MEH: Championship Sunday Recap

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wild and crazy Championship Sunday has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Panthers stomping the Cardinals, Cam Newton having fun, the Brady-Manning rivalry, the amount of fun Cam Newton has, the impending Pro Bowl, the extent to which Cam Newton has fun, the Gentlemen of the Week, a notation on how Cam Newton has so much fun out there, the Most Hungover Fan Bases, and an analysis on the relationship between Cam Newton and fun.


 

Associated Press/Academy of Fun Arts and Sciences

Associated Press/Academy of Fun Arts and Sciences

Will: Does the Panthers’ beatdown of the Cardinals make you feel any better about the Seahawks falling to them like they did? Could Carolina just be that good? What stood out to you about their play?

Derek: No, not really. I didn’t take anything away from that game other than Carson Palmer is either injured or way more terrible than we thought. Quarterbacks have more of an effect on their team’s success than any other position in professional sports other than pitchers. If your starting pitcher gives up 10 runs in the first inning, you’re not going to win. And if your quarterback turns the ball over six times, you’re probably not going to win that one either.

The bad news for Palmer is, in my opinion, he played even worse than the stat line indicated. It’s fair to say that this game didn’t have my absolute undivided attention, but when I checked the box score afterward I was surprised he only threw four interceptions. He was throwing it right to Panther defenders, and as a result the team looked completely demoralized.

So no, I don’t feel any better. The Seahawks would have kicked Arizona’s asses just as badly if Palmer played that kind of game. Most playoff teams would have. Put 21 other Pro Bowlers on the team and they won’t win when the quarterback is consistently giving the ball away. I didn’t turn off that game thinking the Panthers were a runaway freight train, which appears to be the consensus among football pundits.

Am I off-base here? Am I just completely blinded by my dislike of Cam Newton?

Will: Nah, you’re not off-base. Dripping with bitterness, sure, but not too far off-base. I didn’t watch this one too closely either — the Royal Rumble was on, for cryin’ out loud. When the scoreline read 17-0 after the first quarter, whatever degree of interest I had in the game vanished.

Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson were already out of the playoffs. With Tom Brady and Peyton Manning both aging and struggling in the AFC Championship game (together they completed exactly half of their passes), how much “Cam Newton is the best quarterback in the NFL” talk are we in for over the next couple weeks?

Derek: That’s depressing. Why would you say something like that? Maybe I should just stay off the internet the next two weeks. The impending Newton lovefest could very well drive me to violence. Look at how much fun he’s having! Doesn’t he look like he has fun? He has so much fun! AGREE WITH US THAT HE HAS FUN!

See? It’s happening already.

The only thing that could “save” us is the original media darling: Peyton Manning. The narratives of “Peyton Manning’s last game” and “Peyton Manning could ride off into the sunset” and “old school vs. new school” could deter us from hearing about how much fun Cam Newton is having. Did you know he has fun? Football is fun for him. He has fun. Fun is fun.

Which Super Bowl storyline do you think will be beaten into the ground before the Super Bowl? Will Manning and/or Newton take the crown, or could an underdog like Michael Oher, Thomas Davis, or Poorly Timed Criminal Offender/Drug Test Failer X steal it?

Will: Here’s hoping for the latter, because sweet Christ I want nothing to do with any of it. I’m going to hide in a bunker until April. Super Bowl talk is the worst. The Super Bowl is quietly the worst. Aside from the game itself, I’m out. Good for Thomas Davis for playing with a broken arm. Good for Cam Newton for giving balls to kids. Good for Michael Oher for being in a movie. Good for Peyton Manning for being old.

I don’t know it’s just that they play under helmets or what, but football players are not compelling to me. This is probably unfair and born of my distaste for the NFL, but so be it. I dislike everything about football except for the football.

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Did Brady vs. Manning, you know, do anything for you? Do you find their rivalry particularly compelling? They’ve been two of the NFL’s best for some 15 years, going head to head several times during that stretch. So why am I sitting here so underwhelmed? Can we blame it all on Phil Simms?

Derek: Such a negative recap today. The answer is, again, no. I’ve enjoyed their rivalry over the years, but Manning is a shell of his former self. I’m shocked the Broncos made the Super Bowl the way Denver’s quarterbacks have played this year. And that brings us to Mr. Simms, who continually refuses to acknowledge that Manning is at a different stage in his career. He praises Manning like he gets a bonus every time he does it. I can’t enjoy a rivalry between two players when I roll my eyes every time the color commentator mentions one of them. Add in the fact that neither quarterback was particularly impressive, and all of the fun (© Cam Newton) was sucked out of the rivalry. Sadly, it’s not over yet, since Simms will call the Super Bowl. Splendid.

Will: Were there any hidden subplots within the championship games? Aside from whatever Cam’s latest thing is, what are people going to be all mad about? What are the talking points? I was hoping for both Denver and New England to lose and had no rooting interest in Carolina-Arizona, so I wasn’t too absorbed by the proceedings.

Derek: Did you see that Panthers fan fall down?

panther fan fall

That’s about all I’ve got. I wasn’t kidding about my apathy for these football games. I can’t believe I’m reading mock drafts before February. This is stupid.

Let’s talk about something equally pointless: the Pro Bowl! What would it take to make you watch? Would you gamble on it or take part in a Pro Bowl drinking game? Would you require financial compensation? Will it even exist in five years?

Will: If you put a $20 bill in front of me and said that I had to watch the whole game, start to finish, with only limited phone and computer interruption, I don’t think I would do it. I certainly wouldn’t gamble on it, because the only thing worse than losing money is losing money on something so astronomically meaningless.

Drinking game? …Maybe.

Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.

Gentlemen of the Week

Derek: Wade Phillips, come on down! The Broncos’ improbable upset was thanks in large part to your defense. Also, there’s this:

Will: That immediately makes Wade wittier than like half the league. I’ll go with that Panthers fan who fell over the barrier. He looked like he had a good time.

Most Hungover Fan Bases

Derek: I’ll say Carson Palmer’s fan base. I’d give it to Cardinals fans, but it looks like they already jumped off the bandwagon.

Will: I’ll go with that Panthers fan who fell over the barrier. He looked like he had a good time.


Championship Sunday Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.]

New England (-3) vs. DENVER

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Derek: I’ve been spoiled recently. I’ve spent the whole week thinking some variation of “This is what it’s like when the Seahawks aren’t playing for a Championship?” How things have changed. I knew I’d care less without the Seahawks, but I really underestimated my level of apathy when it became clear that there’s a 75% chance a team I hate will win the Super Bowl. I can’t remember the last time I was less excited for Championship Sunday.

How’s that for an introduction?! Excited to read picks from someone who doesn’t really care?! Let’s get this over with.

I’m sure the Patriots will slither their way into winning this game somehow. Of that I have no doubt. This looks exactly like the sort of game Peyton Manning would play poorly in even when he was good. I shudder to think how he’ll perform now that he’s nearing the end. Meanwhile, I do like the Broncos’ chances of limiting Brady’s success. Despite his faults as a head coach, Wade Phillips knows what he’s doing as a defensive coordinator. I think he’ll cook up a few (hopefully legal) surprises for Brady and Gronk. We also can’t ignore the piles of money being bet on the Patriots, which greatly increases the chances of something screwy happening. I’ll say the Patriots win but the Broncos cover.

Will: I’m with you on the enthusiasm front. I hope Sunday brings good games, because the world is a better place when good games are being played. That’s about as riled up as I can get, especially for Patriots-Broncos. Like you, I absolutely feel like New England is going to win. Like you, I’m worried about Peyton. I expect to see a bunch of sideline shots of his blotchy post-interception forehead. He hasn’t completed more than 60 percent of his passes since Week 7.  He hasn’t thrown more touchdowns than interceptions since Week 3. The Broncos have a fine defense, and there’s certainly a chance that they can pull it out, or at least keep it close enough to cover. I just think it’s the less likely outcome. Patriots cover on the road.

CAROLINA (-3) vs. Arizona

 Carolina Panthers - Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez

Carolina Panthers – Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez

Derek: Has the “I’m rooting for Bane” joke been made too many times? Can I use it just once more? Ugh. Either Cam Newton or Bruce Arians is going to hoist a trophy after this game, and good people are going to stand by and do nothing. This is a travesty.

Regardless of last week’s outcomes, I think the Cardinals are the better team. They’ve played tougher competition all season, and they won’t have to deal with some of the problems the Seahawks had, like fatigue from a third straight road game, a 10 a.m. PT start time, and ignorance as to the condition of the Panthers’ field. Once the Seahawks shook off the morning start and changed cleats, they blew the Panthers away and probably would have won if they had a little more time. Arians is a douche, but he’s a good coach, and I think he’ll learn from Seattle’s mistakes and prevent his team from falling behind early. If he can do that, he should be able to hold them off, seeing as the Panthers have been notably dreadful at times in the second half this season. I’ll say the Cardinals win, and I hope Larry Fitzgerald just keeps the trophy for himself.

Will: This game I’m more excited for. Much of it, however, is going to take place during the Royal Rumble — and I know where my viewing allegiances lie. It will take a heck of a ballgame to wrestle away my interest, and even then I’m more likely to tune into the WWE Network than FOX.

Still, I hope it’s a good one. I hope it’s a slobberknocker worthy of Jim Ross’ commentary. I hope Cam Newton throws for 400 yards and Carson Palmer throws for 450. I hope Josh Norman and Patrick Peterson both have three interceptions. I hope both offensive lines play well and there are two kicks returned for touchdowns. To lean further on wrestling parlance, I hope this game makes both teams look strong. I think it will, and I think it’ll be close. I’ll take the points.


Hating Everyone: Divisional Recap

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wild and crazy Divisional Weekend has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Seahawks’ loss, Hue’s hiring, one man’s hatred of Cam Newton, the ridiculous Packers-Cardinals game, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.


 

AP Photo/Mike McCarn

AP Photo/Mike McCarn

Will: How did your emotions fluctuate throughout the Seahawks-Panthers game? What was it like to see everything going Carolina’s way early on? What percentage chance did you give a comeback down 31-0 at the half? Were you resigned to your fate early on, or did you allow yourself some belief in the second half?

Derek: Well, 7-0 didn’t feel good. I wasn’t very fond of 14-0 either. Sadly, 21-0 prompted a trip to the liquor cabinet. It had been a long time since the Seahawks had gotten their asses kicked from start to finish, and I figured this was going to be the one to break the streak. They weren’t showing any energy after three straight road games and two straight 10 a.m. PT starts, and the Panthers certainly looked to have taken advantage of the fact that they got to relax at home while the Seahawks were playing in arctic conditions in Minnesota. It was tough to watch.

I slowly talked myself into the Seahawks making a game out of it during halftime, solely based on team history. Russell Wilson’s Seahawks have been a part of some big comebacks, and the 2015 Panthers blew some big leads. I figured if anyone could do it, it would be them. The feeling was magnified when Russell threw a touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse just 90 seconds into the second half. That really got me back in the game, as I could do fan things like yell at the offense to hurry to the line instead of blankly staring at the screen like a hydrogen bomb went off in my brain.

Of course, it wasn’t to be, and it was even rougher considering the opponent. But I’ll get to that later.

What do Hue think of the new head coach in Cleveland? Could he be the one?

Tony Dejak / AP Photo

Tony Dejak / AP Photo

Will: Of course he could! We Browns fans may not have much recent experience when it comes to the playoffs, but we’re grizzled vets when it comes to talking ourselves into new coaches. From Butch Davis to Romeo Crennel to Eric Mangini, every new head coach who has walked through the door in Berea has been the new savior. (Well, maybe not Mike Pettine or Pat Shurmur.) If nothing else, the wordplay has been delightful.

Seriously though, I like Hue. Loathe as I am to admit it, the Bengals have been among the better teams in football for the last several years, and over the past two he kicked their offense into another gear. He has a year of head coaching experience under his belt, and the Raiders have yet to match his 8-8 record since firing him. There are concerns, specifically with penalties and discipline. His Raiders were the most penalized team ever — ever! — and the Bengals ain’t exactly Boy Scouts.

In short, this is how I feel:

I will say — and take this with a Morton factory’s worth of salt — that I have a good feeling about Hue. He has good signs on him. He’s put decades of work into football. He has served under all different types of coaches rather than being trained in the same system his entire career. He’s down with the Browns’ analytics approach. He’s spent nine years in the AFC North. He got his big head coaching break once before, only to have it taken away. He showed hubris and was appropriately humbled. He’s made mistakes. And now, at age 50, he takes the reins of the Cleveland Browns.

So is he the guy? No idea. But I at least feel good about him, and that’s something I haven’t felt about the Browns in quite some time.

At risk of twisting the knife further, you’ve experienced losses on either end of the spectrum in a relatively short period of time. Is there any comparing the Super Bowl loss to this one? How do they compare? Are they close — in terms of loss type rather than stakes; the Super Bowl is the Super Bowl — in terms of unhappy feelings?

Derek: No, I’m not sure that another loss will ever feel quite like last year’s Super Bowl. At least, I hope not. After that game, just the mere thought of football brought me down. It didn’t really wear off until midway through this season. The Panthers loss was “better” in that I got over it fairly quickly. The Seahawks screwed themselves from the beginning, and have no one but themselves to blame for their playoff position after they constantly blew leads this season. It just seemed like this season was doomed from the start with the black cloud of Super Bowl XLIX hanging over everyone. Honestly, making the playoffs and winning a game is probably more than I could have asked for.

I’m already excited for next season, and I think the Seahawks are too. It’s a relief seeing the quotes from players after this game compared to last year. Losing sucks, but at least my love of football didn’t get kicked in the shins. I might even read mock drafts this year.

Let’s talk about the weekend’s wackiest game. Where does Packers-Cardinals rank on the list of weirdest games you’ve ever seen? Did you ever think you’d see two Hail Marys on the same drive, a coin toss controversy, and a fourth quarter ricocheting go-ahead touchdown pass in the same game?

 Rob Schumacher/AZ Central Sports

Rob Schumacher/AZ Central Sports

Will: It was awesome; I still can’t quite figure out what happened. I’ve seen other games end in weird ways — from Dwayne Rudd’s helmet toss to the invention of the eponymous Dawson Bar — but never so many wild plays in such a short period of time. The Hail Marys were nuts, though I think the coin not flipping takes the cake in terms of sheer improbability.

My favorite part, far and away, was the Cardinals making damn sure that if they scored the winning touchdown, Larry Fitzgerald was going to be the man to do it. Their first play from the 5-yard line was a fade to him, which Carson Palmer chucked out of play lest he throw a stupid-ass interception. The next play was the game winner, a lovely little shovel pass that allowed Larry the moment in the sun. Loved it.

Do you have any ill feelings toward Cam Newton for the heinous act of throwing down a 12th Man flag? I feel as though the greater Seahawks community is having a bad light shone on it.

Derek: I think it’s fair to say Cam Newton is my least favorite player in the league, and it really doesn’t have that much to do with his healthy self-confidence or his penchant for property theft and destruction. The reason I dislike Cam Newton was on display in this game, though. He strikes me as that sneaky kid in high school who manipulates teachers and other adults with a consistent “yes sir, no sir” attitude but then bullies other kids when no one else is around.

