As has become our annual tradition I want to encourage any non-sports fans in The Manoverse to stick with me. These picks dominate the landscape each autumn, and it doesn’t help that I’ve not been as prolific for…well, awhile. I have lots of things in my head, but motivation has been a huge problem for various reasons. I’ll try to do better going forward. In football related matters you’ll notice that we’re light on college action and leaning more into the NFL, which is unusual for September. I expect that’ll change next week though.
My Season: 11-13
Zach’s Season: 14-10
Baylor at Iowa State (-2.5)
In my preseason poll I ranked Baylor 7th but noted that they’d need to be road warriors to get there, and now here we are. The Bears have beaten up two cupcakes and narrowly lost to BYU in overtime, while the Cyclones are 3-0 with a close win over in-state rival Iowa. This is probably going down to the wire with special teams & turnovers playing a key role in the outcome, and I’ve got to stick to my earlier thought process. I think Baylor gets a tight road victory. Zach foresees a defensive slug fest, and he likes State’s defense just a little better.
My Pick: Baylor
Z’s Pick: Iowa St.
Florida at Tennessee (-11)
I consulted multiple sources because I just couldn’t believe the points, but what you see is accurate. The Vols are 3-0 and ranked 11th, scoring two blowout wins against MAC competition & an impressive overtime road victory over the Pitt Panthers. Conversely, the 2-1 Gators appear to be riding a roller coaster, with a huge season opening upset of Utah, a loss to SEC rival Kentucky, and a tougher than it should’ve been escape against in-state challenger South Florida. Still, as impressive as Tennessee has been & as many questions as there may be about Florida, eleven points seems a bit much, even with the game being played in Knoxville. Zach thinks Florida had looked sluggish, but he agrees the points are too much.
My Pick: Florida
Z’s Pick: Florida
Buffalo (-4) at Miami
The Bills are firing on all cylinders right now, and are certainly one of the two or three best teams in the NFL. However, the Dolphins have been impressive as well. Receiver Tyreek Hill has breathed new life into Miami’s offense, and I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for awhile now that it’s way too soon to give up on QB Tua Tagovailoa. The home crowd is going to be jacked for this one, and it would be a major statement win for a Fins team that hasn’t played in the postseason since 2016. Not only is Zach also picking the upset, but he thinks this could be an AFC Championship preview.
My Pick: Miami
Z’s Pick: Miami
Detroit at Minnesota (-6.5)
I told y’all that the Lions would be the surprise of the NFC North, and so far they’ve looked as good as a 1-1 team can. As a matter of fact, all four teams in the division…including the Vikings…are tied. This will be the beginning of the separation, when we differentiate the contenders from the pretenders. I don’t believe that either club will be playoff bound or even finish with a winning record, but I do think Detroit is the better team. Zach isn’t totally sure he knows the outcome, but he definitely thinks it’ll be closer than a touchdown.
My Pick: Detroit
Z’s Pick: Detroit
San Francisco (-1) at Denver
‘Frisco lost starting QB Trey Lance to a broken ankle, but, while that’d be a season killer for most teams, I don’t believe it makes all that much difference in this case. Lance may end up being a decent NFL quarterback, but I have my doubts and don’t think he was ready yet anyway. Jimmy Garoppolo might not be the next Joe Montana, but he’s capable enough to step right back into the starter role without the team missing a beat. The Niners should count their lucky stars they didn’t trade him. On the flip side the Broncos haven’t looked as impressive as I expected with Russell Wilson behind center. I feel like both teams are going to need their defenses to carry them, and to that end I foresee a low scoring contest decided by field goals, time of possession, field position, & penalties. Something like a 15-13 kind of game, with the visiting favorites escaping with a win. Zach likes the Jimmy G. story and thinks he’ll lead his team to victory.
The NFL season kicks off Thursday night, so y’all are getting bonus picks!! Honestly…it has nothing to do with the fact that I was 2-3 last week and Zach extended his season lead by going 3-2. Nothing at all. Really. There are intriguing matchups in the college ranks as well, despite the fact that many teams are still in the non-conference portion of their schedule. We’ll talk more about the college playoff next week, but atleast in this moment we’re all the beneficiaries of programs chasing those scant four spots by beefing up their early season slate. Enjoy it while you still can.
