Both of these teams are coming off a rough Week 7. The Patriots were blown out by the Niners 33-6, while the Bills didn’t manage to score a touchdown against the Jets. Sure Buffalo still won 18-10, but when you’re playing the Jets, that’s as good as a loss. In fact, it’s debatable which of these squads had the worse week. But the fact of the matter is that the Bills sit atop the AFC East at 5-2, two and a half games ahead of their perennial tormentors in New England. This game represents more than just an opportunity to put added distance between themselves and the Patriots, it’s a chance to announce that Buffalo is the new team to beat in the division. It’s like when the younger brother finally outgrows the older one and beats him up for the first time. You can’t show any mercy. The older brother’s begging you to stop waling on him, saying you’re family, or that you’re godfather to his daughter, and other crap like that. But don’t listen to him. Just keep thinking of all those times the shoe was on the other foot, and said foot was holding you down next to some dog poop on the neighbors’ lawn. He deserves this, and all the questions he’s gonna get at the Thanksgiving table about his missing teeth.
Tennessee at Cincinnati
The Bengals have had trouble finishing games this season, holding fourth quarter leads in five contests with only one win to show for it. On the other side of the coin, the Titans have excelled late in games, including in their only loss, which came after they nearly erased a 20 point second half deficit. So maybe we should just cut to the chase and start this game in the 4th quarter with Cincy up 3-0. And actually, based on their ever so consistent track records to this point, we can pretty much surmise how things will go from there. Ok, game over, Titans win. We saved ourselves a lot of time. What should we do with our Sunday? Meet up with all our friends and get brunch? No! No! Stop it! Just stop.
Las Vegas at Cleveland
Earlier this season I explained that the Chiefs had established themselves as the new kings of the AFC, taking the mantle from the previous rulers, the Patriots. I then decided that it would be fun, and nonsensical, to transfer that crown to any team that was able to beat KC, even just in the regular season. Well guess what folks, the Las Vegas Raiders are your new Kings of the AFC. Yes, they lost to Tampa last week but the Bucs are an NFC team so that amounted to a non-title match. But this week, the crown is back on the line as the Kings take on the Browns. Last week Cleveland continued its season-long trend of either winning a shootout or getting totally creamed. Hey, if you don’t have it that day, you might as well not waste your time. It’s all or (absolutely) nothing with these a-holes, and I dig it. But which one will it be on Sunday? I smell a shootout. After all the throne is on the line, can’t phone it in. Hey, can’t phone when it comes to the throne. You think the Browns will use that as a rallying cry in practice this week? Do ya guys think? Hey, don’t look at me like that. I don’t see why it’s out of the realm of possibility that maybe the Browns will take my made up concept, then apply a rhyme to it and use it as motivation to try hard in their game on Sunday. Ya know what forget it, you guys are jerks.
Indianapolis at Detroit
It would be nice if the league just treated this like a Super Bowl since neither of these quarterbacks will ever make it to a real one. They could put up decorations and everything. Ya know, give Rivers and Stafford a real thrill. And hey since it’s in Detroit, and not a real Super Bowl, the NFL could have Kid Rock perform at halftime. On second thought, it might not be a good idea to put Kid Rock on that stage two days before the election. Something tells me his political views might clash with a lot of the players’. We’ll have to get someone else then. Let’s see, there are a lot of famous musicians from Detroit, but most of them too famous for this gig. Oh, I think I just found the perfect fit: Ray Parker Jr., born in Detroit, Michigan May 1, 1954. And c’mon, the man who brought us the Ghostbusters theme performing the day after Halloween, when all the ghosts have been busted! This whole thing makes too much sense.
Minnesota at Green Bay
I picked one of these teams to make the playoffs. Don’t go back and check which one, just know that I picked one. So in a sense, I’ll be right when one of them does get to the postseason. Fine it was the Vikings! Hey, how was I supposed to know that Kirk Cousins was going to be so erratic? I only had his entire career to go off of. Cousins has been so lousy, in fact, that during the Minnesota's bye week he theorized that he wouldn’t be finishing the season if he continued to throw interceptions. But if I were in the Vikings front office I’d be thinking the exact opposite. Nice try pal, you’re gonna sit in there and throw all the picks you can, and you’re gonna like it too! Like a parent catching their kid with a cigarette then making them smoke an entire carton. That’s right, throw another one into double coverage Kirk; and you’re gonna keep doing it until you learn your lesson! Because we just gave you a $66 million extension this offseason ... (loud sobbing that’s embarrassing for everyone). Actually, the more apt analogy would be that it’s like if Macaulay Culkin’s parents had tried the cigarette discipline on him in 1992. Cousins knows he has them over a barrel financially, so really there’s not much they can do to punish him.
New York Jets at Kansas City
Here we have possibly the best team in the league versus definitely the worst. As such, the expectation from many is that the Chiefs will win by 30. However, I’m thinking this could end being a classic lazy blowout game. You know, where the Chiefs barely care and would possibly be susceptible to an upset if the Jets weren’t so horrid. So KC will probably get up like 28-3 by halftime, then take out some starters and coast to a 35-17 win. A game so non-competitive that the superior team doesn’t even care to win by that much. And sure, one could always argue that the Jets are professionals, so you never know what could happen. I mean, hey, they get paid too. That’s true, but not nearly as much. The Chiefs’ roster is far better compensated thanks in large part to their superior talent. Why do I keep making the same point? I’m putting way more effort into this than Kansas City will need to.
