Week 17 Primer

One more week, and one more chance for most of the league to make a statement, whether there are postseason implications or not. Every game is a divisional contest. Let the games begin!

Week 17 Picks

Carolina 38 – Atlanta 10

With seeding on the line and a perfect opportunity to prove a point against a Falcons team playing for nothing (except maybe giving Tony Gonzalez a positive farewell), the Panthers will roll over Atlanta on their way to the postseason.

Cincinnati 24 – Baltimore 20

This is the kind of game I’ve consistently said the Ravens know how to win, but the Bengals should provide a tall order. I’m not convinced on this pick, but as a Dolphins fan, I feel I would be jinxing myself if I picked it any other way. Toss a coin, really.

Indianapolis 27 – Jacksonville 21

The Colts want to build some more momentum going into the postseason. The Jaguars just want this season to end. They’ll fight for the proverbial high note, but the better team should prevail.

Miami 30 – New York 10

After shutting the Jets down in New York, I fully expect the Dolphins to have a similar performance in front of their home crowd. They’ll do what they have to do to help ensure the 6th seed in the AFC playoffs, but here’s hoping everything else happens that needs to happen to make this so.

Minnesota 33 – Detroit 24

In a game without much surface meaning, the Vikings will give the Metrodome a fitting farewell, as they beat the Megatron-less, soon to be head coach-less Detroit Lions to wrap up disappointing seasons for both squads.

Washington 30 – New York 24

What’s there to play for? Well, the only real motivating factor beyond the oft-spoken about pride and job security angles will be the 99% certain retirement of longtime Redskin London Fletcher. The extra inspiration gives them a win. Special shoutout to my brother, who will be attending this, his first NFL game. He’s a diehard Skins fan. He should go home happy, and be at least somewhat more excited about 2014.

Pittsburgh 33 – Cleveland 17

With a playoff berth still in the realm of possibility, the Steelers, who are 16-1 versus the Browns with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, will do their part and cross their fingers afterwards.

Tennessee 20 – Houston 10

This may be the saddest game of the bunch, as two of the more disappointing teams in 2013 meet to put a merciful end to their seasons. The way I see it, the Titans have more to play for, and the Texans certainly haven’t done much to divert their course after 14 straight losses.

San Fransisco 23 – Arizona 21

The Cardinals have been extremely tough to beat for most of the year, but the 49ers know the division is still slightly within their reach, and should put together their best effort of the season in a pivotal game for both clubs.

Chicago 31 – Green Bay 24

Aaron Rodgers’ return will revitalize the offense, but in the end it will be the banged up, patchwork defense of the Packers that decides their fate; an early chance to look forward to 2014.

New England 33 – Buffalo 20

Seeding is in play, the Patriots are at home, and the Bills may or may not rest on their heels while New England fights for home field advantage. Even if Buffalo fights, I can’t see it going any other way. These are the games the Patriots win.

New Orleans 41 – Tampa Bay 21

Much is on the line for the Saints and, lucky for them, it’s on the line in the Superdome (for now). For the Bucanneers, the season will end much in the same way it begun; sadly.

Denver 48 – Oakland 27

The Broncos will steamroll their lesser divisional opponents, helping secure their home field postseason advantage and also helping Peyton Manning pad a few records in the process.

San Diego 30 – Kansas City 21

By the time this game is played, the Chargers will know if they’re playing for a postseason berth or for simple pride. Either way, the Chiefs are the only team in the NFL who are locked into their postseason seed, and should put up little resistance as they gear up for the 2nd season.

Seattle 31 – St. Louis 27

Expect the Rams to scratch and claw at this game, as they’re wont to do against superior opponents. But with something on the line, there are very few teams in the league who can show up the Seahawks in their own building. The Rams? They aren’t one of those teams.

Philadelphia 38 – Dallas 31

With all the focus on Kyle Orton, it will be both defenses that decide this game. Whichever can pull off a key turnover or pivotal change of possession at the right time will give their team the win. From what I’ve seen from both defenses, I’d sooner expect this sort of behavior from the Eagles. Also, a healthy dose of LeSean McCoy won’t hurt their chances.

Week 16 Primer

This week’s primer is coming at you a couple of days early, due to Kevbo Industries’ (my) vacation starting Saturday. So get a leg up on your friends with some expert picks (and enjoy my little summary of my fantasy football season afterwards) and have yourselves a great Christmas and drunken New Years!

Week 16 Picks

Miami 31 – Buffalo 24

Despite beating the Patriots for the first time in four years last week, the heart-attack Dolphins will find a way to almost lose against a lesser Bills squad. Keyword: almost.

Carolina 33 – New Orleans 21

In the biggest game in the NFC South this year, the Saints’ road woes will most likely continue in a stadium that should be rocking in the wrong direction. Cam Newton continues to impress, and as long as he and his defense do their jobs, the division is clearly within their grasp.

Cincinnati 27 – Minnesota 21

The Vikings have been upsetting playoff hopefuls for about a month now, but they struggle on the road, and the Bengals have to be fully aware that their postseason fortunes ride on playing mistake-free, consistent football from here on out. It won’t be an easy win, but I look for the Bungles to get it done this week (at least).

