Believe it or not, I get fan mail.
Well, maybe it's not so much "fan" mail. It's not quite hate mail, either, but it is correspondence about this weekly picks column, and lately it hasn't exactly been kind when it comes to my predictions. Having weeks under .500 will do that, I suppose.
So I took these letters to heart, and I went out and racked up a 13-0 week, just to turn my favorite reader's frown upside down. Of course, I doubt I'll get a letter with all the games I got right highlighted; I'll just get a week off from a letter highlighting the games I got wrong.
My 13-0 came with the help of the favorites doing the right thing for once — winning. Favored teams went 12-1 straight up last week. The only favorite that didn't win was the upset I picked — Tennessee over Buffalo.
Does that mean things are starting to turn around in the NFL? Maybe. But when 17 of 32 teams are at .500 or within one game of even, it just means the lines are a lot closer (get used to lots of 2s, 3s and 4s, kids) and a log tougher to predict.
This week, there appear to be some mismatches with blowout potential, including the Bears over the Panthers, Packers over the Jaguars and Patriots over the Rams in London. And then there are a lot of games that could go either way.
In other words, I'm not banking on another unbeaten week — so don't get your hopes up, my biggest fan.
Carolina (1-5) at BEARS (5-1)
Noon Sunday, Fox. Bears -7.5 (43)
The skinny: Last year's Bears win against the Panthers was closer than it needed to be thanks to Carolina QB Cam Newton's big game. The Bears' D will have to shut Newton down this time, which is conceivable given where his head appears to be at this season.
MattE’s pick: Bears 34, Panthers 13
COLTS (3-3) at Tennessee (3-4)
Noon Sunday. Titans -3.5 (46.5)
The skinny: The Colts schedule gets a little rougher from here on out with six of its next 10 on the road, where they've struggled mightily. With Matt Hasselbeck behind center now for the Titans, they've looked much improved and should have this one in the bag.
MattE’s pick: Titans 31, Colts 20
San Diego (3-3) at Cleveland (1-6)
Noon Sunday. Chargers -2.5 (44)
The skinny: The Chargers should be well-rested after their MNF debacle against the Broncos, when they blew a 24-0 halftime lead. The Browns will want to throw against them, but the Bolts' secondary will rebound.
MattE’s pick: Chargers 26, Browns 17
Seattle (4-3) at Detroit (2-4)
Noon Sunday. Lions -2 (43.5)
The skinny: The Seahawks have a bye week's worth of rest, and the Lions just played on Monday. If they want to prove they still can be a factor in the NFC North this season, the Lions need a statement game.
MattE’s pick: Lions 31, Seahawks 23
Jacksonville (1-5) at Green Bay (4-3)
Noon Sunday. Packers -15 (45.5)
The skinny: The Packers are the favorite so far in 2012, and for good reason. QB Aaron Rodgers has been tearing it up the last month, averaging 308 yards and four TDs a game. He may be watching from the sideline in the fourth quarter.
MattE’s pick: Packers 41, Jaguars 10
New England (4-3) at St. Louis (3-4)
Noon Sunday. Patriots -7 (46.5)
The skinny: The Pats and Rams head to jolly ol' England for the NFL's annual game in London. Unfortunately for the Rams, they have no one who can bend it like Brady — Tom Brady. Pats in a mismatch, despite what the records say.
MattE’s pick: Patriots 35, Rams 13
Miami (3-3) at N.Y. Jets (3-4)
Noon Sunday. Jets -2 (40.5)
The skinny: The Jets beat Miami on the road five weeks ago, but have lost three of four since then. They'll get back on track and snap the Dolphins' modest two-game streak.
MattE’s pick: Jets 27, Dolphins 20
Atlanta (6-0) at Philadelphia (3-3)
Noon Sunday. Eagles -2.5 (45.5)
The skinny: Here's how even the NFL is: the NFL's only unbeaten team is an underdog on the road against a .500 team. Both are well-rested off their byes, but the Falcons have too much firepower and the Eagles make too many mistakes and turnovers.
MattE’s pick: Falcons 27, Eagles 23
Washington (3-4) at Pittsburgh (3-3)
Noon Sunday. Steelers -4.5 (47.5)
The skinny: The Redskins are hobbled at key positions, and that may force rookie QB Robert Griffin III into some uncharacteristic mistakes. His Pittsburgh counterpart, Ben Roethlisberger, won't do the same and could be in for a big game.
MattE’s pick: Steelers 31, Redskins 17
Oakland (2-4) at Kansas City (1-5)
3:05 p.m. Sunday, CBS. Chiefs -1.5 (41.5)
The skinny: The Raiders are 0-3 on the road; the Chiefs are 0-3 at home. Something's gotta give. And no, I'm not going to predict a tie.
MattE’s pick: Chiefs 20, Raiders 17
N.Y. Giants (5-2) at Dallas (3-3)
3:25 p.m. Sunday, Fox. Giants -2 (47.5)
The skinny: The Cowboys went on the road in Week 1 and upset the defending Super Bowl champs. They may have that memory as a little encouragement, but the Giants should get even.
MattE’s pick: Giants 27, Cowboys 24
New Orleans (2-4) at Denver (3-3)
7:20 p.m. Sunday, NBC. Broncos -6 (55.5)
The skinny: I hope my wife realizes "Homeland" is going to have to wait on Sunday night, because there's no way I'm missing a shootout between Drew Brees and Peyton Manning. Neither team can afford to play from too far behind in this one, so it could be back and forth all game.
MattE’s pick: Broncos 38, Saints 34
San Francisco (5-2) at Arizona (4-3)
7:30 p.m. Sunday, ESPN. 49ers -6.5 (37.5)
The skinny: The Cards are mired in an offensive slump, and that's a bad thing when the Niners are coming to town. San Fran is second only to the Bears in points allowed this season, giving up just over 14 a game. Should be smooth sailing for them in prime time.
MattE’s pick: 49ers 26, Cardinals 10
Week 8 Byes
Baltimore (5-2), Buffalo (3-4), Cincinnati (3-4), Houston (6-1)
Last week: 13-0 straight up, 9-3-1 against the spread. Season: 62-42 (.596) straight up, 53-50-1 (.510) against the spread.
— Matt Erickson is an award-winning journalist whose NFL picks have appeared in The Times for 10 seasons. He also covers mixed martial arts for The Times, USA Today and is the assistant editor of MMAjunkie.com.