Los Angeles Rams at Miami
Fitz sits?!? Miami has won three of their last four, and those wins have come at a combined score of 98-30. I understand the Dolphins wanting to get to Tua, but it’s now clear there was nothing Ryan Fitzpatrick could have done to keep the starting quarterback job. It’s sad to think about Fitz graciously hyping up the (reduced) crowd and cheering on Tua when the rookie came in at the end of the Dolphins’ Week 6 win over the Jets. The poor bastard probably didn’t realize at the time that he was applauding his own demise. Like a T-Rex gathering his fellow dinosaurs to applaud the beautiful, fiery asteroid headed towards them. That’s an especially heartbreaking analogy considering that due to its physical make-up the T-Rex likely wouldn’t even be able to applaud normally. Its stubby arms forcing it to merely slap its chest. It’s an effort as futile as Fitzpatrick’s turned out to be. Alas, wherever he goes Fitz will be no more than a T-Rex attempting to clap, waiting for the next asteroid.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
You’ve probably seen this game hyped as a “heavyweight fight.” And sure, this is a very important game and the rivalry is historically physical. But come on, if we’re going by boxing standards, the minimum weight requirement for a heavyweight is 200 lbs. Almost every player on an NFL team hits that threshold. So really, every game could be classified as a “heavyweight fight.” Yes, even games that involve the Jets. But what makes the description so apt for this contest is that the teams are each selecting one player to compete in a 15 round boxing match prior to the game. The winner’s team will get to call the coin toss. It seems like a mere pittance for such a taxing affair, but try telling that to Ben Roethlisberger. He really likes calling “tails”. Actually he also likes to say “heads” too. It’s because he’s a pervert. But that point is, you take any advantage you can get in a knock-down drag-out affair like this. And I’m taking about the game now, not the preliminary boxing match. Though, I suppose it could apply to both ... This is getting too convoluted, perhaps we should move on.
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver
Third place in the AFC West is on the line! Who will prevail?!? I would really respect CBS if that was how they chose to promote this game. Instead they’ll probably try to sell you on young, emerging star quarterbacks and explosive edge rushers. Snooze fest 2020! And that’s even with the extra hour of sleep we’re all getting on Saturday. I wanna know who’s taking that coveted 3rd spot baby! Hell that’s only one away from 2nd! And don’t get me started on how close 2nd is to 1st ... Seriously though, I won’t get started on that, because there’s no way anybody in the AFC West is going to overtake the Chiefs, so it’s pointless to consider. But hey, there’s an extra wild card spot out there this season and who’s to say it can’t end up with one of these teams? The NFL when it looks at the standing at the end of the season, that’s who. No, it’s not likely that either of these squads will make a playoff run, but it becomes even unlikelier for whoever loses this Sunday. So tune in to find out who has less of a chance of sneaking into the playoffs! There’s another tagline for ya CBS. These are free, you can have them!
New Orleans at Chicago
In the past I’ve spoken of triple P’s - possible playoff previews. Well this one is a PPFP - possible playoff fodder preview. By that I mean that both of these teams are good enough to make it to the postseason, but neither one so good that they’ll do much once they get there. Neither one has passed the eye test for me. And by that I mean using my eyes to look at their point totals. The Saints and Bears are a combined 9-4, yet have outscored their opponents by a total of 4 points. These guys aren't passing the nose test either, because something doesn’t smell right. In fact, nothing has smelled right to me for weeks ... Oh god, I need to get tested ... Anyway, though both teams have basically played their opponents to a scoring stalemate this season, New Orleans games have been in the 30-30 range while Chicago has averaged out at almost exactly 20-20. Easy pick here, I’ll just split the difference and ... damn it! Another tie! Ok, can’t do that again (even though Steelers/Titans almost went into OT tied at 27 last week just as I had accidentally predicted).
San Francisco at Seattle
The 49ers have gotten most of their wins this season via blowout, with victory margins of 18, 27, and 27 again. The Seahawks, on the other hand, mostly trade in one score games, be it a win or a (totally avoidable) loss. You guys thinking what I’m thinking? Get Jack Nicholson on the horn, because Something’s Gotta Give! Sure he’ll probably be a bit confused as to who we are, why we’re calling, and how we got his number in the first place, but once we explain the differences between the way these teams win games and that something, in fact, has gotta give, he’ll surely understand and appreciate that we phoned. Jack will probably even give us a great one-liner, like, “All I know is that when these two division rivals get together, it’s Batman! Whoops! Sorry, I meant to say ‘it’s As Good As It Gets.’” Give him a break, he’s 83 years old, we all make mistakes. Oh whoa, he’s calling back. “Hey, Jack again. Just wanted to say that in this little pigskindo-si-do, the winner will be whichever team has a Few Good Men. Or a few more good men I suppose.” Ha, alright Mr. Nicholson, we’ll talk to ya later. So anyway ... Jeez, he’s calling again. “Chinatown.” (Dial-tone) I don’t really know where to go from here.
Ok, turns out he can not. Hang in there CriColl. And if anybody knows about that Tenet stream just DM Cris on Twitter.
Tampa Bay at New York Giants
After back to back blowout victories over winning teams, the Buccaneers are looking like a potential NFC powerhouse. But don’t get too confident yet Tampa, because this week you’re not playing a team with a winning record. Nah, you gotta take on the ironically-named Giants. In a way they’re a much more dangerous type of team, because they’re the ones you least expect to cause any sort of problems. Still in another way, they’re the least dangerous type of team due to their lack of ability to win. To the Giants’ credit four of their six losses have been by one score, so they’re not totally uncompetitive. But in reality, with the way the Bucs are playing right now, it doesn’t seem feasible that they’ll pull the upset. Yes, it appears no opponent can derail this Tampa train. So the Bucs will have to do it themselves! See ya soon Antonio Brown!
Fired Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn had to have cracked a smile as the Falcons bungled away their Week 7 game against Detroit via an inadvertent touchdown and terrible defense. But I don’t imagine him doing so out of schadenfreude. No, I think it was more that he was just glad to see that all of this turmoil hasn’t let his old team change who they are deep down inside. They can still blow games in a new and exciting fashion on any given Sunday. Now the question becomes, can they do the same on a Thursday? As I’m sure Dan Quinn would tell you, never underestimate the mangled heart of a near-champion. The Panthers have proven to be a reliably solid team so far this season. They might not be the most talented, but they maximize their potential and don’t seem to beat themselves. So in other words they’re the anti-Falcons. And when it comes to the NFL in 2020, that’s a pretty good thing to be. Though Carolina is only 3-4, so I guess it’s not that great. Look, this game probably won’t end up mattering much, but Atlanta’s involved, so it should be silly at the very least.
