A bettor's guide to Week 11
I think Eric Mangini sat down and started game planning for this one back on Sept. 15, the day after the Patriots won Round 1 over his Jets. This is his Super Bowl, a game he wants to win more than ... well, more than Bill Belichick wants to beat him. No, strike that. It's a silly thing to say. The fires burn just as brightly in Massachusetts, even though they're expressed in quieter ways.
Mangini took some heat after the loss because Thomas Jones slammed into the line three straight times from the Patriots 3-yard line in the second quarter, and the Jets got a chip-shot field goal instead of a TD. Whose calls? Mangini's or coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's? What's the difference? They were calls that made the Brett Favre deal look like so much window dressing.
But this was just second quarter action. The real bummer came in the last period, when the Jets, itching to climb back from a 16-10 deficit, let Matt Cassel, making his first NFL start, turn out the lights with a 10-play, 71-yard drive for the field goal.
Thus, two points of honor were conceded most rudely. Favre was shoved aside. And a novice tamed their defense in the clutch. Anger abounds.
Everyone's fear of the costly interception hangs over Favre at age 39. Just as it did at age 35, and 30. What else is new? Belichick's boys will intercept him, maybe more than once. But Mangini, who grew up as a defensive coach, must counter by making Cassel's evening most unpleasant as well, and that's what I think will happen.
I don't think New England will run on the Jets, whose 300-and-whatever pound nose man, Kris Jenkins, will control the center of the operation. I think Cassell will face the pressure of having to win with his arm, and not only "game management" types of throws, either. I'm talking about something serious. If he rises to the challenge and is even more brilliant than we've expected then the Patriots will win. But first he must outduel Favre.
If it indeed becomes a duel. I'm not sure Favre will be any more unchained than he has been this season. I think Mangini would like nothing more than a nasty defensive struggle captured by his boys in something like a 13-10 contest. I'm guessing that's what it will be. I'm seeing something like a Jets' upset victory by about 3 points.
The Tennessee Titans are a team that embarrasses people. Any NFL club that has reached the 9-0 level usually has least half a dozen Pro Bowl spots wrapped up by now and a couple of book contracts in the works. The Titans have a 35-year old quarterback and a bunch of no-name receivers and a good plus-to-minus turnover ratio. How boring.
But who's going to beat them?
Well, I thought the Bears could at home. They did exactly what I think the Jaguars will do Sunday -- crowd the running lanes and make Kerry Collins beat them, which he did. Don't forget, this is a guy who had a reputation as a serious long ball thrower in his Carolina days. Now of course, he's buttoned up, which is the way coaches play it when they have a good running game and a solid defense. But the Bears forced Collins to throw. No problem.
If the Jaguars had a little more teeth to their attack, I'd say the upset chances were there. But the heart of their offense, their line, has been crippled beyond recognition. Upset possibilities still exist, but not strong enough for me to favor the underdog. Titans to keep rolling along with Win No. 10.
Denver never loses in Atlanta. They will this time because they have no backs, and their top receiver, Brandon Marshall, keeps running wrong patterns. I'll take the Falcons minus 6.
And the Bears plus 4 in Green Bay. Again, I foolishly put my trust in Rex...actually more in the defense.
Chartists are losers. There, I've said it. Sorry, Hank Goldberg. (Hank is a handicapper who leans heavily on trends to guide him in his selections ... the classic chartists.) And after that pronouncement, I can tell you that Houston never in history has come within nine points of the Colts in Indianapolis. And they won't on Sunday. Indy minus 8 is the pick, which is, of course, a chartist's dream.
Kansas City, still hurling the troops at unconquerable fortresses, will sneak in under the 5-point number against New Orleans, and, ssshhhh, maybe even take it straight up.
Jimmy and I almost had a fistfight about this one. Dallas, if Romo plays, is my pick to cover the 1 1/2 in Washington. He says no way. The Boys are toast. I won't bet against the wounded animal, especially if they have their QB back. If not, I'll go the other way.
Giants minus 6 1/2 over Joe Flacco and Baltimore
Rams plus 6 1/2 in San Francisco if Jackson plays. If not, no bet.
Last week: 3-3