The line • Giants by 4.
The pick • Giants. The more relevant trend, in my humble opinion, is the Bengals' four straight losses this season.
Second down: Denver at Carolina
11 a.m., Ch. 2
The skinny • This past Tuesday marked the release of Aerosmith's first album of all new material since 2001. As it turns out "Music From Another Dimension!" sounds a lot like the music Aerosmith has produced in this dimension. What were the odds? Alas, the album in question skews more towards "Nine Lives" or "Just Push Play" than "Rocks" or "Toys in the Attic," which is to say, while there are some occasional moments of brilliance, it more often reminds you that they're simply not as good as they were in their heyday. Which is pretty much the same feeling I get every time in check in to see how second-year Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is doing this season.
The line • Broncos by 4.
The pick • Broncos. "Sophomore slump" doesn't really do justice to the season Newton has had. More like "Night in the Ruts."
Third down: St. Louis at San Francisco
2:25 p.m., TV • Ch. 13
The skinny • Were you aware San Francisco actually has 53 players on its active roster, just like every other NFL team?! Color me shocked (using red and gold crayons, of course). I was under the impression former University of Utah quarterback and No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith comprises the entire team. That's what the darn local media had me believing anyway, especially after he totally destroyedthe Cardinals two weeks ago. Turns out, he doesn't actually catch the passes he throws OR play defense. AT ALL. Who knew? I wish I could turn to the national media to set me straight, but it seems ESPN is in its 1,384th straight hour of discussing Tim Tebow.
The line • 49ers by 12.
The pick • 49ers. San Fran has allowed the fewest points in the NFL. St. Louis has scored the third fewest. I'm pretty sure that favors Alex Smith & Co.
Fourth down: Houston at Chicago
6:20 p.m., TV • Ch. 5
The skinny • Do you find it disconcerting that a matchup of two of the dominant defenses in the league is the reason this game is compelling? At first blush, that does seem to veer uncomfortably close to soccer territory (Another brilliantly played nil-nil result!). Quit hyperventilating. With the likes of Arian Foster, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson, there's not exactly a dearth of offensive talent. Now, however, consider that defensive dominance by the Bears and the Texans actually has some inherent entertainment value. "Oh look, honey, Charles Tillman just caused his eighth fumble of this game." Or, "Hey, that sure was impressive when JJ Watt hit that quarterback so hard his torso went concave."
The line • Bears by 1.
The pick • Bears. Just a gut feeling. Meaning, I don't like the way my gut would be feeling after Brian Urlacher leveled me for picking against him.
… and eight to go
Atlanta at New Orleans, 11 a.m. • I think Matt Ryan will have trouble against the Saints def … OK, just seeing if you're awake.
Detroit at Minnesota, 11 a.m. • Calvin Johnson vs. Percy Harvin would be a great matchup of receivers if they weren't both beat to hell.
San Diego at Tampa Bay, 11 a.m. • Philip Rivers and Vincent Jackson share an awkward moment when the former begs the latter to come back. Six times.
Tennessee at Miami, 11 a.m. • It's the triumphant return of Jake Locker, and nobody cares!
Buffalo at New England, 11 a.m. • It'll be about as close as you expect, which most likely is not at all.
Oakland at Baltimore, 11 a.m. • The Raiders have resorted to trolling the stands and asking fit-looking fans, "Think you can play running back?"
N.Y. Jets at Seattle, 2:05 p.m. • Rex Ryan was voted the league's most overrated coach, and the silence of players rushing to defend him was deafening.
Dallas at Philadelphia, 2:25 p.m. • Once upon a time, this was an epic rivalry. Now it just makes me say, "Why even bother?"
Byes • Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay, Washington