Well, a partial dislocation of my left elbow did the trick!
Two more weeks to go and the NFL season is officially white hot.
Wouldn't you know it, but both the AFC and NFC have every seed up for grabs.
(Note: The exception to the rule came true Thursday night as Indy clinched the #5-seed after defeating the Jags 31-24.)
True, several teams have clinched either a division (Tennessee, Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Arizona), a bye (Tenn & Pitt), and others just a playoff spot…wait, none of the “wild-card” are locked up yet (again, except Indy).
Interestingly enough, Carolina can win next week and clinch the #1-seed in the NFC OR lose out and potentially miss the playoffs altogether. Best-case to worst-case, to say the least.
6-8 San Diego is alive; meanwhile, it’s possible an 11-5 Patriot team could miss the playoffs (not likely though). Even crazier is that two 10-6 teams (as opposed to just Cleveland last season) AFC teams and several NFC will likely miss the playoffs.
Imagine if the Falcons and Phins end up 10-6 and both are out of the playoff picture.
The Jets could go from 8-3 and Super Bowl contenders to 9-7 and 2 games out of the playoffs.
Skin fans have sentiments far drearier as their playoff path seems invisible, despite a 6-2 start.
You gotta love this time of year, right? NO.
It’s far too much stress I tell you. Too much!
Fortunately, you have me to kick around…as my picks have suddenly become sublimely average.
NFL Picks: 41-26 [Taking credit for the Bears W over the ‘Aints. Pay can back me up. I swear!]
Upset Specials: 11-10 [If I can get this thing to something like 16-12, it’s a respectable season.]
I’m taking each and every game that MATTERS. HONEST!
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Tennessee Titans (+1)
Chucking the Titans to the side of the road is a mistake. An even bigger mistake is noticing how the Steelers do nothing but dominate fourth quarters. With Vanden Bosch and Haynesworth already ruled out, I don’t like Titans chances for brusing up Big Ben and an underachieving Steeler rush game. Tight ends will play major factors in this game and I’ll take the veteran Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu over the emerging talent Michael Griffin at the other key position, safety. That means I’m going Steelers for the cover.
Miami Dolphins @ Kansas City Chiefs (+4)
Don’t sleep on the Phins facing a challenge this week. They play teams close and aren’t likely to blow anyone out. Problem for KC this week (and every week) is turnovers, the pistol formation stifling LJ in the redzone, and the overall lack of playmaking talent on the defensive side of the ball. Pennington won’t have that crippling 3-turnover game that allows 2-12 teams to pull upsets. Phins cruise, which means a win by 7-10. Joey Porter may have 20 sacks on the year after this game for his season tally. 2 extra INTs too.
San Diego Chargers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
Not the best time for Tampa to struggle with stopping the run. Then again, LT is a shred of his former self this season. Remember the Bucs are 6-0 at home and they realize their playoff lives are on the line. A division title still remains a possibility; enhanced even more with Jeff Garcia likely back under center. While the Chargers can really put a TON of pressure on Denver (who has no gimme itself this weekend), I like the Bucs to move to 10-5 and end the Charger season across the country.
Buffalo Bills @ Denver Broncos (No Line)
Not sure what’s going on with the psyche of either team right now; however, I’m taking the Broncos to win a close one. In all honesty, I flipped a coin.
Atlanta Falcons @ Minnesota Vikings (-3)
The game is in Minnesota, so I’m taking the Vikings. You need more? A-Pete versus The Burner should be amazing. The real storyline may be Ryan & Jackson though. While I’m not sold on Tavaris, I am also not sold on the Atlanta D on the road. Vikes win, with probably a push on this 3. I'm pulling for the upset though.
Carolina Panthers @ NY Giants (-3)
Another game that screams for a push. The G-Men must improve the juice in their pass rush - despite their lack of depth this time of the season - and force Jake Delhomme to rush throws into a crowded secondary. While I don’t want to go 0-3 in consecutive weeks with the G-Men, I also don’t know if the Panthers will run all that well against the Giants. I’ll take New York’s finest football team. If DeAngelo Williams was a Pro Bowl snub, we'll know after this weekend.
[Picking Against My Own Team] Upset Special #1:
New York Jets @ Seattle Seahawks (+5)
I pissed and moaned last week and the Jets did almost everything they could to lose at home - after leading 14-3 (with the ball at midfield early in the 2nd quarter) – to the lowly Bills. Nevertheless, a win is a win. Or is it? While some Jets are talking about the lack of need for style points…I’m questioning offensive playcalling, a bland defensive scheme, zero intricacy with blitz packages, and a lack of reliance on the rush offense with the lead. Seriously, only 1 carry for Leon Washington? I’m calling for the outright upset here by the Hawks. Why? I know the Jets all too well. 8-3 was maybe the worst thing that happened to this team and coaching staff.
[Monday Night] Upset Special #2:
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears (-4 ½)
Spoiler alert! Not sure why, but it will be!
[Quasi-]Upset Special #3:
Baltimore Ravens @ Dallas Cowboys (-4 ½)
Obviously, this is a VERY different game if it’s being played in Baltimore than in Texas Stadium; especially weather-wise. The health of Tony Romo may quickly come into question - especially considering the ferocity of hits the Ravens lay on opposing QBs - as without Romo the Boys are DOA. Ditto for the patience of Cam Cameron in Joe Flacco if DeMarcus Ware can get around the corner and pressure the rookie QB. If Flacco can't make big throws downfield, the Ravens won't dink and dunk their way to a road W. Two other factors really stick out: the Ravens unbalanced line and the lack of a Raven running game. One needs to help the other as the new line-formation won't do enough if it's only intention is to contain Ware on the edge. My pick is the Cowboys; however, I’m sticking with the Ravens to keep it close. Very close.
Ten Fantasy Insights/Questions on Championship Weekend:
1) If you don't have your championship in Week 16…your league stinks.
2) If you are pairing up a regular season title with a potential playoffs title, that’s awesome.
3) If you are pairing up a regular season tite, point’s lead, and a playoff title…you are awesome.
4) If you are the 8-seed playing for the playoff championship, I have two words for you: silver lining.
5) If your NFL team is out of it, I hope your fantasy team isn’t.
6) Whose your fantasy MVP: Kurt Warner, Michael Turner, Adrian Peterson, Andre Johnson, or maybe even Tony Gonzalez?
7) Whose your fantasy LAMO over the year: Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Derek Anderson, or maybe even LT as your #1 overall pick?
8) Which rookie QB did you ride to a greater fantasy surprise: Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco?
9) Who's the #1 pick next year: Adrian Peterson or the field?
10) Is Matt Cassell a top 7-8 QB – wherever he is – next season (fantasy football-wise).
See you next week…to close out the regular season (gulp).