Okay, so…I’m running out of time in a busy week. As usual it was a bad idea to pick a Thursday night game, but it is what it is. Both of us are still under .500, so hopefully we can improve on that this weekend. Keep an eye out for our college bowl picks as well. Enjoy.
My Season: 49-50
San Francisco (-3.5) at Seattle
Is it possible that Mr. Irrelevant could become the next big time NFL quarterback?? That might be a tad optimistic, but Brock Purdy is impressing people in ‘Frisco thus far. At 7-6 the Seahawks have been far better than I anticipated, thanks on part to QB Geno Smith. Still, they are a couple of games behind the Niners in the division, so this feels like a must win. I think the home field is huge and will rattle Purdy. Conversely, despite their quarterback woes, Zach sees ‘Frisco as being on another level right now.
My Pick: Seattle
Z’s Pick: San Francisco
Miami at Buffalo (-7.5)
The talking heads are once again questioning Tua Tagovailoa, who has struggled the past two games. Conversely, though they haven’t been perfect, few are doubting Buffalo’s Super Bowl credentials. Inclement weather could be a factor, but that still favors the Bills. Despite believing they’ve looked a bit sluggish Zach still thinks Buffalo will overcome the Dolphins’ speed at the skill positions on their way to a dominant win.
My Pick: Buffalo
Z’s Pick: Buffalo
NY Giants at Washington (-4.5)
Neither team is winning the division, but I suppose one or the other could earn a wildcard. I have been surprised by the Giants’ relative success, but I still think Washington is a slightly better team. Zach thinks it’s a pretty even matchup, and he likes New York to snag a close win.
My Pick: Washington
Z’s Pick: NY Giants
Tennessee at LA Chargers (-3)
The Titans will win the AFC South unless they completely collapse down the stretch. The Chargers got a huge win last Sunday night and are certainly in play for a wildcard. Can they get two victories in a row?? I don’t believe so. Ball control is important…Tennessee wins in the trenches. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Tennessee
Detroit at NY Jets (-1)
I told you the Lions would pleasantly surprise people this year, and I also said that the Jets were on the rise but aren’t there quite yet. Both assessments have proven accurate. I don’t even know who’s playing quarterback for the home team this week though, and that’s an issue. I’m predicting a dominant Detroit performance. Zach agrees.
College football’s conference championship weekend wasn’t kind to either one of us. Zach had his worst week of the season, going 2-8, while Yours Truly broke even at 5-5, which was good enough to recapture the season lead. Stay tuned for our College Football Bowl-a-Palooza in the near future, but as far as these picks go it’s all NFL all the time from here on out.
My Season: 46-48
Zach’s Season: 45-49
NY Jets at Buffalo (-9.5)
The 9-3 Bills are humming along just as most expected, and are the odds on Super Bowl favorites. However, they’ve got some work to do. Meanwhile, the 7-5 Jets are a little ahead of schedule and have a realistic opportunity to make the playoffs if a few dominoes fall in the right direction. One of those things has to be their very own quarterback. Has New York given up on Zach Wilson?? Is Mike White, a 2018 5th round pick from Western Kentucky, the answer?? Can either QB lead their team to the postseason?? A win this week would certainly help, but I don’t think it’ll happen. The only question in my mind is whether Buffalo will cover, and I believe that is likely. Zach is concerned about the points, but not enough to pick the underdogs.
My Pick: Buffalo
Z’s Pick: Buffalo
Cleveland at Cincinnati (-6)
In the previous installment of The Battle of Ohio the Bengals posted an easy 19 point victory in Cleveland. But that was six weeks ago, way before noted massage enthusiast Deshaun Watson returned to be the Browns QB. Watson may make things a bit more interesting (on the field 👀), but at the end of the day I expect Cincinnati to get the happy ending. Zach thinks Cincy is hitting their stride & QB Joe Burrow is beginning to resemble the guy he was a year ago.
My Pick: Cincinnati
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Houston at Dallas (-17)
The 1-10-1 Texans received three first round draft picks (the first of which they flipped for additional picks and took a guard for their O-line) in trading the aforementioned Watson, so they’re in the early stages of a total rebuild. Conversely, the 9-3 Cowboys are right about where I expected them to be…awaiting an early playoff exit that will surprise absolutely no one. Let’s face it…Houston isn’t winning this game. The only debate is whether the generally underwhelming Dallas offense can repeat last week’s performance in which they layeth the smacketh down on the hapless Colts & put 54 points on the board. I don’t think they’ll do that two weeks in a row, so I’m predicting only a two TD victory. Conversely, Zach likes the Cowboys’ solid rushing attack to lead then to another huge win.
My Pick: Houston
Z’s Pick: Dallas
Minnesota at Detroit (-2)
Have I apologized to the Vikings?? I can’t remember. I predicted Minnesota would be 4-13…instead they are currently 10-2 & will easily win what ESPN’s Chris Berman used to call the Norris Division. I was a little more accurate in my assessment of the Lions, opining that the Lions would be a pleasant surprise, and at 5-7, which is already more wins than a year ago, I think they’ve lived up to mildly positive expectations. I’m a little surprised by the points because even though Detroit has the home field I wouldn’t think they’d be favored. Do the folks in Vegas know something we don’t?? I know the visitors have a few injuries, but doesn’t every NFL team have the same problem this time of year?? Anyway, I’d love to see Detroit defend their home field, but for once I’ve got to allow my brain to overrule my heart. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Minnesota
Z’s Pick: Minnesota
Miami (-3.5) at LA Chargers
Tua Tagavailoa is the starting QB on my dynasty team, and I’ve watched with some level of intrigue all season as talking heads intermittently question his abilities. Isn’t the proof in the pudding though?? The Dolphins are 8-4, just a Buffalo collapse away from leading the division. I’m not sure that’s going to happen, but I like their chances of securing a wildcard. Don’t count out the Chargers either. At 6-6 they’re not winning their division, and a playoff berth will be an uphill climb, but they could easily be 2 or 3 victories better if a few balls had bounced their way. It’s a really tough call because I appreciate what both teams bring to the table. That being said, The Voices are telling me an upset is brewing on Sunday night. Zach thinks turnovers could make the difference & believes in Miami to get the job done.
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 college football playoff…at this moment…would be Georgia vs. Ohio St. & Alabama vs. Oregon. However, we know that Georgia & Alabama are playing each other in the SEC title game so things will change. Undefeated Cincinnati sits at #5, but even if they finish unbeaten I don’t know if they’ll be included, and quite honestly I am not so sure they’d deserve to be anyway. As far as the Heisman, I like RB Kenneth Walker from Michigan St., QB Matt Corral of the Ole Miss Rebels, & Ohio St. RB Treyveon Henderson. Let’s see who grabs the opportunity to shine when Walker & Henderson go head to head this weekend. Okay, so…Zach (0-5) had a pretty bad week, while I (3-2) was average, meaning I’ve extended the season lead to five games (I’m still below .500 though). We’ll probably be doing some extra picks in the next few weeks as college football reaches its regular season climax and the NFL rounds the turn into its second half.
My Season: 34-38
Zach’s Season: 29-43
Michigan State at Ohio State (-19.5)
I really don’t understand the points. These are two Top 10 teams that are in the playoff conversation. The advantage the Buckeyes have is their one loss came way back in September to Oregon, while the Spartans stumbled just a couple of weeks ago at Purdue. Timing matters, in life and in college football. Let’s not overlook the fact that the winner here most likely secures a spot in the Big Ten title game, and with a victory Michigan St. would hold head-to-head tiebreakers over Michigan & Ohio St. ESPN’s College Gameday will be on the scene just in case anyone didn’t get the memo that it’s a rather huge matchup. I think the home team will win, and they may even do it comfortably…but by almost three TDs?? Nah!! That’s crazy. Zach thinks Ohio St. is building momentum & peaking at the right time, but he also considers Michigan St. running back Kenneth Walker to be the Heisman frontrunner. Ultimately the points are just too much for him too.
My Pick: Michigan State
Z’s Pick: Michigan State
UCLA (-3) at Southern Cal
The Battle of Los Angeles has definitely lost its luster hasn’t it?? The Bruins initially looked like they might be pretty good this year, but have lost two of their last three games and sit at 6-4. Everyone keeps waiting for head coach Chip Kelly to turn things around, and to his credit this is his first winning season at UCLA in his fourth year, but mediocre isn’t going to cut it so his seat may be a bit warm. The 4-5 Trojans already fired their head coach back in September and are probably under the delusion that they can make a big splash with whomever they hire next. Perhaps they will, I don’t know. At any rate, once upon a time this would’ve been the prime time game on ESPN/ABC or Fox, but instead we’re getting a 4pm kickoff, and I have no idea what to expect. There is no significant home advantage since the two schools are less than an hour apart. It’s a coin flip for me, and in that scenario I always pull for the underdog. Conversely, Zach doesn’t believe it’ll be much of a game and likes the visitors to win big.
