Houston @ Jacksonville
The Jaguars have had a real up and down season. They lost their first two, then won their next two, then lost their next two, then won their next two. It’s fitting that they’re playing in London this week because the Brits have a name for this type of win/loss pattern, they call it the Burlswich Flip-Flop. It stems from an old English football club that never won more than two games in a row. Of course, that team only played six matches in the history of their franchise before a (somehow) contagious strain of gout spread through the locker room and forced the club to cease operations. Ironically, the treatment for the disease required the players to air out their feet at all times, forcing the Burlswich boys to wear, you guessed it, flip flops. Is this the week that Jacksonville pulls out of their Burlswich funk? You’ll have to tune in to find out. So flip that TV on at ... 6:30am?!? Jeez, I’d sooner volunteer for a case of gout than get up that early to watch this game.
Washington @ Buffalo
Last week The Bills played a decent team for the second time this season and they lost for the second time. Good news for the Bills though, their upcoming schedule is Washington, @ Cleveland, @ Miami, Denver. If you can only beat lousy teams it’s nice to have a bunch of them on your schedule. Washington seemed like they would be less lousy after their all-pro left tackle Trent Williams came back from his holdout. Now it appears that he won't be playing anytime soon. I like to think he completely checked out and didn’t watch any football during his time away. So now he comes back like, “Ok boys let’s go to work, where we at? 1-7?!? Fuck this.” Seconds later he peels out of the parking lot. As for this game, look for some points. And by that I mean you’ll really have to look for the points, because they’ll likely be hard to find.
Minnesota @ Kansas City
Will Patrick Mahomes be back? Doesn't seem likely. And if not the Chiefs could fall to 5-4 and ... well, still be firmly in first place in the AFC West. So maybe it makes sense from a strategy standpoint for KC’s QB1 to sit out another week. It also makes sense from a kneecap standpoint, because pretty recently Mahomes’s was not where it should be. The Vikings are on a roll, having won four in a row, and a road victory here would be a nice feather in their cap. Meanwhile the Chiefs are just hoping that Mahomes has a nice tether in his (knee) cap. Or something, I’m not exactly sure what type of procedure he had, but when there’s a play on words that amazing available you don’t just let it pass you by.
New York Jets @ Miami
It seems like every week the Dolphins are playing in the worst match-up of the season. This week's contest features one combined win. I almost have that many. Me, just by myself. I’m only one back of these teams together. And I imagine you could say the same thing. That win total figures to double this week though, barring a tie or both teams deciding to quit in the middle of the game. The more I think about it though the more likely that latter scenario seems. I wouldn’t blame any players on these teams for bailing at this point. Speaking as a man who has zero NFL wins on the season I can personally attest to how frustrating it is to go week after week without a W. It would be an interesting ruse if the Dolphins agreed to simultaneously leave the field with the Jets only to take a step back at the last second and get their first win via a sort of rug-pulling forfeiture. It might be their best option at the moment.
Chicago @ Philadelphia
One week after the Bears missed another last second field goal to lose a home game, they are forced to play the Eagles who they famously fell to in the exact same fashion last January. I said before the season that the Bears would miss the playoffs in large part because coach Matt Nagy had psyched everybody out in his search for a reliable kicker in the wake of that playoff loss. Chicago eventually settled on Eddie Pineiro and now a confluence of circumstances has caused the Bears’ kicking ordeal to reach a critical mass. Is there any doubt that this game will come down to a potential game-winning field goal attempt for Chicago? I see two possible outcomes. One: Pineiro lines up for the kick, takes two steps in his run-up to the ball and collapses under the weight of his emotions into a sobbing heap on the Lincoln Financial Field turf while his holder gets obliterated by the on-rushing defense. Or two: an unprecedented triple doink.
Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh
The Colts only play close games. Each one one of their contests have been decided by 7 points or less. With their record at 5-2 does that mean they’re lucky or good? Hey dummy, their logo is a horseshoe! These guys have built their whole franchise on luck. And actually, their whole franchise used to be built around Luck, which makes it ironic that fortune is smiling on them even now that he’s gone. Much like Indianapolis, the Steelers have been without their starting quarterback for most of the season. That’s where the similarities end however, as Pittsburgh sits at 3-4, and are 1-3 in games decided by 7 or less. That being said, the Steelers have won two in a row and they’re certainly not out of the playoff race yet. They’ll have to keep up this pace to catch back up to teams like the Colts though, who are running away from the pack thanks to their superior shoes.
