Three weeks to go in one of the most wacky and unpredictable NFL seasons in my lifetime. Only four teams; Green Bay, New England, Denver, and Seattle have separated themselves from of voluminous pack. Those are the only four “great” teams this year, and all four of them have pretty glaring flaws. You can throw on Green Bay, you can run on New England, Denver’s running game is unreliable, and Seattle doesn’t have a single guy who can get open on a 3rd and 13. Actually, they don’t have a single guy who can get open ever.
Jets, Raiders,Titans, Jaguars are the only AFC teams mathematically playing for draft position, and the Redskins, Giants, Bears, and Bucs the only NFC teams doing the same
The rest of the 24 teams? Wide. Open.
So here I go, deep diving into the muck trying to make some sense of it all. As always, all games picked against the spread, with the winners in bold.
PIT (EVEN) @ ATL – Will the Steelers score 52 points? Yeah, probably. Will the Steelers struggle all day and only score 21? Yeah, probably. Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde. I don’t know what to make of this Steelers team. One day I’m walking around my apartment asking anyone who will listen “Are the Steelers good? Would you be afraid to play them in a playoff game?”. The next day they’re losing to the Jets. The day after that Roethlisberger is winning fantasy weeks for people. Then they’re letting Drew Brees party like it’s 2012 on their own field. I can’t keep up. They better win this one though, home games against two hopefuls in the Chiefs and Bengals are looming.
WSH @ NYG (EVEN) – Washington just has to be a very uncomfortable place to work right now. Reports of Snyder now pushing out head coach Jay Gruden, in favor of keeping RGIII are now surfacing. And from the stranger side of life, this story about Griffin by himself after practice just punting the ball and chasing it down like the kid who didn’t get picked to play pick-up surfaced. What the hell is going on with these quarterbacks? I’ll get to Kaepernick’s bad body language in a little bit, but this stuff is all getting a little ridiculous. The prospect of a healthy RGIII in some place like Philadelphia is frightening, but counting on this guy to be healthy at this point is kind of a fruitless process. His knee got absolutely shredded his rookie season, and he just hasn’t been the same since. It doesn’t help that Griffin seems to have a pretty rough diva streak. I mean the guy trademarked his name before he even took an NFL snap. I still believe he can be good, based on what I don’t know. But he needs to get out of Washington and away from Dan Snyder and that toxic waste dump of an organization as quickly as he can.
MIA @ NE (-8) – Last season, when Miami had two chances to still make the playoffs in the final two weeks, they predictably completely blew it with two straight losses to the Bills (a shutout) and the Jets (Tannehill went 20-40 with a touchdown and three picks). This year they need some help, but that help starts with them beating New England. The Patriots clinch the division with a win here, so they have plenty to play for. The Patriots wants Peyton at their place in the playoffs and will do anything to make that happen. Too much Brady. Too much Belichick. Not enough Tannehill.
OAK (+10.5) @ KC – If this was any other team besides the Chiefs, I would say this is the easiest double digit cover of all time, and you should tease it at least five times this Sunday. Unfortunately Alex Smith is the QB you’re betting on in this situation. If Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson, and Antonio Bryant were all lined up wide and I was lined up at running back, Alex Smith would still check down to me on 3rd down without hesitation. I would be his number one target in that situation. I mean, how obnoxiously hyperbolic am actually being in that scenario?
I am hoping and praying the Chiefs sneak in as the 6 seed and have to play another game against Andrew Luck. “Going into halftime, the Chiefs lead the Colts 24-6. Tune in as Andy Reid blows another lead in the second half!”
HOU @ IND (-7) Andrew Khaleesi Luck smiles to himself as he signs and seal his victory letter. Letting the scent of scorched skin flow through him, Luck steps out onto his balcony to survey the roasted remains of the shores of Meereen. Offensive and defensive linemen scurry about to clean up the corpses that were only lightly cooked by the dragons flying out of Luck’s arms. It was just mere hours ago Bill of House O’Brien and J.J. of House Watt bravely led their column of warriors from the sunny lands of Houston to start a great battle to take the AFC North throne. Funny, it seemed to Luck at the time, that these “Texans” as they liked to call themselves, seemed to think the game of thrones was just that, a game. But as the Khaleesi knew well enough himself, when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground
“Come here TY”
“Send this letter, to all the other kingdoms of the AFC. Let them know what happened here today. Tell them of the death of the great Knight Watt has been charred to mere dust and that will be the punishment for anyone else who tries to threaten Andrew Stormborn of House Luck, Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains. Once you send the raven, gather your things. We’re going on a little trip”
A confused TY Hilton softly asks “Your Grace, if I am out of line I apologize, but where are we going?”
