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Hurley's Picks: Trying To Decide If The NFL Has Any Truly Great Teams

BOSTON (CBS) -- I've had this ongoing discussion with my brother now for at least eight weeks. The central idea to this discussion is simple: The NFL is full of lousy teams.

Now, we haven't been using the word "lousy," but I can't print the real word on this family-friendly website, so "lousy" will have to replace the word we're actually using. (It rhymes with pity.)

The thing is, it's legitimately difficult to make a case that any team in the NFL right now is exceptional. There are teams riding hot streaks -- Green Bay, New England, even Arizona -- that look pretty darned good right now, but they all have their warts. The Packers got blown out in New Orleans just four weeks ago by a Saints team that is 4-6 and basically terrible. The Cardinals don't have a bad loss on their record, but their starting quarterback is Drew Stanton. Bless him, but I don't think many opponents will be losing sleep as they prepare to face the man with 10 career touchdowns and 11 career interceptions.

The Patriots may have the best case as the "best" team, but that's not saying all that much. Yes, they have come a long way since losing in Miami and getting smoked in Kansas City, and I know I might be considered to be more than a little crazy to try to argue that the Patriots aren't very good. But I can't shake the fact that they barely beat the Jets and barely beat the Raiders. I suppose we'll see what they are made of when they head to Green Bay in a couple of weeks.

The Chiefs would argue pretty strongly that they're better than the Patriots, because, of course, they demolished New England in September. But it's long been my contention that a team quarterbacked by Alex Smith can only go so far, and the same holds true for a team coached by Andy Reid. There is a ceiling to their success, no matter what.

But still, there's no team that really inspires awe this year. The Seahawks might not make the playoffs. The Broncos just lost to the Rams. The Lions employ Jim Caldwell as their head coach. The Eagles puked on their shoes in their big game on Sunday. The Cowboys are the Cowboys and therefore are always one moment away from epic disaster. The 49ers are allergic to sustained success. The Bengals, I mean, Marvin Lewis, hello. The Colts have beaten nobody.

Add it all up, and it kind of seems like everybody is lousy. So lousy. But one of these teams is going to win the Super Bowl, and that's what's going to make the next two months so utterly fascinating. It will likely end much like the 2011 season, when a kind-of-lousy Giants team beat a just-as-lousy Patriots team in a back-and-forth Super Bowl that few would have predicted to happen.

Now, because of the overall NFL lousiness, my picks followed suit last week. Yes, I'm blaming the teams for my own mistakes. No, you can't point out that I'm being a sore loser. Yes, there will be a plethora of Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week's Picks littered throughout this one. Let's go.

(Wednesday lines; home team in caps.)

Kansas City (-7.5) over OAKLAND
I thought the Raiders buried a football to signify that they were done being terrible! How did that brilliant strategy not work?!

CHICAGO (-5.5) over Tampa Bay
So much sadness in this game. So. Much. Sadness. And for as inspiring as the Bucs' win was last weekend, I just don't think they've got a winning streak in them, not even with the sad, sad Bears on the schedule.

New York Jets (+4) over BUFFALO
I don't put a lot of stock into historic things, and you'll never see me say things like, "The Jets have won seven of their last 10 meetings with the Bills," because most of the players and coaches involved in those games are no longer with those teams and therefore their past actions will have no impact on the present or future.

But I do make a few rare exceptions, like when I'm evaluating the Bills. To put things frankly, they're the Bills -- the Bills -- which by itself speaks volumes. They've been one of the most uninspiring franchises in the NFL for the past decade and a half, averaging six wins per year since 2000. Sure, they'll probably win about seven or eight this year, but they're still the Bills. And the last time the Bills defeated the Jets twice in the same season? That was back in 2007, eight seasons ago. Before that? It was 1997.

So yeah, a lot of that doesn't mean much these days, but being the Bills means being the Bills. That means staying true to the fabric of the organization, which in this case dictates that they will lose to the 2-8 Jets. That's just science, folks.

(Even though all that lake effect snow is dominating the headlines these days, I doubt it will really have an impact on this game on Sunday. If the good folks of Buffalo are good at anything, it's removing snow.)

