NFL Picks - Super Bowl LIV

San Francisco vs. Kansas City
It’s every football fan’s favorite time of the year, Super Bowl Sunday. Unless your team isn't playing, which is the majority of football fans. I especially feel trepidation whenever the Super Bowl approaches, because it means football will soon be gone for over half a calendar year. That’s why I prefer Week 9, when we're right in the thick of things. Gleefully floating down a river with only football visible on either horizon. But now we’re quickly being thrust forward by the roiling churn of said river, approaching its precipice, seconds away from plummeting down a waterfall into a seven month long struggle to stay afloat in a sporting landscape in which we won't have 10 hours of appointment viewing every Sunday. Before entering into this frightening reality together we have one more game to watch, and surprisingly it involves the 49ers and Chiefs.
Surprising for different reasons though. For San Francisco, while their franchise is steeped in Super Bowl tradition, their very recent history has not been so successful. In fact, their 12 total wins over the three seasons preceding this one are the second fewest for a Super Bowl participant in the history of the game. The only team to have fewer? The 1981 San Francisco 49ers (10 total wins) who would go on to win Super Bowl XVI and begin their run as the team of the decade. Does that mean that we could be on the cusp of another dynastic run from the Niners? Probably not. It's likely just a coincidence, but a fascinating one, right? Hopefully you said yes, because hunting down that stat was by far the most research I've done all season.
Kansas City has been a perennial playoff team since hiring Andy Reid as head coach, so it's no great shock to see them here. However, the Chiefs franchise has not been to the Super Bowl in 50 years, so just seeing their name in this spot is an odd sensation. Odd but exciting. Something new that you never knew you always wanted. Something that has awakened a dormant nook of your soul. You're alive again, and you know you'll never be able to return to the crushing monotony of your old reality. Your spouse and children might miss you initially but they'll get over it eventually. Whoops! Got carried away there for a second. Let's move on.        
So who wins? The 49ers, who ran their way past two NFC North teams to get here? Or the Chiefs, who threw over a couple of AFC South squads to touch down in Miami? Before I decide, I should probably check in with the best NFL analyst Primm, Nevada has to offer. Here's Cris Collinsworth's take:
Stay safe CriColl. Much has been made about the Chiefs' 50 year Super Bowl drought, but I've not heard much discussion about the fact that San Francisco hasn't won it all since Super Bowl XXIX. That's 25 years to you and me. So when it come to these ignominious anniversaries, one is silver and the other gold. Ironically enough, in this case the gold doesn't belong to the 49ers. That's gotta be a bad omen, and omens are the driving force in most of my predictions. Speaking of omens, the reigning champions in the other three major sports: the Blues, Raptors, and Nats, all won their first titles in franchise history. 50 years isn't forever, but it's close enough. 

Chiefs 30-27 


NFL Picks - Conference Championships


Tennessee @ Kansas City
Going into these teams’ first meeting in Week 10 the Titans were 4-5 and in danger of being all but eliminated from playoff contention. Tennessee managed to storm back in the fourth quarter of that game and win in thrilling fashion. Since then these teams have combined to go 13-2 and now they meet with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. They have very different plans on how to make it to Miami too. The Titans want to travel by ground, while the Chiefs are hoping to get there through the air. But let’s take a closer look at those strategies and really break them down. According to the Apple maps app, it takes about 13 hours to drive from Nashville to Miami, so it wouldn’t be an unreasonable trek. And with the bye week before the Super Bowl the Titans could certainly afford to break the trip up into two days. That doesn’t seem too bad. On the other hand, a flight from Kansas City to Miami only takes about 3 hours, so it seems like the Chiefs have the wiser plan. Though, some quick research shows round trip ticket prices in the $400 range, and you’d have to buy one for everybody on the team, not to mention the coaches and probably the owner. All of a sudden those costs really add up. And sure, gas ain’t cheap, but the Titans could split the fill-up costs 53 ways, meaning they’d get down to south Florida for less than $10/person. In the classic tortoise/hare mold, it seems like Tennessee might know what they’re doing here. I can comfortably conclude that they have the better strategy for getting to Miami. In terms of who I actually think will qualify for the Super Bowl though, I’ll take KC. They showed last week that no lead is safe against them. Sure, the Texans didn’t have Derrick Henry to grind the clock out, so this game isn’t likely to play out the same way, but the idea of Ryan Tannehill starting in a Super Bowl is not something I’m ready to come to grips with mentally. Therefore, I cannot use this space to predict that it will happen.

