Trade time came and went this week not with a bang, but with a whimper. Salary considerations kept most teams in financial lockdown, even ones that wanted to upgrade at weak roster spots. We are settling in for the playoff run now, so the not-gonna-happens in 2019 were dumping salary where they could. Like the teams that will be contending for post-season slots, my own performance has settled into more familiar patterns. I went 14-1 this week (missed a perfect score by 1 pt. in the Bears/Bolts game), 11-3 last week and 9-4 the week prior, for a season tally of 76-44, or 65%. Here’s the picks.
Niners at Cardinals – Cliff Kingsbury has the rebuilding Cardinals pretty much in each week’s game, which is impressive with a baby QB and a ramshackle roster. They’re kind of like an old car restoration, running a little smoother each week as they get tuned up. Problem is, they are about to street race with Kyle Shanahan’s hot rod 49ers, and when the flag drops, all Arizona is going to see is smoke and taillights.
Texans at Jaguars – This overseas tilt will look like a death-clinch, as division rivals grapple for supremacy in the brutally tight AFC South. A Jags’ win draws them even with Houston, and while JJ Watt isn’t the force he once was, his absence will be palpable. Can O’Brien neutralize Sacksonville’s ferocious rush with a solid ground game? I think the Jaguar is more at home in Old Blighty than the cowboy. Fournette and the Moustache flourish on foreign fields.
Colts at Steelers – Pittsburgh’s pride prevented a humiliation at home against the Flat Phish. Alliteration aside (get it?), they face a much better team as Frank’s Reich marches into Steeltown. Colts concoct a conclusive cataclysm, punishing Pennsylvania poignantly.
Redskins at Bills – If Bill Callahan were Dirty Harry Callahan, this team might have a chance of…well, no. Nevermind. Coach McDermott will have his Bills saying to Washington, “Go ahead…make my day.” Bills skin the Skins.
Titans at Panthers – Even match, same essential weaknesses on each team: pass protection, stopping the run, consistency. 60 minutes of Christian McCaffeine is a lot to contain, and I think the Titans get gassed in the 4th. Panthers roar.
Jets at Dolphins – This divisional slap fight between two decimated franchises will look like a couple of old biddies engaged in a purse-swinging contest. Several Jets players are pissed that they were getting shopped at trade time, and the Dolphins are making a naked play for 1st overall draft pick, as if that will somehow fix anything. Aqib Talib won’t even need to move to Miami…he can just stay hurt in California. Gang Green guts the Fish…and nobody watches.
Bears at Eagles – Chicago has become a bearskin rug – everybody beats them. As my brother aptly put it, they have discovered that Trubisky is actually Falsebisky. Bears return to the draft, while Philly returns to the playoffs.
Vikings at Chiefs – Matchup of the week, with Mahomes expected back at the helm. The Vikes have put together some nice wins and seemingly ironed out their issues. KC found some pass rushing last week to complement their rocket fuel offense. In a photo-finish, Andy Reid takes the shimmer off Mike Zimmer.
Lions at Raiders – Matthew Stafford has done his part this year. Now it’s time for his team to step up and define how they will finish the season, after some tough knocks. A .500 record means your season starts today. Gruden’s team will provide a perfect challenge to see if Detroit (and Matt Pat) are for real, or just another in a long line of Motor City meltdowns. Blue & Silver over Black & Silver this week.
Buccaneers at Seahawks – Seattle should be primed to maintain second in their tough division, and avoiding Tampa’s superb run defense by airing it out is just what Russell Wilson is capable of. INT’s lead to VIC-tories against Jameis Winston. No Legion of Swoon here, Seahawks sink the Jolly Rogers.
Packers at Chargers – The Chargers cost me a perfect record last week by being a single point better than the Chicago Trubiskys. But they’re still dead, and Green Bay smells fresh meat to pack. You get to see how the sausage is made, as the Packers grind, grill and serve up these weenies.
Browns at Broncos – Cleveland is due for a win, and after a first quarter of horrible miscues in the downpour at NE last week, they played much better the rest of the way. The Broncos are broken, period. Their antique QB is out, and although their D is still loud and proud, they don’t put up points. Chubb chugs, Mayfield bakes, and Kitchens cooks in Denver.
Patriots at Ravens – Lot of pundits are taking Baltimore and their offensive versatility to ding the Patriots’ unbeaten streak. Pats’ injuries/retirements have produced a weak running game (O-line, fullback, tight ends), making their offense predictable. This challenge will show us what McDaniels is really made of. Lamar Alexander is a unique talent, but we have seen his like before, and Belichick knows how to neutralize that dangerous mobility and force the young QB into throwing errors. In a back and forth contest, Patriots D wins the night.
Cowboys at Giants – Another bad game for MNF, which is snakebit this season. Dallas isn’t the juggernaut everyone thought. In nine years of coaching, Jason Garrett has won exactly nothing. Cowboys will trounce the Jints again, but Garrett is about to get bounced out of the saddle by his ornery boss.
Enjoy the games!
-Pigskin Pundit (Nate Clark)