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Thursday, November 13, 2003

Pro Picks, Week 11: Filling My Quota

Belichick-Parcells. Parcells-Belichick. Belichick. Parcells. Parcells. Belichick. Patriots, Cowboys, Jets, assistant coach, head coach, Bob Kraft.

In case you've been under a rock, the Patriots and Cowboys are playing on Sunday night. As I foretold last week in this space, there has been an absolute deluge of media attention on this game. Just our luck in New England, we had a friggin' bye leading into this game, like we needed more time to re-live every twist and turn in the history of these two coaches together. The reporters at the press conferences have been trying to goad both Bills into verbal combat. They have been stonewalled, again as expected.

To be serious for a millisecond here, I think this matchup demonstrates again how crucial coaching is to success in pro football. Nobody would argue that the Patriots and Cowboys are among the top teams in the league talent-wise, but both are in contention for first-round byes because their coaching staffs have gotten the most out of their rosters.

As with anything, though, there can be overkill. Parcells! Belichick! Sunday Night! Just as this thing has caused many people to lose sight of the actual game, I'm devoting this week's column to exposing some of the forgotten realities about teams and players that the media do not adequately convey.

The following picks are, as usual, for recreational purposes only.

Baltimore at Miami

If you like offensive football, don't watch this one. The immortal Anthony Wright will be starting at QB for the Ravens, who lost Kyle Boller to a quad tear last week. The Baltimore offense under replacement Chris Redman was so pathetic last Sunday that Ray Lewis was heard asking the offense just not to let the Rams defense score! Meanwhile, Miami was steamrolled by Tennessee last week with Brian Griese continuing to struggle. Get ready for lots of Ricky Williams and Jamal Lewis slamming into the line.

Pick: Dolphins

Washington at Carolina

Perhaps the most bizarre item of the week came in Carolina last Sunday when a fan goaded on the Tampa defense. After the fan called out Simeon Rice, who had guaranteed a Bucs win, Rice responded with back-to-back sacks. Carolina won on a late drive, but had they not, the guy who made the comments would be right up there with Steve Bartman. While the fan has received plenty of condemnation, what about Rice? Why does it take some idiot fan yelling at you on the PA system to get you to play like you're capable? Shouldn't you be trying hard at all times? My guess is that this week Stephen Davis will need no such external motivation as he returns to face his old team.

Pick: Panthers

Kansas City at Cincinnati

Speaking of players who guarantee wins, Chad Johnson of the Bengals says his team will knock off the undefeated Chiefs this week. He's getting pilloried by the media for giving Kansas City "bulletin-board material"--oh no! Once again, shouldn't these guys be taking things seriously to begin with? I mean, it's not like the Chiefs were planning on throwing the game, but now that Johnson has gotten all cocky they're gonna try to win. (Johnson actually says he made the prediction to fire up his own team) Rather, the Chiefs are just better, and I'm not picking against them until they lose.

Pick: Chiefs

San Diego at Denver

Then we have the Doug Flutie situation with the Chargers. Some people are fretting over the fact that Flutie playing well may complicate the team's future with Drew Brees at QB. If I'm not mistaken, having a quarterback who plays well leading your team is a good thing, right? If Flutie wins games, why not give him the job for next year? Who knows, San Diego could win, which ostensibly is the objective here. Or maybe those geniuses could bring in Rob Johnson instead.

Pick: Chargers

Green Bay at Tampa Bay

You know Fox is going to hype this thing to death. Unfortunately for them, neither of these teams is really any good any more. What's the over-under on number of references to the Sapp-Favre "rivalry", or how "great" it is to watch these guys play? The loser is done, which means we should see guys battling to the death, at least. (This is the 4:15 Fox TV game, by the way.)

Pick: Bucs

NY Giants at Philadelphia

Fassel is under fire from the press--again. I wonder if New York sports writers recycle their "Fassel on the Hot Seat" columns every year around this time? (This is the 1:00 Fox game)

Pick: Eagles

Other Games

New Orleans over Atlanta, Buffalo over Houston, St. Louis over Chicago, Cleveland over Arizona, Tennessee over Jacksonville, Indianapolis over NY Jets, Seattle over Detroit, Minnesota over Oakland, San Francisco over Pittsburgh.

Last Week: 7-7
Season Record: 86-58