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Phew!

Both for the end of rolling out 16 NFL picks every week…and also for the New England Patriots’ win over the Buffalo Bills a week ago.

Although the Pats were down late, did anyone feel like they were going to lose that game?

I just never did.

Listen, the Bills have had a great year.  Sean McDermott seems to be a pretty good coach.  But I just haven’t been sold on them all year.

In the first Patriots/Bills game, if Tom Brady doesn’t throw that horrendous interception in the end zone mid-second quarter or so and they score a TD themselves, the game is 20-0 Pats at that early point.  (Or 19-0 anyway, as they weren’t exactly hitting a ton of extra points those days).  That game would have been OVER, sorry.

The interception gave the Bills life.  Defensive lapses on the first drive of the second half by the Bills made the score 13-10 at that point and it was a totally different ballgame.

Fast forward to last Saturday’s game.  The Pats offense finally showed up against a defense that supposedly had some ability.  Yet a Rex Burkhead fumble set a bad tone early.  Then a couple of bad big plays given up by the Pats defense led to two Bills touchdowns.

The Pats really should have smoked the Bills in both games.

Now, give some credit to the Bills of course.  Which I will begrudgingly do.  But neither of those games should have been close.

So is the Patriots’ offense “back”?  After all, the Bills defense was second in the NFL in points allowed (to the Pats), right?

You know how the Patriots get bashed for their pathetic schedule?  Welp, take a look at the Bills schedule.  Seem a little familiar?  Yup, their slate sucked too.

So can we really say the Pats O is rounding back to form?

Sure, they looked better.  Brady, in particular, looked a whole lot better.  I’m not ready to say that everything is all rosy nowadays, however.

I will say I feel a tad more positive about things, but that is all.

Let’s just get to the playoffs already and let the chips fall where they may.

As for this weeks’ games, I do love how the NFL schedules all the teams fighting for the same thing in the same time slots on the last week of the season.  That’s kinda cool.  But since most of the playoff spots are sewn up, teams are resting starters and Week Seventeen is primarily for seeding purposes…oh, and we are still trying to enjoy the holiday season ourselves…let’s just blow through these picks as fast as humanly possible.  Thank you very much for your understanding.

New York Jets at Buffalo (-1.5)

The Bills are locked into the #5 seed, could they be looking for a little momentum heading into Wild Card Weekend?  I initially thought “yes”.  But McDermott is being a little coy on how long he will actually play his starters.  So that tells me…not much.

New York Jets 17, Buffalo 13.  

Chicago at Minnesota (-1.5)

Not sure if the Vikings have a shot at the #5 seed if they win and Seattle loses.  But…that momentum thing…especially since they were wretched last Monday night against the Packers.  Wait…I just found out the Vikes are starting Sean Mannion at QB today.  Plus, Dalvin Cook is still out.  Nevermind the momentum thing…

Chicago 20, Minnesota 17.  

Cleveland (-2.5) at Cincinnati

I hope they give Freddie Kitchens one more chance next year, just for the comedic element.  We may have to worry about the Bengals playing hard again this week, as they did in their near colossal comeback against the Dolphins last week.  And…they already have locked up the #1 pick so they may play even faster and looser.  Maybe I should change my pick…after all, I just changed the first two…

Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 20.  

Atlanta at Tampa Bay (-0.5)

Coach Dan Quinn pulled off a miracle and kept his job.  I guess GM Thomas Dimitroff was under the gun too and he also stays.  Tampa has been feisty lately as well.  Toss up here…what a surprise, based on what the spread is.

Atlanta 34, Tampa Bay 31.  

New Orleans at Carolina (-13.5)

Saints need this for a chance at the #1 seed.  The Panthers are still going with Will Grier.  And apparently will just give the ball to Christian McCaffrey so he can try to set some records, according to their offensive coordinator this week.  Nice to set the Saints up with your game plan so early!  The only thing that can prevent New Orleans from a romp is…Antonio Brown??

New Orleans 42, Carolina 20.  

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City (-8.5)

The Chiefs sure as hell are giving themselves a chance at the #2 seed.  Playing at the same time as the Pats, they will come out fast and furious at least.

Kansas City 34, Los Angeles Chargers 23.  Lock of the week.

Green Bay (-13.5) at Detroit

The Pack is still fighting for the first seed.  The Lions are terrible.

