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


NFL Picks - Week 15

Sunday Morning

New England @ Cincinnati
Oh boy, the Patriots were caught possibly cheating again. And now it’s just getting desperate. Trying to get a competitive advantage over the Bengals?!? They’re the Bengals, that’s your competitive advantage right there. Some are outraged at another instance of New England attempting to work around the league’s regulations, but I am more intrigued by the fact that it happened at all. Have the Pats really sunk so low that they need to cheat to beat Cincinnati? With the way the Patriots’ offense has been playing, maybe it’s not so far-fetched. Over the last five games they’re averaging only 17.6 points per contest. What’s more, the Bengals have only given up 16.5 per game in their last four. Don’t look back any further on the Cincy schedule, because it will ruin the point I’m trying to make. Also, who cares about the start of the season? This is the NFL, where teams evolve over the course of a year, just like football espionage tactics evolve over the course of a decade. Obviously New England won’t lose this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see their offense continue to be stymied. Unless of course they really did learn all of the Bengals’ defensive play calls via their surveillance. How about this, if the Pats score more than 30 they obviously cheated and they must forfeit the game? Agreed? Great. 

Patriots 23-9

Tampa Bay @ Detroit
The Lions performance last week with third string quarterback David Blough was appropriately a little blah. Detroit has now lost six in a row, and nine of their last ten. Most of those have come without Matthew Stafford though, who surely would have shepherded this team to just below .500 as per usual. As it is though, the Lions could easily lose out and wind up with a top 5 pick in the 2020 draft, so at least they’d have something to show for this lost season. That is, until they botch their pick and eventually finish at 7-9 next season, which is really the most likely scenario. Tampa looks to be headed towards something similar this year. After starting the season at 2-6 they’ve won four of their last five. This will likely lead to an 8-8 finish and just enough signs of life from Jameis Winston to lure the Bucs into giving him a contract extension. So basically, meet you both back here next year? Same seats!

Buccaneers 38-30

Chicago @ Green Bay
Nobody seems to be talking about the Packers right now. They’re 10-3, and still squarely in the mix to get one of the NFC’s two byes in the playoffs. Yet the only chatter about them is coming from their fans’ teeth! Agagaga brrrrr! It’s cold baby! Any postseason discussion surrounding the Bears will be silenced with their next loss, because it will all but eliminate them from contention. And you know there’s nothing the Packers would like more than to force the Bears to the brink. That’s right, nothing. Not even world peace or an end to hunger. It’s a strange stance for the organization to take, especially considering they volunteered that information unprompted. That sentiment flies in the face of the holiday spirit, but it ain’t Christmas yet baby! Go get ‘em Pack!

Packers 24-16

Houston @ Tennessee
First place in the AFC South is at stake! Whoever wins here will ... likely have to win again when these teams play again in two weeks to close out the season. That’s right, due to a scheduling quirk this is the first match-up of the season for these rivals, and it comes at a perfect time, with both of them sporting identical 8-5 records. From the cursory at best amount of research I just did on a certain sports website’s Playoff Machine, it appears that if these teams split their head to head contests and finish with the same record, Houston will wind up as the division champs. That makes this game of the utmost importance for Tennessee, especially considering that their other remaining game is against the Saints, while the Texans have the Bucs in Tampa. So really the Titans should simply heed the words of their former owner Al Davis and “Just win baby.” Ok yes, Al Davis was actually the Raiders owner, but since Tennessee just trounced Oakland last Sunday they now get to co-opt their history. Sorry, those are the rules, I didn’t make them up. Ok, this one in particular I did, but let’s all just move past this and agree that this is what Al would have wanted. 

Titans 30-23

Denver @ Kansas City 
Last week the Chiefs got over the hump they could not surmount last season by beating the Patriots. However, you know what they say, the real humps come in the playoffs. So while this is a step in the right direction for KC, it will be a hollow accomplishment unless they can top New England come January. As it looks right now, those teams may be on a divisional round collision course. Though, there’s plenty to be done between then and now, starting this week against a Broncos team coming off their best game of the season. Denver pummeled the Texans in Houston, and ironically Drew Lock may have freed the Broncos from the shackles that have limited their offense all season. But was that breakout performance an anomaly or a sign of things to come? As usual, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle, because if this is the new norm Drew Lock will go on to be the greatest statistical quarterback in NFL history. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to confidently make that prediction. Look for Lock to lack some of the fireworks from last week, and for KC to keep moving forward. 

