By Doug Halberstadt
This week marks the NFL’s return to a full slate of 16 games. One other thing different about this week is the return of the Thursday night games on the NFL Network.
Tomorrow night (Thursday, Nov. 10), the Oakland Raiders (4-4) travel south to face their in-state rivals, the San Diego Chargers, who are also 4-4. Both teams lost last week. The Chargers were an interception away from tying the undefeated Packers and showed that their offense can put up some points. I look for Philip Rivers to build on some of the positive things they showed against Green Bay and lead his team to a win over the silver-and-black.
Elsewhere, in the NFC North, the Bears host the Lions, and Minnesota plays in Green Bay on Monday night. I think the Bears will be looking to even the score from their 24-13 loss to Detroit back on Oct. 10. I like the Bears at home, and I think Green Bay will remain undefeated with a relatively easy win over the Vikings.
The Falcons have a home game against the Saints. Both teams are coming off wins last week. The Falcons will be looking for their fourth-straight victory. The Saints aren’t as dominant as in years past, and the Falcons are pretty hot right now. I’m saying Atlanta prevails.
Can the Colts possibly go winless this season? This week might be their best chance at avoiding such a calamity. They have a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville has only won two out of their eight games. The only problem is, the Colts aren’t really showing any improvement from week to week. Even though this might be their best chance at getting into the win column, I don’t see it happening. The Jags will pick up win No. 3, and Indy will fall to 0-10.
In Kansas City, the Chiefs will be looking to rebound from an embarrassing home loss to the Dolphins last week. They only managed 3 points against a team that hadn’t won a game all year. This week, they are home again. This time, the Broncos come calling. Denver had a nice road win in Oakland last week. I don’t think they can make it two road wins in a row. I look for the Chiefs to rebound and hold on to their slim lead in the division.
It’ll be a battle for the division lead in the AFC North when Pittsburgh squares off against the Bengals in Cincinnati. The Bengals are another hot team in the league. They’ve won five straight, and improved their record to 6-2. The Steelers are nearing the must-win stage of the season, and will have to cool off the Bengals if they harbor any hope of winning the division. I think they’ll answer the challenge. I’m taking the Steelers in a minor upset.
I like both visiting teams heading to Florida this week. The Texans should take care of the Buccaneers in Tampa, and I like the Redskins over the Dolphins down in Miami.
The Browns should pick up another home win this week over the St. Louis Rams. The Cowboys will be looking to make it two in a row in the “Big D.” Buffalo may give them more of a challenge than the Seahawks did last week, but I still think Tony Romo and the rest of the Cowboys will win their first game against an AFC opponent this season.
The Eagles host the Cardinals. Arizona is coming off an emotional overtime win against the Rams. The Eagles will be playing with one less day of rest following their Monday night game against the Bears. It won’t make a difference. The Eagles will win easily.
I’m not certain there is a lock pick anymore in the NFL. But this game may be the closest. The Ravens shouldn’t have any problems against the Seahawks. Even though the game is in Seattle, I like the Ravens.
In my opinion, the premier game of the week is the red-hot 49ers against the New York Giants in San Francisco. The 49ers are coached by former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh. In his rookie season as an NFL head coach, he has his team firmly atop the NFC West division at 7-1. The next-nearest teams are Seattle and Arizona. They are both 2-6. If they can beat the Giants this week, the 49ers are almost guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. The Giants have won three in a row, and are looking to maintain their lead over the Cowboys and Eagles in the NFC East. This should be a great game. I’m going with Harbaugh and his home-field advantage.
Another great match-up features the Jets at home against the Patriots. Both teams have identical 5-3 records. Whoever wins this game will be in sole possession of the AFC East. The Jets have won three in a row, and the Patriots are trying to avoid losing three in a row. This is a must-win for New England. They usually do very well in those situations. I’m going with the Pats over the Jets.
WNTA 1330 AM newsman Ken DeCoster is showing he also knows a thing or two about sports. He was 9-4 heading into the Monday night game last week, and took the Eagles over the Bears. Despite the outcome of that game, he already had the week sewn up. I was 6-7 for the week, and picked the Bears in the Monday night game.
Because of the Thursday night game this week, I’m guessing we’ll do our “Fearless NFL Picks” at 7:35 a.m., Thursday morning, instead of Friday this week. Tune in to hear all of our picks and see if this newspaper writer can get back in the win column and quiet down the radio guys.
From the Nov. 9-15, 2011, issue