Green Bay 31, Detroit 10.  

Miami at New England (-15.5)

I’m not expecting the Patriots to take this game lightly, as they have been probably ridden by coach Bill Belichick all week on the importance of this game with getting the bye and all.  The Dolphins have won 4 games this year, about 3-4 more than most people expected.  They’ve shown some fight, led by their veteran QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick.  I’m sure coach Brian Flores and his guys would love to knock the Pats out of the bye.  But the thinking here is that the Pats come out firing and build up a huge lead before gradually inserting backups.  I hope that is how it goes anyway.  I hope to God that they don’t plan on running Stephen Jackson right into the line 40 consecutive times or something like that…

New England 34, Miami 16.  

Arizona at Los Angeles Rams (-7.5)

Kyler Murray is a game time decision and that is kind of important here.  The Cards may just shut him down.  But my understanding is that the Rams will be playing backups.  Ssssssssssooooo…your guess is as good as mine here.

Arizona 24, Los Angeles Rams 20.  

Philadelphia (-4.5) at New York Giants

Something keeps trying to tell me the Giants win this and I need to pick them here.  Philly All-Pro tight end Zach Ertz is out.  The Eagles have all sorts of injuries.  They have been a frustrating team all season.  But…I just cannot do it.

Philadelphia 23, New York Giants 20.  

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Baltimore

Can Robert Griffin III and the other Raven backups still beat a Steeler team helmed by the immortal Duck Hodges?  They sure can!  BUT, we think the Ravens will just try to get the hell out of there without any injuries and the Steeler defense will do what they need to.  With the playoffs on the line, we think Duck (or more specifically, the running game) will do just enough here to keep them in the mix.

Pittsburgh 13, Baltimore 10.  

Washington at Dallas (-10.5)

Talk about frustrating…HOW ‘BOUT THEM COWBOYS?!!  But I just read somewhere that the entire starting Redskin secondary is out.  Dallas needs to win.  That’s enough for me to offset the “Jason Garrett factor”.  Maybe that’s stupid, I don’t know.

Dallas 31, Washington 17.  

Oakland at Denver (-3.5)

Miraculously, the Raiders have a shot at the playoffs.  The Broncos have shown some life upon rookie QB Drew Lock’s insertion into the lineup.  Feel like Oakland will show up, despite RB Josh Jacobs already being ruled out.

Oakland 27, Denver 24.  

Tennessee (-4.5) at Houston

Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are questionable.  Will Fuller is out.  It’s unlikely the Texans will get a better seed or if even that better seed matters.  Sounds like they are going backups too.  The Titans also need this one.

Tennessee 24, Houston 17.  

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Jacksonville

Dougie Marrone may be coaching his final game for the Jags.  Does anyone care?

Indianapolis 20, Jacksonville 14.  

San Francisco (-3.5) at Seattle

The Seahawks were embarrassed at home by the Cardinals last week, even after Kyler Murray exited the game.  They signed a couple of corpses to round out their running back room this week, including Beast Mode.  The Niners won a thriller against the Rams last week.  You know what all of this means.

Seattle 38, San Francisco 34.

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  11-5

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  9-7

Season (against the spread):  121-119

Season (straight up):  155-85

Week Sixteen…

…welp…we’ve heard it all about the New England Patriots this week.  2 bad losses in a row.  Uncharacteristic mistakes, stupid penalties…and a lot of them, drops, dumb interceptions, bad coaching/play calling, no offense, miscommunication, etc.

And then…Josh Gordon.

I’m not sure we need to rehash all of it.

We are just not used to seeing this kind of stuff in New England during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.  Not often anyway.  People point to 2009.  Sure, there was some dysfunction there, as we learned in later years.  But at least Brady was on board back then.

Wait, he’s not on board now?  Yeah, I suppose he probably is overall.  But we all have to acknowledge that this year’s Brady is a different Brady.  For a few reasons.  But mentally he appears to be a great deal different.  Thanks Gisele…and Alex.

On top of that?  Key players are old and most assuredly hurt.  Brady is 41.  We’ve said it here time and time again:  never know when the end comes when you are talking 40-year-old quarterbacks.  Actually, they are usually done before that age.  Now, Brady has had a decent year, make no mistake about it.  He has had subpar talent to throw to as well.  But he’s nowhere near the MVP form of last season.  And the dumb interception at the goal line against Pittsburgh, combined with taking the sack at the end of the first half against Miami, just defies logic.  Plus, I don’t think there is any question he is hurt.  That doesn’t help.