Denver 31 – Houston 21

I’m not seeing the barnstormer most others are, particularly because, despite their record, the Texans have a decent enough defense to keep Peyton Manning (relatively) honest. Still, this is a game the Broncos would have to choke on mightily to lose.

Jacksonville 30 – Tennessee 24

In a game that doesn’t matter for anything other than heart, whose got the bigger heart? Of late, it can’t be argued that the Jaguars are playing better despite having nothing on the line but pride.

Kansas City 41 – Indianapolis 27

This may be an early preview of a wildcard matchup in a couple of weeks and, much to the disappointment of Colts fans everywhere, it should play out in a fairly lopsided fashion. These Chiefs are really starting to find their offensive stride, which could be a frightening prospect for the rest of the AFC come playoff time.

Cleveland 20 – New York 13

Another game of heart, but the matchup clearly favors the Jets. Or does it? Flip a coin on this one, but bank on neither team winning so much as one of the two losing. If that makes sense.

Tampa Bay 24 – St. Louis 14

After upsetting the Saints, the Rams will do what the Rams have done for most of the year and simply look like a different team against lesser competition. The Bucs are starting to figure some things out, and more than anything, seem to have at least a glimmer of an answer to their QB situation, a definite advantage over the Rams.

Washington 40 – Dallas 35

Balls will fly. Backs will bulldoze. Defenses will collapse. In the end, I expect one Tony Romo turnover to be the difference. How can anyone honestly expect different?

New York 24 – Detroit 20

Prepare yourselves, Lions fans; your disappointing season is about to hit a new low.

Arizona 21 – Seattle 20

In an upset of major proportions, I have a gut feeling that we’re going to see a sense of urgency and aggressiveness out of this Cardinals team that the Seahawks, who are already a lock for the postseason, won’t be prepared to match. Not even with the 12th man behind them.

Baltimore 26 – New England 24

Justin Tucker beats Tom Brady. Nobody is sure how that headline will go over, but we won’t be able to avoid it.

Green Bay 30 – Pittsburgh 24

The Packers are riding some big victories of late and, despite going Rodger-less for another week, match up favorably against a Steelers team that is shaky on the road. This is about as close of a call as it gets, so feel free to switch the teams around. I might before too many people read this…

San Diego 41 – Oakland 21

Unleash the Kraken! Aka Phillip Rivers. Raiders fans, your season is over, stop watching and save yourself for the offseason. This is going to get ugly.

Philadelphia 33 – Chicago 28

LeSean McCoy, LeSean McCoy and more LeSean McCoy is the key here. Oh, and don’t forget LeSean McCoy.

San Fransisco 31 – Atlanta 6

For some reason, Monday Night just won’t have the same luster as it usually does this week. Hmm, I wonder why…

My Fantasy Season In A Nutshell

I missed the draft in my main league:

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After I drafted in my own league:

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Season progresses, I lose as often as I win. Somehow, with help from other people losing, I make the playoffs in both leagues:

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I proceed to lose in the first round in both leagues:

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TMD-B

I officially hate the Lions.

Tucker Rule(s)?

It’s rare that a kicker can be called “clutch”. That’s why teams that find such players rarely let them go. That’s why a guy who is on the field about 10% of the game is paid as much as guys who play twice as much (and twice as hard) as they do.

I’ve seen some of the greats, from Morten Anderson to Gary Anderson, from Martin Gramatica to Adam Vinatieri. Rarely have I seen a kicker as undeniably “clutch” as Baltimore’s Justin Tucker.

If the Ravens are headed to the playoffs, shades of the 2000 team are evident in their offense’s ability to get far enough downfield to give their ace kicker a chance to put points on the board. I still hate the Lions for losing a game they should have won and keeping the last wildcard spot in the AFC away from the Dolphins, but kudos to Justin Tucker, the definition of “clutch”. That 61-yard game winner was something to remember.

Gotcha!

A handful of playoff-bound or -hopeful teams were dealt surprising defeats this week, and it all started in Denver. The Broncos were about as flat as they’ve been all year, and the lack of Wes Welker surprisingly seemed to affect their entire offense. I say surprisingly because this team seemed to get by just fine without him in 2012. Props to the Chargers, who played a solid game, but the Broncos gave this one away.

Just like the damn Lions.

Just like the Cowboys. This game will be the most talked about all week, if for no other reason than the media loves it when the Cowboys falter. Everyone who isn’t a Cowboys fan likes this, believe me, but let’s face facts:

You can’t blame Tony Romo. Or, if you do, do it in the same breath when you’re also mentioning how embarrassingly bad their defense is right now.

You can’t blame Jason Garrett. Or, if you do, blame Romo and the defense, too.

You can’t blame Dez Bryant for leaving the game a little early. Or, if you do, blame Jason Garrett, Romo and the defense, too.

Blame the Cowboys as a whole, because they’re all responsible.

But who do you blame for what happened in Philadelphia? This was the most mind-numbingly confusing game of the week to me, as the Eagles have consistently shown improvement over the last two months only to lay an egg against a very beatable (and beat up) Vikings team. Just when the division was within reach, the Eagles show they’re not quite there yet. Their defense isn’t even on the road to being quite there yet.

