Credit where credit is due…Zach nailed the Cleveland/Kansas City game a week ago. He predicted that the Chiefs would start slow and the game would be close, and that’s exactly what happened. Having said that, I am also going to take an opportunity to pat my own back for picking the Chargers over Washington and New Orleans over the Packers. So at the end of the day Zach was 3-4, while I was only slightly better at 4-3. As I have stated before, we don’t put money on these picks and there is a reason for that.
My Season: 8-8
Zach’s Season: 7-9
Cincinnati (-3.5) at Indiana
Apparently Bearcats’ head coach Luke Fickell is amongst the leading candidates to get the vacant gig at USC. I am sure he would make significantly more money in that scenario, but personally I think it’d be crazy to leave a solid team on the rise that will be joining a Power 5 conference in a couple of years to enter the pressure cooker of leading a program that considers anything less than a national championship to be a disappointment. Anyway, as far as this game goes, both teams are coming off of solid seasons a year ago, but they’ve gotten off to vastly different starts this year. Cincinnati is already 2-0, while the Hoosiers are 1-1, having been obliterated in their season opener at Iowa. I think Cincy is still ascending, while Indy may have peaked last year. I don’t believe this game will be particularly close, and Zach concurs.
My Pick: Cincinnati
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
Oklahoma State at Boise State (-4.5)
Well, the Big 12 has sent out invitations to the conference realignment party and the Broncos aren’t on the guest list. If you understand there is much more that goes into all of that than just success on the football field then you aren’t surprised. Nevertheless, this is another opportunity for Boise to prove that they can compete on the field even if they fall short off of it. Thus far they are 1-1, with that heartbreaking loss to UCF in the season opener reverberating even here in West Virginia. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have become a forgotten team in the Big 12, but they are 2-0. I know about the blue turf & all that jazz, but I’m going with the upset in this one. With the Big 12 shuffling its lineup in a couple of years I believe the Cowboys will want to begin showing that Texas & Oklahoma won’t be missed. Conversely, Zach thinks a turnover will make the difference in a close Boise victory.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Z’s Pick: Boise State
Minnesota at Arizona (-4)
Is it possible that I overvalued Minnesota while underappreciating Arizona in my NFL Preview?? A week ago the Cards had no problem taking down my predicted Super Bowl Champions, while the Vikings lost to the Bengals in overtime. It looks like Arizona is a better team than I thought they’d be, so I have to pick them in this one. Zach believes the Cardinals look like a legit Super Bowl contender and will win easily.
My Pick: Arizona
Z’s Pick: Arizona
Tennessee at Seattle (-5.5)
As mentioned, Tennessee was beaten soundly by Arizona a week ago, while Seattle defeated the Indianapolis Colts. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson already looks to be in mid-season form, and that home field is extremely difficult for opponents. If Tennessee can control the clock with RB Derrick Henry eating up yardage they might be able to keep it close, but Henry’s measly 58 yards in the season opener doesn’t inspire confidence. Zach sees Wilson as an early front runner for MVP and predicts a double digit win for the home team.
My Pick: Seattle
Z’s Pick: Seattle
Kansas City (-2.5) at Baltimore
Cleveland gave Kansas City a real fight last week, but does that mean the Browns are that good, or that KC just wasn’t as prepared as they should have been?? One could ask the same question about Baltimore, who lost a hell of a game on Monday night in Vegas. In my season preview I predicted that the Ravens wouldn’t be as good as most “experts” thought they’d be, and a rash of injuries to their stable of running backs has made me even more confident in that assessment. I believe the Chiefs will shake the cobwebs of last week’s slow start and be emboldened by overcoming it to get a hard fought victory. It won’t be easy on the road, but look for a comfortable KC win. Zach thinks it’ll be close but likes the road team to cover the points.
For those who may be new to these picks we normally choose five games each week. However, since we didn’t do this at all last year, and since the college schedule was abnormally stacked with awesome season openers last week, and since the NFL is back this week…well, y’all get what I call bonus picks. To be honest that’s a tad bit dangerous since neither of us got out of the gate too well. Zach nailed Fresno covering the points against Oregon, while I correctly predicted Georgia upsetting Clemson. Unfortunately though, we both finished 4-5. Let’s see if we can do better this week.
My Season: 4-5
Zach’s Season: 4-5
Oregon at Ohio State (-14)
I usually don’t like picking games involving teams we dealt with just a week ago, but this one is just too tempting. The Buckeyes had a tougher time with Minnesota in their opener than most anticipated but still managed to win by two TDs. Oregon also had a close call but emerged victorious. Both teams are preseason playoff participants for me, but I don’t think the Ducks will go to Columbus and win. Can they keep it close?? Probably not. I think the home team wins by 15-20 points. Zach isn’t impressed by either team, opining that Ohio St. needs to take pressure off their young QB by running the ball. He thinks this will be a boring game but the home team will win by enough.
My Pick: Ohio State
Z’s Pick: Ohio State
Iowa at Iowa State (-3.5)
I think this could end up being the most fun game of the weekend. The Hawkeyes surprised some people a week ago by handling the Indiana Hoosiers by 3+ touchdowns, but not me. Meanwhile, the Cyclones handled their business against in-state 1-AA foe Northern Iowa. Who knew there were so many colleges in the state of Iowa?? Anyway, I think this might be a really close one…like field goal close, which is why I’m taking the visitors. Zach notes that he’d pick the Hawkeyes easily if the game were on their home turf, but thinks it’ll be a little tougher winning on the road. Like me he won’t go so far as to pick the underdogs to score the upset, but believes they will keep it close.
