by Eight Thirty Seven with assistance from J-Dub and Jason from Indiana
Well, it’s finally here. This will be the last week of the NFL season for 20 of the thirty-two teams in the league, and nobody could be happier to hear about that than yours truly. I can’t wait until next week…I don’t have to write about the Saints, Lions, Titans, or any other team that doesn’t warrant my attention because in most cases they haven’t earned it.
It’s also the end of the regular season line for the J-Dub Gambling Challenge, and although it’s been a rough year for him in that regard the Dubsism household is thrilled about the Eagles recent firing of Chip Kelly. Let’s see what kind of a mood he’s in after hearing the promising news that shithead won’t be back to ruin another year of Eagles football.
J-Dub: For the last regular-season installment of this challenge, we’re focusing only on the games that still have meaning. Some of these play-off scenarios have the complexity of nuclear physics, and they have likelihoods somewhere between metaphysical certitude and J-Dub getting elected Pope while getting a “handy” from all fourteen Kardahsians and Hillary Clinton. To reflect that, we’re listing these games in order of a blend of likely outcomes and complexities.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) +11.5 at Carolina Panthers (14-1) (46.5)
I hate the “this was a good loss” angle that most writers take when something like last week’s loss to the Falcons happened to Ron Rivera & Company, but I do agree with it so I’m going to change it up a little. I will say that was a crucial loss for great team who needed to be alerted they weren’t invincible. I don’t really buy that it “gets the undefeated thing off their plate” or any of that nonsense – as any player who says they wouldn’t love to go 19-0 and win the Super Bowl in this day and age of the NFL is lying – but it has been coming since after the Dallas game. After close wins over bad Saints and Giants teams, we should have probably saw that one coming. I couldn’t give a shit less about Tampa because they played really conservative in a game which I thought they should have experimented in and lost to Chicago. In a perfect world Winston effectively should have lost his bid for Rookie of the Year to Tyler Lockett and/or Todd Gurley with that dreadful 15 for 29 home performance against one of the worst defenses in the league, but you just know you’re not going to be the least bit shocked if the quarterback driven NFL hands him that award undeserved. If the Panthers win they clinch home field advantage, and even though they were in that same scenario in the Atlanta game at least the Falcons looked brilliant at points this season. Only thing that matters is the spread here, the Bucs have no real shot at winning this game at all. I’ll go with Jason and take the points in this one, as well as the over because that seems a lot like how the way these recent Carolina games have been going.
837’s Prediction: Panthers 29, Bucs 20
J-Dub: Why It Matters: The Panthers clinch home-field advantage with either a win or an Arizona loss.
Jason from Indiana: Tampa Bay
San Diego Chargers (4-11) +9.5 at Denver Broncos (11-4) (41)
The Broncos would own the tie-breaker here if New England loses, but that’s likely not going to happen. They’ll get to host a home playoff game, but I’m not sure it’s going to matter much. At 9.5 points at home this is an interesting bet though…Will San Diego continue to replicate the below average play that made their 4-11 season so unsuccessful, or will they rise up and give the Broncos more than they can handle? I think it’ll end up being the first one here, and here’s why: The Broncos know that in order to step up to the level of play they are going to see when they get back onto the field, they’re going to have to show the league that they can set fire to the league’s biggest of gas rags. And since Tennessee and San Francisco are playing other teams, there is no better squad to make an example out of than the Chargers who might as well be wearing shirts that say “Please Stop Hitting Us”. It’s hard for me to have much faith in the Broncos to do anything in January, but I have a feeling this will be the last time I do it this season. Denver covers and don’t get near the point total.
837’s Prediction: Broncos 28, Chargers 13
J-Dub: Why It Matters: Denver clinches home-field advantage with a win over the Chargers and a loss by New England.