It didn’t surprise me as much that the Saints struggled against the Rams; St. Louis are constantly in the fight, even if their record doesn’t reflect it. But there’s something to worry about come playoff time when the Saints look like the Falcons when they’re not in a dome. Any dome will do.

Damn Lions.

Let Me Make A Big Deal About This, Please

I could have thrown this into the last section, but the Dolphins were destined to beat the Patriots this week. How do I know? Let me count the ways:

-I bought a single pack of football cards on Friday. I opened them, and the card that was sitting on top was of Ryan Tannehill.

-Because I said so.

I’m desperate for the playoffs, but I’m growing more and more confident that my Fins are truly headed in the right direction. For the first time since Chad Pennington teased me for one fantastic season, I’m confident in my quarterback. Not since #13. Not since #13.

#13. God, I’ll never stop missing him. A void that can’t be filled by any amount of Ryan Tannehills or even an Aaron Rodgers or the like.

“They Are Who We Thought They Were?”

The Browns had the Bears right where they wanted them. Then they lost.

The Redskins have two starting caliber quarterbacks. The only answer is to keep both of them until one of them shows he’s just a backup in disguise, and then you trade that guy for a 6th round pick. That’s Dan Snyder at his best.

Can’t even beat the Falcons. C’mon, man.

The Texans want to know why, after getting blown out by the Colts, they have to turn around and play Peyton Manning next week. Shell shock can cause memory loss.

The Bills and Jaguars played a game, apparently.

The Seahawks held a scrimmage against Eli Manning and some Giants fans that won a contest and were allowed to suit up.

Colin Kaepernick is coming for you, Seattle.

A defensive line coaching job in Oakland is coming for you, Rex Ryan.

Recent reports say Raiders coach Dennis Allen is on the hot seat. Yes, he is. He’s the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. That seat hasn’t been cool since Jon Gruden was in the building.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is a lesser version of Tony Romo, who is a lesser version of Brett Favre. Fitzpatrick is a gunslinger with a blunderbuss. Still, nice almost-win, Tennessee.

How about then Bungles?

Damn Lions.

Weekly Awards

QB Of The Week: Colin Kaepernick. He’s baaaaaack. I think.

RB Of The Week: Jamaal Charles. Five touchdowns, almost 200 yards receiving, and I heard he also saved a baby from a burning building.

WR Of the Week: Greg Jennings. Good show, old man. Damn good show. I almost don’t want to give him this, considering I could have probably shredded the Eagles’ secondary on my one good knee, but he deserves some credit for a change.

Offensive Line Of The Week: Carolina Panthers. So much for the dominance of the Jets front four, huh?

Defensive Performance Of The Week: Seattle Seahawks. A shutout is a shutout, and five interceptions are five interceptions. That it all happened against the Giants is just circumstance. Pure, unrelated circumstance.

Goat Of The Week: Tony Romo. The Cowboys’ Defense. Jason Garrett. Jimmy Johnson. Emmitt Smith. Roger Staubach. Hell, the city of Dallas and anyone who has ever stepped foot within its boundaries.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: Mike McCoy. I have a feeling he’s going to be in San Diego for a good long time. Of course, that isn’t much consolation to Chargers fans, who had to deal with Norv Turner for a good long time.

What’s Next?

The Dolphins can probably beat anybody, but they’ll give me a heart attack this week in Buffalo. Wait and see.

At 1:00 this Sunday, all eyes will be on the Saints and Panthers, which should be the best game of the week. It’s all on the line, and if the Panthers can win (and they can, so long as they’re not in New Orleans), the changing of the guard in the NFC South will be official.

Colts-Chiefs will be intriguing, and the Redskins and Cowboys always make for enjoyable football regardless of where they are in the standings.

Later on, the Cardinals will have an excellent opportunity to go into Seattle and prove themselves in the toughest stadium in football, against the best team in football. I wish them all the luck in the world. The Seahawks secondary is looking forward to another five interceptions.

Speaking of five interceptions, I’ll predict that Eli does it again, along with a couple of fumbles, a safety and close to a dozen sacks. The Giants will then beat the Lions. Because they’re the Lions.

They’re the damned Lions.

Patriots-Ravens. Justin Tucker kicks seven field goals. Patriots win.

Sunday Night will be pivotal for the Eagles and the Bears. Whomever wins is in the driver’s seat for their division crown going forward.

Monday Night will be more competitive than you might think at first glance. Of course, the Falcons aren’t playing the Redskins again, so they’ll lose.

Final Thoughts

Leave Tony Romo alone. LEAVE HIM ALONE!

Damn Lions.

I miss you, Dan.

Nndamukong Suh karate chopped a ball boy in Detroit last night. True story. He also pulled a fan from the stands, gave him a piggy-back ride, and then proceeded to drop him off of his back and stomp his arm until a piece of his cleats lodged into the poor fan’s forearm.

Okay, so I’m lying. The point is, you can close your eyes, see all that happening, and not be the least bit surprised.

Damn Lions.

Week 15 Primer

You’ll have to take me on my word on this one; overslept by quite a few hours, obviously. Scout’s honor; these picks are always made a day ahead of time, but are adjusted early Sunday morning due to inactives/projected weather conditions. I haven’t even started watching the games yet.

Proof? I had the Broncos winning in Denver a few nights ago, as I’m sure most of us did. Who saw that coming?

