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I Take It Back?

In recent weeks I have been saying that I feel like the New England Patriots have enough pieces on offense to make the whole thing work.  That they were still trying to integrate guys like Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry into the mix.  That they still had Julian Edelman and James White.  That the running backs have enough talent to be better.  That the tight ends are decent enough.  Etc.

But…I may have been wrong.  And I could be finally ready to admit it.

Now, I don’t have access to the coach’s film like some people that cover the team.  And some of them saw progress against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.

I didn’t see it from my angle.

The Pats should have pummeled these pathetic Bengals, similar to how they pummeled all those bad teams at the beginning of the year.  Especially with the 5 turnovers.  Especially when they had some tape of the Bengals’ sideline to work with…oops…sorry, was that out loud?!

But they found themselves down by the end of the first quarter and barely up at the half.  And looked fairly brutal for most of the game.

Tom Brady missed open guys.  Receivers were dropping passes.  A bunch of punts.  All that.

Never really looked good to me.

Of course, it appears that Edelman is extremely banged up.  And Brady may have a bum elbow to boot.  Factors that have to be considered for sure.

To that I say, if Jules can’t go, that’s a wrap.  Even if Brady ends up being completely healthy.

It would be hard for me to believe the offense could move the ball at all without a somewhat healthy Edelman.  Since James White apparently has been defended more by someone in the defensive secondary instead of a plodding linebacker and isn’t as open as he used to be, Jules has been really been Brady’s only reliable target.  Even if, with all the drops this year, he hasn’t been as reliable as he usually is.

I just don’t think we can really count on the rest of the corps right now.  For a variety of reasons that we have been through before.  I just wasn’t ready to face those facts.  I am kind of ready to now.

UNLESS they get the running game going.  But I’m not counting on that with this offensive line.  Sure, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead looked pretty good Sunday.  But…the Bengals.

Big test this week against a top defense in the Buffalo Bills.  Being at Foxborough should definitely help.  And I do expect the Pats to win the game.  But I am also not counting on any offensive fireworks, that’s for sure.  Hope I am wrong.

Speaking of Edelman, despite the drops, we were really hoping he would make the Pro Bowl this year.

PRO BOWL?!!  WHO CARES??!

True.  Normally I don’t care.  Especially since we know it’s a popularity contest.  Same guys go every year it seems.  Not to mention we hope that no Patriots CAN even go, meaning they would be in the Super Bowl again.  Not to mention that like a quarter of the team usually backs out, so Jules may still get there if the Pats lose early in the playoffs.

My only thing with Edelman is that somehow he has never made one.  People actually put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame conversation.  And he hasn’t even made one single Pro Bowl?

Just would have been nice to see, that’s all.

But we know the Pats don’t care, so why should we?

Moving on…

So the Thursday Night Football slate is done for the season.  The feeling here was that the picks were brutal on this night over the course of the season.  But they weren’t as bad as I thought.  9-8 against the spread and 11-6 straight up.  Not too bad!!

We will separate the Saturday games out from the rest in this case.  Actually, let’s just do them all…

Houston (-3.5) at Tampa Bay

Big win at Tennessee last week put the Texans in the driver’s seat for the AFC South.  Another matchup with the Titans next week to end the regular season and that is sure to be a big one too.  Let down for Houston this week?  Well, we saw it against the Broncos the previous Sunday.  But I’m betting it doesn’t happen again.

Houston 30, Tampa Bay 24.  

Buffalo at New England (-6.5)

The Bills are trying to prove they are ready for Prime Time.  But…Josh Allen still stinks.  There is just no way to sugarcoat this.

New England 20, Buffalo 17.  

Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco (-6.5)

What a bad loss for the Niners last week.  The Falcons.  The way it went down.  They would have been better off getting smoked like the Rams did.  Guess LA was not back on track.

San Francisco 38, Los Angeles Rams 23.  

Carolina at Indianapolis (-6.5)

The Colts were brutal on Monday Night Football.  But the Panthers are down to their third string QB.

