by Ryan Meehan and Coach Ryan
Christmas is here, and once again people everywhere are waiting until the last minute to buy gifts. This causes a bit of related cases of road rage, as certain people who never seem to leave their house are just all of a sudden swerving through three lanes of traffic just to get an iTunes gift card at the gas station. It’s enough to convince you that this whole Christmas thing is nothing more than a massive capitalist conspiracy designed to make sure that no matter where you’re going, you can expect to get there at least ten minutes late. But the good news is, it’s crunch time in the NFL. We’re down to the next to final week of regular season games, and the playoff races are much more entertaining than the video you just watched of Santa getting a little too friendly with the girl in the reindeer costume over on Spankwire. It’s getting real, and with some unexpected losses in week 15, we find ourselves with some very interesting playoff scenarios ahead. So let’s hit that gingerbread crackhouse with a sledgehammer and see what’s going down in week sixteen.
Miami Dolphins (8-6) -2.5 at Buffalo Bills (5-9) (43)
Coach: Ok Miami – you have my attention. Since before the season started I just didn’t think Miami would come close to sniffing the playoffs but they have my believing that they will be playing past next week. Last week I picked them to lose to New England but win their next two against Buffalo and the Jets. Considering they completely overshot my expectations by taking care of the Patriots I have no reason not to think they won’t continue their hot run and win out. The most surprising thing about the Dolphins is how good they’ve been playing since the Incognito scandal earlier this season going 4-2. At the time most people had completely written off the Dolphins but sometimes getting rid of distractions can bring a team together. Buffalo is coming off what I consider to be a surprising win against Jacksonville who had been playing much better before last week. The last time the Bills played the Fins in Miami it was Buffalo who came out on top although that was early on and Miami has seemed to wake up more lately. This is a crucial win for the Dolphins who now hold their playoff futures in the hands. If the Dolphins win their last two games they should make it into the playoffs. I know this is a young Dolphins team but they have been mixing well lately and last week told volumes on being able to closeout games. The spread is -2.5 in favor of Miami, and I expect the Fins strange but magical season to continue.
Coach’s pick: Dolphins 23, Bills 17
Meehan’s Pick: Dolphins 26, Bills 14 (I am in favor of anything that keeps the Baltimore Ravens out of the postseason)
New Orleans Saints (10-4) +3 at Carolina Panthers (10-4) (47)
Coach: There may still be two games left for both these teams but make no mistake the NFC South will be decided Sunday in Carolina. The Saints are coming into this game losing 2 out of 3 including being smacked around by the Rams last week. St. Louis isn’t a bad team and is on their way up, but a team like the Saints needs to take care of business in those kind of situations and they just couldn’t. If I was a Saints fan I’d be nervous that they let their play get to their head and thought they’d be able to coast into the playoffs – which never ends well. A few weeks ago Carolina went into New Orleans and got a reality check in the dome, but they get another chance this week and if they’ll able to steal a victory the Panthers should be able to win the division next week and go into the postseason as the second seed.
Two weeks ago in New Orleans, Drew Brees was able to pick apart the Panthers secondary better than any quarterback had all year. Although he should still have a good game the elements will play a factor and with that loss still fresh in the mind of the Carolina defense I have to think they are going to step up to the challenge. I think New Orleans is a really solid team but like I mentioned earlier you hate to see a team sputter at the end as a fan. The spread on the game is -3 Panthers and in a cold environment with a team who has revenge and pride on the line I like the Panthers chances in a very close matchup.
Coach’s pick: Panthers 27, Saints 26
Meehan’s Pick: Panthers 28, Saints 26
Dallas Cowboys (7-7) -2.5 at Washington Redskins (3-11) (53.5)
Meehan: Okay so here’s the deal: Supposedly Dez Bryant left the field after the Cowboys’ final drive because he didn’t want the fans to see him cry. But if that was the case, then why did he come out and admit to the world that it made him cry? So instead of looking like a guy who cried at a pro football game, he instead wound up looking like a guy who ran away from a pro football game so that he could cry. What the hell is that? It’s some seriously bogus stuff, but it’s not like we should be surprised – Everything Dallas Cowboys is a lie anymore. Their owner, their garbage secondary, their head coach, and everything else – right down to the peanut vendors. It’s my hope (as well as Coach Ryan’s) that this week it will get even worse, with the Cowboys ending up with a losing record by the end of the day. It probably won’t happen, but seriously how funny would that be? If just three weeks after the biggest sports publication in the world ran some BS article about how Tony Romo deserves our respect, he just eats it on live TV the second the channel gets switched to the Kirk Cousins Show. What red-blooded American wouldn’t want to see that? Even if it does happen, it’s unlikely that it will result in much enthusiasm from Mike Shanahan. For real, that guy is starting to sound like he took a 2013 summer course at the Bill Belichick Institute of Depressing Public Relations Appearances. So I’m picking the Skins, but I wouldn’t touch this game if you play the stakes. It could easily go either way.
Meehan’s Pick: Redskins 27, Cowboys 13
Coach: Redskins 23, Cowboys 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) +5.5 at St. Louis (6-8) (42.5)
Meehan: This is a tough one because St. Louis is focused on breaking hearts this year, but Tampa’s already pretty much heartbroken so will the same drive still be there? Without anything to spoil, can the role of spoiler still be played? Tampa has found their QB unless the free agent market really shakes out in the offseason, and the Rams just have to be patient and wait for theirs to come back. There really isn’t too much to take from this game, even if the Rams destroy them at home, they are still only going to be 5-3 in that building when the year ends. So you can’t really take the angle that next year they are going to be this insanely good home team like Seattle is – They still lose games there. I like the Rams to crush this spread though – it’s pretty easy money. The over I’m not sure of though, because Tampa could easily put a goose egg up any given week.
Meehan’s Pick: Rams 30, Buccaneers 9
Coach: Rams 22, Buccaneers 13
Chicago Bears (8-6) +3 at Philadelphia Eagles (8-6) (56)
Meehan: This game could very well be the defining moment in Jay Cutler’s career. After the Detroit Lions lost a pathetic attempt at a professional sporting event on Monday, the Bears are now in position to make a move. The only trouble is, they have to go to Philadelphia to do it. Nick Foles is the next great American success story, and if Cutler is going to wander into that stadium thinking he’s going to be facing the same caliber of team that he saw in the Browns last week he’s going to be sorely mistaken. Of course, it’s Jay Cutler so it’s highly unlikely that you’ll notice either way. I do want to take a brief break from the football side of this to mention that I listened to a great interview with Brandon Marshall on Jay Mohr Sports Tuesday documenting his struggles with mental health. It takes a really big man to lay that all out like he did, and even though I hate the Bears I am totally rooting for him. Returning to the field, on offense the Bears should be able to get some work done, but I just don’t think their defense is capable of handling Nick Foles to the point where they can leave there with a victory. I have to take the Eagles to cover the spread and I like taking the over for the point total on this one as well.
Meehan’s Pick: Eagles 36, Bears 28
Coach: Eagles 24, Bears 20
Cleveland Browns (4-10) +1 at New York Jets (6-8) (40.5)
Coach: As a Browns fan I always wait to write my piece about them last as it is something to look forward to, although at this point trying to break them down is just painful. Cleveland let another win slip away last week against another solid team in their last home game of the year, and now must travel to the site of the Super Bowl to take on the almost as bad but not quite Jets. Since November 17th these two teams have a combined record of 1-9, with the only win coming when the Jets beat the 4-10 Oakland Raiders. Being a fan of the Browns I’m used to week 16 and 17 with my team being eliminated from the post season so this isn’t new ground. What is new and frustrating ground is watching a team that you know has potential and talent play like they have the last month or so of the season. The spread on the game is -1 Jets which I’m assuming has something to do with it being a home game for New York because to me this game is about as even as they come. Still I have more faith in Cleveland’s defense than I do the Jets offense (or defense for that matter). In what more than likely is the last chance of the year for my Browns to win a game I’m picking them in a tight one.
Coach’s pick: Browns 24, Jets 17
Meehan’s Pick: Jets 20, Browns 17
Indianapolis Colts (9-5) +7 at Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) (44)
Coach: As much fun as I want this game to be, I’m wondering what Colts team is going to show up in Kansas City after locking up the AFC South. Since the Colts had their bye they have taken care of all the teams they should have but struggled against tough competition. An argument could even be made against that when they got embarrassed against St. Louis but once again I find the Rams to be a much tougher team than their record indicates. The Colts are a good team but have struggled this year with injuries and are benefiting from playing in one of the weaker divisions in the NFL.
The Chiefs on the other hand have earned their keep this year. Outside of their three game slid (all to division opponents) they have taken care of business and are tied with the Broncos for first in the West after Denver lost to the Chargers last week. Kansas City will be relying heavily on Jamaal Charles this week against the Colts whose run defense is near the bottom of the league. Last week Charles ran for a staggering 195 yards and 4 touchdowns and although it’ll be near impossible for him to put up those kind of numbers this week I do expect a big game from him.