Week 15 Picks

Washington 31 – Atlanta 27

Between these two down-on-their-luck squads, the Falcons are the last time to really put up a fight. Despite that, Kirk Cousins gave this team a different feel when he played in 2012, and something tells me he might be enough of a wild card to give the Skins a win against an equal opponent.

Cleveland 33 – Chicago 21

I 100% disagree with the decision to put Jay Cutler back on the field. Josh McCown/McNown/McNabb has been on fire, and I don’t care what position you play, you don’t take hot hands off the field for any reason until they cool off. The Bears are in the thick of a postseason race and, unfortunately, will watch Cutler spend the game shaking off the rust against a stout Cleveland defense in Ohio this week.

Indianapolis 30 – Houston 27

Oh, nevermind the records; the Colts will keep this game interesting up until the end. I’m hard pressed to call this game either way, but I still want to believe the team that’s going to win their division can beat the worst team in their division.

Jacksonville 34 – Buffalo 24

What tips the scales in the Jaguars’ favor? Home field, heart and a coaching staff that apparently can do more with half the talent the Bills have available to them.

Miami 26 – New England 21

Oh yeah. This is happening. Whether or not it’s just wishful thinking on my part remains to be seen, but these Dolphins have more fight in them than almost any team in the league, and that can’t be denied. What else can’t be denied is the impact Rob Gronkowski’s absence has on the Patriots’ offense.

Philadelphia 30 – Minnesota 20

Good opportunity for a let-down for the Eagles, after playing an exciting, taxing game in the snow at home last week. Better opportunity for the banged up Vikings to take another one on the chin.

Seattle 31 – New York 16

The Seahawks aren’t quite the same dominant team on the road, but the Giants won’t be getting the memo.

San Fransisco 24 – Tampa Bay 14

The 49ers’ defense is going to have to maintain their recent success in order to keep up in a close NFC playoff race. I like their chances, even with the cross-country trip into Tampa to face a more inspired Bucs team than their record indicates.

Panthers 24 – New York 9

What better way for your outstanding defense to rebound from a spanking by Drew Brees than facing Geno Smith?

Kansas City 31 – Oakland 17

The Chiefs have made their way this year beating teams they’re more talented than on a regular basis. This is one of those games.

Dallas 23 – Green Bay 20

The Cowboys defense rebounds long enough to make Matt Flynn look like Matt Flynn. Jerry Jones will have some amazingly befuddling quote to follow the win, and Jason Garrett will praise his equipment staff for making sure everybody’s helmets fit perfectly.

New Orleans 31 – St. Louis 24

The Saints aren’t the same team on the road. The Rams, like the Giants, won’t be getting the memo.

Arizona 32 – Tennessee 10

Tell me how the Titans can get past this defense, and I’ll tell you about a bridge I have for sale.

Pittsburgh 30 – Cincinnati 23

The way of the Bungles will be on full display. The Steelers will take some confidence from the game, all the while knowing their team needs help in every phase.

Detroit 35 – Baltimore 31

I think this will be the game of the week, and I think Megatron takes it over. If Stafford can avoid the INTs, the Lions take it. If not, the Ravens capitalize better than most teams in the league. Don’t miss this one on Monday night.

No Fantasy, No Worries

The semi-finals are taking place in most leagues, and since the 1:00 games have started, there’s not much point either way in listing starts and sits this week. I will say this: if you started Jay Cutler today, you have my sympathy.

TMD-B

Late edition. All apologies for the delay, folks.

Jacksonville Juggernauts, Houston Horrors

If somebody were to have tapped you on the shoulder in August and said something to the effect of “The Jaguars will be riding a four-game winning streak come December, have a better record than the Houston Texans, and that the Texans would have been out of playoff contention since November”, you might have felt an urge to direct them to the nearest psychological treatment center.

I guess we’re all crazy, because all of that has happened and I still can’t wrap my head around any of it. You’re looking at the same Texans team with the same weapons that have threatened to take the AFC for years, suddenly lined up for the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. Injuries have played a part, for sure, but that’s the tip of the melting iceberg of Houston.

The Jaguars, on the other hand, seem to be pointed in the right direction. At least, that’s what people will say, without realizing that teams that get hot at the end of a bad season are usually doing so for reasons such as:

-Playing for jobs (coaches and players included)
-The lack of quality opposition (The Jaguars have beaten nobody of consequence this year)
-They’re still the Jacksonville Jaguars

That last statement can be summed up by their aging halfback, their quarterback situation, and a defense that features nobody.

Still, they’ve got heart. Jerry Jones would be proud.

The Snowglobe Game and MNF Make Divisional Races Fascinating

Anyone who got to watch the Eagles-Lions playing in conditions that closely resembled the end of that Old Spice commercial with Wes Welker in a snowglobe (in a dollar store) saw one of the most enjoyable games of 2013. They also saw the Lions continue to fumble with the idea that, with the rest of their division vulnerable, they have a great chance to win the NFC North. Like dangling a carrot in front of a carnivore.

The next night, the Bears took it to the Cowboys in a way only the Cowboys could let happen, allowing Chicago to score on every offensive possession besides their last (which involved kneeling to kill the clock and the game).