Jason from Indiana: San Diego
Baltimore Ravens (5-10) +9 at Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) (42.5)
It would certainly prove to be a majestic achievement if the Ravens could ruin the Steelers’ season, then a week later take out the Bengals just to be the biggest pricks in the NFL. Cincinnati quarterback AJ McCarron was nowhere to be seen in the second half of that Denver game, and his defense is only going to be able to save his ass so many times before they end up stumbling out of the playoffs for good. This could end up being a huge trap game for the cardiac cats…With nothing to lose and Joe Flacco’s injury set to save John Harbaugh’s job – even though it probably shouldn’t – the Ravens could easily come into Ohio and get rust belt nasty on their asses. It would be a huge upset though, as although the Steelers have definite levels of vulnerability it would devastating if the Bengals caved to Baltimore. But when you think about it, it wouldn’t be that far-fetched at all – three of the Bengals’ four losses have come at home. Here again, the spreads are way too wide this week so I still like Queen City to pull this one off but I’m once again taking the points. Don’t bet any point total where two guys who are hardly NFL caliber QBs are starting against each other. That’s some Budd Dwyer shit right there.
837’s Prediction: Bengals 20, Ravens 18
J-Dub: Why It Matters: The Bengals need to win and have Denver lose to clinch a first-round bye, or they need Kansas City to win. Either way, Cincinnati needs the Broncos to lose.
Jason from Indiana: Baltimore
Minnesota Vikings (10-5) +3 at Green Bay Packers (10-5) (45.5)
I understand this is a very week-to-week league, as evidenced by several of the results we saw last week. But if either of these teams play anything like they did on Sunday, Green Bay doesn’t stand a fucking chance in hell as making this close even though it’s in their backyard. Long plagued by the argument that they are the only team in the league that is owned by the residents of the town they call home, perhaps the Packers have hit a wall where having an owner might not be such a bad thing. Aaron Rodgers actually told the media that it’s not to late to “turn this thing around”, and now that I think of it…he just might be right. Not that they are going to go on a tear and march their way to the Super Bowl, but at this point they’d be better off blocking with their asses facing the line of scrimmage because that offensive line can’t stop anybody. This is a much different Vikings team that lost by 17 points at home to the Packers six weeks ago. It’s also a much different Green Bay team, and that’s precisely why even at Lambeau I don’t think they stand a chance. This line is beyond stupid if you ask me and just to show you how much I believe in them, I’ll take Minnesota by ten…because fuck you that’s why. Still love the over here, and I say that with no disrespect to Xavier Rhodes.
837’s Prediction: Vikings 31, Packers 21
J-Dub: Why It Matters: This is the classic “win and your in” game. Winner wins the NFC North, and host a wild-card round game. Loser gets to travel. Tie-breaker goes to the Packers.
Jason from Indiana: Minnesota
New York Jets (10-5) -3 at Buffalo Bills (7-8) (43)
I can’t sit here and call the Jets fake or boring anymore. They took out one of the best teams in the league after dominating them for the better part of 56 minutes this past weekend, and although they were handed the ball by what a lot of fans would deem to be a mistake in overtime you have to give them credit for winning that game. What’s funny to me – and we’ll discuss this in greater length when we do our “Why Your Team Won’t win the Super Bowl piece” after this weekend – is that the whole time the Jets were cycling through quarterbacks like a hemophiliac blows through tampons when she’s on her period, the guy they wanted could have literally been picked up at any point during that decade long stretch. And the only reason he’s even in there is in the first place is because Geno Smith forgot to go to the fucking ATM before that one practice. How hilarious is that? Nobody would like to do the Steelers a favor more than Rex Ryan, who will be looking for a season sweep against his old team that wasn’t supposed to be as good as his new squad. (He’ll also be one of the leading candidates to take Mike Tomlin’s job when he gets canned at the end of next year, but that’s another discussion for another time and place) Only problem is, the Bills are only firing on most cylinders when they are red hot, and they are hardly that right now. Both the point total and the spread on this one seem more dangerous than sticking your hand into a trash compactor, so if there is any way that you can live without throwing down on this one by all means pull back.
837’s Prediction: Jets 21, Bills 20
J-Dub: Why It Matters: The Jets clinch a play-off spot with either a win or a Pittsburgh loss.