Much has been made of his smiling, prancing, Favre-esque “He’s like a kid out there!” mentality. But he only ever does this stuff when things are going his way. He’s happy to prance and signal and take stuff from opposing fans when his team is winning. When his team isn’t winning, he’s pouting or screaming at other players and coaches. I submit to you, dear Reader, that it doesn’t take an amazing person to be happy and friendly when things are going your way. But everyone acts like he’s some kind of awesome guy because he can smile really big when he has a reason to smile really big, as if that’s some sort of accomplishment. He’s the ultimate front-runner. I’m telling you, if the Panthers had lost that game, he would have thrown the entire organization under the bus. And I’d still probably be subjected to pundits fawning over him like we’re watching two different players.

Rational or not, I can’t stand the guy. I’ve always maintained that the Panthers were my second favorite team after the Seahawks, but I just can’t root for them as long as Newton is on the team. Now I’m almost hoping the Panthers suffer an NFC Championship defeat similar to the one the 49ers suffered two years ago and Newton’s career will swirl down the toilet like Colin Kaepernick’s has. It would mean the dreaded Cardinals would make the Super Bowl, but I would enjoy the NFL more if Cam Newton wasn’t part of it.

Are you looking forward to Panthers-Cardinals more than I am? And are you excited for another Brady-Manning matchup?

Will: In short: No, I don’t think I’m looking forward to Panthers-Cardinals more than you. The potential Newtonian schadenfreude alone puts you on another level. I think it will be a fun game, and I’ll certainly watch, but I have no specific interest in it. I’ll enjoy Larry Fitzgerald’s smile as much as anything.

As for Brady-Manning: Kinda meh, honestly. I don’t particularly like either of them, and I feel like such matchups bring out the worst in the football commentariat. I think I get uneasy watching Peyton because I fear he could get irreparably damaged on any given play. Like, the guy cannot feel his fingers because of a significant neck surgery. I can’t get past that. I just hope no one gets hurt. (God, I’m a pansy.)

Do you care about the rest of the playoffs at this point? Is there any team you really want to see win or lose?

Derek: I’m at a loss. I would hate to see three of the four remaining teams (Arizona, Carolina, New England) win the Super Bowl, and the fourth (Denver) I’m neutral on at best. I’m sure I’ll talk myself into hate-watching the games, but I guess the only thing I’d somewhat enjoy is Denver winning. Unless of course Cam Newton gets a DUI the morning of the Super Bowl and Derek Anderson leads the Panthers to victory. Am I a bad person if I root for that? Let’s just move on.

Lots of coaching vacancies were filled this week. We saw Chip Kelly to the Niners, Adam Gase to the Dolphins, The Immortal Mike Mularkey to the Titans, and of course Hue to the Browns, among other hirings. Which teams do you think made the best and worst hires?

Will: HUE! And I think I actually mean that. Far as I can tell, he and Gase were candidates 1 and 1a. It should be said that I don’t know much of anything about Gase except he’s an offensive coordinator with a generally good reputation, but I suppose that’s all you need to land a top gig. I’m intrigued by Chip in San Francisco, especially with Kaepernick in the fold, but I can’t imagine that ending well. Mike Mularkey is 18-39 and taking over a team that just went 3-13. That should go well.

Are you looking ahead to next year’s Seahawks at all? Is Marshawn definitely a goner, and if so, are you at peace with that? What does the future hold?

Derek: Oh yes, very much. I think it’ll feel like a reset button. It doesn’t look like any of the coaching staff is going to leave this year, and this loss will be so much easier to bounce back from than the last. There are several unrestricted free agents, such as Russell Okung, Bruce Irvin, Jermaine Kearse, Brandon Mebane, and Jeremy Lane. Hopefully at least a few of them will be back. And hopefully Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett won’t start complaining about their contracts until the end of next season.

Unfortunately, it looks like Marshawn is as good as gone. Thomas Rawls proved he could handle lead back duties, and even Christine Michael looked good when he rejoined the team. Marshawn is expensive and by all accounts has caused some locker room headaches. I won’t be surprised if there are Percy Harvin-like leaks after Marshawn is gone. It would take a whole lot to get me to turn on him, though. He was so fun to watch, and he was a key part of Seattle’s success since he joined the team in 2010. I’m going to miss him, and I hope he’s happy in Dallas or Oakland or retirement.

Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.

Gentlemen of the Week

Derek: Screw it, I’m giving it to every single one of the Seahawks. They were down 31-0 and made a game out of it. Well done, Gentlemen.

Will: I’m going with Larry Fitzgerald. I just like his smile so damn much.

Most Hungover Fan Bases

Derek: I’m giving it to Packers fans, who suffered legendarily terrible playoff losses in back-to-back years. Along with their award, I’ll give them some free advice: in your drunkenness, make sure you stay out of Manitowoc County.

Will: I’m going with the Seahawks. Stay strong, friend.


Divisional Weekend Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.]

NEW ENGLAND (-5) vs. Kansas City

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Derek: Ah, who could forget the last time these two teams squared off? The day the Patriots dynasty ended, sort of. Now the Patriots seek revenge on a Chiefs team that hasn’t lost since October 19.

Well, I’m afraid that’s going to come to an end on Saturday. The Chiefs’ streak, though impressive, has mostly come against weaker competition. Two of their wins were against Pittsburgh and Denver, but Landry Jones started one of them and Peyton Manning had one of the worst games a quarterback has ever had in the other one. I want the Chiefs to win, but on the road and possibly without Jeremy Maclin, I don’t see a win or a cover. I’ll take New England.

