It’s crunch time. Not just for me and my quest for .500 (I’m 91-108-8 and 17 under .500), but in the NFL where every division is (technically) still up grabs as are the second wild card in the AFC, seedings and home-field advantage. I don’t have an NFL season anymore because the Giants didn’t care to beat the Cowboys in Week 12 and now if I care to watch the Giants, which I don’t, it will only to be in hopes that they can spoil other team’s seasons.
When I referred to the Giants as “spoilers” after their recent mathematical elimination, my girlfriend referred to her Vikings as “ball busters,” which is her way of saying “spoilers,” which I decided to adopt over the traditional “spoilers” term. The problem is the Giants aren’t a true “spoiler” or “ball buster” because they aren’t used to playing for nothing in Week 15. And when you’re used to playing for something, it’s hard to get up when you’re playing for nothing. To be a true “ball buster” you have to be used to being a “ball buster” and using the last month of the season as your own Super Bowl since the possibility of playing in the actual Super Bowl is no longer a possibility.
With so much still on the line for teams that have a chance of playing in January, there are plenty of games featuring “ball busters” this week. So if you’re like me and the next meaningful NFL game for you without monetary meaning isn’t until Week 1 in 2014 then welcome to the Ball-Busting Party. There is plenty of room for all of you.
DENVER -10.5 over San Diego
I’m now 11-4-1 with Thursday picks. That means I’m 80-104-7 when it comes to picking games on Sunday and Monday.
If the Chargers hadn’t blown out the Giants last week then this line would be at least 13.5. But because the Giants have nothing to play for and Tom Coughlin couldn’t motivate a team with playoff aspirations and therefore can’t motivate one without them and because Eli Manning and the offense couldn’t care about at least finishing the year with respectable stats, the Chargers beat the Giants 37-14. So while it’s disappointing that the Giants will be going a second straight year without playoff football, at least you gave us this gift of the Broncos only giving 10.5 points to the Chargers.
Washington +7 over ATLANTA
The Redskins are in full-on crisis mode and it’s great. Their owner is being pressured to change the team’s name, their head coach is playing a game of chicken for his job with the owner, the franchise quarterback won’t hold himself accountable for a 3-10 season and the head coach has a broken relationship with the franchise quarterback and is about to start the backup quarterback for the final three games of the year. I’m no Mike Shanahan fan, but the best part of all of this is if the Redskins finish the season strong with Kirk Cousins as their quarterback, it will create the ultimate quarterback controversy entering the same year in which the Rams have the Redskins’ first-round pick because of the trade for Robert Griffin III. Let’s go Redskins!
San Francisco -6 over TAMPA BAY
I still don’t believe in the Buccaneers, mainly because I don’t want to.
Seattle -7 over NEW YORK GIANTS
I wish this game were in Seattle because then we could see just how bad things are for the New York Football Giants. If the Saints can go to Seattle and only score once and lose 34-7, what would happen to the Nothing To Play For Giants in Seattle?
Unfortunately, this game is at MetLife Stadium and those Giants fans who are crazy enough to sit in the snow and rain expected on Sunday to watch a 5-8 team play the NFC’s eventual Super Bowl representation will only get to see half of the blowout this game would have been in the Pacific Northwest.
Chicago -1 over CLEVELAND
A “There Are Three Games Left In The Season And We Can Still Make The Playoffs” quarterback controversy in Chicago! I love it!
Player A: 1,908 yards, 13 TDs, 8 INTs
Player B: 1,809 yards, 13 TDs, 1 INT
Player A is the Bears starting quarterback. Player B is the Bears backup quarterback.
Right now the Bears have the same record (7-6) as the NFC North-leading Lions, but lost to the in Week 4 (40-32) and Week 10 (21-19), so they lose out on the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Bears’ final three games are at Cleveland, at Philadelphia and home against Green Bay. The Lions’ final three last are home against Baltimore, home against the Giants and at Minnesota. The Lions clearly have the favorable schedule, but they’re the Lions and you can bet on them losing at least one of the three and possibly more, leaving the door open for the Bears.
The Bears are optimistic that Cutler will play this week against the Browns, but Cutler last played on Nov. 10 in that Week 10 loss to the Lions and before that, he hadn’t played since Oct. 20 in the Week 7 loss to the Redskins. This Sunday will be Dec. 15 and Cutler will have just 40 pass attempts in the last eight calendar weeks. If it’s up to me, I’m starting McCown in Cleveland. But either way, I’m picking the Bears.
