The Bills are back on the inside track to win the AFC East. All they have to do to clinch the title is beat the Falcons and Jets. Seems easy enough, but so is walking, and I still stub my toe plenty. If Buffalo concentrates and keeps their head down they should have no problem winning their division for the second straight season. But if they lose focus for even a second they could be on the road to start the playoffs, and spend the rest of their time hobbling around their living room growling, “Fuuuuuuuuuhhhhgg” under their breaths.
New York Giants at Chicago
The Giants have the Bears' first round pick in the upcoming draft, so losing this game would help and hurt New York’s positioning. What a catch 22! Speaking of, what are the odds that Giants players catch 22 or more balls in this game? You’d get fairly even odds either way, because in 9 games so far this season New York has completed between 21 and 24 passes. You might not hear a lot of buzz around that stat this week, but I for one will be tallying every Giants completion directly onto my wall. Do I have one of those chalkboard walls? Nope.
Kansas City at Cincinnati
This is the type of game that the Bengals could actually win. Then of course they’d turn around and lose to the Jags next week. And they’re not even playing the Jags next week! That’s how ridiculous this team is. The Chiefs, on the other hand, are not ridiculous. They win every game they play. That’s completely sensible. Cincy should strive for that kind of consistency. But until they win all of their games, I’m just not sure I can trust them.
Miami at Tennessee
The Dolphins have won 7 in a row, and will get into the playoffs if they win their last two to extend the streak to 9. Unfortunately for them, the two remaining teams on their schedule are the Titans and Patriots. But fortunately for them, impossible is nothing for these Miami Dolphins. One thing that is really hard for them though is beating decent teams. They’re 2-5 against opponents that are currently over .500. If they double that total they’ll be sittin’ pretty come the end of the regular season. And if they don’t, they’ll be ... standing ugly, I suppose. Oof, nothing worse than that.
Las Vegas at Indianapolis
With their starting quarterback Carson Wentz in extended COVID protocol due to his unvaccinated status, reports have surfaced that the Colts reached out to Philip Rivers about a potential, temporary comeback. As much as I’d love to see that happen it begs the question: what makes Indy believe that Philip Rivers is vaccinated? From all I know of the guy, he screams unvaxxed. Come to think of it, he just screams everything, at all times. But as I already mentioned, I want nothing more than for Indy to sign Phil Rivers. Do I want him to then immediately get COVID upon setting foot into the team facility? Not necessarily. But it wouldn’t be unfunny.
Jacksonville at New England
The Jags are looking to lock up the 1st pick in the draft for another year. Back to back baby! Will they get shirts made? Hang a banner? Some of you may think that that’s nothing to be proud of, but consider this: the draft started in 1936 and a team has selected 1st in consecutive seasons only 5 times. There have been more back to back Super Bowl champs. See? This is rarefied air! Or rarefied err I suppose. Man, that’s pretty solid. Hello New York Post? I think I’ve got a headline for you. It’s regarding the Jacksonville Jaguars and how they ... Hello? Did they hang up on me?!? Oh no, I forgot to actually dial the number. Didn’t even look it up in fact. Ah well, I’ll get to that later.
Tampa Bay at New York Jets
The Buccaneers have a .497 strength of victory, the best among current NFC playoff teams. Beating the Jets would only water that down. Should they consider losing then? I mean you don’t want to get a reputation as a bully. If you start beating up on poor saps like the Jets then you’re no better than the rest of those NFC meanies. Of course, if you lose to the Jets everybody will laugh at you. Can you really handle that? This is the type of conundrum that comes with success. That’s why I always tell kids to never be too successful.
Philadelphia at Washington
The Eagles are now firmly in playoff position. Well, as firm as you can get in the seventh spot in the NFC. Which is to say, not very firm. Right now they’re a soft yes for the postseason, but can you come back and ask them next week? They’re waiting to see how a couple things shake out, but they should have a better answer by then. Two weeks from now at the latest. Do you know who else is going yet? Not that it matters or anything, the Eagles are just curious. The Cowboys? Oh. Hmm. Well Philly’s a definite maybe then. They’ll let you know.
Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore
After another shellacking from the Bengals, the Ravens are living on the edge. And if Lamar Jackson can’t come back pronto they’ll be even edgier. Not like in a cool, hip way. More in like a falling to their death kind of way. But do the Rams have the guts to give them that last shove? Perhaps. Especially if LA doesn’t have the added stress of knowing that winning this game will result in the Ravens’ literal death.
Denver at Los Angeles Chargers
I imagine some Chargers fans prior to Sunday’s game against Houston saying, “If we can’t beat the Texans we don’t deserve to make the playoffs.” Then desperately trying to take it back following the game. Of course, this story assumes someone is a Chargers fan. After their disastrous performance in Houston, LA now needs help to get into the postseason. That aforementioned Charger fan needs help too. They’re desperately trying to bargain the Chargers way into the playoffs with anyone who will listen. Offering really depraved stuff too. Again, I should reiterate that this is a hypothetical person, but be that as it may, I’m very worried about them.
Houston at San Francisco
The Niners are the best team in the league at looking unstoppable for one quarter then inept the next. Case in point their performance last week against the Titans when San Fran jumped out to a 10-0 lead and maintained the shutout until halftime, only to lose 20-17. They’re really good, until they’re not. And brother, that kind of inconsistency don’t fly in the playoffs. That’s why Vince Lombardi always called the playoffs: Where inconsistency goes to die. Did he really say that? No. But I didn’t really know how to end these comments. Just like the Niners, I’m having trouble finishing.
Arizona at Dallas
The Cardinals have clinched a playoff spot, and they should be thrilled that they have, because at this point I wouldn’t be shocked if they finish 10-7 after starting the season 7-0. Arizona has been banged up in the second half of the season, but maybe that’s what you get when your quarterback is the smallest person on the field. Look, I’m not a sizest, but Kyler Murray’s a little pipsqueak that can’t hold up for a full season. If he was taller he’d be better! And I don’t just mean at football.
Carolina at New Orleans
Shockingly Ian Book wasn’t a great option at quarterback for the Saints on Monday in their 20-3 loss. In fact, the Dolphins torched him so bad that you could even call it a Book burning. Ian’s second pass of the game was intercepted by Miami’s Nik Needham and returned for a touchdown onn a play where one might say that Needham read him like a book. If New Orleans is forced to start their third string QB again, Saints fans should run in the opposite direction of the SuperDome. Or to put it another way, they should book it.
Detroit at Seattle
The Seahawks don’t have a first round pick in the 2022 draft. They have no reason to lose, yet they continue to. It’s actually kind of endearing, because you know there are no ulterior motives behind it. These are losses you can trust! Thank you Seahawks for your sincerity and humility in these fraught times. You are truly role modes for the rest of the league. I mean, not in terms of performance, but you get it, right? Yeah, you get it, you guys are cool.
Minnesota at Green Bay
The Packers look to avenge one of their few losses of the 2021 season when they host the Vikings on Sunday night football. In fact, I heard they made it their new year's resolution. If you ask me, winning the Super Bowl probably would have been a better one, but oh well. But hey, you didn't come here to listen to me talk about this one; let's check in with Cris Collinsworth to see what he has to say:
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
These teams met in the playoffs last season and both are still technically alive in the postseason race this time around. But does anybody outside of Cleveland or Pittsburgh care to see them there? They're both pretty snoozetastic at this juncture. If you ask me, these squadrons should do us all a favor by joining hands and walking out of the stadium and into one of the three rivers, never to be seen again ... until September.
The Packers are now alone in 1st in the NFC. Who can stop them? Themselves! Or possibly the Bucs. Maybe the Cowboys, Cardinals, or Rams, or perhaps even the 49ers. The point is, it seems like a pretty even field in the NFC this season. Anything other than a trip to the Super Bowl has to be considered a failure for Green Bay after consecutive conference title game losses. It’s like getting something pretty good, but not exactly what you wanted for the past two Christmases. Sure you appreciate the effort, but if Santa doesn’t get it right this time you might have to move to Denver.
