The Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions have both made it halfway to a perfect season. The Titans are 8-0, the Lions 0-8. Which is more likely to go all the way?
Neither, but why isn't anybody talking about the Titans going undefeated? When the New England Patriots or Indianapolis Colts have gone 8-0 in recent years, there's been a lot of chatter about how they're halfway there, even though this column has proven with facts, figures and misdirection that halfway to 16-0 is something like 14-0.
Is it just because of expectations? Nobody figured the Titans would be all that good, so nobody figures they'll go 16-0. But 8-0 is 8-0 -- analysis you can't get just anyplace. Nobody figures anybody will go 16-0, and all talk of an undefeated season for an 8-0 club is silly. But it happens. So why can't the Titans get in on a little of that silliness? It's not fair.
For that matter, I haven't heard much about the Lions going 0-16, though they seem as well-positioned to do that as any team ever has. Then again, so did the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals, and they've both managed to win. The Lions will win too, but so what? They deserve to get some 0-16 talk.
Well, we're starting it. The Titans are 8-0, which is halfway to 10-0, which is halfway to 10-0, which is halfway to 12-0, which is halfway to 14-0, and you know what that's halfway to. You heard it here first: With their punishing defense and good-enough offense, with Kerry Collins managing games, the Titans are a mortal lock to go undefeated, and they'll remain so until they lose a game. Probably this week or next.
Here are the Week 10 picks, with one game already in the books, Thursday's humdinger, a 34-30 win by the Denver Broncos over the Cleveland Browns. Winners are in caps. As always, I've included the picks of my son Buster, the game-pickinest 5-year-old who ever switched his mythical vote to the right man on Election Day, and my daughter Daisy, the coin-flippinest 3-year-old who ever said to her mother, who'd been explaining that voting meant picking the next president of the United States of America, "Can I come with you to America?"
We don't have to go to America, we explained. We can vote right here in San Francisco.
Sunday early games
TENNESSEE (8-0) at Chicago (5-3)
Hold that line! Two defensive-minded running teams get together and roll around all leather-helmet style in the mud and the blood and the beer. Final score: 53-49. I have a feeling the Bears will outplay the Titans, but find a way to lose. And not because of Rex Grossman. How's that for a feeling? Perfect.
Jacksonville (3-5) at DETROIT (0-8)
What the Heck Pick™ of the Week. Might as well make the Lions the default for a while. That way when they finally win one, and they will, I'll be the one who picked it.
Kids: Jacksonville (7-point favorite)
BALTIMORE (5-3) at Houston (3-5)
The Ravens are good at forcing turnovers. The Texans are good at turning the ball over. Prop bet: The Ravens defense outscores Houston.
BUFFALO (5-3) at New England (5-3)
Two teams that have landed at a midway record of 5-3 from very different directions and expectations. Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel is steadily improving to the point where, if he just keeps improving for a while, he'll look like an NFL backup quarterback. The Patriots looked disorganized and weird and non-Belichickian last week against the Colts, and they still almost won. Now they're back home against the slumping Bills, but I don't like the trend line. I'll take Buffalo's running game and special teams.
Kids: New England
NEW ORLEANS (4-4) at Atlanta (5-3)
The Saints can pass and the Falcons can run. If you can do one or the other well, I always say, take passing. So I always pick the passing team in matchups like that, and that's the kind of thinking that gets me 13th place in the Panel o' Experts.
Buster: New Orleans
Seattle (2-6) at MIAMI (4-4)
The Seahawks are perfectly terrible. They should fire the coach, but he's retiring anyway. The Dolphins are pretty good. They'll be the latest team to make Seneca Wallace look bad. When you looked at this game on the schedule before the year -- because I know you were combing the Week 10 slate in August, looking for things to think about -- did you think one of these teams would have a legitimate shot at winning its division? Yeah? Which one?
Kids: Miami (9-point favorite)
Green Bay (4-4) at MINNESOTA (4-4)
The Packers have one of the worst run defenses in the league, and the Vikings have Adrian Peterson. But the Vikings have a weak secondary and a banged up front seven on defense. Hey, it's that run or pass thing again. Just to see what it feels like, I'll go with the team that can run.
Kids: Green Bay
St. Louis (2-6) at N.Y. JETS (5-3)
The Jets have a schedule to die for. Since their bye week in early October, they've been on a tour of the worst teams in the league. They played the Bengals, Raiders and Chiefs right in a row, then had to play the Bills, and now it's right back to the dregs with the Rams. Somehow, they've skipped the Lions. They also managed to lose to the Raiders, but they made up for that by beating Buffalo. They'll win this to go 6-3, but with games at New England, at Tennessee and home against Denver coming up, they've got a decent chance at not winning again until December.
Kids: New York (8-point favorite)
Sunday late games
CAROLINA (6-2) at Oakland (2-6)
Kind of like a continuation of the bye week for the Panthers, except they had to get on a plane.
Kids: Carolina (9-point favorite)
Indianapolis (4-4) at PITTSBURGH (6-2)
The Colts can't run, and even if they could, hardly anyone runs against Pittsburgh. So the Steelers should be able to pin their ears back and rush Peyton Manning, who won't be helped by forecast wet weather. It'd be an easier call for Pittsburgh if Willie Parker and Ben Roethlisberger, both with bum shoulders, were both going to play. Big Ben is reportedly likely to go. Parker is reportedly out. Even without both, this would look like a Steelers game, and that means this is starting to look like a non-playoff year for the Colts.
Kansas City (1-7) at SAN DIEGO (3-5)
LaDainian Tomlinson might want to bring an extra pair of shoes. He could wear out his first pair running through the Chiefs weak run defense.
Kids: San Diego (15-point favorite)
Sunday night game
N.Y. Giants (7-1) at PHILADELPHIA (5-3)
In the game of the week, I'm sticking one last time with my preseason pick to win the NFC East, the Eagles. The winner will be the team with the quarterback who better avoids disaster against a fierce pass rush. I'll go with Donovan McNabb over Eli Manning, and I'll probably hate myself Monday morning. Easy to say because I hate myself already.
Kids: New York
Monday night game
San Francisco (2-6) at ARIZONA (5-3)
The Arizona Cardinals playing in prime time? And not in Mexico? The Cardinals are undefeated at home, with a Week 2 win over the Dolphins that looks a lot better now than it did then and back-to-back wins over the Bills and Cowboys, both of which are looking less impressive by the week. The 49ers, who haven't had a new-coach bounce under Mike Singletary, don't figure to put a dent in Arizona's perfect home record.
Kids: Arizona (10-point favorite)
Season record: 77-54
This week so far: 0-1
Last week: 8-6
What the Heck™ Picks: 2-7
Pick for next Thursday night's game, Jets at Patriots, made now just on the off, random chance that this column might be on vacation next week, because one never knows: New England