My Pick: Iowa
Z’s Pick: Iowa
Utah (-6.5) at BYU
Conference realignment has really messed with some of the traditional charm of college football, including long-standing rivalries, so it’s nice to see intrastate games that are all too rare nowadays. The Cougars, whose invitation to join the Big 12 might already be in the mail, beat Arizona in their opener, while the Utes hardly broke a sweat beating some pissant irrelevant team that atleast got a nice payday. Utah is a rare road favorite because everyone is impressed by the big bad PAC 12, but I’m picking the upset. Zach concurs, stating that once again he isn’t all that impressed with either team.
My Pick: BYU
Z’s Pick: BYU
LA Chargers (-1.5) at Washington
Since I predicted that the San Diego…excuse me…Los Angeles Chargers will narrowly upend the highly touted Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West crown I suppose I need to get behind them early. I’m a little concerned about RB Austin Ekeler’s hamstring injury, but even if he misses the game I think QB Justin Herbert is good enough to get the job done, and I like LA’s defense to stop the Redskins’ (yes, I still call them that…deal with it) lineup of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Antonio Gibson, & WR Terry McLaurin. I think Chargers’ pass rusher Joey Bosa will have a huge game. Conversely, Zach has more faith in FitzMagic than Herbert and believes the ‘Skins get the win.
My Pick: LA Chargers
Z’s Pick: Washington
Cleveland at Kansas City (-6)
All the talking is done for the Browns. It’s time to prove that they’re worthy of the hype, but I don’t think they can. The crowd at Arrowhead Stadium provides one of the biggest home field advantages in sports, and that’s not going to change now. I’ll be disappointed if the Chiefs don’t win by double digits. Zach is all in on the Cleveland hype and thinks the home team will start slow and find themselves in a nail biter.
My Pick: Kansas City
Z’s Pick: Cleveland
Arizona at Tennessee (-3)
I expect big things from both teams this season, so the loser of this game shouldn’t be affected too terribly. The Titans get the requisite home field bump, and I think they’ll win by atleast that much. Look for RB Derrick Henry to wear down the opposing defense and allow his team to take control in the fourth quarter. Cardinals’ QB Kyler Murray can’t hurt you if he’s on the bench, right?? Zach thinks Arizona has a bright future, but believes Tennessee is a team built to win now.
My Pick: Tennessee
Z’s Pick: Tennessee
Green Bay (-3) vs. New Orleans
It should be noted that this game is being played in Jacksonville, FL due to Hurricane Ida. Drew Brees ain’t walking thru that door for the Saints, so they have to hope that former Heisman Trophy winning QB Jameis Winston can finally fulfill all the potential so many have always seen in him. The offseason hasn’t been any easier on The Pack, as quarterback Aaron Rogers creates more drama than the writing team of Days of Our Lives. Will all that off the field turmoil cause issues on the field?? I think it just might, especially in the first half of the season. But fear not Packer fans, because I think they’ll eventually figure things out. That being said, I am picking the upset in this one. While Zach agrees with me that Green Bay is a Super Bowl caliber team in the long run he also believes they’ll get out of the gate fast. He thinks Winston is garbage and New Orleans will get destroyed in this game.
Just a few days ago I was pretty excited about the return of football with capacity crowds and business as usual, but now The Sickness has grabbed headlines again and it seems as though that sense of normalcy could be in jeopardy. At the moment no sweeping proclamations have been made, but stay tuned. In the meantime we shall proceed.
The biggest news outside of Covid related chaos is the NFL’s expansion to a 17 game regular season. To achieve that teams played one less pre-season game, so the only people really affected are the fringe players trying to make a team’s roster. There are always old faces in new places, teams with new coaches, and overhyped rookies looking to become the next Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Randy Moss, or Lawrence Taylor, and we’ll have a much better idea in a few months how all of that might shake out. For now it’s all guesswork, but atleast it’s fun, and I am glad that I feel encouraged enough to bring back this preview after a one year hiatus. As always the team’s record from the previous season is in parentheses, with the predicted record for this season following it. And remember…no wagering. I am not a professional and most of the time I’m not very good at this.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) 10-7
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) 10-7
Cleveland Browns (11-5) 9-8
Baltimore Ravens (11-5) 8-9
I think Bengals’ QB Joe Burrow is the real deal, and he’s going to surprise a lot of people. The Browns might be a bit of a surprise too, but I don’t believe it will be in a good way. Everyone assuming they are the presumed division champs will likely be wrong. Am I undervaluing the Ravens?? Perhaps. But every team can’t have a winning record and make the playoffs, and in a highly competitive division my vibe is that Baltimore will run into some problems and fall short of expectations (actually those problems have already began with the loss of starting tailback JK Dobbins to a torn ACL).
Buffalo Bills (13-3) 11-6
New York Jets (2-14) 8-9
New England Patriots (7-9) 8-9
Miami Dolphins (10-6) 7-10
The Bills have to be considered amongst the favorites in the conference. To be honest I thought QB Josh Allen was a bad choice as the 7th overall pick in the draft a few years ago, but he’s doing a pretty good job of proving me wrong thus far. There’s no reason to believe Buffalo won’t dominate a division that is a mess otherwise. I think the Jets may have finally found a decent quarterback, and they also added some other pieces on both sides of the ball that make me think they won’t be the dumpster fire we’ve come to expect. The Patriots aren’t the same team without Tom Brady, and I’m not as confident in their rookie signal caller Mac Jones as I am in New York’s rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The Dolphins might take a step back this season, but I hope they aren’t dumb enough to give up on second year QB Tua Tagavailoa. I believe they are building a solid team around him and good things are ahead, but it might take another year to gel.
Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) 11-6
Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) 10-7
Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) 7-10
Denver Broncos (5-11) 7-10
No one has been talking about the Chargers this offseason, and that might be a good thing. I always prefer to sneak up on people rather than have the pressure of lofty expectations. QB Justin Herbert acquitted himself quite well in his rookie campaign and there’s no reason to expect anything less this year. The Raiders & Broncos aren’t going to be any better than they were a year ago. I expect both teams to utilize multiple quarterbacks and need their defense to lead them to some victories. The stunner here is the KC Chiefs. Most talking heads will consider them legit Super Bowl contenders, but I think they’ll lose a dogfight for the division, sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard, and be watching the Super Bowl at home like the rest of us.
Tennessee Titans (11-5) 12-5
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) 11-6
Houston Texans (4-12) 5-12
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) 5-12
The Colts acquired QB Carson Wentz from Philly in the offseason, but will that do them any good?? Wentz can’t seem to stay healthy, and at the moment it’s a tossup as to whether he’ll be ready to go Week 1. That leaves the door open for Tennessee. RB Derrick Henry is a stud & receiver Julio Jones came over from Atlanta a few months ago. He’s 32 years old, but with AJ Brown in the lineup Jones won’t have the pressure of being the top wideout. Replacing tight end Jonnu Smith won’t be easy, and that may be the chink in the armor of the Titans’ offense. I’m not sure what to make of the Titans’ defense, although they did add former Steelers’ linebacker Bud Dupree. Watch time of possession in their games. I think they’ll dominate that and win a bunch of low scoring grinders. Everyone has heard more than enough about the Deshaun Watson situation in Houston and there are still a ton of questions. Will they trade him?? Will he be suspended for a big chunk of the season?? If Tyrod Taylor takes most of the snaps I think the Texans are in for a long season. I don’t have much faith in the Jags either, although I think new head coach Urban Meyer will build around rookie QB Trevor Lawrence and have his team in the playoff conversation a year or two from now, but losing first round draft pick Travis Etienne in the preseason doesn’t bode well for this season.
I’m still not buying the Cowboys as legit Super Bowl contenders, although I believe QB Dak Prescott will be just fine returning from the ankle injury that torpedoed his season last year. I suppose the Giants could surprise me and be much better than they were a season ago, but my vibe is that they are just kind of treading water. It blows my mind to see how far the Eagles have fallen since winning the Super Bowl less than five years ago. Can Jalen Hurts make the leap from excellent college quarterback to solid NFL starter?? I think Philadelphia has a bunch of very good players on both sides of the ball, but they have lacked cohesion the past few seasons and I’m not sure that’s going to change. That leaves Washington as the favorite. Is their enough FitzMagic left in the 38 year old signal caller now playing for his ninth NFL team?? Having an elite defense led by Chase Young, Montez Sweat, & Landon Collins will certainly help.
Arizona Cardinals (8-8) 11-6
Los Angeles Rams (10-6) 10-7
Seattle Seahawks (12-4) 9-8
San Francisco 49ers (6-10) 7-10
This race is going to be fun to watch. Arizona & the Rams both made moves this summer, and whether or not they work out well one has to give them credit for not standing pat. Los Angeles thinks they have a better chance of advancing in the playoffs with 33 year old veteran QB Matthew Stafford than with 2016 top overall pick Jared Goff, who they shipped to Detroit. I think it might be a positive chain of events (eventually) for both guys. The Rams lost starting RB Cam Akers to injury but traded for former Patriot Sony Michel so I don’t believe the team will be negatively affected all that much. The defense, led by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, should be stout. Having said that, I am giving a slight edge to the Cardinals, who added receivers DeAndre Hopkins & AJ Green and have a defensive unit featuring newly acquired defensive end JJ Watt, first round LB Zaven Collins, and a very talented secondary. Seattle has won 10+ games seven out of the past eight years and Russell Wilson is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but I feel like they’ll drop off just enough to miss the playoffs. ‘Frisco needs to decide on a quarterback, and once they do that I think they can get back on track, but that might be a couple of years from now.
Minnesota Vikings (7-9) 9-8
Green Bay Packers (13-3) 9-8
Chicago Bears (8-8) 6-11
Detroit Lions (5-11) 1-16
Or as ESPN’s Chris Berman used to call it, The Norris Division. I am sure I don’t have to rehash the Packers/Aaron Rodgers drama that has dominated offseason news, but I think it might be just enough of a distraction to cost them the division. The Lions have stunk most of my nearly five decades on the planet and I don’t think that will suddenly change in 2021. Much like the 49ers the Bears have a quarterback conundrum. Conventional wisdom says the smart thing to do is start either journeyman Andy Dalton or former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles under center, but we all know the pressure from fans & the media will lead to rookie Justin Fields being handed the keys to the kingdom. That decision will likely pay off down the road, but it creates chaos right now. So why am I so high on the Vikings?? I don’t know to be honest. Kirk Cousins isn’t spectacular, but he can be a very good quarterback at times and he has solid weapons at receiver & running back. The secondary could be one of the best in the NFL, and guys like Danielle Hunter & Anthony Barr should disrupt opposing offenses often. It won’t be pretty, but I think the Norris goes to the Vikes by a nose.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) 13-4
New Orleans Saints (12-4) 8-9
Atlanta Falcons (4-12) 6-11
Carolina Panthers (5-11) 5-12
I’ve stopped waiting for Tom Brady to fall of a cliff. That whole regimen of 25 glasses of water per day, fruit smoothies, fish, and lots of veggies apparently works because he proved a year ago that he deserves much more credit for the Patriots “dynasty” than Bill Belichick. I don’t expect much to change this season, and it helps that the rest of the division will probably struggle. New Orleans has named Jameis Winston as their new starting QB after the retirement of Drew Brees, and Winston is going to have to prove himself before I start to believe in him. I don’t anticipate much improvement by the Falcons or Panthers. Carolina must stop opposing defenses from stacking the box to stifle premier RB Christian McCaffery, and for that to happen former Jets first rounder Sam Darnold will need to finally live up to his potential. Atlanta got rid of receiver Julio Jones and I’m just not impressed by what remains.
