Hello and "bienvenido" to a very special NFL Week 13 picks against the spread.
Why is it special? Because I'm willing to bet (who doesn't love puns?) that it's the only one you'll read this week—and maybe even this year—that was written entirely in Mexico.
That's right. After starting my season-ending six-week challenge on the right foot, I felt it was only right to give myself some serious R and R in the Yucatan peninsula.
So enjoy your Thanksgiving with your family. I'll be at the bar getting my money back in complimentary margaritas.
Last Week: 9-5
Six-Week Challenge Record: 9-5
All lines are courtesy of Footballlocks.com. All advanced stats and rankings are provided by Pro Football Focus and require a subscription.
The Detroit Lions haven't been shooting themselves in the foot, they've been blowing their leg off with a cruise missile.
Detroit has turned the ball over 13 times in the last four games. If it wasn't for the Lions' dramatic win over the Cowboys, this team would be sitting under .500.
That doesn't mean the Lions are a bad team. It just means they aren't a good one. Thus, grabbing those points and hoping for an Aaron Rodgers return feels much more palatable than continuing to pound my head against the wall.
Pick: Green Bay +5.5
So the Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Giants in overtime and I'm supposed to start laying more than a touchdown? Um, what?
Sure, the Oakland Raiders aren't world-beaters either, but they can be frisky. And since when does Dallas deliver when it is supposed to?
This line is at least two points too high. Wouldn't it be just like the Cowboys to blow a nationally televised game where they are heavily favored? Or at least make it way too close for comfort like they did against the Vikings?
Pick: Oakland -9.5
None of the teams previewed thus far have stood out, but the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers combine to bring an awful lot of funk.
The defenses aren't what they used to be, although Baltimore hasn't fallen as far as its rival. Shutting down the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills aren't exactly indicators of future success.
In the end, just hold your nose and take the points. Or better yet, stay away.
Pick: Pittsburgh +3
A part of me is worried about a statement game from the Indianapolis Colts. They're not as bad as last week's 29-point beatdown. This will be a week of fiery comments from team leaders and intense practices.
But the majority of me has seen the Colts play the comeback game too much to trust them. Indy is the quintessential play-to-the-level-of-the-competition team. Those types of teams don't get picked with larger-than-a-field goal spreads.
Plus, if Indy does fall behind, Andrew Luck will have to attempt to pass the Colts back into the game against a good passing defense that can border on great. If the Tennessee Titans can find a way to string a few first downs and touchdowns together, the Colts might breath some life into the Titans' AFC South hopes.
Pick: Tennessee +4.5
I understand that Arrowhead Stadium is a tough place to play. I also understand that more than a field goal on the road against a 9-2 team seems a bit daunting.
Not when you're dealing with a ticked-off Peyton Manning coming off a loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots. Regardless of what he may say publicly, you know that Manning is too competitive to just dismiss the debate about whether he or Brady is greater.
So, Manning will do the only thing he can: shred a Kansas City Chiefs defense that will likely be missing pass-rushing extraordinaires Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
Pick: Denver -3.5
I'm back to taking the points, but this pick feels different. There's a legitimate lack of fear here.
After a few good efforts, Cleveland is "Browns-ing" hard, and last week's trouncing at the hands of the Steelers was played at home.
That's not good.
It doesn't hurt that the Jaguars have won two of their last three games. Don't get me wrong, this Jacksonville team isn't good. However, the players seem to be responding to head coach Gus Bradley and his system might actually be paying dividends.
Or they might not be and I'm just trying to inject some optimism into an otherwise dismal season.
Call it what you will. Just give me the points.
Pick: Jacksonville +7
Last week's win could turn out to be fool's gold for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They can't expect to force five turnovers every week.
Against a good Carolina Panthers team on the road, that may be the only possible way they keep this game close. Tampa Bay is not a respectable team because it beat the shell-shocked Dolphins, hapless Falcons and one-legged Lions.
Oh, and the last game before Tampa Bay's recent three-game run? A 31-13 pounding at home to the Panthers. Now, Carolina has a real shot at grabbing a first-round bye with the No. 2 seed. The Panthers won't be coming out flat.
Pick: Carolina -8.5
If Vegas had been nice enough to give the Minnesota Vikings an extra half-point to take this to an even field goal, I might have rolled the dice with the home dog.
But knowing that the Chicago Bears can do their best Colts' impersonation, come out flatter than a college kegger and still cover the spread with a late-game dose of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall is too much.
Besides, the Vikings just got semi-owned by Matt Flynn, who was last seen getting beat out by three different rookie or second-year passers, one of which isn't even a starter anymore. I can't get behind that, not even for a couple points.
Pick: Chicago -2.5
Maybe the Vegas oddsmakers were too enthralled with their math class to bother glancing at a globe and think an East Coast bias is appropriate.
