By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Where do you go when you’ve already gone back to basics, back to the drawing board and back to square one? Just asking for a friend of mine.

OK, well, I’m asking for me. I’d be lying if I spent any time here telling you how confident I am in my abilities to pick these NFL games. I’ve done this for years, and while I’ve hit my hiccups along the way, my confidence has never been shaken so badly. It’s to the point that when both the Thursday and Monday night games resulted in a push last week, I beat myself up, thinking I somehow could have made a better pick.

Nevertheless, I have to look at the whole body of work I’ve done over the years and remember that I am at worst mediocre at this and at best slightly better than mediocre. Yeah!

To help somewhat restore my faith in myself, it can’t hurt to check out a few tips online to help me get back on track. Here’s what I found.

1. Research all games thoroughly
This one I feel can be a tricky devil. Sometimes you can talk yourself out of the sensible pick based on some random historical statistic that has nothing to do with anything in 2012. I’m starting to feel I should completely stop any and all research, but OK, thank you, Internet, for this incredible tip.

2. It’s a risky idea to lay 7 or more points
Really? Last week, teams went 1-1-1 with spreads of a touchdown or more. In Weeks 5 and 6, teams favored by a touchdown or more went 3-3 against the spread. Small sample size, but spreads don’t climb into double digits by accident, and those games generally seem to have the same chance of going to the underdog just as often as any other game. It’s a risky idea to make any pick, really.

3. Identify trends
How do you find trends in teams like the Raiders? This is the NFL. Trends are cool and all, but they mean nothing once the ball is kicked off.

4. Check the injury reports
Oh, so like the Steelers’ injury report, which had Rashard Mendenhall, Troy Polamalu, Maurkice Pouncey, Isaac Redman and Marcus Gilbert on it? Well the Steelers still won and covered on the road.

Essentially, there are no rules, there are no guidelines, and there are no shortcuts to getting these things right. By that logic, it’s almost impossible to maintain a level of making these picks so far below .500, that a complete turnaround has to be inevitable.

Now that I’ve got everything figured out, I feel much better about giving you this week’s picks. I’ll try not to let the Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week’s Picks throw me off my game.

(Home team in caps; Thursday lines)

Tampa Bay (+6.5) over MINNESOTA
I’m still upset I lost a chance at a win last week because Vincent Jackson has big feet and because Mike Williams got shoved out of bounds and “rules” are stupid. So I imagine the Buccaneers are even more upset, considering, you know, it’s their job to be.

Ridiculous Quote From Last Week’s Picks: “Did you see that Christian Ponder pick last weekend? That’s enough to scare you away for the rest of the season. I’ll take John Skelton’s second cousin over that, thank you very much.

Note: Man, Ponder really proved me wrong with an epic 8-for-17, 58-yard, one-touchdown, two-interception day in the win. Football is stupid.

Washington (+4.5) over PITTSBURGH
The Steelers are a lousy football team. It’s this weird phenomenon this country’s experiencing where we see the same jersey and the same quarterback and the same head coach from when they were still good, but they’re not. We know this. And we know that Robert Griffin and the Redskins, despite that 3-4 record, are legit. They haven’t lost a single game by more than one possession, losing by an average of 5.25 points. Even if you’re not as down on the Steelers as I am, you have to at least like their chances to keep this close.

Seattle (+1) over DETROIT
Apparently, it’s underdog week here in the picks column. But really, if you want to trust the team fumbled away a football on the goal line and also fumbled on two out of three plays early in one of their drives … which ultimately ended in another red zone fumble, then you’re crazy.

RQFLWP: “[The Texans] are just not a team built to blow out a good team.”

Note: By the start of the second quarter of the Houston-Baltimore game, I already had this one copy and pasted for RQFLWP. Sometimes you just nail it. And that’s what I did.

CHICAGO (-8) over Carolina
The Panthers have fooled me enough times this year. I’ve learned my lesson. I am hesitant to take the Bears by such a large margin, after they thoroughly dominated all night on Monday but only won by six points. But the fact that the Panthers are a complete mess this week makes this pick that much easier to make. Just count me in for more national discussion about Cam Newton’s demeanor. That’s captivating stuff, guys. Keep it up.

Indianapolis (+3.5) over TENNESSEE
These right here are two teams that can win but can’t win big. The Colts have three wins, averaging a 3.3-point margin of victory. The Titans likewise have three wins, averaging a 2.3-point margin of victory. Seems like a good time to take the points.