Football is over (mostly). Pitchers & catchers have reported. March Madness is right around the corner, and before it arrives we’ll have the Daytona 500. We have a lot on our plate folks…it’s a veritable sport-asbord. Well okay…that’s probably not a word that’s going to become anything, so let’s just jump on in.
It’s been a couple of weeks since the Super Bowl. A few thoughts:
*Congrats to the Kansas City Chiefs. I thought they’d win their division, but I also assumed they’d fall short in the playoffs. Thankfully the New England Patriots FINALLY showed some chinks in their armor and the Chiefs were able to take advantage and take home their first Lombardi Trophy in a half century. Well done.
*As much as I like Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes he should not have won Super Bowl MVP. That award rightly belonged to RB Damien Williams, who averaged over 6 yards/carry and had a touchdown. I know how these things work…Mahomes was destined to be the MVP no matter what if his team won. That’s just how it is. It’s a better story. But let’s be honest…Mahomes didn’t really get things going until the 4th quarter. Williams was consistent the entire game.
*The only commercial that even registered with me was the Jeep ad featuring Bill Murray in a Groundhog Day spoof. Citizens of The Manoverse may recall that I adore Groundhog Day, and since the big game just so happened to take place on the “holiday” it was simply perfect.
*Unlike a lot of older church folk I was not overly offended by the halftime show featuring Shakira & Jennifer Lopez. It was just about what I expected. There are a ton of more musically gifted artists that the NFL could have booked for the gig, but that’s not what the halftime show is about. Occasionally the ideas of musicality & showmanship intersect…Paul McCartney (2005), Michael Jackson (1993), Bruno Mars (2014), Prince (2007)…but more often than not they are two separate concepts. People must realize that the NFL isn’t going to drag The Mormon Tabernacle Choir or The Gaither Vocal Band out onto the field to sing hymns for the Super Bowl halftime show.
I was never a big fan of Kobe Bryant during the two decades he played for the Los Angeles Lakers, and I was harsh on him when circumstances dictated. However, sports fans do tend to enjoy aging athletes going out on a high note even if we’ve cheered against them their entire career, and Kobe’s 60 point game in his NBA swan song a few years ago was epic. In retirement he had transformed into a doting Dad, and really, who could dislike that?? To call the helicopter crash that killed Kobe tragic seems like an understatement. Nine people lost their lives, including three teenage girls, with one of those being Bryant’s daughter Gigi. I don’t believe in deifying athletes, but I also understand that it is difficult for human beings to wrap our mind around such a heartbreaking catastrophe. It made me sad to learn that Bryant had a disagreement with his parents & siblings a few years ago and wasn’t on speaking terms with them at the time of his passing. I cannot even imagine the pain that his family, along with the loved ones of the others killed in the crash, must be going thru.
Congratulations to the LSU Tigers for winning their third national title since 2003 (all three coming under a different head coach). It seemed inevitable, especially in the latter part of the regular season, but getting past the Clemson Tigers in the championship game was no easy feat. Would the Ohio St. Buckeyes (who were upset by Clemson in the semifinal) have given the Bayou Bengals a tougher fight?? Perhaps, but it’s folly to speculate. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has certainly paid his dues in the sport, seems like a genuinely decent man, and is a perfect fit in his home state of Louisiana.
Zach beat me in our bowl picks. He was 28-13, while I went 22-19. Picking Ohio State to win the national championship didn’t help my situation since they essentially lost two games for me. However, the good news for yours truly is that I did come out ahead in our season long Pigskin Picks of Profundity. I was 61-43, while Zach finished with a .500 record of 52-52. As always a big thank you to my nephew for playing our silly little game. It’s all in good fun. There’s no money involved. We’re just two football fans who enjoy a good challenge.
With pitchers & catchers having reported now seems like a good time to weigh in on the sign stealing scandal that cost three MLB managers…AJ Hinch (Houston Astros), Alex Cora (Boston Red Sox), & Carlos Beltran (New York Mets)…their jobs. Cora was a bench coach for the Astros a few years ago while Beltran was a player for the team. To say that the situation “rocked baseball” feels inaccurate, since MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has taken very little action. Pete Rose was banned from baseball for betting on his own team (which obviously means he didn’t throw games), while the Astros won a World Series by blatantly cheating, yet none of those players are facing a ban and there’s no threat of their championship being stripped. Seriously?? Fay Vincent has got to be rolling over in his grave.
The NFL is heading down the regular season home stretch, which means a few things. There was no Thursday night game, which made for a rather boring evening. The good news is that there are Saturday games now, so pay attention to the schedule so you don’t miss any action. The playoffs are taking shape, so several games involve teams playing for their post-season lives or atleast jockeying for seeding. Zach (3-2) bested me (2-3) last week, and kudos to him for picking the Atlanta Falcons. He may not have predicted the surprising upset, but he knew something was amiss. Merry Christmas to all who take time to stop by our cozy little corner of the info superhighway on occasion. The Manofesto continues to be labor of love and the best therapy this guy could ever dream of having.
