Each Saturday m
orning during the NFL season, we’ll wake up early, take a hearty cut at predicting the unpredictable league, wince at how it went the week before and ponder the definition of insanity.
I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Tony Dungy before Thursday night’s game at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Super Bowl-winning Hall of Fame coach and excellent NBC TV analyst was asked what’s wrong with the Vikings. His answer made it sound like the free-falling Vikings were evenly matched with a Dallas team that was 10-1 with a franchise-record 10 straight wins in one season.
Hours later, after a 17-15 Cowboys win that wasn’t decided until the final seconds, I felt bad for looking at Tony like he was crazy for saying even that seemingly lopsided game would fall under the NFL’s it’s-a-crazy-league umbrella.
“That’s the way this league is,” Dungy said before the game. “The Dallas Cowboys, as great as they are at 10-1, they’re that close to being in the same boat as the Vikings. That’s how close these games are. When the Vikings were 5-0, that was probably a little bit better than what they were. The five loses now is a little bit below what they are. But that’s how it is.
“For the Vikings, it’s really the offense just not making those couple plays that you need. And defensively you start to do a little too much and you jump out of character. Everybody just has to get back to doing what they do and realize the difference in teams in this league is very slight. Just stay on the details, don’t try to do too much, calm down and do your job.”
Then the Vikings — down to backups at quarterback, running back, both offensive tackles, center and, oh yeah, head coach — nearly beat a 10-1 team.
“Last week, Seattle losing to Tampa didn’t surprise me at all because the difference is very slim,” Dungy said.
I was a little surprised to hear Dungy wasn’t surprised by the Bucs win. Then this morning, I looked it up and saw that I had picked Tampa Bay to win last week. Whaddaya know? Hey, I’m this close to being able to hide my own Easter eggs.
I also went a week too long in doubting Aaron Rodgers last week. And he and Green Bay’s offense played Monday night’s game against the Eagles with the focus and determination of a quality unit that’s tired of being doubted and ridiculed.
As for this week, here are some more picks I’ll probably forget before I hit “publish” on this thing:
WEEK 13 PICKS
Unlike the team in Minneapolis, my Vikings picks record hasn’t gotten any worse the past two weeks because no one gives two hoots who I think will win on Thursdays. (Insert sarcastic response to the amount of hoots any of this is actually worth). I did think the Cowboys would win, however. I didn’t think it would come down to the final seconds and a Vikings-Cowboys tradition of Vikings fans and players growling about the officials robbing them of a chance to beat the Cowboys.
Eagles minus-1 1/2 at Bengals: The Pick: Bengals 28, Eagles 27
Why?: This was going to be the week I realized the wrongs of my past and didn’t pick the Browns to win. I was coming down off the ledge, admitting that 0-16 is virtually guaranteed. Then I saw the schedule and couldn’t find the Browns anywhere for this week. So with re-energized confidence, I can boldly predict that the Browns will not lose a game this week! And if you’re one of those ticky-tack people who say you can’t pick a team that’s on a bye not to lose, I’ll go with Ohio’s long-ago laughingstock (Cincinnati) to replace its modern-day joke. Give me the Bengals over Philly.
LAST WEEK: Giants minus-7 1/2 at Browns: The pick: Browns 45, Giants 39 OT. The result: Giants 27, Browns 13. Record: 3-8.
49ers plus-2 1/2 at Bears: Bears by 3
Lions plus-4 1/2 at Saints: Saints by 7
Texans plus-5 1/2 at Packers: Packers by 7
Chiefs plus-3 1/2 at Falcons: Falcons by 6
Dolphins plus-3 1/2 at Ravens: Ravens by 5
Rams plus-13 1/2 at Patriots: Patriots by 10
Broncos minus-4 1/2 at Jaguars: Broncos by 10
Bills plus-3 1/2 at Raiders: Raiders by 6
Buccaneers plus-3 1/2 at Chargers: Chargers by 3
Giants plus-5 1/2 at Steelers: Steelers by 3
Redskins plus2 1/2 at Cardinals: Redskins by 3
Panthers plus-7 1/2 at Seahawks: Seahawks by 10
Colts minus-1/2 at Jets: Jets by 2
Record Last week/season: 8-5 / 78-57-2
Vs. spread Last week/season: 6-7 / 62-75
CRAIG’S LIST: NFL Power Rankings
1, Patriots (9-2)
2, Cowboys (11-1)
3, Raiders (9-2)
4, Chiefs (8-3)
5, Broncos (7-4)
6, Giants (8-3)
7, Lions (7-4)
8, Falcons (7-4)
9, Buccaneers (6-5)
10, Seahawks (7-3-1)
11, Dolphins (7-4)
12, Bills (6-5)
13, Ravens (6-5)
14, Steelers (6-5)
15, Packers (5-6)
16, Eagles (5-6)
17, Redskins (6-4-1)
18, Vikings (6-6)
19, Titans (6-6)
20, Chargers (5-6)
21, Texans (6-5)
22, Saints (5-6)
23, Colts (5-6)
24, Panthers (4-7)
25, Cardinals (4-6-1)
26, Rams (4-7)
27, Bengals (3-7-1)
28, Jets (3-8)
29, Bears (2-9)
30, Jaguars (2-9)
31, 49ers (1-10)
32, Browns (0-12)