The 2009 NFL Picks
Week Seventeen


We have an amazing finish set up for this week. I suppose I should say not on the field… the games are a mess. But in our quest to name the champion of our efforts to pick against the spread, we have four with a real shot at the honors.

Mediocre results last week… everyone was 8-8 or 7-9… which didn’t shake things up much, but it did provide us with this…

The Dogs are four games out of the lead, and we are headed into what very easily could be the nuttiest week of the season. Houston favored by a touchdown-plus over New England? Cleveland favored over Jacksonville? The Jets by two scores… 10 points… over the Jaguars?

Yup… the slate is set up perfectly for a pair that makes decisions based on treats and treats alone.

Unfortunately we do have a casualty. Terry can’t win. Last year’s champ is out. Even if she goes 16-0 and I miss them all, the best she can do is tie. And yet… she has already cracked 100 wins on the season. Last year she turned in 142 wins (128 for the year is the even mark). So… based on average… she could turn in a winning record for the past two seasons. 7 or more this week would do that for her.

I have to be honest… there isn’t much to evaluate or comment on here when it comes to the games. With so much already decided, many of the games are meaningless in one way (or many ways). Let’s head to Pittsburgh for an example of what I mean (and just because it got me laughing), where LaMarr Woodley wants you to know he’s an idiot. (I had a link to a Sports Illustrated story here, link no longer active.)

Now it isn’t because he has the thought that these two teams will not play hard that makes Woodley an idiot. Instead, it’s that the Steelers… well… they suck.

Ok… sure… that’s a bit harsh. They don’t really suck. But see… umm… LaMarr… it’s like this… the Steelers wrote their own story for the year. Last season, Pittsburgh played the toughest schedule in the NFL. They made the playoffs. This year, their schedule… yeah… not so tough if we’re being honest. (Wait until I show you what Tennessee was lined up against. Might not impress you… but it’s significantly more difficult than what Pittsburgh faced.)

If Pittsburgh had beaten Cincinnati just once this year (I know… part of Woodley’s comments involve the fear created by that dreaded third time in a season theory… got it… but you did lose already, twice, to one of the teams you are thumping your chest about)… if Pittsburgh had defeated Kansas City, Oakland or Cleveland (they lost to all three, Oakland at home, as part of a five-game losing streak… repeat… lost to all three)… I mean, Pittsburgh wouldn’t be concerned with what other teams are doing if they win just one of those games that good teams should win.

Cincinnati? They swept four games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They did their work to make the playoffs.

New England? They went 4-2 in their division and are currently 7-4 in the conference. (Pittsburgh went 2-4 in their division and are 5-6 against AFC opponents. How can you scream about other teams slacking off when you don’t have a winning record in the conference and will finish with a losing record in your division? How? Makes zero sense.) The Pats took care of business.

So it’s easy LaMarr…

Beat Oakland at home…

Score more than 6 points against Cleveland (in a game that frankly looked like the better team won)…

Do something and this isn’t a problem. The other teams did win, and whether it’s to avoid you or to get some rest because they don’t have a week off, it honestly doesn’t matter what New England and Cincinnati are doing. It’s just whining and moaning from you.

And by the way… get some better material. Because after the fun Indianapolis is having getting bashed by the world for throwing in the towel, if you had instead mentioned the Colts giving up… well, that could have been pretty funny... and thanks to what it did for the Jets, even more relevant.

(By the way… people in Pittsburgh don’t really agree with me. In a survey being conducted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, as of about noon on Thursday, December 31st, they had received 3,050 votes in a poll asking “Do you think the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots will intentionally lose so that the Steelers won’t make the playoffs?” 55% of the respondents said yes, they thought the two teams would intentionally lose.)

I’m approaching this week with a foolproof system. (And to paraphrase one of my favorite Douglas Adams quotes, people that think something is completely foolproof underestimate the ability of complete fools.) Here’s what I’m doing…

I’m picking all underdogs this week. All 16 of them.

(Hold on… it does get a bit more complex than that. In a bit of wavering, I’m then going to make some adjustments. For instance, if a team is in the playoffs at the start of the day but needs the game to remain there, I will consider changing things for them. That means Baltimore and New York (Jets) might get a second look… and basically only those two since they are the only teams in right now that might be out of it by Sunday night. If a favored team needs the game for some amazing reason, for instance Philly and Minnesota are still in the hunt for a week off, then I will consider changing for them. And, if for some reason the favorite just knocks my for a loop considering who they are playing, then I will take a look at that.)

But basically… get ready… because I’m parading the underdogs. I guess. (We’ll see.)