Chiefs 28-20


Green Bay @ San Francisco 
Look, I could try to put on a happy face and break down this game for you. Or tell you about these teams’ recent history in conference title games like the Packers’ blowout loss to the Falcons in January 2017, or their classic collapse against the Seahawks two years earlier. And then there was the 49ers also-classic defeat against the Seahawks the year before that. I could even post links to the highlights from those games, and I will do that, here they are. But what will that really prove? So rather than have me bitterly wax nostalgic, I enlisted the help of a man who has already called his last game of the season, but is always focused on pro football (at least according to the name of his company). Take it away Cris:
Yikes, for your sake Cris I'll take the home team too. And if it doesn't work out I'll met you in Primm. I've always wanted to ride that tram

49ers 27-17


NFL Picks - Divisional Round


Minnesota @ San Francisco 
Did you know that including playoff games the all-time record in this match-up is 23-23-1? Who will gain the edge in this not very storied rivalry? The NFL has decided that it’s of such importance that whoever comes out on top will be rewarded with a trip to the NFC championship game. It’s a peculiar decision, but the league has spoken. Someone who will be speaking during this game on Saturday is NBC’s Cris Collinsworth; so let’s hear what he thinks about it.
Interesting. Maybe the right move is to have Face/Off playing simultaneously on a second screen during this game. Could actually be good advice just for everyday life really.

49ers 27-22

Tennessee @ Baltimore 
The Titans should be honored with a parade. I don’t care if they don’t end up winning the Super Bowl, they should still get the parade. For beating the Patriots these men are national heroes and should be treated as such. In case you missed it, Tennessee dethroned New England by giving the ball to Derrick Henry and ... nope that’s it. No “and” necessary. In fact, Ryan Tannehill only completed 8 passes for 72 yards in that Wild Card win. Vince Lombardi really was accurate when, in 1966, he said, “Running the football is the key to postseason success. And the best way to do that is to get a really big guy to do the running. I’m talking like 6’3” 250 lbs. Sure that’s bigger than any player currently in the league, but man oh man, wouldn’t that be something, seeing a guy that size be all fast and stuff? Anyway, I’ll have the tuna on rye, with extra mayo. Really lather it on there. Mayonnaise is good for you, it makes you strong! And I should know, I’m around strong men all day, I am Vince Lombardi after all.” Apparently that quote took place while he was at lunch. I suppose I could have edited it down to just the pertinent material, but I think this really gives you some insight into his fascinating mind. Now the Titans ground game runs into the Ravens, whose offense ran for 60 more yards per game than the next highest team during the regular season. This begs the question: just how many passes will be thrown on Saturday night? I’m gonna go with 6. It will be a battle fought on the ground, just the way ol’ Lombardi would’ve liked it. And that includes the extra mayo. 

Ravens 24-16


Houston @ Kansas City
This is the only game in the Divisional round that is a rematch from the regular season. In that initial game, the Texans surprised the Chiefs in KC (I mean with the way they played, not like they showed up unannounced and the Chiefs were in their bathrobes and not ready for company) and won 31-24. In the process they racked up 472 yards of offense and an astonishing 35 first downs. That’s only four short of the record for a single game! Needless to say (but I guess I’ll go ahead and do just that) the Chiefs will have to figure out a better way to get off the field this time around. And no, I don’t recommend just leaving the field after third down regardless of whether or not they’ve actually made a stop. First of all, that might be a penalty, but if not it would likely just lead to the Texans scoring touchdowns against a literal cover zero defense. Based on recent performance though, it appears KC’s D might be able to exit the field the legitimate way. In their six game win streak that closed out the regular season the Chiefs only gave up and average of 11.5 points per game. Now, the offenses they were facing weren’t as good as the Texans’, but any improvement over their first meeting may be enough to allow Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ more celebrated unit to get past the visitors this time. 

Chiefs 34-23

Seattle @ Green Bay
These teams ended the regular season at 11-5 and 13-3, respectively. But according to the Pythagorean formula for calculating what a team’s record should have been based on their point differential, we’re actually dealing with an 8-8 Seahawks team and a 10-6 Packers group. How did these bums even get into the playoffs?!? To a certain extent, both of these teams have been considered paper tigers by many in the media. But guess what baby, paper is what makes this world go round! I’m talking ‘bout money! And these squads got the most. Well ok, not according to Forbes, who ranks them both near the middle of the pack. And sure, the NFL has a hard salary cap, so no one team gets to spend more than another on their players ... Look forget the money thing, alright?!? The point I was trying to make is that it doesn’t matter how they got here, just that they’re here. And next week one of them will be playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl. So stick to triangles Pythagoras, and leave football to the jocks baby! As for who actually gets the win here, let’s move away from math and into geography. The four teams left in the NFC playoffs are all from the North and the West divisions. Maybe it’s just me, but it would make the most sense if a team from the Northwest was the one who prevailed, right? Please?

