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Welcome to Can’t Miss NFL Picks and Other Lies, where Scott Reid is putting together a pretty decent record of pigskin prognostication and Scott Feschuk is apparently trying to make Eric Mangini look competent by comparison. It’s a tough sell, though – we were beginning to think that Mangini was just your regular, ordinary, everyday god-awful coach, but it turns out he’s so much more than that. For instance, there were reports this week that Vernon Gholston – now 24 games into his NFL career, and still looking for his first sack – was picked sixth overall in the 2008 draft by the N.Y. Jets largely because of Mangini’s relentless lobbying. This is impressive. We haven’t seen a guy responsible for undermining two franchises at the same time since Al Davis bumped into Daniel Snyder at an owners’ meeting and spilled some incompetence on him.
Scott Feschuk Last week: 5-7-1 Season: 67-60-2
Scott Reid Last week: 7-5-1 Season: 74-53-1
Chicago (plus 3) at San Francisco, Thursday night
Reid: I’m not saying the Niners need to win this game or their season’s over, but Rosie O’Donnell is standing outside Mike Singletary’s house and practicing scales. (Course, that could have something to do with the fact that Mike left a whole bag of curd on the kitchen counter last night). It’s theoretically do-or-die for the Bears, too. But let’s get real: They’re finished already. Sure, like the new Melrose they persist with the fiction that they’re living and breathing. But they’re on the brink of cancellation. If Heather Locklear shows up in the second half in a Bears jersey split out wide right (and yes, I know exactly how dirty that sounds) that will be the certain sign that the end is nigh. Pick: San Francisco.
Feschuk: I like San Francisco in this one, too, which says a lot about the state of the Bears given that normally I wouldn’t pick the 49ers to so much as clean my gutters (that’s JaMarcus’s job). Lovie Smith’s team is in full meltdown mode. The defence has all of two sacks in the last four games and has given up 45 points to the Bengals, 41 points to the Cardinals and somehow six points to me – and I was only walking to the beer store. Pick: San Francisco.
Detroit (plus 17) at Minnesota
Feschuk: There have been a number of surprise storylines during this NFL season (Denver winning its first six games, Al Davis failing to notice Smithers’ homosexual advances) but to me nothing matches the emergence of Brad Childress as the league’s most mentally unbalanced coach. First, he dresses up as a stewardess on a team flight (pantyhose and all). Then he gives his legendary press conference about Brett Favre’s groin injury, in which he actually says, “I saw him kind of reach for . . . reach for his groin and, you know, hold it and whatever you do with a groin. Rub it. That’s what I think I witnessed.” Throw in the beard he’s grown, which makes him look like he spends most of his time at the park making mommies feel nervous for their children, and this guy seems like a cross between Tom Cable and a Baldwin. Pick: Minnesota.
Reid: Take it from one who knows exactly ‘whatever you do with a groin (and yes, ‘rub it’ is a big part of the answer. But not all the parts of the answer, ladies) – these stories pale in comparison to the Tom Cable After School Special in which coach learns it’s not good to hit people because it might encourage all the women you’ve hit to come forward and point out you’re the kind of lowlife slime that hits women. Not that such a thing would impair your qualifications to serve as the Raiders coach. Short of holding a crucifix over the coffin Al Davis retires to during daylight hours, it’s hard to imagine what would accomplish that exactly. Pick: Minnesota.
Jacksonville (plus 6.5) at New York Jets
Reid: Poor Rex Ryan. First he rips through all his Halloween candy. Then his team loses four of its past five games. Not since Shelley Long’s move to feature-film acting has the bloom come off a rose as quickly as confidence in Mark Sanchez. But it’s Sanchez who has to give us his best Diane Chambers if they’re to win. Jacksonville is among the worst teams when it comes to defending the pass. The Jets may have the No. 1 rushing attack but Sanchez’s arm will be the difference maker. If he plays well, Jets win. If he plays poorly, Jets lose. I’m betting he’ll play well enough. Pick: Jets.
Feschuk: Um… what? Right now I wouldn’t trust Mark Sanchez to inflate the game ball, let alone throw it. The Jets are going to pound the football with Thomas Jones the way Rex Ryan pounds back Maltesers when no one’s looking at the Bulk Barn. (Actually, that’s unfair and I apologize: he doesn’t care if anyone’s looking.) Pick: Jets.
