First down: Baltimore at Houston
11 a.m., TV • Ch. 2
The skinny • OK, bad news first: If these NFL teams were supermodels, they'd have had some photoshopping done. They've got flaws. Aaron Rodgers decimated the super-scary Texans defense last week like a wrecking ball hitting a stack of Legos. And Houston's vaunted rush attack is actually pretty inefficient. As for the Ravens, the offense scored nine points against the Chiefs, and the defense is now missing Ray Lewis. As for the good stuff … Yes, these teams have flaws but Cindy Crawford had a freaking mole on her face, and her career turned out OK. Houston and Baltimore are still two of the best . The defenses still have bad muthas like JJ Watt and Ed Reed. The offenses still have playmakers like Arian Foster and Ray Rice. Nobody's perfect, but these teams are close.
The line • Texans by 7.
The pick • Texans. They're a little closer to perfect than the Ravens are.
Second down: Washington at N.Y. Giants
11 a.m., TV • Ch. 13
The skinny • So, the G-Men are in fine form, again lulling detractors to sleep with mediocre performances at home, then punching said somnambulate doubters in the nose with an effort like the one they delivered in dismantling the 49ers in San Francisco last week. Have you scheduled your rhinoplasty yet? In the meantime, the G-Men are back at home, so might there be another mediocre performance in the offing? Perhaps, especially against the likes of Robert Griffin III, who is at best a transcendent game-changer and at worst a 2012 version of the 2011 version of Cam Newton. RG3 is doing everything spectacularly so far, aside perhaps from avoiding the kind of crushing, concussion-inducing hits that will make him somnambulate too.
The line • Giants by 6.
The pick • Giants. Facing a fuzzy-headed QB seems like as good a way as any to reverse the home woes.
Third down: N.Y. Jets at New England
2:25 p.m., TV • Ch. 2
The skinny • This is, quite possibly, the biggest, most significant game ever between 3-3 teams. And you know what? We may as well lose the "quite possibly" qualifier. BIGGEST GAME EVER!!!!!!! That's what the talking heads would have you believe, given their level of hyperventilation in discussing these respective juggernauts. But these teams should forget about the talking heads and focus on a few lines by the Talking Heads, from their song "Once In a Lifetime," specifically, "You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?" and "You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?" Did I mention these über-media darlings widely considered to be Super Bowl contenders are both 3-3?
The line • Patriots by 101/2.
The pick • Patriots. New England has its problems. But a struggling Tom Brady is a better problem to have than "Sanchez or Tebow?"
Fourth down: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
6:20 p.m., TV • Ch. 5
The skinny • Seems weird, doesn't it? That this game, between these teams, is a toss-up? Consider their respective résumés and reputations: The Steelers have given us Mean Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, The Bus, Hines Ward, James Harrison, Troy Polamalu … And the Bengals have given us Boomer Esiason and the Ickey Shuffle. But these Steelers are sub-.500. And this Cincy team would actually be far better if not for losing to the likes of Miami and Cleveland. Sure, the NFL is a parity-driven league, but really, who ever saw these two franchises on near-equal ground? It seemed about as probable as the Rolling Stones still being massively popular into their 60s and 70s.
The line • Steelers by 1.
The pick • Bengals. A.J. Green can hardly be covered by anyone, and Ike Taylor can hardly cover anyone. Seems like a bad combination.
… and seven to go
Tennessee at Buffalo, 11 a.m. • CJ2K might be the third-best RB in this game.
Dallas at Carolina, 11 a.m. • Calling Cam Newton's second season a sophomore slump is like calling The Bay of Pigs Invasion a slight political faux pas.
Cleveland at Indianapolis, 11 a.m. • Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan can be forgiven for confusing Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy. Browns fans don't see much difference, either.
Arizona at Minnesota, 11 a.m. • It's John Skelton's turn to get his butt kicked.
Green Bay at St. Louis, 11 a.m. • A popular upset pick 'cuz of the Rams' sneaky-good defense. I don't buy it, 'cuz of the Rams' horribly wretched offense.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay, 11 a.m. • Athletes always give lip service to "playing each game like it's your last." Jonathan Vilma should maybe take that sentiment to heart.
Jacksonville at Oakland, 2:25 p.m. • Is it possible Oakland's famed "Black Hole" has become a literal black hole, sucking all the football talent to another galaxy? Because that would explain a lot.
Byes • Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego