I really like DeAngelo Williams, especially against Miami tonight

I really hope that I’m not the only person out there right now who thinks that having Thursday Night games before Thanksgiving is as morally wrong as Christmas commercials on TV before Thanksgiving.  It’s just too much and it means I have to make my picks in the next 90 minutes before the Miami-Carolina game starts.  So here we go with my Week 11 picks.  By the way, last week we survived an 0-5 start and managed an 8-7 record to inch the record up to 73-68-1 (.518).

Thursday Night
Dolphins at Panthers (-3): Considering the way both of these teams like to play on offense, this game might not last for its 3-hour time slot.  The big difference in this one? Ronnie Brown is on the IR for the Fish now, which makes that Wildcat a lot more predictable.  Look for Julius Peppers to make the night a long one for Ricky Williams, who makes his first start in about a year.

Sunday
Redskins (+11)
at Cowboys: I know what you’re thinking right now and, trust me, I agree with you that Washington is not a good football team.  However, this is and NFC East rivalry game, and its one that the ‘Skins will get up for.  They won’t win the game, but they’ll make Tony Romo and the rest of the Cowboys earn the W.

Browns (+4) at Lions: This might be the Pillow Fight of the Year between two teams that just can’t seem to do anything right.  I’m taking the Browns solely because both of these teams are so inept offensively that I can’t see either team winning by more than a field goal.  Either way, whoever put this game on the 2009 NFL schedule deserves to be looking for a new job.

49ers (+7) at Packers: I’m not ready to give up on the San Francisco 49ers this season yet.  There is a lot of young talent on that team and I personally think that the Packers are a team moving in the wrong direction.  Frank Gore should be able to have a very productive day, and if the San Fran pass rush can disrupt Aaron Rodgers the way they threw off Jay Cutler last week, the Niners should win.

Steelers (-10) at Chiefs: At first I saw this game and was intrigued by the Chiefs.  Then Dwayne Bowe was suspended for PEDs and I woke up.  KC remains one of the most lost franchises in the NFL, it’s just that their hidden by the Oakland Raiders, who ironically play in the same division.  If the Steelers can’t beat the Chiefs by 2 touchdowns, then they really don’t deserve to make the playoffs.

Seahawks at Vikings (-11): Minnesota has yet to lose at home this year and bring in a Seahawks team that is reeling from its loss to the Cardinals last week after looking pretty good early in that one.  As always, Adrian Peterson will do what he does and the Vikes’ D should be able to win the battle up front to put pressure on a fragile Matt Hasselbeck.

Falcons (+7) at Giants:  Atlanta is only 1-4 on the road this year, but the Giants have looked just awful in their last four games.  It’s a big concern that the Falcons don’t have Michael Turner, but I think the combination of backup RBs will do okay against a Giants’ D that has been very suspect as of late.  Keep an eye on how sharp Eli Manning looks, too.  I suspect he’s more injured than he and the G-Men have led us to believe.

Saints (-11) at Buccaneers: Drew Brees hasn’t had a huge game since Week 2 and has turned the ball over a little too much lately.  Still, the Saints are 9-0.  Going up against lowly Tampa Bay shouldn’t be too difficult.  This is also another chance for the New Orleans D to prove itself by shutting down a weak offense as it should.

Bills at Jaguars (-9): The Bills have no run defense against one of the league’s best rushers in Maurice Jones-Drew, no offense to counter with, and just fired Dick Jauron (probably a good thing, actually). There’s no way they will compete with Jacksonville, who now sits only one game behind Houston in the AFC South.

Colts (+2) at Ravens: So how exactly are the 9-0, Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts the underdog against the Ravens this week? Sometimes, I wonder who makes these lines.

Cardinals (+9) at Rams: St. Louis showed a lot of fight last week against the Saints…but still lost.  Arizona has an opportunity to extend its NFC West lead to three games this week if San Fran loses in Lambeau.  Kurt Warner and Co will not let that opportunity go to waste.

Chargers (pick ’em) at Broncos: Two words should tell you why San Diego will handle Denver and take over the AFC West on Sunday: Chris Simms.  If you watched any of him during the second half of the Broncos’ loss in DC, you saw a guy who looked completely lost out there.  Finally, justice has arrived for Denver, and it comes in the form of a fourth straight loss.