Maybe it's because I live in Phoenix and am too close to the story to discern what's real and what's a mirage.
But the Arizona Cardinals are good and shouldn't be getting more than three points against any NFC East team.
If any defense stands a chance of rattling Chip Kelly and his protege, Nick Foles, it's the Cardinals. They shut down the run, get after the quarterback and have a couple serious playmakers in the secondary.
In addition, Carson Palmer has been showing out lately. Trust me, I can't believe I just typed that either, but he has eight touchdown and only two picks in his last four games to earn three 110+ passer ratings during that span.
Pick: Arizona +3.5
There is no way I'm taking the Atlanta Falcons on the road. Honestly, I mean, no way.
OK, maybe if there was a one in front of the three, I'd give it some consideration. But even then, I wouldn't feel good about it.
Last week's close loss to the Saints had "last gasp" written all over it. The Falcons gave everything they had against a bitter rival and still lost. That's deflating.
Next, the Falcons have to travel to getting-colder-every-day Buffalo and muster the energy to not only get out of bed, but to also play a football game.
Basically, anything less than 10 points with Atlanta on the road means I'm going the other way. It's a long way to the bottom, but at least the trip is over for Falcons fans.
Pick: Buffalo -3.5
I've enjoyed taking the points a lot this week, but no mas. Sorry, once you have a few margaritas, the local culture just starts to seep in.
But, honestly, this game is one of those avoid-at-all-costs games, meaning there is no way to feel good about either team unless you're delusional or a die-hard fan of that team. Even then, I'm assuming you're drunk if you feel any sort of confidence.
The New York Jets have Geno Smith at quarterback, who hasn't met a bad decision that he didn't mull over. However, the Jets also have a destructive defensive line that could take the Miami Dolphins' depleted offensive line out for dinner and never call it again.
I just realized that I took Smith and I gave up points. I'm going to go get another margarita.
Pick: New York -1.5
I can't take Colin Kaepernick and give more than a touchdown right now. He's leading the NFL's worst passing attack in total yardage and looks like he could be the poster boy for an anti-depressant pill.
That's without Kaepernick playing the Washington Redskins, who tend to do whatever they can to make opposing quarterbacks happy. That defense has some serious daddy issues.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Rams are feisty. They have a tough defensive front and they generally always play San Francisco tough. I know the first matchup was a 35-11 whupping, but that was the exception more than the rule.
Plus, the coaching staff has learned to get rookie speedster Tavon Austin the ball. That's a smart move.
Pick: St. Louis +7.5
Let's skip the "Houston, we have a problem" jokes. That's about as played out as calling the latest scandal whatever-gate. It's lazy and not entertaining.
Besides, the Houston Texans have way more than one problem. Jay-z's '99 Problems" would seem like a blessing right now.
The New England Patriots, however, are riding high. They just came back in dramatic fashion to knock off the supposed AFC favorite Broncos and are regaining the swagger that has made them a title contender for the last 40 years, or whatever it has been.
Also, when you lose to the Jaguars at home, I can't pick you the next week.
Pick: New England -8
Last week, I droned on about how much I hate the San Diego Chargers and picked against them. Then, they went on the road to one of the most difficult places to play in pro football and won.
Obviously, that hate has grown exponentially, but I'm trying to work on that anger thing. I don't want it to cloud my judgement.
If this game had happened a month ago, I would have been all over the Cincinnati Bengals. I'm not certain about this current edition. Injuries and road games mix as well as tequila and apple juice.
No, the Mexican vacation jokes aren't going to end anytime soon, but this article only has two more picks. You're welcome.
Pick: San Diego Pick 'Em
Regardless of what happens on Monday night, I don't like the Washington Redskins. They are all sorts of strange.
The only scenario I can think of where Washington ends the game with a win is if the Giants go up by 23 and Robert Griffin III starts balling out because they're behind and New York ends up with a 24-point win.
That result would land us comfortably in cover land.
What's that? You paid for real football analysis? Fine.
The New York Giants have a stout enough defense to stuff Washington's running game and, short of five or six injuries, there's no way the shoddy Redskins secondary can stop the Giants passing attack.
Pick: New York +2.5
No, the New Orleans Saints do not play well on the road. It's a serious problem.
But do you realize that the Saints have only lost two games, and only one of those was by more than 5.5 points?
That's important here, especially because the Saints will get a chance to exorcise some demons from their playoff loss to the then-lowly Seattle Seahawks.
Don't think Drew Brees has forgotten about it, and don't think he isn't a touch vindictive.
The Seahawks have yet to lose at home this year. However, it took overtime to beat the Bucs. The Saints are a bit better than the Bucs and they'll be up for this game. Take the points.
Pick: New Orleans +5.5