As they say in that old Grateful Dead song,
"What a long strange trip it's been."
When last we met, this faithful reporter had just finished writing about the Colts'
27-19 demolishing of the San Diego Chargers. The Colts had a winning record, the sun was
shining, I had all my front teeth -- I even liked working for the Indianapolis Star-News.
And then the roof caved in.
Suffice to say, it has been a rocky eight weeks since then. I won't bore you with all
the gory details, except to say that I've been through about 20 different types of
Campbell's soup in the past few weeks (cream of chicken with mushrooms is particularly
tasty), and that if you look in the dictionary under the word "moronic," don't
be surprised to find the Seal Beach, California police department's insignia there --
right next to that picture of Robin Miller.
But I digress. Enough with the sob story: it's time for us to learn a little about this
Our first contestant this week is C. Joseph Richard, who recently started his own
architectural firm. Those of you familiar with this column know that Mr. Richard and I
actually played each other earlier in the year, but the circumstances mentioned above
forced a cancellation of that week's scheduled game.
One small note about Mr. Richard. In his e-mail to me this week, he asked that I please
"try to write something nice" about him in my article (apparently, he didn't
like what I'd written previously). Well, he's a dedicated Colts fan. He's a hard worker.
And he doesn't eat mashed potatoes with his hands -- not anymore, anyway. How's that for
This week's other contestant is Vincent Springer, a high school history teacher who
listed Indianapolis, Hungary and the Navajo Nation among the places he has lived. Like all
of us, Mr. Springer's a Colts fan at heart. His favorite player is Ken Dilger; in fact,
Vince had the honor of playing with him in a summer softball game at the University of
Nothing personal, Mr. Springer, but I hope Ken can hit better than he can catch.
So without further ado, it's time to see if Messrs. Richard and Springer can step up
and stump the chump. Listed below are their picks for this week's games, followed by my
pick and some additional commentary on each game.
Indianapolis (7-2) at Philadelphia (3-6)
Mr. Richard's pick: Colts.
Mr. Springer's pick: Colts.
My pick: Colts. Colts' offense leads the NFL in passing and is ranked third overall.
Eagles have the 25th ranked defense overall but leads the NFC with 25
turnovers, including 17 interceptions. Both teams face strong rushing attacks. Edgerrin
James leads league with six 100-yard games and has 854 yards rushing, but Eagles' Duce
Staley has 864 yards on the ground and five 100-yard games of his own.
Atlanta (2-7) at Tampa Bay (5-4)
Mr. Richard's pick: Buccaneers.
Mr. Springer's pick: Buccaneers.
My pick: Buccaneers. Hard to believe this is the same Atlanta team that was 7-2 at this
point last year and made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Bucs QB Trent Dilfer has pulled
a 180 the past two games, completing 68% of his passes for 497 yards and five touchdowns.
Falcons have lost two of last three and are a minus-10 in the turnover department, second
worst in the NFL.
Detroit (6-3) at Green Bay (4-5)
Mr. Richard's pick: Lions.
Mr. Springer's pick: Packers.
My pick: Packers. Make or break game for both teams. Packers have lost three in a row for
first time since 1993 and still cannot beat Dallas on the road. A loss by Detroit here
would make head coach Bobby Ross's questionable decision to try a two-point conversion
against the Arizona Cardinals -- which probably cost them the game -- look even more
foolish. Edge goes to Packers, who have won last eight games at home against Detroit.
Pittsburgh (5-4) at Tennessee (7-2)
Mr. Richard's pick: Titans.
Mr. Springer's pick: Titans.
My pick: Titans. Lock of the week. Now, let me get this straight. The Steelers lose last
week -- at home -- to the BROWNS -- and you expect me to pick them to win on the road this
Sunday? At this point, Pittsburgh would have a tough time beating the Tennesse Volunteers'
women's lacrosse team, let alone the Titans.
Seattle (7-2) at Kansas City (5-4)
Mr. Richard's pick: Chiefs.
Mr. Springer's pick: Chiefs.
My pick: Seahawks. Statement game for Seattle. Chiefs are 4-0 at Arrowhead Stadium this
season and have beat Seahawks seven of past eight games at home, but Seattle has won four
in a row and appears to have a complete offense with the return of Joey Galloway. Stat of
the week: two of Mike Holmgren's Packer teams started 8-2 in their first ten games. Both
of them went to the Super Bowl.