Jason from Indiana: Buffalo
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6) -11 at Cleveland Browns (3-12) (47.5)
The Steelers have to be your source for the most embarrassing story of the week. On a Sunday where they absolutely had to win what should have been a very easy game against the hapless Baltimore Ravens, they lost to Ryan Mallet in a game where their two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback threw two picks and was unable to take advantage of yet another 100 yard rushing day from Pro Bowl running back DeAngelo Williams. Now they need a miracle to get into the playoffs and also have the added pressure of a double digit spread looming in their favor. Too bad this isn’t college football, because if the Steelers could hang 53 on the Browns this weekend they might actually go up in the rankings. But this ain’t college, and the Steelers have to have a lot of things swing in their favor to get into the playoffs and the only game they can control is this one. Point total is just about spot on, so don’t go there and take the point in this instance. The Browns are horrendous, but I’m sure they would love to spoil Pittsburgh’s day so you have to figure they will come out – and go down – swinging.
837’s Prediction: Steelers 28, Browns 19
J-Dub: Why It Matters: The Steelers need to win, and they need the NY Jets to lose, otherwise they spend January making tee times.
What Will Happen: The Browns go out with a whimper. They would love to send the Steelers home early, but they simply aren’t able to do it. Not to mention, Pittsburgh will be counting on the Jets to do something very Jets-y, like beating the Patriots, then gagging on Buffalo. $50 on Pittsburgh
Jason from Indiana: Pittsburgh
Tennessee Titans (3-12) EVEN at Indianapolis Colts (7-8) (N/A)
The Colts need some statistical miracle to end up winning the division if the Texans lose. They would need ten different scenarios to play out in their favor, and the odds of that happening are 3,326 to 1. To be honest, if all ten of those situations happened to work out for them I would do a 180 degree turn on Roger Goddell if he goes all Steve Harvey and gives Houston the nod while telling the entire state of Indiana to shove it. It might be kind of funny to see them win this one, just to watch them rack their brains over who else won the other games before having some meta stats dork over at Sports Illustrated tell them it’s over. Tennessee knows just how much the Colts don’t deserve to be in the postseason, as they got the shit smacked out of them last week by the team who will eventually end up becoming the 2015 AFC South champions. If the Colts blow this one at home I may never stop laughing, but I don’t think they will. Just remember – there’s no line on this game for a reason.
837’s Prediction: Colts 20, Titans 11
J-Dub: Why It Matters: The Colts win the AFC South if they win AND Houston loses AND Denver, Miami, and Pittsburgh win AND Cincinnati, Kansas City, New Orleans, and the NY Jets lose.
What Will Happen: I’ve bet exactas at the horse track less complex than that. No matter, the Colts will beat a Titan team quarterbacked by the ghost of Steve McNair, and it will be all for naught, because if they hit that horse-track bet, start stock- piling canned goods, bottled water, and shotguns because the apocalypse will be upon us. Colts straight-up.
Jason from Indiana: Tennessee
Seattle Seahawks (9-6) +7.5 at Arizona Cardinals (13-2) (47)
A great deal of who Arizona decides to play in this game is going to depend on what happens in that Carolina, but if what Arians is barking in the media is true he’s not sitting anybody. I kind of find that hard to believe given the fact that they’ve already lost Tyrann Mathieu on a pointless play late in the Eagles game, but I can’t fault the guy for not wanting to lose momentum if he’s going to have to force his guys to take a week off anyway. Regardless of what happens, they have clinched this division already…and with good reason. Even if they throw this game away and let the coaching staff see who really sticks out on the second team, at 13-3 the Arizona Cardinals are going to have had one hell of a year. With a 36 year old quarterback who’s had two knee surgeries, I can honestly say that I believe they’d still be at least an 11-5 team without him. I really mean that. The Cardinals at home are dangerous either way and Seattle is in no matter what so they won’t be putting a lot of first team guys on the field at any given time. I’m still taking the points though because Arizona is likely to follow suit if Seattle starts running the ball every down, and if that’s the case the under should be a lock.
