by Ryan Meehan and Ryan Collins
This week’s set of games isn’t exactly dynamite. But in a way, dynamite is what causes avalanches, and avalanches are tragic when people are wounded so I can sort of see a correlation there. But to ease the damage done by so much flying shrapnel, we’ve brought in Ryan Collins to take some nailgun target practice on some of these teams. This is around the time of season where almost two-thirds of the league is considered to be “in contention”, and I think we can all agree that’s a part of the NFL that is very overdone.
For example, the Buffalo Bills aren’t going to make the playoffs. I saw that they could on some AFC playoff race bracket, and after I got done laughing I saw the NFC one and they said “The Lions are very much still alive too”. Some things you just wish were a dream. Anyway, let’s get this going and give you some scores:
Thursday Night: Cleveland Browns (4-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3)
Meehan: What I really don’t understand about this is why the Browns would get a Thursday night game on the schedule. Maybe they figured that either way they have to play the Steelers twice, and since they have no chance in hell winning either one they might as well put this game on the schedule so none of the other franchises would bitch about it. It’s not a bad approach, but it still doesn’t mean that I have to watch it. As much as the Steelers like to pride themselves on playing “tough football”, I can see them being totally careful about who they’re putting on the field if they get up early. Not talking trash, just being honest here.
Meehan’s Pick: Steelers 20, Browns 10
Collins: This is an excuse for Steeler Nation to start the weekend a day early at Cleveland’s expense. It’s also an excuse to get at least some people to watch the NFL Network for a Thursday night game. Either way, the best part about old rivalry games like this is that now they are usually more the subject of fines and suspensions. Pittsburgh in a low scoring snoozer.
RC’s Pick: Steelers 14, Browns 6
Houston Texans (9-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)
Meehan: Isn’t everybody just on the edge of their seats waiting to see who can bring home the bacon in this one? Will it be TJ Yates or Andy Dalton? Dalton is the better QB, but Houston has the better supporting cast…or at least they did four weeks ago. As long as Arian Foster is healthy, they should be able to fake their way through their injury problems. But the second he goes down, they’re back down to being a .500 team again. And don’t get me wrong, I like the Texans, but there’s no way that thing’s going to be able to sustain itself in a couple of weeks.
Meehan’s Pick: Texans 28, Bengals 22
Collins: The Texans are done. Their current QB depth chart reads as follows: Yates, Delhomme, Garcia (as in Jeff-How’s it feel to be Donovan McNabb right about now?) It’s too bad, and I hope Adrian Foster continues to put up huge numbers, but this is the chance for the (shrug) Bengals to get what can still be considered a big win at home and keep them in the hunt.
RC’s Pick: Bengals 24, Texans 21
Minnesota Vikings (2-10) at Detroit Lions (7-5)
Meehan: The Vikings almost looked important for a second on Sunday when they could have beat St. Tebow but they quickly slid back into oblivion as soon as that game was over. If you Google “The Detroit Lions are a dirty team” I am not exaggerating when I say that right underneath the search bar in grey text it says “About 8,530,000 results (0.19 seconds)”. That means that it only took the internet (a technological device which has no preference towards any team whatsoever) a fifth of a second to find eight and a half million reasons to hate the Lions. And the Vikings are even worse than that.
Meehan’s Pick: Lions 24, Vikings 21
Collins: This is one of those games where the only reason that someone will win is because somebody has to. It will be a meaningless win either way, save for those interested in the old state and divisional beefs. The Vikings are a joke, and unless the Lions let Ndamukong Suh drive the bus to the stadium, they should roll.
RC’s Pick: Lions 27, Vikings 24
Oakland Raiders (7-5) at Green Bay Packers (12-0)
Meehan: The Packers will likely run the table and I’m fine with that. It won’t mean anything when the playoffs start, and it really won’t mean anything if and when they have to end up facing the Saints. The Raiders were hell bent on destroying themselves last week, so I can’t foresee them cleaning themselves up enough to actually have a shot, especially in Wisconsin. They’ll look better than they did against the Dolphins a few days back, but in all fairness it’s not like they can do much worse.
Meehan’s Pick: Packers 40, Raiders 24
It’s too bad that the Packers are putting up an undefeated season during such a vomit-inducing year in pro football. What appeared to be a parody in years past has turned into a reign of mediocrity. There are reasons that this is the case (injuries, shoddy play, misguided expectations, etc.), and the Packers have benefited from all of them. (Even last week’s dramatic “comeback” was playing against a team playing their balls off just to stay above .500, who played some of the most negligent prevent “prevent” defense I have ever seen and practically handed the Packers a chip shot of a game winning field goal.) But regardless of reason, The Packers aren’t losing at home. Not to Carson Palmer and the unraveling Raiders.