Indianapolis at Arizona
Do you think since it’s Christmas the Cardinals will put one of their running backs in at linebacker and have him rush the QB? What I’m saying is, will Conner be blitzin'? Probably not. More likely he’ll be a dasher or dancer or prancer. As long as Arizona is willing to comet to the run that is. And uh ... Cupid and vixen.
Detroit at Atlanta
If last week was the Lions' Super Bowl, that means this week is their Pro Bowl. Assuming we’re on the old schedule, that is. So maybe half their players will skip the game. Perhaps I’m taking the analogy too far. But I doubt it. The Falcons are on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention, and there would be no more ignominious way to officially end it than with a loss to Detroit. Well, I suppose a loss to Detroit followed by all of the Falcons’ children saying they saw what happened and that they want to go live with the Lions would be more ignominious.
Baltimore at Cincinnati
Last Sunday the Ravens once again lost on a failed 2 point attempt at the end of the game. That’s the second time in three weeks. And in between they lost a game by 2. A lot of people have questioned Harbaugh’s decisions to go for it, but I just question the Ravens ability to convert 2 pointers. Hey, if you’re good at getting two yards at a time, by all means, go for the win! But if that’s not your strong suit, then maybe know your limitations and don’t blindly trust analytics. You have to wonder if Harbaugh will go for it again if presented with the opportunity this week. Meatloaf would encourage him to do so, because two out of three ain’t bad! Hmm, except that would be two misses. I don’t think that’s what the Loaf was talking about.
Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota
You gotta think the Vikings are gonna have the roof at U.S. Bank Stadium open for this one against these SoCal softies. Hmm, you know what? I just remembered the roof at U.S. Bank Stadium isn’t retractable. I guess there’s only one option then, blow the damn thing off! I don’t care how many millions of dollars it costs, or how integral the roof is to the structural integrity of the building. The best chance the Vikings have to win this game is to welcome in the elements. If you can think of a better, less expensive, less recklessly destructive option, then fine, I’m all ears. Ok that was misleading, I don’t want to hear a damn word out of your mouth. The roof’s coming down and that’s final!
Buffalo at New England
Notoriously unvaccinated Bills receiver Cole Beasley will miss this game because he contracted COVID. But as he tells it, he’s not missing this game because of COVID, but because of the rules! And to be clear the rule he is referring to is the one that says if you have COVID you can’t play in a game. Hmm, this is strange, but it seems like Beasley’s logic might be flawed, or that his perspective is warped somehow. Weird. Also surprising. Meanwhile, on the field, if the Patriots win this game they’ll clinch the AFC East title. But that won’t be because the Bills aren’t better than New England, it will just be because of the rules that say teams with the best record in a division are declared the champions.
Jacksonville at New York Jets
Did the league put the Jags in some new lower division? Last week they lost to the Texans, now they play the Jets. Is Jacksonville facing relegation if they lose again? And if so is there a CFL team waiting to jump into the NFL? At the very least we deserve a game between the Jags and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with the winner granted entry into the NFL in 2022.
New York Giants at Philadelphia
On Monday the Giants shut Daniel Jones down for the remainder of the season; just as NFL defenses have done for the majority of Jones’s career. As a result, New York will turn to Mike Glennon and/or Jake Fromm at quarterback the rest of the way. And in future news, the Giants have finished the season at 4-13. Also in future New York headlines: “Judge Faces Jury and Executioner; Giants coach tried for crimes against football ... and also murder.” Whoa! Stay tuned.
Tampa Bay at Carolina
The Buccaneers were shockingly shutout last Sunday night against the Saints. They’ll need at least one point this week if they want to avoid consecutive losses. Though judging by what I saw from Cam Newton last Sunday zero points may be enough to salvage a tie. His last pass of the game, which sailed softly into the hands of a Bills defender, was reminiscent of a grumpy child choking down the remaining vegetables on their plate before they’re dismissed from the table. Just let him sit on the bench honey, he’s done enough. No. He’s gonna play every last snap, and we’re not leaving until he does. Poor Cam. Just know that if you have to have two Christmases next year it’s not your fault. The interception probably didn’t help, but it’s not (completely) your fault.