Damn you Falcons. I knew that once I explained how you’ve kept fooling me that you’d immediately win a game just to pull one over on me again. Well congrats! I hope you all had a big laugh! No, I really do. If we can’t just take a moment every day to laugh then what’s the point, right? Especially in this trying time. I usually save my laughing outbursts for when I’m at the grocery store. I think the other shoppers and employees get a real kick out of it. I can’t see their mouths because of the masks, but I’m sure they’re smiling under there. Last week both the Falcons and Lions held on to win after amassing double-digit leads. For almost every other team that wouldn’t be noteworthy, but if you know anything about these groups of yahoos, it is. Perhaps they’ve both turned over a new leaf. Or, a perhaps more likely perhaps is that they just did that last week to throw us off the scent before their grand Week 7 collapse-a-thon. During back and forth games we often hear about how many lead changes there have been. And sure, that usually makes for an exciting contest. But that’s nothing compared to double-digit lead changes, of which I expect there to be at least 6 in this game. Even though they'll be playing indoors, protected from the wind, it will ironically come down to who can blow it the hardest.
Cleveland at Cincinnati
Last week I foolishly decided to take a chance on the Browns, picking them to beat the Steelers. Who could’ve guessed that that would be a mistake? I only had this whole century to go by. Coming off of Cleveland’s blowout loss, Baker Mayfield said that their 4-2 record now felt like 0-6. After experiencing an 0-16 campaign a mere 3 years ago Browns fans probably had a good eye-roll at that comment. Hell, it took Cleveland three whole seasons (2015-2017) to get 4 wins. So 4 wins in 6 games? You got a dynasty on your hands Baker! One of those victories came against the very team they’re facing this week. But when the Browns beat the Bengals the first time around Cincy hadn’t gotten their first win yet. Now they have a taste for it, and they want more. These guys are hunting day and night for another hit of that winning feeling. They’re so desperate they’ll even take a tie, just to get close to that high. We’re dealing with some sick twists here. And guess what, I think they get their fix again this week. Will I live to regret this pick? No, because even if I’m wrong it will be because I didn’t trust the Browns, and I'm at peace with that.
Pittsburgh at Tennessee
Oh doctor, we’ve got a clash between the two remaining undefeated teams in the AFC. I got bad news for ya though boys, one of y’all ain’t gonna be undefeated after this one. Sorry, dems the breaks. Yeah I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but someone’s gotta keep it real. One of you will certainly have a loss come Monday ... That is unless the teams meet ahead of time and agree to a tie ... God no, they can’t do that! I broke the news to them! I was being a big man and wagging my finger! C’mon guys, I need this. Don’t do this to me, we can figure something out. Do you even understand what you’re doing?!? If you follow through with this I’ll be financially ruined. Don’t ask me how, it would be too hard to explain. Ok fine, I put everything I own on a bet that you wouldn’t tie. The odds were 1:5,000. How could I pass that up? It’s an easy opportunity to win $4. Who wouldn't jump on that?!? So that’s it then, huh? You’re just going to play to a draw and not care whose life it ruins in the process? Fine. But I’m not going to sit here and go along with it. On this site I pick winners and losers, I’m not a coward like you two.
TIE 27-27 ... Whoops! Shit!
Carolina at New Orleans
The Saints have said that wide receiver Michael Thomas is cleared to play as long as he’s healthy. Thomas has been suffering from an ankle injury, and was also suspended by the club for punching one of his teammates during practice. But that discipline is done, and he’s ready to roll for Sunday. Great news! Unless Thomas isn’t really interested in playing right now. And if he isn’t, he knows exactly how he can get out of it. That’s right, just punch another teammate. Or how about this, Thomas is in film study with his position group, he doesn’t like the match-up or the game plan, so he just walks up to the WRs coach and decks him. Then he calmly strolls out of the room and shouts, “See ya next week!” as he goes through the door. If you ask me Michael Thomas has it all figured out. It’s too bad I’m working from home, otherwise I’d be punching so many co-workers right now.
Buffalo at New York Jets
Bad news for the Bills, after a 4-0 start they’re now 4-2 with a -12 point differential on the season. The good news for Buffalo? This week they’re facing the Jets, who are at -110 in the same category. No other team is worse than -56. New York is losing their games by an average of 18 points. Last week they were shut out by the Dolphins and became the league’s only winless team with an exclamation point. During that loss Joe Flacco was sacked for a loss of 28 yards on a 3rd down. Flacco is not very fleet of foot, so it wasn't realistic for him to think he’d be able to avoid the sack there. Retreating further only exacerbated the damage. The only explanation is that Flacco was trying to run home. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d announced his retirement when he crossed over midfield. Honestly it would have been the prudent maneuver. The good news for the FlaccMan is that Sam Darnold is likely to return as the starting QB this Sunday. The bad news is that now Joe just has to watch Jets games.
Dallas at Washington
Trailing 20-19 with under a minute left in their Week 6 game against the Giants, Washington went for two, eschewing a likely tie in attempt to win the game immediately. It’s an admirable strategy by coach Ron Rivera, mostly for his awareness that nobody wanted to watch any more of that game than necessary. Washington was unable to convert the try and now they sit at 1-5, dead last in the NFC East and one game out of 1st place. No wonder Rivera’s willing to take risks, what does it matter if they lose? They could get to 5-11 and have a decent shot at the playoffs. On Monday we got our first look at the Andy Dalton era in Dallas. On Sunday we might get our last look at the Andy Dalton era in Dallas. I mean c’mon, isn’t it about time we saw Ben DiNucci get his shot? Wait a minute, Ben DiNucci?!? Is that made up? That sounds made up. Well, looks like the Cowboys are stuck with Dalton after all. Good luck Red Rifle. Whoops, probably shouldn’t call him that going into this game.