Will: I’m inclined to agree with you. Of the Chiefs’ last four games — against the Raiders, Browns, Ravens, and Chargers — only a 34-14 win over Baltimore was a blowout. (Their 23-17 victory over Oakland was comfortable as well.) The Pats didn’t close the season nearly as strongly as they began it, but they’ve made four straight AFC Championship games. That earns them a little credit. Pats cover.

ARIZONA (-7) vs. Green Bay

Jeff Haynes/AP Images

Jeff Haynes/AP Images

Derek: I don’t trust the Cardinals. They’ve quietly been incredibly inconsistent this year. They’ve looked like the best team in the league at times, and absolutely terrible at others. Carson Palmer has never won a playoff game. Aside from Larry Fitzgerald, most of the Cardinals lack postseason experience. Now they’re facing a ton of pressure because everybody expects them to beat Green Bay by 30 again.

I have my doubts. Some notable rematches have gone the other way recently. The Falcons didn’t look like they belonged on the same field as the Panthers, then handed them their first loss two weeks later. Same with the Seahawks and Vikings last week, though it’s tough to say how much the weather affected the outcome of that one.

I like getting seven points with Aaron Rodgers and the experienced Packers. I still think Arizona will find a way to pull it out, but Green Bay covers.

Will: I could see all of that, but I keep coming back to Arizona’s defense — particularly its pass rush. Their 36 total sacks this season were only about league average, but we saw this team sack Rodgers eight times three weeks ago. They finished third in pressure percentage, per ESPN. The Packers’ offensive line will be nearer full health this week than the last time these teams met. I remain skeptical. Just as you distrust the Cardinals, I distrust the Packers. Arizona takes it.

CAROLINA (-2) vs. Seattle

John Froschauer / Associated Press

John Froschauer / Associated Press

Derek: Are you kidding? Of course I’m taking Seattle! I’m not betting against my team in the biggest game of the year (so far) no matter what!

If you want some #analysis, I’ll just say that the Panthers haven’t played a good team since the Packers on November 9. Then there’s my aforementioned comment about games going the other way in the rematch. Seattle had Carolina on the ropes earlier this year and let them steal it. And while it probably doesn’t matter, the Panthers were bounced by a Wild Card team in the Divisional round in their previous two opportunities. Same goes for their two playoff games against Seattle.

Then again, I’d say Minnesota’s history didn’t matter when Blair Walsh lined for the game-winning field goal last week, and look how that turned out. Homerism!

CAM DOESN’T STAND A CHANCE.

pete

Will: This line only being two points is amazing. The Panthers are a 15-1 team playing at home, but Seattle isn’t being given the standard three points as a road team…and I think it makes sense. Seattle surged into the playoffs, winning four of their last five games, and all by at least 17 points. They were the DVOA champs again. Russell Wilson is playing better than ever, as is Doug Baldwin. Carolina, meanwhile, has lost Peanut Tillman for the season to an ACL injury. I also like Seattle.

DENVER (-7) vs. Pittsburgh

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Derek: I thought for sure I’d pick the Steelers against Denver if I had the opportunity, but last week’s injuries have me cooling my jets. A hobbled Ben Roethlisberger is typically a horrendous Ben Roethlisberger, and the Landry Jones alternative is even less appealing. Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams could both miss the game. I just don’t see anything to get excited about with Pittsburgh other than the hope that Manning turns the ball over seven times. I expect the Broncos will be running a lot and the Steelers won’t be scoring much in a Denver win and cover.

Will: This spread has moved to eight in some places. Brown and Williams are indeed out, while Roethlisberger won’t be able to feel half of his body. But you know what? Peyton Manning won’t be able to feel half of his body either. It’s going to be cold, and I think both quarterbacks are going to get hit a lot. Roethlisberger has taken a beating, yet I feel oddly confident that he’ll be able to conjure enough points to keep this one semi-close. This is completely a gut pick: Steelers.


What pro wrestler is each playoff team like? NFL Week 17 Recap

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wild and crazy Week 17 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including Arizona’s big loss, Cleveland’s big changes, the Jets’ big choke job, the big news from Black Monday, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.


AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Will: The Seahawks walloped Arizona 36-6, putting the game out of reach early with a 30-6 halftime lead. Russell Wilson completed a tidy 19-of-28 for 197 yards and three touchdowns, Christine Michael ran for 102 yards, and Tyler Lockett had 139 yards on four punt returns. But — does the fact that the Cardinals already had a first-round bye clinched take the shine off of things? Or are you fully torqued and ready for the postseason?

Derek: I’m psyched! People are saying the Cardinals weren’t trying after the fact, but no one was talking about it before the game. The word was that the Cardinals still had a shot at the top seed and they were going to try and win. Bruce Arians wanted to beat the Seahawks at home for the first time and didn’t give any indication that they were resting starters. I’ll go ahead and remind everyone that the Cardinals were favored by a touchdown. It sure is convenient that they suddenly “weren’t trying” after they got their asses kicked as touchdown favorites at home. Not too many people gave the Seahawks that benefit of the doubt when they lost that Rams game by six under similar playoff seeding circumstances.

Will: (In general I don’t fully understand how NFC West fandom works, but I’m loving the vengefulness right now. Feed me more.)

