By Doug Halberstadt
Under normal circumstances, I write this column on Sunday afternoons/evenings following and/or during the NFL games. This week, I won’t be able to keep that tradition because I will actually be at one of those games. More specifically, the Bears and Vikings game in Minneapolis. So, I’m writing my picks column Friday afternoon (Nov. 29).
That means I only know the results of the three Thanksgiving Day games before picking my selections for week 14. Despite the minor handicap, I feel pretty good about my choices.
Let’s start with the NFC North. The Bears are playing at home on Monday night (Dec. 9) against the Dallas Cowboys. I just don’t have enough confidence in Chicago’s defense to stop Tony Romo and the offensive weapons he has at his disposal. I’m going against my heart and picking the Cowboys to beat the Bears.
The Packers also have a primetime game. They play Sunday night (Dec. 8) against the Atlanta Falcons. This game is in Green Bay, and that should be enough of an advantage for the Packers, with or without Aaron Rodgers back under center. I’m taking Green Bay.
The other two NFC North teams have road games. The Vikings are in Baltimore, and the Lions visit Philadelphia. I’m taking the Ravens at home, and I look for Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson to tear up the Eagles’ defense. I like the Lions on the road.
The two games most fans will be keeping an eye on are the Seahawks at the 49ers and the Panthers in New Orleans. Both games should be very entertaining with playoff implications involved. Any one of these four teams could win on any given Sunday, but I’m taking the Seahawks on the road and the Saints at home.
The game that looks like it will be the polar opposite of those two games is the Texans and Jaguars match-up. This is one of those “Who cares?” games for the majority of people around here. Unless you have a fantasy player or two on one of these teams, this game is beyond insignificant. Because I have to make a choice, I’ll take the Jaguars at home.
A nice AFC game features the Colts at the Bengals. Both of these teams have had their share of ups and downs this year. I think this week will be an up for the Bengals and a down for the Colts.
Simply because they are playing in front of the home crowd, I’m taking the Buccaneers over the Bills and the Jets over the Raiders.
The only other visiting team I’m taking this week is the Kansas City Chiefs. They head east to take on the Washington Redskins. I’m not sure the Chiefs are quite as elite of a team as they looked like after the first nine weeks of the season, but I do believe they can dispose of the Redskins.
My lock pick of the week is the Broncos over the Titans. First of all, the game is in Denver. Second, the Broncos have Peyton Manning. And third, Tennessee doesn’t. Need I say more?
The other team that has a huge advantage at the quarterback position is the New England Patriots. They welcome the Cleveland Browns to town. That should mean big numbers for Tom Brady and his teammates this week. It’s another lock — take the Patriots.
The last time I saw Pittsburgh, they lost to the Ravens by 2 points. It was a great game, mostly because of the rivalry factor between them. This week, they play the Dolphins. It doesn’t shape up to be nearly as good of a game. I think the Steelers will prevail in this one.
Philip Rivers or Eli Manning? That is the question in the next game. Both are capable of leading their teams to big points. The Chargers have the home-field advantage. The Giants have had more than their share of troubles this year. I’m going with Rivers in a game that should see more than 50 points scored between the two teams.
The final game of the week for me is the Rams in Arizona to take on the Cardinals. This is another one of those games that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things to the majority of fans who are reading this. On paper, it looks like a toss-up to me. I’ll flip a coin and take the Cardinals.
There you have it. My picks are done before many of the previous week’s results are available for my use. Who knows, I might actually do better not taking those results into consideration? We’ll see.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Dec. 4-10, 2013, issue