Carolina Panthers

NFL picks: Panthers over Saints? Not this Sunday

Tom, come back. This has been a fun ride. A great ride. I mean, just look at my record. But we miss you.

Well, most of us anyway. There are those who leave messages on my phone to thank me for replacing you, and if they’d leave a number for me to call back here’s what I’d tell them.

“Hey, guy. Appreciate the kind words, but this is Tom Sorensen’s column. I’m only here for a short time.”

“Well (insert some argument about how they’ve been upset with you for years over some throwaway quip you made in a column you don’t even remember you wrote.)”

“I understand. I understand. But I’ve been Tom long enough and I want to go back to being Jonathan Jones. Last week when I was in Tom’s native Minneapolis, I ate at Nye’s and saw a polka band. I’m from Shelby. I don’t polka.”

Now I’m in New Orleans, your favorite American city. It’s my third time down here but my first without you joining me for a po’ boy. Get back soon, buddy.

(Editor’s note: Tom is recovering from a fall and is expected to come off the Injured Reserve list soon.)

Last week: 10-6

Season: 120-62-1

Lock: The Dolphins came through for me. And I’ll pick against them this week since they made it too close against the Jets.

Season: 8-5

Upset: Rarely will I pick the Jaguars, but boy the Giants are bad.

Season: 8-5

This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS.

SAINTS 35, Panthers 17: The Saints have lost three straight at home and it’s impossible that they make it four. The Panthers haven’t played good football in two months, and there’s nothing that makes me believe they start this week. As bad as the NFC South has looked all season, watch New Orleans go on a roll and end up with a record of at least .500.

PACKERS 33, Falcons 21: Atlanta seems to have gotten some swagger back, but that ends this week in Green Bay. The Packers are the league’s best team (with the Patriots a close second), and Aaron Rodgers will start his December push for the MVP with this game.

The rest

Steelers 24, BENGALS 21

Rams 38, WASHINGTON 17

TITANS 14, Giants 10

VIKINGS 21, Jets 17

LIONS 38, Buccaneers 14

Texans 24, JAGUARS 17

BRONCOS 28, Bills 21

Chiefs 27, CARDINALS 21

Seahawks 24, EAGLES 18

49ers 40, RAIDERS 3

Patriots 24, CHARGERS 14

Upset of the week

Ravens (plus-3) 30, DOLPHINS 27: Maybe we were all wrong about Ryan Tannehill. The Miami quarterback has shown me a lot this year, but I don’t think he has enough to beat the Ravens. I love the AFC North this year, and that division is, in my opinion, the most competitive in football.

Lock of the week

Colts (minus-4) 35, BROWNS 21: This would be my upset of the week if the Browns would start Johnny Manziel. Instead, they go with Brian Hoyer and they become a goat. I don’t know if Johnny is the future of that franchise, but I have a lot of fun watching him. Start Manziel, pick the Browns. Sit him, hello Andrew Luck.