Live BlogBack-to-back winning weeks have me feeling pretty good heading into the last of the NFL’s bye weeks for 2012.
Not feeling so good? A bunch of quarterbacks. Jake Locker of the Tennessee Titans and Matt Cassel of the Kansas City Chiefs wer
e the only quarterbacks to miss starts in the first half of the season.
But the second half of the season started with a bang (and a BIFF, POW and KAZOWIE) for a quartet of QBs.
On Sunday, there was the concussed trio: Philadelphia Eagle starter Michael Vick, Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers and Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears. As of right now, Vick is out and Nick Foles is in for Philadelphia; Smith and Cutler are still up in their air for their scheduled Monday night meeting by the Bay.
Then on Monday, Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers got crunched by Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali and has been ruled out for this week’s AFC North showdown with the Baltimore Ravens. Instead, the Steelers will Start Byron Leftwich, who last started a game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009. His last winning start? Well, that needs an even longer trip in the way-back machine. The last time a team won a game in which Leftwich started was Oct. 8, 2006, when Leftwich—still with the Jacksonville Jaguars—threw for 140 yards in a 41-0 win over the New York Jets.
Pittsburgh fans have reason to be afraid. They’re starting a guy who hasn’t won a start since the George W. Bush was in the White House. Ouch.
On to the picks, with home teams in CAPS:
BILLS (pick ‘em) over Dolphins: Buffalo hung in with the Patriots until the bitter end last week. Miami licked a postage stamp and mailed in a pitiful effort against the Titans.
FALCONS (minus 10½) over Cardinals: Arizona’s defense can keep the game close. Arizona’s offense can let the game get out of hand. I’m going to go with the whole out-of-hand thing against an angry bunch of Falcons who took their first loss last week.
Browns (plus 9) over COWBOYS: Dallas is not a good team at home. I’d probably like this spread if the game were in Cleveland, but since it’s not …
LIONS (plus 3½) over Packers: It’s desperation time in Detroit and, well, since watching the divisional playoffs last year, I’m not sure I trust Green Bay off a bye.
Bengals (minus 3½) over CHIEFS: Kansas City outplayed the Steelers Monday night and still couldn’t get a win. Mistakes killed the Chiefs again. Cincinnati, meanwhile, forced four turnovers in their demolition of the Giants last week. Tough year to be a Kansas City fan.
RAMS (minus 3½) over Jets: Gang Green has won road win and has lost five of its last six games. St. Louis is kicking itself after giving away a game it should have won in San Francisco on Sunday.
REDSKINS (minus 3½) over Eagles: Nick Foles is about to learn a painful lesson—backups generally don’t fare as well after a defense has an entire week to prepare for them.
Buccaneers (pick ‘em) over PANTHERS: Tampa Bay has quietly moved into the NFC playoff picture thanks to a running game led by rookie Doug Martin and a run defense that is tougher than expected. On the other hand, there’s really nothing tough about Carolina … other than its luck, I guess.
TEXANS (minus 16 ½) over Jaguars: Almost without exception, I stay away from picking favorites to cover enormous spreads. Notice I did say “almost without exception.” Jacksonville qualifies as one of those.
Saints (minus 4½) over RAIDERS: Oakland got a half-a-hundred thrown on them by the Ravens. This just in: The New Orleans offense? Much better than Baltimore’s.
BRONCOS (minus 8½) over Chargers: The Norv Turner-A.J. Smith death watch is officially under way in San Diego. I don’t think the Chargers can bail them out this time, although a win at Denver would be a good start. Too bad for Norv and A.J. that it ain’t gonna happen.
Colts (plus 10) over PATRIOTS: Indianapolis probably doesn’t get the win but that 10-point spread doesn’t give the Colts nearly enough credit … or acknowledge New England’s ability to inexplicably keep some games way too close.
STEELERS (plus 3½) over Ravens: The hook pushed me over on this pick. I like Baltimore … just not by more than a field goal. It’s still Ravens-Steelers, which means this game will be close.
49ERS (no line) over Bears: The uncertainty of the quarterbacking situation took this game off the board. But Colin Kaepernick has a better chance of making plays against the Chicago defense than Jason Campbell does against San Francisco’s.
Last Week: 9-5