Rob Gronkowski is clearly not the same guy either.  Obviously.  That’s not necessarily age.  But he is most definitely battling something…or many things.  Plus maybe all the hits have taken their toll.

Julian Edelman has been ok as well.  But I believe he is hurt as well.  And the drops.  Wow.  Some bad ones.

Having those three dudes at (much?) less than what they normally give you, for whatever reason, can certainly impact an offense.

And now, no Gordon.  Surprised?  Shouldn’t be.  I’m not.  But he was becoming a good piece.  Now we have to look forward to more Phillip Dorsett.  Yippee!!  At least Brady may go back to throwing to Chris Hogan when he is wide open…which according to people who watch film has been quite often actually.

One thing that hasn’t been talked about (at least from what I have seen) is the run defense.  Yes, it has been talked about.  But not in the way I am going to talk about it.  My opinion is that, at least in the Pittsburgh game, Bill didn’t care if the Steelers ran all over us with their 3rd and 4th string running backs.  He wanted to minimize the damage done by Antonio Brown and Juju Smith Schuster.  By having a thin D-Line and dime defense all game.  And they did minimize damage.  They had a combined 8 catches for 89 yards.

What happened to pointing to Bill taking away the guy(s) that are going to hurt you and letting the other guys beat you?  He did EXACTLY that.  The Steelers scored 17 points.

With the Pats, that should be more than enough to win.  Unfortunately, as noted above, the offense is simply not the same.  THAT’S the problem.  NOT the fact that Danny Shelton was a healthy scratch.  He’s apparently sucked the whole year anyway.

So the Patriots now return home to face the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.  They should roll over those guys like a combined 75-10, go 11-5, win the AFC East and even sneak back into the #2 seed in the conference, once Houston loses to Philadelphia tomorrow.  The Pats yahoos will all be back on board and start proclaiming a Super Bowl run is now in the cards.

Will the Blowhard be on that same train?

Not really.

BUT…the NFL is WIDE open right now.  Kansas City, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams were juggernauts the first part of the season.  But the Chiefs have looked pedestrian in recent weeks and lost Kareem Hunt, a big part of their offense.  Their defense stinks.  The Rams have looked bad two weeks in a row and now Todd Gurley is hurt.  The Saints aren’t scaring anyone lately and Drew Brees has been average at best.

The Los Angeles Chargers and Chicago Bears are now everyone’s darlings.  But does anyone trust the Chargers in the playoffs?  And the Bears and Trubisky?  I don’t think so.

Houston?  Hahahahaha!!

Seattle was getting some nice momentum but threw up a stinker last week.  Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Dallas, Minnesota, Tennessee?  Meh.

Indianapolis may be the hottest team in the league right now.  But they are also not even IN the playoffs right now either.

Philadelphia?  Don’t rule it out.  Maybe the Eagles and Nick Foles ARE going to do it again.

It’ll be an interesting ride, that’s for sure.

Washington at Tennessee (-10.5)

This is a huge number for the Titans.  And I still don’t believe in that team.  So I don’t exactly feel that comfortable going this route.  But the ‘Skins are banged up all around.  And Josh Johnson is still their QB.  Being at Tennessee, I feel like I have no choice here.

Tennessee 27, Washington 13.

Baltimore at Los Angeles Chargers (-4.5)

Like three weeks ago, John Harbaugh was getting fired.  Now they are talking extension?

Los Angeles Chargers 30, Baltimore 20.

Jacksonville at Miami (-4.5)  

Speaking of getting fired, nice to know you Dougie Marrone.

Miami 24, Jacksonville 17.

New York Giants at Indianapolis (-9.5) 

Seven out of the last eight for the Colts.  G-Men got shut out last week and yet again without ODB.  Seems like a slam dunk here.

Indianapolis 38, New York Giants 10.

Atlanta at Carolina (-3.5)

A couple of underachievers here.  Let’s see what Taylor Heinicke can do.  Funny thing is, I am kind of interested in what he can (or can’t do).  Who remembers Heinicke’s 2-week stint on the New England Patriots practice squad last season?  I may be the only one, but I do remember.  I’m not saying he’s going to pan out.  It’s doubtful he will.  But if he does…nevermind…

Atlanta 24, Carolina 13.

Buffalo at New England Patriots (-12.5) 

See above.

New England Patriots 34, Buffalo 17.

Houston at Philadelphia (-0.5) 

See above, Part II.

Philadelphia 31, Houston 20.

Green Bay at New York Jets (-1.5)

I know the Packers haven’t played well this year.  Aaron Rodgers is banged up and is questionable.  The Pack would have every right to shut him down if they wanted to.  And they still may.  But even if they go with the backup, DeShone Kizer, can the Jets STILL be favored in this game?  When is the last time the Jets have been favored against ANYONE?

Green Bay 27, New York Jets 10.

Cincinnati at Cleveland (-7.5)

It’s a big line, no doubt.  But it’s all of a sudden hard to go against the Browns these days.  Imagine that.

Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 13. 

Tampa Bay at Dallas (-7.5)

The ‘Boys got whitewashed last week by the Colts after winning 5 in a row.  They are 6-1 at home, however.  The Bucs have played the Saints and Ravens tough the last two weeks but methinks that’s more a reflection of those two teams than the Bucs being any good.  Hate to say it, but Dallas bounces back in this one.

Dallas 27, Tampa Bay 17.

Minnesota (-5.5) at Detroit

I read somewhere that the Vikings are “revitalized”.  Why, because they smoked the Dolphins, who stink themselves?  We will see.  But they should beat a terrible Lions team anyway.

Minnesota 28, Detroit 9.  

Chicago (-3.5) at San Francisco

I ALMOST took the Niners here.  Because they are 4-3 at home.  And beat a decent Seahawks squad (who everyone had fallen in love with) there last week.  And because I think the Bears are completely overrated.

Chicago 20, San Francisco 14. 

Los Angeles Rams (-14.5) at Arizona

The Rams have not looked good for two straight weeks.  Todd Gurley is hurt and may not play.  Thank God for the Cardinals!

Los Angeles Rams 34, Arizona 3.

Pittsburgh at New Orleans (-6.5) 

Seems like every team that beats the Patriots gets crushed the next week.

New Orleans 38, Pittsburgh 24.  

Kansas City (-2.5) at Seattle

If the Seahawks didn’t lose to the 49ers last week, I probably would have taken them in this game.  Wait, I am going to take them anyway.  They are THAT unpredictable I guess.

Seattle 27, Kansas City 24.  

Denver (-2.5) at Oakland

They couldn’t have flexed another game into Christmas Eve??!!  Wait, this game actually may be entertaining.  So I’ll give it a chance.

Denver 30, Oakland 27.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  9-7

Season (against the spread):  121-103

Season (straight up):  138-86

Week Seventeen…

Another (somewhat) abridged (but not so last-minute) holiday edition.  Tough sledding here, as plenty of teams will be resting guys for the playoffs, shutting guys down period, playing some young kids to see if they are worth hanging on to for next year and any other scenario in-between.  We will see what happens.  If we go 1-15, we finish the year over .500 still.  So that’s good enough for me anyway.  Happy New Year!!

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-13.5)

Cleveland is shooting for 0-16.  I think they can do it, even though the Steelers are apparently not playing any of their key guys…well, Big Ben and Le’Veon Bell anyway…with Antonio Brown still out too.  Landry Jones and Stevan Ridley anyone?  Sure.  They could (and should) probably still beat the Brownies.

Pittsburgh 17, Cleveland 13.

Green Bay at Detroit (-7.5)

The Lions actually should win this one going away…but of course they won’t.

Detroit 20, Green Bay 17.

Chicago at Minnesota (-12.5) 

I believe Minnesota still has to play its way into the second seed and the bye over in the NFC.  Therefore…

Minnesota 30, Chicago 10.

Dallas (-2.5) at Philadelphia

Philly is apparently going to play their starters for a bit.  Which Nick Foles will show up?  Who cares?

Dallas 27, Philadelphia 17.

Houston at Indianapolis (-3.5) 

Speaking of “Who cares?”, 7-23 between these two squads.  The only intrigue will be after the game to see if either of the two coaches keep their jobs.  They both honestly probably should, based on their respective teams’ injury concerns this season.  But I’d keep O’Brien and fire Pagano.  Then again, Billy O’B and the Houston GM apparently despise each other.  Kind of thinking both are going, right or wrong.  Oh, I have to make a pick?

Houston 13, Indianapolis 10.

New York Jets at New England (-15.5) 

It’s apparently going to be 50 below in Foxborough Sunday.  The Jets are likely ready to hit the offseason, despite their competitiveness this season.  Because the Pats still need to win (or have the Steelers lose) to sew up the #1 seed, I’d say that they will probably just try to do enough to get the W and get the hell outta there unscathed.  But they may only have Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden at running back…and I’d prefer not to give Lewis 30 carries on the eve of the playoffs.  Maybe Pro Bowler (?!) James Develin gets some carries too.  I’m starting to think the Patriots come out throwing and take a little bit of a lead and then ride Bolden to victory in the second half!

New England 27, New York Jets 16.

Washington (-3.5) at New York Giants

The brand new Giants GM said he is leaning towards keeping Eli as the starting QB next year.  Yeah, until he finds someone better this offseason…likely with the #2 overall draft pick.  The Giants owner also seemingly wants to bring cornerback Eli Apple back too, because you “don’t give up on talent…” or some nonsense like that.  That should go over well in the locker room.  Not to mention the Giants interim coach is playing Eli Sunday “start to finish”.  Why?  He says they already know what they have in third rounder Davis Webb…despite Webb getting zero game experience this year.  All of the above is kind of irrelevant for Sunday…even Eli playing the whole game…but it does make me laugh.

Washington 14, New York Giants 13.

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-9.5) 

The Bengals winning on Marvin Lewis’ way out?  Nah.  The Ravens need this one.  Though the spread is probably too high.  I’m still doing it.

Baltimore 27, Cincinnati 17.

Carolina at Atlanta (-3.5) 

This may be the one game worth watching.  The Falcons need this one more.  That of course makes me nervous…but I’m still gonna do it here too.

Atlanta 27, Carolina 20.

New Orleans (-7.5) at Tampa Bay

The Bucs are bringing back Dirk Koetter next year?  Yaaaay!  Wait, what happened to all those Jon Gruden rumors?  Anyway, the Saints should roll here either way.

New Orleans 37, Tampa Bay 23.  

Kansas City at Denver (-3.5) 

The Chiefs are resting everyone and the Broncos are starting Paxton Lynch (I think).  I should be taking the Broncos defense here, but I’m not.

Kansas City 17, Denver 13.

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-3.5)

This may be the second best game of the week…if the Jags play their regulars…which their coach said they were going to.  But we will see, since the game doesn’t mean anything to Jacksonville.  Other than to get revenge on a Week Two beating the Titans handed to them.  Since that point was mentioned specifically by Dougie Marrone, I’ll take my chances with the Jags this week.  The Titans have continuously underwhelmed and I really don’t expect anything different here…even with a playoff berth staring them in the face.

Jacksonville 31, Tennessee 20.  

Arizona at Seattle (-8.5)  

The Cards are 7-8?  Hard to believe.  The Seahawks have been inconsistent, but still have a chance.  Based on their inconsistency, laying 8.5 seems aggressive, but the feeling here is that they come out ready to go.

Seattle 34, Arizona 23.

Buffalo (-2.5) at Miami

Two times in three weeks for this marquee matchup, with the Bills winning by eight in the first one in Buffalo.  The Bills are still remarkably in the playoff mix and therefore need it more.  Despite the Bills not actually being very good.  Throw in the fact that Miami isn’t good either, I am not expecting the ‘Phins to go all out to knock the Bills from the playoff chase.  I don’t know…

Buffalo 27, Miami 17.

Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers (-7.5)

The Raiders actually gave the Eagles a game last Monday.  Both teams were kind of inept though.  Chargers have a chance.  Raiders do not.  That’s all I can say really.

Los Angeles Chargers 24, Oakland 13.

San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) 

The oddsmakers apparently have not been watching the Jimmy G show.  Of course the Rams are the better team, but when your coach has already said your best players aren’t playing and the rest of the starters aren’t playing much, one wonders how the Rams could still be favored in this game.

San Francisco 27, Los Angeles Rams 16.

Week (against the spread):  6-10

Week (straight up):  13-3

Season (against the spread):  128-112

Season (straight up):  163-77

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