My Season: 3-7
Zach’s Season: 7-3
Alabama (-20.5) at Texas
A decade ago this would’ve been a marquee matchup. The talking heads will still try to sell it as such, relying on the history & tradition of both programs. However, the truth is that Texas has only had one ten win season since ‘Bama beat them in the 2010 National Championship Game. The Longhorns are pinning all their hopes on freshman QB Quinn Ewers and will be making an idiotic move to the SEC in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, Nick Saban opined awhile back that last season…in which they were 13-2 & lost the national title to Georgia…was a rebuilding year for the Tide. So despite any creative PR tactics the fact is that anything else besides Texas getting their ass handed to them would be a surprise. Having said that, the points are kind of eye opening, given the fact this game is being played in Austin (Alabama’s first trip there in 100 years). Can the home team atleast keep it respectable?? Sadly I don’t believe they will. Zach observes that ‘Bama is consistently well coached, disciplined, & fundamentally solid, while Texas is merely mediocre. He thinks that may change when QB Arch Manning arrives on campus next year, but for now believes this will be an easy win for the visitors.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Houston at Texas Tech (-3)
The Cougars went into three overtimes before defeating the UTSA Roadrunners in the season opener. Conversely, the Red Raiders beat the snot out of Murray St. Houston is better than what we saw last weekend, while Tech will be facing legit competition for the first time, so I expect an entertaining contest, but I think the home favorites get a solid victory. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Texas Tech
Z’s Pick: Texas Tech
Iowa State at Iowa (-3.5)
With all the realignment hullabaloo one would think the powers-that-be could get these two in the same conference, but not thus far. The Cyclones beat up a glorified high school team to open the season (one reason why they’ll not be playoff contenders), while the Hawkeyes barely defeated South Dakota St. in an epic 7-3 battle that was either a masterpiece of defense or set the game of football back several decades. I didn’t see the game or any…highlights…so I cannot intelligently opine. At any rate, this is the first real test for both teams and I’m expecting good things. It’ll be on the Big Ten Network and I’ll certainly check it out. I think State will score the mild upset. Zach believes we’re in for a low scoring defensive battle that the home team will win.
My Pick: Iowa State
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Arizona State at Oklahoma State (-11.5)
I have lofty expectations for the Cowboys, but it’s a bit alarming that they allowed Central Michigan to score 44 points last weekend. Will their offense need to score nearly 60 points in every game?? Conversely, the Sun Devils’ defense allowed only a field goal in their nearly 40 point season opening win. I love my guy Herm Edwards, but it’s way too early to abandon my bold preseason predictions, so I’m going with the home favorites. Zach notes that OK St. consistently underperforms & doesn’t seem to live up to their potential, which is true. However, he likes the home field in this one and foresees a big blowout win for the Cowboys.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma State
USC (-9) at Stanford
Everybody is paying attention to the Trojans once again, and they got things started off right with a 66-14 beatdown of Rice. Stanford also won their prosaic season opener. And now, while some teams are pussyfooting around with clearly inferior opponents & others are trying to gain attention with aggressively scheduled non-conferences clashes, these teams are diving right into the conference scrum. Stanford has the home field, and I think that’s significant. Do I believe the home underdogs will win?? No. However, I foresee a closer than expected contest that Southern Cal wins by only a touchdown. Zach thinks USC will cover with a hard fought double digit victory.
My Pick: Stanford
Z’s Pick: USC
Baylor at BYU (-3)
The Bears beat someone unimportant by nearly 60 points in the season opener. Obviously they’re not serious about being a playoff contender. BYU could go undefeated and still get left out of the playoff conversation, but kudos to them for scheduling decent competition to open the season and getting a solid victory. This could be the game of the week, so if you’re not doing anything on Saturday night at 10pm tune into ESPN & check it out. These were two Top 10 teams in my preseason poll, so I have high expectations. The Cougars have the home field and I predict that’ll matter late in the 4th quarter. Conversely, Zach thinks it’ll be Baylor’s defense that’ll come up big late in the game to secure a win.
My Pick: BYU
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Buffalo (-2.5) at LA Rams
The Bills are a solid Super Bowl favorite, while very few seem to be giving the defending champion Rams as much respect as they probably deserve. They aren’t even favored at home. Could this be a Super Bowl preview?? Maybe…maybe not. Either way it’s a hell of a way to kick off the season, and I think it’ll be a close game. Things might go differently in February, but for now I believe the underdogs will defend their turf & prove their title run wasn’t a fluke. Zach agrees, opining that the Bills may be a bit overrated.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Kansas City (-4.5) at Arizona
It feels like both teams should be getting more love, but the fact that they compete in the two most stacked divisions in the NFL means they both have difficult paths to the Super Bowl. Have defenses figured Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes out after five seasons?? Perhaps, but the biggest reason people are doubting him right now is the departure of receiver Tyreek Hill. Can a pass catching corps of Mecole Hardman, former Steeler Juju Schuster, rookie Skyy Moore, & veteran tight end Travis Kelce pick up the slack & fill the void left by one of the most exciting players in the league?? The Cardinals are another team being disrespected on their home field, but there are reasonable doubts. Former Raven Hollywood Brown was a nice acquisition for the receiving corps, especially given the six game suspension of DeAndre Hopkins, but AJ Green is 34 years old & not the same receiver he used to be. Having said that, I’m more concerned with Arizona’s defense. JJ Watt has lost a step and Tyrann Matthieu signed with the Saints. I think this will be a shootout, but KC has a little too much firepower and will take over in the 4th quarter. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Kansas City
Z’s Pick: Kansas City
Las Vegas at LA Chargers (-3)
As previously mentioned, the AFC West is going to be a dogfight, and we might look back on this one a few months from now & realize it was more important than we realized. I’m a Derek Carr fan, and it’s going to be fun watching him throw passes to former Packer Davante Adams. Unfortunately I think Adams is going to face a lot of double coverage, so it’ll be up to the rest of a rather pedestrian receiving corps to step up, RB Josh Jacobs to fulfill his potential, & tight end Darren Waller to return to his Pro Bowl form of 2020 after a subpar, injury riddled season last year. Don’t sleep on their defense, which added former Cardinals’ pass rusher Chandler Jones. The Chargers fell into the abyss a few years ago but have slowly been rebuilding with the likes of QB Justin Herbert & linebacker Joey Bosa, and they’ve added former Raider & Bear Khalil Mack, who can still be a beast despite the fact he’s on the wrong side of 30. If the Chargers can avoid major injuries their defense will be a force and the team could surprise people. Having said that, I’m picking the mild upset this week. Zach agrees.
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.
Our first edition of W&M in 2022 is football heavy as usual, but that’ll change in the not-too-distant future. For now it is time to bid farewell to goal posts & penalty flags and say so long to QB sacks & onside kicks. Enjoy.
Kudos to the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. As a Steelers fan I wasn’t about to cheer for the Cincinnati Bengals, and I’m beginning to get a little uncomfortable with the sports media’s blatant attempts to position Cincy QB Joe Burrow as Tom Brady 2.0. The kid seems a bit too big for his britches (shout out to my late Grandma P.), so perhaps it’s best he was brought down a peg or two. Also, after wasting over a decade with the hapless Detroit Lions one can’t help but be happy for Rams’ QB Matthew Stafford (I bet Calvin Johnson wishes he would’ve gotten an opportunity to play football somewhere other than Detroit). The game itself was rather prosaic, although thankfully it wasn’t a blowout. I have no opinion about any of the commercials because I had company who is literally unable to STOP TALKING for longer than ten seconds at a time (it’s exhausting). I’m not going to crown the halftime show featuring nearly every old school rapper that hasn’t been shot yet as “the best EVER”, but it was sufficiently entertaining. That kind of music was never my jam back in the 90s, but if it was yours then you probably enjoyed the show way more than me.
After an atrocious 1-7 record for each of us in the final week of the season, our Pigskin Picks of Profundity ended with yours truly scoring the season victory at 57-69, while Zach was 49-77 on the year. Although I wish we were more skilled prognosticators, as always it was so much fun doing these picks with my nephew, an annual tradition I’ve come to really appreciate.
In the wake of an ultra exciting weekend of playoff football a few weeks ago fans were calling the Chiefs-Bills clash that KC won in overtime one of the best football games they’d ever seen while lamenting the lame NFL OT rules that essentially allow a coin toss to decide the outcome. I don’t necessarily disagree with those sentiments, but I also have an alternative view. If I were in charge of the NFL overtime would follow the general idea of the current college football OT rules (more on that below), but let’s focus on defense. Y’all remember defense right?? We used to believe that “defense wins championships”, but that no longer seems to be true. Buffalo was up by three points in that game with thirteen seconds remaining. 13 seconds!! Yet they allowed Kansas City to get into field goal range with just a couple of long passes, which gave the home team an opportunity to execute the game tying field goal. While it is undeniably fun to watch great skill players & elite QBs throw haymaker after haymaker like what transpired between the Buffalo Bills & Kansas City Chiefs, let’s not get it twisted. The “Bills Mafia” can blame stupid overtime rules all they want, but the fact is that all their team had to do was stop the opposition from going 44 yards in 13 seconds and they failed.
Congratulations to newly minted MLB Hall-of-Famer David Ortiz, who will be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer. Big Papi won three World Series with the Boston Red Sox, was a ten time All-Star, and had a .286 career batting average with 541 home runs in 20 seasons. Sadly, Ortiz’s moment was overshadowed a bit by hand-wringing over Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens not being selected in their final year on the ballot. I find it interesting that so many will passionately defend known defrauders of the game like Bonds & Clemens, yet they’re perfectly fine with Curt Schilling being excluded from the Hall of Fame. Schilling’s alleged mediocrity…6 time All-Star, 3 time World Series Champion, 3000+ strikeouts…is a weak excuse since we all know the real reason the powers-that-be don’t like him is because of his very candid political opinions.
Y’all, I didn’t even keep track of college football’s bowl season while it was happening, but I did go back & check the numbers. Zach edged me by a couple of games in our Bowl-a-Palooza picks, going 18-19 while I was 16-21. Five bowl games were canceled altogether, while two games were played with altered matchups so those results were tossed aside. Between COVID, the transfer portal, star players opting out to prepare for the NFL Draft, & the coaching carousel, bowl season didn’t seem like very much fun this year. When the playoff is expanded something is going to need to be done to make the other games matter for fans and apparently players & coaches.