Seahawks 23-20


NFL Picks - Wild Card Round


Buffalo @ Houston 
The Houston Texans have qualified for the playoffs 6 times in their franchise history. On each occasion they’ve done so by winning the AFC South, but they’ve never had a good enough record to earn a first round bye, meaning this is the sixth time they have hosted a first round playoff game. Every single time the NFL has opted to schedule their game in the early Saturday window. That means whenever the Texans have made the playoffs the Saturday afternoon wild card game has been played in Houston. Basically the NFL is saying they just aren’t very interested in the Texans. Or is it us saying that? Clearly the league is basing this on ratings potential; maybe we’re to blame. Also their opponents have been Cincinnati (x2), KC, Oakland, Indy, and now Buffalo, so that doesn’t exactly help. Sorry Bills, no disrespect, but you get it. Actually that’s been the vibe around the Bills all season. Everyone acknowledges that they’re winning games, but no one’s really prepared to take them seriously. Until now! That’s right, I’m going with Buffalo! I don’t care about Houston’s win two, lose one pattern that I’ve talked about for over a month and that will surely come back to bite me. Eff it! I’m picking the Bills anyway! Wait, when did you say their last playoff win was? Oh God, is there still time to take it back?!? What do my oh mean "No"? How is that possible? I haven't even hit publish yet ... Oh whoops, damn it!

Bills 23-20

Tennessee @ New England 
The fact that it is so jarring to see the Patriots playing in the wild card round is perhaps the best example of just how dominant they’ve been over the last two decades. That or the six Super Bowl wins and three other appearances. Ok yeah, maybe it’s more the latter, but the frequency of their first round byes is staggering. New England hasn’t played on the opening weekend of the playoffs since January of 2010. That’s ten years to you and me. So is this a sign that the Patriots are more vulnerable than they’ve been in a decade, or did they just get bored by the regular season? I’d say boredom, how else do you explain closing out with a home loss to the Dolphins? That’s a question many Patriots players and staff were likely asking themselves on their drive home Sunday, considering how to make sense of that embarrassment to their shamed families. Just imagine arriving home on 12/29 and telling your teary-eyed child “Christmas is over and daddy lost to the Dolphins.” It must have been difficult, especially because most young kids don’t understand the type of spark that Ryan Fitzpatrick can provide to an offense. Those little dum-dums are probably equally flummoxed by the impressive run that Ryan Tannehill has led the Titans on. But after Ry guy posted a 7-3 record as starter hopefully their parents are well aware of the threat he poses. I imagine New England will be ready though, Bill Belichick seems to do a fairly effective job of preparing for playoff games. 

Patriots 23-16


Minnesota @ New Orleans 
The Saints are the first 13-3 team to have to play on the opening weekend of the playoffs since 2011. The last such team? The New Orleans Saints. These guys can’t catch a break. That season the two teams receiving byes were Green Bay and San Francisco, and the NFC East was won by a 9-7 team. This begs the obvious question: are we living in some sort of glitchy repeat simulation of the 2011 season? Those playoffs ended with that aforementioned, mediocre NFC East team winning the Super Bowl over the Patriots, so good news Philly fans! As for the 2011 Saints, they won their first round game over a wild card from the NFC North. It’s all lining up! But aren’t these 2019 Vikings better than those 2011 Lions that lost in New Orleans? Uhhhh, yes? I don’t know! Maybe I’m too deep into this ‘19/‘11 corollary if I’m researching a Lions team from eight seasons ago (don’t worry, I didn’t actually do any research). If I ignore history and focus merely on the teams playing this Sunday I still side with the Saints based on their homefield advantage and the fact that they’ve averaged 40 points per game over the last month. That’s a hell of a total no matter what year you’re talking about. Though I suppose if we revisit this in 2027 that number may not be as impressive. With the rate these hot shots are whizzin’ that football around there’s no reason to think teams won’t be putting up 70+ every week. 

Saints 31-24

Seattle @ Philadelphia 
The Seahawks are sputtering into the playoffs, having lost three of their last four thanks to a struggling offense and a rash of injuries. The Eagles have overcome their own injuries to win four in a row and capture the NFC East crown. It should be noted that those four wins were all against teams from ... the NFC East, so take this hot streak with a grain of salt. But hey, a win is a win, and win in the playoffs is like some sort of jumbo win. So who gets the jumbo win this week and moves on to the Divisional round and an opportunity for a MEGA win? Before I make my pick why don’t we get some input from the man who will provide color commentary for the game, Cris Collinsworth:
Whoa, this guy's got some 'tude! I'll follow suit and make a fearless prediction of my own.

