Merry Christmas Manoverse!! To be honest I’ve struggled a bit to find my holiday mojo this year, but there have been moments. Unfortunately last weekend was not a seasonal highlight, as Zach (3-2) bested me (1-4), although I am holding on…barely…to the overall lead. This is an odd week, as the vast majority of games are being played on Saturday. There are Thursday & Monday night games, as well as a triple header on Christmas Day. So it looks like I’ll be flipping backing forth between football & movies for four days, which is fine with me. Who needs a wife, children, joy, and a house filled with love & happiness?? 👀
My Season: 50-54
Zach’s Season: 49-55
Seattle at Kansas City (-9.5)
At 7-7 the Seahawks haven’t been eliminated from playoff contention, but they’ve lost 4 out of the last five games and seem to be on a downward spiral. Conversely, the Chiefs have won 7 out of 8 and will win their division for the seventh consecutive year. Their goal now is to overcome Buffalo for the AFC’s top seed & a first round bye. Seattle will be without receiver Tyrone Lockett, which simplifies things for KC’s defense. I’d love to see a competitive contest, but I don’t think we will. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Kansas City
Z’s Pick: Kansas City
Cincinnati (-3.5) at New England
The Bengals have once again proven to be the best team in the AFC North, though they haven’t clinched the division title just yet. Meanwhile, the once mighty Patriots need a little help to back into the postseason. This is one of those games where I wish both teams could lose, but since that isn’t possible I believe Cincy goes into enemy territory & comes out with a hard fought victory. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Cincinnati
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Philadelphia at Dallas (-5.5)
Philadelphia is the best team in the NFC, although if the season ended right now Dallas would be in the playoffs too. The last time these teams met in Philly in mid-October the Cowboys lost by nine points, and despite the possibility that Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts could be sidelined with a shoulder injury I don’t think the outcome will be any different. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Philadelphia
Z’s Pick: Philadelphia
Green Bay at Miami (-4.5)
Despite an atrocious 6-8 record the Packers have not been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but they need a whole lot of things to go right. The Dolphins would be in the playoffs right now, but they’ve lost three straight games, a trend that has to stop immediately. It is certainly advantageous to be playing in the coziness of South Florida instead of the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field, but battling Aaron Rodgers with his back against a wall is dangerous. Zach, on the other hand, foresees Miami snagging a close victory late in the game.
My Pick: Green Bay
Z’s Pick: Miami
Tampa Bay (-6.5) at Arizona
Perhaps the only thing scarier that Rodgers in a must-win scenario is Tom Brady backed into a corner. The 6-8 Bucs play in the worst division in the NFL, so theoretically they could lose and still be okay, so long as Carolina, Atlanta, & New Orleans continue to be terrible. Meanwhile, the 4-10 Cardinals will be starting their third string QB due to injuries. On paper this should be a massacre…but will it be?? I gotta tell you folks…The Voices are screaming at me to roll the dice on this one…but I just can’t. I’d love to, but it wouldn’t be smart. Zach agrees.
Congratulations to Zach for his stellar 4-1 record last week, although I did best him in a couple fantasy leagues we’re in, so I guess there’s balance in The Force or something. At any rate, I’ve got to focus because not only are we doing a Thursday night game this week, but we are doing bonus picks because the schedule is just that damn good. Happy Halloween Manoverse!! Eat lots of candy & maybe chase someone with a machete. Whatever gets your juices flowing.
My Season: 29-22
Zach’s Season: 28-23
Arkansas (-4.5) at Auburn
Whether we like it or not, SEC matchups are compelling. I think it’s the way the games are produced on TV, combined with the fact that most SEC games seem to be sold out stadiums of 75-100k people who are REALLY invested in the outcome. So it really doesn’t matter that these two teams are occupying the cellar of their division & have no shot at catching up to Alabama or LSU. The Tigers are on a three game losing skid, while the Razorbacks are coming off a bye week after beating BYU. Logic & most metrics seem to point to a comfortable victory for the favorites, but The Voices are pushing me to go with the home team. Zach expects a tight defensive struggle, and he thinks Arkansas is a better team.
My Pick: Auburn
Z’s Pick: Arkansas
Cincinnati (-1) at Central Florida
Honestly I haven’t paid much attention to these teams this season, but research indicates the Bearcats are 6-1 & still ranked, while the Knights are 5-2 & just got shellacked by East Carolina. Call me crazy, but I think The Bounce House in Orlando is a pretty hostile place to visit, and I’m smelling an upset. Zach concurs.
My Pick: UCF
Z’s Pick: UCF
Michigan State at Michigan (-22.5)
Okay, let’s cut to the chase. The Spartans are 3-4, while the Wolverines are undefeated & still in the playoff conversation. I realize statistics & common sense are oftentimes thrown out the window in a rivalry game, but come on…Michigan is winning on Saturday. The only question is whether or not they’ll cover the points, and I’m just not comfortable with 3+ TDs. Despite being a huge Michigan fan Zach is on the same page…those points are simply too much.
My Pick: Michigan St.
Z’s Pick: Michigan St.
Ohio State (-15) at Penn State
The Buckeyes are undefeated & ranked #2 in the nation. The Nittany Lions only have one loss to Michigan and still have an outside shot at the Big Ten title if they win this game. I suppose “style points” are still a thing in the current playoff format, so going into Happy Valley & trucking the opposition is a reasonable goal for Ohio St. Can they accomplish that goal?? A huge part of me wants to pull the trigger on that, but I just can’t. Perhaps they’ll win by 10…but not 15. As a Michigan fan Zach of course can’t stand Ohio St., although he admits they might be the best team in the country, specifically pointing out that opposing teams have been unable to stop them in the red zone. It’s a head vs. heart thing for him, and sometimes the heart wins.
My Pick: Penn St.
Z’s Pick: Penn St.
Florida at Georgia (-22)
I’m still calling it The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, even if pansy ass sports broadcasters & advertisers have backed away from it. At any rate, the Bulldogs have been the best team in college football so far, while the Gators are a pedestrian 4-3. Here we go again…the outcome isn’t in much doubt, but can the favorites cover?? If the game were being played in The Swamp I’d envision a fairly competitive contest, but it’s not so I think Georgia wins by four touchdowns. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Georgia
Baltimore (-1.5) at Tampa Bay
This is the Thursday night game & the reason I am feverishly crafting this opus of awesomeness right now. I’ve been waiting for Tom Brady to fall off a cliff for longer than I care to admit, and it looks like it could finally be happening. Of course he’s been harder to put down than Freddie, Jason, & Michael combined, so I’m not assuming anything just yet. The Ravens haven’t been all that & a bag of chips either (dear God…did I just say that?!?!? 👀), although they do lead their division. This game puts me in a weird spot because I’d prefer to see both teams lose. Obviously that won’t happen though, so my sense is that Brady will get his shit together for a national audience & his home crowd. Zach recognizes that the Bucs seem to be spiraling, but he doesn’t think Baltimore is that much better. He feel like this may be the beginning of a turnaround for Tampa.
