I flew back from Buffalo on Monday morning, checked email and Twitter and spent almost three hours talking Carolina Panthers fans off the ledge.
To be honest, I talked only the fans I like off the ledge. The fans I don’t like, I left the decision up to them.
Last Week: 11-5
Lock of the Week: I picked Baltimore (-61/2) to cover against Cleveland. My newly beloved Ravens complied, destroying the Browns by eight.
Upset of the Week: I picked San Francisco to upset Seattle on the road. In a game marred by lightning the Seahawks hung on to win by 26.
This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS.
N.Y. Giants 29, CAROLINA 27: If the Panthers pass rush consistently gets to Eli Manning, the home team wins. The Giants have turned the ball over 10 times. Playing from behind with no discernible running game Manning has thrown for 812 yards, which is more than his older brother has. Eli, however, has been intercepted seven times. If he gets time, he will find Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks (Independence High and North Carolina), Rueben Randle, Brandon Myers and at least two guys you have never heard of.
If the Panthers lose, they aren’t coming back and I’m not sure Ron Rivera is. The Panthers will compete if they forget who they were last week and remember who they were late last season.
Detroit 31, WASHINGTON 27: Detroit has the NFL’s lowest football I.Q. The Lions had eight penalties in their loss last week to Arizona for 101 yards. We like to pretend that NASCAR’s Kyle Busch is a bad guy. You imagine Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh in a race car? I picked Detroit because even on the road dumb beats bad.
MINNESOTA 23, Cleveland 20: Gutsy move by the Browns, trading Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a first-round pick. Starting at quarterback in Cleveland’s depleted backfield will be Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Hoyer is 28 and playing for his fourth team. But he has Josh Gordon to throw to. Gordon, suspended the first two games, could be the league’s next great receiver.
Atlanta 29, MIAMI 27: The Falcons are damaged. You want their injuries in alphabetical or chronological order? But the Falcons have style and savvy and a loaded offense.
TENNESSEE 26, San Diego 23
NEW ENGLAND 24, Tampa Bay 16
DALLAS 33, St. Louis 31
NEW ORLEANS 29, Arizona 21
Green Bay 28, CINCINNATI 27
SAN FRANCISCO 31, Indianapolis 21
SEATTLE 39, Jacksonville 16
Buffalo 12, NEW YORK JETS 10
Chicago 21, PITTSBURGH 19
Upset of the week
BALTIMORE (+21/2) 23, Houston 21: The Ravens’ defense has been a sieve. Houston has been opportunistic. The Texans rallied for last-second victories at San Diego and at home against Tennessee. But if Joe Flacco gets time, he’ll open up the offense the way he did in Baltimore’s Super Bowl run and score enough to prevent a Houston comeback.
Lock of the week
DENVER (-15) 35, Oakland 13: The Raiders are not as bad as usual - and for the first time all season Denver will score fewer than 41 points. But Monday, with lots of people watching, the Broncos will score as many as they need. Then they’ll score a few more.
Sorensen: 704-358-5119; email@example.com; Twitter: @TomSorensen