My Season: 54-40
Zach’s Season: 48-46
New Orleans (-3) at Tennessee
The Saints are obviously in the playoffs already, but they’re still battling the 49ers, Seahawks, & Packers for the NFC’s top seed. It’s a different story for the Titans. They could a) win the AFC South, b) make the playoffs as a wildcard, or c) not make the playoffs at all. Normally I put a lot of stock in a team with so much at stake, but not only is New Orleans clearly a better team, but they also have something to play for as well. Tennessee will likely make a game of it on their home turf, but I think the favorites win by atleast a touchdown. Zach agrees. He believes Titans’ RB Derrick Henry will have another nice game, but it won’t be enough to overcome a better one from Drew Brees.
My Pick: New Orleans
Z’s Pick: New Orleans
Carolina at Indianapolis (-7)
Fans here in West Virginia are excited because former Mountaineers QB Will Grier will get his first career start for the Panthers. Grier was chosen in the third round of last spring’s draft but was beaten out by Kyle Allen…an undrafted free agent with a year of pro experience…for the backup job. That decision proved to be noteworthy after starter Cam Newton got injured early in the season, and Allen did well for awhile. However, at 5-9 the powers-that-be in Carolina have decided it’s time to see what Grier can do. Newton is injury prone, expensive, 30 years old, and a free agent, so the future may be now for the Carolina Panthers. The Colts are familiar with quarterback issues, although to be fair Jacoby Brissett seems to be a solid NFL starter. Brissett hasn’t been Indy’s problem…it’s all the damn injuries. Trust me…I have TY Hilton & Marlin Mack on more than one fantasy team and their frequent absences have killed me. At any rate, s much as I’d love to see Grier do really well and get a leg up on becoming Carolina’s next starting QB I have to believe that Indianapolis will take care of business on their home turf. Conversely, Zach has no faith in Indy and thinks Carolina will control the clock & eat up yards on the ground to score a mild upset.
My Pick: Indianapolis
Z’s Pick: Carolina
Dallas (-2.5) at Philadelphia
This is it…the epic battle of two 7-7 teams for the NFC East crown. I don’t think it matters which team actually makes it to the playoffs…whichever one gets there will likely be bounced in the first round by a really good wildcard. Jerry Jones has probably already made his decision to fire Jason Garrett, but it’d be really entertaining to watch ol’ Jerry’s head explode when the Cowboys miss the playoffs. The Eagles have fallen mightily since winning the Super Bowl a couple of years ago, but hey might be able to find a silver lining in an otherwise subpar season by winning the division. Zach thinks the Cowboys are too inconsistent and won’t be able to follow u last week’s big win with another.
My Pick: Philadelphia
Z’s Pick: Philadelphia
Kansas City (-5.5) at Chicago
I had such high expectations for the Bears this season, but they’ve severely underachieved and QB Mitch Trubisky has regressed to the point that I’m not sure his stay in Chicago will last all that much longer. Conversely, the Chiefs have been as advertised and are probably thinking Super Bowl. The talking heads like to point out cracks in KC’s armor, but I’m just going to go ahead and put this out there…I think they can beat both the Baltimore Ravens & the New England Patriots. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but I am opining that it is possible. As far as this game goes, a lot depends on Trubisky. Every once in awhile he does show up & play like the high first round pick that he was, and if that happens this could be a really fun game. However, it is more likely that Trubisky is as unimpressive as he’s been most of the season and the Chiefs win by double digits. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Kansas City
Z’s Pick: Kansas City
Green Bay at Minnesota (-4.5)
Everyone has kind of forgotten about the Packers while fawning all over the 49ers, Seahawks, & Saints, but they are 11-3 and could still be the top seed in the NFC. But…but…the Vikings are only one game behind, so the NFC North is up for grabs and will probably be decided by this game. I am intrigued by the points. I know it’s a home game for Minnesota, but it feels like the oddsmakers are giving them a lot of respect. This is the Monday night game, and Aaron Rodgers is only 7-8 on Mondays, which seems weird. I’m far too lazy to look it up, but it feels like he usually has a good game but his team somehow lets him down. Will that happen again?? I don’t think so, and neither does Zach.
Another Thursday night, another night making picks while actually watching football. Thank God the Thursday NFL game is usually not one we choose to discuss. That may change though since we’ll be strictly NFL the rest of the way. We both did fairly well picking last week’s conference title games. I was 5-2, while Zach was 4-3. We’ll be posting our annual College Football Bowl-A-Palooza in the coming days (I believe the first bowl game takes place next Friday), but as usual they are a separate entity from these picks. At any rate, I hope The Manoverse is having a pleasant holiday season and doing most of your shopping online. Enjoy.
My Season: 52-37
Zach’s Season: 45-44
Houston at Tennessee (-3)
I don’t think many football fans are surprised that the AFC South is up for grabs this late in the season, but there probably aren’t many that thought the Titans would be in the mix. I predicted they’d go 5-11 & finish dead last in the division, which was obviously way off base. Even more curious is the fact that they’re doing it with Ryan Tannehill under center after former first round pick Marcus Mariota was benched. I guess when you have a beast at running back like Derrick Henry that helps a whole lot. Let’s not shortchange the Texans though. At 8-5 they are tied with Tennessee atop the division. This is the first of two meetings in three weeks between these teams, which is peculiar scheduling indeed. Tennessee gets the requisite home field bump, but I’m still not sold on Tannehill. If Houston’s defense can keep Henry in check I think they walk away with a comfortable victory. Zach is a little concerned about Houston in the wake of their shockingly poor performance a week ago against Denver, but he thinks they’ll rebound and score the upset.