My Pick: Tampa Bay
Z’s Pick: Tampa Bay
San Francisco (-2) at LA Rams
You may have heard that the Niners just traded for RB Christian McCaffrey. I’m hesitant to give too much weight to that though…it’s only Thursday so it is entirely possible that Run CMC ends up injured before Sunday. Anyway, the NFC West is as tight as I knew it would be, which makes this game rather important. Kudos to ‘Frisco for addressing a need, but at the end of the day I don’t think it’ll make a huge difference to anyone other than fantasy owners, and I think the Rams are a better team. Zach is looking for the Stafford to Cupp connection to be huge for the Rams.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Green Bay at Buffalo (-11.5)
While I’ve been praying for the wheels to fall off Brady for years I am a little surprised that Aaron Rodgers is apparently following him into the abyss. I knew the loss of receiver Davante Adams would have an effect, but I expected young guys to step up & keep the Packers on top. That has not happened. Conversely, the Bills are humming along atop the AFC East as expected. It’s Super Bowl or bust for Buffalo, but I suppose defeating Rodgers along the way would be nice for Josh Allen. That being said, we’re back to our apparent theme for the day…can the favorite cover double digit points?? Three months ago I wouldn’t have thought so, but Green Bay has not shown me any reason to believe in them. Zach concurs.
I briefly considered tossing aside this preview and simply jetting off to The Bahamas for two weeks, but in the real world that’s not how life works. As you spend the next several months chilling out with hot wings & cold beer in front of your gigantic TV enjoying intense gridiron action a few days per week never forget how spoiled & out of touch the millionaire athletes, billionaire owners, & talking heads are and how little they understand or care about your daily struggles. Of course this is the same issue we have with actors & musicians who make millions of dollars entertaining the very people they disrespect & gaslight with their insane perspectives on various issues. That being said, the fact is we need to be entertained. Every species…humans included…require time to play. That’s a rabbit hole I won’t dive into right now except to say that sports is one of our most prominent outlets to fulfill such desires, so most of us are willing to put aside any issues and simply enjoy the games, and so we shall.
Baltimore Ravens (8-9) 10-7
Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) 9-8
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) 9-8
Cleveland Browns (8-9) 6-11
The Ravens’ season was torpedoed by injuries a year ago, and I believe they’ll rebound nicely. I don’t think Lamar Jackson is as good of an NFL quarterback as he was a college QB, but he’s above average if he stays healthy & has a reliable backfield to whom he can hand the ball off, with a solid defensive unit for good measure. Cincy will still be good, but may suffer a bit of the traditional Super Bowl hangover. The Bengals focused on defense in the draft after adding some pieces to their subpar offensive line in free agency. Time will tell if that was a wise strategy. My Steelers might surprise some folks by being in playoff contention. A great defense and a stout rushing attack behind an improved offensive line will secure some victories, no matter which quarterback succeeds Big Ben. The Browns are the Browns. I may have given them a bit more credit if Deshaun Watson was going to be available, but he’s been suspended for 3/4 of the season.
Tennessee Titans (12-5) 10-7
Indianapolis Colts (9-8) 8-9
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14) 6-11
Houston Texans (4-13) 3-14
Tennessee drafted QB Malik Willis in the 3rd round of the draft, but he’s not going to be ready to start or maybe even play at all this year. Ryan Tannehill is a solid NFL signal caller, and with Derrick Henry toting the rock the Titans’ offense should be good enough, so if their defense, which admittedly doesn’t have much star power, is atleast average then I think a weak division is theirs for the taking. The Colts have a new QB after trading for 37 year old Matt Ryan, but if that’s supposed to impress me it falls short of the mark. Of course he too has a great tailback…Jonathan Taylor…to carry the load, but I don’t think it’ll be good enough. The Urban Meyer Era in Jacksonville was a total failure, but going forward the Jags could be headed in the right direction. We won’t see evidence of that in the form of winning alot of games this season, but QB Trevor Lawrence should start to justify why he was the #1 overall pick in 2021, and the 2022 #1 overall pick…pass rusher Travon Walker… is the real deal. The Texans are a mess, but they got some much needed draft capital in the Deshaun Watson trade so we’ll see where they are in 3 or 4 years.
Buffalo Bills (11-6) 10-7
New England Patriots (10-7) 9-8
Miami Dolphins (9-8) 8-9
NY Jets (4-13) 7-10
Everybody is expecting the Bills to run away with the division and make a Super Bowl run, but not so fast my friends!! It won’t be as easy as some may think. The Patriots are still the Patriots as long as as Darth Belichick is in charge, so as much as I’d love for them go in the toilet I won’t believe it until I see it. Former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel did bolt again for a head coaching job though, so perhaps we’ll see a chink or two in the armor. I’m a fan of Dolphins’ QB Tua Tagovailoa, and watching him toss the ball to receiver Tyreek Hill could be loads of fun, but I have too many questions about the rest of the team, including new head coach Mike McDaniel. Believe it or not I foresee a notable improvement for the Jets, especially if second year signal caller Zach Wilson shows some growth & maturity. That being said, I think it’s a team that needs a year or two to gel. Watch out for the Jets in 2024…you heard it here first.
Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) 10-7
Denver Broncos (7-10) 10-7
Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) 9-8
Los Angeles Chargers (9-8) 8-9
This might be the most competitive & entertaining division in the league. All four teams are legit playoff contenders, and the difference between being on top or finishing in the cellar could come down to a single injury, turnover, or special teams blunder. The Raiders are getting a lot of attention after adding receiver Davante Adams, but are we overlooking their defense?? The Broncos are hoping to turn things around behind the leadership of new QB Russell Wilson, but can their defense kick it up a notch?? The Chiefs have been one of the top teams in the NFL for a few years now, but how will the loss of Tyreek Hill affect QB Patrick Mahomes?? Does he have the weapons to compliment his immense skill set?? The Chargers might have the most complete team in the division, and Justin Herbert gets undeservedly overshadowed by the signal callers on the other three teams. That being said, someone has to finish last and my vibe is that the ball simply won’t bounce their way this season.
