By Neil Keefe
» More columns

The season is half over. Well kind of. I’m well aware that 17 divided by 2 doesn’t equal 8. So I can either call this week the halfway point or next week. I’m going to say it’s this week because it makes more sense to me.

It makes more sense to me because it’s the first week of games in November because the Giants begin the Gauntlet this week, because the Jets kick off back-to-back weeks of divisional games, because this is where we separate the contenders from the pretenders and because this is where my picks turn around.

I have a .578 winning percentage with my picks when I write them for Thursday and a .405 winning percentage when I write them for Friday. I decided to go back with what works and have them done for Thursday in an attempt to get this thing back to .500 and then over .500 for the rest of the way. (I also would have had to do them for Thursday in Week 10 anyway with Thursday Night Football starting up.)

Now that my picks are back on Thursday, you can expect big things. That’s right I’m guaranteeing an over .500 week in Week 9 because that’s how confident I feel on Thursdays. I haven’t thrown out a guarantee like that since Week 2 when I said, “I do hold myself accountable [for Week 1] and will come back stronger in Week 2.” And after that guarantee I went 11-4-1. I’m not trying to toot my own horn because outside of that week I have gone 40-54-6. Yes, the first half of the 2011 season has been a disaster.

On Tuesday, Mike Francesa asked Brian Cashman if 2010 and 2011 were who A.J. Burnett is at this point, and Cashman answered, “It very well might be, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it.”

Well, the same goes for me. I don’t have to accept who I have been for the first eight weeks of the season because I know that’s not me, and I’m not going to accept this because it’s unacceptable. And it all starts this week…

Week 9 … let’s go!

(Home team in caps)

Atlanta -7 over INDIANAPOLIS
Somewhere someone is going to pick the Colts to win this game outright, and when they win they are going to make a bundle of money. That somewhere isn’t here and that someone isn’t me.

Tampa Bay +8.5 over NEW ORLEANS
I have a hard time taking the Buccaneers with the Saints coming off an embarrassing loss to the winless Rams. But I think this line is a little high because of that exact reason (the Saints coming off a big loss). Luckily I don’t need the Bucs to win. I just need them to lose by less than nine.

Cleveland +11 over HOUSTON
The Texans are 5-3 and sitting in first place in the AFC South. Hey, I have seen this movie before. The Titans go 4-4 down the stretch and the Colts win out and win the AFC South and the Titans miss the playoffs again.

The only difference is that the Colts aren’t coming back to run the table. Well they are trying to run the table, just with losses. The problem is the Texans have never really been in this position before. Sure they have been in first place at this point before only to self implode. But they have never been in position to run away with the division with the Colts out of the picture, the Jaguars being pretty awful and the Titans not being good enough to get it done.

I think the Texans are going to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history this year. I just think they are going to make their fans go through a few bottles of whiskey each week doing it.

New York Jets +2 over BUFFALO
For some reason I believe in this Jets. I don’t know why. I’m not even a Jets fan and I don’t even like the Jets. But there is something about this team that I trust even at 4-3, and well, the Bills are still the Bills. At some point the Bills will remember they are still the Bills and that will likely start to happen this week.

KANSAS CITY -4 over Miami
The Dolphins aren’t good. The Dolphins had chances to win in the Meadowlands against the Jets and at home against the Broncos and in the Meadowlands again against the Giants. They lost all three games. They have lost all of their games. Now they are in full tank mode with Andrew Luck as the grand prize, and a game at Arrowhead with what I consider the best atmosphere in football tasting sole possession for first place in the AFC West, well let’s just say this one won’t be pretty and should be a lot more than a four-point spread.

San Francisco -3.5 over WASHINGTON
My hatred for the 49ers is well documented through the first eight weeks of picks.

I have said this about the 49ers…

No team has screwed me over the last two years more than the 49ers. (Actually the Eagles might have something to say about that.) So while the rest of the country is falling in love with the revival of the 49ers, I’m not. I have had Alex Smith ruin my picks too many times to begin to put faith into him now. Yes, I’m being stubborn and will continue to be with the Eagles and the 49ers, but at some point things have to change for the better for me. Don’t they?

And this…

Vegas still isn’t completely sold that the 49ers are terrible and that they are being overhyped for yet another season.

And last week I said this…

I don’t know what to make of the 49ers. I know what everyone else is making of them and I can’t see through the fog and the hype and decide if they are for real yet despite having my windows down, the front and rear defrosters on and the windshield wipers going. And I can’t figure it out because the 49ers have destroyed me in every imaginable way over the last few years, and they will likely again this week.

Then I picked the Browns +9 in San Francisco and the 49ers won by 10. Uncle! Uncle! Uncle! I’m tapping out, San Francisco! Please, stop! Please!

(I know taking the 49ers goes against my rule of always picking against NFC West teams on the road.)

DALLAS -12 over Seattle
I’m not sure what happened in the Cowboys-Eagles game on Sunday Night Football because I was on an Amtrak train back from Boston (I didn’t have the coffee just to tell you about it like Peter King would), but there’s no way to sugarcoat a final score of 34-7. I went back and read the play-by-play for the game, and the Cowboys were brutally dominated. That loss hurts on a few levels:

1. I would rather have the Cowboys one game behind the Giants in the division with the Eagles three games back of the Giants in the division than having both teams two games back in the division.

2. I hate both the Cowboys and the Eagles, so my wish for a tie didn’t come true.

3. I have been writing week after week how the Cowboys are better than their record says they are. A 27-point loss on national TV isn’t going to help my theory.