Green Bay at Houston
Aaron Rodgers spent the first four games of the season hellbent on proving that he still had it. And prove it he did, playing at an MVP level all the while. Then, in his fifth game of the season he scored a touchdown and did a celebration from a 7 year old Key and Peele skit. In one fell swoop this undid all of the work he’d put in and confirmed that Rodgers is truly stuck in the previous decade. After that he proceeded to have an abysmal game and his team lost by 28. This was no accident. Rodgers was punished by the football overlords for living in the past. Normally that would be enough to deter a player from ever attempting something similar. However, Rodgers oozes hubris, and if he scores another TD this week don’t be surprised to see him break out the Icky Shuffle or The Macarena. But beware Mr. Rodgers, for such defiance is not appreciated by the ... Ahh never mind, you’re playing the Texans. You’ll probably be fine either way.
Tampa Bay at Las Vegas
Jon Gruden coaching his old team against his old team. Are we in some
sort of time vortex or something? Isn’t this how Twin Peaks worked? It’s
hard to make sense out of any of it. But who can make sense out of anything in this mixed up world we’re
living in? I’ll tell ya who, Hank Furtz for Congress.
Furtz is the type of guy that won’t cave to the Washington fat cats, or
the special interest groups. Hell, he won’t even cave to his
constituency. That’s right, Hank Furtz won’t listen to anybody but
himself and his God. And to be clear his God is Scott Caan. That’s
right, the actor from such films as Ocean’s 11, Ready to Rumble,
and Ocean’s 13. Ya know, Tweeter from Varsity Blues. Hank Furtz worships Scott
Caan. Look, I’ll level with you guys, I agreed to
integrate a political ad into the blog this week in exchange for some
cash. I don’t regret it, but I’ll probably do more research on the
candidate in the future.
Kansas City at Denver
Before last Sunday this looked like it was just going to be the Chiefs blowing out a lowly, 1 win Broncos team. But after Denver’s upset win in New England this game now looks like it will be the Chiefs blowing out a 2 win Broncos team. Kansas City has beaten Denver nine straight times, and won their two meetings last season by a combined score of 53-9. Pretty astonishing, right? That the Broncos held the Chiefs to only 53 points over two games? Actually, now that I look into it, KC is averaging a mere 29 points per game this season. That might seem great, but it’s only good enough for 9th place in the league so far. It’s 2020 baby, scoring is up across the board! But it seems the Chiefs have stagnated. Sure they’re still probably Super Bowl favorites, but they’re not blowing the doors off like we’re used to. And I’m not sure that’s going to happen this Sunday either. Denver is just a boring team that drags their opponents down a malaise hole with them. So sure, the Chiefs will get their 10th straight win over the Broncos, but it just won’t be very entertaining. No deep bombs or flea-flickers. No alley-oops or zipper zangs. And don’t even think for one second that you’ll see a brumboozle. The Broncos haven’t allowed one of those in years.
San Francisco at New England
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m thinking that there are some back room dealings going on heading into this game. My theory is that Belichick has a secret arrangement in place with Jimmy Garoppolo to abscond together after the final whistle and rekindle their coach/QB partnership. However, that plan will go awry during the game when Jimmy turns it over a couple times and starts sailing balls over people’s heads. Belichick will watch it all with a disdainful sourpuss ... Ok, more disdainful than his usual resting face. After it’s over and the teams are gathering at midfield Garoppolo will approach Belichick, bags all packed and ready to go. Bill will just shake his head no. He won’t say a word; he won’t have to. Jimmy will lower his head and trudge off with the rest of the 49ers, the dirt on his face now streaked with one single tear. Kyle Shanahan will then throw an arm around him and say, “Hey Jim, why do you have your bags out here on the field big guy?” To which Garoppolo will reply, “Shut up KYLE! You’re not my real dad!”
Jacksonville at Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers’ current four game losing streak has consisted entirely of one-score games. They’ve been sniffing around that second win for over a month now. Well, here come the Jags, the equivalent of a duffle bag full of herojuana. That’s a combo of heroine and marijuana. The point is, the Chargers should be honed in on this one. Jacksonville also hasn’t won since their opener, but these teams ain’t exactly oranges and oranges. Though oranges are grown in both the states these teams call home. That’s not important right now! The bottom line is that the Chargers are being presented with a golden opportunity to seize win number 2. What could possibly go wrong? Oh right, it’s the Chargers ... Nah they have to win this one, right? Right?
A mid-week COVID scare on the Raiders' roster results in this game being flexed into prime time. But is it a welcome change? Let's find out with the man who will be in the booth for it, Cris Collinsworth:
Whoa, we got both the SNF announcers. What a treat. Don't you guys think?
Chicago at Los Angeles Rams
I continued to give the Bears no respect when I picked them to lose to the Panthers last week. Then on Saturday I was on vacation and saw a bear in real life. I should’ve known it was an omen, but I shrugged it off. Of course come Sunday Chicago won to go to 5-1 on the season. Point taken. If I see another bear this week I’ll really know it’s a sign. Especially considering that bears are not native to the town I live in. Though, if you go to the majority of the bars in the area you’re libel to find some. I think I’m starting to understand Chicago. They win ugly. They might not look very impressive, but they’re getting the job done. Which makes Nick Foles the perfect quarterback for this team, because, ya know, he looks like a goober. But hey, ya know what they say, never judge a football book by its football cover. And by football cover I mean one of those cool ones that’s textured just a like a real football, so that when you’re holding it in your hands you’re thinking, Oh yeah, this book’s definitely about football. Anyway, I still the think the Bears will lose this week. Prove me wrong! Send a bear to my house and make me eat my words! No I said eat my words, not it eat me. Ahh! ... Ahhhhhhh!
