You can still send me money if you want — this column takes a lot of time and effort, and you are here! — but I’ll save you the long shpiel this week.
Last Week: 9-7
This Week (so far): 1-0
Last Week: 8-8
This Week (so far): 1-0
Atlanta @ Green Bay (no line yet)
Ryan: There’s still no spread up for this game, so we’ll just count it as a tie. That’s fine by me, because thinking and writing about them has made me feel bad for the past month and you know what they say about when you don’t have anything nice to say …
Asif: Disclaimer for this whole post: I’m feeling a bit crotchety this morning. I should be winning one of my fantasy football leagues this season, but will instead be getting bounced from the playoffs in the first round, due almost entirely to Aaron Rodgers’ stupid injury. Despite handily dominating the competition for the vast majority of the season, my team was decimated when Arian Foster went down for the season and Rodgers broke his collarbone.
I had enough running back depth to make due without Foster, but Rodgers hurts twice as much because Jordy Nelson had been my second best receiver all season and the collection of slapdicks who’ve replaced Rodgers seem entirely incapable of getting the ball to Nelson. I would still be okay with all of this if Rodgers was definitively out for the season, but the will he, won’t he play nonsense has been driving me nuts as my league’s playoffs begin this week. Prediction: Rodgers is back in two weeks, right after I’ve been eliminated because life is unfair and everything sucks. Rant over.
Kansas City (-3.5) @ Washington
Ryan: This line seems a bit low, no? The wheels have fallen off the Redskins wagon. We’re at the point where Mike Florio is writing posts centered around the premise that Mike Shanahan probably wouldn’t mind getting fired at the end of this season and collecting his $7 million dollars next year while not having to deal with all this crap again.
Speaking of that, it makes zero sense that these coaches’ salaries are guaranteed while the players have to earn their money each season. There is nothing anybody could say to me to make me agree that that is reasonable. Chiefs cover.
Asif: It’s been a rough three weeks for the Chiefs, but Washington is atrocious. Chiefs cover.
Minnesota @ Baltimore (-7)
Ryan: If the playoffs began today, Baltimore would be in at 6-6. The thought of their limping into the 6th-seed in a top-heavy AFC and Joe Flacco illogically morphing into Joe Montana for a month again should strike fear in the hearts of Patriots and Broncos fans.
Matt Cassel is starting this week for the Vikings, and my highly untrained eye has told me that he’s been the best option this season. No, I’m not going to look up fancy book-learning stats to prove my point because I’m not really all that passionate about the subject. Ravens win, Vikings cover.
Asif: For the last few years, Larry Fitzgerald has been everyone’s favorite charity case as he toiled away without the benefit of an NFL caliber quarterback. That torch has definitely been passed to Adrian Peterson, who is in danger of seeing his prime wasted playing on some truly atrocious Vikings teams. Speaking of atrocious, this game is going to be unwatchable. Vikings cover.
Cleveland @ New England (-12)
Ryan: Bill Belichick made the point earlier this week that penalties should be subject to review, and I agree entirely. While some calls are of the “judgment” variety, there is a rulebook that clearly defines what is and isn’t allowed and the game gets called accordingly. Pass interference (or lack thereof), for example, can make a 50-yard difference at any given time and make a much bigger impact than lots of plays that currently get challenged. This is a no-brainer. Browns cover.
Asif: I can’t even pretend to care about this game. Pats cover.
Oakland @ NY Jets (-3)
Ryan: I’m not saying that he’s totally unsalvageable, but Geno Smith might be the worst NFL quarterback I’ve ever seen for the past month. How bad has Smith been?
Gonna do the George Costanza thing, though, and go against Matt-McGloin-Covers-Football-Games. Jets cover.
Asif: GUH. Let’s talk baseball instead of even thinking about this game. I’ll never understand the mentality that drives baseball GM’s employed by teams other than the Yankees (or Dodgers I guess) to say, “Fuck it, I’ve finally got some payroll flexibility, let’s give Robinson Cano all of it.” This is not smart, even if you’re trying to make a splash and save your job.