INDIANAPOLIS -6 over Houston
It’s the weirdest team in the NFL against the most underachieving team in the NFL! The Colts haven’t won back-to-back games since their three-game winning streak from Week 2 to Week 4, yet they still clinched the NFC South last week despite going 4-4 over their last eight games. Earlier in the year it seemed like a given that the NFC East was the worst division, but the division has a combined record of 23-29 right now. The NFC South? Their combined record is 19-33. The NFC East might be the most underachieving division, but they’re no longer the worst.
JACKSONVILLE +1 over Buffalo
There it is! It’s that Game of the Week …
Somewhere someone who isn’t a Jaguars or a Bills fan is going to bet on this game and watch it in its entirety. Think about that.
MIAMI +2.5 over New England
I asked Mike Hurley what the Patriots are against the spread, so I wouldn’t have to go through and look and count the numbers myself since it seems like they cover, or at least don’t cover double-digit spreads. But he didn’t know. He guessed they are .500 against the spread. So because he “guessed” and I care deeply about giving my readers accurate information, I went back and looked. They are 6-7 against the spread, so Hurley was basically right since they can’t be .500 with 13 games played. I just wanted to be right when I said the following last week:
No team fails to cover spreads like the Patriots, but for some reason, every week they are favored by two possessions and every week I talk myself into taking them. I guess I do it because someday they will cover a spread like this 10.5-point one and I don’t want to miss out when they do.
I thought that most Patriots fans would have given up the idea of the Patriots reaching the Super Bowl without Rob Gronkowski, but there are still some believers out there given how awful the AFC is. Right now the Patriots are looking at playing at home in the divisional round against either the Bengals, Ravens, Chiefs or Colts. If they were to win that game, which they will (kind of a reverse jinx and kind of not) then they would play in Denver for a trip to the Super Bowl. So once again the Patriots are looking at playing one challenging playoff game to reach the Super Bowl.
MINNESOTA +6 over Philadelphia
Nick Foles, Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles are going to win the NFC East, but I’m going to pick against them all the way to their division title.
CAROLINA -11.5 over New York Jets
You could add 10 points to this line and I would still take it. The Panthers have lost one home game this season, which was their first game of the season against Seattle. Since then they are 5-0 at home and have won by 38, 15, 24, 4 and 21 points.
This past Sunday against the Raiders, the Jets threw a touchdown pass and it was made into a big deal after relying heavily on their running game the entire season. The problem is they will be going against the best run defense in the league this week and one that has only allowed 79.4 rushing yards per game.
Over/under 3.5 points for the Jets in Carolina?
Kansas City -5.5 over OAKLAND
Am I missing something here? Is there supposed to be a “1” before the first “5” in this line? Because while that would be a little ridiculous, it would make more sense than the Chiefs giving 5.5 to a team that just let the Jets put up 37 on them, considering the Jets scored just 46 totals points over their previous four games.
Arizona -3 over TENNESSEE
The Cardinals are 8-5 and aren’t a playoff team right now because Seattle is going to win the NFC West (they have a three-game lead over Arizona) and Carolina (9-4) has a hold on one wild-card berth and San Francisco (9-4) has a hold on the other. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they host San Francisco in Week 17, but unfortunately for the Cardinals, they have to play in Seattle in Week 16. The Cardinals are going to fall just short of the playoffs, but a season with at least eight wins with Carson Palmer as the starting quarterback should be applauded.
ST. LOUIS RAMS +6 over New Orleans
Inside the Superdome, the Saints are the best team in the NFL. Outside the Superdome, the Saints are one of the 10 worst teams in the league and maybe even worse than that. After embarrassing the Panthers in New Orleans, the Saints’ undefeated home streak with Sean Payton as coach is now at 16 games. But this season, once again, outside the Superdome the Saints can’t be trusted. And yes, they are playing in a dome, but they played in a dome in Atlanta in Week 12 and barely got out of there with a win.
Green Bay +7 over DALLAS
So it looks like Aaron Rodgers won’t be playing again this week and might not again this season as the 6-6-1 Packers watch their season slip away. Since Rodgers has become the Packers starting quarterback, here’s how their seasons have finished:
2008: Missed playoffs
2009: Lost in Wild-Card round
2010: Won Super Bowl
2011: Lost in divisional round (first game)
2012: Lost in divisional round after beating Joe Webb and the Vikings in the Wild-Card round
So in the last five years with Rodgers as the starter, the Packers have won five playoff games with four of them coming in the same year. And if the “Miracle at the Meadowlands” doesn’t happen, the Packers don’t even make the playoffs in 2010 let alone win the Super Bowl. Maybe the “Best Player in the League” title is a little inaccurate?
Cincinnati -3 over PITTSBURGH
Like the Giants, the Steelers have nothing to play for.
DETROIT -6 over Baltimore
We are still a few weeks away from my column breaking down which team I want to win the Super Bowl with the Giants unable to. The Lions are in that mix.
Last week: 9-7-0