The Bears and the Eagles are taking their divisional races seriously. The Lions and the Cowboys are lost children in a mall looking for their parents.

Oh, and the Packers won, too. If Aaron Rodgers can get back, they just might have a chance. So long as the Bears put Jay Cutler back on the field, of course.

Bengals Give Colts A Taste Of Their Playoff Future

I’m not sold on either team, regardless of the outcome of this game, but I do know this much; Indianapolis isn’t ready for a postseason run. No amount of come-from-behind heroics is going to matter when the team they’re facing is simply better in all three phases. Any team the Colts end up playing in the postseason (beyond whomever ends up with the final wildcard spot, at least) will be superior to them.

Same goes for the Bengals.

Speaking Of That Last Wild Card Spot…

The Dolphins can’t win without putting me on the edge of cardiac arrest. Antonio Brown was one step away from pulling off one of the most amazing (or amazingly depressing, if you’re a Dolphins fan) comebacks in NFL history. But the call was right (for a change), and the Dolphins are keeping pace.

Of course, the Ravens need to lose a game or two if Miami has a chance at the playoffs. They hold the tiebreaker over the Fins having beaten them earlier in the season, and really aren’t playing any better or worse than Miami are right now. That back and forth and back again win over Minnesota was straight out of the Dolphins’ playbook of how to win a football game. It’s going to be an exciting three weeks watching these two teams try to one-up each others bouts of ineptitude and moments of flawless execution.

The AFC’s Top Three Dominate…Oh Wait…

The Broncos just had their way with the Titans. It wasn’t a surprise.

The Chiefs just had their way with the Redskins. It wasn’t a surprise, but it has to give them a much-needed boost of confidence going forward.

The Patriots just…almost lost to the Browns. At home. In the process, they lost Tom Brady’s best offensive weapon for the rest of the year (Gronkowski is now damaged goods, and I wouldn’t expect to see him playing for the Patriots again in his career). There were some questionable calls that went in New England’s favor, but this was most likely retribution for the calls that gave the Panthers a win over them earlier in the year.

The Broncos and Chiefs are looking up. The Patriots are looking and not liking what they’re seeing.

The Games That Don’t Matter

The Jets beat the Raiders. Fantasy players everywhere cursed the name of Michael Fabiano, who has insisted that fantasy players simply play any defense the Jets are facing on a weekly basis. Good call, genius. One I would have made too. Meh.

The Buccaneers beat the pants off of the Bills. They’ll need those pants back; it gets awfully chilly in Buffalo this time of year.

The Chargers reminded us of how inept the New York Football Midgets are right now. San Diego still has a legitimate chance at making the playoffs, but plenty has to go their way while they continue to win. They’re playing the Broncos tomorrow night. Don’t expect a miracle.

The NFC’s Best Are Humbled. Or They’re Vindicated. One Of Those.

Amazing to me that, after San Fransisco pulled a big win out against the Seahawks, most notable pundits still think Seattle is invincible. Any given Sunday, geniuses.

Meanwhile, the Panthers, no doubt the story of the year in the NFC, were beat to a pulp by the Saints, no doubt the real story of the year in the NFC.

While not exactly in the same class, the Cardinals continue to win, even if the Rams don’t exactly qualify as a measuring stick for greatness. Regardless, they could do some damage come playoff time. By damage, I mean Carson Palmer’s interception ratio spiking.

Weekly Awards

QB Of The Week: Drew Brees. Plenty of QBs had a solid week, but how many did it against the vaunted #1 defense in football?

RB Of The Week: LeSean McCoy. I’m still not sure how he was making those cuts in a half foot of snow. Barry Sanders part II.

WR Of The Week: Keenan Allen. This guy is going to be something special. He already is, to be honest. Phillip Rivers is no longer writing Vincent Jackson “I Miss You” cards.

Offensive Line Of The Week: Philadelphia Eagles. McCoy was running from the second level of the Lions’ defense by default, as the Eagles’ front five (their interior in particular) absolutely dominated Nndamukong Suh (I saw him kick the Eagles center, and I don’t care if nobody else did) and the overrated Lions defensive line.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: San Fransisco 49ers. They’re every bit as good as Seattle’s defense, and I would like to think they proved that this week.

Goat Of The Week: Mike Shanahan. Unless you’re living under a rock, you should be aware of all the reasons why this is a clear-cut pick. If not, get out from under your rock. The weather is fine.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: Sean Payton. When he and Drew Brees get to scheming in the Superdome, who honestly has a chance?


What’s Next

Will Peyton Manning Tie Tom Brady’s Record by throwing 5 TDs against the Chargers? It could happen.

Will the Seahawks and 49ers, both traveling across the country, be upset by lesser teams? It could happen.

Can my Dolphins beat the dreaded Patriots? It will happen.

Packers at Cowboys should be interesting. Nothing like two train wrecks meeting head-on.

Bengals and Steelers is going to be a grudge match, one I expect the Steelers to win. The way of the Bungles cannot be explained, it can only be witnessed in sheer confusion.

Monday night provides perhaps the best matchup of the week, as the Ravens will have to fight hard to keep their playoff hopes alive against a Detroit team that seems to play their best football in their dome. Who’s stopping Calvin Johnson?

Answer: Matthew Stafford.