My Pick: Southern Cal
Z’s Pick: UCLA
Oregon at Utah (-3)
There is a lot at stake here. The Ducks are all but locked into the PAC 12 title game, but they’re also in the playoff conversation and cannot afford a misstep. The Utes are battling Arizona St. for a berth in the conference title game, so we could see these two in a rematch next month. This is the prime time game on ABC, and I’m happy I don’t have any plans so I can stay home to watch. Y’all know I love me some playoff chaos, but you may also recall that I predicted Oregon would be in the Final Four, so my pride is contending with my preference as a fan. At the end of the day I feel like the home field plays a significant role in games like this, which is why I’m leaning toward Utah. Zach foresees a fun, high scoring game and thinks Oregon will do enough to win and remain in the playoff hunt.
My Pick: Utah
Z’s Pick: Oregon
Detroit at Cleveland(-10)
The damn Lions somehow managed to tie our Steelers last week!! I know Pittsburgh was playing with a backup quarterback, but still…it was embarrassing. Can Detroit take things a step further & get over the hump this week?? Meanwhile, as I predicted, the 5-5 Browns haven’t met their unreasonably high expectations. QB Baker Mayfield has never lived up to the hype that comes with winning the Heisman Trophy and being the #1 overall draft pick, although, to be fair, it is rare that anyone justifies those lofty expectations. However, the AFC North is up for grabs and everything can change in the second half of the season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Detroit score the upset & get their first win since December 6, 2020, but I’m not counting on it. I do think they’ll keep it close though. Zach’s opinion of both teams is pretty low, but after an embarrassing beatdown by the Patriots he believes Cleveland will rebound.
My Pick: Detroit
Z’s Pick: Cleveland
Dallas at Kansas City (-2.5)
Are the Chiefs back?? Everyone had kind of given up on them until they beat the Rodgers-less Packers & followed that up with a proper thrashing of the Raiders on Sunday night. Now the bandwagon seems to be full again. Meanwhile, the 7-2 Cowboys have had a stumble or two but otherwise they’ve mostly taken care of business throughout the season. Did you know that the Chiefs actually used to be the Cowboys?? Well, okay, not really. In the old days, when the AFL was a thing in the 1960s, one of their franchises was the Dallas Texans. At the same time the NFL expanded and the Cowboys were born. I guess Dallas wasn’t big enough for both teams, so the Texans relocated to Missouri (not Kansas) and became the Chiefs. At any rate, I think the home field is important and believe KC will get just enough big plays out of their high powered offense to score a close victory. Zach likes Dallas in a high scoring upset.
We didn’t pick the Clemson game last week, but please indulge me while I give myself a rare pat on the back. In my pre-season poll I pondered the question “Could it be that the ACC is getting better just as the (Clemson) Tigers aren’t quite as elite as they have been??”. It didn’t go down exactly like I thought it would, but yeah…I called it!! No playoff for Clemson this season. Now, if only my weekly picks in these games were as accurate. Sadly both Zach (2-3) and myself (1-4) struggled again last week, so I’m going against my better judgement by chasing wins with bonus picks. Y’all are welcome, even though it may just blow up in our faces.
My Season: 11-15
Zach’s Season: 10-16
Florida International at Florida Atlantic (-10.5)
I can’t be the only one who gets these two teams mixed up, so let’s take a little climb up the learning tree. The 2-2 Florida Atlantic Owls call Boca Raton (45 miles north of Miami) home, represent Conference USA, and are coached by Willie Taggart (former head coach at Oregon & Florida St.). The 1-3 Florida International Panthers are out of Miami, also play in C-USA, and their head coach is Butch Davis (who has also coached for Miami, North Carolina, & the Cleveland Browns). I don’t think there’s much of a home field advantage to be had, and in rivalry games like this most other conventional rules can be tossed aside. So it comes down to vibes and what assumptions one can make based on what we’ve seen thus far. FAU lost to Florida & Air Force, allowing both teams to score 30+ points. FIU has only played one game against top tier competition, and that was a four TD+ loss to Texas Tech. This feels like a relatively low scoring, tight game to be decided by turnovers, penalties, & special teams. Something along the lines of 28-24, which means that I don’t like the spread at all and will take the underdogs to cover. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Florida International
Z’s Pick: Florida International
Cincinnati (-2.5) at Notre Dame
I had to look at those odds multiple times utilizing a few different sources. Sure, Cincy is a solid team that had two consecutive 11 win seasons before last year’s abbreviated campaign in which they logged 9 victories before narrowly losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl. They handled a well regarded Indiana team last week. I am by no means saying that the Bearcats aren’t good. However, they’re an AAC team typically not on the same level as a program like Notre Dame. Not only that, but this game is in South Bend and the 4-0 Irish have given no one any reason to doubt them outside of being pushed into overtime by Florida St. in the season opener. Hell, they took Wisconsin’s best punch a week ago and still won by 4 TDs, so what am I missing?? Why is Cincinnati favored in this game?!?!?!?? It sounds pretty insane to me, so I’m going with the home team to score the “upset”. Conversely, Zach believes the Bearcats are for real and this is their opportunity to prove they belong in the playoff conversation.
My Pick: Notre Dame
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Ole Miss at Alabama (-14.5)
Well, atleast we don’t have to worry about Clemson in the playoff, so it’ll be fresh to some degree. Now if only we could see the Tide lose a couple of games and fall out of contention, how cool would that be?? Unfortunately that’s probably not going to happen. ‘Bama has won four games by an average of 29 points, although it should be noted that they’ve not faced anyone with a pulse other than Florida, a game they only won by two points. The Rebels are 3-0 and have also beaten up on clearly inferior competition. In attendance will be highly touted recruit Arch Manning, Peyton & Eli’s nephew. It is my understanding that both Ole Miss & Alabama are high on his list, so it’ll be interesting to hear down the line how this game affected his decision. At any rate, if it were being played in Oxford I might be tempted to pick the upset. Enigmatic Rebels’ head coach Lane Kiffin spent a few years as ‘Bama’s offensive coordinator awhile back so obviously he’d love to snatch a shocking victory. However, with the game being contested in Tuscaloosa I just don’t see it happening. The only question is if the home team can cover the points, and I believe they will. Zach’s man crush on Nick Saban makes his choice easy.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
Arkansas at Georgia (-18.5)
I didn’t think the Razorbacks were legit, but I was wrong. They handled Texas A&M and moved into the Top 10. Unfortunately they now must travel to Athens and challenge the undefeated #2 Bulldogs. I’d be really surprised if Georgia loses, but can they cover?? The points feel a bit disrespectful. Having said that, it feels like a “go big or go home” moment, and I did pick Georgia to be a playoff team and thus far they’ve done nothing to dissuade me, so I’m counting on them to notch a three touchdown victory. Zach respects Georgia’s defense & team speed, but he doesn’t like the spread and thinks Arkansas will keep it close.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Arkansas
Detroit at Chicago (-3)
Good Lord the Bears were awful a week ago. At the time of publication it is unknown whether the Bears’ starting QB will be rookie Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, or Nick Foles…but does it matter?? Conversely, the Lions are coming off a last second loss to the Baltimore Ravens in which it took the longest field goal in NFL history to beat them. Can they use that heartbreaking defeat as motivation?? If they were playing a playoff caliber team I might have doubts, but the Bears aren’t that, so I think Detroit scores the mild upset. Zach agrees on all counts.
My Pick: Detroit
Z’s Pick: Detroit
Seattle at San Francisco (-3)
In my NFL Preview I predicted that the NFC West would be fun to watch, and so far they have not disappointed. This game might end up being a factor in a few months when deciding a playoff spot, and don’t think for a second these teams don’t realize that. Seattle lost to the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, while ‘Frisco was on the losing end of an unsurprising Aaron Rodgers miracle, so both clubs will be looking to rebound. I think the home field actually does make a difference, so I’m picking the Niners. Zach, on the other hand, believes potential league MVP Russell Wilson will lead his team to victory.
My Pick: San Francisco
Z’s Pick: Seattle
Arizona at LA Rams (-6)
Staying in the NFC West, these are the teams I believe will be battling for the division crown at the end, so it’s a pretty big early season matchup. Both are undefeated, but obviously that’ll change for one of them. It looks like the trade for QB Matthew Stafford was a wise move for the Rams, while the Cards have developed into a seemingly complete team. This is a tossup for me, but whoever wins I think it’ll be by less than a touchdown. Zach foresees a close game but believes the home team will cover.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Tampa Bay (-6.5) at New England
It’s the Brady Bowl. I’m sure the folks in Boston & Tampa are pumped, but personally I’d rather see both teams lose. That being said, I think it’s been well established by now that the “Patriot Dynasty” was more about Brady than it ever was about Belichick. The oddsmakers seem to agree since the home team is a near touchdown underdog. The Sunday Night Football folks at NBC are probably going to be disappointed because I think this one will be over rather quickly and the defending Super Bowl champs might win by 4 or 5 TDs. Zach concurs.
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.
Before we move forward with this week’s picks I must correct an oversight on my part. The past couple of weeks we’ve been dealing strictly with NFL games because I indicated the college football season was over except for the bowl games. The problem is that isn’t exactly true. There are playoff games going on at the FCS, Division II, & other “lower” levels of NCAA football. We wouldn’t pick those games because neither Zach nor myself are knowledgeable at all about any of the teams involved, but I feel like it is important to recognize that those games exist. As a student at Marshall University in the early 90’s I witnessed multiple 1-AA playoff games and was privileged to be in the stadium when my Thundering Herd won the national title in 1992. There are a lot of football snobs out there that only acknowledge “big boy football” as played by the SEC, Big Ten, Notre Dame, Florida State, etc., but the football played in other divisions can be just as exciting & fun to watch, and there have been no shortage of players from lesser known smaller schools that have made an impact in the NFL. Their putrid 2016 season notwithstanding, part of me has often wished Marshall would have stayed in 1-AA/FCS. Since moving up the best they have been able to do is battle for a MAC or C-USA conference title and then play in some prosaic December bowl game that no one cares about or remembers. As a fan it was much more interesting to see my team move thru a 16 team playoff and have an opportunity to play for a championship. At any rate, I felt it important to recognize those other, often overlooked & marginalized, levels of college football. Last week both Zach & I were at our mediocre best, he at 2-3 and I at 3-2. Average seems to be our thing this season. A few NFL teams have already clinched playoff berths, but these last few weeks will see a lot of jockeying for position. Since Sunday is Christmas Day much of the action will take place the day before, which is fine with me. Merry Christmas fellow football fans. I sincerely wish all of you a most delightful holiday.
My Season: 47-46
Z’s Season: 33-60
Indianapolis at Oakland (-4)
The Raiders are already in the playoff field, while the Colts really need to win their final two games and even then face an uphill battle. I’d really love to pick Indy since I predicted that they’d win the division, but it just doesn’t feel like the chips are falling in their favor. I think Oakland is just too good. Zach has apparently been infected with my Vibes. He’s picking the upset though he doesn’t really know why. Good luck with that dude…it rarely works out well for me.
My Pick: Oakland
Z’s Pick: Indianapolis
Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-3)
The Bucs still have an opportunity to win their division, but winning their last two games is probably necessary. Even a wildcard spot is going to be tough. Conversely, the Saints can only play spoiler and have to win out just to finish at .500. I don’t expect any surprises and neither does Zach.
My Pick: Tampa Bay
Z’s Pick: Tampa Bay
Minnesota at Green Bay (-6.5)
After beginning the season 5-0 the Vikings have lost 7 of the last 9 games. Their defense is still formidable, but they’ve sputtered offensively and QB Sam Bradford no longer looks like a long term answer in case Teddy Bridgewater is unable to make a successful comeback. The Packers have had a roller coaster season but are riding a four game winning streak and have an outside shot at the playoffs…maybe even a division title. These are simply two teams going in opposite directions and I see no evidence the tide will turn this week. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Green Bay
Z’s Pick: Green Bay
Denver at Kansas City (-4)
I told y’all the Chiefs were going to the playoffs, and a win here would probably secure a spot. Denver’s quarterback situation has torpedoed any chance they had of achieving the success they had last year. Peyton Manning retiring has that effect. Although it does look like they made the right choice to let Brock Osweiler walk in free agency. There will be no upset here, atleast in my opinion. Conversely, Zach thinks Denver, with their back against the wall and in a dogfight for a playoff spot, will get the job done.
My Pick: Kansas City
Z’s Pick: Denver
Detroit at Dallas (-7)
The Cowboys are going to win their division before the inevitable postseason crash & burn. The Lions have snuck up on everybody, but they have Green Bay hot on their trail and need to win out to secure a division title. This is your Monday night game and I am predicting an early start to Dallas’ certain demise. Zach disagrees. He predicts it’ll be a blowout for the favorites.
I have to be honest. Choosing which games we are going to pick has become difficult. College football is, of course, over. The NFL is down to the nitty gritty. We have a good idea of which teams are definitely in the playoffs and which teams certainly will not be playoff bound. The real interest lies in the handful of teams who are fighting for just a couple of playoff spots. However, I don’t want to just keep talking about the same half dozen teams every week. That’s redundant & tedious for both myself and The Manoverse. Ah well…there are worse problems, right?? At any rate, last week Zach went 2-3, while I went 3-2. Zach’s faith in Johnny Football proved to be misguided, while we both underestimated how far the San Francisco 49ers have gone off the rails. That brings my season record to 50-41, while Zach is currently 46-45. I think it’s pretty cool that both of us are still above .500. Hey ESPN…call me!!
Buffalo (-5.5) at Oakland Neither team is going to the playoffs. The Bills aren’t mathematically eliminated, but they are definitely fighting an uphill battle. To be fair though they have shown improvement. It looks like they don’t believe QB EJ Manuel is the answer, so they’ll likely have to address that issue in the offseason. Conversely, even though they seem like they have their quarterback of the present & future with Derek Carr, the Raiders are a mess. They’ll be looking to hire a big time coach in the offseason. As far as this game goes I am going to go with the upset. Call it a gut feeling. Zach thinks Buffalo will win easily.
My Pick = Oakland Z’s Pick = Buffalo
Detroit (-8) at Chicago
The big sports news this week is that the Bears are benching QB Jay Cutler and starting Jimmy Clausen. It’d be shocking if that is a long term answer. Will Cutler be with the Bears next season?? Can head coach Marc Trestman keep his job?? I have no idea. Meanwhile, the Lions are in a dogfight for both their division lead and a wildcard spot. They have a lot riding on this game and I don’t think they’ll mess it up. Zach concurs.
My Pick = Detroit Z’s Pick = Detroit
Indianapolis at Dallas (-3)
The Colts have already clinched their division. The Cowboys lead their division and need to win atleast one more game. This is going to be a shootout. I expect the Palace in Dallas to have a playoff atmosphere. However, I also expect Andrew Luck to have more bullets in his gun than Tony Romo. Zach agrees.
My Pick = Indianapolis Z’s Pick = Indianapolis
Seattle (-7.5) at Arizona The defending champion Seahawks are still in the playoff hunt, but the Cardinals have clinched the division title. However, the Cards are down to 3rd string QB Ryan Lindley. I have no doubt that Arizona will put forth their best effort, and eliminating Seattle from playoff contention would be sweet for them (and every other NFC playoff contender). I just don’t believe that a Seattle team with everything on the line will go down easily. Zach, on the other hand, is all in on the Cardinals despite their shaky quarterback situation.
My Pick = Seattle Z’s Pick = Arizona
Denver (-3) at Cincinnati
The Bengals took care of business last week by knocking that arrogant jackass Manziel down a peg or two, but now it’s time for them to lose. Cincy is just a half game in front of Pittsburgh & Baltimore in the AFC North, and both of those teams have very winnable games this week. The Broncos have already clinched their division and I suppose it’s not out of the question that they could take their foot off the gas these last couple of weeks. I hope they wait until next week versus Oakland to do that. Zach concurs.
Okay I just have to vent…again. This college football playoff thing is a complete joke. I never in a million years thought something could be worse than the BCS, but the current system has somehow managed to make the BCS look logical & fair. As an alumnus of Marshall University and a longtime fan of the Thundering Herd I find it outrageously offensive that they have thus far been excluded from the playoff committee’s Top 25. Even some of the talking heads thought this would finally be the week that the Herd was included, but instead Minnesota…a three loss team that was defeated by Ohio St. just a few days earlier…remained in the same #25 spot they’d held previously. Three loss teams Louisville and Clemson (who lost a few days ago just like Minnesota) are both ranked ahead of 10-0 Marshall as well. To add insult to injury, last week on ESPN’s Mike & Mike former Florida St. QB Danny Kanell, whose prickishness just oozes thru the TV screen, said in reference to some highly ranked team (it may have been the Seminoles, who like Marshall have had many question the strength of their schedule) that they can only play the teams that are put in front of them. Oh really?? That’s exactly what Marshall has done you sanctimonious assclown, and they’ve beaten the snot out of everyone they’ve faced (unlike Florida St., which is the luckiest team I’ve ever seen and should have lost atleast 2 games already). No one is saying that Marshall should be in the playoff. That’s not the point. The issue is that the committee not even putting them in their Top 25 is ridiculous. It’s basically a bunch of arrogant elitists saying to someone they perceive as “lesser” than them “you’re not invited to our exclusive club”. D*****bags like Kanell even refer to games among the “power” conferences as “big boy football”. The problem with their logic is that the “power” 5 conferences AND the “other” 5 conferences are ALL in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (what used to be called Division 1-A) and therefore should have equal access to the FBS National Championship. If the “have-nots” aren’t going to have that kind of access then the divisions need revised. Let the chosen ones play “big boy football” while guys like Danny Kanell lube up and pleasure themselves watching it on TV, and allow the teams in the MAC, C-USA, Mountain West, AAC, & Sun Belt to form their own division and play for a separate national title. Maybe some “lower” teams like Boise St. would try to move up to “big boy football”. Maybe some current 1-AA teams would move up into whatever this new “lower” division would be. It’s all good. The point is that we could remove all pretense and let the morons in the media focus their idolatry on their chosen few, while the little guys would still have something legit to play for.
Anyway, sorry for the rant. Y’all are here for some picks. Last week I went 3-4, bringing my season record to 35-32. Zach was an impressive 6-1 and nailed the prediction that Alabama would defeat Mississippi St. but not cover the 7½ point spread. His season record is now 36-31. This looks like kind of a mediocre week in college football, but I think we’ve found a few noteworthy games as well as a couple of NFL matchups that should be fun. Enjoy.
