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SAM FARMER’S NFL PICKS: WEEK 10

Farmer is a Times staff writer.

Let’s take a look at the last three Super Bowl winners: the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2006 Indianapolis Colts and 2007 New York Giants.

Boy, did they stink.

They did around this point of the season, at least. All of them had their struggles in November and December.

So will the NFL have another lug nuts-to-Lombardi Trophy story this season, or will one of the current powerhouse teams -- The Giants? The Tennessee Titans? -- just run away with it all?

There should be plenty of twists and turns to come.

For now, let’s hop in the fast lane of History Highway:

* Pittsburgh: The Steelers lost three in a row from late November through early December 2005, dropping to 7-5 with losses to Baltimore, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. The loss to the Bengals was especially painful because it was for control of the AFC North.

Receiver Chad Johnson -- now Chad Ocho Cinco -- wore a Terrible Towel afterward and said: “It used to be Pittsburgh’s time. Now it’s Cincinnati’s time.”

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And it was. For about a minute.

* Indianapolis: After winning 10 in a row to start the 2006 season, the Colts lost four of six, including road games to each of their division foes. The last came on Christmas Eve at Houston, when the Texans denied them the chance to clinch a first-round bye.

“This is a critical time for us,” Peyton Manning said afterward. “This is the time when people on the outside will start pointing fingers.”

Six weeks later, on a rainy night in Miami, the Colts were the ones pointing -- single index fingers raised to the sky.

* New York Giants: It was bad enough that the Giants lost their first two games of the season, but things really looked grim in late November when they were embarrassed at home by Minnesota, 41-17. The Vikings picked off four Eli Manning passes, running back two for touchdowns.

With five games to play, the Giants dropped three behind Dallas in the NFC East. They also provided Minnesota with even more highlight footage; in their previous game at Giants Stadium, the Vikings set an NFL record by becoming the first team to score on an interception, kickoff and punt return in the same game.

“I did not, in my worst moment, ever think I would be standing up here talking about history repeating itself,” Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said. “But it did.”

Things would get much better for Coughlin and the Giants, of course.

Are this season’s Super Bowl hopefuls paying attention? If so, they’d better start stinking.

Second to one

It’s official: I am not the world’s worst NFL prognosticator. As you might recall, I challenged a psychic to pick with me in Week 9.

Her crystal ball vs. my crystal ego. Uri Geller vs. Garo Yepremian.

Dorothy went 7-7; I went 9-5. See? No matter what you tune in to -- ESP or ESPN -- this season is one big tossup.

Now, the picks

New Orleans at Atlanta: The Falcons have yet to lose at home this season, but Drew Brees is 4-0 as a starter against Atlanta. Pick: New Orleans.

Tennessee at Chicago: Rex Grossman against Tennessee’s ball-hawking defense? This could get ugly. Pick: Tennessee.

Jacksonville at Detroit: Last Sunday, Cincinnati got its first win of the season by beating the Jaguars. Are the winless Lions next? No. Pick: Jacksonville.

Baltimore at Houston: This should be close. The difference: Baltimore’s offense is starting to click. Pick: Baltimore.

Seattle at Miami: The Dolphins defense has looked very good the last couple of weeks. That’s bad news for Seattle’s Seneca Wallace. Pick: Miami.

Green Bay at Minnesota: Ryan Grant, who plays well against the Vikings, is starting to roll. Minnesota is missing Jared Allen, and that hurts. Pick: Green Bay.

Buffalo at New England: The banged-up Bills haven’t won in New England since 2000. The Patriots are making do without Tom Brady. Pick: New England.

St. Louis at New York Jets: Bad as they’ve been against the Rams, the Jets are hungry for a win to hang tough in the ultra-tight AFC East. Pick: New York Jets.

Carolina at Oakland: The Raiders have averaged 7.2 points over the last four games. They’ll be lucky to get field goals in this one. Pick: Carolina.

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh: From the look of things, Byron Leftwich is everything the Steelers want from a backup quarterback. And more. Pick: Pittsburgh.

Kansas City at San Diego: The Chargers are a major disappointment, yes. But if they can’t beat the one-win Chiefs at Qualcomm, they might want to call it a season. Pick: San Diego.

New York Giants at Philadelphia: Good as they are, the Giants have played a lot of mediocre teams -- their eight opponents are a combined 27-40. The Eagles need this one. Pick: Philadelphia.

San Francisco at Arizona: If Kurt Warner keeps this pace, he will belong in the MVP discussion. Pick: Arizona.

Season record: 73-57.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com


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