I had a weird feeling about the Thursday game, and it turns out I should listen more closely to weird feelings. In the pick ‘em league, I was the only one to bet that the Falcons would cover the double-digit spread. This went against my better judgment, as the Falcons had only twice beaten opponents by double digits (Carolina 31-17, and Indianapolis 31-7). And when you think of the Jaguars, despite being offensively challenged, they do have MJD to grind the clock and a pretty solid defense. Or did. That defense isn’t the same one that yanked the rug out from under the Ravens, especially in the secondary, so I suspected Matty Ryan might have a good day. And consider that the Jags would be on the road, on a short week, with an interim coach. Last week’s blowout of the Bucs tempted me for a moment to thinking the Jags might score on the Falcons, until I considered just how fucking miserable the Bucs have become. So I switched what was my original bet on the Jags to a reluctant cover for the Falcons.
I’m still not sold that the Falcons are particularly great. They’ve got some solid weapons on both sides of the ball, they’re a nice, steady team, but I think they’re a team no one’s going to fear in the postseason. It’s just that the Jags made them look really good. And Blaine fucking Gabbert is atrocious. Whoever put his name on the card during the draft should run himself into a tree.
Dallas Cowboys -6.5 (7-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9).
So the Cowboys are at least a talented team, but a team that can’t help shooting itself in the foot, and has allowed the slippery NFCE division lead to fall out of their grasp. And the Bucs just, well, flat out suck. The Cowboys are penciled in at the 6 seed in the NFC, but can’t afford any more dumbassery. The Bucs suck. After putting together a string of wins, not always pretty, the Cowboys lost two winnable games back to back to fall to where they are. The Bucs suck.
I mean, they really fucking suck. They’ve lost 7 straight, and the fucking Jags of all teams just blew them out of the water. I don’t care if Tony Romo and Jason Garrett shit the bed on every single fucking Cowboys drive, there is no way the Cowboys don’t win this one going away. Prediction: Cowboys 38, Bucs 13.
Washington Redskins +6.5 (4-9) at New York Giants (7-6).
The Redskins stunned the Giants in week 1 28-14. The Redskins have now lost 8 of 9. The Giants have rebounded from a 4-game losing streak (@SF, Philly, @NO, GB) to wrestle the lead from the Cowboys, and I’m sensing they still feel plenty chippy. Washington’s defense should have some success throttling the running game, and Big Blue’s leaky secondary will allow Grossman some success moving the ball through the air.
In their last 2 outings, however, the scrappy Redskins defense has given up 34 points to the Patriots (OK) and 34 to the Jets (whaaaaa?), while scoring 19 and 27 points in those tilts. I expect this to be the kind of feisty divisional game where these seeming opposites collide and duke it out in a mostly low-scoring affair, but Eli and his receivers cover late. Prediction Giants 27, Redskins 17.
Green Bay Packers -13.5 (13-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-8).
I’m hoping, for the sake of my fantasy team’s survival, that Aaron Rodgers throws 3 TDs or more before the half, because he’s going to be snoozing on the bench mid-third quarter this game.
Todd Haley is reputedly a brash and unlikeable guy. Fine. But as a coach, he took the Chiefs to the playoffs in 2010, then lost his star RB Jamaal Charles in the preseason, his best TE Tony Moeaki in the preseason, his big money QB Matt Cassell 9 games into the season, and his best defensive back S Eric Berry in the season opener. The Chiefs have been up and down all year, but is that really Haley’s fault?
Anyway, the only way the Pack doesn’t cover is if Mike McCarthy punts on first down every possession in the second half. And hell, maybe even then. Prediction: Packers 37, Chiefs 16.
New Orleans Saints -6.5 (10-3) at Minnesota Vikings (2-11).
Adrian Peterson may suit up but won’t be able to do much to slow down the Saints aerial attack against a porous Vikings secondary. Prediction: Saints 27, Vikings 16.
