Note: Every week, I pick games against the spread on the Michael Irvin Show on ESPN Radio, and I'm putting them on our blog.
This week is the midway point for the season, and it's time to start taking stock. Some teams that were out of it three weeks ago (the Browns) are suddenly back in the thick of the playoff race. Some surprise teams (the Titans, the Patriots without Brady) have started to rise. And other teams (the Seahawks) are just out of it. And then there are the two biggest mysteries to me: The Colts and the Cowboys. Both look like they could either take off or fall apart at any point. This week, we'll get an idea of which way they're going. (My picks in bold.)
Houston Texans at Minnesota Vikings -4.5
The Texans haven't played a road game since Sept. 28, and I'm wondering if they're the first NFL team to play four consecutive regular season games at home. They're on the road against a team that runs the ball well (the Texans have given up the second most rushing TDs this season) and that can stop the run.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns -1
Gotta love these struggling teams and their trick plays. The Dolphins direct snapped to Ronnie Brown, the Ravens used two-quarterback sets, and now the Browns are talking about using Shaun Rogers as a fullback. The Ravens have given up 11 points per game at home; 22 on the road.
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts -6
I never bet based on things that "can't possibly happen." I mean, the Chargers couldn't possibly start 3-5; the Titans couldn't possibly have a four-game AFC South lead in Week 8. But I'm (probably foolishly) breaking my rule this week and going with a team whose season, I can't believe, will end Nov. 2 if they lose. Look for Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne to make the Pats pay in the deep middle with the lose of Rodney Harrison.
Arizona Cardinals -3 at St. Louis Rams
This is a "must-win" game for the Rams; But their season was over weeks ago, so that's irrelevant. The Cardinals have Anquan Boldin back, and only one team gives up more yards per pass attempt than the Rams.
Philadelphia Eagles -6.5 at Seattle Seahawks
Since Donovan McNabb called out his team, they've had two big wins against bad and mediocre teams. They get another bad team this weekend. The Seahawks' defense is starting to match its offense injury-for-injury.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants -9
When was the last time the Cowboys were 9-point underdogs? 2005? But right now, they're using T.O. as a possession receiver, and they're talking about just getting through to the bye week. Meanwhile, the Giants have won three of their four home games by 9 or more.
Last week: 3-1-1. Season: 25-17-2.