We’re breaking out the big guns to finish off the season… Forrest Gump quotes…

Indianapolis at Buffalo (7)“Gump! What’s your sole purpose in this army?” “To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant!” “God damn it, Gump! You’re a god damn genius! This is the most outstanding answer I have ever heard. You must have a goddamn I.Q. of 160. You are goddamn gifted, Private Gump.” My basic rule would lead me to Indianapolis in this game… pick the underdog. But some things have me wondering. For instance, last week’s roll-over-and-play-dead effort from the Colts. Thought that was stupid of them on so many levels I just can coherently explore it right now. And this Bills team scared the Patriots and thumped the Dolphins. They stink… but maybe not that much. So… perhaps… you know… take the Bills. A closer look though… and yeah, I’m taking the Colts. See, we’re talking 7-points folks. Buffalo hasn’t scored 20 points since October… when they got lucky against Carolina. I kid you not, since November 1st the Bills have scored more than 17 points in a game just once (against Miami). Indy may very well win this game. I’m not willing to bet on it, but they could. But the idea that Buffalo is going to roll over them? I don’t see it.
Bob: Indianapolis
Terry: Buffalo
Dad: Indianapolis
Mike: Indianapolis
Molly: Buffalo

New Orleans at Carolina (Pick)“That kid may be the stupidest son of a bitch I’ve ever seen, but he sure is fast!” Tough game here… since the underdog mentality actually says to take the Saints. (Road team in a toss up.) Let’s find out if there is something in Carolina’s favor. (Other than Brees probably not bringing a helmet out of the locker room.) You know… something like inspired play while kicking the tails of NFC playoff teams in recent weeks. Or maybe recently ending the season of an NFC team that wanted to reach the playoffs. I’m talking about something like a 26-7 demolition of Minnesota or a 41-9 throttling of New York (Giants). If only we had something like that to tell us that Carolina should be taken seriously here. I’m going to take the Panthers… exactly because Brees may sit, they’re playing well, seem to be driving at getting to 8-8 and finishing strong, and I really don’t see New Orleans fighting hard if they get behind.
Bob: Carolina
Terry: New Orleans
Dad: New Orleans
Mike: Carolina
Gus: Carolina

Jacksonville at Cleveland (1½)“Those must be comfortable shoes, I bet you could walk all day in shoes like those and not feel a thing.” “My feet hurt.” “My momma always said you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes, where they’re going, where they’ve been.” Why the hell is Cleveland the favorite? Seriously… they’ve defeated Oakland and Kansas City since their wonderful effort against Pittsburgh. But have the Jaguars really fallen that far thanks to losing to Indy and New England? Apparently so… and I’ll take the Jaguars because of it.
Bob: Jacksonville
Terry: Jacksonville
Dad: Cleveland
Mike: Jacksonville
Molly: Jacksonville

Philadelphia at Dallas (3)“Lieutenant Dan. Ice cream.” While joking about the Saints being the underdog in the second game we reviewed, let’s face it… here is the first contest where I’m really looking at the underdog… looking at the favorite… and wondering what to do. In fairness… understanding that Carolina is a favorite by being at home in a meaningless week 17 game… I’ve picked three straight underdogs. Am I going to take the fourth one here… with a division title on the line for both clubs… a home playoff game on the line for both clubs… and a first round bye on the table for Philly? The Dallas team has to be flying emotionally since defeating New Orleans. Not only did that shed a huge weight from their shoulders… but the next week they took out Washington while Carolina humiliated New York. Philly on the other hand has everyone talking… most notably, and annoyingly, the players on the team. They haven’t lost since mid-November, and have been cruising in recent games. I see weaknesses though. New York put up 38 on them… in a game I certainly don’t believe Philly won as much as New York lost. (Yeah special teams! Let’s hear it for Big Blue and special teams folks! And their defense! Wow. Anyway…) Then last week they beat Denver in a close game that they led 20-7 at halftime. The thing is… believing Philly isn’t as good as they think they are… well, I can’t really prove that. I believe it will play out that way, especially if they don’t have a bye week. But it’s an emotional kind of thing. If Arizona can make it to the Super Bowl last year… Philadelphia can this year. And Dallas? Sure… I’m impressed by the way the defense has looked the past couple of weeks… but believing in their improvement might be emotional as well. And their true test comes when elimination is on the line. So here, in the game with alot of research to potentially think about, I’m just sticking to my plan… the underdog… and taking Philly.
Bob: Philadelphia
Terry: Dallas
Dad: Philadelphia
Mike: Dallas
Gus: Dallas