Buffalo (7-3) at N.Y. Jets (3-6)
Mr. Richard's pick: Bills.
Mr. Springer's pick: Bills
My pick: Jets. Bill Parcells calls out to the netherworld to get a win and end the reign
of Doug Flutie in the Meadowlands this Sunday, as Jimmy Hoffa's ghost emerges from beneath
the Giants Stadium turf, trips up Flutie late in the fourth quarter and causes him to
fumble just as he's about to run into the end zone for the winning score. Adds a whole new
dimension to the term "phantom tackle," doesn't it?
Carolina (3-6) at Cleveland (2-8)
Mr. Richard's pick: Panthers.
Mr. Springer's pick: Panthers.
My pick: Browns. Upset of the week. Browns have won two games on the road by a grand total
of six points. Cleveland offense is ranked dead last in the NFL but pass defense is a
respectable 18th, allowing 208 yards a game through the air -- better than
division leaders Indianapolis, Seattle, Detroit and St. Louis. Browns receiver Kevin
Johnson leads all NFL rookies in catches, receptions and touchdowns.
New England (6-3) at Miami (7-2)
Mr. Richard's pick: Patriots.
Mr. Springer's pick: Dolphins
My pick: Patriots. Sentimental pick here, as a win by New England would knock Miami out of
a tie with Indianapolis for first place in the AFC East. Dolphins are 3-1 at home and are
allowing only 13 points per game at Pro Player Stadium; Pats, meanwhile, are 3-1 as
visiting team and give up only 14 points per game on the road. Patriots are also looking
for revenge for heartbreaking 31-30 loss to Dolphins in Foxboro in October.
St. Louis (7-2) at San Francisco (3-6)
Mr. Richard's pick: Rams.
Mr. Springer's pick: Rams.
My pick: 49ers. Upset of the week. No explanation needed -- I just hate Georgia
Chicago (4-6) at San Diego (4-5)
Mr. Richard's pick: Bears.
Mr. Springer's pick: Chargers.
My pick: Bears. Jim Miller passed for 422 yards and three touchdowns against a ragged
Minnesota defense last week. He won't put up those kinds of numbers against San Diego, but
he and the vaunted receiving duo of Marcus Robinson and Marty Booker (who?) should put up
more points than the Charger's offense, which generates only 15.1 points per game this
season. Chargers are still without DBs Rodney Harrison and Greg Jackson and may lose CB
Terrence Shaw with a thumb injury as well.
Dallas (5-4) at Arizona (3-6)
Mr. Richard's pick: Cowboys.
Mr. Springer's pick: Cowboys.
My pick: Cardinals. Cowboys are still without Troy Aikman and will not have a fully
healthy Emmitt Smith. Cardinals are coming off big win versus Lions last week and may
still squeak into playoffs if they run the table. Cards must be able to stop Cowboy
running game, which leads NFC with more than 128 yards per game.
Baltimore (3-6) at Cincinnati (1-9)
Mr. Richard's pick: Ravens.
Mr. Springer's pick: Ravens.
My pick: Ravens. Dog of the week. With seven games left on their schedule -- including
against Cincinnati -- Ravens still have a legitimate chance at .500. With six games left
on their schedule -- including two against Ravens -- Bengals have legitimate chance at top
pick in next year's draft.
N.Y. Giants (5-4) at Washington (5-4)
Mr. Richard's pick: Giants.
Mr. Springer's pick: Redskins.
My pick: Redskins. Another must-win game for both teams. Giants need to rebound after last
week's loss to the Colts at home. Redskins have lost three of four and were embarrassed by
the Eagles, committing six turnovers in a 35-28 loss last Sunday. Someone keep Skins owner
Daniel Snyder away from any loaded weapons.
New Orleans (2-7) at Jacksonville (8-1)
Mr. Richard's pick: Jaguars.
Mr. Springer's pick: Jaguars.
My pick: Jaguars. This one could be over by the end of the first quarter. Jaguars' defense
is tied for first overall in the NFL and has allowed only three offensive touchdowns in
its past six games. From the statistics don't mean everything department: Saints have the
eight-best rushing offense and the ninth-best defense in the league, but they've still
lost seven of their last eight games.