Week 6, ‘twas a tale of two ... pointers! The Giants stopped Washington’s last-minute two point attempt to capture their first win of the season, while the Eagles could not covert a two-point try of their own that would have tied their game at Baltimore with 1:55 to go. As a result, both New York and Philly enter this game with only one win, but whoever is victorious could be in first place at the end of the week. Yes, when it comes to the NFC East in 2020 it is the worst of times, it is the worst of times. But hey, these squads shouldn’t feel too bad about themselves, after all, 10 teams currently have 1 win or less (one team has zero ... J-E-T-S Barf! Fart! Yuck!). That’s almost one third of the league entering Week 7 in a lowly state. But only in this division do such squadrons still have realistic playoff aspirations. And so we find ourselves with this putrid Thursday night match-up that has real stakes. Here’s hoping that this game comes down to a two-point conversion again. And by that I mean that I hope the league decides to forgo a normal regulation and have these teams just alternate two-point attempts until someone tops the other. Like baseball extra innings, except it’s football and we don’t have to wait 4 hours to see who sucks less.
I wrote about it back in Week 1 as well, but it’s worth pointing out again that when the Texans built a 24 point first half lead in their divisional round game in Kansas City it looked like this was going to be our 2020 AFC Championship game. Alas, fate (and the Chiefs’ offense) stepped in and would not allow it. And now the odds of these two teams meeting in the 2021 conference final are all but 0%. First of all, while Houston is on a 1 game winning streak, that’s on the heels of a 4 game losing skid. Look, let’s stop beating around the bush here and talk brass tacks, they’re 1-4. But the Titans making a deep playoff run seems even more far-fetched. Not because they’re playing poorly (hell they're 4-0), but because there’s no way they actually complete the season. Their whole facility is a ticking COVID time bomb. It’s only a matter of time before another outbreak causes them to forfeit games. So as you can see, the chances that these teams meet in any playoff round, let alone the AFC Championship game, are slim and none, and slim just tested positive.
Cincinnati at Indianapolis
I know there’s an extra wild card in each conference this season, but I think we might already be running out of playoff spots in the AFC. And much like they were when Andrew announced his retirement, the Colts may be out of luck. Just look at the teams in front of, or around, them right now. The Steelers, Bills, Titans, and Chiefs are leading divisions. The Ravens and Browns are in position for the first two wild cards at 4-1. Then there’s the Raiders at 3-2 and the Patriots coming off their COVID-mandated bye at 2-2. Right now Indy is 3-2 and in that last group fighting for the final spot. Obviously there are still a lot of games to play (hopefully), so this doesn’t mean a ton just yet, but when Philip Rivers is your quarterback sometimes it gets late early. He’s been subpar more often than not this season, and if he continues to play at this level I don’t like the Colts’ odds. But if we’ve learned anything from cinema, it’s that you never tell Indy the odds. Oh wait, that was Han Solo that said that. Yeesh, I don’t know what that means for the Colts then.
Atlanta at Minnesota
Last week I picked the Falcons because I figured they had to get a win sooner or later. Turns out it was later. I should have known better, yet here we are. It’s like that old saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, okay, you got me again but you already knew I was an easy mark, shame back on you. Fool me four times, you’re quite the little prankster aren’t ya? Fool me five times, at this point I’ll just be the bigger man and admit that I’ve made some mistakes, but also you should fire some people because this is ridiculous. And that’s exactly what happened. Atlanta cleaned house after their latest loss, removing head coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff. Will those changes pay immediate dividends and lead to their first win of the season on Sunday? I think it just migh ... Hold it! Nice try Falcons. I won’t be fooled a 6th time! ... You’re actually going to win now aren’t you? Damn it!
Denver at New England
Ah the rivalry that defined the AFC from 2012-2015. Manning vs. Brady. And now? Rypien vs. Hoyer. Uhhh huhhhh. It’s only been 5 years, but it might as well have ... Wait a minute, didn’t I already use this opening? Hey, this is a Week 5 game, how the hell did it get in here? Oh right, COVID. Ya hate to see it. Unless you’re Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, who said “And in a weird way, I’m kinda happy to see some of this stuff happen. Because you see who the whiners are, who the bitchers are, and who can’t handle adversity.” Oh Vic. How out of touch can you get? Not just with society, which you clearly are if you say you’re “kinda happy” that some players got COVID, but also with your own team. We’re coming up on Week 6 and you don’t know who the whiners are yet? He clearly doesn’t have his finger on any pulse. And if he did he’d be able to tell that it’s elevated, because everyone has COVID!
Washington at New York Giants
Did Washington emerge victorious from their Week 5 game against the Rams? No. Were they even close? Also no, it was 30-10. But did they have at least one winner? Yes, Alex Smith. Smith made his long-awaited return to the field on Sunday after missing all of last season due to a gruesome leg injury that could have cost him life and/or limb. Many wondered if he’d ever play again, and not only did he play last week, he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. He went out there and played vintage Alex Smith football, averaging 2.2 yards per attempt and taking 6 sacks. He ended the game with a 3.3 QBR. Ok, that was mean-spirited. Honestly, I don’t blame him for any of his paltry stats. For one thing, his o-line gave him almost no time to throw. But also, he was probably preoccupied wondering if his leg was going to snap in half. Good for him for getting back out there, but also probably good for him, safety-wise, if he doesn’t have to get out there again. Oh no, I just realized I have to pick one of these teams to win.
Baltimore at Philadelphia
Outside of their Week 3 loss to the Chiefs the Ravens have allowed 10.5 points per game. So they’ll probably win the Super Bowl as long as they don’t have to play Kansas City again. Their season has basically become a round of Press Your Luck: No Chiefs, no Chiefs, no Chiefs ... STOP! Chiefs. SHIT! Agh, tough break Baltimore, better luck next year. With Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott out for the remainder of the season I’m left wonder, are the Eagles the favorite to win the NFC East now? And if so, just how many wins will it take? I think the answer to the first question is surprisingly yes, and the answer to the second is, maybe 6? Side note: those are also the answers to the questions are you still willing to watch an NFC East game? And, how many beers would you need to make it through the whole thing?