A grin strikes across Lucks face as he breaks his gaze with the wide eyed receiver. He once again looks out to the shoreline, takes a long pause as he takes in all of his surroundings on last time. “The playoffs TY, the playoffs”
JAC (+14) @ BAL – This game is the defining moment of this NFL season. I know that sounds crazy but hear me out. One thing I’ve learned about football in this wide-open, high scoring era we’re in is that if everyone thinks something is going to happen, the opposite will happen. The Ravens have every reason to win this game. They had a home win stolen from master art thief Phillip Rivers last week. They’re in the ultra-competitive AFC North, where one game can move you from first to last in a matter of hours. Their next two opponents after this, Houston and Cleveland, are both fighting for the same spot the Ravens are. They’ll obviously beat the lowly Jaguars with so much on the line. The Jaguars are terrible! Right? Well, remember that thing I said about when everyone thinks one thing is going to happen, the opposite happens? I mean I’m not sayin, but I’m just sayin…..
GB (-5.5) @ BUF – The Packers have never won a game in Buffalo. They are 0-5 all time. I guess they just historically can’t handle the wide gap in weather conditions between the two host cities. I mean which two American cities are more different than Buffalo and Green Bay. Sunshine and beach weather in one, snow and sub-freezing temperatures in another. No wonder all the big time free agents always head to Green Bay.
The Bills so far have enjoyed comeback victories against the entire NFC North. 23-20 win against the then-contender Bears Week 1, 17-14 in Detroit in Week 5, and and 17-16 snoozefest at Minnesota. The Packers can clinch a playoff spot with a win here and a Dallas loss, but something tells me Aaron Rodgers is too smart this under-the-radar really really really good Bills defense.
Since getting torched by four Tom Brady touchdowns way back in Week 6, this Bills defense has only given up three passing touchdowns. Three. In a league in which you are not allowed to breathe on receivers once the ball is snapped for fear of a penalty. Look it up, I wouldn’t have believed it either if I didn’t see it for my own eyes. Going up against Aaron Rodgers is an entirely different animal, and though they are sure to play inspired football, it won’t be enough to stop this red-hot Packers offense.
TB @ CAR (-6) – My elegant, well thought out opinion on this game are as follows…
CIN @ CLE (EVEN) – Well, here it is. Jonathon Paul Football Manziel makes his first NFL start. I wrote before he got drafted that I believed in him. There’s just something so enticing about the unknown with him. The ceiling is the football equivalent to a mushroom trip. The floor is him fumbling a bunch, never being able to stay healthy, and being out of the league in three years. Much has been written about what Johnny is and isn’t as a quarterback so I won’t waste any more of your time. But, never forget, as my favorite double negative goes, nobody knows nothin. We won’t know what this kid is going to be until at least week 10 next year. Count me in for two tickets to the show though, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
NYJ @ TEN (+3) – Titans fans, masochists, degenerate gamblers, Jets fans (even that’s questionable), prison inmates during TV time with no choice, and ESPN NFL writers with the least amount of pull. That’s the full and complete list of people who will tune in to this game. Somebody tweet me when the game’s over so I can turn Red Zone back on, for fear of them unexpectedly switching to this dumpster fire. Actually add Melisandre and the disciples of the Red God to the list, as they will be entranced in the flames burning between the between the 35 yard lines.
DEN (-4.5) @ SD – San Diego, fresh off of losing 5 million gamblers money on Sunday by pulling out a win in Baltimore, hosts Denver in a “must-keep-up” game. I don’t know how San Diego does it, or when my guy Phil Rivers is EVER going to get any love as one of the great QB’s of this generation. Seriously, it’s all him out there. Offensive line issues is the crutch quarterbacks have leaned on to explain their poor play for ages (and it actually is the problem a good amount of the time), but he never lets them see him sweat. He’s got three defensive linemen in his face on any given play, and he just kind of acts like they aren’t there. I don’t want to say he’s nonchalant about it. Nothing Phillip Rivers does is nonchalant. He’s one of the most competitive athletes I’ve ever seen. Even the guy who calls plays for him, offensive coordinator Frank Reich, is afraid to get near the snarling beast Rivers becomes on Sundays. “He’s on game days, um, extremely fiery, and I have to learn when to keep my distance, you know?”. Sounds like a high school Sophomore talking about the psychopath Senior middle linebacker, not an NFL head coach. Last season the Chargers unlocked the key to beating the Broncos; short passes, control the ball, waste the clock 4 yards at a time (Well besides the Seahawks who just went with the “Beat them the fuck up, get in their head” strategy in the Super Bowl. That’s another way to beat them), that as you saw in their first meeting this year, a 35-21 in a jumbled Thursday Night game, it is just so hard to replicate. (Well besides the Seahawks who just went with the “Beat them the fuck up, get in their head” strategy in the Super Bowl. That’s another way to beat them).
