Whew … I passed Asif last week, but we’re only separated by a game. BIG STAKES AHEAD.
Oh, and you can still send me money if you find yourself wanting to donate to the hopefully worthy Ryan-writes-jokes-about-football cause.
Last Week: 8-7-1
Last Week: 4-11-1
Carolina (-6.5) @ Atlanta
Ryan: I think this is going to be one of those blip-on-the-radar seasons for Atlanta, but it’s weird that more people haven’t used their slide to castigate Matt Ryan. Nothing is more obnoxious than the “IS THIS QB ELITE” (embraced) debate, but you don’t see teams led by Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers ever go 4-12 as the Falcons are expected to do — injury plague or not.
Contingent on how this week plays out, the Panthers could finish ranked anywhere between no. 1 and no. 6 for the NFC playoffs, so they have a lot to play for. Carolina covers.
Asif: If Matt Ryan was, say, Cam Newton, a much larger swath of the mainstream media would be questioning his quarterbacking. Hell, Peter King even spent the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s Panthers’ game casting aspersions on Newton’s ability. I don’t see this one being close. Panthers cover.
Green Bay (-3) @ Chicago
Ryan: It’s truly baffling how much Aaron Rodgers’ healthy collarbone means to my life. Sports are so weird. I apologize for those of you who came here specifically for my cogent analysis of this game, but I don’t really want to talk about it until after it happens (whereupon I promise I will in depth — that’s a fair trade, right?)
Bears cover, purely as the ever-so-slightest emotional hedge.
Asif: You know what? Aaron Rodger can get fucked. Thanks for staying hurt long enough to ruin my surefire run to a fantasy championship dickleak. I know it was personal. Bears win and cover because I am spiteful.
Houston @ Tennessee (-7)
Ryan: I watched last week’s Packers-Steelers game at a sports bar in Cancun. Right as shit was getting real at the end this group of, like, four families — with young kids — sat together at a long makeshift table right next to mine. I was screaming about all the wild twists and turns and they were all looking at me like I had rabies. I wasn’t even swearing, which wasn’t fucking easy. They were encroaching on my territory, and they had no right to give me shocked/bewildered/dirty looks.
Houston covers, I guess?
Asif: Neither of these teams really have too much to play for. Titans cover.
Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-7)
Ryan: In America, we take a lot of civil liberties for granted that become conspicuous in their absence when traveling overseas. You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone and I was in Mexico last week where there was no ranch dressing or proper Diet Coke. (Coke Light sucks in comparison.) How do people even live like that?
Asif: Ummm, have you ever had regular Mexican Coke? That stuff is delicious. I swear a can goes for like $7 in New York. Also, ranch dressing is gross. Steelers cover.
Washington @ NY Giants (-3.5)
Ryan: My TBL column about why Mike Shanahan really doesn’t deserve a $7 million golden parachute still stands. Giants cover.
Asif: I really hope Tom Coughlin retires this offseason because it would suck to see the Giants fire him. This feels strange to write considering I wanted him fired right up until the team went on its amazing ’07 run, but it’s hard to deny that Coughlin has been one of the best coaches in the NFL throughout his long tenure in NY. Thanks for the memories. Giants cover.
Baltimore @ Cincinnati (-6)
Ryan: One of the coolest aspects of Week 17 this year is that nobody in contention for the no. 6 seed in the AFC controls their own destiny. Jason Lisk laid it out in pretty readable fashion, but it still takes some solid concentration to figure out everything that’s going on. There are various scenarios where Baltimore misses the playoffs with a win, but makes it with a loss. So bananas.
Cincy is playing for seeding, but Baltimore is (pretty much) playing for their lives. Ravens cover.
Asif: I have no idea how to read the Bengals. Ravens cover.
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis (-11.5)
Ryan: My family went to a Cirque du Soleil at our resort earlier this week, and that shit was cray. Perhaps even more impressive than some of the astounding things that the performers were doing was the fact that they were doing them nonchalantly. “Oh, you couldn’t possibly accomplish this, even if you spent the rest of your life trying in vain? That’s weird. I’m so spectacular at it that I don’t even need to try.”
The one or two times that there were slight errors, it was reassuring because it meant that a) they were human, and b) the stuff they were doing was real.
Jaguars cover, but I never know what to do on these massive spreads.
Asif: I have no interest in this game, so instead I’m going to introduce you to perhaps the most lopsided betting line in recent memory, from this Saturday’s UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship bout: Ronda Rousey (-900) vs. Miesha Tate (+600). Yeah, that’s the actual line. And you know what, Tate could be +1000 and I’d still take Rousey without hesitation.