Okay, so let’s talk overtime. The current college football OT rules allow each offense to have the ball starting on their opponent’s 25 yard line, meaning they’re essentially in field goal range already. No matter what Offense A does Offense B gets the ball (also on the opponent’s 25 yard line). The wildcard is what does Offense A do with the ball?? At worst they’ll have an opportunity to kick a 41 yard field goal (unless they turn the ball over). That’s not a chip shot, but it’s more than makable in most circumstances. At best they’ll score a touchdown & put the pressure on the opposing team’s offense. Now here’s where it gets weird. If both teams trade matching scores and there is a second overtime, any TD must be followed up with a 2 point conversion instead of an extra point. Then, if we make it to a third OT, the teams just alternate 2 point plays (that start on the three yard line), which is basically a football variation of penalty kicks in soccer. I despise the two point conversion rule for overtime. In contrast, the NFL does have a kickoff (after a coin toss, with the winner of that always choosing to receive…obviously), and if Offense A scores a touchdown the game is over. If they score a FG or don’t score at all Offense B gets an opportunity. If Offense B matches what Offense A did then it becomes sudden death, and if the teams are still tied at the end of 10 minutes the game ends in a tie. My proposal would be a hybrid of the two differing systems, and would ideally be implemented on both levels…college & pro. Give Offense A the ball on the 50 yard line. I’m not usually a proponent of minimizing special teams, but in this case I believe it works best. The offense isn’t already in field goal range and has some work to do, while the defense has a legit opportunity to do their job. No matter what happens Offense B will get a chance to possess the football. Unlike the current college system I would have a time clock, but, as opposed to current NFL rules, I’d bump the extra period back up to 15 minutes (I don’t like ties but can live with the theoretical yet unlikely possibility that it could happen). No team would ever be forced to attempt a two point conversion unless they choose to do so.
I would be remiss not to mention the retirement of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Thankfully it wasn’t a surprise, and it was time. I don’t know if all the blame belongs with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, or if Big Ben just didn’t have an arm anymore, but the offense had become painful to watch. I enjoy an occasional screen pass, and realize “bubble screens” specifically have become part of football, but I just don’t believe throwing the ball five yards or less downfield constantly is productive, especially when defenses are expecting it. To be clear, I am aware that the Steelers’ offensive line was abysmal this past season & needs a major overhaul. I’m not completely sold on the receiving corps either: Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, & JuJu Schuster aren’t nearly as great as they believe themselves to be. Aside from those issues though, an aging quarterback with zero mobility & a weakening arm simply doesn’t bode well, especially when the AFC boasts young guns who can move like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, & Joe Burrow. Roethlisberger was never fast, but he always had tremendous escapability that allowed him to scramble & extend plays. That escapability had noticeably diminished, and when combined with a poor offensive line & questionable play calls the Steelers offense was doomed. So, as the Steelers & all the fans prepare to move forward, right now I want to give one last shoutout to Ben Roethlisberger. It has been a joy to watch you, from the moment I gathered with co-workers at a local sports bar on that spring day 18 years ago & watched my Steelers draft you with the eleventh pick, thru two Super Bowl victories, all the way to a bitterly decisive playoff defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs last month. More importantly, it has been delightful to see you evolve from an impetuous young man into a mature & responsible husband, father, leader, & adult. People still like to bring up the past & criticize you for mistakes made 15 years ago, but I’d tell those people to clean their own house first. None of us are perfect, and you’ve gone thru your battles very publicly. From a football perspective I wish you’d have gotten atleast a couple more opportunities in the Super Bowl, but so many factors play into that. You got us two Lombardis & provided many other great memories. I don’t know if coaching or ownership or anything football related is in your future, but as a fan I sincerely hope to have you as part of the Steelers organization in some capacity down the road.
We have officially entered unchartered waters my friends. With the NFL expanding their schedule naturally ours has grown as well, meaning we will have picked more games than ever before. If only we were better at this whole thing 😬. We’re doing bonus picks again because…well, why not?? It’s our last hurrah, so we may as well end with a bang, right?? Also, after going 5-2 a week ago I am six games below .500 and want to give myself a mathematical chance to break even. Will that happen?? I’m not holding my breath, but never say never. In addition to that, with a perfect 8-0 record this week, and if I were to go 0-8, Zach (3-4 a week ago) could theoretically earn a tie for the season lead. That is even more unlikely, but hey, we’re having fun. The NFL playoff picture is mostly clear, but a couple of berths remain up for grabs, as well as various seeding scenarios, so almost all of these games matter on some level.
My Season: 56-62
Zach’s Season: 48-70
Dallas (-7) at Philadelphia
Okay, so this is one game that doesn’t technically matter. The Cowboys already clinched the NFC South and can’t catch Green Bay for the top seed, while the Eagles are locked into a wildcard spot. But it’s a cool rivalry. Back at the end of September Dallas won the first matchup pretty easily, and one could logically expect a similar outcome. However, Philly now has the home field, and with nothing to lose or gain it’ll be interesting to see which superstar players on both sides sit this one out. The Cowboys have already lost WR Michael Gallup to injury (again), and I have a hunch they might play it safe with RB Zeke Elliott & QB Dak Prescott. That’d be enough to swing momentum to the home team. Zach isn’t impressed with Dallas’ offense and thinks Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts is good enough to lead his club to an upset victory.
My Pick: Philadelphia
Z’s Pick: Philadelphia
Buffalo (-17) at NY Jets
The first time they met in mid-November the Bills barely broke a sweat while winning easily. I don’t expect anything different this time, especially with the AFC East crown at stake. That being said, the points are a concern, especially with the Jets being at home. Could we see a scenario in which Buffalo is up by a couple of TDs in the 4th quarter and plays it safe by pulling their starters?? I think that is a very real possibility. Zach believes the favorites win the game but he doesn’t like the points.
