Since Halloween happens to fall on Friday this year, a lesser column would bombard you with ghastly Halloween schtick as it previewed the slate of NFL games. This column would never do such a frightful thing.
Here, in sober, schtick-free form, never giving in to the temptation of lame Halloween jokes, are the Week 9 picks, along with the picks of my kids, 5-year-old game-picker Iron Man and 3-year-old coin-flipper Hannah Montana.
Sunday early games
N.Y. Jets (4-3) at BUFFALO (5-2)
See, I could start right here by talking about the nightmare of a second half the Bills had against the Dolphins last week. But I won't. Buffalo's floating back to earth after a hot start, but they're a Brett Favre interception away from being 4-0 at home, and that interception is about to be thrown, as soon as Favre gets off the phone with Jeff Fisher.
Kids: New York
JACKSONVILLE (3-4) at Cincinnati (0-8)
The Jags are haunted by a bad loss to the Browns last week, and if you squint your eyes a little, the Bengals look like the Browns. Wait, not haunted. Bothered.
Kids: Jacksonville (8-point favorite)
BALTIMORE (4-3) at Cleveland (3-4)
The Browns are alive! They're alive! From their slab they've begun to rise in the last three weeks, beating the Giants and Jags and losing a close one at Washington. But the Ravens defense will look like a torch-wielding mob Sunday. Whew, avoided the Halloween monster on this one.
HOUSTON (3-4) at Minnesota (3-4)
The Texans appear to be knocking on the door of respectability with two straight convincing wins, though considering the opponents, the winless Lions and Bengals, it's probably just a masquerade. Nah, nobody'll notice that.
DETROIT (0-7) at Chicago (4-3)
What the Heck™ Pick of the week.
Kids: Chicago (12.5-point favorite)
TAMPA BAY (5-3) at Kansas City (1-6)
The Chiefs are just scary bad. That's not a Halloween thing. They'll be scary bad next week too. And in a few weeks, they'll be turkeys.
Kids: Tampa Bay (9-point favorite)
ARIZONA (4-3) at St. Louis (2-5)
Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble. The new-coach spell seems to have ended for the Rams. Dude, that's not Halloween, it's Shakespeare. Or Bugs Bunny or something. Read a book once in a while. Sheesh.
Kids: St. Louis
Green Bay (4-3) at TENNESSEE (7-0)
It would really be lazy writing to say that the Titans aren't going to turn into pumpkins against a Packers team they should be able to run wild against. Turning into a pumpkin isn't even a Halloween thing. Unless you're going to be Cinderella for Halloween, which the Titans aren't, not that I'd go for that weak metaphor.
Kids: Green Bay
Sunday late games
Miami (3-4) at DENVER (4-3)
Someone with no shame might write that the Dolphins beat the Bills without benefit of trickery last week, but Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler will have a treat facing Miami's weak secondary Sunday. Imagine such a person.
Dallas (5-3) at N.Y. GIANTS (6-1)
Injured Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo used to dress up like Brett Favre for Halloween, according to the official Tony Romo Blog About Dressing Up Like Brett Favre as a Kid. He reportedly called his hero this week looking for advice on how to play through injuries. Favre told him how to beat the Packers, then made the salient point that the first step in playing through injuries is playing.
Kids: New York (8.5-point favorite)
PHILADELPHIA (4-3) at Seattle (2-5)
The foulest stench is in the air: The funk of two thousand two hundred forty passing yards, which is all the Seahawks will have at the end of the season at their current pace.
Kids: Philadelphia (6.5-point favorite)
ATLANTA (4-3) at Oakland (2-5)
It would be too easy to riff on all the scary costumes in the Black Hole, so I'll just say that if this one comes down to the kicking game, it could be "Nightmare on Elam Street" for the Raiders.
Sunday night game
New England (5-2) at INDIANAPOLIS (3-4)
It's a down year for this great rivalry, partly because there are guys in Tom Brady and Rodney Harrison costumes, only with the wrong numbers, playing for the Pats and partly because the Colts have dressed themselves up as their early '00s selves. I like Peyton Manning against the Patriots' banged-up, undermanned secondary.
Kids: Indianapolis (6-point favorite)
Monday night game
Pittsburgh (5-2) at WASHINGTON (6-2)
You probably know that thing about how from 1936 -- when they played in Boston -- to 2000, the last home game before Election Day for Washington correctly predicted the presidential election. Washington lost, the incumbent party lost. Washington won, the incumbent party won. It didn't work in 2004, when Washington lost to Green Bay, but the incumbent Republican, President Bush, was reelected. Now, we could talk about whether that was a blip or whether Washington has really lost its ability to predict elections. But I ask you: What kind of hack would analyze a football game that way?
Season record: 69-47
Last week: 9-5
What the Heck™ Picks: 2-6
Rank of "Carmen Electra soaking wet in her bra and panties in 'Scary Movie'" among Halloween-themed references I meant to put in for page-view purposes but didn't get the chance to: 1