Derek: I suppose whether the Cardinals were trying or not doesn’t matter too much. The Seahawks have, surprisingly, been better on the road than at home during the second half of the season. Granted, there were only three of them, but the scores were 38-7 (at Minnesota), 35-6 (at Baltimore), and 36-6 (at Arizona). I really think they’re starting to embrace their underdog role as the Super Bowl hangover continues to wear off. They lost three home games this season. They lost two from 2012 to 2014 combined. It’s like the only thing that can get them up is proving people wrong. They had double-digit leads against the undefeated (at the time) Bengals and Panthers, then pissed them away. After that, they were dominant with huge leads. I can see them saying “You think we can’t win on the road? We’ll show you! You think we can hold on to leads? We’ll show you! You think we can’t win the Super Bowl as the sixth seed? We’ll show you!” I’m strangely comforted by how this playing out.

At least I was until I saw the weather report. Now I’m scared.

Will: As someone who remembers packing up snow high enough to sled down pine trees, I am so excited about that.

Derek: It’s been a whirlwind week so far in Cleveland, as Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer got the axe, and Johnny Manziel may get run out of town too after his latest shenanigans. Afterward, they made a splash by bringing in Paul DePodesta as “chief strategy officer.” Do the last 72 hours meet with your approval?

AP Photo/David Richard

AP Photo/David Richard

Will: You know what? They sorta do. Things have been bad for Johnny lately — LeBron’s agency dumped him — and it seems like he’ll be out of town before long. Though it’s super-easy to crack on the Browns for hiring a baseball guy to help run a football team, I’m in on Paul DePodesta. As I wrote at Waiting For Next Year, the Browns have sucked in all sorts of football ways. Things are as bad as I can remember. They might as well take a big swing and see what happens.

The reflex is to laugh and to mock. I get that as much as anyone. And yeah, maybe this novel approach will fail and the Browns will be a laughingstock. But they’re a laughingstock already. From the on-field product to fan morale, things are as bleak as I can remember. I shudder to say this, as the Browns have long shown the ability to prove me wrong, but things can’t get much worse. Why not give the baseball guy a shot?

How much credit do you give Mike Pettine in helping Russell Wilson maximize his potential? Were those nasty jabs about him being a second-tier quarterback just what he needed to get over the top?

Derek: I was wondering if we would ever address this! Sadly, the truth is probably less interesting than I would hope. I’d love it if Russell Wilson heard about these comments and put a photo of Pettine on his mirror and kicked off every day by glaring at it for five minutes. But Russell is known for being a bit of a robot, and he probably forgot about it already. I think it was more that, with Marshawn Lynch injured, they finally let him play quarterback. He’s typically only been given that opportunity when the Seahawks were behind, but now they’re letting him do it as part of the game plan. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve got to give Darrell Bevell some credit. It’s been a banner week for him.

The question is, will he revert back to his “Bubble Screen” Bevell ways now that Marshawn is expected to play this weekend? It would be a terrible shame if I spent another offseason holding my Darell Bevell voodoo doll over a candle after he worked so hard to get back into my good graces.

It won’t matter to Bevell, as he still hasn’t worked his way into NFL owners’ good graces, but Black Monday has come and gone. Which firing was the most warranted? The least? Is there someone you think should have been sent packing but wasn’t? And who’s your early top choice for the Cleveland job?

Will: My top choice, I think, is Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. He’s done wonders with Andy Dalton, and he led the Raiders to a .500 season as head coach in 2011. He got unceremoniously canned after a year when Reggie McKenzie took over as GM, and the Raiders haven’t been that good since.

Did Lovie Smith do something wrong in Tampa Bay? Why did he get fired? The Bucs were 6-10 this year, but they had a rookie quarterback and were 2-14 the year before. Were expectations that high? Derrick Brooks retired like seven years ago. I say Lovie got a raw deal.

I’m not sure if Mike Pettine’s firing was warranted or unwarranted. The Browns were 3-18 over his last 21 games and certainly sucked this season, but the whole situation was so fucked that I don’t know who to blame. I was more for retaining Pettine than GM Ray Farmer, but I do feel a bit cleaner now that they’re both gone. Ever seen a franchise quite as sad as the Browns? It’s impressive, no?

Derek: I was going to say the 76ers, but they did sweep the Lakers in the 1983 Finals. I guess that settles it right there. No, I haven’t seen a franchise as sad. Which really is a shame. There’s the frequent losing, but then there are the other, truly cruel twists of fate that are truly unprecedented for a single team. Bill Belichick got run out of town in 1995 (much like the Browns themselves) and became one of the greatest coaches of all time. During this same stretch, the former Browns won two Super Bowls. Now it appears the owner is an idiot, which is the worst kind of hell for fans. This is why I was never mad when my imported created players from NCAA Football got drafted by the Browns on Madden. Playing for the Browns is fun when you don’t have to worry about ownership or continuity but, well … let’s talk about something else.

I’m a huge homer and therefore incapable of objectively answering this question, so I’ll ask you. If you were forced to bet your life on one team winning the Super Bowl, who would it be?

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Will: I’ve been on board with the Cardinals for the past month or so. Getting beaten down by the Seahawks dampens my enthusiasm a fair bit, but they still have good odds to win the whole thing. I could see the Pats or Seahawks or Steelers or Packers or even Broncos or Chiefs winning it all, but I’d bet my life on the Panthers. They had the league’s highest-scoring offense, the highest point differential, a plus-20 turnover differential, and a mean ass offensive line. Plus, it kinda feels like this could turn into the Year of Cam.