In all likelihood, if your team finished 20 games under .500 (yes, I am talking about you, Seattle), you have bigger problems than any one player can solve. This should be especially apparent after a season in which the Red Sox won a World Series essentially by dumping their biggest contracts, signing a bunch of mid-level free agents to deals three-years or shorter in duration, and leaning on homegrown talent.
Mega-deals rarely work out, and now Seattle is going to be paying a 40-year old Robby Cano something around $24 million. Does that sound like a winning proposition to anyone? Prediction: Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik will be out by this time next year, and Seattle will be desperate to offload Cano within the next 4 years. But hey, at least Cano can become an international superstar in Seattle. Oh, wait.
Indianapolis @ Cincinnati (-6)
Ryan: The Colts are a weird team, but for the most part they play to the level of their competition. They’ve beaten maybe the three best teams in football in the 49ers, Seahawks, and Broncos. On the other hand, they’ve lost to the Dolphins, Rams, and Chargers — all of them are frisky some weeks, but none are .500. This seems like the type of game they’ll play well in. Indy covers.
Asif: I’m starting to wonder if the Colts are any good. Bengals cover.
Detroit @ Philadelphia (-3)
Ryan: Nick Foles doesn’t look or carry himself like a prototypical star quarterback, many of whom are strikingly handsome, or, at the very least supremely confident. If they weren’t leading football teams, they’d be taking advantage of their physical stature as politicians or rapidly ascending the corporate ladder. Foles, though, looks almost like an engineering student:
That’s the man who leads the NFL in passer rating by a significant margin. Lions cover, purely as a slight emotional hedge.
Asif: This game has “Nick Foles gets decapitated” written all over it. Lions cover.
Miami @ Pittsburgh (-3)
Ryan: We’re about one more Dolphins win away from someone making a dumb comment about how well the team has responded to what it’s “been through” like what happened with Riley Cooper. This sentiment would be written or spoken under the presumption that the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito saga were something that was externally foisted upon them, like the abrupt death of a teammate, as opposed to being the result of a glaring lack of leadership.
The consistently excellent writer Sean Conboy brilliantly captured what everybody in the room I was watching with felt like when Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell took a gruesome (and legal) helmet-to-helmet hit at the goal-line during the Ravens game on Thanksgiving night:
It was impossible to watch Bell’s naked head bounce off the cold, hard ground and not think about certain horrors. To not imagine insidious spiderwebs of tau protein coursing through Bell’s brain upon impact. To not imagine him washed out of the NFL before his second contract. To not imagine the ledger of his life being changed forever by one play. And then, almost before the trainers could escort Bell’s wobbly body from the playing field, the officials delivered a bit of black humor so sinister that all you could do was laugh. After consulting with the replay cameras, which showed Bell’s head bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce off the turf infinitum, the zebras had concurred visa-vis the NFL’s Very Serious Player Safety Rules that because Bell’s helmet had Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Roboted off his cranium before the ball crossed the plane, the play was dead at the inch-line. At this point we became aware that Bell himself was in fact not dead, but merely swaying from side to side in an upright stupor as if trapped in the Mortal Kombat fatality screen.
A player is going to fucking die from one of these hits at some point, and that might be a real inflection point for the now-seemingly-unyielding popularity of football in America. No feel for this game. Steelers cover.
Asif: Ditto on having no feel for this game, so I’ll go the other way. Controversy! Dolphins cover.
Buffalo @ Tampa Bay (-2.5) Ryan: I thought this was an excellent suggestions for craptacular games like this one that we do actually yearn for seven months a year:
Bucs cover, but who really cares?
Asif: Football season is too long and there are too may teams in the NFL. This game is proof. Bucs cover.
Tennessee @ Denver (-12)
Ryan: The weather forecast for Sunday in Denver is currently a high of 23 and a low of -6. Titans cover. I think I’m being all smart and stuff by picking against Peyton Manning in the cold, when his struggles are so well-documented that you’d have to think Vegas builds them into the line. That being said, it’s not like any amount of real research is going to lead me towards an informed opinion about whether Denver is 10 or 14 points better than Tennessee either.
