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Great minds think alike

November 21, 2008|Sam Farmer | Farmer is a Times staff writer.

A few weeks ago, when making my weekly NFL picks, I went head to head scarf with a local psychic. As it turned out, the dark side wound up being the in-the-dark side, and I logged a rare convincing victory.

So this week I'm testing my somewhat suspect skills of prognostication against those of the best college football coach in Southern California.

Dale Widolff of Occidental College.

Yes, yes, so Pete Carroll has a couple of national championships, is 85-15, and his teams have made six straight BCS bowl game appearances. I get it.

But Widolff is no schlub. His 9-0 Oxy Tigers are undefeated for the third time in four years. Since taking the job in 1982, he's 162-89-2.

His teams have reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III playoffs three times -- three more than any other school in the Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

Widolff, whose team opens the playoffs Saturday against Willamette at Salem, Ore., took some time out of his preparations this week to make his NFL picks for me. The guy has a brilliant football mind. (OK, full disclosure: I'm an Oxy grad.)

On to the picks, with mine first, then Widolff's:

Philadelphia at Baltimore: The Ravens' defense had a rare bad day against the New York Giants last Sunday. They should be able to bounce back against the one-dimensional Eagles, who can't -- or just won't -- run the ball. Pick: Baltimore/Philadelphia.

Chicago at St. Louis: Bears quarterback Kyle Orton, coming back from an ankle injury, looked bad in last Sunday's loss to the Packers. Now he faces a Rams defense that's soft against the run and pass. Pick: Chicago/Chicago.

New York Jets at Tennessee: The Titans are going to lose at some point this season, but it's not likely to be at home. The Jets, coming off an emotional win over New England, are primed for a letdown. Pick: Tennessee/Tennessee.

New England at Miami: The Wildcat offense isn't going to catch the Patriots off guard this time. Even without the element of surprise, though, the Dolphins will pick up their fifth consecutive victory for the first time in three years. Pick: Miami/Miami.

Houston at Cleveland: Peyton Manning picked apart Houston's secondary last Sunday. Brady Quinn will have a harder time doing so, especially because he'll be playing with a broken finger. Pick: Houston/Cleveland.

Tampa Bay at Detroit: The Lions might be winless, but they're not the worst team in the league right now. That's the Raiders. Regardless, Tampa Bay is starting to hit its stride. Pick: Tampa Bay/Tampa Bay.

Minnesota at Jacksonville: There's no denying Minnesota has been a disappointment this season, but the Jaguars are too. They've lost three of four and are 1-4 at home. Pick: Minnesota/Jacksonville.

Buffalo at Kansas City: Kansas City is bad, but not as bad as its 1-9 record suggests. Despite losing four in a row, the Bills aren't out of the division race. They need this more. Pick: Buffalo/Buffalo.

San Francisco at Dallas: It's a little early to proclaim the Cowboys officially back, but last Sunday's victory over Washington was encouraging. Tony Romo has won eight of his last 11 starts at home. Pick: Dallas/Dallas.

Oakland at Denver: The Raiders are decent on defense, but their offense has gone 13 quarters without scoring a touchdown. The Broncos aren't the powerhouse they looked like early in the season, but they're good enough to win the AFC West. Pick: Denver/Denver.

Carolina at Atlanta: Back in late September, Carolina thumped Atlanta and outgained the Falcons, 401 yards to 268. Although the Falcons continue to make strides this season, they haven't made up that much ground. Pick: Carolina/Carolina.

New York Giants at Arizona: It's tempting to pick the Cardinals here, seeing as they're a pretty good team and the Giants are not invincible on the road (see: Cleveland game). But picking against New York this season just isn't wise. Pick: Giants/Giants.

Washington at Seattle: The Seahawks put up a good fight at home against Arizona last Sunday, and the Redskins are coming off a deflating loss to Dallas. The Redskins simply have more talent, though, and Jim Zorn figures to win this Seattle homecoming. Pick: Washington/Washington.

Indianapolis at San Diego: The Chargers have beaten Indianapolis three times in a row, and Antonio Cromartie has intercepted four of Peyton Manning's passes in the last two matchups. Nevertheless, last season at San Diego, Manning had six interceptions and still kept his team in the game. Pick: Indianapolis/San Diego.

Green Bay at New Orleans: Statistically speaking, the Packers don't have a spectacular defense. They're opportunistic, though, especially against the pass. That bodes well for their matchup against the Saints, who have yet to win consecutive games this season. Pick: Green Bay/New Orleans.

Season record: 92-66-1.


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