By Neil Keefe
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The bye week for the Giants is the worst. It’s like the Yankees playing a 1:05 game on Sunday then having an off-day on Monday and then getting rained out on Tuesday and not playing again until Wednesday night at 7:05. The bye week seems like it will never end and when you are staring at some of the disgusting matchups that we are looking at around the league in Week 7, it seems even longer.
This is actually a good time for the Giants to have their bye. They are coming off a much-needed win against the Bills after embarrassing the entire tri-state area with a loss at home to the Seahawks. They have a chance to get healthy before playing their last cupcake game of the season against the Dolphins at home, and then it’s time for the 2011 Gauntlet. If you’re wondering what the 2011 Gauntlet is, it’s New England, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Green Bay, Dallas, Washington, New York Jets and Dallas again. The Giants have a very good chance at being 5-2 before playing a nine-game stretch against eight opponents that could all possibly be in the playoffs this season. If the Giants lose to the Dolphins in Week 8, they might as well join me in front of the TV for the remainder of the 2011 season.
While the Giants are enjoying their week off and their surprising 4-2 record and more surprising place atop the NFC East, their roommates will be hosting the Chargers in another must-win game at the Meadowlands. Rex Ryan always talks about the importance of getting playoff games at home, but I wonder if Rex and the Jets and their fans thought they would be playing home playoff games before Halloween? After two AFC Championship Game appearances and after another offseason of Super Bowl predictions the Jets play their second straight Must-Win Unless You Believe In Miracles game, and then they will be playing another one in Week 9 and Week 10 and Week 11 and just about every week for the rest of the year.
No one needs to be reminded of what the Jets are faced with, but since I’m enjoying this, I might as well remind you anyway…
The Jets are 3-3. They are two games behind the Patriots and one game behind the Bills in the division. They are 1-1 in the division and have lost the playoff tiebreaker to the Raiders, Ravens and Patriots. Their only win since Sept. 18 is against the 0-5 Dolphins whose game plan was to throw the ball to Darrelle Revis’ side of the field. After San Diego, they have Buffalo, New England, Denver and Buffalo again with a game in Philadelphia in Week 15 and the Giants on Christmas Eve. This isn’t an uphill battle. This is a climbing the stairs in the upper deck at the old Yankee Stadium with a tray of beers and hot dogs battle.
You wouldn’t know the Jets were just your average run-of-the-mill 3-3 team by the way that Rex Ryan called out Norv Turner for not winning Super Bowls (something Rex seems to forget he has also done) or the way that Mark Sanchez, who the Jets don’t trust to make a throw more than five yards, keeps telling everyone that “everything will be fine” the way Forrest Gump tried to tell Bubba everything would be OK even though he knew it wouldn’t be as Bubba’s guts were hanging out.
It doesn’t seem like that long ago that the Jets were the class of the NFL. It doesn’t seem like that long ago because it was only five weeks ago when they were 2-0 and trying to self proclaim themselves as Kings of the City over the Giants, who have actually won something and won a few times in the last 42 years. But aside from a three-game losing streak between Weeks 3-5, the Jets watched captain Santonio Holmes call out his teammates and coaches, were forced to trade Derrick Mason for being a problem, had to ignore the 3,659 “Fire Brian Schottenheimer” stories that were written and had to deal with their only franchise icon and the owner of all Jets history in Joe Namath slander the team and coaching staff like he’s Larry Lucchino. The only difference is that Broadway Joe didn’t hide behind the title of “team source” or use the Boston Globe to get his points across.
The Jets are in trouble. The kind of trouble that Mikey McD in Rounders would describe as “the worst kind, with the worst guy.” But it’s not KGB. It’s the AFC East where two teams have better records than the Jets and the AFC where eight teams have better records than the Jets.
I know what kind of quotes Rex Ryan has prepared if his team wins this week and is 4-3 entering the bye week on a two-game winning streak. I don’t know what sort of quotes Rex Ryan has up his sleeve if his team is 3-4 entering the bye week with the Bills and Patriots waiting. Either way, I can’t wait to hear them.
Week 7 … let’s go!
(Home team in caps)
TAMPA BAY -1 over Chicago
The London game … an NFL tradition like no other. I hate the London game. I don’t have a good reason really other than that the Giants didn’t cover against the Dolphins in London in 2007 because of the weather and field conditions.
This line is a product of what the Bears did on national TV in Week 6. But I’m not fooled by Matt Forte suddenly becoming Barry Sanders because I now know what the Vikings really are. In a neutral site, I will take the better team, and that’s the Buccaneers.
CAROLINA -2.5 over Washington
The Panthers scare me. They might be 1-5, but they are on the cusp of covering every week. The Redskins are 1-2 in their last three games and gave CPR to the Eagles’ season last week, so their season is right about on schedule. The Redskins train is never late! The Panthers might only win a few games this year, but this is one of them.
NEW YORK JETS +2 over San Diego
I’m probably in the minority with this one, and I’m OK with that. It will make it all the better when Rex Ryan beats Norv Turner and bashes him in the postgame and starts up the Super Bowl talk again.