Seahawks 24-17


NFL Picks - Week 17

Sunday Morning

New York Jets @ Buffalo
After falling short against the Patriots last Saturday, the Bills are now firmly entrenched as the AFC’s 5th seed in the playoffs. This means they’ll be traveling to either Houston or Kansas City for Wild Card Weekend. If Rex Ryan were still the Bills coach, this is where I would make a barbecue joke. He’s not though, which really leaves me twisting in the wind here. Then again, if he was still their coach it’s doubtful that they’d be in the playoffs at all, so the joke wouldn’t be relevant in that scenario either. Boy, what a catch 22. Ok, I’ll be honest, I’m not totally sure how catch 22s work. But I guarantee that this usage makes sense to me, and isn’t that what’s most important?

Jets 20-17

Cleveland @ Cincinnati 
Come for the orange, stay for the ... hey where are you going?!? Well if you’d stuck around I could have told you about my one wish for this otherwise inconsequential game. As you may know, this is likely the last game Andy Dalton will play for Cincinnati, which means it’s the last chance he has to finally dye black stripes into his fiery orange hair to make his head look like a Bengals helmet. I’ve been waiting years for this, please make it happen Andy. I’ve never asked you for anything in my life, nor should I have, I don’t know you personally. If I did I would ask you for a large amount of money, but that’s irrelevant because, like I said, we’re not friends, nor are we even mere acquaintances. If somehow you read this and still want to give me that money (not as a loan, just a full gift) then fantastic, get in touch with me and I’ll give you my venmo details. But aside from all of that, the one thing I beg of you is that you put those stripes in your hair. Do the right thing Andy, thrill this adoring nation one last time. 

Bengals 27-24

Green Bay @ Detroit
If I were in the Lions’ PR department on January 1st I would launch a campaign proclaiming that the Lions will be the team of the new decade, the roaring 20s. This promotion basically writes itself. After that Detroit just has to go out and be the league’s premiere franchise for the next 10 years. But with such a clever bit of marketing behind them I’m not sure how they wouldn't go do just that. As for the Packers, yeah they’re in the playoffs and get a bye with a win. Big deal, that’s 2019 stuff; we’re not dealing with the present anymore, or the past for that matter, we’re in the future. And just as always, the history of the future will be written by the victors, and the victors will be the Detroit Lions. Remind me to check in with you guys in 2029 to see how this went. Also, I should temper this by saying this success is totally contingent on that marketing campaign. Without that I can’t promise anything. 

Packers 31-13

Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City
Is the Chiefs defense good now, or have they just been playing bad offenses? KC is coming off consecutive wins in which they’ve only surrendered 3 points. Regardless of how cruddy the Broncos and Bears are, giving up a combined 6 points is about the best you can do. Of course, I think you and I both know what the best you can do really is ... That’s right, 0 points. Nicely done. You’re not quite as dumb as I thought you were. Ok smarty pants, answer me this: what would be the best result for the Chiefs’ offense? Bingo, infinity points. Jeez, you’re on fire. If Patrick Mahomes catches fire himself over the next month, coupled with continued success from the defense, this team could indeed be going to infinity ... and beyond?

Chiefs 27-13

Chicago @ Minnesota 
The Vikings’ first home loss of the season against the Packers on Monday night has rendered this game meaningless; Minnesota is locked in at the 6th seed. A more cynical writer might suggest that a meaningless game is just the type of environment that Kirk Cousins will thrive in. Luckily for you, that’s not the kind of guy I am. Not anymore at least. New decade, new me! And for all you critics who want to bring up Kirk’s Monday night failures again, like I did last week (again that was 2010s me, I’m a different guy now, can’t stress that enough) chew on this: they don’t play playoff games on Mondays dummy. 

Bears 23-20

Miami @ New England 
Well they did it, the patriots won the AFC East again. Big effing whoop. You want to do something really impressive New England? Why don’t you win the Super Bowl again! No wait, don’t do that! Damn it! Well that’s that. Sorry everyone. 

Patriots 35-10

Atlanta @ Tampa Bay
Jameis Winston saved some real pure Jameis moments for a national audience last Saturday. In the first half he threw 3 interceptions, yet still managed to go to halftime tied with the Texans. It was a perfect microcosm of Winston’s season; he makes mind-boggling throws, terrible decisions, and then you look at the score and the Bucs are right in the game. Winston currently leads the league in passing yards and has thrown the 2nd most touchdowns, while also throwing the most interceptions. His 28 picks on the season are 10 more than his nearest competitor. If Jameis manages to throw two more on Sunday he’ll become only the twelfth man to throw 30 interceptions in a season, and the first since 1988. If it happens I sincerely hope that the game is temporarily halted so that the Falcons can ceremonially present the ball back to Winston. It would be a historical moment, and should be treated as such. 

Falcons 30-27

New Orleans @ Carolina 
We often talk about who the hottest teams in the league are, but we rarely discuss who are the coldest. Let’s take a minute to appreciate the Panthers, who have now lost 7 straight, the second longest active streak in the league. These guys have played themselves into the 7th pick in the draft as of right now, and could climb even higher with another loss to close out the season. It’s rare that a team can have a winning record in one half of the season and go winless in the other. How rare, you ask? That’s a great question, and I think you’re just the type of industrious young scamp to go figure out the answer on your own, because I certainly don’t know it. To lock down a bye in the playoffs, the Saints need this win, and Carolina will be more than happy to oblige. 

Saints 31-17

Sunday Afternoon

Washington @ Dallas
Well they did it, the Cowboys tricked us good. It seemed like they were finally putting it together after Week 15’s drubbing of the Rams, but no, that was just a mirage, a grift, a flim flam. Dallas followed up that triumph with a tumble in Philly, and now they’re teetering on the edge of destruction. Nothing would be more fitting for the 2019 Cowboys than to lose to Washington at home and have the Giants beat the Eagles, meaning they blew yet another opportunity. But with starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins out for Washington, the question now is can Case be keen? Umm, I don’t know. I tend to doubt that he’ll lead them to victory, but then again this Dallas team has taught me to never underestimate their ability to lose games. 

Cowboys 24-20

Oakland @ Denver
Guys, I don’t know how to tell you this, but the Raiders can still make the playoffs. I know, I didn’t think it was possible either. In fact, I think I may have explicitly stated that it wasn't possible last week, but I was wrong. If Oakland wins in Denver, the Colts win in Jacksonville, the Ravens beat the Steelers, and the Texans beat the Titans, the Raiders will make it into the playoffs at 8-8. I didn’t know this was a possibility minutes ago, but now I want it to happen very badly. No, not Dalton tiger stripe badly, but it would be a real hoot. 

Raiders 23-20

Arizona @ Los Angeles Rams
One year removed from a trip to the Super Bowl and here the Rams are not even mounting a defense to their NFC crown. It’s just sad. Everybody’s pretty broken up about it. The good news for LA is that they still have a lot of talent on their roster. The bad news is that they’re paying through the nose for that talent, and they may soon have to part ways with a number of key contributors. I’m just assuming that, I haven’t looked at the numbers, and probably wouldn’t even understand them if I did. All I know is this, when you build a Super Bowl loser, eventually you start running out of money. Maybe the Rams got a bunch of cash from their grandmas for Christmas though, that would help. Then again, their grandmas would have to also figure out a way to restructure some contracts and convince the NFL to increase the salary cap even more than they already are. Hmm, I don’t know, I’m starting to think grandma might be in over her head on this one.

Rams 27-20

Philadelphia @ New York Giants
After losing to the Dolphins in Week 13 to fall to 5-7, the Eagles have scratched and clawed (or should it be taloned? Can “taloned” be used as a verb?) their way to first place in the NFC East. And how have they done it? By playing other teams from the NFC East. As we’ve all come to understand, that division is total garbanzo, so having a schedule that’s backloaded with those squads has been a real boon for Philly. That’s not to say that they’ve cruised through December though. Each game has been tightly contested, requiring season-saving plays on a regular basis. I expect nothing different from this match-up against a Giants team coming off an overtime win over Washington in one of the more thrilling games between 3-11 teams you’ll ever see. I say that hypothetically of course, because odds are you didn’t actually see it at all. It’s cool, I don’t even think the league monitored it at all either. The teams were on the honor system; just go play, then come back and tell us who won. If you ask me the Giants got a little overzealous by claiming Daniel Jones threw 5 touchdowns, but hey, shoot your shot. A closer eye will be kept on this game, one that I expect Philly to pull out late once again. 

Eagles 22-19

Indianapolis @ Jacksonville 
A lot of people would tell you this game is meaningless, but don’t tell that to the Colts! They’re going for .500 here, and ya know what, that would be pretty darn impressive. So go open up your Twitter app, and delete that tweet you sent to the Colts’ official team account in which you wrote “@Colts this upcoming game you’re going to play against Jacksonville will be meaningless. #Kony2012” and delete it! Also, why do you still use that Kony2012 hashtag? Move on. A win here would help Indy move on from an unexpectedly tumultuous season into a hopeful future. So get off their backs already.

Colts 24-22 

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore 
The Ravens have clinched the top seed in the AFC, and thus may throw the rest of the conference’s playoff picture off balance with their strategy in this game. Well ok, not the whole picture, but definitely the part of the picture with the 6 seed in it. With Lamar Jackson resting the Steelers have a much better chance of winning this game and sliding into the postseason with a Titans loss in Houston ...

