By Neil Keefe
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Two steps forward. One step back. That’s what’s happened with my picks the last two weeks. I feel like I’m playing a wild game of “Chutes and Ladders” and looking for that one week that puts me above .500 for good while trying to avoid that one chute that could set me back weeks worth of work and completely destroy my season. I think that’s what we have here in Week 4.

It might be too early to say my picks season is at a crossroads, but I think it is. I’m 22-23-3. “You are what your record says you are” and right now I’m the New York Mets when it comes to picking games. I just put up a 5-11-0 week! That’s not good anywhere. Well, unless you’re a Chiefs or Dolphins fan. It’s unacceptable. It’s embarrassing. One more week like that and I’m going to have to go back to the well of A.J. Burnett press conference answers to motivate myself.

This week the lines Vegas put out should be enough motivation to go 11-4-1 like I did in Week 2. Some of these lines just scream, “It’s a trap! It’s a trap!” But I don’t care. I’m going for it. I’m going back to the basics and finding the right answers here.

How many times is it going to be 1:12 p.m. and NFL Game Center is flashing red zone all over the screen for teams I don’t want to score, and I think to myself, “What the eff was I thinking?” So far it’s happened too many times. Last week I thought might not win two games at one point as upset and garbage time covers were as blowing up my picks as if Jonathan Papelbon were in control. (It’s going to be a while until I don’t reference what just happened to the Red Sox in September in my stories.)

I’m going to deconstruct these Week 4 picks to their core and make logical decisions that I don’t regret. I’m either going to be climbing the ladder by Sunday night or flying down the chute like, or you know, staying in the same exact spot if I go 8-8.

Week 4! Let’s go!

(Home teams in caps)

Detroit +1.5 over DALLAS
The Cowboys could be 3-0 if Tony Romo didn’t have money on the Jets money line in Week 1. (Just kidding … I hope.) But the Cowboys are 2-1 because Romo did what Romo does best and because the Jets blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. The ultimate “That Thought Never Even Crossed My Mind” play. It reminds me of Super Bowl XLIII (I had the Arizona +7) when the Cardinals were trailing 10-7, but on the 2 with 18 seconds left in the first half. It was first down and I’m thinking, “OK, worst scenario is they kick a field goal and it’s tied at half.” Instead Kurt Warner throws a pick and James Harrison returns it for 100 yards for the touchdown.

The Lions bandwagon is completely full and it’s traveling at 225 mph. Right now it doesn’t look like there’s anyone that can stop it. That notion scares me because someone is going to derail it at some point. But who? What if it’s the Cowboys in the Big D? What if it’s not? I don’t know. But I do know I’m not going to get in front of the Lions bandwagon until someone else does.

New Orleans -7 over JACKSONVILLE
The Saints are without a doubt the scariest tam in the NFL to pick for and against. Their defense is so bad that an early deficit makes you wonder what you were thinking when you picked them to cover by a touchdown. But their offense works so quickly that they can come back and cover in two minutes like they did last week. Like Mikey McD tells Teddy KGB, “All right, I’m going to call you, or else I won’t respect myself tomorrow morning.” I’m picking the Saints because otherwise I won’t respect myself on Monday morning.

PHILADELPHIA -9 over San Francisco
Michael Vick says he’s good to go. But he also says that it’s everyone else’s fault that the Eagles are 1-2. Vick only wants to be in the spotlight when the Eagles are winning and when they are being called the “Dream Team” and when he is getting $100 million. When things are going bad and he’s getting blasted every time he hangs on to the ball, then he doesn’t want to hear or talk about it.

Last week at a wedding in Maine, I asked my friend Connor (the Eagles fan) if he would take the over or under on Michael Vick finishing 12.5 games this year. Vick has already failed to finish two of three, so I’m thinking I should hammer that under.

Washington -2 over ST. LOUIS
I think the Redskins are going to be a few games under .500 before we know it and all will be right with the world. Right now they’re 2-1 and when I have to pick their game I get that face when you try something for the first time and you’re trying to decide if you like it or not. I’m spitting the Redskins out. The only problem is I tried the Rams a while ago and I liked them less.