(UPDATE: So it seems as though the game will be played in Detroit. Well then. That's some serious snow, if Buffalonians can't remove it. I guess that's one thing I'm already wrong about this week.)

HOUSTON (-1) over Cincinnati
Are the Bengals back, or was last week just a fluke? Well, I consider any Bengals success to be a fluke, so here we are. Plus I just struggle each week to pick against the team that employs J.J. Watt.

Ridiculous Quote From Last Week's Picks: "Dalton + Lewis + Superdome = Bad News Bengals."

Note: Sometimes I get a pick miserably wrong, and I feel embarrassed. This is not one of those times. I'll never feel embarrassed for betting against the combination of Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton. Even knowing the outcome of this game, if I could go back in time, I'd still pick the Saints over the Bengals. That's how strongly I feel about this.

INDIANAPOLIS (-14) over Jacksonville
Going with a two-touchdown spread for a team that just got obliterated on their home turf is a frightening proposition, but the Jaguars leave me no choice. That's how bad they are.

Jaguars quarterbacks have combined for 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this season. Do you know how demoralizing that is? Only the Jets (10 TDs; 11 INTS) and Vikings (7 TDs; 12 INTs) can relate this season. Brutal.

Green Bay (-9.5) over MINNESOTA
I feel like if you wanted to get creative with your picks this week, this game might be your target. And I like getting creative ... I just also like getting my picks right (sometimes). And really, the signs are there if you want to get risky. The Packers are on a special kind of hot streak right now, but they're still far from a great team when they step outside of Lambeau. They're 2-3 on the road, outscored by 29 in those games. They lost by 21 points to a bad Saints team the last time they traveled, and they barely beat Miami in their previous road game.

So you're not crazy if you take the Vikings to hang with the Packers. Except, at the same time, you are completely crazy. Because the Packers are going to win by 30.

RQFLWP: "[The Eagles getting] six points is way too much for two teams that are nearly identical on paper."

Note: The thing about paper, you see, is that Aaron Rodgers doesn't play on paper. He plays on a football field, and Mark Sanchez probably would have liked to have played that game on paper, because the field didn't work out so well for him.

PHILADELPHIA (-11) over Tennessee
Same thing here. I'm not ecstatic that I'm trusting the team that just lost by 33 points to now cover a double-digit spread, but what else am I to do? The Titans did cover on Monday night, but they're still just 3-6-1 against the spread, and they're on a short week. The Eagles are a different team at home, where they're 5-0 and win by an average score of 35-20.

Speaking of the Titans, how about Ken Whisenhunt giving us the single worst challenge in NFL history on Monday night? Le'Veon Bell dropped a pass after taking a hit from Michael Griffin, and Bell very clearly never had possession of the football. The officials on the field correctly ruled it to be an incomplete pass, and then Pittsburgh took a timeout. The whole world had moved on ... except for Whisenhunt. As the Steelers came to the line to run their third-down play, Whisenhunt hucked his red flag onto the field.

I, likely along with the rest of the world, was rather befuddled by the decision (unless Whisenhunt has never seen football before and therefore didn't know the rules). And after replay confirmed that Whisenhunt made a terrible decision, the Titans were left with just one timeout with six minutes remaining in a three-point game.

Good stuff, Ken. It's a wonder you have a 47-59 record as a head coach and you're 0-for-4 on challenges this year.

NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Detroit
As much as I believe the Patriots are due to stop blowing out teams by three touchdowns or more, I just ... it's just ... Jim Caldwell. Just ... no. No. Jim Caldwell is not going to lead a team into Foxboro on a cold November day and lead his team to victory. No.

Plus, Matthew Stafford going outdoors, the fact that the Patriots average almost twice as many point as the Lions, the Patriots' winning their last four home games by a combined score of 164-86 ... and then, additionally, Jim Caldwell.

Jim Caldwell
(Photos by Christian Petersen/Leon Halip/Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)


Cleveland (+3) over ATLANTA
Is "I hate the Falcons" a good enough reason? No? Come on!

