…trying to find the right words to write while also wondering why Jason Garrett still has a job several days after the end of the NFL season…guess that is not something I need to worry about. But still curious…anyway…bottom line is that Jerry Jones is probably weaseling out of the whole thing and letting Garrett’s contract expire on the 14th I think. Maybe force the new coach after that to add Garrett to his staff. But otherwise keep him “in the building”, without actually firing him as head coach.
Just find the whole thing in Dallas comical. As opposed to Miami coach (and long time Patriot assistant) Brian Flores firing his offensive coordinator (and long time Patriot assistant) Chad O’Shea the day after the season ended…and after only one year…and after Flores brought O’Shea to Miami…and considering those guys were supposedly tight. I find that story interesting, but nothing more.
What is NOT comical is the New England Patriots’ loss to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday. I think all Patriot fans feel the same way.
Even though it has likely been a lot of substitutes for the main hosts on the local sports radio stations this week, we have not been able to bring ourselves to listen to the noise. Because we fear the noise is accurate. And I will make my own noise here. Don’t you worry.
But even the subs have probably been saying the same things on the radio (and TV and newspapers and the internet and etc. of course) this week. Stuff like:
*If they can’t beat Miami with a bye on the line, how do you think they will do in the actual playoffs?
*So much for that vaunted defense. Letting the immortal Ryan Fitzpatrick march the offense downfield to win the game in the end.
*By the same token, so much for that Defensive Player of the Year award for Stephon Gilmore this season after being torched by Devante Parker all day.
*Tom Brady sure looked terrible today, eh? Is he hiding an injury?
*Why did they give up ANYTHING for Mohamed Sanu? He is brutal!
*Boy, Julian Edelman really needs some time off. Could’ve used that bye!
*Brady is gone. Josh McDaniels is gone. Devin McCourty is gone. Kyle Van Noy is gone. Joe Thuney is gone. Jamie Collins is gone. (Insert other free agent player or coach here).
*Feels like the 2009 team all over again, right?!
And so on…
I can’t argue with ANY of that. This space loved the 8-0 start. But we weren’t completely sold on the team since they were playing teams that were barely better than some local colleges. Well, maybe not local colleges, as Boston College still stinks. But you get the point.
And yeah, the Dolphins sure turned things around from that 43-0 blasting by the Pats in Week Two, eh?
The FEEL of things out there regarding the team just doesn’t seem right. And that is without getting into Brady’s future with the organization (or football as a whole). We may get to that someday. That topic has already been covered ad nauseam locally. I’m not sure I have completely formed my opinion on that as of yet. It feels like he is gone, to retirement or another team. But this postseason could prepare a different script. We can chat more about that later.
But back to the “feel”, meaning…the offense…and Brady himself… has never seemed right. The offensive line has been bad, helping contribute to running back Sony Michel not running for many yards. Though Michel has looked slow and indecisive in his own right. Brady’s attitude and demeanor in interviews. McDaniels’ play calling. Does Brady ever trust the kid wide receivers? Or do they just stink? The defense not looking so great against good teams. Why did they opt for Sanu over Emmanuel Sanders, who is playing well in San Fran? The Antonio Brown fiasco. The Gronk “will he or won’t he garbage”. Edelman being banged up. Is Brady too? Giving Michael Bennett away instead of say, ditching Deatrich Wise Jr., who plays very little, but always seems to have a key penalty every game. The Josh Gordon Experience. Blah, blah, blah.
In any event, based on the history of this organization, it would not shock me at all to see them make another Super Bowl run. Far-fetched, especially since they needlessly forced themselves to play an extra game? Sure. But the Pats have looked bad before. And turned it around when no one thought they could. See: Last season.
Is a Super Bowl run likely? Doubt it. There are just too many strong teams out there. Baltimore and Kansas City in the AFC. (Side note: I am not sure how everyone is handing the conference to the Ravens. And have been for quite some time. We know what the Chiefs can do, right?). San Francisco, Green Bay, New Orleans, even Seattle in the NFC (though those teams do have flaws that can be exposed, especially with two weeks of preparation time). The overall competition just seems a little stiffer all around.
It’s just hard for me to rule anything out with these Patriots. Despite what we all feel. Yup, that the dynasty may indeed be over.
As for this weekends’ slate:
Buffalo at Houston (-2.5)
I love some of the latest chatter I’ve heard: The Bills are going to go into Houston and win. Then shock the Ravens in Baltimore. Then when New England beats Tennessee at home and upsets the Chiefs in KC (well, they did that last year!), the Pats will be hosting the Bills in Foxborough for the AFC Championship game!!!!! And guess what? THEN the Bills will all of a sudden suck and it will be an easy win for the Pats to cruise into the Super Bowl!! Please. The Bills are a nice story. I said it last week, Sean McDermott seems like a good coach and has the team headed in the right direction. QB Josh Allen has his moments. The Texans do have some trouble in the playoffs historically. Resting some key guys last week will help them. Maybe the return of J.J. Watt will as well. The Bills ride ends here. Sorry wishful thinkers.
Houston 27, Buffalo 17.
Tennessee at New England (-5.5)
You know who else’s ride ends here? You’ll have to wait a second. As well as the Patriots defense has played at times this year, they have had some problems stopping the run. Titans RB Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing yardage. Also would not be surprised if the Titans resurrected old friend Dion Lewis from the depths of their bench. The Pats D historically don’t do well against QB’s who can run, or at least move around a little. Titans QB Ryan Tannehill can at least do the latter. And upped his game for sure once he took over the Titans job. It’s unlikely Bill Belichick will stack eight men in the box against the running game since the Titans all of a sudden have a receiver tearing it up in A.J. Brown. The Titans can give up some points, but the Pats have trouble scoring them. Not a lot of confidence from this usual homer. And therefore you get this:
Tennessee 27, New England 20.
Minnesota at New Orleans (-7.5)
Verizon FIOS is trying to make me feel bad. They have removed the FOX channel from our cable offerings because apparently, FOX is trying to squeeze more money out of Verizon. How’s that feel Verizon? Look in the f’ng mirror. Like you haven’t been screwing John Q. Public for years with your plans? This message is on a loop on the channel now: “This station is asking for a 70% increase in order to carry them. That’s like the price of gas going from $2.99 to over $5.00 a gallon overnight”. Comparing a huge corporation with Joe Average Person? Please. Enough with that nonsense already. I digress, but I mention it because I will have to find an alternative way to watch this game. Plus, I think it is as funny as sh&t that VZ is trying to do this. Plus, I don’t really have much of anything to say about the actual game. Looks like Dalvin Cook is ready to roll for the Vikes. But how healthy is Adam Thielen? Kirk Cousins had a nice run for a while, but I can’t say I’ve ever bought in. The Saints should handle this one at home fairly easily I imagine. Maybe I won’t even have to watch.
New Orleans 34, Minnesota 24.
Seattle (-1.5) at Philadelphia
The Seahawks lost 3 of 4 down the stretch and have emergency guys playing running back. Yet, they were an inch (and a horrific delay of game penalty previously?) away from not even being in this game. Maybe they should have fans call in goal line plays instead of whoever is coaching. Might end up with better results than last week and…well, you know the other major time. Philly won their last four, but 2 against the Giants and one each against Dallas and Washington. I’m not sold. Miles Sanders is supposedly giving it a go, but will Zach Ertz be able to? The Iggles are banged up all around. I just don’t see how they can win one against a good team here. Being home and having the ‘Hawks go cross country should help. But Seattle was surprisingly 7-1 on the road this season. Even if Sanders, Ertz and their slew of injured players can suit up, it seems like a tall task.
Seattle 31, Philadelphia 23.
Week (against the spread): 9-7
Week (straight up): 9-7
Lock Of The Week (season, ATS): 10-7
Season (against the spread): 130-126
Season (straight up): 164-92
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)
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
…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.
To “play 60 minutes” as both Brady and Belichick stated after the game? A message or something?
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