My Pick: NY Jets
Z’s Pick: NY Jets
New England (-6.5) at Miami
Belichick isn’t sitting anyone or calling off the dogs late in the game. He’s just not built like that. Also, remember that the Dolphins went into Foxboro way back in the season opener and won by one point. That won’t happen again. Zach concurs.
My Pick: New England
Z’s Pick: New England
San Francisco at LA Rams (-5.5)
The Niners need to win and/or see New Orleans lose to secure a wildcard berth. The Rams need to win and/or Arizona to lose to win the NFC West. ‘Frisco won at home by three TDs back in mid-November, but they could be playing this one without QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who injured the thumb on his throwing hand right before Christmas. Rookie Trey Lance was 16/23 with 249 passing yards, 31 rushing yards, two TDs, and one interception in a 23-7 victory last weekend, but that was against the Houston Texans. The Rams have a far superior defense and the home field, so whether it is Lance or Jimmy G at less than 100% under center for the 49ers I don’t think it’ll make much difference. Zach agrees.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Cincinnati at Cleveland (-3)
Round 2 of the Battle of Ohio is mostly inconsequential. The Browns will be watching the playoffs on TV as I predicted, while the Bengals already won the AFC North as I predicted. Cincy could move up a spot or down a spot in seeding depending on the outcome, but that’s the extent of the impact. It’s entirely possible that they’ll sit players like QB Joe Burrow and/or WR Jamarr Chase, although that is unlikely. Would it matter though?? When these teams met in Cincinnati back in early November the Browns won by three TDs, but they have proceeded to lose three straight games and QB Baker Mayfield is injured. I believe it’ll be four losses in a row and the Bengals will move on to the playoffs with positive momentum. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Cincinnati
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
New Orleans (-4.5) at Atlanta
It’s a must-win for the Saints. They make the playoffs if they win this game and the Rams defeat the 49ers, which isn’t far-fetched at all. The Falcons occasionally show signs of life, but will end up with a losing record for the fourth year in a row. That being said, it must be noted that these two teams played in N’awleans the first week of November and the Falcons emerged victorious. Anything is possible, but I think the favorites gain a season split and sneak into the postseason. Zach likes the Saints defense to lead them to victory.
My Pick: New Orleans
Z’s Pick: New Orleans
Seattle at Arizona (-6.5)
A year ago this would’ve been a marquee matchup, but the Seahawks come into the final week 6-10 and in last place in their division. It’ll be their first losing season in a decade. Conversely, the Cards are on the verge of their first division title since 2015 IF the Rams lose their game, which I don’t think will happen. They’ll be in the playoffs though. Barring any unforeseen circumstances (you may have heard of a lil thing called COVID) I expect the home team to cruise to an easy win. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: Arizona
LA Chargers (-3) at Las Vegas
This is the Sunday night game, and probably the best matchup of the week. The Chargers aren’t going to win the division like I thought they would, but the future looks bright. Win & they are in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Raiders have faced a fair amount of upheaval this season yet still have an opportunity to earn a playoff spot. Win & they are in, or they could sneak thru the back door if the Steelers & Colts both lose. These teams met in Los Angeles on the first Monday night in October, with the Bolts winning by two TDs. I think it’ll be much tighter this time around, but my money is on the visitors being victorious in a squeaker. Zach believes the Chargers offense is way too good for the Raiders to overcome.
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.
It is weekends like this when I really feel the need to look for a different job. There is so much action I’m going to miss. Of course there’s also the fact that I haven’t been able to go to church in over a year, but that’s a whole other story. Y’all are here for football, right?? A week ago Zach & I both went 5-3, which is pretty good for us. I understand that much of the attention in the sports world is focused on the impending World Series, but luckily for The Manoverse I can multitask. There are some big games that we are ignoring this week (atleast in this space) for various reasons, but I think we have cobbled together a worthy lineup. Enjoy.
My Season: 26-18
Zach’s Season: 21-23
TCU (-3) at Kansas State
The talking heads like to promote the Big Ten & SEC, and credit where it is due…those two conferences are a lot of fun. But let’s not totally overlook the Big 12. At the moment 9 out of 10 teams have a winning or even record, and the games are usually exciting to watch. Both the Horned Frogs and the Wildcats are 3-2. Both are trying to rebound from a loss. Both had a bye last week. It’s interesting that TCU is the favorite, but I’m going to disagree with the oddsmakers and believe that the home field will make a difference. Conversely, Zach likes TCU’s offense better & thinks they’ll get the job done.
My Pick: Kansas St.
Z’s Pick: TCU
Baylor at Oklahoma State (-3)
More Big 12. Sorry…deal with it. The Bears are undefeated, lead the conference, & got a big double OT victory over Texas Tech a week ago. The Cowboys are coming off a bye week and trying to rebound from a loss to the aforementioned Red Raiders. Baylor is good, but I have to once again lean in the general direction of the home favorites. Zach believes Baylor’s offense is too fast for OK St. to keep up.
My Pick: Oklahoma St.
