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Thursday Night…Yuck…

…so we alluded to this before, it appears the atrocious Thursday Night product is back.  A couple of duds thus far this year.  Another yawner on tap for tonight.

I thought maybe we turned a corner with some decent games on this night last year.  Once again, it appears that I thought wrong.

Anyway, no sense in recapping the New England Patriots’ game against the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, which is what we might normally do here as a lead-in to the Thursday pick.

Other than the fact that I am a little discouraged that Bill Belichick left Tom Brady in late with a gigantic lead.

Why?

To “play 60 minutes” as both Brady and Belichick stated after the game?  A message or something?

Stupid.

I mean, have they seen the state of the offensive line?  And how Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger went down that same day?

I know, I know, Brady could get hurt in the first quarter just as easily as in a 37-0 game.  Like 2008.

But still…why risk it?

And now he ends up on the injury report with a calf injury.

Sure, he was on the injury report for years previously with a shoulder injury or something like that.  So it may be nothing.  It actually probably IS nothing.  Besides 2008, he has always played anyway.

But what are we doing here with a 42 year old QB?  Just so Brady doesn’t give up any snaps to backup Jarrett Stidham?  Wouldn’t surprise me if that is part of it.  He most assuredly hasn’t forgotten how he got in the lineup initially, for an injured Drew Bledsoe.  And he doesn’t want to open the door even a crack.

But Bledsoe then is not Brady now.  Tom is not losing his job to Stidham if he gets hurt.  Even if Jarrett goes like 6-0 or something.  Not going to happen.  So Tom needs to be smart…and so does Bill.  And if Tom balks, Bill needs to force the issue.

We will see what happens when the Pats are up 52-3 over the Jets late on Sunday.  Sad to say, I still expect Brady to be behind center late.

One more thing I guess…are we worried about Stephen Gostkowski yet?

I think a little.

Like a lot of kickers, he has somehow struggled with the longer extra point once they moved the line back.  Not sure why kickers have had trouble with that.  It’s not like it’s 60 yards now or something.

But TWO missed extra points in one game??

Listen, the alternative may not be great.  One of the biggest mysteries in life is how the NFL cannot find 32 decent kickers IN THIS ENTIRE WORLD!  How is that possible?

But even legendary kickers have their moments, such as Adam Vinatieri…even though he is 145 years old.

Truth be told, maybe “the operation” (as Bill calls it) is part of the problem.  Punter Jake Bailey has never held for kicks to the best of my knowledge.  So maybe there is something to it.

But it does also mystify me how, especially in recent years, the Pats do not bring in any competition for Gostkowski…at least to keep him on his toes a little bit.

Two games in, I am not panicking…yet.  But something else to keep an eye on anyway.

As for the game:

Tennessee (-1.5) at Jacksonville

Speaking of injured quarterbacks, Titans QB Marcus Mariota is banged up…again…what a SHOCKER.  But I guess he is good to go for this one.  Not sure how the Titans lost at home to Indy after waxing the Browns in Cleveland on Opening Night…but I suppose that is their M.O.  Meaning, no one knows what to expect from them on a week to week basis.  On top of that, I am not sure how the Jags hung in there on the road against a Houston Texan team that lost a heartbreaker on Opening Night, though didn’t look all that bad in the loss.  I guess going for two at the end of the game instead of taking their chances in overtime.  And not making it of course.  I suppose that is how you lose a game.  In any event, I don’t know anything about Gardner Minshew II and haven’t seen him play a single snap thus far this season.  But the numbers say he is holding his own after big free agent acquisition Nick Foles went down.  I think the best (funniest?) story leading up to this game is that a report I heard yesterday said “Jags cornerback Jalen Ramsey will play Thursday night, but is expected to be traded Friday…”  WHAT??!  WHY WOULD YOU PLAY HIM??  Kind of hope he tears an ACL or breaks a leg in the game tonight to show Jax that this may not have been a smart decision.

Tennessee 20, Jacksonville 17.  