Final Thoughts

I haven’t been this excited about the Dolphins since Tom Brady was rehabbing a torn ACL.

I haven’t been this puzzled by Texas since the fiasco In Waco.

I haven’t been this happy with a season of football since 2012.

What can I say? I love the game, even when the matchups are meaningless to playoff contention. Every game is a possibility for great things.

Don’t miss any of them.

Week 14 Primer

Now we’re getting into the thick of things.

Week 14 Picks

Baltimore 27 – Minnesota 17

Push is coming to shove in Baltimore, where the defending Superbowl champions are starting to pick up a little head of steam in their push towards the final wildcard slot in the AFC. The Vikings, on the other hand, are a team with major issues to address, no playoff aspirations, and traveling a good distance to play a team with something to play for.

Indianapolis 24 – Cincinnati 21

This is a gutsy pick, I’m aware, but I’m one to go with my gut when my brain decides to be indecisive. With a higher playoff seed on the line, I like the Colts to play above their post-Reggie Wayne doldrums. I’m still not sold in this Bengals team, which hasn’t changed much in the past two or three seasons. Where did those teams end up?

Green Bay 30 – Atlanta 24

No Aaron Rodgers will have many making snap judgments on this game, but when you factor in the Falcons having to travel and play in inclement weather, with nothing much more to motivate them than pride, well…I don’t think the Packers are going to let this game get by them. Believe it or not, Green Bay still has a faint hope at a playoff berth, but they’ll have to win out to have a chance.

New England 31 – Cleveland 17

Trap game? I can’t recall the Patriots getting caught in too many of these over the Bellichick era, and knowing that they’re also fighting for playoff positioning, I doubt they let a lackluster Browns team come into their home stadium and steal a game away.

New York 20 – Oakland 10

In what will most likely be this week’s least cared about matchup, the Jets will bounce back from a series of demoralizing losses with a victory that will mean little to nothing in the long run, hosting the cross-country traveling and identity-less Raiders.

Philadelphia 37 – Detroit 33

Expect the city of brotherly love to be a slugfest of offensive firepower as the tested and determined Lions offense trades blows with the new breed of fast-paced, run-oriented Chip Kelly offense. In the end, an overachieving Eagles defense will make the difference with a handful of turnovers, and the Lions will once again be on the wrong end of the media’s incessant questions about whether or not they’re ‘for real’.

Miami 31 – Pittsburgh 24

The Jets game was a momentum builder, and something tells me Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace will effectively make the Dolphins offense click….by using Wallace as a decoy and feeding Brian Hartline and Charles Clay about ten receptions each. Combine that with one of the league’s most underrated defenses, and the Dolphins playoff hopes continue while the Steelers start thinking about what area of their aging defense needs the most work come 2014.

Tampa Bay 28 – Buffalo 16

Another game in December with nothing at stake but pride. I like the Bucs at home, playing football better than their record reflects. As the Bills have shown us over and over again this year, most recently last week against the Falcons, they’re a good team who can’t seem to stay out of their own way.

Kansas City 31 – Washington 28

I really, really want to pick the Redskins in this game. They’ve got the home field, they’ve got a Chiefs team that isn’t quite the juggernaut they had convinced some of us they were, and the injuries are starting to take their toll while Washington remains mostly unscathed. Regardless, the better team wins this game in my estimation, and the Chiefs are simply a better team.

Denver 41 – Tennessee 24

Manning hangs up another five and works his way towards the season record for touchdown passes, blowing past a team that is coming off the kind of loss that takes the heart out of lesser teams. The Titans are a lesser team right now, no way around it.

Arizona 24 – St. Louis 13

The Rams will not give up the fight, not against a divisional opponent, not when they know they’re playing the role of spoiler. Jeff Fisher has been in this position frequently throughout his coaching career, and will have his team (particularly his defense) chomping at the bit to pull off the upset. In the end, however, no amount of passion on the Rams’ side will overcome a Cardinals defense that should quite simply shut this team down for four quarters.

San Diego 34 – New York 28

Neither team has much going for it, even if the Giants are still technically alive in the playoff race. In close matchups, I never like the team that has to travel from coast to coast, and that’s the essence of this pick in a nutshell.

Seattle 26 – San Fransisco 20

This is going to be one of the most physically brutal games played in 2013, mark my words. There will be blood. There will be bruises. There will be field goals. The Seahawks will, finally, without any shadow of a doubt, claim their place at the top of the NFC West, the NFC and perhaps the entire league with a huge road victory.

New Orleans 31 – Carolina 26

As the NFL turns. If anyone would have told me these teams would be tied at 9-3 going into this game before the season started, I’d have had some serious doubts. Considering the matchup may be the closest in terms of overall talent of any game this week, the 12th man of New Orleans will be the deciding factor, limiting the Panthers to field goals when touchdowns are needed, giving the Saints the room they need to take a close one.

Chicago 38 – Dallas 33

I see Brandon Marshall. I see Alshon Jeffery. Hell, I even see me some Martellus Bennett. I see a little Matt Forte as well. I see too much firepower for the Cowboys to handle. Just a little more than the Bears defense can handle.

Fantasy Start ’em/Sit ’em

Good luck in the playoffs, if you happen to be in them! I am. In both of my leagues. Hot damn.

