Well, sports fans, this is the week where each NFL game falls into one of the following categories: the two teams involved have either clinched or been eliminated (read: don’t bet), the two teams involved need the win so desperately their players would sacrifice their first wives for it (read: don’t bet), or (the gambler’s wet dream) one team doesn’t care because they’ve been eliminated or have clinched a playoff spot and the other team is on the bubble and needs the win like Forrest Gump needed Jenny, or like Jenny needed HIV treatment. Whichever you prefer.

Anyway, because this is the last week of the regular season, and because my exile from gambling will be complete effective on Sunday, I am going to bet a few games. And I’ll tell you how much money I’m betting and let you know next week how I did. This was my plan when I originally started picking them games, but then, well, I wagered that if I lost a bet against the Texans, I would quit gambling for the year. The football gods hate cockiness in gamblers, and the gambling gods just like watching people lose, and I don’t test fate (much)… But anyway, the exile is over, the playoffs are coming, the USF Bulls are in a bowl game and the doctor said I’m disease free, so I’m feeling pretty damn good, thanks for not asking.

Let’s do these picks. As always, home teams in capital letters.

Broncos (+11) over CHARGERS
The Chargers are one of the best teams to ever miss the playoffs. On a related note, I’m one of the best writers never to be paid for writing, Titus was one of the best shows ever to be canceled, and Miller High Life is one of the best cheap beers in America. In other words, who gives a crap? Also, I for one, cannot wait to watch the wheels fall off the Jake Plummer Express in the playoffs this year. I’m expecting no less than four priceless comedy moments from Mister Snake this postseason. Much like George from Seinfeld, Plummer’s always good for a laugh.

Giants (-8) over RAIDERS
Before this game, Randy Moss, Warren Sapp, Kerry Collins and Sebastian Janikowski will ingest a combined 4000 milligrams of Rophynol, smoke a half ounce of pot and split a fifth of Orange Liquor (either Tuaca or Grand Marnier—they’re not sure yet). I would have put money on this game but the Giants are in the playoffs win or lose and Eli likes his games like he likes his women: tight, close, and nail biting (I don’t know what that means).

COLTS (-6½) over Cardinals
James Dungy was a student at USF (as was I), he was raised (for the most part) in Tampa (my home), he lived not two miles from my apartment, and he committed suicide. In the interest of retaining some semblance of class, I’m refraining from doing a joke here. Please, remember this when I insult the entire female gender with an upcoming column.

BROWNS (+3) over Ravens
Here’s my opinion on this piece of wet garbage: Billick will be coaching the Ravens next year, according to ownership, and so he doesn’t have much to prove. The Browns, however, have a new coach who wants to be back next year. If his players like him in the slightest, they’ll play their collective Brown asses off. And yes, this is the last game for the Browns this year, and thus, my last chance to write the phrase, “collective Brown asses” so I jumped on it. I love the internet sometimes. Sometimes, I really do.

Bills (-1) over JETS
I hated the 2005 Bills. They were impossible to predict and thus, impossible to bet on. The Jets, on the other hand, were much easier to predict. They lost… a lot. Also, when in doubt regarding a piece of crap game like this, always go for the newer coach unless rumors of dissension amongst the players and staff are coming from their city. Coach Mike will be back. Herm Edwards will be coaching at Juvenile Offender State next season. By the way, since Herm is so well known for his poor clock managing, do you think ownership got him a watch for Christmas? ‘Cause that would be funny. Imagine Herm sitting and staring at a gold watch and wondering aloud, “Is this some kind of fucking joke?” I smile just thinking about it.

Panthers (-4) over FALCONS
I wagered $100 on this. The Falcons are eliminated. The Panthers need a win to secure playoff hopes. As Bill Gates used to say, “Do the math and count the money.” Man, I wish I was better at math.

Vikings (-4) over BEARS
The Bears have clinched a first round bye. The Vikings are out of it. Thus, we can safely say that no one gives a Chihuahua’s little crap about this game. All over Chicago right now, lower income citizens are getting free game tickets from their upper income friends because this one ain’t worth getting cold over. (Wouldn’t that line be great in Fox’s pregame introduction? I can hear it now: “This Sunday, the Bears battle the Vikings in a game that’s not worth getting cold over. Lovie Smith is letting his six year old boy call the plays, Rex Grossman will play five minutes, and all of you fans are just idiots for coming out in this weather. My God, is it cold! Good luck not changing the channel, sports fans. Brrrr! The NFL on FOX!”)

CHIEFS (-7) over Bengals
I wagered $100 on this. The Chiefs need this win to earn the slim chance of seeing Dick Vermeil cry tears of joy. The Chiefs probably won’t make the playoffs, but hey, that’s why we have clichés (I mean, that’s why we play the games. That’s what I meant, I swear). Furthermore, the Bengals just shelled out seven billion dollars to retain Carson Palmer’s services over the next six years. So, he and Chad Johnson will probably be watching this game on the Jumbotron while munching on curly fries and sucking down cold beers. And while we’re here, who has the whiter name, Chad Johnson or Carson Palmer? I mean, we all know Chad ain’t white, but I think his name is. Hell, it may be even whiter than Carson’s. And yes, this is the kind of stuff I think about when I’m supposed to be working.