Arizona at Utah (-4)
Neither of these teams is heading to the playoff or even the Pac 12 title game, but both are solid Top 25 teams that have had quietly successful seasons. The Utes get the slight home field advantage, but I think Arizona is the better team and will win this game easily. Zach likes the Wildcats by a TD.
My Pick = Arizona Z’s Pick = Arizona
Louisville at Notre Dame (-3.5)
It’s awfully convenient that Louisville was never given the time of day when they were in the old Big East, but now all the sudden they are in the ACC and the playoff committee awards them a Top 25 spot even though they’ve lost three games (including an early season loss to now 4-6 Virginia) and have such luminaries as Murray St. and Florida International on their schedule. Oh by the way, Marshall also played Florida International and beat them by almost the same margin as Louisville did. The Irish have lost 3 out of their last 4 games and have quietly slipped out of the polls. Not even the idiotic playoff committee ranks Notre Dame. Apparently Minnesota’s victories over Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee, San Jose St., & Purdue (honest to God…the Gophers haven’t beaten anyone with a damn pulse…exactly what Marshall is accused of) are more impressive than Irish wins over Stanford and…well, okay…Stanford is the only decent team Notre Dame has beaten and even they are only 5-5. At any rate, I think Notre Dame is going to open up a can of epic whoopass on Louisville, and I hope it happens just to make the playoff committee look stupid. Zach has no love for Notre Dame, but he thinks they’ll win.
My Pick = Notre Dame Z’s Pick = Notre Dame
USC at UCLA (-3.5) The Battle of L.A. And it may also decides who will meet Oregon in the Pac 12 title game. I suppose UCLA still has an outside shot to make the playoff if all the dominoes fall their way, but that is highly unlikely. The Bruins have the slight home field advantage, but I’m not sure that means much considering both teams are based in the same city. I’m going with UCLA if for no other reason than I ranked them 5th in my pre-season poll and they might actually get there if they keep winning, therefore making me look like a freakin’ genius. Conversely, Zach believes that the Trojans will win by three TDs.
My Pick = UCLA Z’s Pick = USC
Detroit at New England (-7) When I was a kid the Detroit Lions were a joke. Occasionally they’d have a decent season, but for the most part they were mired in mediocrity. Not even the great Barry Sanders could lead them to a Super Bowl appearance in the 90’s. But right now they are having a really good season and the folks in Vegas give them 16-1 odds to make it to The Super Bowl. We’ll have a much better idea if the Lions are legit after this game. The Patriots, whose eulogy was being written by the geniuses at ESPN about a month & a half ago, have risen up like one those horror movie killers that never really die. Trust me, there is no one on Earth who’d like to see New England crash & burn more than your humble Potentate of Profundity, but I’d be shocked if that occurred in this game. Zach likes the Patriots…but not by 7 points. He thinks the Lions will lose a close game and cover the points.
My Pick = New England Z’s Pick = Detroit
Arizona at Seattle (-6.5) The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks have been knocked back down to mediocrity quicker & even moreso than I predicted. At this point it will be a struggle for them to make it to the playoffs. One of the reasons why?? The division leading Cardinals, who own the best record in the NFL. Raise your hand if you saw that coming (put your hands down…liars). However, Arizona has lost QB Carson Palmer for the season and now must rely on journeyman Drew Stanton to lead them the rest of the way. Stanton got off to a good start last week in a victory over the Detroit Lions, but can he keep it up?? If this game were being played in the desert I might say yes, but it is being played in Seattle at one of the league’s most raucous venues. If the Seahawks have any hope of defending their crown this is a must win and I think they will rise to the occasion. Zach has lost faith in Seattle’s celebrated defense and thinks it is the Cardinals who deserve that kind of respect now.
Well…last week was definitely an improvement over the previous one, although I remain unsatisfied and determined to do better. I went 3-2, with Louisville, the Denver Broncos, & the Philadelphia Eagles all winning for me. Zach correctly picked the Dallas Cowboys over the Seattle Seahawks while we both whiffed on the Baylor/TCU game. Baylor won an entertaining Arena League-esque 61-58 battle but didn’t cover the 8½ point spread. Zach went 2-3 for the week to fall below .500 for the season:
Me = 18-20 Zach = 18-19
I’m kind of bored with the highly ranked SEC teams beating one another, atleast from a prognosticating standpoint, so those games don’t make the cut this time. They are entertaining to watch but are repetitive & monotonous to analyze. We know that the SEC champion will make it into the national playoff and I think it is inevitable that a 2nd SEC team will be there too, especially if Alabama can realistically be shoehorned in without it seeming like someone is on the take. So basically we just need to sit back and let it all shake out. There are other interesting games on the schedule and I find the question of which teams will secure the other two or three playoff spots much more thought provoking.
