I have no idea what’s going to happen this weekend. Not a single result would surprise me. So I’m going back to picking SOMETHING for these games. I finished the season six over .500. Still have a chance to get to ten over. But I need a strong performance. (For some reason I didn’t include spreads last week but I would have gone 2-2 any way you slice it.)
Here’s what Bill Belichick knows: his offensive line can’t protect Tom Brady from the Chiefs pass rush. And since no coach in history has been better at self-evaluation, he won’t ask them to try. Instead Brady will go to the quick-release pass attack with Edelman Edelman Edelman and neutralize Houston, Hali and company. I think it works. Not sure if Pats are healthy enough to win but they are healthy enough to score.
I am going to be rooting very hard in this game so I’m making an emotional hedge. Would love to lose this one.
Here are the Carolina scores over the last 8 games: 27, 44, 33, 41, 38, 38, 13, 38. I say they play with a chip on their shoulder as the media at-large keeps trying to convince fans the team is overrated. (2015 Panthers remind me an awful lot of the 2006 Bears. Nobody thought that team could make the Super Bowl until their plane landed in Miami.) Bold prediction: Panthers beat them up.
I will not be making a selection in the Broncos/Steelers game as there’s no point. Unless someone can prove to me Roethlisberger will be healthy it’s a sucker’s wager. But without Antonio Brown I’d need a big number to take Pittsburgh.
Administrative Note: We’ll resume our postseason positional analysis columns on Monday with running backs, Tuesday with wide receivers, Wednesday with tight ends & Thursday we’ll wrap up the offensive side of the ball with our analysis of the line. (Defense will come after the division round.)
Am I willing to embrace the notion of Brian Hoyer winning a postseason game? No, I’m not. Am I willing to cast my support unabashedly for Andy Reid in a postseason game? No, I’m not. But since I picked the Chiefs to make the Super Bowl in August I might as well continue seeing red. And on a football note, the Chiefs don’t look to throw the ball downfield so their short passing attack should be able to neutralize the Houston’s greatest asset: Watt, Whitney and the pass rush. Chiefs 20, Texans 13
Here’s what I keep hearing from folks analyzing the wildcard round: nobody wants to play the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here’s my follow-up question: why? The Steelers controlled their road to the postseason and lost to Marc Trestman and Ryan Mallett! (And the game wasn’t particularly close.) Then in Week 17 the Steelers were horrible against Cleveland, with Big Ben throwing ugly picks to second-rate linebackers. If Austin Davis weren’t starting for the Browns and they didn’t decide to fumble away the second half, the Jets would be in the playoffs. So is Pittsburgh just going to turn it on? Bengals 24, Steelers 22
Each year, from Thanksgiving until Christmas, I (like many) indulge in the joy that is the Christmas movie. And it surprises me that movies and television shows still find their way into the rotation. This last year produced two new additions.
A VERY MURRAY CHRISTMAS
It’s television the way television used to be made in the days of soundstages and cigarette holders and Dean Martin. Everything about it is a throwback and it’s still completely original. The highlight? George Clooney popping out repeatedly from behind Christmas trees to deliver the chorus of Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’.
DIFFICULT PEOPLE, “DIFFICULT CHRISTMAS”
The best new comedy on television in 2015 was Julie Klausner’s Difficult People and the final episode of the season, the Christmas episode, might have been the best. The highlight? Klausner getting fired from her job as a gift wrapper for reciting the story of Capturing the Friedmans to a customer.
Had a solid 2-1 day last week without putting the slightest bit of thought into the picks. My goal every year in gambling on football is to be 10 games over .500 at the end of the season. Have some to work to do down the stretch to achieve that.
The Lions have finally started running their offense: drop Matthew Stafford back and throw bombs to Calvin Johnson. (Surprised it took promoting Jim Bob Cooter to recognize what the entire football watching public has seen for years.) I think Detroit puts up 24-30 on Green Bay and the Packers, who’ll play with desperation, should be their equal. 46.5 is a high number but it wouldn’t surprise me if this game goes into the 60s.
Explanation will be available tomorrow in the game preview.
Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is from the Parcells/Belichick school of game preparation. What does that mean? It means he’ll look at the Bills tape and say, “We’re not going to let Sammy Watkins beat us.” And if you watch enough of the Bills you realize they are one team when Watkins is effective and another team when he’s injured/taken out of the game.
The Texans offense isn’t any good. Both teams should be in the teens.
Season Record: 19-15-2
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By nearly every other quarterback’s standards Rodgers is having a brilliant season but he is not quite clicking with some of his receivers and his completion rate for the last three games stands at 52.1%, 57.4% and, on Sunday, 47.1%. Over that same same spell he has still thrown eight touchdowns and just one pick – he is Aaron Rodgers after all – but the fact that the chemistry between quarterback and receivers isn’t quite there (he has the lowest completion rate of his career in 2015) may cause trouble come the playoffs.
Can’t complain about my picks a week ago. Saints flew by their number. Packers never approached theirs. And the Bears / Vikings game was a coin flip. 2-1. Four games over .500 on the season. This week…
One team I think is very good. The other team is the Minnesota Vikings. And if Teddy Bridgewater struggled against the Bears defense, what is he going to do against one of the best defenses in the sport?
No comment. Well one comment. Where are all the people who argued the Packers wouldn’t miss Jordy Nelson? They seem awfully quiet to me. The Packers are consistently credited for having magnificent drafts and an unending basket of talent. But it’s never been true. They have an all world quarterback. But even he misses his best and most reliable weapon.
Season Record: 13-9-2
…are absolutely brutal. But they also allow this front office and coaching to evaluate young players in valuable positions.
The Bears can play well for the next month and find themselves 2-9.
Interestingly his leadership is never questioned when he plays well. The reason? It was always bullshit. Jay’s problem is not personality. It is interceptions.
(1) Who have the Packers beaten this season that impresses you? The best team they’ve beaten is St. Louis and on that day Nick Foles kept throwing the ball to them. The NFC does not have a great team.
(2) Why don’t the Lions have 8-8 in them? Since 2001, here are the Lions win totals: 2, 3, 5, 6, 5, 3, 7, 0, 2, 6, 10, 4, 7, 11 and currently 1. While the whole league tends to spend most of their time in the 7-9 win range the Lions have only been in there twice in 14 years. They either make the playoffs or they’re awful. No middle ground.
(3) Todd Gurley is averaging more than 6 yards per carry. No other back in the top in the league in rushing averages over 5.
(4) Great late Monday night Tweet from Sam Farmer: “@LATimesfarmer: Luck is like a radio signal that keeps going in and out. We’ve got Luck. We’ve got Luck. Nope, we lost him again. Now, he’s back.” Colts owner Jim Irsay better act quickly or he will lose his star QB.
(5) Backup quarterbacks in the NFC are now 0-7 in games they’ve started. And people wonder why the starters get the money they get?