The 2009 NFL Picks
Week five


For most of the teams, a quarter of the season is done. For those that had last week off, they’ll cross that marker this weekend.

We’ve seen some teams… Tennessee comes to mind… show that they were likely way overrated in our preseason opinion polls. Others… let’s give some love to the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets… have been solid enough (at least defensively) to earn some respect and playoff consideration that few expected to be possible back in June, July and August.

And a few teams… hello Dallas and Green Bay as our examples… have been rather blah, and we probably could have expected them to be rather blah, but gosh darn it, it’s so much fun to have them in the mix when discussing the very good instead of languishing with the positively average and not worth much attention.

The reality is, we have a bit of an understanding about the clubs now. It’s not a perfect science mind you… but we have confirmed that San Diego has no focus (which I told you weeks ago… even before the season) and Oakland can’t run (which is funny, or sad depending on your point of view, because we’ve found out they can’t pass either). These and other secrets are there to be found. And… of course… rarely trusted. Because guaranteed there are other unexpected explosions out there just waiting for us, like the one Miami unleashed on Buffalo last week.


Mike, Dad and I come our of week 4 with winning records and only a few games separating first from third.

Molly delivered a stellar effort last week, moving herself above .500 for the year and keeping the dogs respectable. (Gus had been doing quite well… my guess is he had his mind on a vet appointment that just took place and not completely on his picks. But he’s been his usual royal pain this week and I’m looking for good things from him.)

And Terry… well… she’s struggling. In fairness, after silencing Mike and I with her dominance last year, she can be forgiven for the tough times so far in 2009. But I’m not giving up on her. Why? Because we’re creeping in to the time where weird spreads appear. Things get posted to keep the betting even on both sides… or strange things get posted with no apparent sound reason at all other than to confuse us. And such a time is tailor made for her. Oh yes… I kid you not… tailor made. She doesn’t care about spreads… she just picks on instinct. And there are landmines all over this week’s odds.

Take a look at the huge spreads in some games. The Giants by 16? Interesting… especially considering they haven’t scored more than 33 points all year, and in beating the Bucs and Chiefs were dealing with two teams that would have a hard time scoring on offense if they played 11 on 7.

And then there’s Pittsburgh by 10½… or Philly by 14½… where it’s bad enough that the spread is big, but to add insult to it they tack on the ½-point so that even if these teams do win by 2 scores, you’ll still lose.

So let’s review two quick things that I do with every game. And as an introduction… my Hall of Fame criteria (at a glance).

The first thing I consider about whether or not a player should be in the Hall of Fame for his sport is simple… was he (or she) a Hall of Famer? No criteria… no investigation… and actually, no thought. Tom Brady… yes. No need to even look it up on him. Byron Leftwich… are you kidding? No need to even look it up on him. See? Two answers. No research.

The thing is, the majority of players you would consider don’t fit into that quick answer mold. (Well… most of the no-chance, Byron Leftwich types do. But there are few no doubt about it, put him in players to think about.) What I’m getting at is… granted it’s only in a few cases… there are times when there’s no need to debate the simple answers. If you are convinced something is true… your gut instinct tells you it’s true, and on the surface there isn’t a single thing to tell you not to trust your instincts… then you probably should stop. Stop right there. Because chances are, yellow and quacking, it’s a duck.

For football picks, my approach begins there and hits these concepts…

First ~ Do I think the underdog can win the game? (Read: Never jump into a pick because you think a team will cover. If you don’t think they can’t win, that should be a huge warning you think something is wrong. Don’t bet on them. Doesn’t work too well when you’re picking every game and have to turn something in, but the idea is sound when it comes to your wallet.)

Second ~ After step one… who do I think will win the game, and do those setting the odds agree? (Read: Hold on… why does that spread seem so wrong to me? For example, check out Indianapolis below. Only 3½ points over Tennessee? That spread is standing on a mountain top, next to brightly illuminated neon signs, screaming “This can’t be true” at you. What do those setting the spreads know that I don’t about this game? They had to put the Giants at 16 points to get people to bet on the Raiders. After what the Titans have delivered this year they figure 3½ against Indy is accurate? Oh… I’ll give you a pick when you get to that game… but everything about it should read “Warning… Warning… stay far, far away from this game with your actual money”… and, you should.)