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
Call this a corporate retreat game, because before it’s over we’re gonna learn a lot about these teams; and maybe, just maybe, they’ll learn something about themselves as well. Also, someone will probably do something stupid that their co-workers laugh about for the next few months. Looking at you Baker Mayfield. The Browns' recent success has folks wondering if we’re finally seeing them achieve their full potential. So it’s fitting that right as they’re hitting that crescendo they’d run into the Steelers, a team that Cleveland has only beaten 7 times since 1994. For full context, they’ve played each other 49 times in that span. Pittsburgh is their measuring stick, and they’ve been coming up short for decades now. But maybe, juuuust maybe, it’s time for a growth spurt. What do I base that on? Clearly not history. Sometimes you just have faith. Like when you do a trust fall at a corporate retreat. My eyes are closed and I’m falling backwards, are you there Browns? Browns ... Browns?!? Oh god no!
Chicago at Carolina
I keep not believing in either of these teams. I’ve been doubting them at every turn, and I’m ready to say that I was wrong ... about one of them. These Panthers are pretty solid! Bears, keep digging through that trash, because that’s where you belong. In fact, I’m gonna tie mine up in a tree so you can’t get at it. Suckers. I don’t know how exactly Chicago is 4-1, I just know that I’m not buying it. Will I be saying this same thing when they’re 10-1? No. Because that timeline doesn’t exist. They’ll probably be 5-6 at that point. Mark my words! No? Fine, read my words! Also no? Well then wait, who am I talking to right now? Hmm, this is sad now. The Panthers, on the other hand, have been anything but. I think they get their fourth win a row and take the Chic-ugh-o Bears down a peg.
Detroit at Jacksonville
I know they were only on bye for a week, but it feels like we haven’t seen the Lions play in a month. And maybe they haven’t. Would anybody notice if the Lions didn’t have another game this season? Probably some of the players. Their families would also sense that they were at home more than usual. But outside of that, I’m not so sure. Actually, the lack of Lions would probably be most noticeable in the resulting league-wide dip in comebacks. Statisticians would see the decline and, after exhaustive research, discover that it was due to Detroit being absent from the schedule. In case you weren’t aware, the Lions have now lost five straight games in which they’ve held a double digit lead. That’s an NFL record. Is it possible that we see a sixth on Sunday? Absolutely. They’re playing against Minshew and the Jags, anything could happen. If there are less than 8 combined interceptions in this game I’ll be disappointed. That being said, I believe Detroit will hold on for the win this time, and very few people will care.
New York Jets at Miami
Were Dolphins fans happy with their blowout win over the Niners? I’m sure it was an enjoyable afternoon for a group that hasn’t had a ton over the last few years. But the problem was, Ryan Fitzpatrick was too good. His performance is just making us wait longer for the Tua debut. Delaying the in-Tavagailoa-table. Yeah, I know it didn’t work, but sometimes you just gotta take a shot. It’s that same philosophy that Ryan Fitzpatrick has based his game around. And that’s why Miami fans shouldn't be too worried. If I know Fitzpatrick like I think I do he’ll string together a couple stinkers soon enough. Speaking of young QBs, will the Jets move on from theirs if they get the #1 pick? It’s something they have to start seriously thinking about since they’re hurtling with increasing momentum towards that top spot. One thing’s for sure, if New York does decide to ditch Darnold they should avoid signing Fitzpatrick as a bridge QB; that is unless they want to wait a while to see that rookie on the field.
Green Bay at Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers turned the ball over on downs to seal their fate at the end of their Week 5 Thursday night loss in Chicago. Shortly after the play was over Tampa quarterback Tom Brady held up four fingers while staring at the refs. It quickly became apparent that Brady had not known what down it is. Or at least that’s what Tom would have you believe. I think he knew, but when he got aggressive and threw an ill-advised downfield pass that didn’t convert the 4th & 6 he pretended that he thought he had another down, in an effort to make himself look better. And Brady has such hubris that he probably thought he could convince the refs that he was right, or even that he should just get another down. Part of me admired the attempt. Shoot your shot Tommy. But most of me finds it hilarious. Nice try pal, ya lost to the Bears, this is the life you’ve chosen now. To make matters worse, the Bucs are now facing the undefeated Packers, whose offense has been so potent that they haven’t had to worry about keeping track of whether or not it’s 3rd or 4th down. Usually they don’t get that far.
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco
After a calamitous return for Jimmy Garoppolo the 49ers try to right the ship against a Rams team that's regaining their Super Bowl form. If you ask me it's not a recipe for San Fran success, but what do I know? Let's see what Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth has to say about it:
We've all been there Cris. I mean, not necessarily there, but I feel ya.
Kansas City at Buffalo
Oof, what a tough blow to Thursday to lose this game. And I don’t mean for Fox/NFL Network’s production of Thursday Night Football, because they’re still airing the game. That sweet advertiser cash will still be rolling in. What I’m taking about is Thursday the day. This is a huge match-up and now it's gone. Thursday had to suffer through Dolphins/Jags and Broncos/Jets. Even the Bucs/Bears meeting that looked good on paper was kind of a slog. Finally Thursday had something to hang its hat on: Chiefs and Bills, two division leaders with explosive offenses. Grab the punk, light that wick, run like hell and ... oh god Scottie tripped. He’s too close! Get up Scottie! Get up! Should we run back for him? There’s not enough time! He knew the risks involved! He’ll live with the consequences! Scottie cover eyes! Your gorgeous eyes Scottie, cover them! Scottie!!! ... and watch the fireworks baby. But now? Nothing. Monday gets a marquee match-up while Thursday is left with an empty, charred wasteland. Just like poor Scottie’s face. You know he could’ve been a model. People from New York were interested!
