I'm thinking he gets fined for it, despite the fact that he said absolutely nothing that was, in any way, incorrect. It also says something that there have been rumors that the league is thinking about canceling the series on its own, mostly because the advertising market has been soft, and the overall ratings for the league have been down in the low double digits for the year. It's led many to wonder if the league is now in decline, if we've hit a point of Peak Football, especially with Casual Fan getting a constant drumbeat of bad PR.
From my standpoint, it's impossible to separate my own personal disappointment from how the season has gone -- personal laundry starting off well, then falling apart; fantasy teams trading in terrible luck, picks never putting together momentum -- from the league-wide assessment. I do know that this year, at Thanksgiving, I just gave the league a miss for most of the day, and was happier than I'd been on the holiday in years. I'm rarely excited by the TNF games, frequently find the 4pm Sunday slate meager at best, and am happy when the MNF game is something I can skip, because less ESPN in my life is always a win. Now that we're in December, I think about the NBA more and more, despite the fact that the early season games are devoid of serious consequence.
I'm sure it will get better in the playoffs, and that I'll be all in for any team that can stop the personal Maximum Horror that will be a Cowboys-Patriots Super Bowl -- aka the game everyone but me wants to see, and the Super Bowl between my first and third most hated laundry in the game, with only the Racial Slurs sneaking in the middle.
So I guess I should be treasuring these last few weeks where there are 29 other teams to distract. And yet... not so much.
And with that... on to the picks!
* * * * *
LA Rams at SEATTLE (+14.5)
The Seahawks are likely going to finish the year as the 2nd seed in the NFC, and if Dallas spits the bit, could be home and on their way to the Super Bowl... but ye gads, they've put some turds in the punch bowl recently, particularly on the road. The offensive line has been as bad as any prominent team in recent memory, the defense isn't the same without S Earl Thomas, and QB Russell Wilson has been uncharacteristically mistake-prone. And maybe the Rams get a dead cat bounce with HC Jeff Fisher finally getting run off, especially when they've had an uncanny level of success against them in recent years. But then again... TNF is a poopfest, and the Rams were down 42 points last week against Atlanta. I think Seattle runs off and hides.
Seahawks 31, Rams 14
Miami at NY JETS (+2.5)
The Dolphins won last week in a monsoon in Miami, but lost QB Ryan Tannehill to injury. The Jets somehow won in San Francisco despite starting QB Bryce Petty, who is kind of like a right-handed Tim Tebow, only without the charisma; they are also likely going to miss RB Matt Forte. So we've got two of the worst six teams in the NFL right now, only the Dolphins have a playoff periphery record. Tossing a dart.
Jets 17, Dolphins 16
GREEN BAY (-6.5) at Chicago
No team, to me, says more about how the league is now a matter of when you play well, rather than if you are actually a good team, then the Packers. Three weeks ago, after getting spanked in DC, they seemed dead as a doornail; now, they are the proverbial team you don't want to play, and a club that will likely be favored as a 6 vs 3 game, assuming they sneak in. As for the Bears, they've been better than expected recently, mostly because they've been expected to be horrible. Let's run with the hot hand, especially when the cold one doesn't rush the QB very well, and the Packer defense seems to have gotten back enough healthy players to exist again.
Packers 30, Bears 20
Jacksonville at HOUSTON (-6)
The Texans are going to host a playoff game, and they are going to stink up the joint. You know it, I know it, and the Texans, in all likelihood, also know it. But weeks like this one, where the Jags come to town and derp it up, will make them think that there's still time to put it all together and close well. False hope is better than none, right?
Texans 23, Jaguars 16
CLEVELAND (+10) at Buffalo
Word out of Buffalo is that HC Rex Ryan is going to get the pink slip any minute now, and I think the cherry on the sundae would be a middling effort against the winless Browns. I'm not going to go so far as to call it a win for the road team, but they've had some success in running the ball, and as last week's truck job in the snow and wind shows, the Bills have quit on their coach, and their QB has no weapons or confidence. Watching this game intently may cause seizures.
Bills 24, Browns 20
Philadelphia at BALTIMORE (-5.5)
Philly's been a terrible road team, the Ravens are good at stopping the run, Baltimore still has delusions of making the post-season, and Eagle Fan isn't making the drive to a ticket that's just a couple of hours away, because this season died when there were still leaves on the trees. Good thing, as Charm City is basically Oakland East, and the Ravens will remember that they are better when they run it in this one.