There’s no way the loss of receiver Davante Adams won’t negatively affect the Packers. However, the impact might be minimal given that they play in a weak division. Most of the drama surrounding QB Aaron Rodgers a year ago has dissipated, but holy schneikes…the dude will be throwing to a ragtag group of pass catchers that aren’t going to scare anyone. Running back Aaron Jones and a no name defense are going to have to really step up. The surprise of the division might be Detroit. I believe we’ll see the further maturation of QB Jared Goff, but I’m really looking for the defense to carry the team. Rookie defensive end Aiden Hutchinson is a difference maker. While the Lions take a small step forward I foresee the Vikings going backward in a significant way. The names on the back of the jerseys…Cousins, Cook, Thielen, Jefferson, Peterson…look decent enough on paper. I don’t know enough about new head coach Kevin O’Connell to intelligently opine, but I understand why former coach Mike Zimmer was fired since the team had kind of been treading water for a couple of years. I’m going out on a limb with this prediction…we’ll see how it goes. I’m a little more confident in prophesying Chicago’s ineptitude. It feels like a make or break year for QB Justin Fields in only his second season, but unfortunately for him I just don’t find the supporting cast impressive, and don’t think the defense is good enough to make a difference.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4) 11-6
New Orleans Saints (9-8) 8-9
Carolina Panthers (5-12) 7-10
Atlanta Falcons (7-10) 3-14
He’s back…unfortunately. I know I know…many football fans (especially in Tampa, FL) rejoiced when Tom Brady’s retirement lasted about five minutes, but I wasn’t one of them. That being said, even without recently retired tight end Rob Gronkowski, I think the Bucs win the division comfortably. They may not win as many games as a season ago, and unlike other pundits I don’t believe they are a Super Bowl team, but the division is a low hurdle to leap. The Saints have some nice pieces on offense and the defense might be sneaky good, but it feels like the team is treading water. Carolina allegedly upgraded their QB situation by trading for Baker Mayfield, but I’m not sure that’s an improvement. If RB Christian McCaffrey is healthy and a young defense gels quickly perhaps the Panthers will make some noise, but I have low expectations. Unlike many talking heads I don’t see the Falcons losing Matt Ryan under center and replacing him with Marcus Mariota as anything worse than a lateral move. There are much bigger questions in Atlanta, and this feels like a period of transition that will see its fair share of rough patches.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) 11-6
Dallas Cowboys (12-5) 10-7
Washington Commanders (7-10) 8-9
NY Giants (4-13) 1-16
As usual I take any hype surrounding the Cowboys with a grain of salt. They’ll have a solid season and lose in the playoffs. Nothing new. Dak Prescott is a very good QB but not elite, and it isn’t helpful that he doesn’t have many reliable weapons. Conversely, I like what the Eagles have done. Jalen Hurts can be a legit NFL signal caller, and newly acquired receiver AJ Brown will absolutely help. I’m not as confident in their rushing attack as I’d prefer, but we’ll see what happens. They really improved their defense thru free agency, which is what tips the scales in their favor. The Commanders feel like they’re stuck in neutral, making this a pivotal season for head coach Ron Rivera. QB Carson Wentz gets yet another fresh start, and he may be running out of chances. I hesitate to “go big or go home” with the Giants, because I’ve been wrong about them more than once in years past. However, I have zero faith in QB Daniel Jones or any of the talent surrounding him, especially overrated running back Saquon Barkley. The defense could be okay, but that probably won’t cut it in this division.
Los Angeles Rams (12-5) 11-6
Arizona Cardinals (11-6) 10-7
San Francisco 49ers (10-7) 6-11
Seattle Seahawks (7-10) 5-12
Will the AFC West be the best division in football, or will it be the NFC West?? I don’t believe we’ll see much decline from the defending Super Bowl Champion Rams, but the Cardinals will give them a run for their money. I foresee the Niners taking a step back given their unstable quarterback situation & lack of a premier tailback, but the defense will keep games close. The Seahawks will be starting either Drew Lock or Geno Smith under center, neither of whom strike fear in opposing defenses. Seattle will sorely miss Russell Wilson, and the defense is far removed from the old Legion of Boom days. At 70 years of age Pete Carroll is the oldest head coach in the NFL, and after a dozen years perhaps it is time for the Seahawks to move on. It could be a good landing spot for Byron Leftwich.
I have to tell y’all…I am glad Christmas is behind us. I desperately tried finding the holiday spirit this year, and admittedly there were a few high points. Alas, I found myself alone & miserable on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. Fortunately I do have plans on New Year’s Eve, so I got that going for me, which is nice. Anyway, there’s still football as well, right?? If only we weren’t Steelers fans 😬👀🤦🏻♂️. This isn’t the right time for that rant though, so I’ll spare you. I was 3-2 last week and expanded my season lead slightly over Zach, who was 1-4. Since I’m a sporting kind of chap and really trying to end 2021 in a good mood we’re going to do some bonus picks. All of these games have playoff implications, and I will do my best to make sense of out of the various scenarios. Happy New Year Manoverse!! I’d like to dole out some sort of sage & motivational encouragement, but given the circumstances of the past couple of years the best I can do is “Buckle up lil troopers!!”.
My Season: 51-60
Zach’s Season: 45-66
Kansas City (-5) at Cincinnati
The Chiefs have won the AFC West but need a victory to retain the top playoff seed, which is the only one that receives a bye. The Bengals’ seat atop the AFC North is somewhat tenuous, although they’re pretty much in the driver’s seat by virtue of tiebreakers. KC has won eight games in a row after so many people were ready to jump off the bandwagon, while Cincy is riding a two game winning streak & look to be peaking at the perfect time. We will learn a lot from this one. If the Bengals win, or even if they keep it close, it will reinforce the fact that they are a legit playoff threat. However, if the visiting favorites open up a can o’ whoopass like they did on my Steelers last week it could mean everyone else is in serious trouble. I think we’ll see something in between…a solid KC win that falls short of total domination. Zach has zero confidence in the Bengals, opining that most of the Chiefs team could be sidelined in “health & safety protocols” and they’d still win by double digits.
My Pick: Kansas City
Z’s Pick: Kansas City
Miami at Tennessee (-3.5)
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the hottest team in the NFL right now outside of Kansas City is the Miami Dolphins. They’re not going to win the AFC East, but after seven consecutive victories they are in the thick of the wildcard chase, which is mind boggling. Conversely, the Titans have lost three of their last five games, yet still find themselves battling for the #1 seed in the AFC. They also have to keep winning though because they haven’t clinched the division title. I’m usually a big momentum guy, and part of me thinks I might regret the pick, but despite recent events I still feel like Tennessee is the better team. Zach really likes Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores and thinks he’ll lead his club to another win.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Miami
Las Vegas at Indianapolis (-7.5)
Vegas has won two in a row and find themselves in the wildcard discussion. Indy still has an opportunity to win the AFC South. Jonathan Taylor is the best running back in the NFL at the moment, but Colts’ QB Carson Wentz is on the COVID list, meaning he might not be playing on Sunday, and that pretty much ends the discussion since no one is going to have much faith in rookie Sam Ehlinger. I have to assume the Raiders will dedicate the game to John Madden, which will provide extra motivation. Zach was uncomfortable with the points anyway.