The Seahawks have scored 17, 0, 36 and 3 points on the road. Guess who those 36 points came against? Ladies and gentlemen, your New York Football Giants! That one win is still giving the Seahawks some respect on the lines and keeping lines like this one from being over two touchdowns against “America’s Team” and against a team that America loves to bet for.

OAKLAND -8 over Denver
No one in the Broncos front office wants Tim Tebow to succeed. They feel like they have to start him to prove to the fans that this isn’t the answer to the future of the franchise and there was no better time to do that than in a season that was already lost. So, Kyle Orton has to sit on the sidelines and watch this somewhat of a publicity stunt take place, in order for the Broncos coaching staff to prove a point.

On Sunday night, I watched the ESPN football crew go around the table and talk about Tim Tebow and just absolutely bash him. Tom Jackson, Cris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson and Mike Ditka ripped Tebow apart like Bobby Knight would do to one of his Indiana teams at halftime. It was the first time I felt bad for someone who has generated so much attention the last few years.

I don’t care what Tim Tebow does or doesn’t do because the Broncos don’t play the Giants and his career doesn’t impact the Giants. The only thing I want him to do is play like he did against the Lions last week in Oakland this week.

Cincinnati +3 over TENNESSEE
If Carson Palmer didn’t want out of Cincinnati so bad he would probably be starting over Andy Dalton right now and the Bengals probably wouldn’t be 5-2. Fortunately for Cincinnati he’s now In Oakland, and unfortunately for Oakland he’s now in Oakland.

St. Louis +3 over ARIZONA
I might be a week too late on the Rams. I wanted to take them last week. I even wrote two paragraphs about their game against the Saints and how I had this feeling they would win and then I erased it all because I thought it was too radical and I didn’t want people to think of me differently. Instead I wrote:

For some weird reason I want to take the Rams +14 here. But when I look at their schedule and see 0-6 with their average loss by 19 points I really can’t justify taking them in any way. Then when I factor in the Saints’ Sunday night massacre of the also-winless Colts, this game just feels too easy.

If someone told you they participated in Occupy Wall Street you would probably look at them differently and probably wouldn’t want to be friends with them anymore, and if I sat here and told you that I’m picking the Rams over the Saints because of a gut feeling you probably wouldn’t want to read anything I write anymore. So even though my gut feeling was right I changed my answer like I know I did a on a bunch of questions on the SATs, I will gladly take the loss the Rams handed me knowing that people don’t think I’m some freak.

New York Giants +8.5 over NEW ENGLAND
I have been waiting for this day for almost four years. I have spent more time in the last week watching the Tyree catch and Plaxico touchdown than I have spent doing anything else. Normal? No, probably not. But I don’t care. This is the game that I have looked forward to all year.

It will be devastating if Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw don’t play because I know that at full strength the Giants are better than the Patriots. The last time the Giants were this much of an underdog was Super Bowl XLII when they were getting 12.5 points. How did that one turn out?

Green Bay -6 over SAN DIEGO
I’m in this pick ’em pool with 52 people where you have to pick every game straight up every week. After a game starts you can see what everyone else picked. When the Chiefs-Chargers game started I scrolled through the list and just kept laughing at everyone who picked the Chargers and nearly everyone did.

I know that most people don’t like Tiger Woods or Michael Vick or Ben Roethlisberger for their off-field actions. But is there another athlete that the entire world dislikes more than Philip Rivers for a guy that has never done anything wrong off the field other than wearing jeans and flannel shirts during postgame press conferences?

According to Wikipedia, Rivers married his junior high school sweetheart and they have four daughters, and he’s a Catholic that speaks to youth about spirituality. The worst thing he has ever done is skip the Pro Bowl for the birth of one of his children yet everyone hates him. (Yes, he did taunt Colts fans once, but he should be praised for this and not hated.) It’s remarkable.

I know I don’t like him, but it’s because I’m tired of hearing people say that Giants shouldn’t have traded him for Eli Manning and for everyone always placing Rivers ahead of Manning when ranking quarterbacks. So, Giants fans have a right to dislike him. What’s the rest of the world’s reason?

This week the Packers are coming off a bye week and looking to improve to 8-0 and continue to be the best team in the NFL. I don’t want to say that a loss in San Diego and a 7-1 record wouldn’t still make them the best team, but they wouldn’t be in their own tier anymore with a loss against Norv Turner and Philip Rivers.

PITTSBURGH -3.5 over Baltimore
Are the Steelers finally back or do the Patriots just really, really, really suck? I’m going to say the Patriots just really, really, really suck. Before exposing the Patriots’ flaws for the rest of the football world to see, the Steelers beat the Cardinals, Jaguars, Titans, Colts and Seahawks and lost to the Texans and Ravens. So, while the Steelers have gotten fat off their cupcake games and lost two of their games against contenders, I still like them this week. I still like them because I always like the home team when the Steelers and Ravens meet (even though I took the Steelers in Week 1 when they lost by 28 in Baltimore). And I still like them because Joe Flacco is still Ravens quarterback.

Chicago +8 over PHILADELPHIA
I like this line. I like it a lot (Lloyd Christmas voice). I would make it my Upset of the Week if the Giants weren’t playing against the Patriots. This line is a product of Maybe The Eagles Are Who We Thought They Were performance from Sunday Night Football. I get the feeling that the Eagles think their season is saved because they embarrassed the Cowboys on national TV, and I love that the Eagles are thinking like that (if they are really thinking like that). Right now the Eagles are Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) taking Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) down the elevator at the end of The Departed, but they aren’t prepared to get shot in the head when the elevator door opens. The Bears have a chance to deliver a dagger to the Eagles and force them to go 7-1 in their last eight games. Make it happen.

Last Week: 5-8-0
Season: 51-58-7

Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilKeefe