Tampa Bay @ Atlanta
So what happened here? The Falcons went from being putrid to dominant in the blink of an eye. They’ve held the Saints and Panthers to a combined 12 points over the last two weeks after having surrendered at least 20 points in every one of their eight games leading up to that. What changed? The only explanation I have is that Atlanta’s bye week immediately preceded their sudden improvement. Is it possible that the Falcons were eyeing that break all season and had a collective sort of senioritis? That would explain why Vic Beasley kept showing up to defensive line meetings in a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses and talking about how much partying he’s gonna do at State next year. Whatever the reason, this Atlanta team is focused now. I’m not sure the same can be said, nor could ever be said, about the Bucs. While their 3-7 record matches the Falcons, they couldn’t seem more different at the moment. Ok, that’s an overstatement, if one of them were a basketball team they’d seem much more dissimilar. Still, this is an easy choice.
Denver @ Buffalo
The Broncos almost pulled the upset in Minnesota that I hinted at last week. Instead they blew the largest halftime lead in years. That’s not the Brandon Allen I know. Actually there is no Brandon Allen I know. I’m quite unfamiliar with the man’s work. But after seeing him in action last Sunday I can’t say that I’m impressed with his ability to close out games. Now he goes up against Buffalo who is somehow facing another losing team. I checked the schedule and the Bills' next game is against Rutgers. How is this happening? Obviously Buffalo will win again and continue their slow, unimpressive amble toward the playoffs.
New York Giants @ Chicago
After another poor performance Mitchell Trubisky was benched prior to the Bears’ final drive against the Rams last Sunday with his team trailing 17-7. A lot of folks think Chicago coach Matt Nagy was making a statement with this move, and I agree. That statement was, “I think Chase Daniel can score me 10 points on one possession.” It’s the only logical reason to make a move there, so it has to be what Nagy was thinking. Otherwise, he pointlessly benched his starting quarterback and may have shattered Trubisky's psyche in the process. Though Nagy is the same guy who freaked out every kicker on his roster through psychological torture in training camp, so I guess this move is actually on brand. Trubisky will probably be back at QB this week against the Giants, but don’t be surprised if he has a Richie Tenenbaum style meltdown on the field. I assume most of you won’t be watching it, and rightfully so, but if you flip over to this one during the third quarter and see Trubisky with only one sock on you’ll know what’s happening.
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
At 5-5 the Steelers come into this game badly in need of a win. They have two elements working in their favor, 1: They’re playing the Bengals. 2: Their quarterback still has a head. And really, a quarterback with a head should be enough to get by Cincinnati at this point. Though, if Mason Rudolph plays anything like he did before getting clubbed last Thursday it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Bengals could get their first win of the season. If that ends up being the case don’t be surprised to see video emerge from Pittsburgh’s locker room in which Steelers players are hitting Rudolph over the head with his helmet.
Miami @ Cleveland
The news surrounding the Browns for the past week+ has been nothing but Myles Garrett and the fallout resulting from his actions. And yes, that’s a big story, but I’m focused on something completely different when it comes to this game. As we all know, Miami is home to the famous Clevelander Hotel; I propose that if the Browns win this game they get to take the Clevelander Hotel back to Cleveland! Do I realize that the Clevelander Hotel was never in Cleveland to begin with? After a quick scan of Wikipedia, yes, of course I know that. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the city of Miami is committing Cleveland appropriation, and it's time for the Browns to rectify the situation. I’d say by any means necessary, but after seeing what happened in the Browns’ game last week, I think I should dial back the rhetoric just a bit. So instead, go out and take back the Clevelander Hotel through aggressive play while still obeying all the rules of football and society!
Carolina @ New Orleans
The winner of this game will likely be the NFC South champion, because the winner of this game will likely be the Saints. New Orleans is now three games clear of Carolina with six left to play, so a win here would all buy clinch the division. The shine has worn off of Panthers’ fill-in quarterback Kyle Allen, whose struggles have strangely coincided with the tougher stretch of Carolina’s schedule. And here we thought we could believe in him. Remember, we all declared that he was the Panthers’ QB of the future? How dare this undrafted, second year player betray our trust. He’s made fools of us all. And maybe that’s what he wanted, after all, Allen does refer to himself as “The Merry Imp.” Surely he’s delighting in pulling the rug out from underneath our collective feet. Touché Allen, you’re a true scamp. An even greater ruse would be for Allen and the Panthers to go out and actually win this game. Unfortunately I’m just not sure he has that in his bag o’ tricks.