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Boise State (-6) at BYU
The Broncos are who we thought they were…undefeated and in the Top 15. They haven’t got a prayer of being a playoff team, but winning their conference and playing in a New Year’s bowl game is a nice consolation prize. The Cougars are 2-4 and might not play in any kind of post-season game. This the exactly the kind of late night matchup that I used to look forward to, but instead I’ll be asleep before kickoff because I have to get up so damn early on Sunday morning. At any rate, BYU may not get blown out on their home field, but neither do I expect them to win and the six points seems more than manageable for Boise. Zach likes Boise in a rather mundane defensive struggle.
My Pick: Boise St.
Z’s Pick: Boise St.
Miami at Buffalo (-17)
Yes ladies & gentlemen…it’s true, the Buffalo Bills look like they might actually be a good football team. I don’t know if they’ll make the playoffs (they’re not winning the division), but we’ll let the good folks in upstate New York enjoy their moment. Conversely, the Dolphins may or may not be tanking to secure the #1 overall pick in next year’s draft so they can snag Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, but either way they are winless and I don’t think Ryan Fitzpatrick nor Josh Rosen can save them. The points make me a little nervous, but this is the perfect opportunity to make a statement and prove they’re for real, so I’m going to ride with Buffalo. Zach believes Miami might have enough FitzMagic to atleast cover the points.
My Pick: Buffalo
Z’s Pick: Miami
Arizona at NY Giants (-3)
We knew this was going to be a learning curve season for the Cardinals with a rookie head coach & a rookie QB. All things considered they haven’t fared that badly and the folks in Arizona have reason to be somewhat encouraged. The new norm for the Giants is rookie quarterback Daniel Jones at the helm, and even though the initial excitement has dissipated he too has shown that the future doesn’t have to be bleak for the G-Men. It’ll be interesting to watch the growth & evolution of these two young signal callers in the next few years, but for now I expect a sloppy game with lots of turnovers & mistakes. Defense will win the day, and I think the return of RB Saquon Barkley is enough to secure the home team a close victory. Conversely, Zach foresees a big game from Kyler Murray and an upset for the Cards.
Not only has the action already began this week in the NFL with an entertaining last second upset of the KC Chiefs by the LA Chargers, but there are actually Saturday games, which is pretty cool. For our purposes I am trying to avoid focusing exclusively on the handful of division leaders & playoff contenders, so this week we’re venturing off the beaten path a bit and showing some love for a few teams that are having a tough season, or atleast not achieving the level of success they expected. Speaking of subpar seasons…last week Zach was 0-5, while I was 2-3. Yikes. We’ll just move forward and hope for better things this time.
My Season: 49-48
Z’s Season: 40-58
Miami ` at Minnesota (-7)
One of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal football week ago was Miami’s miracle upset of the New England Patriots. Can the Dolphins keep rolling?? I suppose they’re still in the hunt for the AFC’s final wildcard, although that’ll be a tall mountain to climb. The Vikings are in much the same situation in the NFC, but it feels a lot different because expectations were so high for them coming into the season. They’ve lost three out of their last four, and just feel like a team heading in the wrong direction. I don’t know if Miami will get the outright victory, but The Vibes are telling me it will be closer than a touchdown. Zach thinks momentum is squarely with Miami and beliees they’ll get the win.
My Pick: Miami
Z’s Pick: Miami
Tennessee at NY Giants (-2.5)
The Titans are in that AFC logjam for the final playoff berth, and they’re riding a two game winning streak. Last weekend Tennessee RB Derrick Henry singlehandedly torpedoed my dynasty league playoff hopes, which was a tough pill to swallow. The Giants are in the cellar of the NFC East and already strategizing about which “quarterback of the future” they’ll select in the first round of the NFL Draft. Having said that, the Giants do have the home field and Henry won’t repeat last week’s success. Zach likes Giants’ RB Saquon Barkley, but doesn’t think the team will get over the hump until they replace aging quarterback Eli Manning. He believes the Titans will score a close victory.
My Pick: NY Giants
Z’s Pick: Tennessee
Arizona at Atlanta (-8.5)
The Cardinals could be looking at the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, and the Falcons aren’t much better. No one is expecting anything from this game, which of course means it will end up being one of the best of the weekend, right?? I don’t know if Arizona can pull off an upset on the road, but I think they’ll stay within a touchdown. Zach is going out on a limb and predicting that Atlanta can cover the points.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: Atlanta
Detroit at Buffalo (-2.5)
I’ve lost track of who is behind center for the Bills. Josh Allen?? Derek Anderson?? Matt Barkley?? Nathan Peterman?? AJ McCarron?? It’s tough to be a Pittsburgh Pirates fan every summer, but it can’t be much fun for the folks in Buffalo having to endure the mess that the Bills have become. Atleast the Lions know that Matthew Stafford is their starting QB…for all the good that’s done them the past decade. I’m not sure what we can hope for from a matchup of teams with a combined record of 9-17, but it’s December and the game is in Buffalo so I assume the home field has to mean something. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Buffalo
Z’s Pick: Buffalo
Washington at Jacksonville (-6.5)
I thought the Jags would fall off a bit from last year’s impressive playoff run, but wow…they’ve totally dived off the cliff. I suppose that’s another team that will be looking to draft a quarterback in the first round. Meanwhile, the Redskins have a different kind of quarterback issue. Alex Smith is lost for the season due to an injury, and his career might be over. Josh Johnson?? Mark Sanchez?? It makes the Bills’ depth chart look good in comparison. I think this will be a low scoring game with lots of running the ball, punts, & perhaps a turnover or two to make the difference, and I’m going with the Redskins to score a mild upset. Zach agrees.
