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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

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Week Fifteen…

What a game Thursday Night.  There have been some good ones on Thursday this year.  Remember when those games sucked EVERY week?

But I’m sure it pissed off New England Patriot fans.  If the Pats didn’t lose last weekend, it would have put them in a pretty good position for the #1 seed with the Kansas City Chiefs losing.  Sure, the Los Angeles Chargers would still be in the way as well.  But still, things would have looked up no doubt.  Only one of the teams out West could have been the prime competition.  Regardless of records, the other would be the top wild card team.  Unfair?  Maybe.  But thems the breaks…

In any event, there has been some crazy NFL action lately.  Wouldn’t mind seeing it again, even if it costs us wins.  Well, as long as the Pats win in Pittsburgh.  But…

Houston (-6.5) at New York Jets 

Houston’s 9 game win streak ended last week.  Methinks they get right back on the horse this weekend.  Yeah, going out on a limb here, I know.

Houston 33, New York Jets 17.

Cleveland at Denver (-3.5)

The Browns are still somehow (barely) in the mix for a playoff spot with a mere three games left in the season?  Is this some sort of miracle?

Cleveland 27, Denver 20.

Washington at Jacksonville (-7.5)  

Hard to even fathom laying this many points with the Jags, but the ‘Skins may be throwing high school players out there this weekend with all their injuries.

Jacksonville 30, Washington 7.

Oakland at Cincinnati (-3.5) 

I know the Bengals have lost five in a row and are playing with some dude named Jeff Driskel at QB.  And the Raiders had a big win against the Steelers last week.  But…

Cincinnati 24, Oakland 20.

Arizona at Atlanta (-8.5)

Kind of a big number here too for a Falcons team that has lost 5 in a row and hasn’t scored more than 20 points in any of them.  But they CAN score.  And the Cardinals simply can’t.

Atlanta 27, Arizona 9.

Tennessee at New York Giants (-2.5) 

I don’t think much of the Titans, that much has probably been pretty clear.  The G-Men have won 4 of 5 (too little, too late, however) and have put up some points in the process.  No ODB?  Believe it or not, I’m not sure it will matter.

New York Giants 30, Tennessee 20.

Miami at Minnesota (-8.5) 

Another big number for another team that probably doesn’t deserve it.  But guess what?  We are going with the favorite again.  The Dolphins had a miracle win last week, as the whole world knows.  But really aren’t that good.  1-5 on the road to boot.  The Vikings fired a coach this week and maybe that kicks them in the arse.  They should be better.  Maybe they finally show it this week.

Minnesota 28, Miami 17.

Dallas at Indianapolis (-3.5)

Gut feeling here, nothing more.  The Cowboys D has been much ballyhooed in recent weeks.  Have a feeling Andrew Luck gets it done here.

Indianapolis 31, Dallas 23

Green Bay at Chicago (-5.5)

The Bears have had a nice year.  9-4 is nothing to sneeze at.  It was a helluva win against the Rams last Sunday night.  But is there a more overrated team in the NFL?  Every time I see Mitchell Trubisky play, he looks average at best.  Yet everyone is fawning over him for whatever reason.  And their schedule?  These are the other 8 teams they have beaten besides the Rams:  Seattle (Week Two, when the Seahawks were scuffling, but I’ll give you that if you want), Arizona (by TWO), Tampa, Jets, Buffalo, Detroit, Minnesota, and Detroit again.  Not exactly Murderer’s Row.  Maybe the Rams loss has more to do with a fast, warm weather team not adjusting to the cold very well.  Just a thought.

Green Bay 34, Chicago 24.

Tampa Bay at Baltimore (-8.5)

This is another high number that we should go with the favorite here.  Especially after the Ravens played the Chiefs so tough in Kansas City last week…and probably should have won.  Have a feeling there could be a little letdown here though.

Baltimore 23, Tampa Bay 20. 

Detroit at Buffalo (-2.5)

I hope to see zero “highlights” from this one.

Detroit 13, Buffalo 10.