My Pick: Las Vegas
Z’s Pick: Las Vegas
LA Rams (-3.5) at Baltimore
The Rams have won four in a row and are in a battle royale for the top seed in the NFC. They could also clinch a division title. The Ravens are in a scrum themselves…a hotly contested race for the AFC North crown. They’ve lost four straight games, with three of those coming at a total deficit of four points. If they don’t win the division, and especially if they miss the playoffs altogether, there will be a lot of “what might’ve been” talk in Baltimore. These look like two teams heading in the opposite direction, and I’ve got to think the hotter ball club will prevail. Zach feels like the Ravens have spiraled out of control, due in large part to The Sickness, and believes the Rams’ defense is a difference maker.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Denver at LA Chargers (-5.5)
I really thought the Chargers would be great this season, but they’ve lost three out of the last five games and need some help to secure a wildcard berth. The Broncos have lost three out of four heading into this week and won’t be playing in the postseason, but they could significantly alter the playoff landscape with an upset or two. They’d certainly kill the Chargers’ hopes with a win. Will that happen?? If the game were being played in the mile high confines of Denver I might be tempted to pick the underdogs, but I’ll be surprised if the Chargers don’t defend their home turf, especially with so much potentially on the line. Zach concurs.
My Pick: LA Chargers
Z’s Pick: LA Chargers
Arizona at Dallas (-5.5)
Could it be an NFC Championship preview?? Perhaps. The Cards come into this one not only battling for a division title but also in play for the NFC’s top seed, even after three consecutive losses. Conversely, the Cowboys have won four straight and easily clinched their division, but they too want that #1 seed and the bye that comes with it. Momentum is clearly with the home team, but The Vibes are telling me that the underdogs will put it all together and defy the odds. Zach thinks Arizona is overrated while Dallas is playing well at the right time.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: Dallas
Minnesota at Green Bay (-6.5)
Aaron Rodgers makes it look so damn easy, doesn’t he?? Is he really that good…or should we give more credit to his receivers, offensive line, & coaches?? The answer is probably all of the above. I don’t know what the issues were last offseason that had Rodgers’ knickers in a twist, and have no idea what the future holds for him or The Pack, but at this moment in time they’ve won four in a row, comfortably took the division, and lead the race for the top seed in the NFC. The Vikes?? Well, they’re just average. It’d be a real stunner if they win and mildly surprising if they stay within ten points. This is the Sunday Night Football game, and I kind of feel sorry for NBC. I’m sure people will tune in at the beginning, but there might be a lot of channel flipping by halftime. Zach agrees.
Zach (5-5) bested me (2-8) in last week’s picks of the conference championship games, making a dent in my season lead in the process. I’m below .500 again, although there’s still plenty of football left to be played. We are finished with college football except for the bowl games, which we’ll deal with separately and won’t count as part of these picks. It’s all NFL all the time here for the next month, and I’m going to try not to be redundant in discussing the same teams over & over…but I can’t make any promises.
My Season: 45-51
Zach’s Season: 37-59
Las Vegas at Kansas City (-9.5)
It seems like just yesterday everyone was wondering what was wrong with KC, while Vegas was a team on the rise. But now everything is returning back to normal…or is it?? The oddsmakers sure seem to like the Chiefs, which is understandable since they have won five straight games. However, the Raiders are only two games out and certainly find themselves in the thick of the wildcard race. Arrowhead does provide a significant home field advantage, but the points are just too much for my taste. The Chiefs won’t win by more than a touchdown. Conversely, Zach sees two teams heading in opposite directions and thinks KC won’t have any issues covering.
My Pick: Las Vegas
Z’s Pick: Kansas City
Baltimore at Cleveland (-2.5)
The AFC North is playing out pretty much as I expected, which is good because that means our Steelers still have a postseason opportunity in front of them. I know the Browns have the home field, but I’m still a little surprised they are favored. That doesn’t say as much about any legit love the powers-that-be have for them as much as it shows a lack of respect for the Ravens. Zach doesn’t have any faith in the home team’s defense or their ability to stop QB Lamar Jackson.
My Pick: Cleveland
Z’s Pick: Baltimore
Dallas (-4) at Washington
These teams meet twice in the next three weeks. It’d be great if the Redskins would sweep, but I’m not counting on that. However, I believe they might pull off the upset at home. Zach foresees a fun & competitive game that’ll be close into the 4th quarter, but he thinks the visitors have what it takes to get the victory.
My Pick: Washington
Z’s Pick: Dallas
Chicago at Green Bay (-12.5)
The Bears are 4-8, but after missing the past two games with a rib injury rookie QB Justin Fields is back under center this week. Green Bay is 9-3 and has the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in their favor. This is the Sunday night game on NBC and I fully expect the Packers to win, but by how much?? I feel as if it’ll be more like 10-ish points. Zach, on the other hand, believes Green Bay might pull off a four TD beatdown.
My Pick: Chicago
Z’s Pick: Green Bay
LA Rams at Arizona (-3)
The first time these teams met in early October the Cardinals scored an impressive 17 point victory. This time they are at home and playing on Monday Night Football. Will the results be any different?? I don’t think so. Zach has a lot more faith in the new look Rams defense and thinks they’ll do enough to slow down Cards’ QB Kyler Murray.
I was following a rather interesting thread on social media recently in which the original poster opined that fantasy football is pretty much all about luck. Others were quick to reply, defending the ideals of skill & knowledge. As with most things in life the answer isn’t clear cut black & white. Yes, people who know what they are doing have a better shot at success. Involvement is important…making the right trades, combing the waiver wire, starting or sitting the best players, understanding matchups. However, let’s not pretend that luck doesn’t play a huge role. Would you call owners of Patrick Mahomes and/or Derrick Henry uninformed or inept?? Of course not…but they’re probably not winning their league championship this season. At any rate, slow & steady wins the race, or atleast that’s what I’ve always heard thru the years. Zach & I both went 5-3 last week, continuing our laborious crawl back toward the .500 mark. We’ll get there…maybe.
My Season: 28-31
Zach’s Season: 27-32
Boise State at Fresno State (-5)
At 4-4 the Broncos aren’t going to make it to the Mountain West title game, and at this point they’re just hoping for bowl eligibility. Conversely, the 7-2 Bulldogs need to keep winning if they want an opportunity to play for the conference championship. I have a feeling this will be a really entertaining game, so it’s too bad I have plans on Saturday evening and won’t be able to watch. Anyway, while I am tempted to pick an upset, The Vibes are telling me that Fresno will win by atleast a touchdown. Zach foresees a fun, high scoring, close game and likes the favorites to cover.
My Pick: Fresno State
Z’s Pick: Fresno State
Tennessee at Kentucky (-2.5)
It’s Jim Beam vs. Jack Daniels!! If y’all don’t understand the reference you need to get out of the house more, but you’re probably healthier than us. At any rate, the Vols are 4-4 and playing for bowl eligibility, while the 6-2 Wildcats are in the midst of a stellar season in which the best they can hope for is a New Year’s bowl game because they play in the same division as the Georgia Bulldogs. Tennessee leads the all time series 81-26 (with nine ties), which combined with the home field should provide plenty of motivation for the favorites. I think they win easily. Zach doesn’t think Tennessee is a terrible team, but believes they’ve faced a brutal schedule that isn’t any easier this week.