837’s Prediction: Cardinals 17, Seahawks 13
J-Dub: Why It Matters: The Cardinals clinch home-field advantage with a win over the Seahawks and a Panthers loss.
Jason from Indiana: Arizona
Oakland Raiders (7-8) +7.5 at Kansas City Chiefs (10-5) (43.5)
There was perhaps no greater example of just how sensationalist the NFL’s social media team can be than last week’s Facebook posts about the Browns/Chiefs game. Of the two posts regarding that matchup, I’ll give you zero guesses as to how many of them were about Johnny Ketel One Football. Hint: It’s exactly two more than the number of stories you’ve likely read on the same website about the fact that Kansas City has now won nine in a row and is one of the most dangerous AFC teams heading into the postseason. Alex Smith had 54 yards rushing in the first half of that Browns game. Which doesn’t tell us much given the level of competition he faced in those two quarters, but it does tell us that without Jamaal Charles around that he’s willing to put his neck and all of his limbs out on the line to help his team win. That being said, I would cautiously warn fans of the Chiefs about being too confident here: Keeping Jimmy Joe Douchebag or whatever the fuck his name is out of the end zone is one thing, but Derek Carr could quietly bring his team to the .500 mark in a division where the tide is slowly turning and it could be anybody’s ballgame. San Diego might not even have a stadium that will be able to pass inspection come summertime, and the era of Peyton Manning in Denver and in general is going to leave a lot of John Elway arguing with some young kid he can’t stand. So the best way to show the Chiefs that Oakland isn’t fucking around is for the Raiders to snap that streak and say “See you next year, assholes!” Unfortunately for them they aren’t quite there yet and I think this could be a really rough game for Derek Carr. I’m backpedaling here because I said on Facebook before the Cleveland game that I wouldn’t pick KC to cover any touchdown plus spreads, and that’s exactly what I am doing. Total is too close for comfort all the way around.
837’s Prediction: Chiefs 26, Raiders 17
J-Dub: Why It Matters: The Chiefs can still snag a home game as a division winner if they win and Denver loses.
Jason from Indiana: Kansas City
New England Patriots (12-3) -11.5 at Miami Dolphins (5-10) (47)
The New England Patriots are getting a slug full of shit for deferring in overtime against the Jets. Believe it or not, I actually understand that decision. It doesn’t really matter when we get down to brass tacks, because with Cincinnati losing all the Pats have to do is win an easy game against a sorry team and they’re good to go for home field advantage in the AFC playoffs. That said, if I was Brady I would watch the fuck out for the guy who knows that with one hit he can keep another Super Bowl trophy out of Gillette Stadium. But the Patriots know that’s the case and that Miami’s had a dreadful year, so there’s never been a better time to throw some haymakers at Dade county’s most lovable punching bags. Remember when the standard hack knock on Ryan Tannehill was that he would always be a .500 quarterback? I bet with a double digit loss total this year, he’d love to be accused of that right now. I should feel super comfortable about this spread, but I just can’t bring myself to do it so I’ll take the Patriots by eight and even though I’m not in love with the over…why not? The Patriots have been known to surrender mercy points late to piss off the mob, so remember what Dubs said about them getting spreads they won’t cover.
837’s Prediction: Patriots 32, Dolphins 24
J-Dub: Why It Matters: The Patriots need either to win or Denver to lose to clinch home-field advantage:
Jason from Indiana: New England
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) +7 at Houston Texans (8-7) (45.5)
If somebody has to get in the postseason from the AFC South, it might as well be Houston. They’re the only team in this division that’s halfway interesting to watch, and typically that’s usually only the case when their defense is on the field. The Jags looked strong coming out of the box this year, but they weren’t quite able to make the middle of their season turn out as they would have liked it to. I’m with Jason on this one – I’m taking the points. Houston will win, but a touchdown spread is quite grand when you consider how little offense the Texans have produced at crucial times in the season. The under is a decent bet, but I’d hardly call it safe…After all, it is the AFC South.
