Is it possible to come up with a handicapping formula that takes emotion into account? How a team feels would be factored in the way oddsmakers figure things like home field advantage, which is worth three points.
You could say that mildly angry, like the Giants and the Jets were after being upset on Nov. 7, is worth three points. Seriously angry, such as the Rams were after they were subjected to full-contact scrimmages two days last week, would be worth six points. And crazy angry, which described the state of the Browns and the Steelers when they duked it out in pregame warmups on Sunday, was worth, gosh, at least a touchdown and a field goal. Except, in that one, it would have been difficult to figure out which team was madder.
Well, the Giants and the Jets obviously weren't angry enough on Sunday because both lost again. I'm sure the Giants will be getting a lot of flak for their failure to protect quarterback Kurt Warner, who was sacked six times by the Cardinals. Now New York is sending rookie Eli Manning out to face Atlanta, which has a small, active defensive line, made even more active by the return of sacking tackle Rod Coleman from injuries he suffered in an October car accident. The Giants do fine against big, burly defenses, but they can be outquicked. That's what I think will happen on Sunday. Manning will be better escaping the rush, but I'm not sure he'll know what to do once he gets away from it. The Falcons are the pick.
The Jets should be furious after blowing a 14-point lead at home to the Ravens, and now they have to travel to Cleveland, which was handled pretty convincingly by Pittsburgh. Give New York the emotional edge. I'll take the Jets.
St. Louis played with passion and whipped the Seahawks from the get-go. But a new experience awaits the Rams, particularly quarterback Marc Bulger: taking on the Hawk, that awful Buffalo wind that can get especially nasty this time of year.
Many visiting All-Pro quarterbacks have felt the wrath of the Hawk. Terry Bradshaw had a 2-for-13 day in Buffalo. Dan Marino once went 5 for 15 there. Thirty years ago I covered a game in which Joe Namath, firing his high hard one into a 40-mph gale, watched in horror as the ball stopped in midair and came back toward him. When Bills linebacker Richard Lewis intercepted the pass, he was behind the spot from which Namath had thrown it. Oh, yes, Joe Willie was 2 for 18 that day.
It could be mild in Buffalo on Sunday, but more likely the Hawk will be gusting, so I'll give this one to the Bills in a major upset. In fact, it's a week in which good teams visit bad ones all over the board, and you just know that there will be upsets. The trick is to find them.
The Bengals have been known to play the Steelers tough in Cincinnati, but not this year. There's too much disparity between the teams. Pittsburgh is the pick. The same goes for Denver over the Saints in New Orleans, but an upset wouldn't surprise me. I can't remember the last time the Chargers were favored in Oakland--maybe in the days of Dan Fouts and J.J. Jefferson. This could be a very rough go, but I'll stick with San Diego anyway.
New England will win the Monday-nighter in Kansas City, but Green Bay, fresh off its victory over the Vikings, will get upended inHouston. Don't ask me why. I just have a feeling that it'll be a shootout and David Carr will score last. --Paul Zimmerman
Last week: 4-3 Season: 50-37
Dr. Z writes for the Web every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at SI.com/football.
READY OR NOT
Manning will make his first NFL start against one of the league's fastest defensive fronts.