We were cruising last week. My upset, the Carolina Panthers, a one-point underdog at home against Tampa Bay, appeared to control their game.
My dog’s Lock of the Week, the Detroit Lions getting 3 1/2 points at home against Green Bay, was all but certain. The Lions led by six with two minutes remaining. The Lock would have been Taz’s third without a miss.
Then the Panthers lost their confidence and their poise and, in overtime, their game.
The Lions gave up a touchdown with 1 minute, 55 seconds left but still trailed by only a point. And then, as they tried to move within field goal range, they lost 5 yards in four plays. The Packers kicked a field goal with 19 seconds remaining. They won by four. For the first time, and by a mere half point, Taz was a loser. So:
Last week: 10-3
Lock: 3-8 for the season.
Upset: 5-6 for the season.
This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS:
Carolina 24, PHILADELPHIA 21
As badly as the Panthers have struggled, they haven’t stopped working. I’ve heard from fans that the team no longer plays hard. You can tell when a team is tanking. The Panthers aren’t tanking. Their issue is that when they have to make a play to win a game they fail to make it. They haven’t quit on coach Ron Rivera. They simply lack late-game confidence and poise.
The Eagles, meanwhile, looked as if they quit last week against Washington. As poor as Carolina’s offensive line has played, Philadelphia’s injury-depleted line is worse. This is a game the Panthers ought to win.
CINCINNATI 31, Oakland 20
Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer returns to Cincinnati. You can never go home again.
San Francisco 27, NEW ORLEANS 26
I like the Saints despite the foolish, unethical and beloved bounty system they made theirs. New Orleans plays the way some of us believed the Panthers would. Just roll out the ball and go. The offense is a perpetual fast break, and quarterback Drew Brees is the point guard. Alas, I can’t envision the Saints repeatedly rolling downfield against a defense as talented and as sound as San Francisco’s.
NEW YORK GIANTS 33, Green Bay 31
As the season winds down will the Giants and Packers supplant Atlanta and San Francisco as the NFC’s two best teams?
Denver 31, KANSAS CITY 13
CHICAGO 28, Minnesota 26
Pittsburgh 21, CLEVELAND 20
Tennessee 24, JACKSONVILLE 23
Seattle 23, MIAMI 21
Baltimore 30, SAN DIEGO 28
ARIZONA 24, St. Louis 20
Upset: TAMPA BAY (+1) 29, Atlanta 28
I don’t even like the Bucs.
Lock: Buffalo (+3) 27, INDIANAPOLIS 26
You know the story. My Lock was so pathetic that I turned it over to my greyhound. He was two-for-two. A reader said that if he won again he wanted to rent him. And then Detroit betrayed Taz. I create a card for each team that plays Sunday and Monday, divide them into six groups of four and five, and stick a treat atop each. A winner advances from each group. Two finalists advance from the six. They were San Francisco and Buffalo. Taz inexplicably picked the Bills. He retired from racing. If he misses this one, he’ll retire from prognostication.