Chicago (3) at Detroit“I’m sorry I ruined your New Year’s Eve party, Lieutenant Dan. She tasted like cigarettes.” Ok... this one is different. The Lions have given up 457 points this season. Yeah… that’s as bad as it gets. Guess who’s number two. This isn’t a trick… isn’t meant to get you wondering about the Bears or some funny answer. The answer is St. Louis, having given up 408… followed by Kansas City at 400. Instead of a trick, I want you to look at that difference between worst and second-worst. That’s 50 points. The Detroit Lions are allowing over 3-points per game more than any other team in the NFL. Let’s just say that piece of information strikes me as comforting when it comes to dealing with picking Jay Cutler and his abilities when working out of his suitcase on the road. One thing the Bears have done all year is bury inferior opponents. I know… 6-9… not good. But their schedule featured two divisional teams going to the playoffs (Green Bay and Minnesota, and they went 1-3 in those games). It also had Baltimore (a loss, currently a playoff team in the AFC), Cincinnati (yup… a loss… and a team in the AFC playoffs), Arizona (NFC division winner), and Philadelphia (NFC playoff team). So we’re at 1-7 against playoff teams. Their other two losses came against Atlanta and San Francisco… not good efforts on their part, but not exactly embarrassing losses for them. The Bears aren’t good folks… but they’re not bad either. Unlike the Steelers… with players whining about their fate in the final week when a look at the schedule shows they failed to take care of business… when playing teams they should defeat, the Bears do defeat them.
Bob: Chicago
Terry: Detroit
Dad: Chicago
Mike: Chicago
Molly: Chicago

New England at Houston (8)“Stupid is as stupid does.” I’m just not taking Houston in a must-win. I’m not. I refuse to do it.
Bob: New England
Terry: New England
Dad: New England
Mike: New England
Gus: Houston

Pittsburgh (3) at Miami “Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?” “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir.” I’m taking the underdog. Go Dolphins! The Steelers are simply way too inconsistent for me to feel comfortable with them. Look at their losses and tell me you trust them. Look at their team and tell me it is focused and has the proper leadership slated to take the field this week. I don’t know that their defense can stop Miami from putting 24-27 on the board. And, if the Dolphins can take an early lead (something that killed them in the past two weeks, when they fell behind and just couldn’t catch up), I believe they can run the clock and hold that lead. (By the way… funny side note. The Post-Gazette, in addition to their poll this week, also ran a story about how the playoffs are now a waiting game for the Steelers. Now… it isn’t worth linking to. The intent was obviously that the Steelers couldn’t pull a win-and-in… they had to wait for other results to become finals. That said… when I saw that blurb of wait and see… all I could think of was how it seemed to assume a victory over Miami was a given, as if it had already happened. And that my friends is the magic of the final week game. Something almost always seems to break right so that a team… had they won… would have made the playoffs because all of the other things they needed to have work out actually happened. Except, that team needing the help goes out and loses. I’m not hearing a peep come out of Miami heading into this game. I think they’re worrying about the game and how to win it. I feel like Pittsburgh is already making excuses. Thought it was worth noting.)
Bob: Miami
Terry: Miami
Dad: Miami
Mike: Pittsburgh
Molly: Pittsburgh

New York (Giants) at Minnesota (9)“Have you ever been with a girl, Forrest?” “I sit next to them in my Home Economics class.” A few years ago I came up with a theory that the Giants… for whatever reason… play really well against the Vikings. Coaches have changed… players have changed… and all signs should point to a very weak and uninspired New York defense folding the tents and getting creamed by a Minnesota club that needs a victory to get a week off. Guess what? In the past, rarely have games between these two teams made sense and followed the logic. I do wonder if Favre is getting tired. I do wonder if losses to Carolina and Chicago mean something… or nothing at all. But I don’t wonder about this game. I actually expect a New York victory. (I mean that.) What I don’t expect is the Vikings to win by 10 or more.
Bob: New York
Terry: New York
Dad: Minnesota
Mike: Minnesota
Gus: Minnesota

Cincinnati at New York (Jets) (10)“My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.” Let’s add some perspective to this game. Cincy has a deep running game and they’ve played good defense all season. So even if they do sit several starters, they can’t sit everyone, and I expect them to be able to run well when they have the ball, and play well against New York’s offense. In 15 games, they’ve only lost twice by large margins… against Minnesota and Houston. Let’s face facts… the Vikings and Texans have better offenses than the Jets. On top of that… New York scores under 20-points per game. I wouldn’t be stunned to see New York win. I really wouldn’t. I would be surprised if either team scores 20 points. I’m thinking 19-17 or 16-13 for a final score in this one. In fact… let’s call it… I say that with less than a minute to play, the Jets will be lining up for a field goal attempt that will decide whether or not they go to the playoffs. Heck, I’ve already explained before how they seem reliant on the field goal this season… it would be a perfect ending to see the score 14-13 Cincinnati with 25-seconds to go and New York facing third or fourth down and a 42-yard attempt.
Bob: Cincinnati
Terry: Cincinnati
Dad: Cincinnati
Mike: New York
Molly: Cincinnati

San Francisco (7) at St. Louis “I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” “Quiet, quiet! He’s gonna say something!” “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.” My approach to this week so far has led me to take one favorite… Chicago. And that was because Detroit has just been awful on defense. Well… as noted when we looked at that game, St. Louis isn’t much better defensively. The Rams also score about 4-points less per game than the Lions do. St. Louis in recent weeks can point at a 21-point loss to Arizona, a 40-point loss to Tennessee, 7 losses in a row, no wins at all at home this season, and… well… I’m convinced already. (But just for giggles… Frisco at a glance. 2 wins out of their last 3… they lost to Philly on the road, but defeated Detroit and Arizona. Good for about 20 in this one. That will be enough.)
Bob: San Francisco
Terry: St. Louis
Dad: San Francisco
Mike: San Francisco
Gus: St. Louis

Atlanta (2½) at Tampa Bay“Lieutenant Dan got me invested in some kind of fruit company. So then I got a call from him, saying we don’t have to worry about money no more. And I said, that’s good! One less thing.” Would you believe Tampa has 3 wins this year? How about 2 wins in a row… including last week over a Saints team that still hadn’t wrapped up home field advantage in the NFC and was still sort of interested? Atlanta comes in to this game on a streak of their own… with wins over New York and Buffalo. I’d keep the streak alive and go with the underdog, but I’m breaking my thought process here for two reasons. First, as nice and solid as I think the underdog theory may be, the fact remains that favorites are occasionally winning football games and/or covering spreads. (I know. Stunning. I promise, the second reason will be better.) And second, those two straight victories for Atlanta just so happen to coincide with the return of Matt Ryan. I like Ryan. And… funny thing… the Falcons have a shot at a winning record for the year. Yup… 9-7. And since the Falcons could use a winning record… I like them to play just a little bit harder in this one.
Bob: Atlanta
Terry: Tampa Bay
Dad: Atlanta
Mike: Atlanta
Molly: Tampa Bay

Green Bay at Arizona (3)“I'm sorry I had to fight in the middle of your Black Panther party.” This game has been the toughest one for me to consider so far. Neither club gains or losses a thing based on this contest. Not… a… single… thing. They both play next week. Arizona gets a home game, while Green Bay is a traveling wild card. That’s already decided. Not up for debate. In fact, I could be very wrong, but I think there’s a chance that these two teams will play again… next week… in Arizona. (I have to admit… I don’t want to figure it out. Dallas and Philly are involved… and based on which team wins, there are a ton of variables. Including Minnesota. They’re involved in this too. But let’s see. Let’s just make sure I’m not insane thinking it could happen. If Philly wins they’ll be 12-4. If Minnesota wins they’ll be 12-4. And that makes Arizona the fourth seed no matter what they do. Now, if Philly wins, that means Dallas lost, and the Cowboys would finish at 10-6. Green Bay beat Dallas, so win (11-5) or loss (10-6), the Packers would be seeded above a 10-6 Dallas club. And that means they’d be the fifth seed and would play the fourth seed. Yeah… Arizona. Ok… so they could meet again next week. See? That wasn’t so hard. Just don’t get me started on Minnesota and Philly losing and what happens next.) Anyway… all that means I don’t expect much in this contest except a fairly basic game. Neither club is going to want to run anything special, considering they might want to use it in a playoff game the next week… you know, against this same team. I’m taking the underdog… based on my approach to the week. Both clubs give up about the same amount of points each week… Green Bay scores a bit more often… but I really don’t think there is much to be read from that when this game is going to be amazingly vanilla.
Bob: Green Bay
Terry: Green Bay
Dad: Green Bay
Mike: Green Bay
Gus: Arizona