K.C. (plus 2) at Oakland
Feschuk: You’ve had a good run, humanity, but it looks like your time as a species upon this earth is drawing to a close: the Oakland Raiders are favoured to win a football game. Cue the apocalypse! The real shame of it all is that we’re not going to live to see the world destroyed three years from now like in the trailer for the new movie 2012. On the bright side, we’re also not going to live to see the new movie 2012. Pick: K.C.
Reid: Don’t be fooled! This is just a plot twist. Remember: as Al Davis’s appearance serves to constantly reinforce, the Oakland Raiders are a thinly disguised high-school production of an H.P. Lovecraft story. Like Wrong Call of Cthullu at the Draft. Or The Dunwich Horror Dons a Jogging Suit. KC is struggling. But they still play the game known as American Football. It’s not clear that Oakland can make the same boast. Pick: KC
Buffalo (plus 6.5) at Tennessee
Feschuk: T.O. might not play this week on account of a strained hip, although giving him any sort of injury designation might be logistically difficult since he’s already on the Physically Unable to Shut the Hell Up list. Tennessee has won two straight with Vince Young at QB and Jeff Fisher at Doing Whatever the Owner Tells Him to Do. I like the Bills to cover here, though I’m a bit concerned that their run defence has trouble stopping anything that’s not 90% Nerf. Pick: Buffalo.
Reid: Thank God Steve Tyler has laid to rest any suggestion that he’s actually leaving Aerosmith. Because the people watching this game really don’t need a second reason to give up on life. And the prospect of Gary Cherone warbling Love In an Elevator might just be enough to take Western New York totally off the ledge. The real question in Buffalo isn’t about Edwards, Fitzpatrick or even Vick. It’s about Owens. How long before buddy goes truly supernova? Sure. He’s yammering. He’s bitching. He’s taking selected potshots like a guerilla warrior. But he’s not had a wholly Margot Kidder moment so far this year. It’s not a question of if. Just when. Pick: Tennessee.
Cincinnati (plus 7) at Pittsburgh
Reid: Hardly seems fair that the Bengals should get seven points when these two teams have equal records and, in their earlier meeting, the Steelers lost. What does it take for Cincy to get some respect around here? Answer: a tough new mascot. It’s time to make Shere Khan – the scheming murderous baddie of the Jungle Book – the official face of their team. Snarling. Nasty. Sneaky. Homicidal. Everything that cuddly man cub Carson Palmer can never be. Truth is the Steelers defence has gotten better over the course of the season. Plus Polamalu didn’t play in Cincy’s narrow victory early this season. And if there’s one thing that Shere Khan fears, it’s a perm. Pick: Pittsburgh.
Feschuk: I liked your analysis of this game back at the beginning, when it at least made sense in theory (like Heroes or socialism). Cincinnati is legit and this spread is all about Vegas luring in the dumb money that flows toward the marquee teams like Pittsburgh and New England. I guess that makes the Bengals the “smart-money pick” in this game, and I’m taking them – though it’s always dangerous riding a suddenly hot team that for years was the football equivalent of a sad emoticon. Pick: Cincinnati.
Denver (minus 3) at Washington
Feschuk: It was great to see the Redskins show signs of life last week. But for sheer entertainment value, nothing topped the cutaways to Jim Zorn “coaching” the team by staring intently at his play chart while the bingo-caller guy picked the actual plays. On the plus side, Zorn is contributing to the fight against climate change with his inspirational example of no-impact coaching. Denver has lost two straight and they’ve got to be feeling the ghosts of previous seasons when they started hot then faded. They’ll be motivated – and I mean really motivated, not “Tony Robbins motivated” where you drive home all empowered and psyched but then three weeks later you find your complimentary Tony Robbins tote bag in your trunk and you go, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been meaning to get around to unleashing the power within.” Pick: Denver.
Reid: DeAngelo Hall – a big strong power running back with muscles, tattoos and, quite possibly, a misunderstood tender side – complains he was roughed up last week by Falcons coach Mike Smith during a brief sideline scuffle. Poor widdle wunning back! Did the scary pudgy man with the spooky Casper hair scare you? The NFL is reportedly investigating the incident – just as soon as it proves there’s nothing under DeAngelo’s bed. This game is a lock. Denver may be on a skid but unless the whole team comes down with a severe case of the Sallys, it is literally impossible for Washington to win. Pick: Denver.
