It is time to be brave. It is time to be courageous. It is time to get out from under the tire ads on Page 12.

It is time for . . . the front page.

The front page?

“You can do it,” says my boss.

“Well. I’m not sure,” I say.

“Just pretend it’s like every other week. Bone up on the stats. Study the film. Dissect the injury report. Then close your eyes and make your picks.”

“Just like any other week?” I say.

“Absolutely,” he says.

But I know better. This is not any other week. This is the next-to-last week of the NFL season — a week in which 18 teams can still make the playoffs, a week in which nothing is for sure, a week in which anything can happen.

A good week for an NFL picker to come down with the flu.

The front page?

“When the going gets tough,” says my boss, “the tough go to Page 1.”

What did I do? I wonder. Was it that cologne I got him for Christmas? Was it the time I dropped an egg salad sandwich on his budget? What did I do?

“How about the other guys?” I ask. “How about Sylvester and Puscas and Guidi?”

“They have reputations to protect,” says my boss, lighting his cigar.

I am starting to sweat.

“But I like the tire ads,” I say. “Page 12 is a good spot. And besides. When I get 13 out of 14 games wrong, most people don’t remember.”

“Courage,” says my boss.

‘Courage?” I say.

My mind is racing. What did I do? It must have been that egg salad. Damn. It was just a slip.

“Oh, one more thing,” says my boss, tapping his ashes into my lap. “Get them all right this time, OK? No more 7-7 stuff. You are on the front page now. You don’t want to embarrass yourself.”

Gulp.

It is time to be brave, It is time to be courageous. It is time to get all 14 games right.

Watch this.

LIONS 23, PACKERS 12: The Lions are at home. They are very happy. They strut around the Silverdome. “See this?” they say, “this is our turf. And see this? This is our bench. And see this? This is our Gatorade bucket.” They lean back and smile.” We cannot lose,” they say, “we are at home.”

BEARS 19, JETS 6: I guarantee this one. I can feel it. Bet the house.

BRONCOS 24, CHIEFS 10: Another winner. I can feel it. Bet the farm. Bet the kids.

DOLPHINS 27, PATRIOTS 20: Do you see this man? His name is Tony Franklin. He is nearly bald and he does not wear a shoe on his kicking foot. That is too much skin for one NFL player to be showing. Sorry. That is why his team will lose. Trust me. I know about these things.

49ERS 35, SAINTS 21: The Saints come marching in. And go splat.

VIKINGS 14, FALCONS 13: Nipped by the Bud.

BROWNS 26, OILERS 14: Do you know where I am moving next? I am moving to the Central Division. Any place where you can win a title by going .500 is perfect for someone with my picking talent.

CHARGERS 34, EAGLES 31: The O in San Diego is for offense, as in
“Overwhelming.” The D in San Diego is for defense, as in “Defunct.”

RAMS 30, CARDINALS 10: Did you see Ron Brown last week? Is he fast? Oh, my. In the time it took you to read this, he ran from LA to San Diego. Very fast. Wooh!

BUCS 20, COLTS 19: Indianapolis vs. Tampa Bay. Hey. Now this is some kind of game. Don’t miss this one. Fly there if you have to. Don’t miss this one. Really. What a game. Zowee!

STEELERS 24, BILLS 6: The steel curtain has turned to lace. Unfortunately, that is still too tough a fabric for Buffalo.

GIANTS 28, COWBOYS 24: Sometimes the Cowboys look like John Wayne. Sometimes they look like Hopalong Cassidy. Why will they lose? Because if they don’t, the Lions are dead.

RAIDERS 23, SEAHAWKS 21: “Take that, you percentpercent$# . . . oh, yeah? How’s about &!! . . . urmph . . . grylzp . . . *$&! . . . ayooop!” No. These teams do not like one another.

REDSKINS 30, BENGALS 26: Washington needs it. Washington must have it. Washington gets it.

BEST PICK LAST WEEK: Patriots 26, Lions 10. Patriots won, 23-6.

WORST PICK LAST WEEK: Browns 25, Seahawks 23. Seahawks won, 31-13.

RECORD LAST WEEK: 9-5.

Yeah. But that was under the tire ads.

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