My Pick: Kentucky
Z’s Pick: Kentucky
LSU at Alabama (-28.5)
As expected the playoff committee not only has Alabama in their Top Four…they ranked them #2, despite having one loss. I’m not surprised, and ultimately it is meaningless anyway because the winner of the SEC Championship between ‘Bama & Georgia is a lock for the playoff, while Alabama would certainly be eliminated with another loss. As for this game, the only reason it’s even appearing here is the points. So many things factor into the discussion. I don’t care how bad LSU is playing there is no way they’d get beaten by 4+ TDs in Baton Rouge…but this game is in Tuscaloosa. ‘Bama cannot afford another misstep which adds an element of pressure. The Bayou Bengals have to have some pride left though, right?? If they could pull off a monumental upset and put the nail in the coffin of their rival’s championship aspirations it’d make their whole season. Do I think that will happen?? Absolutely not. Do I think the Tide will roll enough to cover the points?? Unfortunately I do. “Style points” are a thing, right?? I would be happy to be wrong though. The points are too much for Zach. He can buy ‘Bama winning by three TDs, but not four.
My Pick: Alabama
San Jose State at Nevada (-10)
It’s a 10pm kickoff on Fox Sports 2, which is perfect. I’ll be home in time to watch atleast 3/4 of the action. Neither team is winning the conference but both should receive some kind of bowl bid. I am not especially knowledgeable about the Mountain West but as a night owl I’ve enjoyed their games thru the years. The odds are intriguing since the Wolfpack isn’t elite & the Spartans aren’t especially terrible, so ten points is quite a home field bump. The visitors are riding a two game winning streak, while the home team is coming off a beatdown of in-state rival UNLV. I think a touchdown will decide things one way or another, so I’m picking the underdogs to atleast cover. Zach concurs.
My Pick: San JoseState
Z’s Pick: SanJose State
Minnesota at Baltimore (-5.5)
The 3-4 Vikings aren’t winning the NFC North like I thought they would and just lost defensive end Danielle Hunter to a torn pectoral muscle. The Ravens are in a real battle in their division but had a bye last week. Logic dictates that Baltimore should win rather easily, but I’m not always the most logical person. The points caught my eye, and I really think Minnesota will atleast stay within a field goal. Conversely, Zach believes Baltimore has recovered from a sluggish start and is ready to roll now.
My Pick: Minnesota
Z’s Pick: Baltimore
Cleveland at Cincinnati (-3)
Not long ago the Battle of Ohio held no interest for anyone outside of the state’s borders, but both teams have emerged as legitimate playoff contenders. I predicted that the Bengals would surprise people and win the AFC North and halfway thru the season they’ve done nothing to dissuade me from that opinion. The Browns have not altered my assessment of them, although they’ve played somewhat better than I thought they might. This is where the rubber meets the road though, and if Cincinnati is to lay claim to the division title they have to defend their turf against division rivals. Zach really likes Bengals QB Joe Burrow and thinks he’ll lead his team to victory.
My Pick: Cincinnati
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Tennessee at LA Rams (-7.5)
Wow, talk about two teams who’ve had an interesting week!! The Titans sit atop the AFC South and looked like they’d run away with the division crown after an overtime victory against the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately it was a costly win as they lost workhouse Derrick Henry…quite possibly the best running back in the NFL right now…to a foot injury. They’ve signed Adrian Peterson as a replacement. Peterson rushed for just over 600 yards in a committee backfield with the Detroit Lions last season, but he’s 36 years old & hasn’t played football in almost a year. Titans’ QB Ryan Tannehill now has to kick it up a notch, and fifth year RB Jeremy McNichols will get an opportunity to prove himself. As for the Rams, they’ve put all their chips in the middle of the table, trading for former Denver Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller and adding him to a defense that already had pass rushing beast Aaron Donald & defensive back Jalen Ramsey. The off-season acquisition of 33 year old QB Matthew Stafford has worked out quite well too. Just last week I would have told you that one of these teams is going to the Super Bowl, but it would’ve been the wrong team. Tennessee might still make the playoffs, but the loss of Henry is devastating. The Rams are clearly better right now, and I think they’ll win this one by double digits. Zach likes the home team as well.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Green Bay at Kansas City (-3)
Well damn…Aaron Rodgers tested positive for The Sickness. That makes this game a lot less interesting than it was just yesterday. KC has the home field too. You know who’s really pissed about this?? Fox. There goes their marquee matchup. To my complete shock & amazement Zach is sticking with his original pick despite the breaking news because “the Chiefs defense sucks”. I suppose we’re about to learn a whole lot about the future of Packers’ backup QB Jordan Love.
Happy Halloween Manoverse!! Sadly I was diagnosed as a diabetic a few months ago, and while my trick or treating days ended during the Reagan Administration I usually do hunt down some tasty treats this time of year and hit the day after candy sales…activities I won’t be engaging in now. At any rate, we both went 3-2 last week, which means we kept our head above water and took a small step on the long road back to mediocrity. Stay safe out there folks. Drink lots of water to counteract all that sugar you’ll be consuming. Don’t tick off any axe wielding psychopaths in hockey masks. Enjoy some old monster movies. And be generous to the little kiddies in your neighborhood. Not all Halloween treats are created equally.
My Season: 23-28
Zach’s Season: 22-29
UCLA at Utah (-5.5)
This season feels like a missed opportunity for both teams. The 5-3 Bruins could easily be 7-1, while the Utes are 4-3 but were in all three losses and have to ponder what might have been. But that’s football, right?? The good news is that both teams still have a legit shot to play in the conference title game if my man Tony Dungy & his Arizona St. Sun Devils stumble. This is a 10pm EST kickoff on ESPN, and unless I’m distracted by my thousandth viewing of Halloween (1978) or Hocus Pocus my eyes will be glued to the game. Utah has the home field and I am inclined to agree with the oddsmakers. Conversely, Zach foresees a high scoring game but doesn’t like the points, so he’s going with the underdogs.
My Pick: Utah
Z’s Pick: UCLA
Iowa at Wisconsin (-3)
Y’all remember Billy Bob from the 1999 film Varsity Blues?? That’s the kind of big ol’ boy that plays offensive & defensive line for these second tier Big Ten schools, and it’s why they’re so interesting to watch. A conference title game appearance is still on the table, and I feel like momentum is with the Badgers. If they study film & figure out the formula Purdue used to upset the Hawkeyes a couple of weeks ago it won’t matter that the visitors are coming out of a bye week. Zach thinks Wisconsin is too inconsistent and still believes in Iowa despite the loss to Purdue.