New Orleans (minus 13.5) at St. Louis
Reid: Drew Brees threw for another 330 yards last week in a game that made New Orleans look bad because they only won by 10 points. I’ve heard some people muse this could be a trap game. But ask yourself: what kind of man muses? Poets? Wedding planners? Colombos? But certainly not your typical overweight, wing-stained, beer-drenched pigskin fan. So take off that sweater vest and quit musing that this might be a trap game, you phonies. It’s not. This match-up is as ugly as it seems – just like Whoopi Goldberg. Pierre Thomas will have a huge game. He will run for close to 200 yards, score twice and make life as easy for Drew Brees as a lesbian in a town called Lohan. Pick: New Orleans.
Feschuk: How weird that you’d mention that. I was actually thinking of taking the family to Lohan for spring break – so many sights to see: Gonorrhea Beach! Coked-Out Falls! The Career-Pissed-Away Historical Plaque! And I know this much for sure: the kids would just love riding the unstable emotional rollercoaster. Pick: New Orleans.
Tampa Bay (plus 9.5) at Miami
Feschuk: Let the Josh Freeman era begin in Tampa! If last week’s game against the Packers is any guide, the era will be defined by fourth-quarter heroics, random acts of spazitude and some general, all-round tallness. The bad news for Freeman is that not every NFL defence has as much “give” as Green Bay. For instance, some of them like to tackle their opponents. Miami’s wildcat got tranquilized by the Pats but it’ll have a much easier time against a Bucs’ defence that gets manhandled more than the Kardashian sisters. Pick: Miami
Reid: I have a friend who says this game will be tight because the two teams are so geographically proximate that it makes the stakes higher. Of course, I have another friend who picks his nose and eats it. But enough about you, let’s focus on the game. Tampa blows. That’s the conclusion the Bat Computer spits out after all the statistics and variables have been loaded in and analyzed. Miami has lost a step in the past couple of weeks. But it hasn’t gone totally bedridden just yet. Pick: Miami.
Atlanta (minus 1.5) at Carolina
Reid: Scott Feschuk, you flu-ridden, ink-stained wretch – I ask you this: Will you dare to disagree with me that Atlanta will win this game by approximate the width of William Shatner’s ego. If so, I challenge you in public – in honour of Remembrance Day – a $100 bet with proceeds to go to the Military Families Fund. I say Atlanta. What say you, Mr. Maclean’s Funny Man? Pick: Atlanta.
Feschuk: Buddy, Carolina was my NFC Super Bowl pick and I’m not going to back down now just because of losing streaks, poor defence, lameness, lethargy, injuries, clumsiness, inferiority, confusion, underperformance, impotence, indifference, bad coaching, futility, incompetence, interceptions, stigmata, mid-game naps, terribleness and Jake Delhomme. You’re on. Pick: Carolina.
Dallas (minus 3) at Green Bay
Feschuk: As Peter King noted in his column, the Packers are 10-15 over their past 25 games. As Burger King noted in its ads, McDonald’s grills their burgers, which is apparently the worst thing you can do to a cow – short of what you did to it to make it round and .25 pounds. I watched a good part of Green Bay’s loss to Tampa and, honestly, if Aaron Rodgers held on to the ball any longer he’d have to declare it as his common-law wife. Which wouldn’t be so bad if the football wasn’t such a whore – I mean, I totally saw Chad Ochocinco getting to second base with that thing last week. (Shh, nobody tell Aaron.) Pick: Dallas.
Reid: I don’t know how Green Bay players can bear to walk past mirrors after that staggering, pathetic effort against Tampa Bay. Humiliation is what you feel when you drink so much you pee yourself, confess your love to an unwanting colleague and end the night sobbing in public about the way your life has fallen so short of what Mama had planned (at least, I hear those are some of things involved). And even by those standards, humiliation remains too small a word to describe the fourth-quarter collapse of the Packers to a terrible team led by a fourth-string rookie quarterback. Obviously Tony November will lead the Cowboys to victory. The only question is whether the Packers will pee first and cry later. Or vice versa. Pick: Dallas
Seattle (plus 8.5) at Arizona
Reid: I hate this game the way I hate world music. Goddamn you Seattle. You represent approximately 60% of my bad bets (and 100% of my bad romances). On the other hand Kurt Warner goes from throwing five interceptions in one game to five touchdowns in the next. How do I handicap that? I think this game comes down to one thing: I want Seattle to fall behind San Francisco in the standings. My heart and my head therefore bet on another huge day of passing for Warner. Pick: Arizona.