Tennessee 0 over CLEVELAND
Every week there is a game that puzzles me and I wonder, “How insane do you have to be to bet actual money on this game?” It’s always the game that turns out to be a lopsided score and it’s over by halftime and had you bet on it, you wouldn’t even have to check the score after the first quarter. This is that game. Instead you bet on something that seems more reasonable and it ends up coming down to the final drive or overtime.

Buffalo -3.5 over CINCINNATI
Peter King has the Bills at No. 7 in his Fine Fifteen. He has the Patriots at No. 3. The Bills are 3-0. The Patriots are 2-1. The Bills beat the Patriots! How does any of this make sense? Would it make you feel better if I told you that Peter King picks his Fine Fifteen out of hat? It would make me feel better if this were true. Come on, Peter. Just tell me: Do you pick your Fine Fifteen out of a hat?!?! You have to because there’s no way a reasonable person would create the order of teams you create every week.

Minnesota -2.5 over KANSAS CITY
This is the week that the Vikings get up by double digits and don’t lose. And if they do then they might as well cut Donovan McNabb and let someone else play the last 12 games of the season because enough is enough. Seriously. Enough is enough.

CHICAGO -6.5 over Carolina
Everyone thought the Bears were good when they embarrassed the Falcons at home in Week 1. Then we find out that the Falcons actually aren’t any good at all. The Bears have lost two games but they were to the Saints and the Packers. I don’t think Cam Newton is going to Soldier Field and throwing the ball around like he wants.

HOUSTON -3.5 over Pittsburgh
There isn’t a good defense in the NFL right now. The Steelers are built around their defense. This is a problem. This is especially a problem when you are a bad road team that was blown out by the Ravens on the road and nearly lost to the Curtis Painter Colts on the road. Now you’re going to Houston where Houston is trying to make the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history in what might be their only chance ever with Peyton Manning out for the year.

Atlanta -4.5 over SEATTLE
Only a few paragraphs I said the Falcons suck, and they do. The Seahawks just happen to really suck. (Never take an NFC West team. Unless it’s a divisional game and you are forced to. Even then I don’t like to even though it’s impossible not to.)

New York Giants -1 over ARIZONA
Every week before the lines come out, I try to guess what they will be, so I know what I think is good and what’s not for monetary purposes. I thought the Giants would be -7 after going on the road to Philly and winning with the Cardinals losing to the Seahawks! The first time I saw this line it was Giants -2. Now it’s Giants -1. Is this real life?

Miami +7 over SAN DIEGO
I never take the Chargers at home. Never. Except last week when I went against one of my pick rules and took the Chargers -14.5 and they almost lost. Like a fool going back and changing their answer on a multiple choice test, I didn’t trust my instincts and it cost me a pick. Right now that pick is the difference between me being one game over .500 and one game under .500.

GREEN BAY -12.5 over Denver
How is this line -17? No, I’m serious. The Packers have played three games and have won by 8, 7 and 10. They have scored 42, 30 and 27 points. They are looking for that one game where they just blow the doors off their opponent and Chris Berman is yelling, “Whoooooop! Whoooooop! Whoooooop!” on ESPN all day on Sunday and Monday. This is that game.

OAKLAND +4 over New England
The two hardest lines of the day happen to be the last two games of Sunday. This is the first one.

The Raiders played the late, late Monday Night Football game in Week 1. Then they played a 1:00 game in Buffalo the following Sunday. It was the quickest turnaround of any team in the league. They had a 21-3 lead against Buffalo at the half before blowing it. Fatigue? It very well could be. Now they are playing a Patriots team that also blew a 21-0 lead in Buffalo. What the eff is going on in Buffalo?

BALTIMORE -3.5 over New York Jets
This line is so hard. Like the Cowboys being a blocked punt away from 3-0, the Jets are a blocked punt from being 1-2. They went on the road last week and were terrible. Now they are going to Baltimore where the Ravens haven’t played since Week 1 when they beat the Steelers by 28. I’m going Ravens.

TAMPA BAY -10 over Indianapolis
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are -10. That’s insane. It’s also insane that I have no problem taking them at -10 against the Colts. I don’t think I will be taking the Colts once this entire year. If the Colts cover, so be it. Give me the loss. But I’m not about to pick them and lose.

LAST WEEK: 5-11-0
SEASON: 22-23-3

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