I think I pretty much covered how I feel about this one in the intro, but it’s weird that just a month ago the Jets were an elite team and now they are faced with must-win games pretty much from here on out. Nick Mangold misses a couple of games, the team blows a lead in Oakland, gets embarrassed in Baltimore and then loses a close one at New England and suddenly the season is over? Nothing would make me more happy than the Jets playing a month or two months of meaningless games with their playoff dreams shattered and Rex Ryan trying to talk positively about this season, but I just don’t see it happening.
CLEVELAND -3 over Seattle
It would be wrong of me to go against my rule of going against NFC West teams, so I really have no other choice but to take the Browns.
TENNESSEE -3 over Houston
I was on the Texans bandwagon, but I got off a few stops ago when they lost Andre Johnson and Mario Williams.
How depressed are Texans fans? Still looking for their first playoff berth in franchise history, they get a gift with Peyton Manning being out for the season and then they open the season 3-1. Then they lose Johnson and Williams, lose two games in a row, and now they’re 3-3 and it might as well be 2007, 2008, 2009 or 2010 all over again. They still have a rather easy 10 games left on their schedule, but does anyone think the Texans won’t finish 9-7 again and miss the playoffs again?
Denver +1 over MIAMI
I don’t care that Tim Tebow is starting for the Broncos. I wouldn’t care if Tim Couch came out of retirement and signed with Broncos to start this game. I wouldn’t even care if any of my friends named Tim were starting for the Broncos. If you watched Monday Night Football last week, you know what I’m talking about. And if you did watch that game and can still talk yourself into take the Dolphins, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
DETROIT -3.5 over Atlanta
This game scares me more than any of the other 12 games in Week 7. When I googled Jahvid Best while writing this, the first two results said Best has reportedly been advised to end his season. Then I thought about the Falcons and how they have screwed me this year and how they are just waiting for that opportunity to screw me again. Then I thought about how hyped up the Falcons were prior to the season and it made me wonder if they will turn it on this week and become that team and run the table for the rest of the regular season. Then I thought about watching Calvin Johnson out jump four defenders for touchdown passes and remembered all the things I have read about the false starts against opponents at Ford Field this year. Now I’m sitting here wondering if I should just flip a coin to make my decision for me on this one. Eff it. Give me the Lions!
OAKLAND -6 over Kansas City
Yes, the Raiders pushed last week in a game my overall record desperately needed, but that’s not going to keep me from picking them again. Whether it’s Carson Palmer or Jason Campbell playing quarterback on Sunday it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the opponent is the Chiefs and the Chiefs only two wins have come against the Vikings and the Colts. Aside from winning their last two games against arguably the 31st and 32nd ranked teams in the league, the Chiefs have lost by an average score of 36-9.
Pittsburgh -4 over ARIZONA
Nothing about the Steelers says I should trust them on the road to win by five or more. But nothing says I should trust the Cardinals at home or anywhere for that matter. The only thing I have to go off of is my rule of never picking an NFC West team, and that’s good enough for me.
DALLAS -13 over St. Louis
I keep saying that the Cowboys are better than their record suggests, but no one is buying it. Yes, they are 2-3 and have won their two games by a combined five points (needing over overtime to beat the 49ers), but they have also lost three games by a combined 11 points. Nothing about the Cowboys’ five games this season suggests that they will be in any sort of blowout game, unless you believe in being “due” or unless you look at how the Rams have been.
The Rams are 0-5 and have lost by 18, 12, 30, 7 and 21 points. The average score of their games is a 27-10 loss.
Green Bay -9.5 over MINNESOTA
I have two rules this season that apply to this game:
1. Always take the Packers.
2. Always go against the Vikings.
After what the Vikings did last Sunday night in what could be the last start of Donovan McNabb’s career, I’m not sure how anyone could even think about taking the Vikings and Chris Ponder against the Packers. During the Bears’ blowout of the Vikings, I tweeted, “This is the last time I pick the Vikings all year. I don’t care what the line is” and I’m sticking by that. I will be riding the Packers until they don’t cover, and it doesn’t look like that will be happening anytime soon.
NEW ORLEANS -14 over Indianapolis
Drew Brees and the Saints return home for the only time in October to face Peyton Manning and the undefeated Colts on Sunday Night Football.
That’s what your cable guide summary would have been for this game if it were written two months ago. That’s the game NBC and America wanted.
(Side note: There should be a Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football flex option for every week during the season. Sure, it’s a nearly impossible idea, but watching the Vikings and Dolphins last week on back-to-back nights and now the Manning-less Colts and Jaguars this week on back-to-back nights isn’t exactly enticing.)
Instead we get the Saints coming back home off a loss at Tampa Bay and looking to hang a massive number on the Curtis Painter Colts. I kind of feel bad for Painter for having to play at the Superdome against a contender. But not bad enough where I wouldn’t take New Orleans and hope this game is over before halftime.
Baltimore -8 over JACKSONVILLE
I don’t know how ESPN goes about promoting this game over the weekend. “Tune in to possibly watch the last time the Ravens ever play a game in Jacksonville as the Jaguars try to stay alive in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes while also trying to avoid their inevitable move to Los Angeles … Is it Monday yet?”
I would set the over/under at 2 minutes and 30 seconds for how much time I will spend watching this game.
LAST WEEK: 6-5-2
Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilKeefe