The NFL is back, and if Thursday night was any indication, it will be as insanely unpredictable as ever in 2011. Dedicated solely to making us all look like fools, robbing gamblers of both money and self-esteem, and featuring a new set of games each week that definitely won't be close but turn out to be close thanks to the miracle of parity and Roger Goodell's dark sorcery--that's the NFL the past few years.
Take Saints-Packers Thursday night. The game should have been over when the Packers had the ball with under ten minutes in the fourth, a 15-point lead, and the Saints sitting on just one timeout. Not only had Green Bay been moving the ball at will for literally the entire game up to that point, but the Saints had just gone three-and-out, apparently killing any chance they had at a comeback, and probably breaking their spirits once and for all.
But just when you think you've got things figured out, football goes and smacks you in the face. What looked like an easy Green Bay win became a last-second thriller, where the Saints would cover (+4.5 points) at worst, and possibly tie and take things to overtime.
Then they get stonewalled on the one, the Packers win (and cover), and we're all reminded yet again that in the NFL, nothing is as it appears--except when it is, and assuming that "nothing is as it appears" comes back to bite you in the ass.
Basically what I'm saying is, my editors penciled me in for an NFL picks column this year without telling me, and I'll be happy if we can finish at .500. If you're looking for dead serious ANALYSIS, feel free to seek out other options. We're gonna have fun though!
Without further ado...
(PK) at (CBS). One team from the Super Bowl always disappoints the following year, and after Thursday night, we can pretty much guarantee it won't be Green Bay. No better way to start off a disappointing year than by getting pounded on the road. And by your biggest rival!
Plus, if the Ravens lose this game, the whole city of Baltimore may commit suicide.
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-7) (CBS). Can Ryan Fitzpatrick save Buffalo?
[2,000 words later]
But probably not, right?
Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) at Chicago Bears (FOX). Roddy White is going to wear these shoes on Sunday, and the Bears are relying on Roy Williams and Jay Cutler. Don't over-think this.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-10) (CBS). Or this.
Philadelphia Eagles at St. Louis Rams (+4) (FOX). Here's why the NFL is so impossible. On the one hand, everyone in the entire world thinks the Rams are poised for a breakout season and the Eagles have been totally over-hyped over the past six weeks. On the other hand, as noted in the intro, the NFL has a way of making us all feel stupid. But then, everybody knows that and they're picking the Eagles, so maybe the Rams are underrated again?
We're definitely over-thinking this, but yeah--this will be the best game of the weekend.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-1) (CBS). This game would be so much more fun if Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew could play every position.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (-7) (CBS). Can you imagine how jealous A.J. Green is of Julio Jones? Not only Julio enjoy more attention, more single coverage, more money, and more winning at Alabama than A.J. Green ever had at Georgia, but now it's happening all over again.
Detroit Lions (PK) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (FOX). Everyone's Week 13 Power Rankings are going to look very different after Ndamukong Suh breaks every bone in Aaron Rodgers' body in Week 12.
4:15 p.m. (Sunday)
Minnesota Vikings at San Diego Chargers (-9.5) (FOX). There can't be any team in the world bad enough for me to feel comfortable betting on Norv Turner to cover a double-digit spread. This is almost a double-digit spread, and the Vikings aren't that bad.
[/immediately regrets betting on Donovan McNabb]
New York Giants (-2.5) vs. Washington Redskins (FOX). Rex! Eli! If you think about it, they're pretty much the exact same player!
Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals (-8) (FOX). Come to see how Cam does, stay for the look on Larry Fitzgerald's face when he realizes that there's a reason the Eagles didn't keep Kevin Kolb.
Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers (-5) (FOX): I mention this every year, but as long as the NFL's west coast teams are gonna be this bad, the league should force them to play at 10 a.m. local time. Maybe it would humiliate them into improving, but it would definitely stop ruining the afternoon slate of every weekend with games nobody wants to watch.
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Jets (-5.5) (Sunday night, NBC). Six points seems a little generous here, and while Rob Ryan may never develop the requisite level of hygiene to be an NFL head coach, he's definitely smart enough to harass Mark Sanchez into 2 or 3 interceptions.
New England Patriots (-7) at Miami Dolphins (Monday night, ESPN). Imagine how upset this Dolphins fan is gonna be...
...when this fan shows up.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-3) (Monday night, ESPN). Oh, wow. There's a second game on Monday night again. Why is there a second game on Monday night again?
OVERALL RECORD: 0-0. Can't win any less!
(Photos via Getty Images)