It's that time of year again, when the NFL decides it is so determined to make its own cable channel successful that they put a weekly game on a channel no one carries. Brilliant marketing strategy. Fortunately, for this week at least, it's a suckfest of a game, so no one will really miss it. But it means I have to put my own picks up a day earlier, thus taking away what I would normally blog about on Friday. Damned NFL.

The shameless self-promotion: I'm this week's reader over at Linebreak and my poem at Redheaded Stepchild has the second most hits of any from this issue. Number one is the first poem--I'm near the bottom, which tells me that I rock. Or something. I like pretty much everything about that journal, by the way--the hit counter next to your poem, the philosophy that they only want to publish poems that other journals have rejected, the name of the journal, the site itself, which is clean and easy to navigate. It's a good example of what an online journal needs--it has personality, and isn't ashamed of its online-only status.

On to this week's picks. I still haven't had a week below .500 yet, but I continue to creep ever closer. Last week was 7-6--I had a brutal evening, as the only late game I got right was the Seattle win. I thought that as the season progressed, I'd get better, but the reverse has been true--steady decline, much like the amount of hair on my head. Winners are in caps.

Chicago at SAN FRANCISCO We should call this the "team which will hang in the wild card race until week 16 needing seven things to go right to get into the playoffs" bowl, because seriously, this game sucks. It's not the suckiest game on the schedule, but it's a tease because these are teams that are somewhere between mediocre and unlucky. If either one gets into the playoffs, it's probably a road game against the NFC East champion where they get smeared all over the stadium. The Niners are at home and I used to live there, so I choose them.

NEW ORLEANS at St. Louis This is the first of what should be two walkovers for the Saints--they have Tampa next week. I will still be terrified while watching it, assuming I can get it to stream on my backup computer, since my Powerbook probably won't be back from the shop yet and it won't be on tv down here. Maybe it's for the better, since my papers seem determined not to grade themselves.

Detroit at MINNESOTA This should also be a walkover, even if Favre isn't playing possum about his 40 year old hamstring.

ATLANTA at Carolina The Falcons are just a better team. Yeah, the Panthers have played better of late, and it's a division game so the records don't mean as much, but Atlanta is just the better team. Man that hurt to type.

Buffalo at TENNESSEE Believe it or not, this isn't the suckiest game of the week either, though it's close. It would be closer except that the Titans have rediscovered their running game. That could disappear again, so I'm not saying this is a lock, but these teams seem to me to be on different trajectories right now.

CINCINNATI at Pittsburgh Flip a coin here. That's what I did.

Tampa Bay at MIAMI The Fins are a team on the edge of being good--they're competitive most weeks, but they can't close out games yet. Henne is the real deal, with some experience. Tampa is where the Fins were two years ago. Hope they stay there.

Jacksonville at NEW YORK JETS Everything I wrote about Chicago-San Francisco could apply here--two marginal teams, both flawed in enormous ways, but with enough talent at key positions to make things interesting going at each other. Jets are at home, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Jaguars take it.

DENVER at Washington The Broncos have taken it on the chin for the last two weeks, but that was against good teams. Washington is not a good team.

Kansas City at OAKLAND This, my friends is the suckiest game of the week, the unmovable force versus the inert object. And yet this is the game that will be on late down here in south Florida, since Fox has the Fins game at 1:00. No one outside of the Missouri/Kansas border and northern California should be subjected to this. It's cruel.

Seattle at ARIZONA Arizona's at home, which means I should pick against them, as they're 1-3 at home this year. But this is Seattle they're playing, which means what would be an otherwise easy call now blows chunks. Ugh.

Philadelphia at SAN DIEGO If the Chargers keep playing like they have been the last couple of weeks, they'll challenge Denver the rest of the way. But this is a Norv Turner team, which means logic and sense have nothing to do with the discussion.

DALLAS at Green Bay This shouldn't be close--Green Bay is not nearly as good as everyone (myself included) thought they were at the beginning of the season, and Dallas isn't as bad as I thought they were after the Giants game. So the Packers will win by 24.

New England at INDIANAPOLIS I hope this game isn't close. I hope Indy wins it by 20. Probably won't happen.

BALTIMORE at Cleveland I wonder what it feels like in Baltimore right now, to have your once-feared defense be exposed as aging and yet have a good enough offense to still keep you in games. The Saints were like that near the end of the Mora era, but the Dome Patrol, good as it was, never had the rep that the Ravens have carried for the last ten years it seems. The Ravens are looking like the odd team out in the AFC North this year, but they're not going to let Cleveland be part of the reason for that.

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