RC’s Pick: Packers 42, Raiders 21
New Orleans Saints (9-3) at Tennessee Titans (7-5)
Meehan: Sad but true, this is probably your game of the week here. I like the Saints chances because they continue to score a lot of points regardless of how incompetent their defense is. When you’re in that situation, all you can do is work with what you have and that’s exactly what Drew Brees is doing. Sure he’s a great offensive leader, but nobody on that defense is going to listen to him get in their face about making a much needed stop late in the game, because they just aren’t wired that way. I would it would be easy as hell to get defensive free agency muscle down in New Orleans but for some reason that hasn’t been the case. The Titans are odd, they have an aging quarterback and a complete running back, And although that can make you a good team, it doesn’t necessarily make you a great team. (for more information, see Jim Everett and Eric Dickerson’s playoff record during their tenure with the Los Angeles Rams) They’re good, they look great on paper, but they couldn’t beat some of the elite teams in the league the way they beat Baltimore in week two. I guarantee if you’d airdrop the Titans into Baltimore to play that same game today the Ravens would win by at least 17 points.
Meehan’s Pick: Saints 37, Titans 20
Collins: It’s too bad that Drew Brees is having one of the greatest seasons ever at the exact same time that Aaron Rodgers is having maybe the best season ever. It seems a lot of folks in the media aren’t really noticing how good the Saints’ offense is playing. Good. I hope all the attention continues to flood the Packers’ way, and I hope the Saints get another shot at them – that would be a rematch worth getting excited about. It’s great to see the Titans surge, and with the Texans in some peril (OK, lots) they have a great shot to come back and take that division. But unfortunately they don’t have enough defense to stop Brees and the Saints, even at home. In fact, I’m not sure there’s enough defense in the entire AFC South to do that.
RC’s Pick: Saints 35, Titans 24
Philadelphia Eagles (4-8) at Miami Dolphins (4-8)
In recent years, Major League Baseball has clipped some of the last games of the year due to the fact that they haven’t mattered. It’s a different scenario as there are ten times as many baseball games as football games, and it’s a shame that that’s the case because this is one most of us could do without. Even though I have been pleased with the way the Dolphins have played after their horrendous 0-7 start, the Eagles wouldn’t show the same sense of urgency if all of them were on fire. They just don’t seem to be that concerned, and worse than that, they seem like when they could have bounced back from embarrassing losses instead they got sad and expected everybody to feel sorry for them. Right. Because everybody is going to feel sorry for a team that has the most obnoxious fans in the history of sports and also recently signed Michael Vick to the second $100 million contract of his career. Good luck with that one.
Meehan’s Pick: Dolphins 25, Eagles 16
Collins: What a dump of a game in this puke of a season. This game is sort of an accurate metaphor for 2011 in the NFL. Watching what has happened in Philly this year has been sad AND baffling. I wonder if Andy Reid even knows how many of his players will be available to go out and lose so badly in Florida on Sunday. He seems a bit bewildered that this is how it’s all going to end for him as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Vick might be back, sure – but who will he have with him? It’s good to see the Dolphins turn things around, even if it’s costing them the chance to draft Andrew Luck.
RC’s Pick: Dolphins 27, Eagles 10
Kansas City Chiefs (5-7) at New York Jets (7-5)
Meehan: This sounds odd, but I spent more time trying to decide who to pick here than in any of the other games. I have to stick with the Jets here though because they have a little bit greater chance to fall victim to a spur of genius than the Chiefs do. Still keeping Sanchez under 220 and don’t start him.
Meehan’s Pick: Jets 17, Chiefs 12
Collins: If the Jets don’t bury the Chiefs in their own field they should bury themselves. (Editor’s note – now that both the Giants and the Jets are playing in a new stadium, we can’t make Jimmy Hoffa jokes anymore. What a rip-off.) Some people might say the Chiefs have momentum coming in, but I would say that instead they just have it coming after that abomination in Chicago. With most teams somehow “in contention” right now, if the Jets want us to believe that is actually the case as far as they are concerned, this should be a statement game for them.
RC’s Pick: Jets 21-6
New England Patriots (9-3) at Washington Redskins (4-8)
Meehan: Redskins have no chance here. But trust me, it’s for the best. Nobody really wants to see Washington win this game, do they? Of course not…Even if you really, REALLY hate the Patriots I would still have to think that you’d rather see them win. Keep a close watch on both of New England’s tight ends, as they’ve put together a really powerful combo with Welker and Gronkowski. From what I understand, one of those guys is of Polish decent, and Gronkowski is too.
Meehan’s Pick: Patriots 22, Redskins 9
Collins: Question: Why when I first saw this game on the docket the first word that popped into my head was “exhibition”? Because the Redskins aren’t a serious team, that’s why.