Steelers 20-13

Tennessee @ Houston
... That being said, if the Chiefs win their morning game over the Chargers the Texans will be locked into the 4th spot regardless of the outcome here. So, it stands to reason that Houston may rest some players as well. Of course, that would leave the Titans with an easier path to the playoffs, because they need only to win here to get in. So the Steelers need to root for the Chargers to win and John Harbaugh to exercise extreme caution with his roster. None of that will matter though if Tennessee simply wins, which will undoubtedly be the case, because for the Texans to prevail it would require them to win a third straight game, something they’ve refused to do all season. They also haven’t lost consecutive games either, so if we follow the win-win-loss pattern that they’ve laid out for us that means that they’ll definitely get to the AFC championship game and lose. Can’t argue with that!

Titans 28-14

Sunday Night 

San Francisco @ Seattle 
This is a fairly large game. Let's hear what Cris Collinsworth has to say about it:

If Lynch does anything to positively impact this game I'll probably cry. And if things don’t go great, I’ll probably cry too. Also, if the wind blows in the right direction I’ll probably cry. You guys, I think something is wrong with my eyes. 

Seahawks 24-23


NFL Picks - Week 16


Houston @ Tampa Bay
Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday,
Saturday morning's alright? Apparently so. I don’t remember an NFL game kicking off this early on a Saturday, but it’s quite alright by me. Any opportunity I get to see unobstructed Jameis Winston tomfoolery is one that I cherish. These are two of the sillier teams in the league, so I expect a lot of points and a lot of laughs. In the end the real winners will be the fans. Yes the fans, and the Texans, who will be the real real winners, because they’re actually playing in the game, and they’ll end up with more points. Weeks ago I learned that Houston loses once, then wins two consecutive games, then loses again. In the two weeks since discovering this I’ve foolishly picked against the pattern twice and been incorrect both times. Not this time! The Texans will get their second consecutive win against a Bucs team that won't have either of their Pro Bowl receivers available. So that’s the good news for Houston. Of course, the bad news will come next week when they’ll be forced to lose, in keeping with convention. 

Texans 38-28

Buffalo @ New England 
This game is being sold as a pivotal AFC East match-up, and I guess it’s fairly important, but not as monumental as it might seem. You see, even if the Bills win to pull even with the Patriots at 11-4, New England would only have to win at home against Miami next week to take home the division title yet again. So in other words, the Patriots have won the AFC East. And it’s good for them that this isn’t college, otherwise they may very well be stripped of this division title in the future. After the video from the latest New England spying scandal was made public, it became obvious that something nefarious was going on. This is great news for fans of every other team in the league. It means that when the Pats inevitably win the Super Bowl again this February we’ll all be able fall back on the tried and true excuse that they cheated their way to the title. Just when the embers from one New England scandal have died out they always throw a new log on the fire that sparks more outrage. And I now believe that it’s completely justified, because well, they’re cheaters. Plain and simple. This is a pattern of dastardly behavior. Their defenders can act like this stuff is so minuscule in the grand scheme of things that it doesn’t really matter, but then why are they doing it? And what are they doing that hasn’t been caught yet? 

Patriots 20-13 


Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 
The Rams’ resurgence lasted all of two weeks. Now they’ve been shellacked twice in the last four weeks and are on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention. Meanwhile, the 49ers will be in the playoffs, but after last week’s loss to the Falcons it’s anybody’s guess as to where they’ll be situated. They could end up at any seed except for fourth. And that includes sixth, which is a very real possibility that nobody seems to be taking about. At the same time, they need only to win out to secure the top spot. It’s a real sliding doors scenario for San Francisco. Multiple timelines will be spun out during this game on Saturday night. Some in which the Niners win the Super Bowl, some where they lose in the first round, and one peculiar instance in which the defense is sent to space to stop an asteroid from colliding with Earth. It’s anybody’s guess as to which destiny awaits either of these teams, so on Saturday night, don’t close your eyes, don’t fall asleep, because you won’t want to miss a thing. 

49ers 31-20 


Sunday Morning

Jacksonville @ Atlanta
Even after the Falcons’ surprising win over the 49ers last week, there’s not much to look forward to in this game. The NFL should’ve done the people of Atlanta a favor and made this one of the Saturday games, so that at least the Chick-fil-A inside Mercedes Benz Stadium would’ve been open. Instead, Falcons fans will have to look elsewhere for chicken and likely entertainment. And if you’re looking for chicken and entertainment, there’s really only one person to turn to, the San Diego Chicken. Do the right thing NFL and send the SD Chicken to Atlanta and show those folks a good time. Don’t worry, he doesn’t have any prior obligations, believe me, he’s a San Diego mascot, his schedule is wide open during football season. 