Feschuk: Wow, this is the first time your head and heart have agreed on anything since you sized up Adrian Zmed and pronounced him “dreamy.” Which reminds me: One downside of Wikipedia is the fact that we can now find out, with a few keystrokes and clicks, precisely how dismal the lives of our washed-up and discarded celebrities have become. Personally, I preferred imagining it. For instance, Wikipedia tells me Adrian Zmed was “under contract until April 2009 with Princess Cruise Lines to perform ‘Adrian Zmed, In Concert…’ aboard the Coral Princess and the Island Princess.” Whereas with my vivid imagination I envisioned that by now Zmed would be… um, doing exactly that. Rats. You win this round, technology. Pick: Arizona.
Philadelphia (plus 2.5) at San Diego
Feschuk: Outcoached by Wade Phillips. Wow, where does Andy Reid go from here? That’s not something you live down easily, or ever. It’s like being out-charmed by Stephen Harper or out-not-crazyed by Lindsay Lohan. And what if it happens again this week and he gets outcoached by Norv Turner? That Mensa application would be a tough sell, that’s for sure. Pick: Philadelphia.
Reid: Look, Norv Turner has some pride. And for some time – stretching back to his Washington days – he has owned the NFL corner on mismanaging tight games to his team’s disadvantage. He’s hardly just going to let Andy Reid earthball his way onto turf of Turner’s own unchallenged. Picture it now: 1:40 to go in the fourth, game tied, Philly charging. Reid inexplicably blows his last timeout. Nice big mistake, fat man, but you’re about to be taken to screw-up school. Turner doesn’t blink. He lets the next play unfold, a tidy seven-yard gain for Philly that foolishly leaves the ball in the middle of the field. Whoops! Turns out Norv had sent an extra man on just before the whistle. Penalty, San Diego. Clock stops. Ball moves up. Reid begins to realize exactly what he’s up against. He counters by calling a short crossing pattern – gaining little and keeping the ball in the middle of the field. Turner, the old master, has triumphed once again. He inexplicably calls a blitz, permitting the receiver on the cross to get to the abandoned flat untouched. He runs up the sideline 20 yards before being forced out. Five seconds left and the ball is on the 17. Reid knows he’s been bested. He has no choice. With a sigh of resignation he sends on the field goal unit and the Eagles win the game. Turner stares straight ahead. No smile. No hint of cognitive activity. He’s done it again. He’s the man. Pick: Philly
New England (plus 3) at Indianapolis
Reid: It’s been years of this now. Indy and New England squaring off – in the regular season. In the playoffs. The difference between them as thin as the Olsen twins. Enough already. I say settle this once and for all. Here’s what I want to see: Brady v. Manning in a punch-off. Flip a coin to see who goes first. Each guy gets his best shot slugging the other. First to the gut. Then to the head. Last man standing wins. He goes back to his life of celebrity, wealth and athletic achievement. The loser leaves his team and we put an end to this AFC parity of excellence. Pick: New England.
Feschuk: I like the premise in general, but would you accept a few notes? For instance, the spot where you have them punching each other. I like it, I like it. It’s good. Punching is good. But – and this is just a suggestion – what if instead you make it a hugging contest? Here, let me show you:
They have to get right up in there and hug each other, and the first one to break away must retire and leave the NFL in shame. And don’t think I’m suggesting this just because I now represent Larry Johnson and he’s looking for work in the homosexual-slur industry. Although I am, and Larry’s presence would add a certain… um… whatever a non-gay-sounding word for panache is – to the proceedings. Just sign here and I’ll dig out my Brokeback Mountain DVD and get him in training. Pick: Indianapolis.
Baltimore (minus 11) at Cleveland, Monday night
Feschuk: What a thriller of a Monday nighter – by the end of the game the only guy still watching will be Tony Kornheiser, and that’s just to see if his Jon Gruden voodoo doll is working. I love how Eric Mangini waited til Wednesday to reveal his starting QB. He was either trying to deny the Ravens some prep time or, more likely, hoping that Quinn and Anderson would both get eaten by a lion. And then the lion would turn out to have pretty good arm strength and poise in the pocket. Is that too much to ask, God? Pick: Baltimore.
Reid: Cleveland proves that the old maxim “people love a comeback story” was a hopeful proverb coined by the guy who played Andy Summers Travis on WKRP (who, incidentally, never worked again – or nailed Jan Smithers). Brady Quinn serves to remind that before you can come back you must first back. And there’s been no backing by anyone under centre for the Browns this season. The quarterback duel between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson is like a Where-are-they-now-off between Blair and Jo from Facts of Life. Not even they care. If Baltimore loses this game, team members should be forced to watch all episodes after Mrs Garrett left. Pick: Baltimore.