Only 2 home dogs this week? No thank you. Even Vegas clearly doesn’t know what’s going on at this point. That’s what these lines say to me. Weeks 10 through about 13 in the NFL are never normal. Ever. I wish there was a stat called “games between week 10 and week 13 that ended up being super weird”. Now that’s an analytic I can get behind. On the podcast for this week (hopefully the editing technical issues are resolved by the time this gets posted #prayingemoji) me and my buddy Chris from Boston narrowed down who we think the six playoff teams for each league will be, arranged by seed.
NFC = Cardinals/Packers/Eagles/Saints/Lions/49ers
AFC = Pats/Chiefs/Colts/Steelers/Broncos/Dolphins
No Seattle? No San Diego? No Dallas?
It does seem kind of crazy to think that Seattle, as dominant as they were, would continue the tradition of Super Bowl winners failing to make the playoffs, but it is absolutely in play. This Seahawks team is exhibit 1A for the backers of the “Super Bowl hangover” theory (count me as one of them). It’s just so hard to find that extra motivation, that “NOBODY THINKS WERE ANY GOOD!” feeling. You can’t manufacture that, and once you lost it, it’s gone. Seattle’s defense and even their offense to some extent last year was full of guys who got drafted multiple rounds later than they should have been, so they played like every play was proving something. They were the wave of lava chasing Aladdin out of the Cave of Wonders shouting “NOBODY BELIEVES IN US!!!!” and “WERE ALONE IN THIS! THEY HATE US!” and also don’t forget “WE’RE ALL UNDER PAID AND PLAYING FOR OUR FUTURE OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!!!”. Nobody is more motivated than an underpaid football player and nobody loses that extra gear faster than a football player who just got paid.
But here we are, 11 weeks into the season and Seattle sits at a super underwhelming 6-4. They traded away their most dynamic offensive weapon because, on top of other things, he didn’t get along with their second most dynamic weapon who they let go in the off-season to sign those “NOBODY BELIEVES IN US!!!!” guys. Russell Wilson has looked lethargic all season, and Pete Carroll has never been a guy that’s struck me as the type to take a team through adversity into the promised land. He’s a great guy to have around when everything’s going well. Pete Carroll is great at bachelor parties, bar mitzvahs, and weddings, but you absolutely do not want him around for a funeral.
Just don’t forget the “EVERYONE’S AGAINST US!!! THEY DON’T THINK WE CAN WIN!!!” team when you’re trying to find that dark horse playoff team this year. “NOBODY BELIEVES IN US!!!” is the best possible teammate you can have in the locker room this time of the year. It’s almost unfathomable that a sport that is as intricate and detailed as football has been decided by the NBIU factor for the last…well let’s go through them
2013: Seattle – Check
2012: Baltimore – I actually remember specifically saying they were the only team that didn’t have a chance to win it that year, check
2011: New York Giants – the brethren of the originators of NBIU, check
2010: Green Bay – I wouldn’t say nobody believed, but they certainly weren’t the favorites, kind of check
2009: New Orleans – That entire city was pulling the NBIU card, check
2008: Pittsburgh – managed to pull out a victory from the Cardinals, the real NBIU team that year
2007: New York Giants – Oh the Patriots are undefeated and have the greatest offense ever and are favored by double digits? Nope, nobody, check
So every single Super Bowl Champ since the 2007 season besides one for sure and another maybe, has been the NBIU team. It’s a little early to narrow it down for this year, but I can’t imagine in this wacky, out of control season that the favorite is all of a sudden going to just break through the chains and win it all. But hey maybe that’s the spirit of the NFL in 2014, nothing makes sense. So the only thing that would continue that nonsense trend is if the favorite actually won the Super Bowl. Is this coming across cohesive? Honesty time, it’s 3:30 a.m. right now
Winners in bold
Cleveland @ Atlanta (-3)
An Atlanta defense that has zero discernible talent at all going against a hot Cleveland team getting this guy back.
This guy, Josh Gordon, has fresh legs, has apparently (in his words) lost 10-15 pounds, and is snarlingly angry because he lost 11 games because he got high. By the way, look at the QBs throwing him the ball in those highlights. Jason “not the soup” Campbell and Brandon “I swear I’m intimidating” Weeden. 200 yards and 2 TD’s incoming. Browns are the pick.
TEN @ PHI (-11)
When I was in Nashville this summer, as I do whenever I go to a city for the first time, I tried to take the sports temperature of the town. I like to know who and what they root for and how hard they root. The answers I got about the Titans just about define the era of the Tennessee Titans. Every answer I got seemed went something like “Yeah we’re Titans fans, but let’s talk about college football instead”. The first part of that sentence was about as apathetic as possible, especially compared to the excited look that showed up when the person got the the second half.
DET @ NE (-7)
Is this line four points too high? The Pats look like the best team in the NFL right now, but unfortunately the season is longer than 11 weeks. Brady comes out slightly flat in this one and the Lions get pressure only sending four. Wait, you’re going to pick Matthew Stafford on the road in Foxborough in late November?? You’re goddamn right I am.
GB (-9.5) @ MIN
Green Bay is rolling right now. They’re just destroying people. Unlike the Patriots though, I don’t see the train stopping this week. If I was a dome team and had the choice, I’d actually probably prefer to play Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau. Giving this crazy man dome turf to run around and find open guys on is terrifying. Green Bay by 1000.
