I’ve spent more time assessing the Carolina-New Orleans game than I have any game this season.
I don’t like to do that. I don’t look at the picks other people make until after I make mine. I don’t look at trends. I look at numbers, but dismiss most of them.
The Saints are 6-0 at home this season and have won by an average of more than 17 points. Three of the teams they’ve beaten currently have winning records – Arizona, Dallas and San Francisco.
I believe in instinct. You feel it or you don’t. The Panthers have won eight straight and I’ve picked them to win all eight. They were underdogs in only two of the games – at Minnesota and at San Francisco.
They’re underdogs again Sunday. If I pick the Panthers, it’s not because I think a victory by the visitors is a better story. I’m not going to sacrifice my record to placate anybody.
New Orleans is a tough place for a visitor to win. I’ve seen most of the games the Panthers have played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Fans dress coolly and crazily, invoke secret voodoo stuff, and the players feed off the crowd and the crowd off the players.
But Saints did play Monday night. And their airplane broke and they didn’t return until Tuesday. And they were beaten up a little by Seattle. And the Panthers are doing whatever is required to win. And they will get to quarterback Drew Brees. And rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is having a fine season and he is going to have a fine, and difference making, game.
Carolina 27, NEW ORLEANS 24
Last Week: 12-4
There’s one guy from USA Today who is a half-game ahead of me. He counted the Minnesota-Green Bay game as a tie. I took it as a loss. I hate ethics.
Upset of the Week: Picked Miami (plus 2) to upset the New York Jets. Miami won by 20.
Lock of the Week: Picked New England (minus 71/2) to cover against Houston. The Patriots won by a mere three.
This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS:
Seattle 24, SAN FRANCISCO 23: Even if DeAngelo Williams hadn’t fumbled in the opener, Seattle would have beaten the Panthers. By the end of the game, Seattle’s offense was tougher than Carolina’s defense. Carolina couldn’t stop the Seahawks. How compelling will it be if they play again?
PHILADELPHIA 31, Detroit 28: The Panthers snuck up on people and then they were discovered. The Eagles will soon join them.
Kansas City 20, WASHINGTON 13: The whispers in Washington have become a din: Bring back Spurrier or, you know, somebody else.
GREEN BAY 19, Atlanta 17
BALTIMORE 24, Minnesota 17
TAMPA BAY 24, Buffalo 20
PITTSBURGH 23, Miami 19
CINCINNATI 24, Indianapolis 23
NEW ENGLAND 35, Cleveland 24
DENVER 34, Tennessee 20
SAN DIEGO 29, New York Giants 27
ARIZONA 23, St. Louis 21
Upset of the week
Oakland (plus 3) 9, N.Y. JETS 7: I tell my kids: Find something you want to do, work hard to get in position to do it, tip 25 percent unless the service is poor, and bet against the Jets.
Lock of the week
Dallas (plus 1) 27, CHICAGO 23: Tampa Bay (minus 21/2) also is tempting. But I don’t trust Jay Cutler, not now, and I kind of like the Cowboys.