Each Saturday morning 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.

OK, we know the drill when a heavy underdog wins. We’ve seen the players strut, heard their cliches and stood quietly through the gloating.

“It was,” they like to boast, “US AGAINST THE WORLD!!”

Most of the time, it wasn’t them against the world. A lot of times, we didn’t doubt them. Almost always, it was their coach fooling them into thinking so.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a two-way celebration situation. I’ve been doing this a long time and have yet to see anyone rush into the favored team’s locker room after, say, a 20-10 loss to the Bears and scream, “It was you, your mom, dad, little brother, Aunt Bea, cousin Goober, us, basements full of internet re-reporters, Vegas AND AN ENTIRE WORLD OF BELIEVERS against those mutts, and you play like that?!?!”

We can neither confirm nor deny that as many as, oh, say, 295 people staked their elimination-pool lives on a 5-1 team to beat a 1-6 team missing five starters. Sure, it also was a road team on a Monday nighter a week after suffering a double-digit road loss. But that’s how much 295 people, allegedly, believed in the typical NFL bounce-back philosophy. You know, the part where the really good team gets really mad and stomps the you know what out of the really bad team?

Yeah, that part didn’t happen at Soldier Field a week ago.

But we’ll always have the Patriots, except this week, when they’ll be taking a break from running circles around the rest of the league. Last week, we guessed a 17-point win for the Patriots in Buffalo. Belichick let us down with a 16-point triumph.

In hindsight, the 16-point win with Tom Brady makes more sense if you use the devilish mind of Bill Belichick. The last time these teams met, the Bills beat Belichick without Brady 16-0.




Lions plus-6 1/2 at Vikings: The pick: Vikings 21, Lions 19

Why?: Honestly? I don’t know. After being convinced of a bounce-back victory against the Bears a week ago, the Vikings played their worst overall game of the season. This week, I’m throwing my hands up and taking the home team. Plus, I’m guessing there will be an early offensive touchdown, which will be the only thing some people need to take a post-Norv Turner resignation victory lap. I will say that if the Vikings lose this home game, the slope they’re now sliding upon will be even more slippery than it appeared after two ugly road losses.

LAST WEEK: Vikings minus-5 1/2 at Bears. The pick: Vikings 28, Bears 16. The result: Bears 20, Vikings 10. Record: 4-3.


Cowboys minus-7 1/2 at Browns: The pick: Browns 38, Cowboys 35 OT

Why?: Hey, I’m going to keep throwing this, um, stuff at the wall until it sticks. If it doesn’t, and the Browns are 0-15 and going for one of the two things they don’t have (a Super Bowl and an 0-16 season), I want the last game moved to Sunday Night Football so Al Michaels can put a bow on this campaign by signing off with, “Do You Believe in Complete and Utter Hopelessness!?”

LAST WEEK: Eagles plus-4 1/2 at Cowboys. The pick: Eagles 24, Cowboys 17. The result: Cowboys 29, Eagles 23. Record: 2-5.

Eagles plus-2 1/2 at Giants: Eagles by 7

Jaguars plus-9 1/2 at Chiefs: Chiefs by 14

Steelers plus-2 1/2 at Ravens: Steelers by 3

Jets plus-3 1/2 at Dolphins: Dolphins by 7

Panthers minus-3 1/2 at Rams: Panthers by 4

Saints minus-3 1/2 at 49ers: Saints by 10

Colts plus-7 1/2 at Packers: Packers by 2

Titans plus-5 1/2 at Chargers: Chargers by 10

Broncos plus-1/2 at Raiders: Broncos by 3

Bills plus-6 1/2 at Seahawks: Seahawks by 7

Record (Last week/Season): 7-4-1/56-39-2

Vs. spread (Last week/Season): 6-6/47-50

CRAIG’S LIST: NFL Power Rankings

1, Patriots (7-1)

2, Cowboys (6-1)

3, Chiefs (5-2)

4, Raiders (6-2)

5, Broncos (6-2)

6, Falcons (6-3)

7, Eagles (4-3)

8, Panthers (2-5)

9, Saints (3-4)

10, Seahawks (4-2-1)

11, Bears (2-6)

12, Vikings (5-2)

13, Packers (4-3)

14, Dolphins (3-4)

15, Bills (4-4)

16, Texans (5-3)

17, Giants (4-3)

18, Redskins (4-3-1)

19, Bengals (3-4-1)

20, Steelers (4-3)

21, Titans (4-4)

22, Jets (3-5)

23, Rams (3-4)

24, Cardinals (3-4-1)

25, Lions (4-4)

26, Ravens (3-4)

27, Chargers (3-5)

28, Colts (3-5)

29, Buccaneers (3-5)

30, Jaguars (2-5)

31, 49ers (1-6)

32, Browns (0-8)

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