By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
I would like to issue a heartfelt apology to all of my loyal readers who were left column-less the last two weeks. The worst part? I can’t even say it’s because I called the commissioner of a major professional sports league a liar on a podcast. This absence was self-imposed, but we’re back up and running just in time for the 16th edition of Manning vs. Brady. One entire regular season’s worth of games between the generation’s two greatest QB’s will be completed Sunday, and since we’re not quite sure how many more of these we have left, perhaps it’s time to just sit back and appreciate just how good these two signal callers have been. While you do that, I’ll make my week 9 picks:
New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers
Thu, 8:25pm, CBS/NFL
Line: Saints by 2.5
Carolina has had a rough go recently – tying Cincinnati, blowing a winnable game against the Seahawks – and now has to deal with a Saints team that’s seemingly found their stride. Unfortunately, my preseason Super Bowl pick just isn’t the same team away from the Superdome, which combined with a short week means this should be another Thursday home upset.
Pick: Carolina 20, New Orleans 17
Arizona Cardinals @ Dallas Cowboys
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Cowboys by 3.5
This goes one of two ways – Romo plays and plays well and the Cowboys roll, or Romo either struggles or doesn’t play at all and the Cardinals come away with a win. Either way, I don’t see how Dallas wins by a field goal or less, so when in doubt this year – take the underdog.
Pick: Arizona 23, Dallas 21
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cincinnati Bengals
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Bengals by 11
The Jags have already scored a win over one Ohio team, but after the Bengals managed to salvage the game against the Ravens on the heels of three straight underwhelming performances, I find this to be the perfect “get well game” for the AFC North leaders.
Pick: Cincinnati 33, Jacksonville 13
New York Jets @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Chiefs by 9.5
That could say “19.5” and I’d take the Chiefs. Look, I’m not saying this is a lock. I’m not even saying I’d be totally shocked if the Jets managed to pull out a win here. I’m just saying that there’s no way I want anything to do with pulling for this organization that’s in total disarray to come up with a garbage-time touchdown trailing by 13 points late in the fourth just to get the cover.
Pick: Kansas City 27, New York 9
Philadelphia Eagles @ Houston Texans
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Eagles by 2
If the Eagles plan on repeating as NFC East champions, then this is a must-win game heading into a very tough November and December stretch. They let one slip away in the desert last week, and they can ill afford to do the same this week. I think they do rebound nicely here, but I can’t escape this nagging feeling that this will be a game that Philadelphia will absolutely dominate, only to see Houston hang around and make a big play late, a la the Cardinals. Just don’t be surprised if that come to fruition.
Pick: Philadelphia 24, Houston 20
San Diego Chargers @ Miami Dolphins
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Dolphins by 1.5
I’m always wary of west coast teams playing 1pm games in the east, but I also don’t believe in the Dolphins. At. All. Chargers in a rout.
Pick: San Diego 37, Miami 15
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Cleveland Browns
Sun, 9:30am, FOX
Line: Browns by 6.5
The 4-3 Browns are in last place, but have a chance to do something the Steelers couldn’t – beat Tampa at home. If they do, they’ll jump into third over the loser of the Sunday night game, and for Browns fans that will be a huge success halfway through the season.
Pick: Cleveland 31, Tampa Bay 16
Washington Redskins @ Minnesota Vikings
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Vikings by 2.5
Surprisingly, the winner here will be just one game under .500 at 4-5 and probably in third place in their respective division, so a playoff berth wouldn’t exactly be completely out of the realm of possibility. The loser, however, is most certainly done, so let’s call this one of our first “elimination games” of the season. I like that the Redskins were able to win on the road in Dallas, but going back on the road in a short week with potential uncertainty at QB is a recipe for a Vikings win, and 2.5 points isn’t enough to go for the cover.
Pick: Minnesota 24, Washington 20
St. Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49’ers
Sun, 4:05pm, FOX
Line: 49’ers by 10
Here’s the opposition score for all games against the Rams: 34, 17, 34, 34, 31, 26, 34. For your records, those games were L, W, L, L ,L, W, L. That means it’s a pretty simple equation – give up less than 30 and win, give up more than 30 and lose. I think the Niners can get to 30, but I also think the Rams can get to 20, so let’s go with the road dog here.
Pick: San Francisco 34, St. Louis 27
Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots
Sun, 4:25pm, CBS
Line: Broncos by 3
Manning. Brady. The inside track to the number one seed in the AFC. This is why these games are fun – not just because it’s two great QB’s, but because the games almost always have an impact on the postseason picture. For me, I can’t see how the Pats defense can get enough stops to win this game, and since my initial thought before seeing the spread was Broncos by a field goal, I’ll end it up and say Denver actually covers on the road.
Pick: Denver 34, New England 30
Oakland Raiders @ Seattle Seahawks
Sun, 4:25pm, CBS
Line: Seahawks by 15
I have a feeling Seattle is going to take out a ton of pent up aggression on the pitiful, hapless, winless Raiders. Fifteen is high, but I’ll have far more regret if I take the under and it’s a 30-point blowout than if I pick the over and the Raiders score late to pull off a miraculous cover.
Pick: Seattle 35, Oakland 6
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sun, 8:30pm, NBC
Line: Ravens by 1
Baltimore came up empty against the Bengals but they have a chance to mitigate those results by taking both from Pittsburgh. After this, the Ravens will have just their season finale against Cleveland left on their divisional docket, so this game looms large for them. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has rallied from losses to the Browns and Bucs with wins over Houston and Indy to re-insert themselves into the playoff chase. With winnable games against the Jets and Titans after this, it’s suddenly easy to see this team at 8-3 entering their week 12 bye. There’s far more riding on his game for Baltimore, and while I do think they’re the better team, something tells me this Steelers squad, though majorly flawed, is going to win up sneaking into the playoffs, likely thanks to a win in this very game.
Pick: Pittsburgh 21, Baltimore 17
Indianapolis Colts @ New York Giants
Mon, 8:30pm, ESPN
Line: Colts by 3.5
Just when I think the Colts can finally be considered a true contender, they do something like give up 51 points to the same Pittsburgh offense that look atrocious against the Bucs, Jags, and Browns. Who are the Colts? They are possibly the biggest dichotomy in the NFL, and as such are also the toughest team to bet in the NFL. I think the Giants are just about ready to fold, so I’ll take a rebound performance from Luck and Indy here, but I do so with about a 5% confidence rating, so I’m also taking the cover.
Pick: Indianapolis 27, New York 24
vs. Spread: 9-6
Straight Up: 75-45-1
vs. Spread: 68-53