RC’s Pick: Patriots 30, Redskins 10
Atlanta Falcons (7-5) at Carolina Panthers (4-8)
Meehan: After seeing the Falcons struggle against the Texans last week, they don’t seem to have a very solid grasp on that 5 seed even though that’s where they’re currently at. As far as putting the guys side by side, comparing Cam Newton to Matt Ryan is like comparing apples to suspension bridges. Regardless, Carolina is the type of team that would seem to embrace the spoiler role. This division could be a mess the next couple of years, and personally I can’t wait to see it unfold. Upset Special. (Sort of)
Meehan’s Pick: Panthers 24, Falcons 20
Collins: I have to agree with Meehan here. The Falcons look a lot more vulnerable these days, and at the moment Cam Newton can run right through them. This is a big dignity game for the Panthers, and they can get it if their defense doesn’t completely fail them.
RC’s Pick: Panthers 28, Falcons 27
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9)
Meehan: I have a great idea to spice this one up: The loser of this game should have to own the Jacksonville Jaguars. It would draw a lot of attention to an otherwise drab matchup, and you know all of the other owners would vote to approve it. The Bucs are still massively spastic, but they’re better than JAX is. Personally I couldn’t care less who wins, but it would interesting to see how many consecutive possessions Blaine Gabbert can throw picks before they bench him for Luke McCown, Luke McCown’s sister, or whoever is sleeping with Luke McCown’s sister. (Editor’s Note: Guy who is sleeping with Luke McCown’s sister may actually be Luke McCown. It’s incestastic!)
Meehan’s Pick: Buccaneers 21, Jaguars 6
Collins: Blaine Gabbert? No thanks, I’ll pass. And remember when Tampa Bay looked respectable? This should be a great inner state grudge match, and there will be some nice hits for sure. But this game could have less consequence if they were playing with flags. I’m trying to think what this game might promise besides some defense and a lot of yawning. I got nothing.
RC’s Pick: Buccaneers 14, Jaguars 9
Indianapolis Colts (0-12) at Baltimore Ravens (9-3)
Meehan: This one could be ugly. It’s in Maryland, where the Colts used to be located, only this time it’s 27 years later and they look a lot like Rick James in court lately. That Orlovsky guy didn’t look that bad but against Tom Brady he looked like fucking Kelly Holcomb. For the time being, the Ravens are running all over everybody. The Colts shouldn’t be any exception, as they are ranked 30th in rushing yards allowed. Fantasy people take note as it should be easy stats for Ray Rice, but if this game gets out of control they’re going to pull him because in a month they’re really going to need his ass.
Meehan’s Pick: Ravens 27, Colts 14
Collins: Are the Colts throwing games? Apparently they are considering throwing away Peyton Manning, which either indicates that Manning’s injury is more catastrophic than anyone is letting on, or that the Colts have become some sort of surrealistic art project. I still can’t figure out how they can be this bad, even twelve games in. What the fuck? They might as well go for broke at this point. The Ravens aren’t going to help them out in their original home city. I hope that Baltimore is one of those teams that could give Green Bay a run in the Super Bowl, but I just can’t seem to shake the unpleasantness of that loss to the Seahawks.
RC’s Pick: Ravens 27, Colts 14
San Francisco 49ers (10-2) at Arizona Cardinals (5-7)
Meehan: The Cardinals are on a bit of a high after the dramatic (and lucky) fashion in which they won last week. But the San Francisco 49ers are a much tougher opponent than Dallas. Even without Patrick Willis, the Niners know the desert quite well. The Cardinals-Cowboys game this past week wasn’t a good representation of what those teams are capable of. Is Arizona seriously six points better than Dallas? Probably not. But the 49ers are much better than either of those two teams.
Meehan’s Pick: 49ers 31, Cardinals 21
Collins: The Cardinals, much like the Chiefs, won a game last week that they really had no business winning. And much like the Chiefs, they should pay for their crimes against the football gods this upcoming weekend. The only difference being that Arizona is going to get dispatched at home. Enjoy all that you can, Cardinals fans. If not, I think it will be fair to start asking more questions about the 49ers. That day might come soon, but not this week.
RC’s Pick: 49ers 30, Cardinals 13
Chicago Bears (7-5) at Denver Broncos (7-5)
Meehan: Hmmm. I had a lot of different ways that I tried to start this paragraph. The first one I had was “This game looks much better on paper than it will be”, but then I realized that’s not true. Then I thought “It’s going to be another down to the wire finish where Saint Timothy parts the Red Sea”, but then I realized I’m kind of tired of Tebowtalk. So I’m going to settle with “Where you live this game will most likely be on TV”, because that’s as close to the truth as I could get. If Denver does win this game, there will be nothing miraculous about it. And I can’t help but think of the all Bears fans who were Jay Cutler haters that would love to see him if but just for one series.