Asif: Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday shopping has gotten absurd. It’s not just the gigantic hordes of people having Vale Tudo matches in the middle of Wal-Marts. I’ve had at least two packages delivered to my apartment every day this week, all by UPS, and all at different times of the day. UPS can’t even get all of our deliveries together and that’s their job! From now on, I’m doing my holiday shopping on Columbus day. Broncos cover.
St. Louis @ Arizona (-6.5)
Ryan: I think I relayed this non sequitur last season, but the feeling still stands. The convenience store a few blocks from me cools candy bars in its fridge, which is a tremendous business decision on their part at least in the sense for having me as a loyal customer. Cold Twix Peanut Butter bars are pure bliss, and there are times when I put on pants and leave my house just to get them. Rams cover?
Asif: The best part about living in New York is easily the sandwiches. I’ve lived in Atlanta, Shanghai, and Boston and I can say from firsthand experience that being able to find a delicious, high quality sandwich within two blocks, even in my relatively lame neighborhood, is a total game-changer. Add in pizza and no last call and I don’t really understand why people live other places. Cardinals cover.
Ryan: My rent is under $700, I do not struggle to find good sandwiches, and I can’t remember the last time I wanted to stay out after a bar closed. Chicago is a better place to live than New York. I do wish I had access to better pizza, though.
NY Giants @ San Diego (-3)
Ryan: One of the smartest moves in the world is picking long songs on bar jukeboxes. My go-to’s are Tuesday’s Gone by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cowgirl in the Sand by Neil Young, Notorious Thugs by Notorious BIG, and Hurricane by Bob Dylan. Feels like stealing. Anybody else got any good suggestions? Heads is Chargers, Tails is Giants … Chargers cover.
Asif: Yeah, there’s no way that the Giants win this game. Chargers cover.
Seattle @ San Francisco (-3)
Ryan: The last 40 minutes of the early games where the Red Zone Channel is in its magical flurry of hot, sweaty action will be followed by this game and Panthers-Saints. That’s about as great as an NFL Sunday gets.
It just feels like we are on an inexorable march towards a Seahawks Super Bowl appearance at the very least. Every other NFC team has such greater flaws, and it’s difficult to see anybody else winning in Seattle right now. As we saw when Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone on a seemingly benign tackle, everything in the NFL can change just like that, but the Seahawks have been phenomenal. Seattle covers.
Asif: Oh look, an actual game worth watching! As badly as Seattle beat the Niners earlier this season, and as good as they looked last week, I can’t help but feel that these teams are are going in opposite directions. San Francisco is finally getting it’s receiving corps healthy, while Seattle’s cornerbacks are all apparently incapable of beating an NFL drug test (which is kind of sad). That plus the Seahawks being generally less impressive away from the dome makes me think Niners cover.
Carolina @ New Orleans (-3.5)
Ryan: With both of these teams entering the contest at 9-3, the outcome will go a long way in deciding which team gets a first round bye and a home game and which one has to play on the road the first weekend. For an Extra Mustard post earlier this week, I wrote about how Brett Favre gave Sean Payton the hook-up on some earbuds to help the Saints deal with the loud Seattle faithful last week. As I see it, there are only two possibilities here:
1. The earbuds don’t work at all. In the game Favre said they were totally awesome for, he threw an egregious season-ending interception and was never the same again. The Saints got throttled by the Seahawks.
2. Revenge. Favre was a Bountygate target of Payton’s Saints. What better way to get back at them than to publicly claim you don’t harbor a grudge, waiting for the right time to sell them on a bill of goods about some crackpot product? Probably lots, actually, and I guess that also folds into the theory that the earbuds are worthless, but it’s funny to imagine Favre silently brooding for three years waiting for just the right time to strike back.
Panthers cover, but only if they don’t use stupid earbuds to try to block out the Superdome noise.
Asif: Wait, two good games in one week?! This is unprecedented. Panthers cover.
Dallas @ Chicago (-1)
Ryan: The Bears have given up more than 500 rushing yards over the past two weeks. The all-time single game record for a running back is 296, and Chicago has come sorta close to giving that up in two straight games. Cowboys cover.
Asif: Looks like we’re back to Monday games being worthless. Cowboys cover.