’t worry: Wherever the Lions look, they see losses. What the Heck™ Pick of the week.
Kids: Tampa Bay (9-point favorite)
Minnesota (5-5) at JACKSONVILLE (4-6)
The Vikings’ only road win was a 30-27 last-minute squeaker in New Orleans that Drew Brees called the weirdest game he’s ever seen. Reggie Bush ran two punts back for touchdowns in that game. That won’t happen Sunday, it says here. The Jags are just as bad at home, 1-4, and their only home win was also 30-27, over Houston. I think that proves my point.
CHICAGO (5-5) at St. Louis (2-8)
Remember back a while ago when the Rams looked like maybe they were coming to life a little? Yeah, that was cool.
Kids: Chicago (9-point favorite)
Sunday late games
Oakland (2-8) at DENVER (6-4)
Trap game for the Broncos. The season’s not even two-thirds over but they already know that barring a big collapse they’ll be hosting a wild-card team in the first round of the playoffs. It’s possible but not likely that the struggling Chargers, two games back, will catch them in the AFC West and there’s almost no chance the Broncos will end up with one of the top two seeds and a bye in the first week of the playoffs.
Denver pounded their hapless former arch-rivals the Raiders 41-14 on the season’s first Monday night, and while of course the Broncos see the films and read the papers and stuff and they know the Raiders aren’t as bad as they looked that night, it’s hard to really get that when you remember Week 1 and it was like playing a high school team. The Broncos could easily lose this game.
Then again, they’re playing the Raiders, who might not be as bad as they were in Week 1, but they’re still spoon-bendingly bad.
Kids: Denver (10-point favorite)
Carolina (8-2) at ATLANTA (6-4)
I think there’s some air in the Falcons’ record, but there might be even more in Carolina’s. The Falcons are playing better than they were when the Panthers drilled them at home in Week 4, and while the Panthers have been winning, consider the opposition. Jake Delhomme is coming off a 17-for-46 showing with 172 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. That’s in two games! And they were against the Raiders and Lions. Both wins, but wow.
N.Y. GIANTS (9-1) at Arizona (7-3)
Kurt Warner, left for dead by some fools years ago, is actually getting some MVP love after lighting up the Rams, 49ers and Seahawks the last three weeks. Over the last four — the Panthers were the other foe — he’s thrown for 1,447 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions.
I don’t care if you’re playing the Little Sisters of the Poor — or the Raiders and Lions — that’s some flingin’. What I do care about is if you’re playing the Giants, as Warner and the Cardinals will be doing Sunday. That doesn’t figure to go nearly as well. Let’s see if that MVP talk is still being talked after Warner spends three and a half hours in front of the New York pass rush.
I usually just let readers follow links to get the jokes, but I don’t want you to miss what I was referring to with the link on the words “some fools” above. So when you get to that 2005 NFL preview what you want to do is go to Page 2, then scroll down to the fifth paragraph, which starts, “Mark my words: No team will ever succeed again with Kurt Warner at quarterback.” Gosh, what a maroon, whoever wrote that.
Buster: New York
WASHINGTON (6-4) at Seattle (2-8)
The Seahawks skid continues, but the good news is that for the first time all year, Washington will win a football game in Seattle.
Sunday night game
INDIANAPOLIS (6-4) at San Diego (4-6)
The Chargers pass defense is so bad the grind-it-out Steelers decided to throw 41 passes against them last week. In the snow. Sunday night in San Diego it’ll be mild weather and Peyton Manning.
Kids: San Diego
Monday night game
GREEN BAY (5-5) at New Orleans (5-5)
Two disappointing teams, but the Packers are a lot closer to being an actual good team than the bumbling, inconsistent Saints. The Packers old quarterback used to have trouble indoors. The new guy’s 1-1 so far this year. He’ll be the second-best quarterback on the field Monday night, but that’ll be good enough.
Daisy: Green Bay
Buster: New Orleans
Season record: 96-64-1
This week so far: 1-0
Last week: 10-5-1
What the Heck™ Picks: 2-9
Rivalry week game of the week: WASHINGTON (0-10) at Washington State (1-10)
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