Meehan’s Pick: Broncos 18, Bears 13
Collins: I can’t put into words how sick it makes me that the Bears are going to march into near certain defeat at the hands of (God help me) the Denver Broncos. The Broncos’ defense is smothering starting offenses right now – what do you think they are going to do to Caleb Hanie? I cannot believe this Tebow nonsense has gone this far, but I fear unless the Bears special teams and defense can manage to put points on the board, the once mighty Bears are going to continue to suffer from the injuries to Forte and Cutler, who should have been poised to go back into Invesco Field and just shred the Broncos. I am tryng to not throw up into my mouth typing this:
RC’s Pick: Broncos 10, Bears 9
Buffalo Bills (5-7) at San Diego Chargers (6-6)
Meehan: Now this one I can actually find some humor in because bout a month into the season both of these teams thought they were God’s gift to football. San Diego is still technically in it, but the way they’ve been blowing things with a lame duck coach I don’t see them exactly going on a tear starting now. As stated earlier Buffalo is OUT of it, no matter what sort of ridiculous scenarios you can think of where they win out and then every single team that they need to lose blows it all month long. The worst thing that I can wish for two teams I can’t stand playing each other in any game in the National Football League to have it end in a tie. I almost hate these two teams enough to do just that.
Meehan’s Pick: Bills 17, Chargers 17 (I went for it, you only live once…)
Collins: While I am not predicting a tie, I think this game will be just as useless as a tie would be. It’s a must-win for the Chargers, and the way the Bills have been falling apart (see a theme developing here?), it seems that they will be more than happy to oblige San Diego and allow them to stay in the phony conversation that still gives them a chance to make the playoffs. Not this December, Bolts. But a good win at home this week.
RC’s Pick: Chargers 27-14
Sunday Night Football: New York Giants (6-6) at Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
Meehan: So the NFC race has come down to these two teams that will play each other twice in the next two weeks. I feel like I should be more excited by this, but there’s this sense of emptiness that fills my soul when I realize that one of these two will make the postseason when really neither one of them should. The Cowboys shouldn’t go just on principle alone after that showing they posted in Arizona last Sunday. The Giants shouldn’t go because they’ve lost four straight and nobody that plays as poorly as the Giants have at the end of the year the past three seasons should ever make the playoffs. But somebody has to, and right now even though it seems like a homer pick that somebody is the Giants because when they want to they can become a more complete football team at the drop of a hat than Dallas can. They just have to hope that hat doesn’t drop in the fourth quarter.
Meehan’s Pick: Giants 26, Cowboys 19
Collins: One of these two teams is going to win their division, and neither of them should. The NFC East is a prism of this season is, on the whole, a disappointment. The Giants apparently figured out that you can’t give great quarterbacks a twenty-yard cushion, that a field goal will beat you in a tie game, and that these days a prevent defense is more likely to prevent you from holding a lead or winning a game than it is to protect a lead or close a team out. I know the Packers are great, but they’re not that great. Luckily for them Tony Romo is a far cry from being a great QB. I think that this might be a close one though, but even though they are playing in Dallas, it seems like in December the Cowboys are virtually incapable of getting out of their own way for long enough to win a game, even if it’s one they really need.
RC’s Pick: Giants 24, Cowboys 21
Monday Night Football: St. Louis Rams (2-10) at Seattle Seachickens (5-7)
Meehan: Remember last year when this was the final game of the regular season and the winner got the chance to face the Saints in the playoffs? Neither do I. I will say I do like the way that Seattle has rebounded from such a dismal start in a lopsided division they had no chance at winning since about week five. The Rams can’t do anything right, and now after getting shutout by Frisco they have to go north to Seattle and deal with that miserable crowd and that miserable weather. So the deck is obviously stacked against them to begin with since they don’t even play well in the controlled climate they call their home stadium.
Meehan’s Pick: Seachickens 28, Rams 3
Collins: I guess Seattle is a good place to see a football game, too bad this won’t me much of one. Look for the Seahawks to make the 12th man happy, and further endorse Skittles after at least one (I’m thinking two) touchdown runs. It is fitting, I suppose, that this worthless game caps off a week of games that define that particular category.
RC’s Pick: Flying Lobsters 24, Rams 9
What to watch for:
Even though this week has some stinkers, there are always fun things to look for or count. Like for instance how many times Andy Reid pulls up his pants, how many personal fouls the Lions commit, or how many times the announcers in the Bears-Broncos game will suggest that Chicago should call Brett Favre to come play for them even though he’s about fifteen weeks late for Brett Favre showing up for training camp.
Enjoy the games, and drive safely.
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