Oakland @ New York Jets
The Raiders continue to shock the world with their competence; though last week’s 17-10 home win over the Bengals was not what most would consider impressive. Now they take on a Jets team that has rebounded from a most embarrassing loss to the Dolphins to win two in a row. Normally I’d say it’s unwise of a team in New York’s position to keep trying so hard to win games, but since they already have Sam Darnold, who they think will be their franchise quarterback, they kind of have to let him loose and try to salvage something from this season. And since the Jets organization as a whole is something of a trash dump, “salvaging” really is the appropriate term here. We’ve all heard of quarterbacks that are labeled “game managers,” but could Sam Darnold be the first “game salvager”? Sure!
Seattle @ Philadelphia
Even if the Eagles lose this game, which you must know is exactly what I’m predicting to happen, they still have a good shot of going 10-6. Saying a (would be) 5-6 team has a good chance of winning their last five games seems like a bold statement. And while you’re correct that I am not afraid to make the brave, declarative statements that some won’t, I suggest you look at Philly’s schedule before heaping too much praise on me. Here’s who’s on the slate in Weeks 13-18: @ Miami, Giants, @ Washington, Dallas, @ Giants. The Dallas game could be a toss-up, but everything else looks like money in the bank. And as we learn time and again in the NFL, games always play out exactly as you’d expect them to. Of course, if the Eagles win this game I would firmly install them as the favorite to win the NFC East. But come on guys.
Detroit @ Washington
During last week’s loss to the Jets, Washington QB Dwayne Haskins was seen on the sidelines delivering a (maybe) inspirational speech to his offensive line. Later on Washington scored their only two touchdowns of the game. It’s possible that this will be a turning point in Washington’s season and maybe even Haskins' career. It’s also possible that we’ll look back on that speech in a couple years and say, “Oh yeah, remember when Dwayne Haskins thought he could actually be an NFL quarterback? Haha. That was back when they still called the team the Redskins. Why it took them that long to switch to their name to the Open Sores I’ll never know.” Haskins will certainly have an opportunity to show us all what he can do this week when he goes up against a Lions defense that no one would describe as, well, a defense. Will his performance improve? Maybe if he gives himself an inspirational speech before the game.
Jacksonville @ Tennessee
Hey everybody, can I interest you in watching a slugfest between the bottom half of the AFC South? I didn’t think so. But what about this enticing little tidbit: Nick Foles has never started a game against the Titans. Never! League history will be made this Sunday and you can witness it. In person if you so choose. A solo ticket is currently going for $28 on the resale market. A small price to pay to see something never before seen on an NFL field. Of course, if you don’t live in the Nashville area, and I’m assuming most of you don’t, it’s going to cost you a healthy chuck of change to fly out there. Then there’s the matter of finding a hotel room when there’s probably some sort of country music festival in town the same weekend. Ok, so maybe this is more trouble than it's worth. Just do what I’m going to do: sit back, relax, pop this one on the ol’ boob tube and watch the magic unfold. Wait, the Cowboys/Pats game is on at the same time? Oh, eff this game then.
Dallas @ New England
The Packers/49ers game got flexed into the Sunday Night slot, and that’s understandable, it’s a great match-up. But is that all that’s going on here? I think not. You see, the game that was flexed out of Sunday Night was Seahawks/Eagles, which was moved to the early window. That swap left us with only two afternoon games and reveals the league’s true motives. The NFL wanted to clear the way for Cowboys/Patriots, and more or less create two prime time games. Sure, there is a second Sunday afternoon game, but it’s the Jags and Titans, so come on, who are we kidding? Do I blame the league? No. I just want them to know that I know. As for the actual game at hand here, the Patriots will probably win. Quick tip to any prognosticators in training out there, if you pick New England to win every game you’ll usually be right about 75% of the time.
Green Bay @ San Francisco
Baltimore @ Los Angeles Rams
The Ravens, one of the best teams in the NFL, travel to LA to take on the Rams, one of the teams in the NFL. No, that’s not a typo, I’m just not sure how to describe the Rams other than that they are, in fact, one of the 32 teams in the league. Yes, LA has won three of their last four, but their offense has hardly been setting the world on fire. The same can not be said for the Ravens, whose offense has legitimately committed multiple acts of arson this season. They’re a menace, and they must be stopped. And strangely, the Rams may be just the team to do it. Over their last four games LA’s D has only given up a total 37 points. None of the offenses they faced in those games were serial arsonists like Baltimore, but it stands to reason that the Rams could at least slow the Ravens down. Though, slowing the Ravens down still probably won’t be good enough, because LA’s offense has been stuck in gridlock for weeks. In fact, their gridlock is akin to the traffic on the various freeways in Los Angeles! Have you heard about this LA traffic? Yeesh, don’t get me started! It’s like, hey I gotta go 12 miles, I’ll be there in an hour! I’m not kidding here folks, traffic in Los Angeles is bad! Not as bad as airline food, but that’s a whole other story ... A story which I’ll get into now! So I’m sitting in coach, and they bring me this microwaveable dish, and I’m like, “Is this cat vomit supposed to be lasagna? Who’s your chef, Garfield?” Let’s see what else ...