My Pick: Houston
Z’s Pick: Houston
Miami at NY Giants (-3)
I’m really trying to avoid focusing on the same half dozen teams these last few weeks so this unappealing game makes the cut. Giants’ rookie QB Daniel Jones is probably going to be back after missing last week’s game with a sprained ankle, but whether it is he or Eli Manning under center makes very little difference. The Dolphins are likely going to miss out on the #1 overall pick in next spring’s draft, but I’m not sure if that’s a positive or a negative. Both teams are a mess and might stay that way for the next couple of years. I hope this turns out to be a tight game decided late in the 4th quarter (or overtime)…otherwise it’s basically just a waste of everyone’s time. That being said, The Vibes are telling me to go with Miami. Zach thinks there may be a bit of FitzMagic left for the Dolphins and is also picking the upset.
My Pick: Miami
Z’s Pick: Miami
LA Rams at Dallas (even)
Jerry Jones is almost as bad of an owner as the clown that owns my Pittsburgh Pirates, although in a totally different way. Wherein Pirates’ ownership has neglected the franchise for years & refuses to spend money necessary to compete, Jones actually cares too much and thinks he’s way smarter than he is. The Cowboys would improve dramatically if he’d step down as general manager and let people who know what the hell they are doing run the team. That’s not going to happen though, and head coach Jason Garrett will be the sacrificial lamb. The funny thing is they might still make the playoffs since the entire NFC East is atrocious. The Rams aren’t going to be in the playoffs. On one hand that’s not surprising given the whole Super Bowl Curse thing, but on the other hand it is a dramatic departure from a year ago when head coach Sean McVay & quarterback Jared Goff were celebrated flavors of the month. It’s interesting that the ‘Boys can’t even score the usual three point home advantage…seems like the folks in Vegas have lost faith in them. It’s a tall order for the Rams to head into Texas with nothing to play for and face off against a team fighting for its life & a coach desperate to save his job, but that’ll make it all the more delightful when the visitors get the win. Zach concurs and foresees a blowout.
My Pick: LA Rams
Z’s Pick: LA Rams
Atlanta at San Francisco (-10.5)
I predicted that the 49ers would make the playoffs, but I had no idea they’d be this good and a legit Super Bowl contender. Conversely, the Falcons are much worse than I expected. Frisco isn’t going to lose at home, but the points are a bit of a concern. Double digit spreads are unusual in the NFL. Having said that, the Niners have won 7 of their 11 victories by ten points or more, so I’ll roll with it. Zach thinks the Falcons are slowly figuring things out, but sees Frisco scoring the victory…just not by ten points.
My Pick: San Francisco
Z’s Pick: Atlanta
Indianapolis at New Orleans (-9)
Indianapolis should title their 2019 highlight video “What If?”. What if Andrew Luck would have stuck around?? What if receiver TY Hilton hadn’t missed half the season with a calf injury?? What if RB Marlon Mack wasn’t so injury prone?? They are a better team than their record shows, but much like my Pittsburgh Steelers the deck has been stacked against them all season long and they just can’t catch a break. On the flip side the Saints have already clinched their division and have to be kicking themselves for that last second loss to San Francisco that’s going to cost them home field in the presumed NFC Championship (although anything can happen). I like Indy. They have potential and will probably be back in the playoff conversation next year, but it’s just not meant to be right now and they’re going up against a well-oiled machine. The points give me brief pause, but I like the Saints to get the job done on Monday night. Zach agrees.
Last week’s results were surprisingly decent given the amount of games we picked and the number of those contests in which the points played an important part. I (7-4) lengthened my season lead over Zach (6-5) slightly, but all in all I am inclined to not pick so many games again anytime soon. College football is in the home stretch and the NFL has passed mid-season, but there is lots of fantastic football remaining. I am hopeful that includes a playoff berth by our Pittsburgh Steelers, a fun bowl location for my Marshall Thundering Herd, and any kind of post-season appearance for the West Virginia Mountaineers, although only one of those three things seem likely at the moment.
My Season: 39-31
Zach’s Season: 34-36
Penn State at Ohio State (-17.5)
This is the big matchup of the weekend. The Buckeyes are undefeated and #2 in the rankings. A lot can still happen, but their playoff spot seems to be secure unless they lose twice in the next few weeks, which seems unlikely. The Nittany Lions fell to Minnesota a couple of weeks ago and are currently ranked #8, but there is a path to the playoff if they win the Big Ten title game and a couple of other dominoes fall. If this game were in Happy Valley my perspective might be different, but it’s in Columbus so I just can’t imagine Ohio St. will lose. But will they cover?? 17+ points is a lot. Penn St. rebounded nicely from their loss with a victory over Indiana, but that’s not exactly impressive. I’m going to climb out on that fragile limb and predict that the Buckeyes will open up a can o’ whoopass at home. They don’t necessarily need “style points”, but it can’t hurt. Zach reluctantly admits that the Buckeyes are playing on another level and defensive end Chase Young is a legit force who’s difficult to stop. However, he isn’t comfortable with the points and is hopeful that Penn St. will step up & atleast cover.
My Pick: Ohio State
Z’s Pick: Penn State
Texas A&M at Georgia (-13.5)
Another week, another brutally tough opponent for the Aggies. The #4 Bulldogs are back in the playoff hunt and their inexplicable double overtime loss to South Carolina last month is all but forgotten. They’ve already secured a spot in the SEC title game and will likely play #1 LSU, so a loss this week doesn’t necessarily kill their playoff hopes if they go on to win the conference championship. Meanwhile, at 7-3 A&M is playing for bowl position. They’re building for the future and haven’t looked that bad in losses to Clemson, Auburn, & ‘Bama (LSU lies ahead next week). Could this be a not-as-surprising-as-you’d-think upset?? I won’t go that far, but Georgia has been shown to be somewhat vulnerable and I think A&M is atleast as good as if not better than South Carolina, so I believe this game will be decided by less than two TDs. Zach is quite specific in opining that A&M will keep things close until 6 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. I’m not sure what’s going to happen then, but if that is indeed precisely when the tide turns I’m taking that young man to Vegas immediately. He just feels like Georgia has too much offensive firepower.
My Pick: Texas A&M
Z’s Pick: Georgia
Texas at Baylor (-5.5)
Baylor was so close to beating Oklahoma!! Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, which validated all of the disrespect they were getting. That’s too bad because I think they Bears are legitimately a good team. Fortunately for them they will get a rematch in the Big 12 title game. The Longhorns aren’t necessarily worse than I predicted, it’s just that a couple of surprising teams jumped them in the standings. After losing a tight one to Iowa St. a week ago the same logic I applied to that game can be used here…I think Texas is athletically superior and will keep the game close, whether or not they can close in the 4th quarter. If Baylor wins it’ll be by less than a touchdown. Zach thinks Texas is too inconsistent and predicts that Baylor will rebound nicely with a comfortable win.
My Pick: Texas
Z’s Pick: Baylor
Seattle at Philadelphia (-1.5)
So I guess everybody is jumping off of the Russell Wilson bandwagon and hopping aboard the Lamar Jackson Express. Personally I believe that to be fool’s gold, but we’ll see. The Seahawks are 8-2 but battling the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC West crown. They’re riding a three game winning streak. The Eagles are in a dogfight with the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East and probably need to win the division to make the playoffs. I think Seattle has the better team right now and Wilson is just playing lights out. I don’t believe Philly will be able to stop him. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Seattle
Z’s Pick: Seattle
Green Bay at San Francisco (-3)
A-A-Ron vs. Jimmy G. is the QB skirmish you never knew you always wanted to see, and we’ll all have a front row seat on Sunday night (well…I’ll be watching WWE Survivor Series, but someone keep me posted). This will certainly be ‘Frisco’s toughest test yet, but atleast it’s at home instead of The Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field. I thought the Packers would be battling the Chicago Bears for NFC North supremacy, but instead it’s the Minnesota Vikings who are posing a challenge. Okay okay…to be honest way back in August I predicted both the Vikings & Packers would go 8-8 while the Bears easily won the division, but obviously that’s not how things have played out. At any rate, I think I like the 49ers defense a little more and that’s enough for me to pick them. Conversely, Zach thinks Rodgers is just too good and will have a big game.
We took a bye week due to unfortunate personal circumstances, but life moves forward and it’s good to get back in the saddle. The College Football Playoff Committee released their initial rankings, and I have opinions that essentially boil down to a) they got it right and b) right now it means diddly squat. I especially liked the fact that Clemson was ranked outside the Top 4 (at #5) not because the ACC is undoubtedly the weakest conference but because they just got done beating up on Wofford. Playing that game in September?? Fine. Not a problem. Playing it in November?? Inexcusable. Pathetic. Having said that, the Top 4 are going to cancel each other out in head-to-head matchups so don’t worry Dabo…your team will steamroll the rest of their cupcake schedule and be gifted a spot in the playoff. Of course Alabama plays Western Carolina in a couple of weeks which isn’t any less infuriating, but atleast they play in one of the best conferences so they’ll get a bit more clemency. At any rate, both college & pro football are starting to get really interesting, so enjoy the ride with us.
My Season: 29-25
Zach’s Season: 26-28
Penn State (-6.5) at Minnesota
At the moment the Nittany Lions are in the playoff, but they still have to go to Columbus right before Thanksgiving, so stay tuned. The Golden Gophers are undefeated, but a closer look reveals they haven’t played much of anybody and the back end of their schedule is really tough. The fact that this game is in Minneapolis might help a little, but I am still inclined to ride with the favorites. Conversely, Zach believes Penn St. might be looking ahead to that very important game with the Buckeyes and could be walking into a trap. He believes that special teams will play a key role and even if the visitors win they may not cover the points.
My Pick: Penn St.
Z’s Pick: Minnesota
Iowa at Wisconsin (-9.5)
We could call this the What Might Have Been Bowl. The Hawkeyes started off good, then suffered back to back losses to Michigan & Penn St. and have been back on the winning track for a couple of weeks. The Badgers looked like a possible playoff contender but have lost two straight games. I like Wisconsin to win at home, but the near double digit points give me pause…I think it’ll be closer than that. Zach foresees a low scoring defensive struggle but thinks Wisconsin RB and former Heisman frontrunner Jonathan Taylor will be the difference maker.
My Pick: Iowa
Z’s Pick: Wisconsin
LSU at Alabama (-6.5)
This is the big one. Normally I don’t get too pumped for LSU/Bama because as much as I appreciate good defense a 60 minute battle of field position & field goals can be a bit tedious. However, both teams have suddenly become high powered offensive juggernauts. The over/under is 63 points, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the over wins. The Tide gets the home field advantage, and rightfully so…but The Vibes are telling me this is going to come down to the wire, so whoever wins I think it’ll be by less than a touchdown. Zach thinks it’ll come down to who makes the fewest mistakes. He doesn’t believe LSU can run the ball against Alabama’s defense so QB Joe Burrow will have to make plays. Ultimately though it comes down to coaching, and Zach has long been a big Nick Saban fan.
