New York Jets @ Cincinnati
The bye weeks are over! We have a full slate of 16 games again! I don’t know about you, but I kind of wish the byes would come back. If they did maybe we wouldn’t have to deal with games like this. I’m pretty sure the Bengals and the entire city of Cincinnati would be fine with five consecutive weeks off to end the season. One man who won’t be getting any more time off is former Bengals’ starter turned backup, turned starter again, Andy Dalton. I’m guessing Dalton is none too thrilled about being thrust back into this situation, unless he’s one of those guys that just “loves the game” and “cherishes every opportunity to play”. Yuck, give it a rest pal, we get it. It could be argued that Dalton can use the end of the season as an audition for teams that may be interested in signing him next season. But come on, if you’re an NFL GM and you haven’t made your mind up about Andy Dalton yet I think you’re in the wrong line of work. That being said, I don’t know what else you’d do. What sort of other experience do you have? Would you be willing to relocate? Can you lift up to 30 lbs?
Tennessee @ Indianapolis
This is a clash between two teams mired in the 6-5 muck. They’re joined at that mark by the Raiders and Steelers in a slog to decide the AFC’s sixth and final playoff spot. Who will rise up and lose in Kansas City on Wild Card Sunday? If that question makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up then be sure to tune into this one. Also, maybe think about giving your nape a quick buzz with some clippers, it just looks a bit sloppy. Of the aforementioned 6-5 teams, surprisingly, the Titans may be the smart pick. They’ve won four of their last five since switching to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. That being said, they have to play the Colts and Raiders on the road, and then end their season with a game against the Saints sandwiched between two tilts with the Texans. With a stretch that difficult we’re going to find out if Tennessee is legit or we’re just making mountains out of Tannehills.
Philadelphia @ Miami
When I see these teams on the schedule once every four years there’s only one thing I can think of: Ace Ventura! For the unenlightened out there, this was the Super Bowl match-up that Dan Marino missed the first half of in the 1994 hit comedy Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Two other interconference match-ups this week are Super Bowl rematches (Bills/Cowboys and 49ers/Ravens), and in a way so is this one. Eagles fans may not mind if Carson Wentz misses some of this game due to kidnapping after his abysmal, turnover-laden performance during which he and the Eagles’ offense were booed off the field on multiple occasions. Though, to be fair the Philly receiving corps was so injury-riddled that I think one of the replacement wideouts might have been an extra from that game in Ace Ventura. Regardless, the Eagles need a win, and the Dolphins desperately need a loss. I know, I know, I rag on Miami too much. Hey, in the words of Ace himself, “Somebody stop me, I’m smoking!”
Green Bay @ New York Giants
The Packers have one challenging game left this season: Week 16 @ Minnesota. If you want to include Week 15 against Chicago, then you’re probably a Bears fan, but ok, count that one too. Outside of those though it’s all just potential pitfalls. Though perhaps I shouldn’t assume anything with Green Bay after two duds against the Chargers and Niners in their last three games. This week they're taking on the Giants, who have lost seven straight games, so if the Packers drop this one it will be the ultimate of duds. Currently the title of Ultimate Dud belongs to the Gorilla Bomb, a firework my family got one 4th of July and saved for the finale only for it to give off about two measly shots. In fact, that’s what we’ll call this game if Green Bay does lose. Good luck avoiding the Gorilla Bomb Packers!
Cleveland @ Pittsburgh
After nearly providing the Bengals with their first win of the season, Mason Rudolph was replaced with Duck(?) Hodges. In the days to follow Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced that Duck(??) will be the starter this week. And thus, Mason Rudolph’s plan worked perfectly. Oh come on, you don’t think this was a coincidence do you? After the Garrett incident Rudolph knew that the Browns were on the schedule again in two weeks and his only chance to not have to play, and be subject to more swinging helmets, was to play so poorly in Cincinnati that his coach would bench him in favor of a quarterback named Duck(???). Now Rudolph can comfortably watch from the sidelines without any fear of illegal contact. Though, the sidelines aren’t exactly safe either. I say they take a page out of the professional wrestling playbook and suspend Rudolph in a shark cage above the field. It’s the only way to truly protect everyone involved and the integrity of the game.
Washington @ Carolina
If you had told me that one of these teams’ starting quarterbacks missed the final play of last week’s game because he was taking a selfie with a fan, I would have said, “Cam Newton’s back?!?” But no, as it turns out Washington’s Dwayne Haskins was the one cavorting with supporters after his first win as a starting QB. Is it unprofessional? Yes. But can you blame the guy when he plays for perhaps the most unprofessional organization in football? It’s all he knows. He learned it by watching you Daniel Snyder! Also, it’s probably the only time all year someone has wanted to get a selfie with a Washington player, so let’s cut the guy some slack. The Panthers, on the other hand, can no longer be provided any slack. At 5-6 Carolina would have to win out to have a shot at the playoffs. And if the season were only 13 weeks I’d say they have a great chance at doing just that. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they have four more games after this one. But hey, they’ll get back to .500 here, so there’s that!
