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It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was Week 13. Perhaps we spent way too much time reading into the point spreads, because while we were a very impressive 12-4 just picking the outright winners, we managed to get only six games right when we added in all those "extra points." That did us in quicker than you can say Taylor Mehlhaff.
To try to improve our performance, we're going to take part in one of the latest Internet memes making the rounds, which tells you: "Open up the nearest book to page 56. Write out the fifth sentence on that page." Well, it just so happens we're staring at our collection of Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" novels, so as we start flipping through the pages, here's the Week 14 rundown:
Tale of the Tape
Week 13, Straight Up:12-4 (Overall: 117-74-1)
Week 13, Versus the Spread:6-10 (Overall: 93-99)
Thursday, Dec. 4
Oakland at San Diego (-10½)
"I ain't telling you again, schlimazel," said Igor. -- A schlimazel is a born loser, and as the Raiders' commitment to excellence seems further and further away with each passing season, it's harder and harder to expect them to win too many games. Even the coaching stylings of a schlemiel like Norv Turner can't compete with the discord going on under Al Davis' regime.
Prediction: Chargers by 11Sunday, Dec. 7
Jacksonville at Chicago (-6½)
Steam was hissing from a few rivets, and occasionally the device went blup. -- That certainly sounds like a machine that simply isn't working the way it's supposed to, which pretty much sums up the season Jacksonville has had. The Jaguars were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. Instead, they can't move the ball at all behind a patchwork offensive line. Blup.
Prediction: Bears by 5
Minnesota at Detroit (+9½)
"Be afraid. Be very afraid." -- I'd be terrified if I were the Vikings this week. How are they going to deal with the potential loss of not one but both Williams boys? Oh, wait. That's right. They're playing the Lions. No worries, then.
Prediction: Vikings by 15
Houston at Green Bay (-6½)
He had to allow, though, that Dr. Cruces recovered very quickly. -- Matt Schaub is no Dr. Cruces, having taken his sweet time in getting back under center after a torn MCL. Still, it always takes a bit longer for a quarterback to get the proper timing down than a player coming back at another position, so we think Houston falls a bit short in Week 14.
Prediction: Packers by 10
Cleveland at Tennessee (-13½)
I thought you'd got rid of that thing, sir. -- Seriously? Ken Dorsey is still in the league? Did Cleveland forget where they left the frozen remains of Todd Philcox? And Kellen Winslow's out to boot? How is the line on this one less than two touchdowns?
Prediction: Titans by 16
Cincinnati at Indianapolis (-13½)
The royal parents had reached the thrones. -- Yeah, verily, as the Colts return to their kingdom and King Archie takes his seat in the luxury boxes to watch Sir Peyton of Manning hurl the oblong skin of heifer origination across the grassy chalk-lined field of play, there was much rejoicing throughout the land.
Prediction: Colts by 16
Atlanta at New Orleans (-3½)
Magic didn't shut. --Matt Ryan has been working his winning magic all season, but the Saints have Drew Brees and Marques Colston and Reggie Bush and Lance Moore and Jeremy Shockey. Sure, they may not be having a magical season, and we're not saying the Falcons won't be in this one all the way to the end. But at that end, don't think that magic did in fact shut. No, it just took a one-week vacation.
Prediction: Saints by 1
Philadelphia at Giants (-8½)
Oh, his lordship will have it all sorted out today. -- All of the controversy surrounding the Plaxico Burress situation, and then the whole Steve Smith incident, and it's easy for people to think the Giants may come into this game a bit distracted. Not so. Coach Tom Coughlin will have it all sorted out. This team will be focused. This team will be just fine.
Prediction: Giants by 9
Jets at San Francisco (+3½)
She'd just push her way back to the road and take no notice. -- Sure, the Jets looked bad at home against the Broncos. We're not concerned. Brett Favre isn't going to dwell on the loss, and neither is the rest of his team. They'll just get on the plane, get back on the road and get back on the winning track against the Niners.
Prediction: Jets by 8
Kansas City at Denver (-9½)
Look, that horse didn't really stand in midair, did it? -- Jay Cutler will throw the ball all over the field. Eddie Royal will sprint down the sidelines. Brandon Marshall will leap over defenders. Peyton Hillis will rush for 100 yards again. Believe or not, Denver's a playoff team, folks. The Broncos can pretty much do what they want against the Chiefs.
Prediction: Broncos by 11
Miami at Buffalo (-1½)
"Well, we think he's a bit weird about pins, to tell you the truth." -- This quote refers to a man's unhealthy obsession. It's kind of like the way Tony Sparano fell so in love with the Wildcat formation, he continues to use it even though it no longer fools anybody. This should be an entertaining battle, but in the end, we're going to go with a late Lee Evans touchdown grab to make the difference.
Prediction: Bills by 5
New England at Seattle (+5½)
"You mean you just see things that are really there?" -- Matt Cassel is not Tom Brady. The comparison is both ludicrous and unfair. However, that doesn't mean that the Patriots aren't a playoff team right now with their current quarterback. Certainly, against the lesser teams of the NFL, like the Seahawks, there's no reason to expect them to do anything but win.
Prediction: Patriots by 8
St. Louis at Arizona (-13½)
"Er [e] this would obviously be a good time to catch up on my reading, obviously." -- If Arizona shows up to play, this one should be well in the books by halftime. A far better challenge would be predicting whether Larry Fitzgerald and Tim Hightower outscore Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, or vice versa.
Prediction: Cardinals by 21
Dallas at Pittsburgh (-2½)
"History repeating," said Lu-Tze. -- These two teams squared off in the Super Bowl in 1976 and 1979, and both times the Steelers emerged victorious. While this game is not nearly as important, neither team is in any position to leave this contest with a loss. We say the Steelers emerge victorious. History repeating.
Prediction: Steelers by 7
Washington at Baltimore (-5½)
For nasal vision meant seeing through time as well as space. -- In other words, sometimes the stink of failure lingers long after the participants have moved on, both literally and figuratively, from the scene of a disastrous outing. The Redskins had such a sad showing against the Giants that I can't imagine that it doesn't carry over to this week's trip to meet the Ravens, so we'll make our pick accordingly.
Prediction: Ravens by 12
Monday, Dec. 8
Tampa Bay at Carolina (-3½)
"Just like us," said Mr. Tulip. -- Tampa Bay has nine wins. Carolina has nine wins. Tampa Bay has a team quarterback rating less than 85. Carolina has a team quarterback rating less than 85. Tampa Bay is undefeated at home. Carolina is undefeated at home [e] and that's what gives them the ever-so-slight edge.
Prediction: Panthers by 1
The ESPN Eliminator requires that you make one and only one pick each week. You win and you live to pick again. You lose and it's all over. In Week 13, we won with our top pick, the Ravens, as well as the Turkey Day victors, the Cowboys and Titans. Miami also pulled out a close one, leaving the Jets as our only poor choice. That left us with 13 out of 15 possible points, and our overall rating rose to 79 percent for the season. That's pretty good in my book, be it on page 56 or anywhere else, for that matter. This week, we're going to steer clear of the Vikings due to the drama surrounding the suspensions there and put all our eggs in the basket of Kurt Warner. Yes, Steven Jackson appears healthy for the Rams, but unless he's also going to be able to cover Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, he's not going to be able to win the game all by himself. In the event you've already used Arizona, here's the full listing of our top picks for this week's Eliminator, in order of our confidence:
DEFCON 3: Chargers
DEFCON 2: Ravens
DEFCON 1: Packers
Good luck to all of you, and remember, in the words of Groucho Marx: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."
AJ Mass is a fantasy football, baseball and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.