Start ’em

Nick Foles – QB – Philadelphia Eagles
Josh McCown – QB – Chicago Bears
Eddie Lacy – RB – Green Bay Packers
Danny Woodhead – RB – San Diego Chargers
DeSean Jackson – WR – Philadelphia Eagles
Torrey Smith – WR – Baltimore Ravens
Zach Ertz – TE – Philadelpha Eagles
Charles Clay – TE – Miami Dolphins
Phil Dawson – K – San Fransisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals D/ST

Sit ’em

Andy Dalton – QB – Cincinnati Bengals
Cam Newton – QB – Carolina Panthers
Frank Gore – RB – San Fransisco 49ers
C.J. Spiller – RB – Buffalo Bills
Mike Wallace – WR – Miami Dolphins
T.Y. Hilton – WR – Indianapolis Colts
Tony Gonzalez – TE – Atlanta Falcons
Vernon Davis – TE – San Fransisco 49ers
Sebastian Janikowski – K – Oakland Raiders
Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST

Tuesday Morning Double-Back

It’s Tuesday Morning somewhere. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to offer you this expert analysis of last week’s action, now would I? And wouldn’t you just be crying yourself to sleep tonight without it? I know, I know. It’s okay. It’s Tuesday Morning…somewhere.

Thanksgiving Proves Being Home For The Holidays Is Best

The Lions proved it, as they thoroughly manhandled a Packers team that seems absolutely lost without their star QB on the field. The Lions haven’t had such a prolific day of running the football as a team (211 total yards on the ground) since Barry Sanders was in their backfield.

The Cowboys proved it, although in less convincing fashion, letting a lesser Oakland team stay in the fight down the stretch. They still looked in control for most of the game and, more importantly, are keeping pace with the Eagles in what will be a tightly contested race for the NFC Least divisional crown. A crown that will sit crooked and be chipped up and generally ugly, but a crown nonetheless.

Finally, the Ravens proved it, in a game that came complete with questionable calls, a coach ruining a kickoff return (Mike Tomlin should be fined, nothing more, but future infractions should warrant suspensions and losses of draft picks) and, in typical Ravens-Steelers fashion, it all came down to a barely missed two point conversion that would have most likely forced overtime. Instead, the Ravens got the win and, going forward, are probably favorites to box out a crowded group fighting for the last wildcard in the AFC.

Nothing like being home for the holidays.

Panthers Keep Winning, Saints Lend A Hand

Not to say the Saints helped the Panthers dominate a Buccaneers team they should have dominated, but by losing to the Seahawks, it makes the division race oh so interesting in the NFC South. The Panthers and Saints play twice in the last four weeks, and each game should be the most closely watched that week. Either way, who’s going to go into Seattle and beat this Seahawks team? Russell Wilson hasn’t lost at home in his nearly two years in the league. I’m starting to think he’ll go into 2014 maintaining the streak.

The Factory Of Sadness Needs Prozac

The best form of anti-depressants in the Browns’ case would actually be winning football games on a consistent basis. Since the team returned to the league in 1999, they’ve average a depressing five wins per season, have started more QBs than any other team in the league over that span, and have almost yearly rotated out their front office, coaching staff and jettisoned chunks of past drafts that were essentially broken promises to a fan base that deserves so much more.

I mean, the Jaguars? At home? Are you kidding me?

Brandon Weeden?

The AFC East In A Nutshell

The Patriots: You never know which team will show up, but you always know they’ll find a way to win or to come damn close. How they do it is a mystery, especially to the Texans’ Antonio Smith, who had to resort to calling the Patriots cheaters and using the “spy” word when he mentioned how the Pats’ adjustments were a little too spot-on in overcoming a 1st half deficit. Or, you know, the Patriots just may be the best coached team in football. That could be a possibly too, Antonio.

The Dolphins may not be playoff bound, but whenever we beat the Jets in their own stadium, it feels like a playoff win to me.

The Jets are going nowhere. Rex Ryan is going somewhere.

The Bills? I think they wanted to lose. I don’t know how else to explain what happened at the end of that game.

In a nutshell: The Patriots are the Patriots, the Dolphins are looking up, the Jets are looking for a new head coach and about 40 new active roster spots, and the Bills are looking for a way to take their superior talent and turn it into a competitive football team.

The Colts Close The Deal

But will they close anything else once the playoffs begin? They’re the biggest mystery in the NFL right now.

The Titans, on the other hand, are not. They’re simply an average team. Average teams don’t win the games they have to win.

Adrian Peterson, The Manimal

Thanks to the glory of NFL Redzone, I got to catch the overtime period between the Vikings and Bears. I relish every opportunity to see Peterson play, the man is about half a step away from being the next evolution of humanity. He proved it once again, in a crazy back-and-forth, by putting the offense on his back and willing them to victory.

Yeah, Matt Cassel hit a few key passes here and there, but you could put me back there and get the same results when the defense is scared to death of the run.

Adrian Peterson is the best running back in football, and one of the three best ever. I’d put him third behind only Jim Brown and Barry Sanders.

Bruce Arians, Stop Whining

Questionable calls are a part of the game. Always have been, always will be. These refs are human beings, and they make mistakes. Half the time, the mistakes are just perceived that way by the fans rooting for the team that was penalized. But, every now and again, a crew just blows a call. It’s never pretty, but it happens.