For the uninitiated, here’s how a Rousey fight ALWAYS goes. Clinch, trip, armbar, all in the first round, always. Since beginning her MMA career, Rousey has won all seven of her fights by first round armbar, including one of the most gruesome (disclaimer: do not follow that link if you’re squeamish) finishes you will ever see against Tate in a 2012 Strikeforce championship bout. Neither woman is much of a striker, and Tate isn’t going to out-grapple Rousey (an Olympic medalist in Judo), so I’m not entirely sure why this fight is even happening, except maybe for us to see Tate’s arm get bent in a new direction we never thought possible.
Philadelphia (-6.5) @ Dallas
Ryan: This tweet is emblematic of my beef with national NFL reporters:
Chip Kelly’s main thing on prepping for Cowboys QBs was he doesn’t think their O changes much from Romo to Orton. Cited Romo’s 20 carries.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) December 26, 2013
This was presented uncritically and without any context to let you know that anyone who actually believes that statement is fucking stupid. You think that the defensive preparation for Tony Romo is the same as is for Kyle Orton? Just because Romo hasn’t tucked the ball and run that much this year? Really?
This was filtered from a press conference, as opposed to direct communication, but what purpose is your platform if you are just going to serve as an undiscerning mouthpiece for the people speaking?
Breer, who is far from the only person who does stuff like that, is not serving the reader by providing that information — he’s allowing Chip Kelly to propagate an outright lie. It’s annoying, and I can’t tell you how many times I see something similar every day.
Asif: Potential Jon Kitna sighting! If the Cowboys are going to insist on signing their ancient backups off the scrap heap in the wake of Romo’s injury I demand that they sign Drew Bledsoe tout de suite. At the very least, this could be revived. Eagles cover.
NY Jets @ Miami (-5.5)
Ryan: Miami also has all sorts of scenarios in the AFC playoff hunt, but there’s a pretty strong chance they make it in with a win. Dolphins cover.
Asif: I promise that this game will be claw your eyes out boring. Miami covers.
Detroit @ Minnesota (-3)
Ryan: I can’t even begin to tell you how nostalgic I will feel for the days when Jim Schwartz would call out Lions fans for booing — how could anybody dare boo a team that’s lost five of six and frittered away a division lead when the next two teams were starting backup quarterbacks? So ungrateful!
Thankfully, he has two years and $12 million left on his contract, which is a tough pill to swallow. Really hope he’s back.
Now that the pressure’s off, this feels like a resounding Lions victory. Detroit covers.
Asif: It would be malpractice not to fire Jim Schwartz. I just hope he has an Alec Baldwin-level meltdown on the way out. Vikings cover.
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (-12.5)
Ryan: I’m also going to look back wistfully on the Greg Schiano era. Sports are just more fun with self unaware mega-villains — especially when they’re incompetent. Saints cover.
Asif: Speaking of coaches likely to have a meltdown when fired… Saints cover.
Buffalo @ New England (-9)
Ryan: It is impossible to truly know how responsible the Patriots organization was for enabling Aaron Hernandez’s (alleged) sociopathy, but damn has that team responded well to adversity this season. They had to deal with the fallout from that all offseason, also lost Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Rob Gronkowski for the year, and don’t have very many players left on either side of the ball beyond Tom Brady that most fans can name. But here they are, churning along at 11-4. They just put up 11+ win seasons like clockwork.
The Bills are one of those teams that plays much differently at home versus on the road. New England covers.
Asif: The Bills are actually not that bad, which is more than you can usually say about the Bills, because they’re usually THAT bad. Bills cover.
Denver (-12) @ Oakland
Ryan: This is BBQ pork and scrambled eggs on white rice at Hon Kee in Chicago. I think I’d be happy eating just this for a month:
Asif: Two years ago, Nnamdi Asomugha was arguably the best corner in the NFL – if you argued he was, you’d be wrong because Revis was the best, but I digress – now he’s retiring at age 32. What the hell happened? Apparently Terrelle Pryor is going to start, so Broncos cover.
San Francisco (-1) @ Arizona
Ryan: The winner of Bears/Packers really doesn’t deserve to get into the playoffs over Arizona. This is going to be a great, great game. San Francisco covers.
Asif: It would really suck for Arizona to win 11 games and not make the playoffs while the Eagles or Cowboys make it in. Them’s the shakes I guess. Cardinals cover.
Kansas City @ San Diego (-9.5)
Ryan: The Chiefs are locked into the no. 5 seed, which is why this spread appears so out of whack. While the line would certainly seem to signify that Kansas City is expected to rest their starters, I’m not trusting anything other than a coin flip when it comes to the Chargers line. Heads – Chargers – Tails – Chiefs … San Diego covers.
Asif: I don’t really have much to say about this. Chiefs cover.
St. Louis @ Seattle (-10.5)
Ryan: The Rams are 4-2 in their last six with wins over New Orleans, Chicago, and Indy — at least two of (and maybe all of) whom are playoff teams. They’re frisky enough to at least hope for a backdoor cover. St. Louis covers.
Asif: Apparently Seattle fans booed when the team lost at home last week. There will be a reckoning for that, it just won’t be this week. Seattle covers.