After that, the rest… the majority… becomes homework. And, unfortunately, many times just a twist of fate or two. The reality is, going slightly under .500 against the spread is good. Picking winners is easy… the spread will nail you every time. Reminds me of blackjack… know when to get more money on the table, and know when to walk away.

So… recap… do I think they picked the right favorite?... do I think the underdog has a shot?... and is the spread about where it needs to be for me to think about it? Those are the tips found in the two initial, quick observations. After that… get started on your research.

For the quotes this week, we turn to the original Beverly Hills Cop. (Some of the best work Eddie Murphy ever offered.)

Minnesota (10) at St. Louis“All he asked me to do was drive you out of town. Now I’m gonna screw that up, too.” The Rams are just a brutal team. They’ve scored 24 points overall, have scored over 7 points just once, and have been shut out twice. Now… in their defense… the shut outs were on the road, three of the first four were on the road, and their highest scoring effort came at home. (On the other hand… they still lost that home game to Green Bay, 36-17. Yeah, they suck.) I also think some consideration needs to be given to an incredibly emotional victory last week for Minnesota. The Vikings played the Packers in one of the most draining of contests they’ll face all year (second only, possibly, to the second game against the Packers later on). And now have a short week to recover. Worth noting. Still… Vikings averaging about 30 points a game and the Rams averaging 8. This one, even with a tough spread, isn’t hard to pick.
Bob: Minnesota
Terry: St. Louis
Mike: Minnesota
Dad: Minnesota
Molly: Minnesota

Dallas (9) at Kansas City“Disturbing the peace? I got thrown out of a window! What’s the f**king charge for getting pushed out of a moving car, huh? Jaywalking?” Here’s why you need to eliminate emotions. (And also why you need to eliminate thoughts based on common sense.) First, the Chiefs made a valiant late run at the Giants last week, which should make you wonder about them being 9-point underdogs. After all, aren’t the Giants better than the Cowboys? And second, Dallas comes in here facing a real must win situation. (In all fairness, considering the lack of anything close to good we’ve seen this year, the Cowboys honestly need to dominate to be taken seriously in the future.) But… opening a new stadium… on the road against a supposedly weak though undefeated Denver… Dallas has shown diddly-squat. Still… desperation factor. In short, I could see someone not doing their homework and making a case for either side in this one. Here’s something interesting… well, two somethings interesting. Who was the leading rusher for Dallas against Denver? Sure… Marion Barber. Did you know he did that with just 41-yards? (I know… he was hurting. Whatever. Keep that in mind when I start discussing New England at Denver in a minute.) And, how many wide receivers caught a pass for Dallas last week? The answer is 9… nine… NINE. Now I’m all for spreading the ball around. But Orton completed passes to 7 guys and only 4 of them caught 3 or more. Romo was throwing the ball all over the place but not scoring. The reality is simple… if Dallas gets better production from Barber (likely), and focuses their offensive game plan on less targets (heck, I say likely if for no other reason than Romo’s turnover troubles that need to be addressed… which included a pick and a lost fumble against the Broncos), they should win this game by 10 or more. Because of that… I’ll pick them. But… I’m not comfortable with the pick here. Not at all.
Bob: Dallas
Terry: Dallas
Mike: Kansas City
Dad: Dallas
Gus: Dallas

Washington at Carolina (3½)“I remember you used to drive that crappy blue Chevy Nova. What are you driving now?” “Same crappy blue Chevy Nova.” So this is where they decide not to favor the Redskins? After two weeks of just plain silly spreads in their favor, the 0-3 Panthers get the nod at home over them? Wonderful. In defense of the spread, Washington can’t get out of their own way… 17 points, 9, 14, 16… and yet they’ve got 2 victories. Amazing. So the reality is… if you want to make a case for them… you have to believe that the game will be a low scoring contest, something like 17-14, or 14-13. I know Jake Delhomme has been bad this year… heck, funny story time. Remember I made fun of Romo for going in to Denver and throwing the ball to 9 wide receivers, 3 cheerleaders, 1 hot dog guy, and a kid wearing his jersey in section 113? Would you believe Delhomme has completed passes to just 8 guys total in the three games Carolina has played? Ok… maybe you would. What decides it for me is this… Carolina can play much, much better than we’ve seen so far. No doubt about it. Now check out Jason Campbell’s stats… because there is no way to believe he could play much better for Washington, and they aren’t scoring at all. I think the Panthers are going to take out some frustrations this week and whoop up on the Redskins.
Bob: Carolina
Terry: Washington
Mike: Washington
Dad: Carolina
Molly: Washington