My Pick: Wisconsin
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Michigan (-4.5) at Michigan State
The home field feels like it might be huge here. I never would have predicted a few weeks ago that this would be a battle of Top Ten teams. Add in the fact that a berth in the conference championship and maybe even a playoff nod might be at stake and the whole intrastate rivalry thing is just a cherry on top. I’ve gone on record stating that I’d put both clubs in the CFP ahead of Oklahoma, Cincinnati, & even Alabama, but obviously the loser is eliminated. I can’t even remember the last time this rivalry had so much juice. I am hoping for a close thriller with some big plays but also stellar defense, and I think the home team does just enough to score the upset. Zach is a huge Wolverines fanatic, but he’s a pragmatist who isn’t afraid to be critical when necessary. He’s not sure they deserve to be a Top Ten team because the schedule has been rather prosaic, and he admits Jim Harbaugh’s record in big games isn’t great. Having said that, he thinks this year’s team has an opportunity to be the real deal. Unfortunately he has been let down too many times. I can relate (I’m a lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan after all). I call it Battered Fan Syndrome. So, in a bit of shocking reverse psychology Zach, in an effort to will his team to victory (in my opinion), is picking against them. I have to admit I did not see that coming.
My Pick: Michigan State
Z’s Pick: Michigan State
Georgia (-14.5) vs. Florida
So the Florida-Georgia Line is 14 & a half points. Yes, I just made a really bad country music joke. Anyway, the Bulldogs sit at #1 and will waltz into the playoff…unless they inexplicably stumble along the way. I sincerely believe they’d receive a playoff berth even if they lost the SEC title game, assuming there are no other losses beforehand. The Gators have to be kicking themselves for letting LSU come back and win a high scoring, close game a couple weeks ago, but will that frustration be enough motivation to get the upset here?? I don’t think so. I foresee a big statement victory for Georgia. It should be noted that the game is being played in Jacksonville, so it isn’t a true home field for Florida but one would assume there’ll be more orange & blue in the stands than red. Zach really likes Georgia’s defense and thinks they’ll win big.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Georgia
Ole Miss at Auburn (-2)
The Rebels still have a slight chance to play in the conference title game, although they’ve already lost to Alabama so it’d be an uphill climb. Still…most teams would consider 6-1 with only a loss to (theoretically) one of the best teams in the nation a smashing success. Conversely, 5-2 Auburn isn’t in the SEC title hunt, but I’m sure they’re feeling pretty good about their season thus far. It’s a coin flip situation for me, and The Vibes are whispering Ole Miss in my ear. Zach believes Auburn’s defense will keep it close but likes the Rebels win a tight one.
My Pick: Ole Miss
Z’s Pick: Ole Miss
Penn State at Ohio State (-18)
I’m a little surprised by the points. I suppose the fact that the Buckeyes just rolled Indiana by six TDs while the Nittany Lions lost to Illinois in nine OTs has something to do with it, but still…18 points?? Sure, the game is at The ‘Shoe in Columbus, but 18 freakin’ points?? It just doesn’t feel right. I have no doubt that the home team will win, but I’ll be shocked if it’s by more than a touchdown. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Penn State
Z’s Pick: Penn State
Green Bay at Arizona (-3.5)
Despite all the off-season drama Green Bay & Aaron Rodgers are humming along at 6-1. However, speaking of humming…the Cards are undefeated. This is the Thursday night game, and the TV people have to be thrilled. I know there are folks (mostly players) that have a problem with Thursday Night Football, but from a fan perspective it’s phenomenal, especially when we are treated to a great matchup like this. Arizona has an opportunity to make a powerful statement, while it’s kind of a “hey guys…don’t forget about us” moment for The Pack. Unfortunate for them all-world wide receiver Davante Adams has tested positive for The Sickness, while the Cardinals just activated pass rushing monster Chandler Jones. There is a chance Adams could still play, and his status makes a huge difference. Armed with the information available right now I have to lean toward the home team. Zach acknowledges that being without Adams is a problem, but thinks AA-Rod will find a way to lead his team to victory, perhaps in overtime.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: Green Bay
New England at LA Chargers (-6.5)
I have to give the Pats credit…they’re scrappy. Rookie QB Mac Jones has shown flashes and seems like he’ll evolve into something pretty decent. I don’t believe they’ll make the playoffs because the Buffalo Bills are just too good and there are a plethora of better teams fighting for a wildcard berth, but still…kudos. Conversely, the Chargers, as I predicted, look like legit contenders. I believe they’ll win the AFC West. New England might make this one interesting for awhile, but the home team will pull away for a comfortable victory. Zach is all in on the Patriots and believes they’ll win by a field goal.
For those who may be new to these picks we normally choose five games each week. However, since we didn’t do this at all last year, and since the college schedule was abnormally stacked with awesome season openers last week, and since the NFL is back this week…well, y’all get what I call bonus picks. To be honest that’s a tad bit dangerous since neither of us got out of the gate too well. Zach nailed Fresno covering the points against Oregon, while I correctly predicted Georgia upsetting Clemson. Unfortunately though, we both finished 4-5. Let’s see if we can do better this week.
My Season: 4-5
Zach’s Season: 4-5
Oregon at Ohio State (-14)
I usually don’t like picking games involving teams we dealt with just a week ago, but this one is just too tempting. The Buckeyes had a tougher time with Minnesota in their opener than most anticipated but still managed to win by two TDs. Oregon also had a close call but emerged victorious. Both teams are preseason playoff participants for me, but I don’t think the Ducks will go to Columbus and win. Can they keep it close?? Probably not. I think the home team wins by 15-20 points. Zach isn’t impressed by either team, opining that Ohio St. needs to take pressure off their young QB by running the ball. He thinks this will be a boring game but the home team will win by enough.
My Pick: Ohio State
Z’s Pick: Ohio State
Iowa at Iowa State (-3.5)
I think this could end up being the most fun game of the weekend. The Hawkeyes surprised some people a week ago by handling the Indiana Hoosiers by 3+ touchdowns, but not me. Meanwhile, the Cyclones handled their business against in-state 1-AA foe Northern Iowa. Who knew there were so many colleges in the state of Iowa?? Anyway, I think this might be a really close one…like field goal close, which is why I’m taking the visitors. Zach notes that he’d pick the Hawkeyes easily if the game were on their home turf, but thinks it’ll be a little tougher winning on the road. Like me he won’t go so far as to pick the underdogs to score the upset, but believes they will keep it close.
My Pick: Iowa
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Utah (-6.5) at BYU
Conference realignment has really messed with some of the traditional charm of college football, including long-standing rivalries, so it’s nice to see intrastate games that are all too rare nowadays. The Cougars, whose invitation to join the Big 12 might already be in the mail, beat Arizona in their opener, while the Utes hardly broke a sweat beating some pissant irrelevant team that atleast got a nice payday. Utah is a rare road favorite because everyone is impressed by the big bad PAC 12, but I’m picking the upset. Zach concurs, stating that once again he isn’t all that impressed with either team.
My Pick: BYU
Z’s Pick: BYU
LA Chargers (-1.5) at Washington
Since I predicted that the San Diego…excuse me…Los Angeles Chargers will narrowly upend the highly touted Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West crown I suppose I need to get behind them early. I’m a little concerned about RB Austin Ekeler’s hamstring injury, but even if he misses the game I think QB Justin Herbert is good enough to get the job done, and I like LA’s defense to stop the Redskins’ (yes, I still call them that…deal with it) lineup of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Antonio Gibson, & WR Terry McLaurin. I think Chargers’ pass rusher Joey Bosa will have a huge game. Conversely, Zach has more faith in FitzMagic than Herbert and believes the ‘Skins get the win.
