I am so overrated.
It's a good thing for me that the media has been very desirous that a white, goateed caricature with pointy eyebrows do well as a prognosticator, because my actual performance picking winners in NFL games has been horrendous. Last week I went 6-8, bringing my season record to 32-28.
To give you an idea how bad that is, all eight experts picking games at ESPN.com have a better record than that. When you can't beat experts, you're in trouble. My son, Buster, the coin-flippinest 8-month-old in America, is 29-31 picking games by heads or tails, and he went 9-5 last week.
And yet, Jaguar-like, Bearishly, I Charge ahead, Jet forward as it were. I'm quite sure I've figured out the winning formula for Week 5, which is to disregard every hunch, feeling, glimmer and intuition that crosses my brain pan. And if that doesn't work out, I've got my eye on the kid's coin for Week 6.
My picks, with the winners in all caps:
Denver (4-0) at KANSAS CITY (4-0): The game of the week, two unbeaten rivals battling for first place in the AFC West. I picked Denver to win the division, but I've started to believe in the Chiefs, which bodes poorly for them, of course. On the other hand, the Broncos might be without star running back Clinton Portis, and the Chiefs will have a raucous home crowd behind them. This is the last game for Kansas City star Priest Holmes before his 30th birthday, when his running back warranty runs out.
Miami (2-1) at N.Y. GIANTS (2-1): Two intriguing teams come off their bye week to play each other in an intriguing game. Can you tell I'm intrigued? The Dolphins lost to the Texans but pole-axed the Bills. The Giants have played down-to-the-wire games against the Rams, Cowboys and Redskins. They lost only the middle one, which they should have won, but it's still unclear just how good any of those three teams are. The Dolphins can't survive the season by giving the ball to Ricky Williams 40 times a game, but after a week off they can survive this game. Williams has three more years after this one before he turns 30. He'll never make it at this rate.
SEATTLE (3-0) at Green Bay (2-2): Boy, the Packers have looked bad the last two weeks. Their only wins this year are against Detroit and Chicago. The Seahawks are coming off a bye week while the Packers are coming off a short week.
MINNESOTA (4-0) at Atlanta (1-3): Where have you gone, Michael Vick? The Falcons turn their 1-3 eyes to you. Lose-lose-lose.
New Orleans (1-3) at CAROLINA (3-0): As bad as the Saints were against the Colts last week, and lordy, they were bad, I just have this feeling they're going to snap out of it and play well this week. However, I've now learned to ignore feelings like this. It might just be gas. But I decided to do a little scientific research to see if my vague idea that teams coming off blowout losses tend to play well the next week while teams coming off blowout wins tend to play poorly. So far this year, teams that have lost by more than three touchdowns are 4-3 the following week, which isn't terrible considering those teams include the Bears, Chargers, Lions, Cardinals and Texans. The winning teams have gone 5-2 the next week. The conclusion? That's way too small a sample size. But it's safe to say that my theory is complete nonsense. But wait! Here's my best evidence: that Cardinals-Packers game two weeks ago. The Cardinals were coming off a 38-0 loss to Seattle and the Packers were fresh from a 31-6 shellacking of Detroit, and the Cards won! Aha! OK, yeah. It's definitely gas.
Oakland (2-2) at CHICAGO (0-3): Just what the Raiders need, a win to convince themselves that at 3-2, they're going to be just fine. They aren't. And since my options for What the Heck Pick of the week are pretty limited, I'm shrugging the old WTH shoulders and taking the Bears.
Cincinnati (1-3) at BUFFALO (2-2): The Bengals are on a one-game winning streak, which matches their longest run of consecutive victories since 2001. Remember when the Bills were 2-0 and the darlings of the league, on the cover of Sports Illustrated and everything?
Arizona (1-3) at DALLAS (2-1): Emmitt Smith returns to Texas Stadium, and if you're lucky, you won't have to watch it. The Cowboys are going to be about as soft a 3-1 as it's possible to be. First the Giants give them a game, then they get to play the awful Jets, and now they get a home game against the Cardinals. Watching Arizona lose to the Rams last week, I actually found myself thinking, "This doesn't even look like an NFL team." It gets a little harder after this one, Cowboys fans.
TENNESSEE (3-1) at New England (2-2): The Patriots are a walking hospital ward and the Titans are one of the league's rough-and-tumblest teams. New England could be in real trouble after this, at 2-3 and in a division with two good teams.
San Diego (0-4) at JACKSONVILLE (0-4): The Byron Leftwich era has begun in Jacksonville. In his second start he gets five-time Pro Bowl wideout Jimmy Smith back after a four-game suspension, and he gets to play at home against the woeful Chargers, fresh from blowing a two-touchdown lead in Oakland. David Boston returns from his suspension for being far more difficult and annoying than his talents give him the right to be, but that won't be enough for San Diego.
Washington (3-1) at PHILADELPHIA (1-2): The Redskins, who have been running well, will find that more difficult to do against the Eagles. And there you'll have it: The Philly defense is going to be responsible for a win, and guess who's going to get the credit ...
Detroit (1-3) at SAN FRANCISCO (1-3): Last week Terrell Owens threw an on-field tantrum, and then another one after the game, about Jeff Garcia not throwing him enough passes. "I'm out there beating guys," he said. Wouldn't it be cool if Garcia threw to him on about 30 straight plays? "Hey, I thought you were out here beating guys," he could say after the 25th or 26th incompletion. With Steve Mariucci bringing his new team in to play the shaky club that fired him, the Lions would have been my What the Heck Pick of the week, but the 49ers have been so ridiculously awful that this game doesn't qualify. So I'll take the 49ers, even though I realize that doesn't make any sense.
Cleveland (1-3) at PITTSBURGH (2-2): Last week the Browns lost to the Bengals. This week Tim Couch gets his second straight start at quarterback. It gets a little harder after this one, Steelers fans.
Indianapolis (4-0) at TAMPA BAY (2-1): Could I have been more wrong about Peyton Manning last week? I said he'd have trouble in the Superdome without star back Edgerrin James. It's one thing for him not to have had trouble, but did he have to have the game of his life? Six touchdowns? Ease up on me, world! I'm starting to believe in the Colts, but I don't think Tony Dungy beats his old team on the road.
Season record: 32-28
Last week: 6-8
What the Heck Picks: 0-4
Search-engine-friendly mentions of pulchritudinous pop stars' names, even if you count Jennifer Lopez as a pop star: 0
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