It’s the last weekend of the NFL regular season and our final week of picks as well. After last week’s action in which I was 3-2 and Zach was 2-3 (that last second garbage TD for Philly was my favorite Christmas gift) we are all tied up for the season, which I’m sure has never happened before. So y’all know what I’m thinking?? That’s right…bonus picks!! It’ll be almost nine months before we get to do this again, so why not end 2017 with a bang?? All of these games have playoff implications, and I’ll do my best to lay it all out there as easily digestible as possible. Every NFL game will be on Sunday afternoon…no Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night games…which means that watching RedZone will be even more fun than usual. Say a little prayer for the bladder of host Scott Hanson. Yes, I realize Sunday is New Year’s Eve, but I rarely go out & do anything fun that night anyway, and anyone who is going to party won’t be getting started until long after the games are over, so the afternoon NFL lineup is really something to be excited about. Happy New Year Manoverse. May your 2018 be filled with joy, good health, & lots of fantastic football.
My Season: 51-50
Z’s Season: 51-50
Cincinnati at Baltimore (-9.5)
The Bengals aren’t going to the playoffs unless they buy a ticket, and this is very likely Marvin Lewis’ last game as their head coach after 15 up & down seasons in which his players spent more time in prison than the post-season. However, the Ravens’ playoff outlook is much rosier. Win & they’re in, but even if they lose this game they can still get into the playoffs if either Buffalo or Tennessee loses. The points make me a little nervous, and as a Steelers fan it’d warm my cockles to see Baltimore lose…but The Vibes are telling me they win big at home. Zach agrees on all counts. We’d both prefer to see Baltimore ousted from the playoffs, but it’s probably not going to happen.
My Pick: Baltimore
Z’s Pick: Baltimore
Jacksonville at Tennessee (-3.5)
The Jags have already won the division and are locked into the #3 spot in the AFC, but Tennessee has some work to do. The Titans would secure a wildcard with a victory…but a loss would mean that their only path to the playoffs would be losses by both the Los Angeles Chargers and the Buffalo Bills. That’s not necessarily far-fetched, but winning this game would certainly be a simpler solution. Jacksonville looked vulnerable in last week’s loss to San Francisco, but will that happen two weeks in a row?? Technically they have nothing to play for, but momentum heading into the post-season is important. If this game were being played in Florida it’d be a no-brainer, but playing at home with their backs against the wall might just be enough to motivate the Titans to a mildly surprising win. Conversely, Zach believes Jacksonville’s defense will come thru in the clutch and score them a close win.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Jacksonville
Oakland at LA Chargers (-7.5)
The Raiders have had a disappointing season for sure…but a victory to end the year could certainly be good karma going into an offseason in which they’ll have the 11th pick in the draft and expectations will probably be high again for 2018. Conversely, the Chargers are still very much in the playoff hunt. They have to win this game and hope that the Titans & Bills both lose, which is a tall order. Either way they can only control what they do & how they play, and I think they’ll do just that. Zach didn’t learn a thing from the Eagles’ last second touchdown last week and is again picking the Raiders to atleast cover the points.
My Pick: LA Chargers
Z’s Pick: Oakland
New Orleans (-7) at Tampa Bay
The Saints will be in the playoffs, but they’re still battling for a division title. They need a win to secure that crown. A loss coupled with a Carolina victory would make New Orleans a wildcard team. Tampa will have a Top 5 pick in the NFL Draft and has nothing to play for but pride. Is that enough?? I don’t think so…not even at home. Zach concurs.
My Pick: New Orleans
Z’s Pick: New Orleans
Carolina at Atlanta (-4)
The Panthers have to win and hope that the Saints lose. That’s the only way they win the NFC South…otherwise they’ll be a wildcard team. The Falcons…who represented the NFC in the Super Bowl a year ago and held a significant lead before an epic choke job…must win to secure a wildcard berth, or they could conceivably lose and still get in if Seattle also loses. I think this might be the best game of the weekend, and I’m going to pick the mild upset. Zach thinks Atlanta is just too erratic and has issues winning big games.
My Pick: Carolina
Z’s Pick: Carolina
Arizona at Seattle (-9)
The Cardinals are playing for pride and a .500 record. The Seahawks must win and hope for a Falcons loss to sneak into the post-season. If Seattle gets into the playoffs I think they can be a very dangerous opponent, but will they get there?? They can’t do anything about the Falcons, but they can go out & win this game. However, The Vibes are telling me the points are a bit much and it might be a lot closer than anyone expects. Zach disagrees and thinks Seattle will win easily.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: Seatttle
Buffalo (-3) at Miami
The Dolphins have been even more mediocre than I thought they’d be. Surely QB Jay Cutler will be gently pushed back into retirement after the season ends. Conversely, the Bills have been a huge surprise. I never thought they’d even be in the playoff discussion, but here they are with a chance…a very small chance. They must win this game and hope for a Ravens loss, or if Baltimore wins then losses by both Tennessee & the Chargers will do the trick. The biggest Bengals fans in the world might not be in Cincinnati on Sunday…they’ll be in Buffalo (or Bills personnel in Miami). As much as it pains me to say it, I think the road ends painfully for the Buffalo Bills this weekend. Zach believes otherwise.