Falcons 28-18

Baltimore @ Cleveland
Two weeks ago five teams shared the league’s best record at 10-2. All of them have lost at least once since then, except for the Ravens. In fact, Baltimore hasn’t lost since Week 4 against the ... Browns. The very team they’ll be taking on this Sunday. As if the Ravens needed any extra motivation to avenge that loss, they can also wrap up home field advantage in the AFC with a win. Considering those factors, and that the Browns have not exactly capitalized on the momentum from that early season win, this could be a bloodbath. Which is fitting, because ravens are known to bathe in blood. In fact, that’s how the Black Plague started. Don’t bother looking any of that up to fact check it, it’s all true. But truest of all is that Baltimore will steamroll the Browns, which will create a real mess. 

Ravens 42-17

New Orleans @ Tennessee 
Before this game even kicks off the Titans may have suffered a devastating Week 16 loss. That’s because if the Buccaneers can’t beat the Texans on Saturday Tennessee’s hopes of winning the AFC South will be like a picture-locked movie, completely shot. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still make the playoffs as a wild card, so they shouldn’t give up hope. They may want to temper their expectations though based on their competition this Sunday. The Saints offense has looked unstoppable over the past couple weeks, and they’re playing with their eye on a first round bye. It’s a pretty selfish attitude considering that the poor Titans are merely looking for any playoff spot. When will it be enough for you New Orleans, you selfish bastards? Here’s a weird schedule fact: all four teams from the NFC South are playing the four teams from the AFC South this week. Which division will prevail and take the mantle of the NFL’s True South? Neither. Turns out that’s not a real stipulation, and the league isn’t very open to unsolicited suggestions that it should be, as I found out the hard way. 

Saints 32-29

Carolina @ Indianapolis
Both of these teams have been eliminated from playoff contention and are now just playing out the string on their seasons. As a result, attendance at Lucas Oil Stadium could suffer. My solution? Have the corresponding colleges, UNC and Indiana play a basketball game at halftime. And by halftime I mean when this football game was originally scheduled to kick off. And also, tell the Panthers and Colts that they don’t even have to show up, because their game has now been canceled. So in summation, turn the football game into a basketball game. The only stink raised would be by Christian McCaffrey fantasy owners, but we could just spot them all 25 points and call it good. Now it’s a win, win, win

Colts 27-22

Cincinnati @ Miami 
I had such high hopes for this stinkfest weeks ago. Now it’s merely awful, not historically bad. The Dolphins still have an outside shot at the #1 pick in the 2020 draft, but they would have to lose here to stay alive. Do they have it in them? If you’d asked me a couple months ago I would’ve said absolutely, but now I’m not so sure. After having perhaps the worst first month in league history Miami has only been moderately lousy, and it’s a real bummer. The Bengals have eagerly slid into the roll of the league’s worst since then, and they need only to lose one of their last two to lock up that top draft choice. So I guess in this scenario the Dolphins may want the loss more. But there’s a difference between wanting to lose and actually going out there, executing, and making that loss happen. And that’s where Miami has been struggling at times. I mostly blame the change in quarterback for this. The Dolphins were terribly efficient with Josh Rosen as the starter. And by “terribly efficient” I mean efficient at being terrible. Ryan Fitzpatrick simply gives them too good of a chance to win. Sure it might seem fun now, but it won’t come April. 

Dolphins 31-24

Pittsburgh @ New York Jets
This week the Steelers announced that they are sticking with Devlin Hodges at quarterback. That could be considered a vote of confidence, but really what other choice do they have? Are they going to go back to Mason Rudolph? Maybe Hines Ward? What’s Bubby Brister up to right now? Actually, as subpar as he’s been there could be a strong case to be made that this is the perfect week to bring back Rudolph. One condition though, he must wear a red nose. For Rudolph it would be an opportunity to get back on the field. For the Steelers it would be a chance to try something new while still taking your lame backup QB down a peg. And isn’t that the goal of any organization? Sapping your players of confidence?

Jets 20-17

New York Giants @ Washington
These proud franchises have won a combined 7 Super Bowls in their history. That’s 13% of all Super Bowls. Pretty impressive. This season they’re a combined 6-22. So they’re only winning 21% of their games. That’s not so impressive. A few hours before their NFC East counterparts battle for first place in the division, New York and Washington tussle with last place on the line. Who wants to avoid embarrassment more? Who wants their nose rubbed in it less? That’s not a hypothetical question, whichever team loses will have their faces forced into their own mess by the winning team in front of whatever fans care to stay and watch. It’s a little known statute for any last-place game such as this. Normally the games are so sparsely attended that it’s not well-publicized. And obviously this ceremony isn’t aired on television, because you can’t show a man nuzzling his own poop, regardless of how bad a football season he’s had. 