Los Angeles Chargers at Houston
Brandon Staley’s aggressive fourth down philosophy was put to the test last Thursday against the Chiefs, and it failed, with the Chargers repeatedly unable to convert multiple red zone possessions into points. But hey, shooters gotta shoot. You think if Steph Curry were out there he would’ve stopped going for it? No way! Though Curry does shoot field goals, so maybe he would be partial to kicking it. And with his long range proclivity he’d probably attempt a field goal as soon as the team crossed the 50. So maybe that was a bad analogy. The point is, Staley can’t change his mindset now, otherwise the field goal-loving Steph Currys' of the world win.
Chicago at Seattle
These teams have only played 3 times in the last 9 seasons. That’s the standard rate for intra-conference foes, but the fact that they haven’t lined up in terms of placement and played each other any extra is surprising. Especially considering they played every season from ‘09-‘12. Five matchups if you include the playoffs. It makes me wonder if something happened back in 2012. Did they have a falling out? Or maybe after trying to get it right so many seasons in a row they decided it was time for a break. But before they left each other they agreed that if neither of them were married in three years they’d meet back up at Christmas and give it another try. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the time it all works out.
Pittsburgh at Kansas City
The Steelers won another game by the skin of their teeth in Week 15. So did the Chiefs, but KC is like Will Smith to Pittsburgh’s Tommy Lee Jones, they make this look good. To make matters worse for the Steelers, they won’t be men in black this week as they’ll be playing on the road. Pittsburgh is only 2-4 away from home, with their last road victory coming on Halloween. Sorry Steelers, it’s X-mas time baby, not All Hallows’ Eve, and you ain’t scaring nobody.
Denver at Las Vegas
If we’re talking about these teams' records it’s 7-7 7-7 in Las Vegas. What is this a slot machine? With four columns? I don’t think that’s the typical number, but there are so many different ones out there now that it’s hard to say. I saw one the other day that was based on Making a Murderer. So a 4 column slot machine certainly isn’t out of the question. One way or another, the loser of this game is out of luck. They’ll have to take their empty, over-sized coin cup and go home.
The Dolphins are on fire! Maybe! They’ve won 6 in a row, but those wins have come against the Jets (twice), Texans, Panthers, Giants, and Ravens. Maybe they’re just the kings of the lousies. But hey, there’s gotta be a sexiest man in Duluth. Don’t hate him just because that’s where he’s from and he’s afraid to move to a bigger city for fear that he’ll no longer be the most attractive man in town. Now the Dolphins get a COVID-depleted Saints squad. Looks like the fish will be residing in Duluth for at least another week.
There’s a lot of buzz right now around the Niners being a dangerous playoff team. I can see that argument. But mostly because Jimmy Garoppolo is a dangerous quarterback for his own team. Things are going well with James for now, and they’ll continue to go well as long as San Fran is running downhill and momentum is on their side. But if that’s not the case can Garoppolo put a team on his back and lead them to victory? If we’re talking regular season I would say, “No.” If we’re talking playoffs I would say, “Who are you, and why do you keep asking me these questions? Where did you come from?!?” Once we settled that I would answer that I do not believe Jimmy Garoppolo can be the deciding factor in a postseason game. And for that reason the 49ers are the ultimate dangerous playoff team. A danger to themselves and others.
The Raiders held an impromptu pregame rally on the midfield logo at Arrowhead Stadium last Sunday. The Chiefs didn’t take too kindly to it and proceeded to beat Vegas by almost 40 points. So sure, things didn’t work out for the Raiders on that occasion, but I say they should do the same thing this Saturday. Double down! They are from Vegas after all. The only problem is that the Browns don’t have a midfield logo for the Raiders to congregate on. Cleveland just has stripes around the 50 yard line. So I guess the Raiders will have to line up single file. As such, they’ll have to play telephone to relay their pregame speech. Unfortunately this will lead to some confusion when the original message of “Let’s kick their asses!” becomes “Sure I act like a big, strong football man, but deep down I’m a scared child. That’s why I piss myself before every game. Oh and also, uh let’s kick their asses.”