Arizona at Dallas
After a monumental, franchise-altering Sunday in Dallas, the major takeaway from the Cowboys’ Week 5 win has to be: aren’t you just thrilled for Andy Dalton?!? I mean the poor guy gets kicked to the curb by Cincinnati, and it looks like he may never get another shot to show us all what he’s made of. But now fortune has smiled on Dalton and all of us by granting him another opportunity to shine. Does it make it any less enjoyable that it required Dak Prescott’s ankle snapping in half to get us here? Yes. Actually it’s not enjoyable at all. In fact, I find it despicable that Dalton even entered the game after Prescott’s injury. The Cowboys should have played with only 10 men out of respect. Boy, real roller coaster of emotions for me here. It’s actually like a typical 2020 Cowboys game. Started off one way and then totally flipped somewhere around the middle. Will that pattern remain with Andy Dalton at the helm? Only (half)time will tell.
Don’t look now, but these Panthers might not be half bad! Actually do look now, because they’ve been pretty entertaining lately. Ok, you can stop looking again, your stare is clearly starting to make them uncomfortable. Now I’m uncomfortable too, will ya cut it out?!? As for the Falcons, they’re coming off what could be considered their least embarrassing loss of the season, which is ironic because it was also their largest margin of defeat. So that should give you an idea of how Atlanta’s season has gone. Or you haven’t being paying attention and you’re very confused. Maybe you’ve never watched football period ... Is that why you were leering so hard at the Panthers? You were just miffed by the whole situation? Wow, I feel bad now, sorry for the misunderstanding. Hey wait a minute, you’re wearing a Jeremy Shockey jersey! Get out of here ya creep!
Las Vegas at Kansas City
Well he did it again! Bill Belichick cracked the code on a heretofore seemingly unstoppable player. Yes, the Patriots’ defense stymied Patrick Mahomes on Monday night en route to a 26-10 loss. Back to the drawing board Patty! As a result of that debacle against New England, the Chiefs have fallen to 4-0 on the season and must look to regroup against a hungry Vegas squad. Hey, if they’re so hungry why don’t they stop in to one of those buffets that their city is so famous for?!? Oh right, buffets are probably closed now. Well hopefully for the Raiders buffets aren’t open in Kansas City either, because if anyone’s libel to feast in this game it’s Patrick Mahomes. Or at least that’s what I would have said before Belichick broke him. It’s anybody’s game now
Arizona at New York Jets
After a promising beginning to the season the Cardinals are struggling. Appropriately the squad from Arizona is currently marooned in the desert, slowly dehydrating and desperately seeking relief. Enter the New York Jets, the NFL’s equivalent of an IV bag. They’ve arrived just in time to nurse Arizona back to health. If the Jets can lose to a team with Brett Rypien as the starting quarterback nothing is off the table. Could they go 0-16? I doubt it, but I can’t rule it out. In a way that makes the Jets the most entertaining team in the league, because anything is possible. But in a lot of other, more relevant, ways they’re the least entertaining team in the league. That is, until they announced they’re starting Joe “FlaccMan” Flacco this Sunday. Things are about to get spicy! Oh sorry, I meant to type “sloppy.” Things are about to get sloppy!
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh
Three years ago Carson Wentz was going to be the MVP of the league before blowing out his knee in Week 14. Now he goes through large stretches of games where he can’t seem to throw an accurate pass. So what gives? The most logical explanation is probably that his multiple injuries have affected his mechanics or even his confidence. A more outlandish theory would be that a sorcerer granted him the powers to throw only so many perfect passes, and he’s quickly running out of them. As always, the truth is probably somewhere in between. But neither possibility can be ruled out. Thanks to the Titans’ COVID outbreak the Steelers got to take last week off of work. Lucky! Now they get to play the Eagles. Lucky! Philly did get their first win of the season last Sunday, but their performance was hardly spellbinding. For them to have a chance in this one they’ll need that aforementioned sorcerer to be spell-casting.
Los Angeles Rams at Washington
The Rams offense had been cruising early on this season until they ran into the formidable New York Giants defense in Week 4. The same group that had just surrendered 36 points to Nick Mullens and the Niners in their previous game. Hmm, maybe there’s reason to be concerned about the LA offense. I mean, don’t let it keep you up at night, but it’s worth monitoring. This week they’ll take on Washington who gives up an average of 28 points per game, a truly pathetic total that places them 22nd in the league. Wow, not even that low. This season truly is a “Scoring Fiesta” as all the news outlets are calling it. In an effort to keep up, the Washington offense has benched their 2nd year quarterback Dwayne Haskins after his 11th start. Based on Haskins’ performance the move is justified, but it’s a pretty short leash for a 1st round pick. Especially on a team that’s still developing, and at 1-3 don’t have a very realistic shot of rallying to make a playoff run. Whoops! I forgot they were in the NFC East. They’re only a half game out of first. Start unloading those future draft picks and bring in some talent that can help you win now! And by “win now” I mean get to 7-9, because that should be good enough.
Cincinnati at Baltimore
Over the past three games the Bengals have gone from loss to tie to win. Based on this natural progression, they’re due for ... a double win! Unfortunately those don’t exist, but an upset victory over a divisional opponent may be the closest approximation. Now, is that possible? It’s 2020 baby, anything is possible! Now that I think about it though that may only apply to terrible things. Uh oh, what does this mean for the steadily improving Cincinnati squad? A double loss? God help them.
Jacksonville at Houston
After trying to make fools of us all with their Week 1 win, the Jaguars are now 1-3 and have comfortably settled into their assumed preseason position as maybe the worst team in the league. And it couldn’t be a more welcome regression for the Texans, who are desperately seeking their first win of the season. In fact, they’re so eager that they fired their head coach in an effort to motivate the team to finally get off the schneid. Of course, he was also a toxic personality who gave away their best player and scads of draft picks in ill-advised trades. So perhaps the move wasn't as short-sighted as I initially thought. But will it pay immediate dividends anyway? I don’t see how it couldn’t. After all, Houston’s new interim coach is ... checking ... Romeo Crennel. Uhh huhhhh huhhh. Ok, maybe they won’t see a complete turnaround, but even still they should have enough to get this first win.
