The Office Pool: Week Fifteen

by Rick Rockwell

This column barely hung in there last week, with upsets galore jumbling the playoff and league picture. Your bruised prognosticator was lucky to just come up even. Some bloggers are writing about how gamblers have bailed on the National Football League (NFL) season until the playoffs and how random picks are as good or better than picks with some reasoning. So are we masochistic? Or just determined?

Last Week: .500
This Season: .596

Game of the Week: Eagles at Giants

Last week, that sniping bunch of football players who call themselves the Giants somehow pulled it together and hit the Panthers with a knockout blow. There was running back Tiki Barber mugging and smiling with Coach Tom Coughlin at the end. Maybe that's because Tiki got the coaches to get smart and start calling his number again. Both the Giants and Eagles have the inside track on wildcard playoff spots in the National Football Conference (NFC). So this will be a war. The Giants will escape with a win, but it will be very close.

Rams at Raiders

The Raiders can't make the playoffs and the Rams are done too for all intents and purposes. But this looks like a great scrap. The Raiders defense has improved steadily all season and Rams quarterback Mark Bulger can still sling the ball around. The Raiders will manage a win on their home turf.

Lions at Packers

Here's another game with little on the line besides pride. But these teams match up well and it is an divisional game for the poor NFC North. Matt Millen, the Lions' inept general manager may be gone by kickoff, but that won't matter. His legacy will take years to forget: sort of like a nuclear accident, lots of radiation will remain after he's gone. The Packers aren't too great at home this season, but this week they get that turned around and win.

Sunday Night: Chiefs at Chargers

This game is worth watching just to see two of the best running backs in the game: the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chiefs' Larry Johnson. Tomlinson just set the new touchdown mark for a season. The Chiefs are playing to stay in the playoff hunt, while the Chargers are playing for home field advantage. Here's where the Chargers get a chance to knock out a potential opponent. The Chargers have lacked that killer instinct in the past, but not this year. San Diego wins in a close contest.

Steelers at Panthers

Talk about knockout blows, the World Champs get a chance to put the Panthers out of their misery and they should do that, no matter who is playing quarterback for Carolina: Jake Delhomme or Chris Weinke. Although the Steelers are talking like they can sneak back into the playoff hunt, and that's unrealistic, they would love to take out their frustrations on the struggling Panthers.

Jets at Vikings

Both of these teams also have unrealistic expectations for the post-season. So this will be a battle and stay close, mainly because both teams have respectable defenses. The Jets should win, but by less than a touchdown.

Jaguars at Titans

With Vince Young turning the corner at quarterback, the Titans have wrecked havoc in the past month. The Jaguars play great at home, but are inconsistent on the road. And that spells upset. The Titans will win another last minute thriller.

Monday Night: Bengals at Colts

Although the team has its woes with the law, Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis seems to have fixed the on-field problems in the past month. Meanwhile, the Colts are working through a slump. Yet Vegas has the Colts as the favorites by a field goal. Not with the Bengals' offense firing on all cylinders. The Bengals should win by a touchdown in a track meet sprint.

Washington at Saints

Don't you love how week-to-week the football pundits anoint one team as unbeatable only to be shown otherwise later? Well, the Saints are that team right now. Except the pundits may be right for the moment. The Bears defense could probably handle them. But Joe Gibbs and his bunch aren't the Bears. New Orleans should notch another win this week.

Thursday Night: 49ers at Seahawks

The Seahawks need to wrap up the division lead, and the 49ers behind the running of Frank Gore have been an unexpected surprise this year. Here's where Seattle shows them why they will be in the playoffs and San Francisco will be sitting again in January.

Dolphins at Bills

Usually, Miami has a tough time in Buffalo this late in the season. But the Dolphins are depending on their defense to ignite wins. The Bills have shown life by knocking the Jets out last week. This week though, the Dolphins have the edge.

Saturday Night: Cowboys at Falcons

The Cowboys should be steaming after being thrashed by the Saints last week. Quarterback Tony Romo showed he is human although he continues to play at a high level. The Falcons always play better in games like this and they must win, or they can forget the playoffs. Here's where Coach Bill "The Tuna" Parcells gets his team to stop a potential playoff opponent.

Broncos at Cardinals

Broncos players are already whining about a lost season (well, maybe benched quarterback Jake Plummer isn't whining since he was the scapegoat and results have proved otherwise). The Broncos no longer have an inside track to the playoffs. Meanwhile, Cardinals Coach Dennis Green has his team playing at high upset level. This is a battle of the rookie quarterbacks: the Cardinals Matt Leinart against the Broncos' Jay Cutler. Leinart and the Cards will get the win.

Texans at Patriots

For at least the second time this season the Patriots are regrouping. The Texans can be tough at home, but not on the road. The Patriots should roll after a close first half.

Browns at Ravens

The Ravens need this game to clinch the American Football Conference (AFC) North, while the Browns will be starting a backup quarterback. Remember those hits the Ravens delivered against the Steelers a few weeks ago. Look for more of those in a bruising battle. Baltimore comes out on top.

Buccaneers at Bears

The Bucs are truly inept but the Bears have locked up everything in the NFC for the playoffs. What do they have to play for then? Well, the Bears offense needs fine tuning, so look for them to iron out more kinks. Even if the Bears defense gets some rest, the Bucs can't seem to find the end zone. This is the laugher of the week.

With some luck, maybe we'll be back over .600 this week. Enjoy the viewing!

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Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Great analysis as usual, bro...

You've really gone out on the limb on a few of your picks, but that seems to be okay this season as you pointed out in your column. There are no "sure wins" this year at all and it has been maddening for me to be making so many wrong calls with so many upsets...

Jacknife said...

You ready to take your foot out of your mouth about the 49ers? I think you should rethink your views on the NFL. Or maybe at least watch it every now and again to see that the 49ers already beat the Seahawks earlier in the year.

Rick Rockwell said...

I suppose I deserve that last comment, given how poorly the Seahawks have played the last two weeks. Some folks are actually picking the 49ers to get into the playoffs. I think we'll have to reserve judgment on that even if the fans seem primed for that possibility.

GTL... thanks for your support... at least I'm over .500 this week.

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