My Pick: LA Chargers
Z’s Pick: Washington
Cleveland at Kansas City (-6)
All the talking is done for the Browns. It’s time to prove that they’re worthy of the hype, but I don’t think they can. The crowd at Arrowhead Stadium provides one of the biggest home field advantages in sports, and that’s not going to change now. I’ll be disappointed if the Chiefs don’t win by double digits. Zach is all in on the Cleveland hype and thinks the home team will start slow and find themselves in a nail biter.
My Pick: Kansas City
Z’s Pick: Cleveland
Arizona at Tennessee (-3)
I expect big things from both teams this season, so the loser of this game shouldn’t be affected too terribly. The Titans get the requisite home field bump, and I think they’ll win by atleast that much. Look for RB Derrick Henry to wear down the opposing defense and allow his team to take control in the fourth quarter. Cardinals’ QB Kyler Murray can’t hurt you if he’s on the bench, right?? Zach thinks Arizona has a bright future, but believes Tennessee is a team built to win now.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Tennessee
Green Bay (-3) vs. New Orleans
It should be noted that this game is being played in Jacksonville, FL due to Hurricane Ida. Drew Brees ain’t walking thru that door for the Saints, so they have to hope that former Heisman Trophy winning QB Jameis Winston can finally fulfill all the potential so many have always seen in him. The offseason hasn’t been any easier on The Pack, as quarterback Aaron Rogers creates more drama than the writing team of Days of Our Lives. Will all that off the field turmoil cause issues on the field?? I think it just might, especially in the first half of the season. But fear not Packer fans, because I think they’ll eventually figure things out. That being said, I am picking the upset in this one. While Zach agrees with me that Green Bay is a Super Bowl caliber team in the long run he also believes they’ll get out of the gate fast. He thinks Winston is garbage and New Orleans will get destroyed in this game.
Just a few days ago I was pretty excited about the return of football with capacity crowds and business as usual, but now The Sickness has grabbed headlines again and it seems as though that sense of normalcy could be in jeopardy. At the moment no sweeping proclamations have been made, but stay tuned. In the meantime we shall proceed.
The biggest news outside of Covid related chaos is the NFL’s expansion to a 17 game regular season. To achieve that teams played one less pre-season game, so the only people really affected are the fringe players trying to make a team’s roster. There are always old faces in new places, teams with new coaches, and overhyped rookies looking to become the next Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Randy Moss, or Lawrence Taylor, and we’ll have a much better idea in a few months how all of that might shake out. For now it’s all guesswork, but atleast it’s fun, and I am glad that I feel encouraged enough to bring back this preview after a one year hiatus. As always the team’s record from the previous season is in parentheses, with the predicted record for this season following it. And remember…no wagering. I am not a professional and most of the time I’m not very good at this.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) 10-7
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) 10-7
Cleveland Browns (11-5) 9-8
Baltimore Ravens (11-5) 8-9
I think Bengals’ QB Joe Burrow is the real deal, and he’s going to surprise a lot of people. The Browns might be a bit of a surprise too, but I don’t believe it will be in a good way. Everyone assuming they are the presumed division champs will likely be wrong. Am I undervaluing the Ravens?? Perhaps. But every team can’t have a winning record and make the playoffs, and in a highly competitive division my vibe is that Baltimore will run into some problems and fall short of expectations (actually those problems have already began with the loss of starting tailback JK Dobbins to a torn ACL).
Buffalo Bills (13-3) 11-6
New York Jets (2-14) 8-9
New England Patriots (7-9) 8-9
Miami Dolphins (10-6) 7-10
The Bills have to be considered amongst the favorites in the conference. To be honest I thought QB Josh Allen was a bad choice as the 7th overall pick in the draft a few years ago, but he’s doing a pretty good job of proving me wrong thus far. There’s no reason to believe Buffalo won’t dominate a division that is a mess otherwise. I think the Jets may have finally found a decent quarterback, and they also added some other pieces on both sides of the ball that make me think they won’t be the dumpster fire we’ve come to expect. The Patriots aren’t the same team without Tom Brady, and I’m not as confident in their rookie signal caller Mac Jones as I am in New York’s rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The Dolphins might take a step back this season, but I hope they aren’t dumb enough to give up on second year QB Tua Tagavailoa. I believe they are building a solid team around him and good things are ahead, but it might take another year to gel.
Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) 11-6
Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) 10-7
Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) 7-10
Denver Broncos (5-11) 7-10
No one has been talking about the Chargers this offseason, and that might be a good thing. I always prefer to sneak up on people rather than have the pressure of lofty expectations. QB Justin Herbert acquitted himself quite well in his rookie campaign and there’s no reason to expect anything less this year. The Raiders & Broncos aren’t going to be any better than they were a year ago. I expect both teams to utilize multiple quarterbacks and need their defense to lead them to some victories. The stunner here is the KC Chiefs. Most talking heads will consider them legit Super Bowl contenders, but I think they’ll lose a dogfight for the division, sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard, and be watching the Super Bowl at home like the rest of us.
Tennessee Titans (11-5) 12-5
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) 11-6
Houston Texans (4-12) 5-12
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) 5-12
The Colts acquired QB Carson Wentz from Philly in the offseason, but will that do them any good?? Wentz can’t seem to stay healthy, and at the moment it’s a tossup as to whether he’ll be ready to go Week 1. That leaves the door open for Tennessee. RB Derrick Henry is a stud & receiver Julio Jones came over from Atlanta a few months ago. He’s 32 years old, but with AJ Brown in the lineup Jones won’t have the pressure of being the top wideout. Replacing tight end Jonnu Smith won’t be easy, and that may be the chink in the armor of the Titans’ offense. I’m not sure what to make of the Titans’ defense, although they did add former Steelers’ linebacker Bud Dupree. Watch time of possession in their games. I think they’ll dominate that and win a bunch of low scoring grinders. Everyone has heard more than enough about the Deshaun Watson situation in Houston and there are still a ton of questions. Will they trade him?? Will he be suspended for a big chunk of the season?? If Tyrod Taylor takes most of the snaps I think the Texans are in for a long season. I don’t have much faith in the Jags either, although I think new head coach Urban Meyer will build around rookie QB Trevor Lawrence and have his team in the playoff conversation a year or two from now, but losing first round draft pick Travis Etienne in the preseason doesn’t bode well for this season.