JAX @ IND (-14)
Here’s what’s going to happen in this one. Jags are going to score first, the sideline is going to do the jump around and go crazy and start shouting things like “LETS GOOOO!!!!” and “WE CAN PLAY WITH THESE GUYS!!!”. Whichever receiver accidentally catches the touchdown mean mugs his way back to the sideline, fully aware that the cameras are on him. Andrew Luck comes jogging onto the field and then….
CIN @ HOU (Pick Em)
Here is Andy Daltons contract, by year, which kicks in next season
2015: 3 million (eh, ok not terrible)
2016: 10.5 million (woof)
2017: 13.1 million (double woof)
2018: 13.7 million (still only double woof)
2019: 16 million (getting there)
2020: 17.5 million (there it is)
Add 17 million guaranteed including the 12 million he got for signing his name on that piece of paper. I would argue the Bengals didn’t have much of a choice but….yikes
NYJ @ BUF (-4)
Free Monday night game!!! You know who we don’t think about enough when we do charitable things around the holidays and start to care a little more than usual about the plight of our fellow man? We always forget about the athletes who come from the Southern and Western part of America, that have never seen snow before, and get drafted by Buffalo. Those are the people we should be giving our positive energy towards this holiday season. That has to be terrifying. Winter is terrifying to me and I’ve lived in it my entire life. They’re the true hero’s.
TB @ CHI (5.5)
This game is impossible for me to stay impartial towards. Lovie Smith returns to Chicago and I feel so mixed about it. On one hand, some of the epic mistakes and meltdowns the Bears have had in the last two years would have never, NEVER, happened with a Lovie coached team. On the other hand Marc Trestman came in and did something not a single Bears coach has ever done, and that’s build a competent offense. It’s possible that all the reasons Trestman never got a head coaching job for 20 years until now are bubbling up to the surface. He’s clearly lost his locker room, doesn’t seem to handle adversity very well, and has lost about 85% of his press conferences. In an ideal world we would have just kept Lovie and hired Trestman as our offensive coordinator. Why didn’t we do that? Can somebody at Halas Hall explain this to me? How much sense, besides all of the sense, would that have made. More sense than Mark Cuban makes in an hour(that was terrible I apologize). Lovie does his best impression of 2008 Lovie and comes into Chicago and wins. Tampa is about to return a kick for a touchdown, an interception for a touchdown, and somehow make the Bears defense look like world beaters. It’s going to be all of the Lovie Smith things wrapped into one afternoon.
ARI @ SEA (-6.5)
Even two months ago if I were to tell you Drew Stanton is leading the Cardinals into Seattle to face a kind of pissed off Seahawks team, you would have said I was crazy to think they could cover any sort of spread, let alone win. Now though? Now I see no reason why Drew Stanton can’t lead the Cardinals (stealth NBIU team) into Seattle and snatch a victory from the jaws of the 12th man, who these days picks and chooses whether to show up or not (BANDWAGON FANS ALERT! BANDWAGON FANS ALERT!). I’m off this Seahawks team. Drew Stanton, the pride of Sparta, covers this spread that’s 3 points too high.
STL @ SD (-4.5)
Rivers is clearly playing hurt. He’s got a rib thing, a back thing, and he’s playing with his 19th string center. Fun fact, Chargers GM Tom Telesco called me yesterday to see what my availability to play center was for Sunday, but I had to politely decline. I have work. When you throw a banged up offensive line and a ferocious defensive front that tries harder than anyone into a mixing bowl then stir, what do you get? You get a lot of Phillip Rivers doing this.
Is there a more fun QB to watch when things aren’t going his way? If you can think of one, please let me know.
MIA @ DEN (-7)
Miami is good. I know it’s hard to imagine the Dolphins not being just some 9-7 or 7-9 team stuck in perpetual irrelevance, but this year they’re legit. They’re a team that can absolutely win two straight road games in the playoffs. They get consistently scary pressure only bringing four guys. Everybody’s money will be on Denver in this one, but I’m not so convinced. Denver’s offensive line isn’t what is was even a month ago, and there’s a real good chance Cameron Wake is in Peyton’s grill for the entirety of the afternoon. Dolphins cover and probably win.
WAS @ SF (-9)
These two teams are such a mess their mothers just grounded them until they clean their rooms. Washington’s quarterback and head coach are feuding like two rappers in the 90s and the 49ers might have the same problem but they’re not advertising it. It’s funny, I picked the 49ers to make the playoffs with the sole reason being they’re just too talented to not accidentally make it. That’s all they’ll do, accidentally make it. But on the other side of that same coin, do you really want to play Colin Kaepernick and Jim Harbaugh in a playoff game? If the Bears were a successful franchise and had the playoffs in their sights, I would absolutely be afraid of them. In the NFC, they and the Packers would be the two teams I would not want to play under any circumstance.
DAL (-3) @ NYG
Here’s a list of ways Dallas blows this game…
1)Dez Bryant finally chokes out Jason Garrett and the game has to be stopped because an actual murder has been committed
2)Jason Witten’s gears finally short circuit and we finally get the answer to the question “Is Jason Witten a robot?”
3) Peyton Manning shows up at the game dressed in his brothers uniform
All three of those are absolutely in play because there is 0% chance Dallas doesn’t finish 8-8.
BAL @ NO (-3)
Saints as home favorite on Monday Night? Gimme that, all damn day. Drew Brees loves Monday Night Football. We have yet to have that Brees throws for a million yards all on long passes game yet, and it’s coming. Baltimore might be slightly worse than they look, which I didn’t think was possible. The refs will be on New Orlean’s side for this one and won’t be giving Joe Flacco those free pass interference yards he loves so much. Lock of the week right here