New England (-7) over St. Louis (in London)
The Patriots are undefeated in London. The Rams have never won there. Hard to go against history.

(Mini-rant: Why does the NFL bother going through the laborious task of shipping two teams over to England to play a game every year if they’re not even going to make a big deal about it? It’s not even a national game, and you hardly even see the word “London” near anything leading up to this game. You just see “Patriots at Rams, 1 p.m.” I recognize that watching it on TV, it doesn’t matter if the game is St. Louis, London or Timbuktu, but the league could at least try to play it up and generate a little more interest, don’t you think?)

(Mini-rant No. 2: Devin McCourty fumbled the game away on a kickoff return and was still given AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Yeah, he brought back a kick for a touchdown earlier, but doesn’t vomiting up the football game count more against you? These are indeed the times where everyone in the world gets a trophy.)

RQFLWP: “I already feel bad for the Jets for the beating that is going to bestowed upon them [by the Patriots].

Note: A three-point win in overtime … what a beating!

NEW YORK JETS (-1.5) over Miami
I hate the fact that I know that Mark Sanchez got dumped by Eva Longoria this week. I don’t seek out this information, I don’t care about this information, and I don’t ever want to know this information. Yet, with Twitter and the fact that I spend my entire day following sports news, it doesn’t take long to find me.

But given that I have this information, I have to consider it, so I mean, it’s not like this breakup could make Sanchez any worse. The guy threw for 82 yards two weeks ago. I’m expecting a big-time revenge game for him, and when he sees Ryan Tannehill happily come to town with his newly famous wife, it’ll only fire him up more.

(In reality, I like the Rex Ryan defense going against the rookie head coach/rookie quarterback combo for the second time of the year, but that Longoria nonsense was so much more saucy!)

San Diego (-2) over CLEVELAND
The Cleveland Browns are so bad that I’ve officially decided to bring back YouTube links of Brandon Weeden getting stuck underneath giant American flags. Sorry, Cleveland, but I’m not sorry at all.

GREEN BAY (-16) over Jacksonville
A lot of places had this line on hold, waiting for Blaine Gabbert’s status. I was waiting to learn if it was going to go down or up if he was deemed OK to start.

I generally hate two-touchdown spread, but when you see them, you just have to question whether the underdog even has a slight chance of competing. Without Maurice Jones-Drew (hell, even with Maurice Jones-Drew), the Jaguars don’t. You can’t let a big line scare you just because it’s a big line.

Atlanta (+1.5) over PHILADEPHIA
If the Falcons don’t lose this weekend, they realistically could be 13-0 heading into their Week 15 game against the Giants. It’s not that they’re a perfect or even near perfect football team, it’s that their upcoming opponents are Dallas, New Orleans (twice), Arizona, Tampa Bay and Carolina, teams with a combined record of 12-19.

That’s crazy to think about, and I do not see the Eagles getting in the way of it this weekend.

Oakland (+1) over KANSAS CITY
Brady Quinn.

New York Giants (-1.5) over DALLAS
I don’t care that they’re at home — the Cowboys just don’t like to beat the Giants twice in a season. In the Tony Romo era, the Cowboys have accomplished that feat exactly once. And in the Romo era, the Cowboys are 2-5 at home against the Giants (playoff loss included).

DENVER (-6) over New Orleans
Peyton Manning, at home, on national television, against the league’s worst defense overall and third-worst passing defense, and you’re only making him cover two field goals? Come on.

(Seriously, the Saints allow 465.5 yards per game. By comparison, the 49ers and Steelers combine to give up just 84.1 more yards per game. It is a full 41.4 yards more than the 31st-ranked team. It is terrible.)

ARIZONA (+7) over San Francisco
The battle of no quarterbacks. I’m taking the points.

The Cardinals have yet to allow an opponent score more than 21 points, allowing on average 17 points per game. If Alex Smith’s offense becomes the team to buck that trend, then I won’t feel badly about making this pick. You may be saying, “Well yeah, idiot, but what about Frank Gore?” Well, Adrian Peterson went off for 153 yards last week and still, the Cardinals only lost by a touchdown.

I won’t dispute your “idiot” claim, though.

Last week: 4-7-2
Season: 43-58-3

Read more from Michael by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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