New England at Indianapolis
Last time we saw Mac Jones he threw the ball only 3 times in the Patriots’ win over the Bills. In the days since, Bill Belichick has been lauded for his ingenuity. If I were Belichick I’d subvert expectations by starting this game with a double-throwback trick play, meaning they’d throw the ball three times on one play. The savvy crowd in Indianapolis, dressed in their tuxedos and finest gowns, would respond with a standing ovation and demand an encore. Of course Belichick wild deny them the satisfaction, despite being a diva.
Carolina at Buffalo
Will the Bills near comeback in Tampa last week inspire them to get back on track, or was that their last gasp? It would be a bad time to use up their breath considering they still have 4 games left. I mean I know these guys are amazing athletes, but surely their lung capacity isn’t so outstanding that they can play that long without needing a literal breather. Buffalo should be able to exhale and pick up a win this week when the Panthers come to town. But if Bills fans are still waiting for this team to round in to a Super Bowl contender perhaps they shouldn’t hold their breath.
Arizona at Detroit
In Week 1 of 2019 these teams played to a tie. At that moment in time they were even. Two years later things have changed. The Cardinals (along with two other teams) have the best record in the league, while the Lions have the worst. Not everything has changed though, Detroit has another tie on their resume this season. Of course, that resume has been placed in a folder labeled: “Too funny to shred.” A competitive game isn’t completely out of the question, as long as that question is “What won’t happen in Detroit this Sunday?”
New York Jets at Miami
In a nearly miraculous turn of events, the Dolphins are now only one game out of the playoffs. However there are a host of teams in between them and the last wild card spot. Six to be exact. But if there’s one team that can break through the surface and leap over the crowd into the playoffs wouldn’t that be the Dolphins? Based on team name alone, you’d have to say yes. Though if that’s the criteria I guess the Jets would be even more apt to soar over their competitors. Unfortunately they’ve been sitting on the tarmac for months now without a pilot, and they’re running low on pretzel bags.
Dallas at New York Giants
A couple years ago Renee Zellwegger won the Best Actress Oscar for playing Judy Garland in the biopic Judy. The night that it happened I confidently stated, “No one will remember this in a year.” I feel the same way about Joe Judge’s tenure in New York. Even as it’s happening I find myself forgetting it. Now I suppose one could read this and ask, "Doesn't your recalling of Zellwegger's win just now prove your statement incorrect?" To which I would say, we're talking about Joe Judge now. Move on.
Washington at Philadelphia
A few weeks ago the Monday Night Football broadcast relayed a quote from Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke in which he called himself a Brett Favre type. It seemed like a reach considering he’s started about 10 NFL games, but also because he was the one making the comparison. Walter Payton famously said, “If you’re good at something you’ll tell people about it. But if you’re great at something they’ll tell you.” But a lot of people don’t remember the rest of the quote, “... And if you’re a mediocre quarterback, you might as well compare yourself to a hall of famer. What’s the worst that could happen? You seem like a tool? Who cares? At least people have heard of you now. Gotta get that name recognition baby! Now, you gonna finish that corn dog, or what?” People also tend to forget that when that quote was given Payton was at a county fair talking to a child who was eating a corn dog. Heinicke will have an opportunity to prove his Favre bona fides by playing through an injury this Sunday, and if he does so, you can believe he’ll be the first to point it out.
Tennessee at Pittsburgh
I wonder if the Steelers are jealous of the other teams that don’t have a tie. They all get interesting new records this season like 9-8 or 8-9. Meanwhile Pittsburgh is going to finish with something lame like 8-8-1. That’s basically a 2020 record! Sure they have the Lions to keep them company, but who wants to be in the same boat as the Lions (Outside of that guy from Life of Pi, of course. Oh wait, that was a tiger. Forget I said anything)? The way I see it the Steelers' best option is to tie again and avoid the embarrassment of being basic as hell. Don’t be surprised if this one goes to overtime and Roethlisberger starts taking knees in field goal range.