STEELERS (-13½) over Lions
My favorite subplot of the entire season didn’t involve a Panther cheerleader, a Terrell Owens hissy fit, a Viking sex cruise, Mike Martz getting fired while on a hospital bed, or a John Madden/Brett Favre romance. My favorite subplot this season involved hundreds of thousands of Lion’s fans all banding together in an attempt to get their worthless GM fired. So guys, please scoot over a little and make room on the bandwagon for me as I join you in chanting, “Fire Matt Millen. Fire Matt Millen. Millen sucks. Millen is killing the Lions. Fire Matt Millen.” Thanks guys.

And by the by, nothing pisses me off more than a lousy GM. Do you have any idea how easy it is to be GM? Hell, all you need to do to run a team right is go down to the local sports bar, find two guys arguing about something stupid (like which of the team’s receivers would benefit more from a left-handed quarterback, for example) and ask those guys who to draft, who to hire, and who to fire. An athlete typically sucks when he doesn’t have “it” (whatever the hell it is), a coach typically sucks when he’s either lazy or uninspiring. It’s tough to work hundred hour weeks (like coaches do) and be inspiring. It’s even tougher to play football at a professional level. But all a successful GM has to do is manage skills like basic math and reading scouting reports. How hard is it? This stuff murders me slowly. And you think I’m kidding.

Oh, and by the way, I wagered $100 on this one.

PATRIOTS (-6) over Dolphins

Saints (+13½) over BUCCANEERS
Make no mistake, the Buccaneers will win this game, but I just don’t think they’ll do it by 14 points. Historically, the Saints have owned the Bucs in Raymond James Stadium (much like I own two migrant workers, and yes Lulu, that one was for you). And while we’re here, what do you think Satan will say to Tom Benson win they meet again? I’ll bet the conversation goes something like this:

Satan: Welcome back, Tom. Good work. We’ll try to get you back into the sports world as quickly as possible.
Tom: Thanks, Satan. By the way, my wife loved those sinner-blood-filled chocolates you sent.
Satan: Aww. She’s too kind. Send her my love, will you?
Tom: Sure thing, Boss.

49ERS (+2) over Texans
I wish I could watch this game with Reggie Bush and his family. I’ll bet his family and friends are all saying things like, “The Texans wouldn’t be so bad if they could get Carr an offensive line” and “well, maybe Dom Capers won’t be there next year.” Poor Reggie. First the Hurricane Katrina victims get sent to Houston, and now he does. On the bright side, well, he has a Heisman trophy. Of course, so does OJ Simpson…

JAGUARS (-3½) over Titans
Quite possibly the toughest game to bet on this year. The Titans are out and the Jaguars can gain nothing by winning. However, the Jags just got their starting QB back from injury, and they’ll need to see if he’s ready to play. If he is, this is a lock. If he’s not, this is a loss. I wouldn’t bet on this with your money. Stay the hell away.

Seahawks (+3½) over PACKERS
Brett Favre is unsure if the Packers want him back next season. On a related note, OJ Simpson is unsure if he’ll be invited to Thanksgiving dinner at the Goldman’s next year.

Redskins (-7) over EAGLES
I wagered $100 on this one. And since there’s nothing really funny about this game, I’m gonna take this opportunity to state the five funniest things I heard from my friends about the NFL yesterday. So here they are, in no particular order.

“I had Daunte Culpepper and Terrell Owens on my Fantasy Team this year. On the bright side, at least I’ve been productive at work.”
aaaaaaa–Scott, the male secretary, I mean, assistant

“You know, Kurt Warner has the highest completion percentage in the history of football. It’s a shame someone didn’t kill him right after his last Super Bowl. Instead of remembering him as an awesome player, we’re all gonna remember him as a fumbling hack with a crazy wife. He’s like the football equivalent of Elvis. He’s stoned, fat, wealthy and sitting on the can, man.”
aaaaaaa–Chris, whose dissertation topic is too tough for me to comprehend

“I think people are treating Brett Favre like an old man who was really loved and was a great Dad but now has Alzheimers. It’s like, no one wants to speak ill of him, but at the same time, someone has to take away his drivers license and hide his razors for his own good.”
aaaaaaa–Ronnie, bartender and male stripper

“The way Terrell Owens is going, he couldn’t get a job running the NHL Player’s union.”
aaaaaaa–Bob, who can’t remember how he lost that tooth

“The Bengals and Bears are in the playoffs. I think I’m gonna start going to church, you know, just in case this is the end of the world right here.”
aaaaaaa–Tony, who stays away from the hard stuff during football season

COWBOYS (-12½) over Rams
Here’s my candidate for Ram’s head coach next year: Martha Stewart. She’s tough, smart, scary, hard-working and dedicated to feeding men. What more could you want from a football coach?

I mean, really.

Oh yeah, and I put $100 on this one as well.