Tennessee @ Carolina
The Titans have won two in a row and are now 4-4, which unfortunately is only good enough for last in the AFC South. But hey, it’s the best last place record in the league! So there’s that. It seems odd to say, but Tennessee may have finally found some stability with Ryan Tannehill as their quarterback. Or maybe their consecutive wins should be attributed to the crumminess of their opponents. Still, Tannehill has been good enough, which is more praise than I thought I’d be compelled to heap upon Ry for the remainder of his career. Meanwhile, Kyle Allen finally fell well short of competent in the Panthers’ blowout loss in “San Francisco,” and now the youngster must rebound to keep Carolina from falling to .500. I guess he doesn’t have to rebound, he can probably just give the ball to Christian McCaffrey every play and hope for the best. Yes that’s pretty much been their strategy all season, but it would be interesting to see them fully commit for an entire game. As is, I’m not sure what to make of these teams so I’ll just lean towards the home team and hope we get the full McCaffrey experience.
Detroit @ Oakland
Each of the last three seasons the Lions have started 3-3. Now, in 2019 they’re 3-3-1. It appears that they’re caught in a mediocrity loop. And for anybody who’s been on it, they know that the Mediocrity Loop is the lamest ride at the fair. It looks like the Lions will have to wait until 2020 to get off. Mediocrity is actually an improvement for the Raiders, who have to feel decent about their 3-4 record. That being said, 3-4 ain’t gonna get ya to the playoffs. First of all it wouldn’t be a good enough record, but also it’s only seven games. Normally you have to play a full 16 to qualify for the playoffs regardless of your winning percentage. But nice try Raiders! Always looking to pull a fast one, and that’s why we love ya. I’ll tell ya what isn’t a fast one though, the Mediocrity Loop; again that ride really sucks.
Tampa Bay @ Seattle
When last these teams met in 2016, the final score was a hilarious 14-5. I’m not sure if the final this time around will be any more conventional, but I’d bet at least $20 that the total will be higher. First of all, these teams can score, the Bucs average 28 per game while the Seahawks are at 26. Secondly, their defenses give up their fair share; 30 per game for Tampa and 24.5 for Seattle. And finally, that last game was 14-5! They’ll probably top that after two possessions! Yes, I know that’s impossible! But I also know that nothing’s impossible. So what do you have to say to that jocko? Shut up about the math! It’s gonna happen, just watch. And no, I don’t want you to text me if and when it doesn’t. Also, how did you get my number?
Cleveland @ Denver
Joe Flacco openly criticized the Broncos’ conservative playcalling while trying to protect a one point fourth quarter lead in last week’s loss to the Colts. Apparently the FlaccMan thought a pass would’ve been more effective in closing things out. But come on Joe, do you know who Denver’s quarterback is? It’s you! You know you would’ve just thrown a pick or taken some abysmal sack/fumble. Then again, Flacco has never been a man who knows his own limitations, and isn’t that why we all love him? Though I suspect that the Broncos’ coaching staff wasn’t too enamored with their QB’s comments. I wouldn't have been surprised if offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello gave Flacco exactly what he was asking for in this game and called nothing but passes. It’s like when a parent catches their kid with cigarettes and then makes them smoke the whole carton. Eventually, after being sacked for the twelfth time a battered Flacco would have knelt at Scangarello’s feet and, with tears trickling down his face, apologized for his hubris. But alas, Flacco is out for the next month plus, so I guess that will make the coaches and Flacco happy.
Green Bay @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are always at a disadvantage in their own home stadium, but this Sunday will be particularly bad due to a number of factors. First of all, Packers fans travel notoriously well, so Dignity Health Sports Park will be overrun with those always hilarious cheesehead hats. Secondly, no Angelinos will show up because they’ve spent the week watching local news coverage of the whole region being on fire and they’d rather not inhale while outdoors. Lastly, there are no Charger fans in Los Angeles to begin with! Phil Rivers and the boys are used to this type of environment, so that won’t be too big of a deal. But they’ve also grown accustomed to losing in this type of environment. They’re 1-3 at Dignity Health Spa Resort and Casino Emporium this season. Just because you’re comfortable with something doesn’t mean you’re good at it. Just ask an alcoholic.
New England @ Baltimore
Are these Patriots an all-time great team, or merely just another very good New England squad that will win the Super Bowl? We'll start to get some answers on Sunday night. With some more insight on how this one plays out here's Sunday Night Football's color commentator Cris Collinsworth:
Dallas @ New York Giants
The Giants were buyers at the trade deadline, acquiring defensive tackle Leonard Williams from the Jets. With their record at 2-6 I have no idea why this move was made. They’re like a former executive who was fired months ago but never told their family so they still drive a Mercedes and leave every morning at 7am but just go sit at a coffee shop two towns over for 9 hours. Except the Giants play in full view of the public on a weekly basis so they’re not fooling anybody into thinking that everything’s ok. Who knows, maybe Williams will be just the shot in the arm that the Giants need and he’ll lead them to an eight game winning streak to finish the season at 10-6. But that’s the whole thing, even if they win all of their remaining games they’ll only be 10-6, which might not even be good enough to make the playoffs in the NFC at this rate. So basically every game is a must-win for them starting on Monday. And if they don’t top the Cowboys you can expect to see all 53 Giants at a Starbucks in Secaucus Tuesday morning. Just don't ask them to sell the Mercedes.