Seattle Seahawks +3.5 (6-7) at Chicago Bears (7-6).
Seattle is on the outside looking in at the NFC playoffs in the 9th spot, behind the Packers, Niners, Saints, Giants, Falcons, Lions, and other outsider teams the Bears (7-6, 7th) and Cowboys (7-6, 8th). Thing is, Seattle’s won 4 of 5 behind some solid defensive play and Marshawn Lynch running through defenders like they’re cardboard cutouts. And the Bears haven’t won since losing Cutler and Forte. Both teams are fighting for a fading shot at the postseason, and I don’t know that home field advantage gets much traction in this one. Both teams will key up to stop the run, and dare the opposing QB to win it. Bears mojo went sour quickly, but this could be one where they suck it up and eke a win just on pride, because they damn well know they should have beaten the Tebows. Better bet: take under 36. Prediction: Bears 16, Seahawks 13.
Miami Dolphins (4-9) at Buffalo Bills (5-8).
No line as yet due to QB Matt Moore and Jake Long. Dolphins have won 4 of 6 while Bills have dropped 6 straight. My suspicion is Long won’t play but Moore will, and that should be good enough. Bills have turned into pure shit, and the Fins, despite firing their shades-wearing coach, have played mostly decent ball. Prediction: Dolphins 20, Bills 16.
Carolina Panthers +6.5 (4-9) at Houston Texans (10-3).
Texans keep winning, even through injuries. DC Wade Phillips will miss this due to a medical procedure (rhinoceros being removed from his bowel). Panthers won’t be able to stop Texans’ running game, and 3rd stringer Yates has played very well. Panthers will also have a difficult time getting anything going against the Texans’ D. Prediction: Texans 24, Panthers 16.
Tennessee Titans -6.5 (7-6) at Indianapolis Colts (0-13).
Rookie QB Jake Locker gets the start. He’s mobile and has a strong arm, so I expect one long completion to former Steeler WR Nate Washington. RB Chris Johnson should see plenty of work. The Colts D just can’t do much, and even though this team would like to win 1 – just 1 – to possibly save HC Jim Caldwell’s job, it’s hard to make the call for them any week. And hard to see how Caldwell survives an 0-fer season. Prediction: Titans 28, Colts 17.
Cincinnati Bengals -6.5 (7-6) at St. Louis Rams (2-11).
Bengals have @Rams, Cards, and Ravens remaining, and are outside looking in now in the AFC (8th) behind the Titans (7-6, 7th), who have @Colts, Jags, @Texans. Both teams hope the Jets (8-5, 6th) stumble somewhere in their final 3, @Eagles, Giants, @Dolphins. For now, the Bengals should be able to take care of business, but their playoff hopes are on thin ice after a spate of losses to superior AFC teams (Ravens, Steelers, Texans).
Have to figure the Bengals win this one, and Coach Spags is another guy on the hot seat. Prediction: Bengals 24, Rams 13.
Detroit Lions -1 (8-5) at Oakland Raiders (7-6).
Lions should see DT Suh, RB Kevin Smith, and CB Chris Houston back in the lineup, while WR Denarius Moore returns for the Raiders. Two pretty evenly matched teams, and both have struggled lately. A loss here probably kills it for the Raiders, but Lions know that with Chargers and @Packers after this game, their tenuous hold on the 6th seed won’t be easy to retain, so again, both teams probably equally motivated. Lions have more weapons, overcome HFA, narrowly. Prediction: Lions 27, Raiders 24.
New England Patriots -7.5 (10-3) at Denver Broncos (8-5).
I can see this game going two ways. One, the Patriots jump out to a big early lead and the Tebow mystique goes up in a cloud of smoke. Two, the leaky Patriots defense allows the Broncos to hang around until late in the fourth quarter and somebody wins a close one.
