Houston @ Tampa Bay
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.