Chiefs 27-17

Miami @ New York Giants 
Move over Broadway, there’s a new biggest show in town! Dolphins and Giants baby! Start spreading da news! I’m actually wondering if New York is a big enough stage for a game like this. In fact, maybe this match-up can’t even be contained by this planet. I propose launching these teams into space and playing the game on some sort of barge orbiting our world. That’s great, but what’s the re-entry strategy you ask; how do we get these teams back to Earth? Shhhhhhh. But what about the ... They’re gone, alright?!?

Dolphins 27-24

Philadelphia @ Washington 
There’s a good chance that the Eagles could be in first place after this week. Then again, they could go out and play like they did against the Giants last Monday and fully squander their opportunity this time around. Washington actually hasn’t been that pathetic over the last three weeks, so there is some danger here. With the way the Eagles offense has been sputtering, and the way that Washington’s offense is terrible, don’t expect many points. In fact, most of the points in the stadium will be from Washington fans’ fingers as they direct security towards the Eagles fan in their section that has passed out in a pool of their friend’s vomit. Philly pholks are naturally disgruntled, so if this mess of a season comes fully off the rails with losses here and next week against the Cowboys, the entire city could revert to martial law until 2020 at the earliest. I don’t think they’ll lose this week, but you never know, so keep your head on a swivel everybody. 

Eagles 19-12

Seattle @ Carolina
For teams that aren’t in each other’s division these two sure play each other an awful lot. Since Russell Wilson entered the league in 2012 the Seahawks and Panthers have played 6 times in the regular season and twice in the playoffs. Interestingly, and perhaps nefariously, only two of the regular season games in that span have been hosted by Seattle. And if you’ll simply glance up to the header of this segment you’ll notice that they’re playing in Carolina again. What gives? The real answer is probably something to do with the way the league rotates its schedules, but I presume that this is just another case of the NFL showing favoritism to the Panthers. We all know that the league considers Carolina their marquee franchise and that they’ve just been dying to make Charlotte the epicenter of all things football for years now. Hell, they awarded the city the next five Super Bowls! This corruption has got to stop! And the only way for that to happen is for the Panthers themselves to fade further into irrelevancy. A loss here would certainly help. 

Seahawks 27-19

Sunday Afternoon

Jacksonville @ Oakland
“Hello ladies and germs, we’re the Jacksonville Jaguars, and based on play recently we feel confident in saying that we are the worst team in football.” 
“Not so fast!” Shouted the Raiders from the back of the room.
Yes, it’s debatable which one of these squadrons is actually playing worse right now, but they’re both unquestionably bad. The Jags are in more of a full freefall, having lost their last five games by the respective margins of 23, 20, 22, 17, and 35. Please note I said respective margins, not respectable. While Oakland’s current streak of futility isn’t as prolonged, it’s similarly repugnant. They’ve lost their last three games by a combined total of 83 points. It’s fitting that two teams from which no light can escape are playing in the final game in Oakland, home of the Black Hole. It’s for this very reason that I’ll pick the Raiders to win, because if they don’t, perhaps the team itself won’t be able to escape either. And yes, by that I mean that the fans in Oakland will kill all of them. 

Raiders 31-20

Cleveland @ Arizona 
I went from Cleveland, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, oh wait those aren’t the right ly-rics. But honestly that was the first thing that came to mind when I saw this match-up. The second thing was Baker vs. Kyler! Oklahoma QBs who have won the last two Heismans (as long as you read this before Saturday night). And I say since this game has little to no stakes, why not make it a little more interesting and put those Hesimans on the line? That’s right, whichever QB wins will now be a two-time Heisman winner. Archie Griffin will be none too thrilled, but who cares? This baby needs some juice! 