If Bruce Arians and all the other coaches who have made official grievances to the league’s head of officiating actually think they’re making a difference, they’re wrong. The NFL already reviews their crews on a weekly basis, and acknowledges their mistakes whether or not a coach or a player complains to them about it.

So, stop whining. And if I’m running the NFL, I’m removing the option for coaches to forward these complaints on the basis that ‘Hey, we already know, we don’t need the tap on the shoulder’.

But that would just cause more whining. Nobody wants that.

The Eagles beat the Cardinals, by the way. Big win. Nick Foles is 19-0. As in, 19 TDs, 0 interceptions. The Eagles just may have found their solution at QB. Now it’s time for the Philadelphia media to stop badgering Chip Kelly about his QB situation. Immediately.

The Broncos and 49ers keep my Superbowl pick alive

The Broncos did so more convincingly against a Chiefs team that kept it close up until the last drive, beating a superior opponent, but the Rams have been known to give the 49ers a struggle. There was little struggle in the 23-13 win on Sunday. Do I think the 49ers are Superbowl bound? No. But I also don’t think there’s a team in the NFC that can come as close to competing with Seattle at their best than San Fransisco can.

I feel the same way in regards to the Broncos having to potentially face the Patriots again. New England are to Denver what San Fransisco are to Seattle.

Bengals Vs Chargers: Incredibly Boring, Extremely Sterile

You take these two teams at face value, and you’re expecting a 38-35 shootout. But nooo, instead the wrong Chargers team (or the right Bengals defense) shows up and takes all the fun out of it. Hell, at least the Bengals actually won. They could be an X-factor in the playoffs, if they step up and play the kind of football they’re capable of. A big if.

Robbery.

Now, there’s no way of knowing if that debacle at the end of the Redskins game actually changed the outcome. The Redskins still had to score, go into overtime and score again, all the while stopping the Giants from doing the same. But what happened at the end of the game was an absolute embarrassment, one that the league is at least acknowledging as such. Not that it does much to console the Redskins, who are playing for pride and had another piece of it ripped away by people who weren’t even wearing Giants jerseys.

Weekly Awards

They’re baaaack.

QB Of The Week: Ryan Tannehill. Hear me out, before you accuse me of homerism. The only thing the Jets have going for them is a defensive front seven that was, according to many pundits, going to make short work of a patchwork Dolphins offensive line. They did, too. Only, Tannehill showed the sort of poise and confidence in his and his receivers’ abilities to not be rattled by the pressure, constantly taking hits (as he has all year) while making some big plays. Plays that changed the outcome of the game after a slow first half that ended 6-0. I’m really starting to believe in this young man.

RB Of The Week – The Manimal. No contest.

WR Of The Week – Josh Gordon. If the Factory of Sadness needs a small pick-me-up, they’ll find it in Gordon, who became the first WR in NFL history to post back-to-back 200 yard games. This kid has a bright, bright future. Expect the Browns to trade him between now and the 2014 draft.

Offensive Line Of The Week: Seattle Seahawks. The Saints defense still aren’t a mirage, as I mentioned when I wrongly picked them to win this game. Their pass rush is fierce; but the Seahawks offensive line, now completely healthy, is far more fierce.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: Philadelphia Eagles. Not overtly dominant, but when the Eagles offense stalled in the 2nd half, this unit kept them in the game and made sure the Cardinals’ sometimes potent offense remained flaccid.

Boy, reading that back to myself…last time I use the word “flaccid” on this blog, I promise.

Goat Of The Week: Joe Haden. During the week, Joe discussed the Browns’ need to keep playing strong, not for the playoffs but because it was their job and that they were being paid to do that job. Nobody paid Haden to be absolutely embarrassed on a double-move by Cecil Shorts, who then caught an easy TD to seal the game for the Jaguars. That one has to sting.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: Mike Tomlin. Here’s a guy who’s willing to step on the field to help his team win.

All jokes aside, this goes to the Patriots, who have the best group of spies, infiltrators and double-agents in the league and have been using them to be the only active dynasty in football since Drew Bledsoe was “hurt” and Tom “Agent T” Brady was inserted into the lineup.

All jokes honestly aside, I’ll give this to Chuck Pagano, who oversaw a defense that made sure the Colts’ stagnant offense wouldn’t cost them the most important game of their season so far.

What’s Next?

If the NFL can find a way to hype the Thursday night game between the Texans and Jaguars, I’ll not only be shocked, I’ll write Roger Goodell an apology letter for everything negative I’ve ever said about him.

There’s going to be a bunch of games played on Sunday. Many of them will have playoff implications. Some will be enjoyable nail-biters, others will be enjoyable blowouts.

But once the 4:00 games are over, nobody is going to care. The Saints and Panthers are playing Sunday Night.

I actually expect the Bears-Cowboys game on Monday Night to be one hell of a matchup. Looking forward to it, with or without Jay Cutler on the field.

Final Thoughts

Will robots one day replace refs? Yes.

Will a robot one day replace Warren Sapp? We can only hope.

It looks like I’m going to make the playoffs in both fantasy leagues. Oh happy day.

Adrian Peterson is my spirit manimal.