It took me a few days to diagnose the bizarre feeling that hit me Monday night. It started in my stomach, crept to my chest, and eventually caused my mouth to do this weird thing where the corners turned up.
Bad guacamole? Pulled groin? Another demonic possession? No, my friends, what washed over me five days ago was something I hadn't felt in awhile: good old-fashioned optimism.
As I watched the Saints vacate San Francisco with a win, I also watched a Super Bowl champion that looked immensely beatable. A team that hadn't gelled. A team that lost one of its biggest names. And a team about to face a revenge-minded division rival after a short week.
Atlanta will leave New Orleans with a winning record. It's scary how little I doubt this.
Atlanta @ New Orleans (-4). Ok, so some justification for that obvious jinx above? Our defense hasn't faced a high-powered offense like the Saints, but they've still held two NFL teams to 16 points combined. The O struggled against Pittsburgh, but what we didn't know is the Steeler D could be one of the best of this young century (more on that later). The Saints played a tough road game just six days ago, and their Dome surroundings aren't exactly foreign to Falcons players. And, to get all scientific up in this bezo, IT'S A HUNCH. It's just a damn hunch, a feeling, some weird googly-moogly from the swamps of Louisiana. Thanks for the points Vegas, but I don't need 'em. PICK: Atlanta
Tennessee @ NY Giants (-3). Anybody have a grasp on what these two teams are capable of? I have no idea - they could finish anywhere from 4-12 to 12-4, and I wouldn't be able to claim surprise. PICK: Tennessee
Buffalo @ New England (-14 1/2). Reports out of Boston claim the city is turning on Tom Brady - somewhat based on performance, but mostly due to his Bieber-esque haircut. And as much as I would cut off a finger for the Patriots to finish 1-15, the storyline here is obvious. He'll look ho-hum for a couple more games, but emerge from the tunnel in Week Six (after New England's bye) looking like his former self. To the tune of "Wild Thing," like when Rick Vaughn cut his preppy haircut at the end of Major League II. He'll hurl six touchdowns against the Ravens defense, and carry his team deep into the playoffs. Ugh, just typing that makes me nauseous. PICK: New England
San Francisco (-3) @ Kansas City. An 0-2 road team is favored over a 2-0 home squad - a clear signal Vegas doesn't believe in Da Chiefs. And while, yeah, it's conceivable Kansas City could hit the skids and finish 2-14, I don't really see what's so great about San Francisco. They hung with the Saints for the most part, but the team doesn't have a single offensive player I trust. The Chiefs ain't great, but they're good enough to beat San Fran after a short week. PICK: Kansas City
Cleveland @ Baltimore (-10 1/2). I hope everybody realizes we're only two short months away from the 25th anniversary of Rocky IV. Your party-planning activities should be well underway, and please know convention centers and airport hotels are almost full in anticipation of this great event. And don't even think of finding any American flag shorts in stock at this late date. Please, people - you need to play your role in these festivities with vigor and sincerity. With a burning heart, if you will. Your kids will one day ask you what you did to celebrate on November 27, 2010, and they will probably run away and end up in a life of prostitution if you can't provide an appropriately epic answer. Hearts on fire, people. Hearts on fire. PICK: Cleveland
Pittsburgh (-3) @ Tampa Bay. Pittsburgh kicks a single field goal and they'll push this spread - because Tampa ain't scoring against that defense. As I said above, last week's Steeler slapdown of the Titans is another reason I'm feeling much better about Atlanta's season. After holding Michael Turner to 42 yards, the Steelers stopped Chris Johnson at 34, effectively squashing the Tennessee back's season goal of 2,500 yards. PICK: Pittsburgh
Cincinnati (-3) @ Carolina. Jimmy Clausen, a Panthers nation turns its lonely eyes to you - and the rest of the NFC South turns to stifle a laugh. I mean, we're southerners, and we know it's not polite to make fun of "special" people. PICK: Cincinnati
Detroit @ Minnesota (-11 1/2). PICK: Detroit
Dallas @ Houston (-3). In surveying the so far-disasterous Dallas Cowboys season, Tony Romo acted as all good leaders do. He blamed others - specifically his running backs. And while he has a point that Felix Jones ate his weight at Godfather's Pizza during the offseason, Dallas's problems aren't limited to any one area. Including quarterback, Mr. Romo. (An 0-3 Cowboys team, by the way, will be delicious.) PICK: Houston
Washington (-3 1/2) @ St. Louis. PICK: Washington
Philadelphia (-3) @ Jacksonville. A little over a year ago, a seemingly endless parade of talking heads were pushing Michael Vick toward the Arena League. "He needs some time." "He won't get any better standing on the sidelines." "His NFL starting days are over." Well, I don't know if Vick knew what he was doing or was just extraordinarily lucky, but not many of us thought he'd be so relevant so quickly. Now let's see how long he stays that way, with stout defenses in front of him over the next few weeks (Jax, Redskins, 49ers, Los Falcones). PICK: Jacksonville
Indianapolis (-5 1/2) @ Denver. Knowshon Moreno is out of this game after suffering a hamstring injury in practice on Sunday; I'd like to think it was while he was doing the Soulja Boy after making a dirty hit on Tim Tebow. Yeah, UGA fans are mad wistful for 2007 these days. PICK: Indianapolis
San Diego (-5 1/2) @ Seattle. PICK: Seattle
Oakland @ Arizona (-4 1/2). There are some Pop Warner teams that shouldn't be 4.5 point underdogs to the Cardinals. Of course, Bruce Gradkowski wouldn't necessarily start for all Pop Warner teams, but it still seems unlikely Derek Anderson will bring the pain. Wake me when it's over. (Oh, and does anybody buy the "Darren McFadden wasn't a bust after all" theme for the season? I'm actually starting to.) PICK: Oakland
NY Jets @ Miami (-2). So I'm down in St. Augustine this weekend, and suddenly scared I won't be able to watch the Falcons-Saints game. This town isn't exploding with sports bars, and even if it were, all TVs would be tuned to the World Shuffleboard Championships featuring Mildred Watson. (This city is chock full of old people. That's what I'm getting at.) Any north Floridians have any recommendations? Oh wait, crap - I'm writing words. On the internet. There's no way a north Floridian will be able to read this. PICK: Miami
Green Bay (-3) @ Chicago. PICK: Green Bay
Last week: 11-4-1 (surr'iously, that's good)