My Pick: LSU
Z’s Pick: Alabama
NY Giants (-1.5) vs. NY Jets
The Battle of New York?? New Jersey?? Both teams are terrible right now so I’m not sure either state would want to claim them. There is no home field advantage since they share a stadium, so it comes down to how one views the little things. For me the fact that the Giants have Saquon Barkley at running back tips the scales slightly in their favor. Zach doesn’t think this game will be the least bit interesting to watch, and he’s probably right. Anyway, he’s rolling the dice on the Jets.
My Pick: NY Giants
Z’s Pick: NY Jets
Seattle at San Francisco (-6)
I don’t expect the 49ers to finish the season undefeated, but will it be the Seahawks that knock them down a notch?? Seattle’s only two losses have been to the Saints & Ravens, so one must assess whether or not San Francisco is on the same level as those teams. QB Russell Wilson will be in the MVP discussion, but ‘Frisco QB Jimmy G. isn’t far behind. I expect this to be a terrific Monday Night Football game…it might even get me to change the channel from my wrasslin’. I sense another close battle decided by a late field goal, so I’m going to pick the underdogs. Zach thinks the 49ers defense can neutralize Wilson and will be the difference.
I thought I might be distracted tonight by The World Series, but the game is pretty much over in the 7th inning, so it’s on to football. Zach (3-2) bested me (1-4) last weekend and has drawn closer to a .500 record and the season lead. Injuries in the NFL have wreaked havoc on my fantasy teams thus far, so I must admit to waning enthusiasm. Thankfully these picks help me maintain a certain level of interest.
My Season: 27-22
Zach’s Season: 24-25
USC (-13) at Colorado
I had high hopes for the Trojans, but injuries wrecked any shot they had at playoff contention. However, at 4-3 they still have a decent opportunity to get into the conference title game. Conversely, the Buffs are on a three game losing streak and the schedule looks to be rough the rest of the way. Their goal has to be bowl eligibility at this point, and I’m not sure I’d bet on that happening. Can Colorado muster enough home field mojo to atleast cover the points?? I don’t think so. Conversely, Zach sees USC as inconsistent and does believe Colorado can keep things close in a high scoring game.
My Pick: Southern Cal
Z’s Pick: Colorado
Auburn at LSU (-10)
The Bayou Bengals have visions of a conference championship and a playoff berth on their minds. They’re undefeated and have a huge home field advantage. Will they be looking ahead to a date with Alabama in Tuscaloosa?? I suppose it’s possible, but they do have a bye next week so it shouldn’t be as big of an issue as it could be. Auburn is a dangerous Top Ten foe, but it seems like a lot of folks have jumped off that bandwagon after they lost at Florida a couple of weeks ago. I expect a really fun game, and I think LSU will get the victory…however I believe it will be a single digit win. Zach understands the possibility of this being a trap game for LSU, but can’t ignore the excellence of QB Joe Burrow & the dominating defense.
My Pick: Auburn
Z’s Pick: LSU
Notre Dame at Michigan (-1)
The Disney TV folks were probably hoping that this would be the big matchup of the week, but the luster has been diminished just a bit. The Irish are somehow in the Top Ten, but the truth is they haven’t played a tough schedule outside of a loss to Georgia. The Wolverines have lost two games, the latest just a week ago to Penn St. Rumors of Jim Harbaugh bolting for the NFL have already begun. So basically this game is going to save one of these teams’ season. Another loss might knock Michigan completely out of the rankings, while Notre Dame losing would open up the floodgates of the talking heads accusing them of being overrated. I have no idea what to expect, but when in doubt I tend to ride with the home team. Zach was heartbroken by Michigan’s loss to Penn St., but recognized some positives. Having said that, he’s going with the old “expect the worst” philosophy, which is probably smart.
My Pick: Michigan
Z’s Pick: Notre Dame
Wisconsin at Ohio State (-14)
A week ago this game was going to be epic. It still could be, but thanks to an upset by Illinois that no one saw coming more people have jumped off the Badger bandwagon than the folks that have ditched Auburn. In the legendary words of Ferris Bueller…”life moves pretty fast”. Having said that, there’s still a lot at stake here. The Buckeyes are eyeing a playoff spot, and both teams could meet again in the conference title game. There are a couple of things to consider. First, The Horseshoe in Columbus is a rather significant home field advantage for Ohio St. Secondly, even if one concedes that the home team deserves to be favored those points are…attention grabbing. Was the Illinois game just an anomaly…or did it expose Wisconsin as a fraud?? Is Ohio St. really a Top 5 team, or should we be talking about their relatively weak schedule?? I envision a low-scoring game (the over/under is 50 and I’d take the under)…defense, special teams, field position, ground & pound. The Vibes tell me Ohio St. wins, but not by 14 points. Zach reluctantly admits that the Buckeyes look scary good right now and thinks they’d definitely make the playoff if it began now. However, he leans toward last week being a glitch and looks for Wisconsin to rebound strong.
My Pick: Wisconsin
Z’s Pick: Wisconsin
Carolina at San Francisco (-5)
The 49ers are undefeated y’all!! It’s been awhile since they had a good football team in ‘Frisco, but anyone who’s been following Jimmy G. isn’t all that shocked. Conversely, the Panthers’ are being led by backup QB Kyle Allen since the injury bug has bitten Cam Newton. That’s not a bad thing though…Carolina is 4-2 and RB Christian McCaffrey is a legit MVP candidate. This is going to be a fun game to watch, and my sense is that turnovers will play a key role. I’m pulling the trigger on an upset because no one goes unbeaten in the NFL and ‘Frisco will eventually win their division easily anyway. Conversely, Zach has no hesitation in predicting a big Niners win.
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.