Miami at San Francisco
With his atrocious, game-ruining pick six last Sunday Nick Mullens reminded us all that he is not a starting quarterback in the NFL. Unfortunately for the 49ers he was their starting quarterback for the last couple games. It didn’t come back to bite them until the second half of his second game, but bite them it did. It’s like that old rhyme about backup QBs says: halves one through three let them roam free; but in half number four they’ll throw picks galore. It just goes to show, rhymes are always true. Luckily for San Fran they have a chance to get regular starter Jimmy Garoppolo back on the field this week. He’ll definitely give them a better chance to win, and he likely won’t have to do too much to get by the Dolphins. Though, that’s always kind of been the gameplan with Garoppolo. I mean, you know the popular rhyme about him, right? If you need a game manager he’ll be quite the fit, but ask him to win the game and you’re in deep shit.
Indianapolis at Cleveland
For over a year Cleveland fans have lived in the same space that I did for a few days after taking a couple Imodium tablets, they’ve been waiting for the Browns to show up. More specifically, the potent Browns’ offense that we saw last Sunday. Or maybe “potent” isn’t the right way to describe it. Explosive! Yes, the explosive Browns. Whatever you want to call them, this Cleveland team may finally be living up to the hype that surrounded them before last season. On Sunday they’ll meet their 3-1 counterparts who have been playing like the football equivalent of those aforementioned Imodium tablets. The Colts defense has been stopping up their opponents over the last few weeks, giving up a mere 10 points per game since their opening day debacle in Jacksonville. So what happens when explosive Browns meet an immovable object? Usually a trip to the proctologist. This football game should be just as entertaining.
New York Giants at Dallas
A lot of people are having fun at the expense of the NFC East. Calling it the NFC Least. Saying it’s the worst division in football. Cracking on their combined 3-12-1 record. Joking that they’ll make history by having a division champ who also gets the first pick in the draft. You know, hacky stuff, like their defenses are obeying social distancing guidelines while on the field. Or that they’re all such basement dwellers that they’re like the league’s shunned family member who’s fed fish heads and has no exposure to natural light. Your typical barbs. But cut them all some slack, football is hard. Especially when you suck at it. These two #squads have been lousy in different ways. With the Cowboys it’s been mostly ridiculous shootouts in which their offense can’t overcome their D. As for the Giants, the offense has basically been the barf emoji. They’ve scored 47 points on the season. That’s especially bad when you consider that the average point total for any team in any game is 26. It’s hard to imagine New York getting there, which means they won’t have enough to hang with Dallas.
Minnesota at Seattle
The Vikings may finally be starting to put things together; or they got their first win of the season last week because they played an even more dysfunctional team, the Texans. Either way they'll have to keep the momentum going to go head to head with the 4-0 Seahawks. But hey, enough of my yackin', let's hear what this game's color commentator Cris Collinsworth has to say about it:
You've given us all a lot to think about CriColl.
Denver at New England
the rivalry that defined the AFC from 2012-2015. Broncos vs. Patriots,
Manning vs. Brady. And now? Rypien vs. Hoyer. Uhhh huhhhh. It’s only
been 5 years, but it might as well have been 500. Not really, I doubt
either of these current QBs will hold onto the job for another 495
years. That’s not necessarily a knock on them, I just don’t expect
football to exist at that point. If it does then who knows, maybe Rypien
or Hoyer is still giving it a go in 2515. After all, Rypien wasn’t half
bad in his debut against the Jets last Thursday. Then again, it was the
Jets. The Broncos will have a tougher opponent this week. And while
Brian Hoyer was far from spectacular on Monday against the Chiefs,
including two critical red zone blunders, the team around him looks
superior. So whether it’s Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham who ends up taking
the majority of the snaps, I expect New England to come out on top. I
mean the head coaches in this game are Vic Fangio and Bill Belichick.
Safe to say only one of them has a chance to be recognized on the NFL’s
600th Anniversary Team.
Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans
Enough time has passed since he was in San Diego that you probably won’t hear much about Drew Brees facing his former team in this game And that makes sense, because at this point there are basically none of Brees’s former teammates still on the Chargers. I say basically for a reason, because Los Angeles long snapper Cretch Fitley has been on the team for 31 seasons. At a spry 53 years young he’s the second oldest player in the league behind Vinny Testaverde. He’s also the author of the renowned auto-biography “Hey, Why’s That Kicker Upside Down?: My Life as a Man Who Bends Over and Flings a Ball Really Hard.” The critical consensus was that if you can make it past the title it’s not half bad. None of that has much to do with the outcome of this game other than to illustrate the point that Drew Brees is getting up there in age, and it’s starting to show. He’ll probably have enough chutzpah to get the win here. Even if he doesn’t, the Chargers will find a way to lose, as is their wont. One thing’s for sure though, LA’s latest calamity won’t be due to a long-snapping error. Not when they have the most experienced ball-flinger on earth.
Tuesday (?!?) Night
Buffalo at Tennessee
might sound strange, but of all the people who could be upset with the
Titans’ COVID outbreak, I think Bills fans have a right to be most
peeved. Think about it, Buffalo is finally on a clear path to a division
title for the first time in 25 years and the Titans are trying to blow
up their spot. Yes, Tennessee may eventually blow up everybody’s
spot, but it’s the people of Buffalo that would feel it the most. In
fact, the Bills might want to sit this one out just to be safe. Forfeit
the battle to win the war. Though that’s not likely considering how
hellbent the NFL seems on sticking as closely to the original schedule
as possible. I suppose if all involved parties test negative ahead of
the game then it’s as safe a scenario as any other game that’s been
played so far. So I say fear not Buffalo, nothing could go wrong! It’s
2020, this is YOUR year! Just goofing, 2020 is no one’s year.