Washington 23-20

Sunday Afternoon

Detroit @ Denver 
Look, I wish I could dress this game up for you, but there’s just not much to it. So maybe the solution would be for these teams to dress up for the game. And since they'll be playing on 12/22, why not have them all put on Santa suits? Can you imagine how ... Ugh, forget it. This is a dumb idea. Look, it’s like I said, this game just doesn’t have much to offer. And now that the Lions have announced that coach Matt Patricia will return next season this doesn’t even have the novelty of watching a man about to lose his job right before Christmas. 

Broncos 24-16

Oakland @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Raiders just played their final game in Oakland. This will be the Chargers last game in Carson. It’s difficult to say which team had a more storied history in their respective location. It’s much easier to forecast who will be in a better situation going forward. Come September 2020, the Raiders will be playing in a gleaming new stadium off the Las Vegas Strip, while the Chargers will be somebody’s deadbeat roommate. Sure they’ll be living in a nice house, but that doesn’t mean they should feel good about themselves. And you know what they say, “Houseguests are like fish, I don’t care how good they are at football if they’re stinky and don’t pay the rent.” As for where these teams are at this very moment, well neither one can be feeling very good. After positioning themselves for a wild card run, the Raiders tripped up and have subsequently been trampled into the ground. They’ve lost four in a row and are officially eliminated from playoff contention. Meanwhile, the Chargers came roaring out of the gates, then took an immediate left turn, stampeding into the stands and killing the few fans they still had left. So it’s been a great farewell tour for both squads. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dignity Health Sports Park has burned to the ground by midway through the fourth quarter. 

Chargers 30-26

Dallas @ Philadelphia 
It’s official, The NFC East champ will at least be 8-8. Phew! And here I was afraid we’d end up with a mediocre playoff team. Then again, I suppose these teams could tie here and both lose next week to finish at 7-8-1. God willing that’s what we’ll get. While a tie might seem unlikely, the Eagles are coming off consecutive, tight divisional games in which they eked out wins that they sorely needed. It won’t be so close this week if the Cowboys come out and play like they did last week when they blew out the Rams. That’s a big if though, because last week they hadn’t played that well since ... Uh oh. Looks like that would have been Week 7 against these very Eagles. Of course, that game was played in Dallas, so I doubt we’ll see a repeat of that 37-10 final. If for no other reason than that it’s just not a very common final score. It’s only happened 24 times in the history of the league. What’s strange is that the Rams/Falcons game in Week 7 also finished at 37-10. What’s even stranger is that the last time that score occurred before Week 7 of this season was in Week 14 of 2011 when it also happened twice! What does this mean?!? Likely nothing, but possibly everything. As for this game, who cares? Did you just read that 37-10 fact? I’ve got way bigger fish to fry than this pitiful NFC East title game; I’ve got a monumental statistical anomaly to get to the bottom of. 

Cowboys 23-17

Arizona @ Seattle 
The last four years these teams have played in Seattle the games have been wild. The final scores, starting in 2015 are: 39-32, 34-31, 26-24, and 27-24. Nearly every game the Seahawks have played this season has also been wild. Kyler Murray is a wild card at quarterback for Arizona. So saddle up queens, because we’re going straight to the wild wild west! The Seahawks can still win the NFC West even with a loss here, so there could be some letdown potential. Then again, there’s a chance they could win the West this Sunday with a victory over Arizona and loss by San Francisco on Saturday. So really, there’s no excuse to come out flat. But as stated above, even if Seattle starts out slow, a thrilling finish is likely in the cards.

Seahawks 33-28

Sunday Night

Kansas City @ Chicago 
The Chiefs are looking to stay hot as they head into the playoffs, while the Bears are retreating to their cave to stay warm while they watch the playoffs. I have a good idea who will come out on top, but let's check with Cris Collinsworth before I make my pick:
Those guys do sound fun, and focused.

Chiefs 27-13

Monday Night

Green Bay @ Minnesota 
The Vikings can clinch a playoff spot with a win. What they can’t do is clinch a division title. As long as the Packers win in Detroit in Week 17 they’ll be the NFC North champions, even if they fall to Minnesota here. And that’s exactly what I think will happen. The Vikings have more to play for, and they’re currently the only team in the league who’s undefeated at home. The only thing working against them, aside from Dalvin Cook's absence, is that it’s seemingly impossible for Kirk Cousins to win on Monday nights. He’s 0-8 for his career, so it’s to the point now where you can’t just ignore it as an anomaly. The narrative is that Cousins can’t perform when the lights are brightest, but he’s won on Thursday and Sunday night this season, so that doesn’t fully explain the issue. He must just hate Mondays. It’s understandable, lots of us feel the same; Garfield most famously so. In fact, maybe the key to get past these Monday blues would be for Cousins to take a page out of Garfield's book and eat an entire lasagna by himself prior to the game. Sure, that might be a carbo overload, but anything is worth a shot at this point. 

Vikings 24-20