Well, the Falcons have just four wins this season. All four have come against divisional opponents, and as we all know, the NFC South is the embarrassment of the NFL this season. The quartet of teams is a combined 13-27-1, and only the Saints have a positive point differential at plus-9. The Falcons have been outscored by 17 points this year, while the Bucs and Panthers have each been outscored by 85 points.

So congratulations, Falcons, you can beat sorry teams in your sorry division. That's marvelous and we're all proud of you, but beating a real team is something we know that you cannot do.

RQFLWP: "I don't think a guy with four career passes in the NFL who looks exactly like Jesse Pinkman is going to hit the ground running."

Note: Ryan Mallett threw for two touchdowns and was pretty good but you know, he still looks like Pinkman.

SEATTLE (-6.5) over Arizona
The Cardinals are pretty good, and I wrote last week that I might like them better with Drew Stanton at quarterback, but that doesn't mean I think he'll do very well in Seattle. I only said I liked him better than Carson Palmer, and I believe neither quarterback is capable of succeeding in Seattle.

RQFLWP: "There's nobody alive who is capable or willing to tackle Marshawn Lynch right now."

Note: Lynch just had to get stuffed on fourth-and-1, didn't he? It's as if the football gods conspired against me last week, and that play was their wink at me.

SAN DIEGO (-4.5) over St. Louis
I don't know what in the world gets into the Rams when they're playing at home, but fortunately I don't have to figure it out this week, because they're on the road, outdoors, on natural grass, in the complete opposite environment where they summon their sorcery and witchcraft to beat teams like Denver and Seattle. They're much worse on the road, and the Chargers are much better at home (4-1), so I think there will be no Rams magic this week.

Side note: Between Peyton Manning's dead-armed ducks and Shaun Hill's wobbly floaters, I think last Sunday's Broncos-Rams game had the lowest combined quarterback arm strength since the days of leather helmets.

SAN FRANCISCO (-9) over Washington
Jay Gruden is a loser.

"Robert needs to understand he needs to worry about himself number one and not everybody else," the loser said this week. "It's my job to worry about everybody else. Yes, everybody else needs to improve, but it's not his place. His place is to talk about himself and he knows that."

What a loser. Look, I'm not going to defend Robert Griffin, but his head coach is essentially saying, "Robert Griffin, a human being and American citizen, is not allowed to think about anyone else and he's especially not allowed to talk about anyone else."

What a loser. The Redskins aren't playing very hard for that loser, and it's not hard to figure out why.

(It's because he's a loser.)

DENVER (-7) over Miami
It hurt me that the Broncos lost last week after I determined them to be entering the portion of their schedule where they were going to turn into the Terminator and just start decimating opponents. There's no doubt about that. But that loss helped keep this spread low, and despite last week's loss, I still have zero doubts about Denver playing at home, where the Broncos are 5-0 and win by an average score of 35-19.

RQFLWP: "The Broncos have entered the 'Demolish All Opponents And Take No Prisoners' portion of their schedule. ... I have a feeling that the switch of Shaun Hill for Austin Davis won't be the difference maker in this one."

Note: Whatever. Find me the person who predicted the Rams would win. Oh, get out of my face, Mike Ditka.

Dallas (-3) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Eli Manning has fewer interceptions than just Jay Cutler and Blake Bortles.

Eli Manning has a worse completion percentage than Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kirk Cousins, Austin Davis, Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler.

Eli Manning throws for fewer yards per attempt than Blake Bortles, Mike Glennon, Austin Davis, Cam Newton and Kyle Orton.

Eli Manning is one of just five football players in history to have won multiple Super Bowl MVPs.

Sports are weird, man.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Baltimore
The Saints are bad this year. Very bad, even. But are they lose-three-straight-games-at-home bad? I don't think so. That's Jacksonville Jaguars bad.

They may be bad, but they're at least prideful. Sometimes, that's enough to pick up wins against mediocre opponents. And believe me, because nobody's a bigger expert on being mediocre than me.

Last Week: 7-7
Season: 91-69-1

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.


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