MINNEAPOLIS — This is the one. If the Carolina Panthers beat Minnesota on Sunday they double their victory total.
If they lose, it’s 2011 and 2012 again. You can’t lose September and October and expect anything good to happen.
The Panthers are 1-3. Do you know what are the odds are of a team with a record of 1-4 making the playoffs? The odds for the Panthers are no chance whatsoever.
I don’t know if fans at Mall of America Field, where the Panthers play the Vikings, make more noise than fans in Seattle or New Orleans or Dallas. But the noise has nowhere to go. The volume is enhanced by the motorcycle riding Viking mascot blowing a horn you’ll hear until Wednesday.
The 1-3 Vikings have yet to win a game in the U.S. this season but are the greatest NFL team in all of England. If Carolina beats them, those of us who aren’t total cynics will be free to envision the Panthers beating St. Louis next week and Tampa Bay the week after. Then they get Atlanta at home, and with a weak offensive line, and without the great Julio Jones, Atlanta isn’t Atlanta anymore.
I’ve picked the Panthers correctly once all season, in their opening-day loss to Seattle. But I have picked my upset not one, not two, but three weeks in a row.
Let’s go for four.
Upset of the Week: Carolina (plus-2 1/2) 23, MINNESOTA 20
Last Week: 9-5
Upset of the Week: Picked heroic Indianapolis (+ 2½) to upset Seattle. The Colts won by six.
Lock of the Week: Picked heroic Philadelphia (+2) to beat the New York Giants. The Eagles won by 15.
This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS:
HOUSTON 28, St. Louis 20: Is it true that a Houston fan went to the house of struggling quarterback Matt Schaub and took pictures and yelled obscenities? Reports conflict; I’ve yet to see proof. But there is proof that thousands of psychopaths have no perspective, and this is the kind of thing they feel entitled to do.
New Orleans 37, NEW ENGLAND 35: There’s little reason to pick against an undefeated team.
DENVER 47, Jacksonville 7: The game will be closer than the score.
Philadelphia 24, TAMPA BAY 20: Some college coaches, like some college players, will succeed in the NFL. I suspect Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly will be one of them. Some can’t. Tampa Bay’s Greg Schiano is one of those. When I look at Schiano I see a guy with a whistle around his neck patrolling the middle school hallways searching for a miscreant to scream at.
KANSAS CITY 23, Oakland 16
Green Bay 31, BALTIMORE 29
Detroit 27, CLEVELAND 26
NEW YORK JETS 10, Pittsburgh 9
Cincinnati 26, BUFFALO 20
SEATTLE 31, Tennessee 20
SAN FRANCISCO 27, Arizona 16
Indianapolis 30, SAN DIEGO 24
Lock of the week
DALLAS (minus-5 1/2) 33, Washington 24: Odds aren’t based on reality. The New York Giants were favored against the Eagles last week because, darn it, they shouldn’t lose their first five games. The Redskins have been terrible and, on the road against a decent team, the odds should reflect that. They don’t. Thanks.