Bengals (-10) at Raiders: Cincy is the talk of the league after its big win over the Steelers last week.  Now they basically get a bye week against the Raiders, who have decided to bench JaMarcus Russell for former Bucs QB Bruce Gradkowski…and that might be an improvement, which is really scary.

Jets at Patriots (-11): The Pats have yet to lose at home, almost never lose back-to-back games, and are still mad about what happened in Indy last week.  Plus, they’re facing a team that Bill Belichick, if given the opportunity, will beat by as much as possible.  The Jets are basically floating around like a dead fish after losing at home to the Jaguars, and would need nothing short of a miracle to beat New England in Gillette on Sunday.  Before you say anything, yes I’m serious, and yes, I am a Jets fan.

Eagles (-3) at Bears:  The Eagles are coming off of tough back-to-back losses to Dallas and San Diego.  Although Chicago isn’t exactly a gimme for the Iggles, I still think they have a lot more to play for than the Bears. That and Jay Cutler is guaranteed to throw at least a pick or two.

Monday Night
Titans (+5)
at Texans:  Houston couldn’t beat the bad version of the Titans by 5 points in Week 2, as they held on for a 34-31 win. Now the Texans have to beat the new and improved version of Tennessee, led by, of all people, Vince Young, who has looked sharp in his first three starts.  This is a golden opportunity for the Titans to ruin Houston’s season, and I think there’s a decent chance they’ll do just that.

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OK, so yesterday I had to swallow some pride and give way too much love to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in my AFC Preview.  Thankfully, today is the NFC so we can leave all that behind. Once again I feel the need to reiterate that these are purely gut picks based out of my own personal opinions and biases.  Also, please keep in mind that I have an awful cold and am hopped up on NyQuil.  Just saying.

NFC East
Of course, much like the AFC East, the NFC East is once again very intriguing.  The Giants broke up Earth, Wind, and Fire (how dare they do that

McNabb has a great opprotunity to lead the Eagles to the Promised Land. That means more of his Mom in Chunky Soup ads, though.

McNabb has a great opprotunity to lead the Eagles to the Promised Land. That means more of his Mom in Chunky Soup ads, though.

to the legendary ’70s group!) and lost Steve Spagnuolo to the Rams, but still have one of the top defenses in the league and Brandon Jacobs leading their potent rushing attack.  The Eagles added depth with Jeremy Maclin and Mike Vick on the offensive side, but their defense looks more vulnerable than it ever has in the past decade or so.  The Cowboys are once again interesting between Tony Romo, Jerry Jones, and the big screen in their new stadium that will come into play.  The Redskins added Albert Haynesworth and almost added Jay Cutler, but just ended up making Jason Campbell really mad.

1. Eagles (12-4)
I think this might be a little bit too nice for the Iggles, but I know way too many Philly fans who would threaten my life like I was Eli Manning if I put the Giants above the Eagles here.  In all seriousness, though, although the Eagles lost a lot defensively, most notably Brian Dawkins, who probably wishes he could still be in Philly right now, they have seriously upgraded their offense to the point where it might now matter that the defense is a little weaker.  As I mentioned in an earlier article, Eagles fans are expecting a lot from their team and if they don’t succeed, expect some changes to be coming.

2. Giants (10-6)
I think the Giants are probably one of the best wild card teams that I have ever seen.  An outstanding defense, a great power running game, sound QB play, and no more Plaxico Burress makes the G-Men very good.  However, no more Plaxico is a bit of a double-edged sword in that now the New York receiving corps is very weak and that’s going to put a lot of pressure on Eli Manning to get the job done.  He’ll perform relatively well, but not up to a championship level, and as a result he will continue to play second fiddle to his brother in those DirectTV ads.

3. Cowboys (8-8)
Dallas is a team that desperately needed stability during the offseason.  Instead, they get the continued antics of owner Jerry Jones, and a new issue at WR with Roy Williams doing his best T.O. impersonation, just with half the productivity.  So for Dallas and it’s never-ending soap opera there will be plenty of storylines, just not a huge amount of success.

4. Redskins (6-10)
I struggle to find how the Redskins stay competitive year after year when it is obvious when you look at their team position by position that they just aren’t very good.  Jason Campbell is not a risk-taker, Clinton Portis can’t stay healthy, Santana Moss is the most streaky star receiver in the league, and the defense is either great or abysmal.  I think that this will be the year that it catches up with the ‘Skins and they play the way I expect them to, which is rather mediocre.

NFC North
The NFC North is one of the most different looking divisions from last year to this year.  The Bears added Jay Cutler to finally bring stability to their

This season might be ended with a tearful farewell, then a signing with the Bears just to spite Packers ownership.

This season might be ended with a tearful farewell, then a signing with the Bears just to spite Packers ownership.

offense, the Packers bring back a far more experienced team from a year ago, the Lions look like they might actually win a game this year, and the Vikings now have Brett Favre at QB.  Wait. What was that last one? Favre…Vikings?!? Oh, come on!!!

1. Vikings (10-6)
I really, REALLY don’t want to pick Minnesota to win the division, but they are the most complete team in this division.  On the offensive side, Brett Favre was just what the doctor ordered because he can make a bad receiving corps look good, just ask the Packers and Jets.  Combine that with the best running back in the league in Adrian Peterson and there’s no doubt that this team will be very good.  Plus their defense is anchored by All-Pro Jared Allen, as well as a plethora of other quality defensive players that will make it tough on the somewhat offensively challenged NFC North.

2. Bears (8-8)
The Bears are a very interesting team this year.  They dramatically improved at QB by adding Jay Cutler and Matt Forte looks like he’s going to be a star in the league.  Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no one to throw the ball to on this team.  Quick…Name the Bears’ receivers.  Could you? Earl Bennett, Brandon Rideau, Devin Aromashodu, and Johnny Knox are listed on the depth charts.  Now how many of you have actually heard of these guys?  Defensively, Chicago will have to continue to be solid as they try their best to cover up a glaring weakness on the other side of the ball.  If the Bears struggle this year, it could be the end for Lovie Smith, as well.

3. Packers (7-9)
There’s a lot of people out there who are quickly jumping on Aaron Rodgers to have a breakout season this year.  My expectations for Rodgers are a bit more tempered.  Do I think he’s a good NFL QB? Yes, absolutely. Do I think he’s Green Bay’s new Brett Favre? Damn, there’s that awful name again. Alas, no.  Rodgers won’t be perfect and will have games that will leave the Cheeseheads ripping their Gouda hairpieces off. (Yes, I know the Cheeseheads wear Swiss, but Gouda sounds cooler.) This, combined wiht a strong personal belief that games are won and lost on a QB’s arm means less wins for the Packers.

4. Lions (3-13)
Let’s get this out of the way right now.  The Lions are going to win at least 1 game this year.  Any team with an offense that has Calvin Johnson getting the ball should be able to win a couple of games.  Actually, the Lions are significantly better and more stable than last year’s team, but I guess that kind of was assumed.  If Matthew Stafford or Daunte Culpepper can deliver a few wins this year, then that person will be the toast of a town that is desperate for something good to happen.

NFC South
The NFC South is another one of those divisions that seems to be in a bit of a transition phase.  Atlanta is looking like they are quickly moving in the right

As a college student, the nickname Matty Ice conjures up memories of nights I wish I didnt remember.

As a college student, the nickname "Matty Ice" conjures up memories of nights I wish I didn't remember.

 direction, but will need another strong year from Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan in order to compete with the big boys.  New Orleans still has Drew Brees, but continues to look very shaky on the defensive side of the ball.  Carolina has a rapidly aging Jake Delhomme and nearly traded away its star DE Julius Peppers to the Patriots.  Finally, Tampa Bay dumped Jeff Garcia in favor of a platoon being led by Byron Leftwich.  All this could lead to some very soft records in the South.

1. Falcons (9-7)
I don’t really think the Falcons are as good as last year’s team would lead you to believe.  Most teams were caught way off-guard by the success the Matt Ryan had and were to keyed-in on All-Pro running back Michael Turner to make the proper adjustments on defense.  However, expect teams to be a bit more prepared for Atlanta this year, with double teams on Roddy White, and some different looks to keep the 2nd year QB from Boston College guessing.  They are still the cream of this division’s crop, though, and will manage to eke out of the regular season with the crown.

2. Saints (8-8)
The Saints are a fun team to watch with Drew Brees leading the league’s most dangerous aerial assault.  Unfortunately, their feature backs are Pierre Thomas, who has never really looked like a #1-type back and Reggie Bush, who remains the most overrated back in the NFL.  The lack of a solid running game plus a middle of the pack defense means a middle of the pack record for the ‘Aints.  Hopefully, it just won’t come down to some kind of mythic collapse as it has in the past for New Orleans.

3. Carolina (6-10)
Carolina is a bit of a mess right now.  Jake Delhomme has really not aged gracefully and looks like he might be in his last year as a starting QB, Steve Smith just cannot stay healthy anymore, and that means opposing defenses are going to load up in the box for DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart this year.  Defensively, they made the right decision by holding onto Julius Peppers for another year, but this is a unit that is trying to regain a bit of its identity, as it is no longer one of the league’s top units.

4. Buccaneers (2-14)
This team might be the worst team in the NFL this year.  No proven QB, an injury-prone stable of running backs, very mediocre at WR, and a defense that is either getting very old, or is very inexperienced.  I expect Tampa Bay to struggle mightily to really get a good rhythm going on either side of the ball, making almost impossible to recognize that this is a team that won a Super Bowl a few years ago.

NFC West
Ah, the cupcake division from a year ago that shockingly produced the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals.  There is no team in this division that is very

If I hear how he was a grocery bagger one more time, I might have to take up bagging and see if that gets me to 3 Super Bowls

If I hear how he was a grocery bagger one more time, I might have to take up bagging and see if that gets me to 3 Super Bowls

 good.  Put any of these teams in another division, and they probably don’t compete.  Put them in a division together and you get competitive mediocrity.  The Cardinals return all the main players from last year’s team, the 49ers will play very hard so that Mike Singletary will keep his pants on in the locker room, the Seahawks should be better now that Matt Hasselbeck is healthy, and the Rams still have Steven Jackson, who is a true game-changer at RB.

1. Cardinals (9-7)
They really are the best of four bad teams in thiss division, solely based on the fact the Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are both still in the desert, and that alone should give defensive coordinators and secondaries ulcers.  The rest of the team is somewhat competitive, but certainly not top flight.  Chris Wells’ performance in his rookie campaign will have a big impact on the team’s overall success this year.

2. 49ers (7-9)
I want San Francisco to do well because I really like Mike Singletary as a head coach, but with an almost non-existent offense beyond Frank Gore, who could always get hurt at some point, this team isn’t a playoff team this year unless they get surprisingly strong play from Shaun Hill, but I really don’t see that happening this year. 

3. Seahawks (6-10)
Last year Seattle got bitten hard by the injury bug, and it cost them a lot more than just last year’s games.  It’s very hard to find a rhythm again when you’re out for a whole season, and the ‘Hawks entire passing game was injured last season so passing will come at a premium in the Pacific Northwest.  However, they are at least competent at the rest of the positions on the field, and that usually means that a team will be competitive.  This team could surprise in this division.

4. Rams (3-13)
St. Louis has a lot of problems.  Marc Bulger has no one to pass to and even if he did, he hasn’t looked great the last couple of years.  The defense is attempting to learn a new scheme under first-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo, and the team in general seems to have a feel about it like they aren’t going to compete this year.  Fortunately, the team also has Steven Jackson, who I think is the next best running back in the league behind Adrian Peterson, and that should be enough to get the Rams a couple of wins and help them avoid being last year’s Lions.

This year’s NFL season will certainly be entertaining for all of us to watch, and will certainly have some surprises in it that will make me look at this and laugh at my own stupidity, but until that happens I’m going to walk around like the smartest guy in the room and you can’t do anything about it.  Now I’m going to bed because the NyQuil has really kicked in.