Tampa Bay at Philadelphia (14½)“Don’t you think I realize what’s going on here, miss? Who do you think I am, huh? Don’t you think I know that if I was some hotshot from out of town that pulled inside here and you guys made a reservation mistake, I’d be the first one to get a room and I’d be upstairs relaxing right now. But I’m not some hotshot from out of town, I’m a small reporter from Rolling Stone magazine that’s in town to do an exclusive interview with Michael Jackson that’s gonna be picked up by every major magazine in the country. I was gonna call the article ‘Michael Jackson Is Sitting On Top of the World,’ but now I think I might as well just call it ‘Michael Jackson Can Sit On Top of the World Just As Long As He Doesn’t Sit in the Beverly Palm Hotel…’” No one wants to give the Bucs respect… and I can’t say they deserve any. Philly has 2 victories, and both times they faced obviously inferior opponents and crushed them. Their loss came against New Orleans. Kevin Kolb has done a pretty good job overall. On the other side, in their four games, the only time Tampa has been close was against the inept Washington team. Ahh… but hold on. Last week Josh Johnson was leading Tampa’s offense. He wasn’t great… but all things considered… well, all things considered, he was worse than Leftwich overall and he still lost the game. But he is young, did show improvement over his effort the week before when they played the Giants, and the Cadillac (Williams) has had two good games. I’m going against my own advice here… because I don’t think Tampa can win… but I think they can battle the Eagles.
Bob: Tampa Bay
Terry: Tampa Bay
Mike: Tampa Bay
Dad: Philadelphia
Gus: Tampa Bay

Oakland at New York (Giants) (16)“You got some kind of warrant for this?” “You know, you have a very big mouth, sir! Are you hiding something from me? Is that what you’re doing? I bet you that’s your Porsche that’s parked outside, isn’t it? Isn’t that your Porsche? Is it? How would you like me to have the IRS come down here and crawl up your f**king a** with a microscope? ‘Cause they’ll do it! I’ve seen them do it! It’s not a pretty sight! I want you to know something, pal! And I want all of y’all to know something! I can have twenty-five agents down here in fifteen minutes to march in here, snatch your bond from underneath you and you guys’ll be out of business, permanently, if I don’t get some cooperation! Is that understood?” “Don’t get upset inspector! We’ll give you everything you need! Right, guys?” “Everything you need!” “That’s not my Porsche, no sir! I don’t know whose it is!” Tough… tough… tough position… and I’m going to go with the Giants anyway. I don’t know if they can blow the doors off the Raiders without a healthy Manning. What I do know is that the Raiders can’t pass worth crap, so everyone is stacking up against them and destroying their chances at running, and the Giants defense is going to maul them.
Bob: New York
Terry: Oakland
Mike: New York
Dad: New York
Molly: Oakland

Cleveland at Buffalo (6)“I see you look at this piece.” “Yeah. I was wondering how much something like this went for.” “One hundred and thirty thousand dollar.” “Get the f**k out of here!” “No, I cannot! It’s serious! Because it’s very important piece.” “Have you ever sold one of these?” “Sell it yesterday to a collector.” “Get the f**k out of here!” “No! I’m serious! I sell it myself!” If you would like to quarterback an NFL team, please send your name, address, uniform size, a day-time telephone number, and a self-addressed 9½” x 11” envelope with appropriate postage for a 30-page playbook to: Cleveland Browns, 76 Lou Groza Boulevard, Berea, Ohio, 44017. Ok… jokes aside… what the hell was that Buffalo offered last week? What a stink bomb. The Bills want to be taken seriously and they get demolished by Miami? …Miami without Chad? I can’t do it. I can’t. Maybe they figure out that it actually is legal to throw the ball… maybe they figure out they have wide receivers on their roster… and maybe they win 38-6. But until Buffalo actually does it, even against a Cleveland team that has now officially traded all the wide receivers on their roster… I can’t.
Bob: Cleveland
Terry: Buffalo
Mike: Buffalo
Dad: Buffalo
Gus: Cleveland

