For all intents and purposes, let's just call it Matthew Carroll versus Daryl Palmer.
Now, you're probably wondering how I could equate the New England Patriots game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night to a couple of Peninsula Clarion employees?
Well, it's rather simple, actually.
Just as the Pats were counted out only eight minutes into their season -- for all of you who have been in seclusion for the past two months, that was the moment franchise quarterback Tom Brady was lost for the season -- and the Colts have been doubted every week since their opening-week setback to Chicago, Palmer and I have been relegated to perennial last-place pickers by our peers.
And with good reason.
With Brady sidelined, New England's stock dropped more than the Dow Jones, no more so than after the 38-13 embarrassment slapped on them by the Miami Dolphins, the same team that won a single game a year ago. Then there was the 30-10 debacle at San Diego three weeks ago.
Thanks to my buddy for scheduling his wedding that night, as I was fortunate to miss every second of action and highlights from that clunker.
The Colts, who opened the past three seasons at 7-0, 9-0 and 13-0, respectively, are fighting to stay alive in the surprisingly challenging AFC South, led by the 7-0 Tennessee Titans.
Consecutive losses at Green Bay and Tennessee, by a combined 30 points to boot, has Indianapolis (3-4) struggling to find its footing in the conference itself, despite the absence of a great team, such as the 2007 Patriots, who ran the table in the regular season to the tune of a 16-0 mark before falling to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
Some say the Titans' 31-21 win over the Colts on Monday solidified their role as the top team in the league. Others beg to differ.
If one thing's for sure, though, never count out a struggling Peyton Manning. Ever.
The same applies for Palmer and I.
Despite warranted criticism, with weekly records such as 7-7, 6-8 and 7-9, the cellar dwellers got back on track last week with respectable 9-5 marks, although we're still locked in the basement.
We may be down, but we're not out.
And with nine weeks remaining and an 11-game deficit to make up, we're not dead just yet, either.
"NFL football is really still all about November and December," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "If you're playing well at that time of year, then that is what counts. The Giants proved that last year. Pittsburgh did a couple of years ago. You don't want to dig yourselves in too much of a hole, but certainly the season isn't over on Sept. 30 or Oct. 30 even."
I think Dungy was subconsciously referring to the two prognosticators deadlocked at 65-51.
He also could have been referring to his squad.
Nevertheless, common sense would say the Colts, favored by six points, are a near lock to snap a two-game losing streak and slowly but surely creep their way back into the division race.
It also would state that a depleted Patriots secondary, minus the services of hard-hitting safety Rodney Harrison, also gone for the year, and possibly cornerback Ellis Hobbs, who skipped Wednesday's practice with a shoulder injury, is ripe for Manning's picking.
The likely return of running back Joseph Addai and safety Bob Sanders only strengthens Indy's case this week.
Then again, common sense also dictated that Will Morrow was going to run away with the Pick 'Em competition.
A fellow fan of the Patriots, however, Morrow knows all too well, it's not how you start, but how you finish.
Jeff Helminiak's quiet run to the top has been nothing short of surprising -- but hey, if you flip a coin enough, you're bound to win sometimes.
Greg Harrington and Kathy Slone's picks have been consistently steady, too, often good enough to occupy the week's top slot.
That leaves the basement boys.
Sabotaged by his loyalty to the Seattle Seahawks, Palmer fell behind early and is finally gaining ground. Sort of like the Patriots, who are now tied with Buffalo for first in the AFC East at 5-2.
My devotion to all things New England has cost me two games and my eagerness to stick with Cleveland and, unfortunately, Cincinnati has cemented my position at the bottom of the ladder, too.
But just as New England QB Matt Cassel is finally blooming, so are we.
He won't be the only one discussed around the water cooler come Monday morning.
N.Y. Jets (plus 6) at Buffalo
Favre and Co. quietly sneaking back into the AFC East race.
Detroit (plus 13) at Chicago
Dan Orlovsky is making Jon Kitna look like John Elway. BEARS, 30-16.
Jacksonville (minus 7 1/2) at Cincinnati
Finally! BENGALS, 24-17.
Baltimore (plus 1 1/2) at Cleveland
First two-win day for Ohio this season. BROWNS, 17-13.
Tampa Bay (minus 8 1/2) at Kansas City
Chiefs are 21-5 at home against NFC teams since 1995.
Houston (plus 4 1/2) at Minnesota
Texans make it four straight for first time in franchise history.
Arizona (minus 2 1/2) at St. Louis
Rams spoil Kurt Warner's return. RAMS, 35-24.
Green Bay (plus 5 1/2) at Tennessee
Remember the Titans when they're fighting for a playoff berth.
Miami (plus 3 1/2) at Denver
Stat of the week -- Miami is 4-6 in games played immediately before U.S. Presidential election.
Dallas (plus 8 1/2) at N.Y. Giants
New York delivers the divisional knockout punch. GIANTS, 24-21.
Atlanta (minus 2 1/2) at Oakland
Matt Ryan picks on former Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
Philadelphia (minus 6 1/2) at Seattle
Eagles feeling the pressure from the Phillies. SEAHAWKS, 31-27.
Pittsburgh (plus 2) at Washington
Portis for President.
LAST WEEK: 6-6-2 (spread); 9-5 (straight up)
SEASON: 54-56-5 (spread); 65-51 (straight up)
Comments and criticisms may be sent to Clarion sports reporter Matthew Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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