Week (against the spread):  8-8

Week (straight up):  10-6

Lock Of The Week (season):  2-0

Season (against the spread):  17-15

Season (straight up):  24-8

Week Fifteen…

Diving right in:

Chicago at Detroit (-5.5)

I wanted to take the Bears in this one.  I really did.  I don’t believe in the Lions at all.  But I’m also not going to get fooled by the Bears’ blowout against the Bengals last week.  After 5 straight losses.  That result shouldn’t fool anyone.  Chicago lost at home to Detroit about a month ago and obviously would like to avenge that loss…while at the same time hurting Detroit’s playoff hopes.  I can’t do it though, even if the Lions are banged up on the O-Line.

Detroit 24, Chicago 13.

Los Angeles Chargers (-1.5) at Kansas City

Two teams seemingly headed in different directions in recent weeks.  But did the Chiefs get back on track with last weeks win against Oakland?  This may go against my better judgement, but I am saying yes…for this week anyway.  Sure I was speaking highly of the Chargers last week, who again could be something like 9-4 if they had a kicker.  But this week I am pumping the brakes a little bit.

Kansas City 30, Los Angeles Chargers 24.

New York Jets at New Orleans (-15.5) 

15.5 is a large number.  But two words will make you feel better about taking the Saints:  Bryce Petty.  That, in and of itself, should be enough.  But throw in the fact that the Jets Offensive Coordinator very publicly said he gave up in last week’s game, the Muhammad Wilkerson benching, the Saints’ 5-1 record at home, the Saints having ten days to prepare and New Orleans needing to keep winning because of the tight NFC South division they are in and for the playoff race…well, that’s many more reasons to expect a blowout here.

New Orleans 45, New York Jets 10.

Houston at Jacksonville (-11.5) 

11.5 is another large number…especially for an unproven “contender” like the Jaguars.  Sure, the Jags did beat Seattle last week.  And their D is apparently top-notch.  But what does that mean now?  Not sure.  That being said, looks like the Texans are going with T.J. Yates on Sunday.  Once again, this alone should make one feel comfortable about laying the points.

Jacksonville 33, Houston 7.

Philadelphia (-7.5) at New York Giants

The G-Men actually were tied with Dallas about midway through the fourth quarter last Sunday…until the ‘Boys finally snapped out of it and blitzed in 3 touchdowns immediately after that.  Will there be some sort of hangover for the Eagles, what with them losing Carson Wentz for the year this past week?  Possibly.  But it will take much less than three and a half quarters for them to shake it off.  The Iggles should still win this one pretty handily, even with Nick Foles at the helm.

Philadelphia 34, New York Giants 14.

Miami at Buffalo (-3.5)

Tyrod Taylor is back.  Yaaaaay!  In all seriousness though, that is good news with Joe Webb being the only alternative.  The ‘Phins looked pretty damn good in beating the Pats Monday night.  Or did the Pats just look that bad?  I am certainly a total homer, but I think it is more the latter.  And Miami only won by 7 in the end, sad considering how it looked like they had total control of the game at all times.  In any event, I don’t expect Jay Cutler to put together standout performances two weeks in a row.  And although the game in Miami Monday had the temperatures in the 50s…of course cold for Miami…in Buffalo what will it be in Sunday, the 20s?  That’s not going to help the Dolphins.

Buffalo 21, Miami 17.

Baltimore (-6.5) at Cleveland 

Yup, the Ravens did kind of choke away their game against the Steelers last week.  But here they are again in the mix to get into the playoffs, with a pretty easy schedule remaining.  The Browns have had chances to win a game this season plenty of times.  But I don’t think that’s a realistic option this week.  Even if Josh Gordon goes off for 300 yards receiving or something.

Baltimore 27, Cleveland 17.

Cincinnati at Minnesota (-10.5) 

The Bengals stink and I don’t even want to talk about them.

Minnesota 31, Cincinnati 9.

Arizona at Washington (-4.5)

A couple of teams playing out the string.  The Cards still appear to be competing, and I suppose are still technically alive in the playoff chase…even with the immortal Blaine Gabbert under center.  On the flip side, the ‘Skins may have already packed it in.  Maybe it’s all the injuries, but it’s been an ugly last couple of games for Washington.

Arizona 20, Washington 17.  

Green Bay at Carolina (-2.5) 

Aaron Rodgers is back.  That’s nice.  But does it get them a win against the 9-4 Panthers?  Well, they may not get behind consistently, as in the “Brett Hundley era”, where they had to come back late the last couple of weeks to beat bad teams to stay in the playoff chase.  But I am not sure it gets them a win.  Will Rodgers show some rust?  Likely.  Maybe he will shake it off quickly, but who knows?  Taking the safe route here.