Just for the sake of piquing my interests, can you compare each playoff team to a pro wrestler?

Derek: You got it!

Redskins: Wahoo McDaniel

Sorry. Sorry, everyone.

Packers: The Miz

Both have tasted their sport’s ultimate prize, but recent actions and decisions have everyone shaking their heads.

Texans: The Undertaker

They’re from Texas and they won’t die.

Chiefs: Chief Jay Strongbow

Oh God, sorry. I’m so sorry.

Steelers: Eddie Guerrero

They cheat.

Bengals: Daniel Bryan

Longtime underdog losers who hope to finally turn it around and reach the top.

Vikings: The Berzerker

berzerker

Seahawks: Brock Lesnar

EAT. SLEEP. CONQUER. REPEAT.

Except for the ending to last year’s Super Bowl. Don’t repeat that. In fact, let’s just pretend last year didn’t happen. We’re going back-to-back!

Patriots: John Cena

People from Boston and front-running children love them and everyone else hates them.

Broncos: Ric Flair

Peyton Manning is one of the all-time greats, but every time I see him I get sad. Bonus points for John Elway and Ric Flair possibly being the same person.

Panthers: Roman Reigns

They win all the time, but nobody believes in them.

Cardinals: The Iron Sheik

They live in the desert and I enjoy rooting against them.

Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.

Gentlemen of the Week

Derek: I’m going to give some respeck to my main man Christine Michael. The Seahawks traded him to the Cowboys in the offseason, who then cut him. The Redskins signed him to their practice squad, then cut him. Seattle brought him back due to the running back injuries, and he got his first 100 yard game on Sunday. My sources (Twitter) say he’s finally focused. Maybe he’ll be the guy we expected all along.

Will: For those wrasslin’ comparisons, I’m giving you Gentleman of the Week, my friend. Spot-fucking-on.

Most Hungover Fan Base

Derek: The Jets just had to beat the Bills. That’s it. Just one, measly game against the Bills. Instead, they lost and became the latest 10-6 team to miss the playoffs. I feel for them, and hope they bring themselves to look at mock drafts sooner rather than later.

Will: I think that’s the only choice this week. By the end of the season fans of losing teams are willing to take an L to better the draft pick. The Jets had a shot to go to the playoffs for the first time in five years, and they had it wrestled away from them by Rex Ryan. Worst of all, their loss meant the Steelers made it in after beating down the Browns. We were rooting for you in Cleveland, Jets. Thanks for nothing.


NFL Week 17 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.

New York Jets (-2.5) vs. BUFFALO

Al Bello/Getty Images

Al Bello/Getty Images

At stake: The Jets clinch a Wild Card spot if they win.

Derek: Do the Jets want to make the playoffs more than Rex Ryan wants to keep them out of the playoffs? Tough to say. I’ll go with the Jets based on the assumption that none of them have checked out.

Will: Bills at home. A Rex Ryan driven by a vengeance stronger than anything but his preference for feet. A healthy-enough Tyrod Taylor. All of that gives me faith that Buffalo can pull off the upset.

New England (-10) vs. MIAMI

At stake: The Patriots clinch the AFC’s top seed if they win.

Derek: The Dolphins are 1-8 against the spread in their last nine games, and haven’t covered since November 15. But the Patriots have been shredded by injuries, and as such I think this spread is too high. I say the Patriots win an ugly game in which the Dolphins cover.

Will: Shredded by injuries the Pats are, but they’ve still scored 26-plus in each of the past four weeks. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have put up more than 15 just once in that time. The Pats could decide to rest their main guys and try to limp semi-healthily into the playoffs. I’ll back New England regardless.

CINCINNATI (-9) vs. Baltimore

At stake: The Bengals will get the AFC’s second seed if they win and the Broncos lose.

Derek: The playoffs don’t start until next week, so the Bengals are still a safe bet. Let’s all root for Cincy so Ryan Mallett’s second consecutive win doesn’t cause a rip in space-time that consumes us all.

Will: Yep, I’m not letting the Ravens’ upset over the Steelers last week get my hopes up too high. The Bengals are 12-2-1 against the spread this year, while the Ravens are 4-9-2. Even with AJ McCarron at the helm, nine points feels low. Cincinnati takes it.

ATLANTA (-5.5) vs. New Orleans

At stake: Draft position.

Derek:

Saints?

Will: I second that video clip. I’ll take the Falcons.

HOUSTON (-6.5) vs. Jacksonville

At stake: Houston clinches the AFC South with a win. They probably still clinch if they lose. The Colts could technically still win the division, but it would take a miracle.

Derek: I guess the Texans still have to sort of try since they haven’t completely wrapped up the division. The Jags are playing for next year, so I’ll go Houston.

Will: Eh, no idea. I’ll take the points.

Pittsburgh (-10.5) vs. CLEVELAND

Jason Bridge/USA TODAY Sports

Jason Bridge/USA TODAY Sports

At stake: The Steelers clinch a Wild Card if they win and the Jets lose.

Derek: Pittsburgh murdered me in a fantasy league and made me look stupid in last week’s picks. I’m not backing them as double-digit favorites. Browns cover.

