Crunch time has arrived, and I don’t mean Thanksgiving leftovers. We have entered the Red Zone of the season, where playoff berths, home field advantage and byes will be decided. Can anyone put out the wildfire that is Baltimore? Seattle has wrested possession of first seed in the NFC West away from the overheated Niners, the Patriots look like a re-enactment of ‘The Emperor Has No O’, and the vaunted Cowboys lead their crappy division at .500. I went a wobbly 10-6 last week, and stand at 117-74, or 61% for the season. Here are the picks.
Dallas at Chicago – Miles Garrett has a better chance of being in the NFL next year than Jason Garrett, as Jerry Jones’ non-compliment would imply. Dallas has to win out to take their weak division, while Da Bears basically have hibernation to look forward to in the coming weeks. The Cowboys won’t have an easy time of it Thursday, but they should have just enough bullets to drive off the Bears.
Miami at NY Jets – In this ‘Who gets the bottom of the barrel’ tussle, the Phins are showing some spirit, and having fun being spoilers. That makes them dangerous. Gang Green set an NFL record last week by losing to two 0-7 or worse teams in the same season. They’ve got egg on their Gace. Fitzmagic outslings Darnoldnucleosis in Gotham.
Washington at Green Bay – Guice is running like the Juice lately, but ‘Selfie’ Haskins hasn’t found his aerial groove at all yet. The Pack is just better in every aspect of the game, and right at home in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood…which will be a rough neighborhood for DC this week. The cheese stands alone, atop the NFC North.
Detroit at Minnesota – If the Lions were a Ford, we’d junk them. They don’t start every time you need, various systems only work intermittently, the whole thing just doesn’t run right, tune-ups and parts changes don’t seem to fix it, and the engine is out being rebuilt. Worst of all, this has been going on for decades. Vikings send this jalopy to the crusher, where it belongs.
San Fran at New Orleans – The Saints have less to lose in this home stand against the Niners, who slipped to #4 seed after losing to the runaway train Ravens. I don’t think the WhoDats have seen a team like SF yet, and may not be prepped to handle that kind of balance and tenacity. The Prospectors find traveler’s gold in Loo-siana.
Carolina at Atlanta – No coach, no QB, no run defense. Hmm. Atlanta needs to keep Matt Ryan upright against that Carolina pass rush, and turning Devonta Freeman free to run will help. Dirty Birds defend the nest against the nasty puddie tats.
Baltimore at Buffalo – BIG GAME! Let’s see if Buffalo’s beef on Deef can harness the tidal wave that is Action Jackson & Company. The Bills are an honest 9-3, and they have some weapons of their own that are hard to stop. Still….it’s Baltimore. Ravens fly home bruised but victorious.
Cincinnati at Cleveland – The 2nd Battle of Ohio, and the Red Rifle has reloaded. Yawn. Sorry, but this game doesn’t move the needle. These two teams are traffic cone orange for a reason. If Cleveland can’t find a way to clobber the toothless tigers, it ain’t my fault for falling asleep.
Denver at Houston – Denver has improved since Drew Locked up the QB spot, and their D has been adequate. The Texans are shooting their way into the playoffs on the arm of gunslinger Watson and the legs of Carlos ‘Raw’ Hyde. Hopkins outdueled the league’s best cornerback last week, to boot. Texans are Bronc-busters this week.
Indy at Tampa Bay – Indy’s ground game will likely stall out here, so the game hangs on Jacoby Brissett’s arm…which hasn’t been great the last three games. If he can get free to hurl the rock, he could do enough damage to Tampa’s secondary…but I’m seeing Pirates’ booty over lucky horseshoes this week.
LA Chargers at Jacksonville – Boy, two teams that are a hot mess! This is a dart-board pick, with the dart hitting LA. Bolts find just enough volts to light up Sacksonville.
Tennessee at Oakland – I’m bullish on Tennessee football futures, as the continued excellence of Flyin’ Ryan Tannehill and De-Wreck Henry produce wins regularly now. Oakland, on the other hand, is turning into…Oakland. Carr is up on blocks, and even John Gruden can’t seem to reverse the curse of mediocrity there. Titans tighten their lock on the post-season this week.
Pittsburgh at Arizona – The Steelers are feverishly hunting a wild card berth, amidst their personnel woes. Their league-leading total takeaways and staunch pass rush bode ill for Kyler Murray, who may look more like Arthur Murray, dancing for his life in his collapsing pocket. Pittsburgh puts the Steel to Arizona.
KC at New England – Nobody in the AFC beats the Patriots at home in December, right? Look, I’m a Pats fan and yes, I know the numbers. I also know that this team has NO offense when Edelman is doubled, which he always is now. The Pats cannot score touchdowns in the red zone, and field goals won’t beat high-octane offenses like KC’s. 60 minutes of Patrick Mahomes is a lot to ask of this defense, who will spend too much time on the field again. I will be delighted if the Pats pull out a win Sunday…but I’m taking the Chiefs. And some aspirin.
Seattle at LA Rams – The Scrams thumped Arizona last week, which proves exactly nothing. Conversely, the Squawks defeated a very good Vikings team, which testifies to their validity as a SuperBowl contender. The Scrams don’t stink, but they have lost their mojo this season. Seattle does some early Caroling in Los Angeles. Pass the figgy pudding!
NY Giants at Philadelphia – Dear God, what a dreadful waste of a Monday night. Go Christmas shopping, wash the cat, organize your sock drawer, but don’t be caught watching this debacle of a who-cares football game. Philly, just because they have to win sometime….