The spread on the game is -7 Kansas City and I think the Chiefs continue one of the more amazing turnarounds in recent memory. Unfortunately for KC their two losses against the Broncos will prevent them from realistically winning the division but if they can finish off the year with a couple wins including a huge one next week in San Diego they will be a very tough out in the playoffs. Indianapolis should pay attention this week because they may be heading back out to KC in a couple weeks in a rematch.
Coach’s pick: Chiefs 31, Colts 27
Meehan’s Pick: Chiefs 31, Colts 27
Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1) +7.5 at Cincinnati Bengals (9-5) (48)
Coach: Just about every year in just about every sport there’s a team who seems destined for greatness just to see it all slip away in agonizing fashion. This year the Bengals seem to have the luxury of being that team. They’ve had their chances to lock up the division but just haven’t been able to seal the deal most recently losing by 10 to the rival Steelers. With Baltimore hot on their heels the Bengals are now in must win territory going in their last two games to see if they can hold on and make it the post season. If the Bengals lose either of their last games (more importantly next week against Baltimore) and the Dolphins win out then Miami holds the tie breaker edge against Cincinnati. First up in the regular season playoff level game for the Bengals are the Vikings who stunned me last week by destroying the Eagles. As exciting as this game could be unfortunately for me it comes down to how each of these teams have played on home and the road. The Bengals as much as they’ve slipped up at times are perfect at home where Minnesota is 0-6-1 on the road. Even if Adrian Peterson suits up this week (which signs point to him doing) the Vikings just have been completely terrible on the road and I don’t see them surprising anyone this week. The spread on the game is -7.5 Cincinnati and in typical NFL fashion that’s the way it’ll go setting up another huge AFC North matchup next week.
Coach’s pick: Bengals 30, Vikings 20
Meehan’s Pick: Bengals 27, Vikings 24
Denver Broncos (11-3) -12 at Houston Texans (2-12) (51.5)
Coach: Forget the Broncos coming off a giant upset last week at home to the Chargers (which also killed my fantasy season) the story of this game is the Texans who won a playoff game last year riding a 12 game losing streak into this week. The transformation from one year to another has been just as remarkable as the Chiefs this year and has featured a fired coach and more quarterback drama than just about anywhere else in the league (no disrespect to Atlanta). In what was billed before the season started as a possible AFC Championship game the 12 point favorite Denver Broncos will be the latest team to humiliate the Texans. Denver has had a rough week and ironically enough are starting to struggle a little as the weather is changing from cool to cold throughout the United States. The Broncos definitely benefited from the Dolphins beating the Patriots last week as far as holding onto the number one seed in the AFC and with this week’s game being in a dome and next week’s in Oakland Peyton should be able to enter the post season having a very chilly home field advantage leading right into a downright cold Super Bowl. The spread on the game is -12 (a point for each game the Texans have lost in a row) and I see Denver taking out a lot of frustration on a team just trying to make it through the season.
Coach’s pick: Broncos 38, Texans 24
Meehan’s Pick: Broncos 31, Texans 6
Tennessee Titans (5-9) -5.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) (44)
Meehan’s Pick: Jaguars 23, Titans 20
Coach: Jaguars 28, Titans 23
Arizona Cardinals (9-5) +12 at Seattle Seahawks (12-2) (43.5)
Meehan: I’ve expressed my concern that the Arizona Cardinals will probably not make the playoffs. Because of the incredible run Carolina has had, they are a solid 7 which isn’t as lucky as it sounds. But I watched every goddamned down of the first meeting between these two in 2013, and I can tell you that Arizona still has a lot of fight in them. But that’s about to change, because this game is in Seattle where all good things worthy of a dream die unless they are part of the twelfth man. Until further notice I am buying everything Seahawks-related. Even though the Giants couldn’t have played any worse if all 53 dudes had showed up in wheelchairs, they still shut them out and in pro sports that’s not an easy task – I don’t care who you’re playing. They are the truth – The Absolute (AND CLEAR) favorites to win the Super Bowl at this point. And I’ll be talking about it all through January over at KUGR out of Pullman, Washington. (http://kugr.wsu.edu/kugrMusicStream.htm) Neil from Sports Blog Movement has a two hour radio show on Monday nights and he’s been cool enough to have me as a guest during the NFL segment. The spread on this game is ridiculous, but I do like the over for the point total at 43.5.
