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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

Conference Championships…

Not a banner week for the Blowhard in the Divisional Round.  Let’s see what we can come up with for the Conference Championship games:

Jacksonville at New England (-7.5)

This one opened up with a spread of 9 or 9.5, depending on who you may pay attention to.  Now it’s 7.5.  Maybe it goes lower by kickoff.  Why?  Tom Brady’s hand of course!  No one knows how bad the thing is.  He missed a couple of practices.  He goes around with gloves on.  He says “we’ll see” when asked if he will suit up on Sunday.  No one on New England is going to give us any insight of course.  But you know what I say?

Hand, schmand!!

Please.  Brady ain’t missing this game, regardless of the condition of his hand.  Well, if it was cut off, he may be forced to miss the game.  But short of that, he’s playing.  Make no mistake about that.

Furthermore, make no mistake that the Pats are still going to win this game handily, even with some sort of injured Brady under center.  I’m going to stop short at this time of saying they would still win with backup Brian Hoyer at the helm.  But I would still feel pretty confident.  And don’t get me going on how the Pats should still have Jimmy Garoppolo…

In any event, I cannot believe how many people think that Jacksonville is some sort of elite team.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Has anyone looked at their schedule?  6 games against powerhouses Tennessee, Indianapolis and Houston.  Additional tilts against the Jets, Cardinals, Bengals and Browns.  An early season trouncing of the Ravens…when Baltimore was atrocious.  I am simply not impressed.

The defense?  Sure, they are pretty good.  They have some names.  They had 4 or 5 Pro Bowlers and/or All-Pros.  But they apparently also had half their season’s sacks in 4 games against the Texans and Colts.  They also gave up 44 to a certainly rejuvenated San Francisco team with two weeks left in the regular season, but also a Niner team that does not have a ton of weapons.  Not to mention the Jags had something to play for still at 10-4 and in the mix for even the top seed at that point.  Then they gave up 42 to a certainly talented (offensively) Pittsburgh team last week.  But 42 nonetheless.

The Jag offense?  45 points last week.  But against a Steeler defense that was horrendous this year, especially down the stretch.  Plus, oh yeah, the Steelers didn’t actually prepare for the Jags I don’t think.  They did think they were automatically coming to Foxborough this week, after all.  Let’s not forget that the Jags scored a mere 10 points, at home, against the vaunted Buffalo Bill defense the week before in the wild card round.  I think the Jags offense is closer to the one from the Bills game than the one from the Steelers game.

Going back to the Jags D…the one concern I would have is their defensive line against the Patriots’ offensive line.  But the stud corners (A.J. Bouye & Jalen Ramsey)?  Not concerned.  Why?  No Patriot wide receiver, other than perhaps Danny Amendola, will make an impact in this game.  It will all be the running backs and tight ends.  Gronk, Dion Lewis, James White and I’m guessing Rex Burkhead will be the main focus in this game.  Those corners can take away Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan all they want.  Who cares?

Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia and the Pats will shut down Leonard Fournette and make Blake Bortles beat them.  Which has absolutely zero chance of happening.  Brady’s bum hand or not.

New England 31, Jacksonville 13.

Minnesota (-3.5) at Philadelphia 

This one is a little tougher to predict.  I know, Captain Obvious.

When Carson Wentz went down, it appears that most people wrote the Eagles off for the year.  Especially after replacement Nick Foles threw in a couple of clunkers down the stretch.  Hell, the Blowhard had them losing to Atlanta last week.  We absolutely wrote them off.

You know what though?  I’m reconsidering my stance.

Especially since Case Keenum is on the other side.

Sure, Keenum has had a pretty good year.  Maybe made himself some good money in the upcoming offseason.  But the fact remains that the Vikings should be home playing golf this weekend.  That prayer at the end of the New Orleans game has kept them in the tournament.  But, speaking of prayers, Keenum threw up a couple of ill-advised (to be kind) passes in that game that could have taken the Vikes out of it even earlier.  He didn’t exactly look like a “playoff QB” in that tilt.  Not to mention that Coach Mike Zimmer seemingly has been looking for a reason to put Sam Bradford back in the mix for quite some time.  But he’s been forced to ride Keenum’s hot run out.  I don’t blame Zimmer for that.  He’s kind of had to.  But it seems like he doesn’t have a whole lot of confidence in Case himself.

Yup, Foles is no gimme either.  But I think he plays things a little closer to the vest.  I think he does anyway.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Either way, being a little conservative should be a benefit in this game.

The defenses should both be stout.  The QB’s should both be average.  The running games should both be busy and decent.  Philly being at home should have some sort of advantage.

This game is probably going to be low scoring and could very well be decided by a simple mistake.  Who’s more likely to make that mistake, Keenum or Foles?  I think you already know my answer.  But don’t hold it against me if somehow Bradford finds his way into the game and changes the Vikings fortunes.  I have to assume he won’t be going in.

And for whatever it’s worth…I still don’t think the Vikes will be the first team to play in their home stadium in a Super Bowl.  Just a gut feeling there.

Philadelphia 20, Minnesota 17.

Week (against the spread):  1-3

Week (straight up):  2-2

Season (against the spread):  141-123

Season (straight up):  178-86

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