Cincinnati at Baltimore (8½)“Why didn’t you identify yourself as a police officer when you were arrested?” “‘Cause I was mindin’ my own business. Hey, where the f**k do you guys get off on arresting somebody for getting thrown out of a window?” “We have six witnesses that say you broke in and started tearing up the place, then jumped out the window!” “And you guys believe that?” Hmm… so the Bungals are a funny play away from undefeated. (And some late game heroics… if not overtime thrills if you want to be specific… away from 2 additional losses and a losing record.) But the facts are simple: they’ve competed in every game, shown some offensive resilience the past two weeks, and they’ve managed to shut down offenses that are doing plenty against other clubs. Call me crazy, but I think they’ve got a chance to win this one. And if they don’t win it, I just don’t see them losing by more than 4 to 7 points.
Bob: Cincinnati
Terry: Cincinnati
Mike: Baltimore
Dad: Baltimore
Molly: Cincinnati

Pittsburgh (10½) at Detroit“Is this the gentleman who crashed through Victor Maitland’s window? Who disabled an unmarked unit with a banana?” “Yes, sir.” “Who lured Taggart and Rosemont into a gross dereliction of duty at a strip-tease establishment?” “Uh, it’s Rosewood, sir.” “Yes, sir.” “Is this the gentleman who ruined the buffet at the Harrow club this morning” “Yes, sir.” “I just bet that you are the pride of your department in Detroit.” I got a bit carried away by the Lions. Picked them one too many times after the Redskins game seemed so obvious. Fact is, there is no way they win this game… so I have to take Pittsburgh. That said… did you see how fast the Steelers folded up camp last week? They had that game against San Diego under the tree, ribbon in place, finished… and then almost handed it right back. Wow. (And I’d still feel better picking this one if Pittsburgh was at home.)
Bob: Pittsburgh
Terry: Detroit
Mike: Pittsburgh
Dad: Pittsburgh
Gus: Pittsburgh

Atlanta at San Francisco (2½)“What’s this man doing here?” “Bleeding, sir.” Frank Gore playing would make this an easier selection. I really do think these two teams are fairly evenly matched to be honest. But the truth is that this isn’t the San Francisco team we’ve grown accustomed to making fun of. They play hard, don’t make mistakes or turn the ball over, and keep going from beginning to end. Not easy for an opponent to play against. Atlanta hasn’t exactly been a machine on offense this year… forgive them for struggling against New England, but 19 over Miami and 28 over Carolina is hardly the stuff of legends. The 49ers only loss this year came at the hands of a Favre miracle. The thing is… both of these clubs have similar formulas for victory… don’t turn the ball over, be as effective as possible on special teams because every yard and every point matters, and keep any mistakes to a minimum. Going back to the end of last season, I’m convinced San Francisco does that better.
Bob: San Francisco
Terry: San Francisco
Mike: San Francisco
Dad: Atlanta
Molly: San Francisco

New England (3) at Denver“Hey man what’s happenin’ Phil. I new that was you, he told me that wasn’t you, said you don’t come here no more. But I said it’s Phil! That is Philip. I told you that’s Phil, you liar!” Denver has played much better defensively than I think anyone ever could have predicted. Beyond that… well… (1) The Patriots dismantled the Broncos last season. (2) The Denver offense isn’t exactly showing signs of threatening anyone. (3) New England is looking better each week, especially on defense. Do you want me to do the work when I know the answer? Because New England wins this one easy.
Bob: New England
Terry: New England
Mike: New England
Dad: New England
Gus: New England

Houston at Arizona (5½)“Don’t you wanna hear my side of the story?” “What’s your f**king side of the story?” “Let’s hear your side of the story.” “Hey Axel, I’m not taking anymore of this s**t from you. You know how much this little stunt of yours is gonna cost this city?” “I don’t think cost is the issue here, sir. I think the issue should be my blatant disregard for proper procedure.” I don’t know who to believe here… or who to listen to. Arizona comes into this game 1-2 and is in danger of losing all sight of the division lead. They have a solid victory over Jacksonville, but are 0-2 at home, having lost to San Francisco and Indianapolis. I also can’t say we’ve seen signs of good things to come. Ahh… Houston. Humiliated by the Jets in the opener, they traveled to take out Tennessee, and last week trounced the Raiders. Two deciding factors for me… (1) I still can’t believe the Texans beat the Titans after the performance Chris Johnson delivered that day. When one player turns in about 200 yards rushing, almost 100 yards receiving, and 3 touchdowns against you… and you still win… not bad. (2) Arizona has been inconsistent and has had troubles putting points on the board, but Houston is scoring each week.
Bob: Houston
Terry: Arizona
Mike: Arizona
Dad: Arizona
Molly: Houston