Carolina 27, Green Bay 24.

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle (-1.5)

Second tough one in a row for the Rams, after losing a tight one to the Eagles last week.  Now they have to go to Seattle to face a team that already beat them in LA earlier this year.  If the Seahawks do win, they take over first place and, based on whatever else happens by the end of the weekend, could actually knock the Rams out of the top 6 in the conference.  Yes, there are two weeks left after that, but that is still a kind of surprising turn of events.  Seattle tried to come back against the Jags last week…as Russell Wilson has been pretty amazing in the 4th quarter all by himself this season…but came up short.  The ‘Hawks are hurting all around, but you can’t ever count them out.

Seattle 34, Los Angeles Rams 27.  

New England (-2.5) at Pittsburgh 

I love it how after a game in which the Patriots and, in particular, Tom Brady, play atrociously, then the sky is falling, the Pats “dynasty” is over and Brady is washed up.  Happens at least once a year and then the Pats and Brady then repeatedly prove everyone wrong.  Now look, this all will happen someday.  The Pats are banged up, Brady included.  Pittsburgh is a pretty good team, albeit one that gave up 38 to a poor Raven offense last week.  But will it happen this year?  No.  And not this week.  If it does, then it may be time to worry.  Let’s also not forget that for whatever reason Brady sucks in Miami.  And it was the second time in three weeks playing the Dolphins.  And the Pats, though they will never admit it, were likely looking past Miami to this one.  In the whole scheme of things, that game meant nothing.  This game means everything.  I’m expecting a few bodies to come back and for the ship to right itself.  If I am wrong we will deal with that next week.

New England 42, Pittsburgh 34.

Tennessee at San Francisco (-1.5)

The Titans are probably the worst 8-5 team in the league.  Wait…only Atlanta and Seattle are 8-5 across the league, so that claim was too easy.  Anyway, when is this Marcus Mariota kid going to take the next step?  I am not impressed.  Look at their schedule and results this year.  Unimpressive, to be kind.  They’ve actually given up 21 more points than they have scored on the season.  Though they can pretty much thank two blowout losses to the Texans and Steelers for that.  But still.  This team does nothing for me and with any luck they will make the playoffs and the AFC Championship and the Pats can blast them easily en route to the Super Bowl.  Ok, I’m getting off track…and waaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of myself.  In any event, they aren’t that good.  The Niners appear to be better now that Jimmy Football is in charge.  SF is at home.  I’m going 49ers.

San Francisco 17, Tennessee 16.

Dallas (-2.5) at Oakland

Two teams with high expectations coming into the season.  Both underachieving, to say the least.  No Zeke for Dallas hasn’t helped.  I’m not sure what Oakland’s problem has been…other than the fact that Jack del Rio is their coach.  And their receivers drop like 20 balls a game.  We will have to get through this one in prime time somehow.  Not expecting much.

Dallas 31, Oakland 17.

Atlanta (-6.5) at Tampa Bay

Speaking of prime time, we have this on Monday.  Tampa has lost 7 of 9, with the two wins against the Jets and Dolphins.  The Falcons have been inconsistent this year, but have won 4 of 5, with the loss coming to Minnesota.  This one shouldn’t be close.  I’m sure Atlanta will make it closer that it has to be however.

Atlanta 30, Tampa Bay 17.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  113-96

Season (straight up):  137-72

Patriots Ripe for a Fall?

Perhaps…but we will get to that later.  The NFC Championship Game featuring Dall…er, I mean Green Bay at Atlanta is first up.  One thing is for sure on both games though:  I’m not certain we can expect any defense whatsoever later today.  Just a wild hunch.  That’s what they pay me for…oh, wait…

Green Bay at Atlanta (-5.5):

Every fiber of my being is telling me that Green Bay has absolutely no chance in this one.  Why?  The following:

*Wide receivers:  Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams & Geronimo Allison are all questionable.  Randall Cobb has been banged up all year and though he is back, is he really healthy?

*Running Game:  None to speak of.  Please, don’t give me Ty Montgomery.  Also no Aaron Ripkowski.  Seriously.

*Defense:  Not much to speak of here either.  Secondary is also battling injuries and is subpar in the first place.  Atlanta is stacked on offense, even with a slightly(?) hobbled Julio Jones.  They scored 71 more points than 2nd place New Orleans during the year.  And not only do they have one running back, they have two.

*Road game:  Kind of.  Atlanta was only 5-3 at home.  And maybe controlled conditions actually help Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers.

*Illness:  Rodgers came out and said he was sick in the middle of the week.  He also said the flu or something was running through their locker room this week.

*Airplanes:  I just heard the Packers were delayed in getting into Atlanta due to fog at the Green Bay airport.  I guess by a couple of hours, but…a sign?

Is that enough?

Well, the good news for the Pack is that they are the ones that have Aaron Rodgers.  Atlanta hasn’t proven anything in the playoffs.  The Falcons defense may stink more than the Packers.  And the Packers have Aaron Rodgers.

I’ve personally been trying to bury Green Bay since they got into the playoffs.  If the New York Giants actually took advantage early in their Wild Card game, maybe that score is different.  If the Dallas Cowboys actually had a good coach, maybe that score is different.

But they weren’t.  The Pack is still here.  And one more thing:  Do you think the NFL wants Atlanta or Green Bay in the Super Bowl?  Just sayin’

(Gritting teeth), Green Bay, 38-34

Pittsburgh at New England (-6):

First off, enough of the whole Antonio Brown and Facebook Live stuff from after the game last weekend.  Irrelevant.  Even the stuff that came out of Mike Tomlin’s mouth.  Just not a big deal.

As for the game itself, Pittsburgh was the opponent I know I least wanted the Patriots to face on the way to the Super Bowl.  After Denver didn’t make the playoffs, that is.  None of the other AFC playoff teams scared me at all.  We all saw what Kansas City was last week.  How can you be afraid of THAT?

And now that the Pats kind of played like garbage last week, the game has seemingly made a lot of people around here nervous.  More nervous that they had been initially anyway.

Houston supposedly had the number one defense and Pittsburgh does not.  So that will hopefully in and of itself make the Patriot offense look better.  But if Tom Brady gets picked off twice and Dion Lewis fumbles twice again, they will have a much more potent offense to deal with in Pittsburgh as opposed to the high school one that Houston offered up.

Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are absolute monsters.  Locals this week have been pointing to Ben Roethlisberger’s road woes this year.  But we should all know better.  We know what he can do.  The Steelers also have some other “no name” wide receivers that appear out of nowhere and make plays.  A little concerning when the Pats have Logan Ryan and Eric Rowe to cover them.  Let’s also not forget that Pittsburgh’s offense wasn’t exactly clicking on all cylinders last week either with their 6 field goal game.

I think we should expect both offenses to play a little better.

BUT, the Patriot receivers are hobbled.  Especially Martellus Bennett.  I’m not sure if he is just running on fumes at this point.  He would be a huge plus in this game.  And it appears he is really gutting it out.  But I don’t know if has anything left.

And…God knows I don’t want to see LeGarrette Blount get the ball 25 times.  I know, he had a good game against them during the regular season.  But that was a long time ago.  The Steelers seem to be better on D than back then.  And Blount is a guy that will chew up bad defenses.  But be less than mediocre against even average defenses.

I know…a lot of negative Patriot talk here so far.  But I will support them in one case:  strength of schedule.  Their schedule certainly did consist of many horrible teams this year, no question.  And that is what a lot of the talking heads have been harping on over the last week.  But the Steelers didn’t exactly play a Murderer’s Row down the stretch either.  Including the playoffs.  Miami is terrible.  And, sad to say, may have even been in the game if Ryan Tannehill was the QB in the Wild Card game instead of Matt Moore.  Moore had 3 atrocious turnovers that basically let the Steelers run away with the game.  And we’ve already been through the KC game.

Enough rambling here…even though I am still trying to make a decision.  Ok, just do it.  Bell and Brown get plenty of yards.  But the Pats stiffen near the goal line, as they have done for years pretty much.  The sky really isn’t falling…at least I hope not.  New England, 31-23.

Last week:  2-2 (2-2 against the spread).

Total:  5-3 (4-4 against the spread).

 

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