Indianapolis 27, Carolina 16.  

New York Giants at Washington (-2.5)

Wake me up when this one is over.

Washington 17, New York Giants 13.  

New Orleans (-3.5) at Tennessee

Good for Drew Brees last week.  But have a gut feeling the Titans show up this week.

Tennessee 31, New Orleans 27.

Baltimore (-10.5) at Cleveland

The Browns beat the Ravens in Week 4, Baltimore’s last loss.  Can’t see that happening again.  Lamar Jackson and company can wrap up home field advantage with a win.  Give some players Week 17 off in the process.  Even though some of the Browns players are denying they want out, where there is smoke, there is fire.

Baltimore 35, Cleveland 17.  

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at New York Jets

Duck Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Paxton Lynch, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs, Dennis Dixon, Mike Tomczak, Mark Malone, Cliff Stoudt, Bubby Brister…does it matter?  And yes…I am saying this when they are playing the J-E-T-S!

New York Jets 24, Pittsburgh 20.  

Cincinnati at Miami (-1.5)

Wake me up when this is over, part II

Miami 17, Cincinnati 14.  

Jacksonville at Atlanta (-7.5)

Tom Coughlin just got fired.  Imagine that.

Atlanta 31, Jacksonville 17.  

Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)

Horrid loss for the Raiders last week.  Same for the Chargers.  When am I getting to a game that matters on this list?

Oakland 27, Los Angeles Chargers 24.  

Detroit at Denver (-6.5)

Nope, this one doesn’t matter either.  Glad to see Matty Patricia getting another shot next year.  Not sold on Patricia.  But I can’t imagine you can win many games with Jeff Driskel and David Blough.

Denver 34, Detroit 23.  Lock of the week (yup!).

Dallas (-2.5) at Philadelphia

Here’s one that matters!!  I imagine the winner of this one will win the NFC East.  Though it wouldn’t shock me if either lost their Week 17 game against the Redskins or the Giants, respectively.  Dak Prescott has been limited in practice, but I would doubt he sits this one out.  The ‘Boys have a more talented team.  The Eagles have been hammered by injury.  But your guess is as good as mine on this one either way.

Dallas 34, Philadelphia 31.  

Arizona at Seattle (-9.5)

The Seahawks should roll.  But they always seem to play close games.  9.5 is a lot of points.  Sorry to hear about Josh Gordon.  Looks like his last chance in the NFL.  Maybe he cares, maybe he doesn’t.  But still a sad story.

Seattle 33, Arizona 24.  

Kansas City (-4.5) at Chicago

Here’s hoping the Pats beat the Bills and the Bears win here so the Pats that are banged up can take Week 17 off after wrapping up the second seed and therefore a first round bye.  Wishful thinking on the second half of that though.

Kansas City 34, Chicago 17.  

Green Bay at Minnesota (-4.5)

The final Monday Night Football game of the year should be a doozy.  The Vikings may have clinched a playoff spot by this time and they still may not win the tiebreaker for the division in the end, even with a win here.  And the Pack have seemed to sleepwalk through their last couple of games so maybe they awaken as well.  Sticking with the home team regardless.

Minnesota 30, Green Bay 24.

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  10-6

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  8-7

Season (against the spread):  112-112

Season (straight up):  144-80

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

Week Sixteen…

Abridged (and last-minute) holiday edition.  Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays!  Happy Festivus!  Have a great “whatever you celebrate”!!

Indianapolis at Baltimore (-12.5)

Hate laying this many points with an average Ravens team.  But their offense has picked up.  And Indy’s D ain’t good.  Baltimore still fighting for playoffs of course as well.

Baltimore 34, Indianapolis 17.

Minnesota (-2.5) at Green Bay

If Aaron Rodgers was playing, this game would be a whole lot more interesting.

Minnesota 31, Green Bay 20.

Detroit (-3.5) at Cincinnati

MARVIN LEWIS IS GONE!!!  Or he will be.  Will that spur the Bengals on?  Well, it didn’t last week.

Detroit 27, Cincinnati 17.