Houston at Jacksonville
The Jaguars fired Urban Meyer this week after multiple stories surfaced about his abusive behavior towards his players and staff. To me though, those stories sound like the complaints of a bunch of people who don’t know what it is to be a winner, like Urban Meyer. The only explanation for the Jaguars’ terrible record is that everybody in the organization but Meyer is to blame. And now we’ll all see, when Jacksonville gets even worse over the last four weeks. Just watch, somehow they’ll go 0-6. Of course, the Texans won’t just roll over and let the Jags stake their claim to being the league’s worst team uncontested. Expect a close, agonizing contest. One that will make you want to kick all the players involved.
Cincinnati at Denver
It’s a clash between two of the countless 7-6 teams in the AFC. Ok, maybe not countless. There are five of them. That’s still pretty astonishing though, right? What might be even more awe-inspiring is that the Broncos are included in that group. I could imagine them as a 6-7 team, but 7-6? Whoa, that’s a bridge too far jocko. And don’t even try to convince me that they can get to 8-6. I’m picking the Bengals, because frankly I don’t want to live in a world where these Denver Broncos have a .571 winning percentage. Can you imagine?!?
Atlanta at San Francisco
At 6-7 the Falcons are one of the many NFC teams featured in the “In the hunt” section of the playoff graphic displayed on every network’s broadcast. But this feels like someone who got called late on a Friday to see if they’d want to come along on the next day’s hunting trip. Um sure, they’ll come, but really they’re just there because there was an extra seat in the car. Sure they’ll hang out and drink some beer, but they’re not actually going to take a shot at anything. Unless, of course, they drink too much beer, then say, “Check this out!” while they clumsily spin a rifle around in a mock color guard routine before accidentally shooting their own kneecap. It’s 50/50 whether or not they’ll walk again, but everyone of the NFC teams, including the Falcons would tell you it was funny as hell. So yeah, in that way Atlanta is "in the hunt."
Seattle at Los Angeles Rams
The Seahawks’ defense has surrendered the most yards in the NFL this season. On the flip side, they’ve given up the fifth fewest points. Call these guys the rubber band men, because they bend but don’t break. Though, if you stretch a rubber band far enough it can definitely break. And then sometimes you find a real old and busted rubber band at the bottom of a junk drawer that’s super brittle and just crumbles in your hand. Then you stare at the remnants and think, “You call that a defense?” Seattle will need to maintain their elasticity this Sunday if they plan on making it out of LA with a win and their slim playoff hopes intact.
Green Bay at Baltimore
Most of the discussion leading into this game has been about Lamar Jackson’s ankle and Aaron Rodgers’ toe. Uh yeah, it’s safe to say this is gonna be a FOOTball game. And don’t get me started on Marquez Valdez-Scantling’s arch. Throw in Justin Tucker to boot ... Boot?!? It just keeps getting footier. So anyway yeah, this is probably the game of the day, which means you’ve likely seen plenty of analysis about it this week. But I know you come here for the feet stuff you sick twist.
That doesn't sounds like a healthy working environment Cris. In fact, it's borderline illegal.
Minnesota at Chicago
The Vikings nearly blew a 29-0 lead last Thursday against the Steelers. The fact that they were able to hang on probably saved Mike Zimmer’s job ... for now. If Minnesota had lost, Zimmer would have been fired on his ride home. And he lives right around the corner from the stadium, so that’s saying something. A flight home from Chicago would offer the Minnesota brass plenty of time to can Zimmer if they so choose. I should have mentioned earlier that it’s the Vikings’ policy to fire their coaches in transit. I think Zimmer will be safe again after this one, but if we hear that he’s been booked on a hot air balloon ride during the week we’ll know something’s up.