The Indianapolis Colts are officially a team with a chance for an undefeated season. I know this because the NFL led off its press box notes this week with a list of teams that have started a season 9-0. There are 21 of them, including two AFL teams and this year's Colts.
I'd like to offer $1 million to charity if the Colts go undefeated, but because I wanted to be more generous than a certain shoe company I'm already on the hook for $2 million if Peyton Manning and a few other guys average about a touchdown pass every five throws for the rest of the season, so I'd better not risk it.
But the Colts aren't going undefeated, he said in a statement so far from going out on a limb that the tree hasn't even been planted.
OK, here's a limb-walk: The Colts aren't making it to 10-0 because I'm picking them to lose in Cincinnati Sunday. And not even for any good reason beyond a trick knee and Ickey Woods coming to me in a waking dream and saying, "Bengals ... Bengals ... Bengals."
At least I think that's what he said. Just in case, I'm picking Cincy, but I also bought a dozen bagels and a used copy of "All Over the Place." You can't get this kind of analysis just anywhere.
And here's an update on the RBK Touchdown Challenge, in which Reebok promised to give $1 million to charity if a handpicked team of six NFL quarterbacks combined to throw 207 touchdown passes -- a virtually impossible assignment, which is why I doubled the offer: With nine games down and seven to go for all teams, the six quarterbacks have thrown 82 touchdown passes, so they're on pace to throw 146. Darn! Only 61 short of the mark.
Onward to the games of Week 11, in which the NFL returns to a full, 16-game schedule. No more bye weeks. Predicted winners in capital letters:
Philadelphia (4-5) at N.Y. GIANTS (6-3): Can you remember a season pivoting on one play the way the Eagles' season did on Roy Williams' interception Monday night? I can't. The Eagles, 4-4 and in last place in the NFC East, badly needed a win over the Dallas Cowboys to stay above .500, stay in the playoff race, get out of the cellar, and prove to themselves that they had turned the page on the Terrell Owens mess and could win without him.
The Eagles were clinging to a 20-14 lead with just under three minutes to play. On second and 7 from the Eagles 38, Donovan McNabb throws a highly interceptable sideline pass that gets intercepted by Williams. McNabb, already playing hurt but desperate to stop Williams and preserve the lead, tries to make the tackle but gets blocked. Williams scores, the Cowboys take a lead they wouldn't give up, and McNabb is injured even further.
Now Philly is 4-5, McNabb will miss this game at least, and his doctor says he should have season-ending surgery on his sports hernia. That's an awfully long way from 5-4 and having McNabb starting this game.
The Giants lost in ridiculous fashion to the Minnesota Vikings last week. They should rebound.
Tampa Bay (6-3) at ATLANTA (6-3): Two big surprises last week, the Bucs coming from behind to win that humdinger over Washington and the Falcons getting dumped by Green Bay. This figures to be a ground battle, as both teams run well and stop the run poorly. Chris Simms had a nice game last week for the Bucs. If he has another, the Falcons will have their hands full, but he's never done that before.
Oakland (3-6) at WASHINGTON (5-4): The Raiders had been playing just well enough to lose until they got smoked by the Broncos last week. I think they'll do that again against a Washington team that's 4-0 at home.
MIAMI (3-6) at Cleveland (3-6): There's 3-6 and then there's 3-6. The Dolphins are actually a pretty good team. A quarterback would be nice, though.
Arizona (2-7) at ST. LOUIS (4-5): Kurt Warner returns to the scene of his glory days. He's got a good chance of having a huge game and still losing, which is what happened against the Lions last week.
CAROLINA (7-2) at Chicago (6-3): Two of the three hottest teams in the NFC -- Seattle is the other -- meet at Soldier Field. They've both ridden strong defense to winning streaks, six in a row for the Panthers, five for the Bears. The competition gets a lot tougher for both Sunday. I like the Panthers' offensive weapons to make the difference.
PITTSBURGH (7-2) at Baltimore (2-7): This was going to be my What the Heck Pick of the week, but the Steelers have announced that Tommy Maddox is going to start at quarterback. Maddox was so disastrous in the loss to Jacksonville Oct. 16 that it would be cheating to take the Ravens as a WTH. Their chances are too good.
New Orleans (2-7) at NEW ENGLAND (5-4): The Saints are coming off a bye week, which could only do them good, and the Pats are finally too banged up to be considered a strong Super Bowl contender, even though they're still leading the remarkably weak AFC East. But even with popcorn sellers and valet parkers working in the defensive backfield, the Patriots' schemes should be sufficiently confusing to allow Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks to continue his habit of throwing more interceptions than touchdowns.
JACKSONVILLE (6-3) at Tennessee (2-7): The Jaguars, who always seem to play up or down to their competition, finally beat the snot out of a weak team last week when they crushed Baltimore. I think they'll return to form this week and win a close one over the outmanned but still pretty tough Titans.
Detroit (4-5) at DALLAS (6-3): The two traditional Thanksgiving Day hosts can commiserate over having to play again in four days.
Seattle (7-2) at SAN FRANCISCO (2-7): Turning to the other WTH darling, this is the What the Heck Pick of the week.
Indianapolis (9-0) at CINCINNATI (7-2): Yup, I'm picking the undefeated Colts to go to Cincy and lose. It's just a hunch pick. The weather will be chilly but not ugly, and the Bengals haven't done well when they've stepped up in class, losing to Pittsburgh and Jacksonville, though they did get an early win over Chicago. Cincinnati beat the 9-0 Chiefs two years ago. These Colts are better than those Chiefs were, but these Bengals are better too. Plus, Ickey Woods said so. I think.
Buffalo (4-5) at SAN DIEGO (5-4): The Chargers were off last week after almost kicking away a win over the Jets the week before. As long as they remember that an NFL game is four quarters, not three, they should be able to keep their playoff hopes alive by beating the Bills, who have been weak on the road.
N.Y. Jets (2-7) at DENVER (7-2): OK, I'm buying the Broncos. I don't get how they could sign last year's Cleveland defense and win with it, but they're doing it. And they're going to keep doing it when they're lined up across from the Jets.
KANSAS CITY (5-4) at Houston (1-8): If the Chiefs play as badly as they did last week in Buffalo, the Texans can win this game. I think 5-4 is just about right for how good the Chiefs are, but I also think they're better than they were last week. The Texans are trying to salvage something out of this season. They'll be blitzing like crazy to try to get pressure on Trent Green, which will either produce some sacks and turnovers or a huge night for Kansas City's receivers.
Minnesota (4-5) at GREEN BAY (2-7): The Vikings are showing a little life with Brad Johnson managing the game at quarterback and not trying to do too much, which is how much Daunte Culpepper had been trying to do. And, fortunately for ABC, the Packers showed some life upsetting the Falcons last week. There's not enough life for either to make the playoffs, but there's at least the prospect of an interesting Monday night game. I'll take the home team out in the cold, which could make this the third straight week I've picked against the Vikes and been wrong.
Season record: 93-51
Last week: 10-4
What the Heck Picks: 4-5
Number of times an NFL team has finished the regular season undefeated and then lost in the playoffs without being the Chicago Bears: 0
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