Ravens 24, Eagles 17
Tennessee at KANSAS CITY (-5.5)
Chiefs are peaking at the right time, a beast at home, and have long rest as well. Maybe your best value on the board this week, and my highest confidence pick. Besides, HC Andy Reid is fantastic with more time to prepare, and the Chief offense has the speed threat in WR Tyreek Hill that opens everything up underneath. Think of him as the new DeSean Jackson, and for Reid's sake, hope that, unlike DJ, he shows up in late season games.
Chiefs 27, Titans 16
DETROIT (+4.5) at NY Giants
This pick is more about how the Giants frequently play to the level of the opponent, and how the Lions have been sneaky good for months now. The offense is also still an Odell Beckham or Bust experience with no credible running game threat or imagination, and you can take that guy out with physical play and/or trash talk. Maybe the Giants still win, but on a last-second field goal, rather than with a degree of comfort. Oh, and it'll be cold and windy and horrible out, which also doesn't speak to offense and/or an easy cover.
Giants 17, Lions 16
Indianapolis at MINNESOTA (-4.5)
If the Colts didn't have QB Andrew Luck and play in a trash fire division, they'd be a clear worst six team. Even with these two factors, they're pretty bad, and the Vikings at home get snarly enough on defense, enough to make up for their classic Claw Your Eyes Out Sam Bradford Testosterone-Free Passing "Attack."
Vikings 20, Colts 13
PITTSBURGH (-3) at Cincinnati
The Steeler offense on the road has been an open puzzle all year, with QB Ben Roethlisberger crapping the bed, despite having the best RB and WR in the league for most of the league. Maybe he's more hurt then he's letting on, aging badly, or just unable to elevate the second-tier guys who have had injury issues... but all of that doesn't much matter in this rock fight of a series, where the Bengals usually bring their "A" game and lose anyway, because LOL Bengals. (It also helps when you've got the Jeff Fisher-esque Marvin Lewis continuing to haunt your sideline.) I'll take the road team, because I think their defense is coming on, and the Bengals just aren't good. Also, Ben's trashed my fantasy team enough to close with a vengeance, and convince me to keep him around for another year, because beating your head against walls is fun.
Steelers 26, Bengals 20
NEW ORLEANS (+2.5) at Arizona
Two of the more disappointing clubs in the NFC meet up in a who wants it least matchup. I'll take the Saints, because Cardinals QB Carson Palmer looks ready for retirement or euthanasia, and the Saint defense has been better against the run then their historic performance level. But if you have strong faith in either of these teams, you haven't been watching football this year.
Saints 27, Cardinals 24
San Franciso at ATLANTA (-13.5)
The Niners are basically the NFC's Cleveland now, only without any hope that the management has any kind of plan for the future. Good times! Atlanta is also one of your better run it up teams in the league right now, especially in a home game that they need for playoff positioning.
Falcons 41, Niners 20
NEW ENGLAND (-3) at Denver
The line is basically one of those Who Needs It More picks, with a side order of skepticism about the Patriot offense without TE Rob Gronkowski in a road game. Luckily for the Pats, Denver's offense isn't capable of a top-tier effort right now, so this one will come down to which team avoids mistakes better. That's always the club coached by Bill Belichick. Sigh.
Patriots 23, Broncos 16
OAKLAND (-3) at San Diego
Raiders come in off a loss, have long rest, and should be able to run it well enough to avoid major stress issues. Do not go to this game unless you like fights in the stands, and also if you enjoy Charger QB Philip Rivers looking disgusted at having to work with substandard injury back ups.
Raiders 27, Chargers 20
TAMPA (+7) at Dallas
Short week for Dallas, some concerns that December Fade patterns are starting to re-emerge, and the Buc offense is showing signs of balance again. When Dallas is good, the bandwagon betting tends to inflate their line, especially at a home field that they've rarely turned into something intimidating. Mostly because it's an absurdly large place that never gets all that loud. Still, they win, because the offensive line is too good to allow back to back losses. Besides, in the Worst Year Of Our Lives, the Cowboys' falling apart late with QB Dak Prescott turning into a tragic figure is so not how to bet.
Cowboys 24, Bucs 23
CAROLINA (+4.5) at Washington
Carolina's closing the season on an up note, which is probably too late to do anything more than spoil the season of other teams. This week, they do that to a DC club that will get way too many trying too hard flags from CB Josh Norman, and not enough plays from a receiving corps that isn't consistent enough to drive four quarters of value.
Panthers 26, Racial Slurs 24
Last week: 6-9-1