Meehan’s Pick: Seahawks 34, Cardinals 30
Coach: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 19
New York Giants (5-9) +10 at Detroit Lions (7-7) (49)
Meehan: Since there’s less Giants to talk, we’ll get to that in a second. The Detroit Lions are right in the Cincinnati Bengals’ wheelhouse when it comes to disappointment surrounded by overall talent level. They have a quarterback that can put up insane number even if it does take him a ton of pass attempts to get there, and two wideouts that are total badasses. But their coach is dumber than a bag of hammers, and I say that meaning no offense to the bag. Jim Schwartz will be out as coach no matter what happens these last two weeks, and he’ll deserve it. Blowing the Baltimore game at home was a huge setback – they had to have that win and they lost in a game where the winner didn’t even cross the goal line. Speaking of blowing, the New York Giants head into Detroit blindfolded and in shackles not knowing what type of certain death is headed their way in the two final weeks of the 2013 NFL season. They gave up on their coach last week, and they will probably do the same again. I like Detroit to cover here.
Meehan’s Pick: Lions 31, Giants 5
Coach: Lions 20, Giants 17
Oakland Raiders (7-7) +11.5 at San Diego Chargers (4-10) (50.5)
Meehan: If you’re surfing websites looking to remind you of the Chargers’ “majestic” win over the Broncos last Thursday, you can go ahead and keep moving because that’s not what I’ll be doing here. Let’s face it, Denver threw that game away and if San Diego makes the playoffs all it will do is further reinforce my point that the AFC sucks. But right on schedule, the Chargers have a cake game against Oakland – a team still trying so hard to get that participation trophy at the pizza parlor after the game. Can they just go ahead and cancel this one? Because no one will be watching outside of the Bay area and the Gaslight District. And even those in the Bay area are probably just better off waiting for Monday’s game. Nobody knows what the Raiders will look like next year, and until the Chargers are willing to pay for a guy like Adrian Peterson to head west they will look almost identical to the team you’ll see on Sunday. I don’t know that they will cover though…
Meehan’s Pick: Chargers 29, Raiders 20
Coach: Chargers 31, Raiders 26
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8) NONE at Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) (None)
Coach: Packer fans should’ve all run out Sunday night and bought Tony Romo jerseys. Led behind Matt Flynn the Packers have now won two in a row including the improbable win last week in Dallas. When Rodgers went down I thought for sure Green Bay would be completely out of elimination and that Rodgers should be finished for the year yet here we are. This is anything but a sure win for the Packers but you have to consider the possibility that this game could bring back both Rodgers and Randall Cobb.
I’ll give the Steelers credit for the huge win last week against the Bengals and although they have no shot at the playoffs they have been playing with a lot of pride. Still this isn’t the Steelers of old and this game seems a lot like the Bengals and Vikings game in the sense that the outcome of this game could potentially set up a massive division matchup next week. I’m not saying the NFL is rigged (far from it) but if you look at the history of this league stranger things have happened to set up amazing Week 17 games. The spread on the game is even but I’m going to go with a win by the Packers (no matter who is qb) setting up an absolutely huge Packers and Bears game for the NFC North Title.
Coach’s pick: Packers 29, Steelers 27
Meehan’s Pick: Packers 30, Steelers 28
New England Patriots (10-4) +1 at Baltimore Ravens (8-6) (45.5)
Coach’s pick: Ravens 27, Patriots 24
Meehan’s Pick: Patriots 20, Ravens 12
Monday Night Football: Atlanta Falcons (4-10) +13.5 at San Francisco 49ers (9-5) (45)
Meehan: Well played, NFL scheduling committee. Week sixteen brings us both conference championship matchups from late January of earlier this year, only in this instance the Atlanta Falcons are maybe 1/6th of the team they were last year. Not that saying that would be much of a compliment, because last year I thought they were very overrated due to an extremely weak schedule. The 49ers might be the real deal, but will Colin Kaepernick have the big day we’ve all been looking for? You know, the 368 with 4 TDs and no picks one that might actually put some fear into a team like Seattle? I sure hope so, and if there’s one team that can make him look like a superstar, it’s the Falcons. This game is in San Francisco, Atlanta’s defense is terrible, and although it looks like Coach just barely disagrees with me here, I like the Niners to cover 13 and a half.
Meehan’s Pick: 49ers 32, Falcons 7
Coach: 49ers 33, Falcons 20
Bonus Comment of the Week: With all of this talk of how weak the NFC North and the NFC East are, we seem to be ignored that the AFC South has to be one of the most awful divisions in recent pro sports history. Indy is 9-5, and the next team down is the Titans at 5-9? Sounds like bad television to me. Combine that with the fact that you also have the most underachieving team in the league in Houston bringing up the rear and that’s 12.5% of the league that can be written off. Andrew Luck isn’t going to win any Super Bowls, I’m sorry if that breaks your heart. Anybody who tells you that “This is the division to watch” can fuck right off.
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