Jacksonville at Seattle (Pick – no line available)“You’re not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe? It should be more natural, brother. It should flow out, like this – ‘Look, man, I ain’t fallin’ for no banana in my tailpipe!’ See, that’s more natural for us. You been hanging out with this dude too long.” I wish I had a better gauge of what Seattle has to offer. They’ve lost three straight, and haven’t looked good… but Seattle, Chicago and Indianapolis aren’t exactly three teams letting people look good in 2009. Yeah… the Jaguars are the weakest opponent the Seahawks have seen in a month. On the other side, Jacksonville has been on target the past two weeks. Maurice Jones-Drew has been active, and David Garrard is once again showing signs of being a decent quarterback. (Do Garrard and Jake Delhomme have one set of skills that they share and just mail back and forth? Might be worth looking into.) Too many questions about Seattle for me to be comfortable with them. Every opponent has scored more than 20-points against them so far. I expect that to continue.
Bob: Jacksonville
Terry: Seattle
Mike: Jacksonville
Dad: Seattle
Gus: Jacksonville

Indianapolis (3½) at Tennessee“Todd’s looking for you. He is really pissed. You know what he said? This is your worst f**k up ever. Personally, I don’t think that’s true.” I can’t explain this at all. You could have favored Indy by 10 and I wouldn’t have blinked. The Titans had a massive day from Johnson the day they scored 31 points. (I kidded about it above, but here are his actual stats from that Houston game… 197 rushing yards with 2 touchdowns, 87 receiving yards with 1 touchdown.) Other than that, the Titans have done nothing all year. Their offense can’t move the ball, and their defense has trouble stopping it. If the Colts had a wishy-washy club, maybe you could write off some tough opposition as the cause and find a reason to take them. Yeah… except that the Colts haven’t been wishy-washy and might just be the toughest opponent yet for Tennessee. I’m serious… something is very, very wrong here. Someone knows something, because they are doing everything in their power to get all of us to take Indianapolis. That means trouble. Darn it though… with a 4-0 Colts team that has an offense cranking full throttle right now… I can’t just take a chance on a hunch. I’m not cleaning out a fridge with stuff that smells bad. So allow me to pinch my nose and make my selection…
Bob: Indianapolis
Terry: Tennessee
Mike: Indianapolis
Dad: Indianapolis
Molly: Tennessee

New York (Jets) (1½) at Miami“Before I go, I just want you two to know something, alright? The supercop story was working. Okay? It was working, and you guys just messed it up. Okay? I’m trying to figure you guys out, but I haven’t yet. But it’s cool.” These games tend to offer a ton of surprises. They’re close when they shouldn’t be, and when you expect a true battle they toss in rout (just to keep us honest and on the edge of our seats for the next time). Mostly… they’re close. The thing is… I still don’t know how the Dolphins pounded the Bills last week. (Ok… that’s not completely true. I do know. They got 200 combined yards rushing from Williams and Brown. They asked Henne to do nothing except control the game, and he responded with a nifty 115 yards off of 22 attempts and 14 completions, while adding an unexpected touchdown pass. And then the defense just made Buffalo’s offense look silly. That’s how it happened.) Here though, I don’t expect Miami to be able to run as successfully in this game. (Even if the Dolphins defense makes New York’s offense look silly.) In fact, I doubt if either team will break 17 points. I’m fully expecting a 10-7 or 14-9 final score from this contest. The way the teams are playing though… last week’s victory by New Orleans over New York may have been the worst thing to happen to Miami this week. Because I think the Jets will take that as a wake up call and figure out how to win this contest.
Bob: New York
Terry: Miami
Mike: New York
Dad: New York
Gus: New York

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bob – Last week 9-5, season 36-25-1
Dad – Last week 9-5, season 33-28-1
Mike – Last week 9-5, season 33-28-1
The Dogs – Last week 5-9, season 27-34-1
Terry – Last week 6-8, season 24-37-1

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at