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Still No Clarity…

…on who exactly the New England Patriots are this season.  We’ve been through this a ton.  Their next game is in December.  We usually know by this month on the calendar.

We are clear on the AFC East stinking…yet again.  3 game lead for the Pats with 5 to go.  So that means another division crown.  Go figure.

The conference?  Not sure.  KC is obviously off to a fantastic start.  But it remains to be seen if they can stop anyone.  The Steelers coughed one up last week and should have lost the week before.  The Chargers or Texans?  Can we really expect these teams to do anything in the playoffs?  Doubt it.  The rest of the teams?  Don’t see it.

As for the Pats themselves?  Offensively a step behind what they usually do.  Maybe three steps.  27 points against the f’n Jets?  Tom Brady looks old and injured (sorry).  Rob Gronkowski?  Yup…”old” and injured.  Sony Michel?  We will see.  People think Rex Burkhead’s return this week will help.  But he’s always…injured.  Chris Hogan is no superstar.  But he can play.  And Brady refuses to even look at him anymore.  And so on…

The defense?  Sure, 13 points allowed in a game is nice.  But…the Jets.  Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty have been alternating between average and “washed-up” all year long in my eyes.  “Average” may be too kind a word for the personnel on D this year.  Think of it this way:  When Kyle Van Noy is one of your better players, that speaks volumes…I don’t care how well he actually seems to be playing.

Special teams?  You know, made up of a ton of guys that Bill Belichick likes to keep and can’t do anything else on the field?  Atrocious all around this season.  Well, I guess Stephen Gostkowski has been pretty good and every once in a while Bill raves postgame about the punter, Ryan Allen (like last week).  But the return and coverage units.  Bad.

By now, any issues are supposed to have been fixed.  Not this year.  Can they still be?  Not sure.  But now it’s a real fight to the end.  Starting Sunday against another team that likely should be better than they have been…the Minnesota Vikings.  More on them next column.

The rest of the schedule isn’t daunting.  But playing at Miami hasn’t always been great.  Even if the game is in December and not September.  The Pats have a good track record against the Steelers, even in Pittsburgh.  This year?  No idea.  Should be cakewalks against the Bills and Jets at home the last two weeks.  But can we even count on this now?

I guess we will find out in due time.  For now, the Thursday game:

New Orleans (-7.5) at Dallas

The NFC West has 2 doormat 2-9 teams, but the NFC East isn’t much better as a whole.  The Saints have crushed the other 3 NFC East teams they have played this season to the tune of 124-44.  Dallas may be home.  But New Orleans is actually 5-0 on the road.  Both of these teams played on Thanksgiving, so no advantage there.  I’m just filling space now.  There is no debate on this one.

New Orleans 41, Dallas 20.  

Week (against the spread):  11-4

Week (straight up):  11-4

Season (against the spread):  96-80

Season (straight up):  111-65

Marquee Matchup?

As we dive right into Week Thirteen, I think the schedule makers feel a little duped.  Before the NFL got greedy, the league used to only have Thursday Night Football games after Thanksgiving, if they had any, that is.  Presumably, these games would feature the “best of the best”.  I imagine the plan still is to subscribe to that theory…after the first several weeks feature several mediocre to poor teams because every team has to play at least one Thursday game.

Tonight’s game features two NFC East teams that big things were expected of.  Dallas was 13-3 last year and Washington was 8-7-1, though on the fringe of the playoffs.  Welp, both teams are currently sitting at 5-6, with little to no hope for the playoffs.  Certainly neither will win the division, since both are behind the Philadelphia Eagles by 5 games with 5 to play.  Disappointing, to state the obvious.

That all being said, I have a sneaky feeling that this game will be a good one.  I have no idea why.  Just another hunch.  And we know how my hunches sometime go…

Washington at Dallas (-1.5)

The Cowboys are 2-4 at home.  So yes, they have already lost one more game at home than they had lost all of last year in total.  They have scored a total of 22 points in the last three games.  No Zeke.  The corpse of Darren McFadden retired this week, if anyone cares about that as well.

The ‘Skins haven’t been a ton better, struggling against a woeful Giants team on Thanksgiving.  Though they have been at least scoring some points in their losses.

You’d think maybe Dallas may finally score some points again and win at home.  I think half of that may be true.  We shall see…

Washington 24, Dallas 20.

Week (against the spread):  12-4

Week (straight up):  13-3

Season (against the spread):  92-84

Season (straight up):  116-60

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