Here’s the thing. You know Brady’s getting high 20s, low 30s on the board. Scored 34 against a Redskins defense that’s at least about as good as this Broncos unit. And the Holy Tebows scored 35 against a similarly leaky Vikings D, so it’s possible this could be a shootout with two-minute drill drama deciding it.
BTW, if you’re not sure what to get your 30-something friends, check out Tim Tebow’s newest product endorsement: WineStream. From the makers of SodaStream, you just pop in a bottle of water, press the button, assume the position (Tebowing!), and the water turns into your favorite varietal or blend in just minutes: choose from Miraculous Merlot, the Savior’s Sauvignon Blanc, Christ’s Own Cabernet Sauvignon, Virgin Mary Viognier, Matthew and Mark’s Meritage, the Bethlehem Bordeaux Blend, or Constantine’s Chardonnay!
If any player in league had a first-class meltdown and screaming match on the sidelines with their coordinator, he’d be labeled a punk, a prima donna, a loudmouth, a head trip. When Tom Brady goes at it with his offensive coordinator Bill Bradley, it’s proof positive of his competitive spirit, the fire in his belly.
Even though the Patriots allowed the Colts’ Dan Orlovsky and the Redskins Rex Grossman to move the ball through the air, and Tebow moved the ball credibly against the Vikings, Belichick will find a way to make the Broncos one-dimensional offense win through the air. I think they do get out to a quick start and Tebow can’t work the magic, even though this is one week I’d love to see it happen. Everyone else thinks the Broncos cover or win outright, so I must be wrong. Just following my gut. Prediction: Patriots 27, Broncos 15. Von Miller notches a safety.
New York Jets +3 (8-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-8).
Eagles offense won’t have an easy matchup this week, and by the time kickoff rolls around, the Eagles could very well have been eliminated from the postseason. Jets have scored 28 on the Bills, 34 on Skins, and 37 on the Chiefs in their last 3 games. Eagles will make a few splash plays, but not enough to keep up with a Jets team fighting hard to win their way into the postseason. Prediction: Jets 31, Eagles 21.
Cleveland Browns +6.5 (4-9) at Arizona Cardinals (6-7).
Cards are playing better ball of late, and face QB Seneca Wallace instead of Colt McCoy. Cards won’t have it easy against a good Browns pass D, but should be able to run well and to create turnovers. Prediction: Cardinals 20, Browns 10.
Baltimore Ravens -2.5 (10-3) at San Diego Chargers (6-7).
You ever wonder what the day after is like for competitive eaters, guys like Joey Chestnut who throw down 70 hot dogs in 12 minutes? There’s not a toilet made to accommodate the aftermath. He must just go out into the woods, dig a hole, and fill it with something approximately the size of a large groundhog, and repeated such super-shits must have transformed his sphincter into some sort of vampire squid.
The vampire squid sphincter Ravens probably won’t lose any more games this regular season (Browns, @Bengals remain), but the Chargers O has gotten healthy and has been looking more like the Chargers O of yore. But their D sucks, and I think the Ravens D controls this game. Uncle Stabby returns to pester the frothy redneck. Expect him to have another patented fit. Prediction: Ravens 27, Chargers 21.
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) at San Francisco 49ers (10-3).
No line due to Roethlisberger. I’ll bet that Tomlin sees the value of resting Roethlisberger and Pouncey, making this a brutal bash of two defenses loading up to stop the run and getting after the QB. Former Steelers DB coach Ray Horton is now the Cards DC, and he was able to shut down the Niners last week. I don’t expect them to score much.
The Steelers would be smart to give QB Dixon some drives, and let him try out his escapability and mobility. QB LeCharles Batch will get mugged and harassed, but if he can get a rhythm going, even without WR Manny Sanders, the Steelers could get some ugly points. This Steelers team is going to rally, and Jason Worilds will notch a couple more sacks. William Gay adds another interception, and Batch goes out with an injury 3Q. Prediction: Steelers 16, 49ers 13.