A half point. A stinkin’ half point!! That’s all that separated your humble Potentate of Profundity from perfection. Alas, the Michigan St. Spartans won by only 3 points…not the required 3.5. That’s just how it goes sometimes. Anyway, what that means is that I went 4-1 last week, while Zach was hot on my heels at 3-2. The lesson: don’t go against BYU. They’ve got God on their side. And Donny & Marie. We can’t forget them.
Overall Records: Me = 8-2 Z= 4-6
The college schedule is mostly unappealing this week as supposedly good teams continue to play what amounts to pre-season games against foes like Troy, Georgia St., & SMU. Some teams, like my WV Mountaineers, have an early bye, which has got to drive coaches crazy. If I were in charge all byes would be concentrated within a three week period no earlier than Week 6 of the season. Unfortunately I am not in charge of anything outside of The Manoverse, to the general detriment of mankind. At any rate, we’re leaning a bit more on the NFL than I’d prefer to at this point, but we do what we gotta do. Enjoy.
Georgia Tech (-2.5) at Notre Dame The Ramblin’ Wreck, aka the Yellowjackets, are often overlooked during the season, until, all the sudden, they’ve won 10 or 11 games and are playing in a major bowl game. However, after just obliterating their first two opponents and scoring over 130 points in the process, they are actually favored against the Irish…in South Bend. Trust me, I checked that three times. I can only assume that this is an overreaction to Notre Dame losing starting QB Malik Zaire to a season ending broken ankle. Well okay…I suppose the fact that they needed a last second TD to defeat lightly regarded Virginia last week has a lot to do with it as well. If this game was being played in Atlanta I’d be inclined to go with the boys in Vegas, but regardless of the injury situation I just can’t imagine the Irish not defending their house. Zach, on the other hand, likes Tech’s triple option offense and thinks it’ll confuse Notre Dame.
My Pick – Notre Dame Z’s Pick – Georgia Tech
Auburn at LSU (-7.5)
Auburn looked absolutely awful last week, needing overtime to beat 1-AA Jacksonville St. Meanwhile, LSU was just happy to get out on the field after Mother Nature scratched their first game. The Tigers never trailed but definitely let their foot off the gas in the 4th quarter in a narrow victory over Mississippi St. To be honest I don’t think anything we’ve seen thus far presents a particularly accurate picture of these two teams, so I’m relying on my pre-season vibes, which means that I like LSU more. Zach concurs, opining that LSU will dominate and win by 17.
My Pick – LSU Z’s Pick – LSU
New England (-1) at Buffalo
I don’t even know what to say about the Patriots. I think maybe the safest thing…in an effort to keep my blood pressure in check…is to say as little as possible. The Bills, on the other hand, pulled off maybe the biggest upset in the opening weekend of the NFL by easily defeating the Indianapolis Colts. I, along with what I would have to think is a huge portion of the general NFL fanbase, would love to see Buffalo or anyone else challenge New England for the AFC East division crown, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It is interesting that the Bills aren’t getting the usual home field bump and are actually underdogs in Orchard Park. I suppose the Patriots have theoretically earned that respect, although I’m not sure how anyone can respect an organization full of filthy cheaters. At any rate, I’ve got to go with my heart in this one. This is your shot Rex Ryan. Is your team for real?? This is a huge opportunity for Buffalo to prove their legitimacy and for QB Tyrod Taylor to validate himself as a worthy NFL starter. Zach isn’t a big Rex fan, but also thinks that the Steelers beat themselves last week more than anything against the Patriots. He likes Buffalo’s defense to make the difference.
My Pick – Buffalo Z’s Pick – Buffalo
Dallas at Philadelphia (-4)
Dallas scored a narrow victory in Week 1, while Philly’s comeback fell short in a loss that wasn’t as close as it looks on paper. The Eagles get the requisite home field advantage, but I’m not sure any of that matters when these two teams meet. Cowboys’ WR Dez Bryant is out for atleast a month after suffering a broken foot last weekend, and that’s a huge difference maker. Add to that the fact that Eagles’ RB DeMarco Murray, who ran for only 9 yards on 8 carries (and one of those was for 8 yards), will be motivated to come out strong against his old team. Philadelphia surely won’t throw the ball as much as they did against Atlanta. I think this will be a fantastic game, and I have to go with the home team. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Philadelphia Z’s Pick – Philadelphia
Seattle at Green Bay (-3.5)
The Sunday night game on NBC features two of the NFC’s top teams and Super Bowl favorites. Green Bay had no problem conquering the Chicago Bears in Week 1. Conversely, the Seahawks suffered a surprising overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams. It’d be really interesting if Seattle went 0-2. Will that happen?? If this game were being played in the Pacific Northwest I’d say no way. However, the Packers win over 80% of their games at Lambeau Field during the Aaron Rodgers era and Seattle hasn’t won there since 1999. I have to go with Green Bay. Zach likes the Packers as well…in an overtime thriller.