837’s Prediction: Texans 23, Jaguars 20
J-Dub: Why It Matters: Believe it or not, this game does matter, which is a testament to how shitty the AFC play-off field really is. Another testament to that fact is how convoluted this play-off scenario is. The Texans clinch the AFC South IF they beat Jacksonville OR Indianapolis loses OR any of the following teams win (Cincinnati, NY Jets, New Orleans) OR any of the following teams lose (Denver, Miami) OR Kansas City wins AND Pittsburgh loses.
What will Happen: It’s too complicated to follow, and it won’t make any difference. Either the Colts or the Texans lose to whoever they get in the play-offs. $25 on Jacksonville
Jason from Indiana: Jacksonville
Washington Redskins (8-7) +3.5 at Dallas Cowboys (4-11) (39.5)
Kirk Cousins seems to be the man of the moment in the NFL with his “You like that?” professional wrestlingesque attention-grabbing chant that every Redskins fan seems to be barking at the top of their lungs. But the truth is that the only reason the Skins are headed to the playoffs is that the rest of the NFC East this year has been absolutely horrid. I hate to burst your bubble here folks, but the Washington Redskins aren’t going anywhere. They haven’t played any really decent teams since the Panthers game the week before Thanksgiving, and keep in mind they still lost to this Dallas Cowboys team three weeks ago. That said, they are easily hot enough to win this game. They are going to get fucking murdered next weekend and will probably be hosting a game they shouldn’t be hosting, but such is the current NFL playoff structure and what can you do? You know what I’d like Kirk? I’d love nothing more for you to end the regular season with a bang and show these haters just how the NFC East can ball! I really, really would! But just know that the second that game ends, I can’t wait to see you get lit up in your own building by a team that should rightfully be hosting that game. And how’s this for a reality check? You’re three and a half point dogs to a team that’s only won four games so far this year. This is probably because Washington will sit a lot of their guys, and as much as it pains me to say it I like Dallas to cover in what will look a lot like a preseason game from a distance. Hey Kirk, that was a Bette Midler reference…You like that? Don’t get near the point total here.
837’s Prediction: Cowboys 27, Redskins 15
Jason from Indiana: Washington
New Orleans Saints (6-9) +4 at Atlanta Falcons (8-7) (52.5)
It has to really suck balls to be the Atlanta Falcons right now. Here you are with a winning record, probably every bit as good as the Redskins with the exception of one bad stretch of football, you knock off a team who’s 14-0 and then find out later that night you’ve been mathematically eliminated from the postseason. But it could be worse, they could be New Orleans. At 6-9 the Saints are at a turning point in their franchise’s history: Drew Brees is getting older, their defense is atrocious, and they could be in the market for a new coach as early as Monday afternoon. This is going to sound weird because both of these teams can’t stop anything that’s thrown in the air, but for some reason I don’t like the over on the point total here. I just get this weird feeling it could be a long day for both of these guys, and that they could struggle down the field. I’m also going against the grain and saying that the Saints flip the script and I’m picking them to win. But be cautious with the total, I’m serious here. Don’t be throwing money away just because what’s in front of you looks delicious…I did that at a steakhouse one time, only to realize later on that the sole reason the hot girl who was on a date with me in the first place has Hepatitis C. It’s a fucking dark world out there, folks.
837’s Prediction: Saints 25, Falcons 20
Jason from Indiana: New Orleans
Detroit Lions (6-9) EVEN at Chicago Bears (6-9) (45.5)
This is probably the least entertaining match-up of the week, or should I say…match-up of the weak? The Lions have gone from being a team with Super Bowl aspirations to a team that just wants to review what the hell they are going to do when the Ford family gets rid of Jim Caldwell after this game in just under twelve months. Chicago needs some serious work as well, and that starts with beefing up that offensive line since Cutler is going to be there for a while because of that contract. This could be a problem against the Lions, and although they have not lived up to the same defensive standards as last year’s team they could make it a long day for Smokin’ Jay and the Diabetes crew. Either way, you know Bears fans everywhere will bail on the NFL as soon at Detroit wraps this one up and then tell us how boring football is all of a sudden. That’s primarily because they don’t watch it for any of the right reasons. Take the under for the point total and the Lions to win, because all of those people are going to get exactly what they deserve this week.