Los Angeles Rams (-6.5) at Tennessee

Seems like the Titans should be better than they are.  So when their collapse this year is complete, people should lose jobs.  Only fear here is the Rams have a letdown from their blowout win against Seattle last week.  And the cross-country travel.  But I don’t see it.

Los Angeles Rams 37, Tennessee 23.

Denver at Washington (-3.5) 

Brock Osweiler looked great in relief last week…wait…it was against the Colts.  Paxton Lynch?  Surprisingly, not a better option.  The ‘Skins actually should have lost to the Cards last week, but the Cards couldn’t get in the end zone.  Otherwise, Washington is also playing out the string.  Tough call here.

Washington 24, Denver 17.

Atlanta at New Orleans (-5.5)

Second time these foes meet in three weeks, with the Falcons winning the first by three in Atlanta.  Should be another close one that could go either way.

New Orleans 30, Atlanta 27.

Cleveland at Chicago (-6.5)

Hate laying this much with the Bears.  But seems like they are letting Trubisky loose a little bit.  Plus…the Browns.

Chicago 24, Cleveland 20.

Buffalo at New England (-12.5) 

No revenge expected on Gronk with the Bills still being in the playoff chase.  I think.  Some think this game will be close.  Buffalo, with Tyrod Taylor early on last game moving the ball fairly well.  And maybe a letdown from the Pats after their “controversial” win in Pittsburgh last week.  But don’t count me among that group.

New England 38, Buffalo 20.

Miami at Kansas City (-10.5) 

Jay Cutler sure came crashing back to earth last week, eh?  The Chiefs seem close to early season form as well.

Kansas City 34, Miami 20.

Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5) at New York Jets

I know, the Jets seemingly play everyone close.  The Chargers are on the East Coast.  There is some merit to all of this.

Los Angeles Chargers 20, New York Jets 14.  

Tampa Bay at Carolina (-9.5) 

Couple of three-point losses the last two weeks against the Lions and Falcons.  Still a lost season for them.  And the Panthers are in the thick of it, have won 6 of 7 and have been putting up some points.  Don’t expect that to change against Tampa

Carolina 38, Tampa Bay 23.

Jacksonville (-4.5) at San Francisco

Could be a little bit of a trap here.  The Jags appear to be for real, as I now begrudgingly admit.  They are on the opposite coast.  Jimmy G has the Niners playing some inspired football.  The Jags could possibly be looking ahead to the matchup with the Titans next week.  But since the Jags are inexplicably in the mix for a first round bye…and even the #1 overall seed in the East…I’m thinking they will show up this week.  Led of course by their defense.

Jacksonville 31, San Francisco 13.  

New York Giants at Arizona (-4.5)  

Eli seemed rejuvenated last week against the Eagles.  Arizona choked a game against Washington.  In the end, I really don’t care about this game, but I have to pick someone.

New York Giants 27, Arizona 24.

Seattle at Dallas (-4.5)

I know, Zeke is back.  The Seahawks are not the same team as in past years.  Lots of holes.  I just don’t see them throwing up a couple of stinkers in a row.  Plus…every time you want to count Seattle out, they prove us all wrong.

Seattle 31, Dallas 27.

Pittsburgh (-9.5) at Houston

The Steelers need to keep winning games.  They are probably still infuriated about last week.  T.J. Yates.  Pittsburgh hasn’t really blown many teams out this year.  But expect it to happen this week, even with no Antonio Brown and a porous defense.

Pittsburgh 37, Houston 10.

Oakland at Philadelphia (-8.5) 

The Raiders are just about done.  Disappointing season, to say the least.  The Eagles had a tougher fight than expected last week against the G-Men.  Maybe a Carson Wentz injury letdown.  But then Nick Foles comes in and tosses 4 TD’s anyway.  The Eagles need to keep winning, so expect a score closer to what they have been normally doing this year.

Philadelphia 34, Oakland 20.

Week (against the spread):  10-6

Week (straight up):  14-2

Season (against the spread):  122-102

Season (straight up):  150-74

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