I’m still not buying the Cowboys as legit Super Bowl contenders, although I believe QB Dak Prescott will be just fine returning from the ankle injury that torpedoed his season last year. I suppose the Giants could surprise me and be much better than they were a season ago, but my vibe is that they are just kind of treading water. It blows my mind to see how far the Eagles have fallen since winning the Super Bowl less than five years ago. Can Jalen Hurts make the leap from excellent college quarterback to solid NFL starter?? I think Philadelphia has a bunch of very good players on both sides of the ball, but they have lacked cohesion the past few seasons and I’m not sure that’s going to change. That leaves Washington as the favorite. Is their enough FitzMagic left in the 38 year old signal caller now playing for his ninth NFL team?? Having an elite defense led by Chase Young, Montez Sweat, & Landon Collins will certainly help.
Arizona Cardinals (8-8) 11-6
Los Angeles Rams (10-6) 10-7
Seattle Seahawks (12-4) 9-8
San Francisco 49ers (6-10) 7-10
This race is going to be fun to watch. Arizona & the Rams both made moves this summer, and whether or not they work out well one has to give them credit for not standing pat. Los Angeles thinks they have a better chance of advancing in the playoffs with 33 year old veteran QB Matthew Stafford than with 2016 top overall pick Jared Goff, who they shipped to Detroit. I think it might be a positive chain of events (eventually) for both guys. The Rams lost starting RB Cam Akers to injury but traded for former Patriot Sony Michel so I don’t believe the team will be negatively affected all that much. The defense, led by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, should be stout. Having said that, I am giving a slight edge to the Cardinals, who added receivers DeAndre Hopkins & AJ Green and have a defensive unit featuring newly acquired defensive end JJ Watt, first round LB Zaven Collins, and a very talented secondary. Seattle has won 10+ games seven out of the past eight years and Russell Wilson is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but I feel like they’ll drop off just enough to miss the playoffs. ‘Frisco needs to decide on a quarterback, and once they do that I think they can get back on track, but that might be a couple of years from now.
Minnesota Vikings (7-9) 9-8
Green Bay Packers (13-3) 9-8
Chicago Bears (8-8) 6-11
Detroit Lions (5-11) 1-16
Or as ESPN’s Chris Berman used to call it, The Norris Division. I am sure I don’t have to rehash the Packers/Aaron Rodgers drama that has dominated offseason news, but I think it might be just enough of a distraction to cost them the division. The Lions have stunk most of my nearly five decades on the planet and I don’t think that will suddenly change in 2021. Much like the 49ers the Bears have a quarterback conundrum. Conventional wisdom says the smart thing to do is start either journeyman Andy Dalton or former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles under center, but we all know the pressure from fans & the media will lead to rookie Justin Fields being handed the keys to the kingdom. That decision will likely pay off down the road, but it creates chaos right now. So why am I so high on the Vikings?? I don’t know to be honest. Kirk Cousins isn’t spectacular, but he can be a very good quarterback at times and he has solid weapons at receiver & running back. The secondary could be one of the best in the NFL, and guys like Danielle Hunter & Anthony Barr should disrupt opposing offenses often. It won’t be pretty, but I think the Norris goes to the Vikes by a nose.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) 13-4
New Orleans Saints (12-4) 8-9
Atlanta Falcons (4-12) 6-11
Carolina Panthers (5-11) 5-12
I’ve stopped waiting for Tom Brady to fall of a cliff. That whole regimen of 25 glasses of water per day, fruit smoothies, fish, and lots of veggies apparently works because he proved a year ago that he deserves much more credit for the Patriots “dynasty” than Bill Belichick. I don’t expect much to change this season, and it helps that the rest of the division will probably struggle. New Orleans has named Jameis Winston as their new starting QB after the retirement of Drew Brees, and Winston is going to have to prove himself before I start to believe in him. I don’t anticipate much improvement by the Falcons or Panthers. Carolina must stop opposing defenses from stacking the box to stifle premier RB Christian McCaffery, and for that to happen former Jets first rounder Sam Darnold will need to finally live up to his potential. Atlanta got rid of receiver Julio Jones and I’m just not impressed by what remains.
Hey sports fans…we’re back. I’ve already been more prolific in January than I was all of last year, and it feels good. I didn’t like much of anything that happened in 2020, so it’s nice getting the new year started off in a better frame of mind. Anyway, let’s talk about balls. Well, you know what I mean 😉.
I’ll be honest…I dozed off & missed most of the CFP National Championship Game, and I’m okay with that. Ohio State should’ve never been there after playing only half of a season, and I’m beyond tired of Alabama. You’re mileage may vary & that’s okay.
A couple of weeks ago on Highly Questionable ESPN talking head Israel Gutierrez actually suggested that it would be “crazy powerful” for Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers to skip his team’s first playoff game in response to the unfortunate events that had taken place in Washington DC a couple of days before. Now I’ve heard some real head scratchers on that channel the past few years (a big reason sports fans like myself & many others have stopped watching as much as we once did), but that statement from Gutierrez might be one of the dumbest things uttered by anyone anywhere in my 40+ years on the planet. He should’ve been fired immediately and dragged out of the building in a straitjacket…it was that incomprehensibly stupid. To suggest that an MVP level quarterback whose team has a very real opportunity to win the Super Bowl should sit out to make a political statement is just…insane?? Ridiculous?? Pathetic?? All of the above?? You tell me.
Hot Stove Time…
My Pittsburgh Pirates were in the news recently after signing 16 year old outfield prospect Shalin Polanco from the Dominican Republic. One might assume something like that would elicit cheers from the Pirates’ faithful, but you’d be wrong. Understand, we’ve seen this movie before. One of two things will happen…a) the kid will be a total bust, or b) just as he’s entering his best years as a player Pittsburgh will trade him for a bunch of prospects and he’ll go to the World Series with his new team. Those of us that have been rooting for the Bucs for any length of time suffer from what I call Battered Fan Syndrome. We don’t believe anything great is on the horizon for them and if it is we’re pretty sure they’ll screw it up. You may call it cynical, but really it is just self-preservation.
Y’all may want to record this for posterity because I’m about to say something nice about Tom Brady…
I never want to hear the phrase “Patriots Dynasty” ever again. If this football season has proven anything it’s that the New England Patriots needed Tom Brady a whole hell of a lot more than Brady needed the Patriots. New England went 7-9, while Brady has Tampa (who went 7-9 last season) in the NFC title game. I hope this doesn’t happen, but IF Brady wins the Super Bowl with another team everyone should start using the term “Brady Dynasty”.
I’m a sucker for a happy ending. Perhaps I’ve watched too many movies, but I like the idea of an elite player winning a championship then retiring…going out on top. I fancy the notion of a guy hitting a home run in his last at bat or making a buzzer beating three-pointer in his final game. But that’s not usually the way it goes, is it?? Professional athletes often have a hard time recognizing when their skills are diminishing. They want one more opportunity to get a ring, so they stick around for a season or two or three too long. Oftentimes they play those years with different teams than the one that made them a household name. They sacrifice their legacy chasing one last shot at glory. The good thing is eventually we are able to put aside that sad limp to the finish line and focus on the highlights, but how cool would it be if our sports heroes never had that heartbreaking end that we need to erase from our memory?? Unfortunately that’s not how it works.