837’s Prediction: Lions 29, Bears 10
Jason from Indiana: Chicago
Philadelphia Eagles (6-9) +3 at New York Giants (6-9) (51.5)
Okay, so I lied…This is the least entertaining match-up of the week. It’s more depressing than Chicago / Detroit because believe it or not, these teams did look promising at one point or another. The Giants have lost so many close games that prior to the Sunday night blowout at the hands of the Vikings, if every one of their games had stopped at the two-minute warning they’d have been 10-4 and the three seed. Fucking ouch. The Eagles were the first team to knock off New England this year, and they did it on the road so that has to at least count for something even though they quickly went back to their zone defense…A unique approach where everybody picks a small area of the field and no one tackles anybody. The over on this game should be a lock, especially with Beckham back in business. Also, I noticed something about the Giants in that Minnesota game: About a second and a half after the ball is snapped when they are on defense, the wideouts head down the field to run their routes. This leaves a trapezoid-shaped area that looks like a razorblade from each OLB to the corners, in which everyone wearing a blue and white jersey can’t tackle anybody. It’s a sweet deal for who ever is facing them, but since it’ll probably be Bradford it could take him all game to score 14 points. I did want to make this brief comment about the Eagles’ decision to fire Chip Kelly: I was watching ESPN early Wednesday morning, and there was a reporter who had been told by a reliable source that Chip Kelly would like to stay in the NFL if he continues to coach. If this is true and that dumb motherfucker really thinks that’s where he should be at, he’s every bit as stupid as the people who thought that he would be a good fit for that job to begin with. College and the pro game are so far apart at times they look like completely different sports and this suggestion that he should head to Tennessee to reunite with Mariota is not only ludicrous, it could actually set that franchise back five to ten years even if he goes there for two. I’ll take Ken Whisenhunt at 3-12 and take my high draft picks in April every day until the end of the world before I’ll give Chip Kelly a shot at running my offense and even suggesting he be in control of all personnel decisions. As for this game, I like the Giants to barely cover here, but I’d take the over on the point total if it was set at 60. This game will show your children how to not play defense, and tackling will be kept at a minimum.
837’s Prediction: Giants 39, Eagles 35
Jason from Indiana: Philadelphia
St. Louis Rams (7-8) -3 at San Francisco 49ers (4-11) (37)
Any game with a point total line set by Vegas of 37 in an era where the NFL will fine you $25,000 for hitting the quarterback like you’ve been taught to do your whole life must be awfully sad and feature two of the biggest disappointments in the league. In this case, not only is that true but both of these two sorry sacks play in the same division. The Rams are last in the league in passing offense, averaging a less than robust 172 yards per contest. The five game losing streak that started with the Minnesota game buried their season, and ever since their only respectable win was against Seattle. If they could figure out the rest of the league like they’ve been able to figure out the Seahawks, the Redskins would be dust next Saturday night. But they haven’t, and thankfully they have a bit of a landing pad because the bottom of the NFC West gets swept by San Francisco. Of course I’m joking, because lately the 49ers haven’t swept anybody. Boy, what a fucking money pit that franchise has turned into. When you’re three point dogs to the Rams at home in a meaningless game, you’re transitioning from being irreparable to changing those signs on the walkway of the Golden Gate Bridge to say “You know what? Just go ahead and jump”. But to be brutally honest with you I think the Rams are going to make a statement in this game to let ownership know they’ve quit on Jeff Fisher. I’m dead serious…why not look ahead to the future? And what better way to do so by throwing a week seventeen stinker? If the total on this was thirty I would still take the under and laugh my balls off at the fact that even then the 49ers won’t sniff the end zone. Calling a shutout.
837’s Prediction: 49ers 6, Rams 0
Jason from Indiana: St. Louis
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Eight Thirty Seven