Browns 41-38

Minnesota @ Los Angeles Chargers
This game was originally scheduled for the Sunday night slot, but was flexed out by NBC. Boy I’ll bet the network is kicking itself now after seeing that beating the Chargers handed to Jacksonville last week. What’s that? They didn’t watch? No one did? Oh. Well it happened, and I’ve got the highlights to prove it. Hmm, I actually can’t seem to find any online right now. That’s weird, because I’m sure I saw some of that game last Sunday. Or at least I think I did ... Did the Chargers and Jags actually play? Is Avril Lavigne the same person she always was? The Vikings seem to be the same team they’ve been all season. They won again in Minnesota last week and are now the only team in the league who’s undefeated at home. Of course, that means that they have a less than sterling 3-4 mark on the road. But, good news for the Vikings, this game is at Dignity Health Sports Park, where every game is a home game, as long you’re not the Chargers. That being said, I have a feeling that the lesser-known LA team could be poised for an upset this week.

Chargers 23-20

Los Angeles Rams @ Dallas
This is an interesting match-up, with one of the teams scratching and clawing to get to a wild card spot, while the other continues to fail their way to a division championship. Theoretically the Rams could win out and still miss the playoffs at 11-5, while the Cowboys could make it in at 7-9 and host a first round game. It’s a peculiar and maddening situation, but sometimes it leads to GD miracles so I’m not too worried about it. In a league as cyclical as the NFL eventually everyone will get screwed over by a mediocre division champ, and that’s the type of random, unjust equality I can get behind. If the scenario I laid out earlier does come to pass this will be a fun game to point to as an example of just how unfair the situation is because of how the Rams rolled over the Cowboys. 

Rams 24-13

Atlanta @ San Francisco 
It’s a renewal of one of the league’s most perplexing rivalries. From 1967-2001 these two played each other twice a year because, starting with the 1970 merger, the Atlanta Falcons were in the NFC West. It makes sense though when you consider that the city of Atlanta used to be in Utah. A lot of people think it was just an odd man out situation in which the Falcons got stuck in that division because there just weren’t enough teams west of the Mississippi. But those people are wrong, it’s because it used to be Atlanta, Utah. The whole city moved prior to the 1996 Summer Olympics because Georgia offered them tax breaks. Once the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002 realignment moved the Atlanta (Georgia) Falcons to their more appropriate home in the NFC South. It’s safe to say that few, if any, of today’s players know that history, or the history of this rivalry, so don’t expect to see any of the familiarity-bred contempt you may have in past decades. 

49ers 35-25

Sunday Night

Buffalo @ Pittsburgh 
It's a clash between the AFC's current wild card teams. But just how wild will this one be? Let's find out what Cris Collinsworth thinks:
Whoa, a surprise cameo. What an honor. I'll agree with Cris and take Pittsburgh in a close, low scoring game.

Steelers 16-13

Monday Night

Indianapolis @ New Orleans
Seeing this match-up on the schedule in prime time conjures up a memory of their 2011 Sunday Night clash. Well, maybe clash is an inaccurate choice of words, though it was sort of a clash of styles in that one of the teams was playing football, while the other certainly was not. You see, the final score of that fateful game was Saints 62, Colts 7, and we were treated to it as a nation in prime time. For some added context, this was the season that Peyton Manning was forced to sit out with an injury, so what had appeared to be a great match-up when the schedule was made instead became a battle of former Purdue quarterbacks, with Drew Brees taking on Curtis Painter. The resulting debacle led NBC to create something called the “Painter Flex” which dictated that network execs could flex a game out of Sunday Night based on taking one look at the quarterback’s picture. It’s why Mike Glennon has never played on Sunday night. Odds are we’ll see a closer game this Monday, but with the Saints coming off a loss and the Colts continuing to slump, look for New Orleans to win by double digits. Also look for Curtis Painter to perform the ceremonial opening coin toss to commemorate his historic 2011 performance. Just don’t be surprised if one of the Saints players intercepts it. 

Saints 31-17