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Disgusting…And Then…The Picks…

…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

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 Eleven…

…welp (Keo!!!), we cannot start talking about Week Eleven of the NFL season without referencing that ugly scene in Cleveland on Thursday Night.

Unless you live in a cave, by now you certainly have heard that Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett wound up and smashed Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head with Rudolph’s own helmet.  This after Garrett was twisting Rudolph’s head by his face mask a bunch of different ways before tearing the helmet off completely.

Now, yeah, Rudolph “started it”, by trying to rip Garrett’s helmet off after Garrett took him down after a pass attempt.  Apparently, Rudolph was also ummmmmm…making sure Garrett spoke in a high voice for at least a short period of time. when they both eventually got up from that particular part of the play.

That’s a lot of what I have been hearing anyway.

But wait…didn’t Garrett really “start it”, by hauling Rudolph down somewhat forcefully even though the Steelers QB had already long released the pass?  That’s how I saw it.  But not hearing a bunch of that since games end.

Either way, both of these guys were in the wrong.  Just so happens that one of the guys was waaaaaaay more in the wrong than the other.

Now, I have no idea what was said during any of this.  But does it matter?

The game was essentially over and Garrett was a little aggressive on the initial takedown.  And if Rudolph took exception to that, can we blame him?

No…but he probably shouldn’t have “taken it to the next level”, so to speak.  That being said, Garrett shouldn’t have taken it a million levels further right after that.

Football is a violent game.  But what happened was a little over the top, for sure.

Garrett has already been suspended indefinitely by the league…for at least the rest of the season (including playoffs…as if the Browns are getting there.  But I guess it has to be said…in case a miracle happens and they do make it).  Kudos to the NFL for acting swiftly.  And one doesn’t hear the words “kudos to the NFL…” quite often.

If it were me, I’d also take him out for half a season next year.  Set some sort of huge precedent.

I know, some of the “real” criminals in the NFL have gotten lesser suspensions.  “Real” meaning, “done some serious stuff in real life off the field”.

But this one could have been catastrophic if the helmet hit Rudolph in the right place.  The NFL cannot control all of its players off of the field.  But sending a message here could hopefully help them control some things better on the field.

Then again, I’d take some of the more egregious criminals out of the league for life.  Like the domestic violence offenders for one.  A handful of others as well…drug dealers, weapons distributors, etc…but not someone who likes to smoke a little weed, that is.  But I digress…

Plus, though the popular narrative is that after the game, Garrett sounded contrite and all…I don’t know…not from what I saw.  He SAID all the right things.  But I wouldn’t say the way he carried himself during the interview showed a whole lot of contrition.  That’s my feeling anyway.

And whither Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers center who was last seen kicking Garrett in the helmet while Garrett laid on the ground?

Pouncey got suspended for 3 games, but I don’t believe enough has been made of this.  It’s ok to protect and support your quarterback.  But when is it ok to start kicking people in the head…even if the helmet was still on Garretts’ head?  I suppose we should also question what Pouncey was thinking when he initially tried to rain down haymakers…into a facemask…but we will leave that one alone.

In any event, I’d have tossed him for the season too.

Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi got one game for pushing Rudolph down for no real reason…seems about right.

But maybe Rudolph deserves a game too?

Worth talking about anyway.

As for criminal charges, threatened by Rudolph’s agent yesterday?  On one hand, if that happened on the street, there would absolutely be legal action.

But if they start doing that on the field of play?  What kind of can of worms will that then open?

I mean, most of us laughed almost a decade ago, where in the NHL, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara checked Montreal Canadien Max Pacioretty into a stanchion, resulting in a season ending injury for Pacioretty.  Well, we didn’t laugh at that specific play.  We laughed when there was a big uproar in Montreal, and Montreal law enforcement “took a look at it” and considered filing charges against Big Z.  Even though Chara was never suspended by the NHL.

No charges were filed, but we all thought the talk about that was kind of ridiculous.

I suppose that since that was a check and not something like someone waving a hockey stick around looking for blood makes it a different story.  And swinging a helmet around looking for blood may actually be that “different story”.

Just think about it though, the courts getting involved in stuff like that…stuff that happens on the field.  If it has happened somewhere at some point in the past, I am not sure I know about it.  So if it has, my bad.

But if it hasn’t, it’s not really something we all want.  To bring the justice system inside the playing field.  Speaking of “taking things to the next level”.  Not necessarily a good thing.  When boxers kill someone in the ring, they don’t go to jail, do they?  Ok, maybe not apples and oranges here, because boxers are SUPPOSED to be fighting.  But I think you get my point.

In any event, this situation was an eye-opener.  And hopefully, it actually did open some eyes.  Players past and present are saying the right things anyway.  That doesn’t hurt.

Let’s just hope those feelings last.

As for the rest of the games, short and sweet after that elongated opening:

Dallas (-3.5) at Detroit

I still don’t love the Cowboys.  But we are looking at Jeff Driskel instead of Matthew Stafford again this week.

Dallas 31, Detroit 13.  

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-2.5)

Jacoby Brissett will be back, but so will Nick Foles.  Indy is still heading in the wrong direction.

Jacksonville 21, Indianapolis 17.  

Atlanta at Carolina (-5.5)

I’m not buying into any Falcon resurgence, despite the big win against New Orleans last week.

Carolina 27, Atlanta 21.

Buffalo (-5.5) at Miami

Look out for the Dolphins!!  Kind of…

Buffalo 23, Miami 20.  

Denver at Minnesota (-10.5)

Let down for the Vikes this week?  Broncos off a bye too.  But I don’t think so.

Minnesota 31, Denver 17.  

New York Jets at Washington (-1.5) 

Snooze.

Washington 17, New York Jets 13.  

Houston at Baltimore (-4.5) 

Texans off a bye, can they slow this Raven train down a bit?  Just a hunch.

Houston 34, Baltimore 31.  

New Orleans (-5.5) at Tampa Bay

Two weeks in a row for the Saints?  I doubt it.

New Orleans 38, Tampa Bay 31.  

Arizona at San Francisco (-13.5)

The Niners’ schedule gets significantly tougher in the second half of the season.  Maybe not yet, but this one could be close as well.

San Francisco 27, Arizona 24.

New England (-3.5) at Philadelphia

Super Bowl rematch?  Seriously??  I love it when things are marketed like this.  Actually, this time hasn’t been as bad as what usually happens.  Either way, the Eagles will be missing some key guys.  The Pats are off a bye and likely have been stewing about their first loss that happened right before it.  The doubters have been starting to come out.  The Pats usually respond to that.

New England 31, Philadelphia 17.  

Cincinnati at Oakland (-10.5)

The Raiders are a double-digit favorite??!  Ummmm, yup, against the Bengals they are.  Isn’t every team a double-digit favorite against the Bengals?

Oakland 27, Cincinnati 13.  Lock of the week.  (Raiders the lock??  Scary!!)

Chicago at Los Angeles Rams (-6.5)

The Bears have been muddling along all season.  But so haven’t the Rams.  Your guess is as good as mine here.

Los Angeles Rams 24, Chicago 23.  

Kansas City (-3.5) at Los Angeles Chargers

Not looking at much defense here.

Kansas City 38, San Diego 34.  

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  5-5  

Season (against the spread):  75-74

Season (straight up):  97-52

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