Tampa Bay @ Jacksonville
With the Dolphins suffering through a truly pitiful season, this clash between 4-7 teams becomes the de facto Florida championship game. It’s a battle for the hearts and minds of Floridians, and really, by extension, all Americans. As I’m sure you’ve already heard, these teams will meet in the middle and play this game in a swamp in the Ocala National Forest. The footing is likely to be an issue, both because the ground will be mostly water and the players may be losing their feet due to what will likely be multiple gator attacks. In keeping with tradition, the MVP of the game will be presented with a brand new fan boat. Not for him to own, but he does get to use it one weekend a month for the next year. Also, win or lose, the surviving members of the Bucs will be rewarded with a trip to Disney World. Well, actually just a trip to Orlando, or more accurately through Orlando, strictly because it’s on the way back to Tampa. It should be quite the spectacle, but don’t count on watching it, because no television crews will be able to set up for a live broadcast in those conditions. Eventually we’ll know who wins when the team with the most remaining feet emerges from the swamp.
San Francisco @ Baltimore
Will this be a classic Super Bowl preview, or another Ravens ravaging? Baltimore has won their last five games by an average of 28 points, and four of those games were against the Seahawks, Patriots, Texans, and Rams. Sure the other one was the Bengals, but that doesn’t take away from how impressive the other wins were. Now the Ravens welcome in the team atop the NFC and their Super Bowl XLVII opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. I doubt that Baltimore will continue their blow out streak against the Niners, considering San Fran is coming off a high quality drubbing of their own over the Packers on Sunday night. Then again, doubting anything in regards to the Ravens at this point has proven foolhardy.
Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona
After being obliterated by the Ravens on Monday night the Rams can go one of two directions in this game. Either they come out with an edge in Arizona and show that they’re not done with this season yet, or they curl into the fetal position and show that indeed they have submitted. I tend to think that we’ll see something closer to the latter. Why? Well here's a fun fact, did you know that Jared Goff is the only quarterback to start all of his team's games this season that has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns? And this is a league where Jameis Winston is still starting games. What's more, the Cardinals have been a legitimately threatening team for the past couple months. I’m thinking Arizona might get the win on Sunday. I say that because, the Cardinals organization said they’d hurt my family if I didn’t pick them. It’s like I just said, the Cardinals are a legitimately threatening team.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Denver
Broncos Coach Vic Fangio has been very coy about who his starting quarterback will be this Sunday. Will they stick with Brandon Allen or give rookie Drew Lock a shot? Someone should alert Fangio that he doesn’t need to be so cagey, because, in fact, no one else cares. Seriously Vic, you don’t have to do this dance. If it’s that you’re trying to keep the Chargers off guard, don’t worry about it. There’s no real tape on Lock anyway, so it’s not like you’re obstructing LA’s preparation. Even if that was working it wouldn’t matter, because the Broncos are 3-8 and the Chargers are 4-7. In other words, just start Lock, what do you have to lose? Well, a 9th game I suppose, but again it does not matter.
Oakland @ Kansas City
The Raiders really blew it. I’m not surprised, but still, they effed themselves good. Oakland had the inside track for a wild card berth and proceeded to have a 3 hour bout of public diarrhea in MetLife Stadium last Sunday on their way to a 34-3 loss to the Jets. Now they’re in a four-way tie for the last wild card spot in the AFC, and after their most recent performance they’re nothing more than a giant question mark. With all that being said, if they win this game they’re tied for the division lead in the AFC West. But with that being said, it’s just not going to happen. The Chiefs are coming off a bye week, and we all know that Andy Reid is 37-2 after a bye (can someone fact check those numbers for me?). Another benefit to the extra rest is that Patrick Mahomes should come back closer to 100%. He’ll also be ready to throw for 600 yards after everybody has shifted their QB crush from him to Lamar Jackson. Look for a statement game from the reigning MVP.
New England @ Houston
The Texans need to keep winning to maintain their slim advantage in the AFC South. That could be a problem this week as they're set to face the Patriots on Sunday night. But don't take it from me, let's hear what the man calling the game thinks:
Minnesota @ Seattle
Last week on Monday Night Football, ESPN analyst Booger McFarland said watching the Ravens destroy the Rams was like watching The Wire beat down Melrose Place. It was a strained analogy that was almost solely based on the setting of each show. As confusing as his argument was, he belabored it throughout the second half, so I wouldn’t be surprised to hear him take a similar tack this week. Of course he’ll have to choose TV shows that were set in Minnesota and Seattle, and the most obvious choices would be Coach and Frasier. But that’s really not fair. I mean, come on, Coach is about football and Frasier is a nerd! Sure, Martin Crane could maybe be a decent football coach, but Coach is a football coach; no maybe about it. Now, if the Vikings come out and play like a different show set in Minnesota, say ... Little House on the Prairie, then we might have a more competitive contest. I don’t know how entertaining that game would be, but it would at least be fair.