I was back to my horrible prognosticating self last week. I went 7-7, my worst effort since before the baseball playoffs started. Considering I was still preoccupied with the World Series when I made my Week 8 picks, my awful showing was one week premature. I had expected to go back into the dumper in Week 9, when I again had time to pay attention to the NFL.
Incredibly, my Ignorance Is Bliss theory of football predictions may have been wrong. I may have just been lucky for three weeks.
But who was it, friends, who picked the Giants to beat the undefeated Vikings in Minnesota? It was I, wielding the mighty sword of my What the Heck Pick of the week, which was successful for the mind-bending fourth week in a row.
This is actually bad news for me, because the What the Heck Pick was invented in part to give myself cover for a lousy overall record. Hey, I give away a game a week by picking an obvious underdog, I was hoping to be able to say after picking fewer winners at the end of the season than a monkey flipping a coin, and looking a lot less cute doing it. As it stands, my What the Heck Picks are playing .500 ball, which isn't significantly worse than my overall winning percentage of .595.
Incidentally, my son Buster, who picks winners by flipping a coin and is quite a bit cuter than a coin-flipping monkey, is 55-61. And he picked the Giants to beat the Vikings.
Here are my Week 9 picks, with winners in all caps.
SAN DIEGO (1-6) at Chicago (2-5): We lead off with the crappy game of the week. The Chargers had to move their home game to Tempe, Ariz., Monday because of the wildfires, and they spent most of this week practicing at the University of Illinois for the same reason. I smell an inspirational, do it for the battered hometown, we're all in this together victory. It helps that the Bears are lousy, even with their hot new quarterback ... Chris Chandler.
N.Y. GIANTS (3-4) at N.Y. Jets (2-5): The Giants showed last week that they can win on the road. That's a little stadium humor right there.
New Orleans (3-5) at TAMPA BAY (4-3): The Bucs' season so far has gone win, lose, win, lose, win, lose, win. Hmm. Detect a pattern? I don't either.
Jacksonville (1-6) at BALTIMORE (4-3): Ravens coach Brian Billick has been in the news this week because he said the NFL's instant replay system doesn't work and should be thrown out. Despite how wrong the officials were on the touchdown play Billick was complaining about, I think the system works reasonably well, though it can be improved. But I agree it should be thrown out because it interrupts the flow of the game and represents the NFL at its worst: technophilic, anal-retentive and actively working to undermine an atmosphere of fun and excitement at the games. I would have made this my What the Heck Pick of the week, but I can't pick against a guy who says instant replay stinks.
INDIANAPOLIS (6-1) at Miami (5-2): Brian Griese can at least take comfort in knowing that his dad was a better quarterback than Peyton Manning's dad.
OAKLAND (2-5) at Detroit (1-6): Son of crappy game of the week. This is how far the Raiders have fallen: I actually hesitated before picking them.
Carolina (6-1) at HOUSTON (2-5): What the Heck Pick of the week, though to be fair I don't believe the Panthers are anywhere near as good as their record. But my WTH choices are limited.
CINCINNATI (3-4) at Arizona (2-5): Don't look now, but the Bengals are playing reasonably well, and if they beat the Cardinals -- never a big if, even considering what happened to the 49ers last week -- they'll be 4-4 headed into a home game against Houston. The last time the Bengals were over .500 nine games into the season? 1990.
Pittsburgh (2-5) at SEATTLE (5-2): The Steelers can actually stay in their division race with a win, but they just look kinda sick right now.
PHILADELPHIA (4-3) at Atlanta (1-6): Coach Dan Reeves says Mike Vick needs to get back in the lineup, regardless of how well his broken leg is healing. Vick, prudently, says he'll wait until he thinks he's ready, thank you very much, which will probably be Dec. 7. What kind of idiot is Reeves to jeopardize the incredibly bright future of Vick and the Falcons just to try to salvage a season that's already lost? Even if Vick comes back now and plays brilliantly, the Falcons aren't making the playoffs. They have one of the worst defenses in the league, and they're already 1-6. They could win all of their remaining games and still not make the postseason. Reeves is hoping that even with a partially healed Vick the Falcons can steal a few wins. He figures he's less likely to be fired if the Falcons are, say, 4-12 or 5-11 than if they're 1-15 or 2-14. If I owned the Falcons, I'd fire him on the spot for risking the franchise in the service of meaningless record polishing. The Falcons should take their lumps, get a high draft pick and a favorable schedule next season, and make sure they don't do anything stupid with the most talented and exciting young player in the league.
St. Louis (5-2) at SAN FRANCISCO (3-5): No one knows what to do with the 49ers. They beat the Bucs, lose to the Cardinals. You can't work with a team like that. I'm just about ready to start believing in the Rams, but I think I'll go with the home field this time.
Washington (3-4) at DALLAS (5-2): The Cowboys got a dose of reality against the Buccaneers last week, but the Redskins are reeling.
Green Bay (3-4) at MINNESOTA (6-1): Vikings owner Red McCombs walked into the locker room after last week's loss to the Giants -- predicted by my son and me, you'll remember -- and called the team's performance humiliating. He sort of halfway apologized the next day, attributing the remarks to postgame emotions and "some stupidity." No. Driving with the parking brake on or spending your money on lottery tickets is "some stupidity." What McCombs did is world-class idiocy.
NEW ENGLAND (6-2) at Denver (5-3): One more quarterback injury for the Broncos and they'll have to turn to the rifle arm of Cat Catlan.
Season record: 69-47
Last week: 7-7
What the Heck Picks: 4-4, and eyeing a wild card spot
References to obscure movies in which Charlton Heston plays washed-up quarterback Cat Catlan: 1
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