Iowa at Maryland (-4.5)
The Hawkeyes were in my pre-season Top 25 so I remain mildly invested in their success. They are 5-1 and have a genuine opportunity to break into the rankings if they continue to win as various other teams knock each other out. I haven’t paid too much attention to the Terrapins since their narrow loss to my WV Mountaineers back in September but they are 4-2, with the other loss being last week to the Ohio St. Buckeyes. Maryland gets the nominal home field advantage but I’m going to stick with my summertime vibes and pick Iowa. Zach concurs.
My Pick = Iowa Z’s Pick = Iowa
Nevada at BYU (-10)
I love late night west coast football. I am a night owl and even though I get up fairly early for church on Sunday it is still a part of my routine to watch these games that don’t start until 10pm or after and aren’t over until atleast 1am. It doesn’t hurt that games involving Pac 12 or Mountain West teams are typically high scoring back & forth affairs with plenty of drama, comebacks, & 4th quarter heroics. I resisted putting the Cougars in my Top 25 this pre-season because whenever I do (which is usually every year) they end up breaking my heart. So of course since I left them out this time they are 4-2 and were ranked before losing two straight so far this month. Meanwhile, the Wolfpack is 3-3 and every game…win or lose…has been a battle. Nevada is a program that seems to be slightly above average with occasional brief spikes of being very good. They have been to a bowl game 9 out of the past 10 seasons. BYU understandably has the home field advantage, but 10 points is just too much. I think it’ll be closer than that. Once again Zach is in agreement.
My Pick = Nevada Z’s Pick = Nevada
Stanford (-3.5) at Arizona St.
Stanford was ranked in most pre-season polls, including mine. However most “experts” had them hovering right around the Top 10. I had them at #17, which after two early losses (to USC & Notre Dame) is looking like a best case scenario. I said that their schedule is brutal and I was right. Conversely, I didn’t rank the Sun Devils but they are currently sitting right about where most others had them back in August. This is a huge game for both teams. They each have a realistic chance at their division crown and a spot in the Pac 12 title game, but a loss here pretty much ends those hopes. It is interesting that Stanford is favored as the visiting team. I’m not sure what that’s about since it seems to be a fairly even matchup and the home team usually gets the advantage in that scenario. I will assume that the oddsmakers know something that I don’t and go with the favorites. Zach likes Stanford’s defense and believes they will win easily.
My Pick = Stanford Z’s Pick = Stanford
Notre Dame at Florida St. (-11.5)
This is the big one. The playoff picture is kinda sorta beginning to take shape. We know the deal with the SEC and just have to see who beats who over the course of the next several weeks, We also know that if the Seminoles win this game their remaining path looks rather rather smooth, while the Irish still have a couple of potential pitfalls along the way. Those rooting for chaos & arguments about who deserves to be in the 4 team playoff should be hoping for a Florida St. loss here and a Notre Dame loss to either Arizona St. or USC next month. I’d be down with that cause it’s just how I roll. Plus the point spread is ridiculous. Zach thinks both of these teams are overrated. He’s not sure who’ll win but certainly doesn’t think it will be by double digits.
My Pick = Notre Dame Z’s Pick = Notre Dame
New Orleans at Detroit (-3) Our lone NFL game this week is a sleeper. Detroit is 4-2 and tied for the division lead with the Green Bay Packers but I don’t think anyone is paying much attention because…well…it’s the Detroit Lions. The last time they won a playoff game I was a drunken college student, George HW Bush was in The White House, Johnny Carson was still hosting The Tonight Show, Cheers & Home Improvement were dominating the TV ratings, Michael Jackson topped the Billboard charts with Black or White, and Zach hadn’t even been born. Meanwhile, the Saints are struggling at 2-3 but surprisingly remain just a game out of first in their division. The Lions get the customary 3 point bump for being at home, but this is essentially a pick ‘em. Call it unfair if you want, but I just can’t wrap my head around Detroit being a legit playoff contender and N’awlins being a bad team. It is true that every NFL season is different and it isn’t unusual to see teams go from worst to first or fall precipitously from a lofty perch. However I am going to go with the past decade or two of history and pick this game for the Saints to turn around their season. Zach is a bit more openminded than me and is willing to put all that historical perspective stuff aside (the advantages of being young). He likes Detroit’s defense and thinks they win the game easily.