Sundays in fall are a constant battle for married men, as falling leaves and long-neglected items on the "honey do" list steal you away from the comfortable sofa and the TV remote. With a little creativity, though, we can do both at the same time -- identifying and fixing the biggest problems with the NFL's most problematic properties.
And there are some seriously distressed properties on display this week, requiring a real handyman's touch.
As we make our picks this week, we offer tips on how to fix the team we picked against.
Houston at TENNESSEE (-3): Titans
Both teams are a little shaky, and are looking to rebound from losses, making this a difficult choice. But the Houston team has been a real money pit, trying everything from total gut rehab to just applying new coats of paint. I think the biggest problem here is in the exhaust -- the fumes of past losses tend to linger and poison the house. Lining the chimney stack with stainless steel, after clearing out any vermin and reside, could go a long way here.
Chicago (-1.5) at TAMPA BAY: Buccaneers (Played in London)
This Chicago edifice is just plain ugly, suffering badly from a miscommunication between the builders and designers. No one who was really committed to a Martz plan would try to build a team around salvaged parts and scrap metal at the wide receiver position, or on the offensive line, but that's exactly what they've done. The results are garish and structurally unsound. Some serious reinvestment will be required.
Atlanta at DETROIT (-4): Falcons
The plan is sound, and the foundation is in place, for this Detroit rehab to succeed. All that's needed is to fill in a few cracks, and right now, there are gaps in the run defense opening up in between the aggressive rush patterns of the defensive line. Some quality wood filler and spackle is all that's needed to weatherproof this defense for a long hardy winter. That will go a long way toward leavening the loss of Best from the offense.
Seattle at CLEVELAND (-3): Seahawks (Upset)
There are structural problems in Cleveland already, but the inhabitants are making things way worse by wasting the few quality materials they have. When you have a slab of granite like Peyton Hillis (inactive again this week), you don't leave it out behind the garage while you fiddle around with other things. And if you've got a new but relatively cheap central unit (like Colt McCoy), you have to operate it within reasonable limits. You can't expect to run it on overload (averaging 45 passes per game) without breaking down repeatedly.
Washington at CAROLINA (-3): Redskins
The Carolina property has fantastic curb appeal, but make sure you bring a quality building inspector along. This team is still not wired up properly, especially on defense, where shorts and all-out electrical fires are common. There is little help from the high-priced running game either. You can easily see the potential for a prime property here, but behind the exterior veneer this is still a gut rehab in process.
Denver at MIAMI (PK): Broncos (Lock)
It would be easier to list the things that are all right with this dilapidated and heavily storm-damaged Miami team, than to run through an exhaustive list of everything wrong with it. We don't trust the owner, and the current team of architects and planners has to be junked before anything resembling progress can be made.
San Diego at NEW YORK JETS (-1): Jets
People love to pick on the Jets, whose house looks like those ridiculous neighbors down the street who grafted roman columns to the front of their house and keep it lit up all night long, without really fixing anything. But that outlandishness is still preferable to the deep-seated incompetence of the San Diego franchise in competitions that matter. There's a dead smell coming from inside the walls of this Chargers team. People have been trying to ignore it for years, repainting and recovering without ever addressing the problem. Old Norv has to be ejected before he goes full-blown senile and the mail starts piling up inside.
Kansas City at OAKLAND (-4): Raiders
You have to admire the Raiders' daring, even if it might lead to disaster. After their central load-bearing column cracked and broke, they immediately overpaid to have it propped up and replaced. Now you can question the quality of these replacement materials, but at least they did the job quickly and decisively, rather than let the whole house crumble around them. By comparison, Kansas City has been suffering all kinds of structural breaks all year, and the owner has been waiting in vain for the insurance settlement to come in before he lifts a hammer.
Pittsburgh (-3.5) at ARIZONA: Steelers
If you're not favored at home, you're doing something really really wrong. Arizona has about 1/3 of a house built, and everyone obsesses over the central fixture of that part of the house (Kevin Kolb), while ignoring the fact that the whole backside of the roof is gone and the back yard is a sinkhole. The entire defense, outside of Patrick Peterson and Calais Campbell, is a disaster area. If the other inhabitants of the NFC West weren't so preoccupied with their own properties, they'd be calling in the city inspectors to have Arizona cited.
St Louis at DALLAS (-14): Cowboys
It's a classic realtor's trick: if you want to make an average property look great, show it in direct contrast to the worst listing from the worst neighborhood in your book. The St. Louis team, the scourge of the NFC West, is that... even more so without Sam Bradford (high ankle sprain) in the lineup. We were fooled by this Rams team, but even as we speak, truckfuls of materials (Brandon Lloyd, Mark Clayton) are still being unloaded in desperate attempt to make something stand up. Serious cracks in the foundation (Jason Smith) may doom this effort, though.
Green Bay (-9.5) at MINNESOTA: Packers
This really isn't a fair comparison, as the frame of the Vikings' house is about to be split in two and loaded onto the back of a semi truck bound for Los Angeles. The only thing to do between now and then is clean house, and it looks like that job is already well underway with the benching of Donovan McNabb. There's a lot of junk to be sorted through before that job is done, though.
Indianapolis at NEW ORLEANS (-13.5): Colts
The Saints property is a quality piece of work, inside and out, but it's way overpriced in this market. They've covered only three of six spreads so far this season, none of them over seven points. Wait for the price to fall before you consider investing in this one to get the best value.
Baltimore (-9) at JACKSONVILLE: Ravens
Like Minnesota, the owners of this Jacksonville team are eyeing a trip west. There may be a race to get out there, and both teams might win. With the coach's job publicly on the line this year -- needing a miraculous run to the playoffs -- and a rookie quarterback at the reins, the Jaguars are a step ahead of the Vikings in the race to strip down and become move-ready. Until they establish roots, there's little that can be done.