This year the Broncos offense has been basically the same machine it was last year give or take a few records. It’s not a matter of it being the right system/players/QBs/coaching whatever anymore. At this point it’s just about if you can stop them or not. Peyton has been in the same zone for three years now, but will his well documented playoff shortcomings that every Bronco fan is secretly afraid of rear their ugly head again this January? Or will cyborg Peyton win another Super Bowl, then retire to Papa John’s guest house for the rest of his life? Broncos take this one with a touchdown late.
MIN (+8) @ DET – Do you trust Matthew Stafford in a playoff game on the road? Stafford has as many wins on the road against teams .500 or better as you do. And he has 16 losses more than you do.
Look, I think Stafford is a good quarterback. And he has a pterodactyl wearing a number 81 Lions jersey who he can just throw the ball up to and even the Navy Seals couldn’t stop him from catching it. But look at their potential first round opponents. They could potentially play road games in New Orleans, Atlanta, Philadelphia, or Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. Stafford finds a way to blow all four of those games right? Maybe the collective back and forth choke jobs of Stafford and Tony Romo create a rip in the space time continuum and we all fall into a black hole and disintegrate into nothing but memories and space particles. Would they even be favored on the road against a Saints team that just ripped off three straight wins to fall ass backward into the playoffs?
SF @ SEA (-10) – Even as recently as last Saturday night, I would’ve told you there is no way the 49ers are done. “They’re still contenders!”, “That defense is still playing great!”, & “There’s no way anybody wants to play Kaep and Harbough in a playoff game!” are just three of the gas-baggy nonsense sports opinion you would have heard from me about the 49ers mere hours before they played Saturday. Then they lost to the Raiders 24-13 in a “road game” a mere 34 minute Uber ride away and I did a tuck and roll off the 49er’s bandwagon, fracturing three limbs in the process. Kaep is finished mentally. You can see it in his body language. He’s uninterested, uncomfortable, and seemingly unable to read a defense anymore. When Kaep had his big coming out party against the Bears on Monday Night in 2012 I remember thinking, “We’re all screwed, this kid’s the future”. He made me feel the same way Lebron made me feel when he went to the Heat. Hopeless. The Bulls just can’t beat those three guys is what I realized right at that moment. I felt the same about Kaep then. We just can’t beat that guy. Then he demoralized the entire state of Wisconsin when he ran for 500 yards against the Packers in the playoffs that same season. (Editors note: It was actually 181 yards, still incredible). He just isn’t the same guy anymore, I haven’t seen him smile since week one.
There’s a small part of me that hates how good I want him to be again. I just love greatness in sports, and hate when it just disappears out of nowhere. Oh my God I just imagined 2012 Kaep against the 2014 Bears defense and pooped myself a little bit. (throws up away message)
DAL @ PHI (-3.5) – During the Thanksgiving game in which the Eagles won 33-10, they just looked better than the Cowboys. They had better players, they had better coaching, and they had the ultimate ace in their sleeves, Mark Sanchez. I’m only 80 percent joking about that last one, by the way. The Boy’s pass defense has coming crashing down to Earth with the impact of the moon finally coming crashing down and we all solve the hotly debated “Is the moon made out of cheese” mystery.
This game is basically a division championship game, as the loser would need some help to get that home playoff game. The Eagles finish out the season after this week with two very winnable road games against the hopeless Redskins and the hapless Giants. Meanwhile the Cowboys still have Khaleesi and her army of Unsullied Colts on their way in Week 16, finishing up in Washington Week 17. You tell me which schedule you’d rather have?
Fly Eagles Fly!
NO (-3) @ CHI – I am completely finished frustrated myself by even bothering to think or talk about the 2014 Bears, so here’s a picture mosaic of dead-coach-walking Mark Trestman’s daughters. You gotta go Mark, your daughters can stay