Not paying attention to football for months or years and then paying attention again is disorienting. All of a sudden, you realize you don't know any of the best players, and the guys you did know are now washed-up punchlines. Players get bad faster in football than in baseball or basketball, and they get injured more and are replaced constantly—and heartlessly—so teams are fluid. Every organization wants to stay static, and have one or a few stars—preferably a quarterback, especially these days—to build around, but most are in a state of either rise or fall. The bad teams constantly turning over personnel, both front-office guys and players, trying to find a few dozen guys to peak and stay in one piece at the same time. The good ones stay the same over seasons, and the great ones are in a state of constant flux, to the point where the Patriots are always making deep runs into the playoffs, but never with the same guys. Don't you wish your team was like that?
New York Giants (+2) at Carolina
I never really understood to what depth tri-staters were Giants fans until reading a 15-page preview in the Daily News of last week’s rumble against the Bucs, including stuff on the relationship between Tom Coughlin and that offensive lineman who’s shboinking his daughter. In fairness, the coverage was thorough and the feature was a pretty good read, but that was for a Week 2 game. Imagine what it's going to be like if the Giants make the Super Bowl again.
PICK: New York
St. Louis (+7) at Chicago
Jay Cutler has a fatter face than any professional athlete, save maybe a shotputter, should have. Jesus Christ, look at him. He’s round. He’s portly. He could have played baseball in the 20s or worked for a circus. Good thing he started smoking and is cutting weight.
Tampa Bay (+7.5) at Dallas
The Buccaneers have been a team on the cusp for what seems like the length of Obama’s administration, and also wear pirate uniforms. What’s awesome about this is that since the Raiders were the premier pirate franchise in football, the Buccaneers had to settle for this super ill dandy. And if that wasn’t enough, they wear unis the color of a creamsicle some weeks. The Cowboys are just depressing. If you think of quarterback expertise as a sine curve, with Tom Brady representing the peak, then Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman is somewhere en route to the peak (which he probably won't reach), and Tony Romo is wandering around the downward slope looking for chicks.
PICK: Tampa Bay
San Francisco (-7) at Minnesota
Preseason prognosticators posited San Francisco would not repeat its 2011 success. The nerds who get paid the big (small) bucks to think this stuff up said its stellar ’11 defense would regress, and luck would drop the team down to like, nine wins. That’s up for debate now since they rock so hard, but if we go by BEHIND THE STATS (breaking the game down to a level citizens like your ass understand), the Vikings really suck.
PICK: San Francisco
Detroit (-3.5) at Tennessee
The Ford motor company did not accept a government bailout, though its football counterpart is as big a charity case as there is in North American sport. Just as Chrysler and GM got cash injections for repeated incompetence, the Ford family-owned Lions have been infused with high draft pick after high draft pick while hiring homeless people to coach and manage the team. I should probably say something about Tennesse. Country music! There you go.
Cincinnati (+3) at Washington
There’s a Bengals bar on Bleecker Street in Manhattan, and on Sundays when there are games it ranks as the saddest place I’ve been to in my life. It is a mesh of soggy fat French fries, bootcut jeans and batwing arms, hair gel and day traders and sweaty white people and dankness that would move a Swiss bride to tears. It makes you wonder whether you should just read an actual book on foreign policy instead of watching Marvin Lewis’s finest lose to the Ravens or whoever in whatever sad fall month it is.
New York Jets (-3) at Miami
When athletes aren’t working, they’re the most boring people on the planet, and when they are it’s worse. No less a journalistic beacon than the New Yorker embedded a writer with the Jets for the entire 2011 season, and all the came up with was an (outstanding) article. No shots, of course, at Remnick’s throne, but hermetic football organizations are no good for quotes. Hopefully the guy's next article is on longshoremen or Amish perverts who sext in semaphore code or furries who own those hairless cats or something and the not giant husks of men who study blocking routes and the homonculi who yell at them.
PICK: New York
Kansas City (+9) at New Orleans
Are those Saints guys still suspended? Is Sean Payton winning coach of the year next year? Should New Orleans have ever let Reggie Bush go? Did Romeo Crennel really do that thing to that thing? You know what I’m talking about. Read all these inane theories and more in the 2013 edition of You’re Really Pushing It: Sports Arguments for the Incredibly Bored.
PICK: Kansas City
Buffalo (-3) at Cleveland
For all the discussion on whether playing football professionally is a devil’s bargain, whoever gets the opportunity generally takes it. With the notable exception of President Gerald Ford, who turned down a Lions contract for an assistant coaching spot at (and later a law school application to) Yale, guys will play football for money over doing other stuff. Old guy Jack Kemp did a decade with Buffalo en route to a political career that culminated with a VP nod from Bob Dole, Myron Rolle followed his Rhodes Scholarship with a stint on the Titans, and Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, arguably the greatest Harvard quarterback of all time who knows what a car is, has hovered somewhere around replacement level for half a decade. It’s probably the money, but if guys with doors open to Wall Street or (insert dream career path here) play football over the alternative, that’s something, and it’s not surprising their colleagues aren’t retiring either.
PICK: Buffalo? I really don't know guys. I'm just a guy writing words.
Jacksonville (+3) at Indianapolis
Boy, is Andrew Luck a nerd. Check out this paper he wrote.
Philadelphia (-3.5) at Arizona
The Eagles are probably my favorite sports team. Not that I’m a rooting fan. But Philadelphia's intoxicating ten-year dance between consistent success and mind-boggling incompetence is the single best long story of every football season. Most teams don't have reason to be hopeful every September, but Philly does: It's been in the mix for like 12 years, going through several Not Shit quarterbacks and ever-different, ever-icy defenses. The organization either improves in the offseason or overreaches during a middling year. Most football teams sink and retool, but the Eagles always seem to be tripping their way to the finish line. It might be the NFC East, or it could just be randomness, but it's an even closer shave this year.
Atlanta (+3) at San Diego
Atlanta seems like a real good team this year, right? And the Chargers seem less good. So probably Atlanta will win. BOOM! THAT'S HOW YOU DO ANALYSIS, SON!
Houston (+1.5) at Denver
There aren’t as many sports fans as there are regular people, and regular people, unless they are from Houston or Denver, would never watch this game, and that is why the ads on this game will be low-rent and shameful as you watch in the greased-up nude on Sunday Ticket. You depraved cavern of sin.
Pittsburgh (-4) at Oakland
God, the Raiders are cool.
New England (-3) at Baltimore
The Patriots and Ravens are those great teams in constant turnover. Tom Brady and Ray Lewis remain from the clubs' early-decade title teams, but not much else. They've been more or less competitive every year since. This will be the best game of the week, and if you want to read about why, you should probably look into this hypno-toad’s eyes.
Green Bay (-3.5) at Seattle
The Seahawks’ stadium is this giant reverberating steel trap that amplifies crowd noise and is considered the "12th Man." But the Packers are owned by like, the state of Wisconsin and anyone who had $250 to burn in 2009, so their 12th man is really thousands of men, all burning with the white-hot rage of a thousand molten stadiums. Also the best part about the Packers is that they all get hammered in Green Bay, and there aren’t any rich people bars there so everyone usually just gets hammered together.
PICK: Green Bay
Previous week’s record: 8-8
Overall record: 14-17-1