Kansas City at Denver (13)“What’s my destiny, Mama?” “You’re gonna have to figure that out for yourself.” Ok… welcome a the game that matters to one and not the other. Earlier I told you how bad Detroit was on defense. And then we got to St. Louis. Remember the team I mentioned that was third on that list? Right… Kansas City. Now, there are warning bells ringing in my head right now. Warning bells that are sounding because some team out of the playoffs right now... a team that needs help… is going to lose only to find that help granted. My guess is that it is likely to be Pittsburgh (or maybe Houston… but I can never work with Houston, so we’re thinking Pittsburgh). I just have a funny feeling that New York or Baltimore is going to lose. (Ok… I have a funny feeling the Jets are going to lose. More on Baltimore in a second.) And wouldn’t it be hysterical if Denver lost the last game of the season to keep them out of the playoffs? Wouldn’t it be funny for the second year in a row? Sure it would. I guess. (Hey Pittsburgh. Listen up. Frankly… considering the way Denver has played at times, I think Cincinnati and New England are more concerned about Denver getting into the playoffs than seeing Pittsburgh arriving for a week one contest… but that’s just me.) What I can tell you is that despite warning bells ringing, I don’t see any way the Broncos lose this game. And I expect them to win big… especially since if I read the schedule right, neither the Ravens or Jets will be finished with their game before the Broncos play. In other words… it will most certainly matter to them from beginning to end.
Bob: Denver
Terry: Kansas City
Dad: Denver
Mike: Denver
Molly: Denver

Baltimore (10) at Oakland “Sometimes, I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.” Oakland barely crosses the 10-point mark on the scoreboard in most contests. The Ravens will likely know by kickoff that a loss would eliminate them from the playoffs. (Depends who wins an early game. The reality is that they do need to win.) I feel amazingly comfortable taking Baltimore here.
Bob: Baltimore
Terry: Oakland
Dad: Baltimore
Mike: Baltimore
Gus: Oakland

Washington at San Diego (4)“Yeah, sir, you might want to send a maintenance man over to that office across the way. The lights are off, and they must be looking for a fuse box, ‘cause them flashlights, they keep me awake.” Can someone explain to me how so many clearly better teams are underdogs, but the Chargers are a fairly solid favorite against a club that has given several opponents headaches in recent months? Is it because of how Washington has looked in their past 2 games? Probably. (Ok… that’s definitely part of it.) Is it because they’re begging us to take Washington? Hmm… maybe. The reality of it is that the Washington offense has been essentially removed from the team in recent games. And I do mean removed. I can’t recall seeing a team that had shown moments of decent play so thoroughly and savagely beaten. New York and Dallas ripped the Redskins apart, stomped on them, ran them over again in reverse, and then tossed them to the side of the road. This isn’t the Redskins club that almost knocked off the Cowboys just a few weeks ago. So let’s say that we believe the Redskins… at best… will limp to the end of the year with a 10 to 13 point effort in this one. (And I think that’s being way too optimistic.) Will the Chargers offer enough to score 17? I’m actually going to say yes. As I said about Cincy a short time ago… you can’t sit everyone. And while I admire the fight Washington showed several times in games… umm, yeah, back in November… this is not the same club that barely lost to Dallas, Philadelphia and New Orleans over three straight games. They could surprise me… they could give a great effort… but I think this is more of a club ready to accept that their head coach is about to get fired… more of a club that wants to go home.
Bob: San Diego
Terry: Washington
Dad: San Diego
Mike: San Diego
Molly: San Diego

Tennessee (4) at Seattle“That’s all I have to say about that.” Only 5 AFC clubs have been eliminated from the playoffs. Tennessee is one of them. So… nothing driving either of these clubs. And despite my plea for the underdogs… I’ve actually selected six favorites. Granted, a couple fell into those special interest corollaries I have for my underdog theory, based on opponent and motivations. What I can tell you is simple. Since starting the year 0-6, the Titans have lost 2 games. Indianapolis. San Diego. So… I don’t see them losing to Seattle. Want more? Ok. Remember how they started 0-6? Guess who they lost to. Pittsburgh… Houston… New York (Jets)… Jacksonville… Indianapolis… New England. Meaning, we couldn’t have known it then, and they really did stink during that time, but those were fairly decent opponents since we find today that those 6 losses were against teams that all have 8 wins. (Ok… Jacksonville has 7… but you get the point, since they might have 8 by the end of this week.) And as if that wasn’t enough… best player on the field… Chris Johnson.
Bob: Tennessee
Terry: Seattle
Dad: Tennessee
Mike: Tennessee
Gus: Seattle

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bob – Last week 8-8, season 123-114-3
Dad – Last week 7-9, season 122-115-3
Mike – Last week 8-8, season 121-116-3
The Dogs – Last week 8-8, season 119-118-3
Terry – Last week 7-9, season 107-130-3

Molly: Last week 3-5, season 63-55-2
Gus: Last week 5-3, season 56-63-1

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