Week 10, alright! We begin with Peyton Manning.
Broncos (-4.5) at Panthers – Please look at how Peyton Manning got ready for 2012:
The final exam came March 3. Cutcliffe ran Manning through the ultimate test: A play-by-play simulation of the Colts' 30-17 win against the New York Jets in the 2009 AFC championship game. To authenticate the simulation, Manning flew in Colts teammates Jeff Saturday, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark, former Colts receiver Brandon Stokley and former Colts offense coordinator Tom Moore.
Using the play clock in Duke's indoor practice facility, Manning mimicked his 26-of-39, 377-yard, three-touchdown performance play by play, pass for pass, second by second.
"Our tempo and the amount of energy we expended was identical," Saturday said. "Everybody went down there knowing we were going to work. We knew he (Manning) was taking this very serious."
No detail was overlooked during the three-hour workout. Each play was run at full sped from the exact yard line and hash mark as the real game. The receivers ran the same route trees and Manning completed the passes to the same targets. When the script called for the Jets to be on offense, Manning and company retreated to the sideline and waited for the exact time of possession to expire on the play clock before retaking the field. They even scripted a 12-minute break for halftime. The only thing they didn't have were defenders.
NOTE: THIS IS NOT HOW NORMAL FOOTBALL HUMANS BEHAVE.
Jeff Duncan has more in his piece at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, but more than anything, the scene above--Brandon Stokely and Peyton Manning running a no huddle offense against invisible defenders with a timed clock in an empty Duke practice facility – helps explain why Peyton's (still) one of the two or three best quarterbacks in football. Not because of "work ethic" or some other intangible, but because Peyton is tangibly psychotic about football and/or football preparation, and it pays off. Once you realize this, it actually makes Peyton much cooler than the guy who's in a new Papa John's commercial every five minutes.
The NFL's full of genetic freaks who boggle our mind – Adrian Peterson, Justin Tuck, like 10 different wide receivers who are 6'4, 240 pounds, and faster than anyone on the field. Cam Newton fits into this category, too. And we gawk at these guys like they're aliens, which is fine, because they basically are, at least on the football field. They are Monstars brought to life.
But even if he looks like a 6'5 bowlegged doofus, Peyton Manning is every bit the alien that someone like Calvin Johnson is. We have known this all along – or at least since that OCD Quarterback piece a few years ago – but Peyton's working on a different level than even all the other great quarterbacks in football. Even as his arm strength's fallen off, he hasn't really missed a beat, and he's still turning guys like Joel Dressen into legitimate NFL weapons.
His comeback this year could end up as the greatest testament yet. Because of everything he went through to get back to this level and because of what he's doing now, it's like the degenerative neck injury never even happened. And again, proof: The dude is just not human.
Anyway, I've realized this season that I'll remember two football players from the past 15 years for the rest of my life. Randy Moss, because of four months in 1998 where he floated down the field and made dominating the NFL look easier than anyone's ever made any sport look.
And then Peyton Manning, the guy we've been terrified to bet against for 15 years. The accident of supernatural genetics who's every bit as alien as any of the greatest athletes in NFL History, just in a whiter, more quarterback-y way. As his career hits the twilight, it's only becoming more obvious, and now that rooting for Peyton doesn't mean rooting for the Colts, it's actually a lot more fun to watch.
Anyway, the rest of the picks...
Bills at New England (-11) – Because I had a 20 minute conversation about Mark Wahlberg last night:
Giants (-3.5) at Bengals – Did you know that all four NFC East teams lost last weekend? It's important that everyone knows this, just to emphasize exactly how terrible and dysfunctional this division is. This includes the Super Bowl Champion Giants, because we're not talking about the playoffs. In the regular season, there is no division in football that's more offensive than the NFC East. They are all like the rich screwups in high school, getting straight C's and crashing their dad's BMW into a tree. Every single year! (This also makes it all the more infuriating that the Giants have somehow managed two Super Bowls during the past years.)
Chargers (+3) at Bucs – NOT READY FOR THE NORV ERA TO END.
Raiders at Ravens (-7.5) -- Just a reminder that Mitt Romney once said that the greatest athlete of the 20th Century was Jack Nicklaus. This man was doomed from the beginning, America.
Falcons (-2.5) at Saints – The Falcons are going to lose. We all agree that they are not actually this good. But it just seems like picking against them here would be too easy.
Lions at Vikings (+2) – It's not so much that I'm trusting the Vikings here, but more that I'm not ready to trust the Lions this year.
Titans (+6) at Dolphins – Well OK, so the Titans defense is pretty terrible, but not terrible enough to let Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins run and gun all over them. Right? (<-- Pretending to know anything about the 2012 Titans and Dolphins = #ANALYSIS.)
Cowboys (-2) at Eagles – This is like the Titans-Dolphins game except that you know the players involved because they play in the NFC East. But remember: Rich kids crashing their dad's BMW. Every single week. These teams will ruin your faith in humanity.
Jets at Seahawks (-6) – The Seahawks are 5-4, the offense is getting better, and the defense is due to bounce back after struggling the past two weeks. This means that it will all fall apart this week, OR, this Jets game could be the springboard to them becoming an actual good team. Here's to betting on Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson.
Rams at 49ers (-11) – Remember when the Rams were good for a week or two?
Texans at Bears (-1.5) – Mr. Robert B. Wheel did the Lord's work in responding to Mike Florio's Peanut Tillman nonsense this week, so instead of elaborating there, let's just remember that the Pro Football Talk comments are a billion times worse than anything Florio says or does, and @PFTCommenter might be my favorite Twitter feed on the internet. Read through and savor it all.
Also: Check out our SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY Bears-Texans preview.
Chiefs at Steelers (-12) – The saddest part of this story? The murder defendant pleading guilty so that he could go watch that atrocity of an Eagles-Saints game. It's one thing to want to watch football, but it's quite another thing to want to watch Monday Night Football. THAT GUY clearly has some issues to work through, so let's all be glad he's locked away for good. And hey, Go Chiefs!
LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 8-5