Do you play golf? At all?
No, this is not a Tiger Woods column. (As if a Tiger Woods column is a golf column these days anyway.)
If you've ever played golf, I assume you're lousy. I am lousy. Like, stand-well-behind-me-when-I-hit-it-just-to-be-safe lousy. Once in my miserable golfing life, though, I sculled some tee shot at a par-3 hole which bounded off the fairway, rolled 100 or so yards, skidded through a sand trap, trickled onto the green and came to rest within three inches of the hole.
I didn't want to tap in. I wanted time to stop. I wanted to live for all eternity in that picture of my own completely accidental excellence. But the time-space continuum didn't work that way back then. There was no Internet. I tapped in, wrote "2" on my card, went on to shoot about 114, and only my dear brother Sam knows for sure that it happened.
Well, here I am again. Wanting to live forever in some accidental excellence. And here it was, a week ago at this very hour on these very hallowed pages:
"Broncos at Colts (-7).
"I don't like the Colts any more than you do. They're so consistently good that they're antiseptic, like the lobby of a brand-new business hotel. It's not objectionable in any way you can enunciate, but you wouldn't want to live there permanently. Still, you check in and think, 'At least it's new. And clean.' Joyless but effective.
"Colts 28, Broncos 16."
The most obnoxious person I've ever known once told me that if you don't toot your own horn there won't be any music playing. That guy is so wretchedly obnoxious, he makes me sick. And here I am taking his advice. This can't mean good things for this week's picks.
Time to sully my second-ever moment of accidental genius with some more random stabs at prescience!
Colts (-3) at Jaguars
Oh, great. Right off the bat, a chance to miss the three-inch putt for birdie.
Colts 27, Jaguars 20. If this keyboard were a golf club, it would already be wrapped around a tree.
Cowboys (+7) at Saints
Having already fulfilled half their promise to stink in December, the Cowboys have a unique opportunity to spoil the feel-good story of the year while still totally blowing their season in the end. Have you noticed that the Saints are kind of sucking air here lately?
Cowboys 28, Saints 27. Don't worry. Dallas winds up hating itself in the end.
Patriots (-7) at Bills
There are two factors in play here: The Patriots still get too much respect, and the Bills don't get enough disrespect, given that they're truly lousy and going nowhere. It makes for a dicey prognostication situation, so let's roll the dice.
Patriots 30, Bills 18. The dice rarely lie, although they don't always tell the whole truth.
Cardinals (-12) at Lions
The good thing about having extremely limited credibility is that you have nothing to lose. However, not even I could take Detroit and the points here. The drop-off from their pinnacle win against Cleveland has been severe, which doesn't seem possible given what a meager pinnacle it was.
Cardinals 31, Lions 6. Viva Johnnie Barefield.
Bears at Ravens (-11)
If Jay Cutler were the Eagles quarterback, the NFL would have its first-ever entry on the injured-reserve list because of booing.
Ravens 26, Bears 13. "PHI: Cutler, QB, Out (hurt feelings)."
Browns at Chiefs (-11/2)
It's a pity someone has to win this game.
Chiefs 19, Browns 11. Brady Quinn's losses should go on Notre Dame's record. Nice photo shoot before you were any good, dude.
Bengals at Chargers (-61/2)
For those of you keeping track, this is the only Sunday game featuring two teams with winning records. And it appears that the Chargers are the best team in the league at this point. That's how they will continue to appear until some point in January, when they completely disappoint everyone who has jumped on their bandwagon.
Chargers 31, Bengals 20. What goes up (in San Diego) must come down (on the road in the playoffs).
Raiders at Broncos (-14)
With Gradkowski Fever cooled for the rest of the season, Oakland is left with the JaMarcus Russell blues. And bettors are left to give, give, give.
Broncos 28, Raiders 6.
Packers (+1) at Steelers
So it turns out that Green Bay was right about Aaron Rodgers and wrong about Brett Favre?
Packers 21, Steelers 17. Put a fork in Pittsburgh.
Bucs (+7) at Seahawks
Ahhh, the not-awaited matchup of 1976's expansion teams, both of which have reverted to infancy. They both stink, Seattle slightly less. Slightly.
Seahawks 17, Bucs 15. Shouldn't there be some disclaimer about the side effects of watching this game?
Falcons (+6) at Jets
Look at those Jets fans, revitalized by the outside possibility of the mathematic possibility of a playoff birth that will not come. It's not nice to be humored by the Quixotic fantasies of downtrodden people from Long Island.
Falcons 23, Jets 16. I'm not nice.
Dolphins at Titans (-4)
Much as I'd love to pick Miami (the helmet, the Wildcat, the Ricky Williams), I simply cannot. Tennessee is coming off a bye-week-for-credit (a.k.a. a game against the Rams), and whatever it was that made Vince Young a total winner at Texas is still there. Plus, there's the Bud Adams one-finger-salute factor.
Titans 27, Dolphins 21. Scientific, really.
Vikings (-9) at Panthers
The nightmare that will be Brett Favre's march to the Super Bowl has only just begun. It feels as if it started three years ago (it did), and it feels as if it will never end (it will).
Vikings 31, Panthers 19.
49ers (+9) at Eagles
Now that we're through wondering how great Donovan McNabb is (he's totally great), it's time for a bit of a letdown after the supreme pleasure of dispatching the Giants at home in a must-win game (for the Giants). This will be ugly, and doubters and whiners will emerge via radio and the Internet, but relax. It's all part of nature's plan for the Eagles.
Eagles 30, 49ers 24. It would be helpful if Philly would play some consistent defense.
Giants (-3) at Redskins
The Giants can't stop anybody, but Washington is about half a step north of abjectly terrible.
Giants 35, Redskins 27. It won't matter in the end.
No matter how it goes this weekend, remember, at least you're not Tiger Woods.