Seattle (-5.5) at San Francisco  

The ‘Hawks should continue rolling.  Not much more to say.

Seattle 31, San Francisco 17.  

New England (-2.5) at Pittsburgh

I know the Steelers just lost to Oakland.  I know they have lost 3 in a row.  I know Big Ben and their top RB are banged up.  I know the Pats usually handle Pitt…or seem to anyway.  I’m just not feeling it.  I’m sure the Pats will once again prove me wrong.  But maybe this year is different.

Pittsburgh 34, New England 31. 

Philadelphia at Los Angeles Rams (-9.5) 

Are we really expecting another Nick Foles miracle run?  Just because he is apparently playing Sunday and facing the Rams in the same spot of the schedule as last year?  Please.  The Rams were embarrassed on the road last week, as noted above.  They are back in their friendly confines where they are undefeated.  I expect this one to be ugly.

Los Angeles Rams 41, Philadelphia 17.

New Orleans (-6.5) at Carolina 

People start anointing the Saints as the next champs and then they throw in a couple of mediocre games in a row?  Sure.  Carolina is 5-1 at home, though they have lost 5 in a row.  These two teams are in the same division but haven’t played each other yet this year.  Two times in the last three weeks  Seems like a bizarre scheduling quirk.  I’m rambling because I still don’t know what I am going to pick for this game.

New Orleans 34, Carolina 24.  

Week (against the spread):  0-1

Week (straight up):  0-1

Season (against the spread):  112-97

Season (straight up):  129-80

Taking One On The Chin…

…yikes…brutal week picking games last week for the Blowhard.  Well, not exactly brutal, but not coming up roses either.  Tough week to take a step back, what with year-long pools winding down and progress needing to be made to win some “points”.

In any event, we move on…

Not much to say about the New England Patriots either.  Not because there isn’t anything to talk about with Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.  But because the Blowhard was at the game live and can’t say he studied the game film since then to note the finer points of the game.

We will say that it was a nice win…but wait, was it?  The Vikings were supposed to be a pretty good team this year.  They were last year.  Then they signed a gazillion dollar quarterback.  Their young stud running back came back healthy.  Two filthy receivers.  And a stout defense.  To name a few.

So why are they only 6-5-1?  No idea.  We can’t say we watch a ton of Viking football or even read the stories by their beat writers.

But we can say here that we will take the win, nice or not.  The Pats D did seem to step up.  Are they finally on the right track?  Who knows?  Any step forward here in December is welcome, however.

But with the next two games on the road, which hasn’t exactly been kind to them this year, we will see if Sunday was actually a “step up”.  Miami stinks, but the Pats have had their share of problems down there over the years.  Not one of Tom Brady’s favorite places to play, regardless of how bad the ‘Phins have been in the 2000s.  At least this tilt is in December and not September.  Methinks the Pats win, but more on that in the next column.

Then…at Pittsburgh.  We know how explosive the Steelers can be.  Despite their being in a little tailspin as we speak.  The Patriots always seem to do well against Pitt., home or away.  But again, this year has been different in so many ways.  So we shall see.

The Blowhard still has some confidence in this team, despite the many holes that haven’t existed in recent years.  But sending a message the next couple of weeks would go a long way to justifying that confidence.

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-4.5)  

Tennessee won a riveting 9-6 matchup back in Week Three on the Jaguars’ home field.  What can we expect this time in Tennessee?  Welp, the Jags are 2-7 since, including a scintillating 6-0 win over Indianapolis Sunday.  The Titans are mediocre at best and needed a huge comeback from 16 down at home to top the wretched New York Jets this past week.  I’m looking forward to this atrocity…er, I mean, huge Thursday Night Football divisional battle!!  Watch, it probably will end up being a good game, because it isn’t supposed to be…but I’m not gonna bet on it.  For real anyway.

Tennessee 13, Jacksonville 10.  

Week (against the spread):  7-9

Week (straight up):  10-6

Season (against the spread):  103-89

Season (straight up):  121-71

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