Will: I’ve seen this game enough to know not to doubt the Steelers. They are uniquely gifted when it comes to destroying the Browns, especially when things are at their dreariest. Lord knows how many guillotines are preparing to fall at Browns HQ, and a blowout at the hands of their oldest rival should do the job. Steelers take it handily.

INDIANAPOLIS (-6) vs. Tennessee

At stake: The Colts could win the AFC South with the help of a miracle. The Titans clinch the number one pick in the draft with a loss.

Derek: The Colts will be starting Josh Freeman or Ryan Lindley in this game, and they’re favored. What a world! I’ll take Tennessee.

Will: With a shot at the top pick, I expect the Titans to roll over something fierce. If they don’t, the Browns will be more than happy to take over. Colts.

DALLAS (-4) vs. Washington

At stake: Draft position for Dallas. The Redskins are locked into the fourth seed and await Seattle, Green Bay, or Minnesota.

Derek: I can’t imagine Washington gives any sort of effort with no chance of improving their playoff position. This will be a showcase of the reserves, leading to a Dallas cover.

Will: Washington has led a charmed life in the NFC East this year, while Dallas has been mired in Jerry Jones’ worst nightmare. I like those trends to continue. Washington covers.

CHICAGO (PK) vs. Detroit

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: A meaningless Week 17 game with no points to fall back on. That’s not very nice. Then I’ll take the home team!

Will: Both of these teams wound up being sneaky good. I got no idea. Since Calvin Johnson and Ameer Abdullah are both hobbled, I’ll roll with you on Chicago.

NEW YORK GIANTS (-3.5) vs. Philadelphia

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: Ooo look, points! I’ll take the points.

Will: The question here is how the Eagles will respond to Chip Kelly’s firing. I like them to play well in the name of good old-fashioned pettiness. Philly it is.

CAROLINA (-10.5) vs. Tampa Bay

At stake: The Panthers clinch the NFC’s top seed with a win or a Cardinals loss.

Derek: I’ll say the Panthers will be angry, especially since they need this game to retain home-field advantage. It’s a big spread, but the Panthers should be up to the task.

Will: Sure, that works for me. Carolina.

KANSAS CITY (-7) vs. Oakland

At stake: The Chiefs clinch the AFC West if they win and the Broncos lose.

Derek: The only spreads the Chiefs didn’t cover during their nine-game win streak were over 11 points. They’ve had no problem covering single-digit spreads, as they won all of those games by eight or more. I’ll stick with the Chiefs.

Will: The Chiefs should be righteously angry after squeaking by the Browns last week. That should have them riled up nice and good. Kansas City covers.

DENVER (-9) vs. San Diego

At stake: The Broncos will be the AFC’s top seed if they win and the Patriots lose. They clinch the second seed with a win, but could fall to the fifth seed if they lose and the Chiefs win.

Derek: This is one of the few scheduling loopholes the NFL missed. If the Patriots lose to the Dolphins in the early slate of games, the Broncos will know this one is for home-field advantage. And they’ve already got so much on the line with Chiefs breathing down their necks. I’ll say the Broncos rise to the occasion at home.

Will: The money line for a Denver win is -420. That’s a sign in Denver‘s favor as much as any.

St. Louis (-3) vs. SAN FRANCISCO

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: If you’ve been reading my picks at all, you know I like the Rams in a blowout.

Will: Add this one to the who the hell cares pile. I’ll take the Rams too.

ARIZONA (-6.5) vs. Seattle

At stake: The Cardinals would pick up the NFC’s top seed if they win and Carolina loses. Seattle is playing for the fifth or sixth seed, and it won’t be clear which one they’ll get until after the Green Bay-Minnesota game.

Derek: At last, the Seahawks return to the site of The Incident. My homerism aside, it’s exceedingly rare for the Seahawks to lose a game by more than a touchdown, so I’ll happily take them as underdogs. Or maybe I’ll be even more disgusted than I was last week. At least I know what game to fall asleep to this week.

Will: At risk of oversimplifying things, the Cardinals won by a touchdown when these teams met in Seattle. They haven’t missed a beat yet. Apologies, friend, but I’m taking Arizona.

GREEN BAY (-3) vs. Minnesota

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

At stake: The winner is NFC North Champion and the third seed in the NFC. If Green Bay loses, they will be the fifth seed. If Minnesota loses, they will be the fifth or sixth seed depending on whether Seattle wins.

Derek: I’m rooting for the Vikings, because if they win it guarantees the Seahawks won’t have to go to Lambeau in the first round. But my fear of the Packers at home in a winner-take-all game justifies my selection of them here.

Will: I’ve backed the Packers a couple times too many this year. My gut says to take them, but to hell with my gut. I’ll rue this when Adrian Peterson has 19 yards on 12 carries, but I like Minnesota.


Week 16 NFL Picks

NFL Picks We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.

Carolina (-6.5) vs. ATLANTA

AP Photo/John Bazemore

AP Photo/John Bazemore

At stake: Carolina clinches home-field advantage with a win. The Falcons are eliminated. Even if they win out and the Vikings lose out, the Vikings win the tiebreaker based on their head-to-head win in Week 12.

Derek: It wasn’t too long ago that the Panthers whipped the Falcons 38-0. Not enough has changed in the last 14 days to make me think the Falcons have a shot. The Panthers pick up the NFC’s top seed.

Will: With all the holiday hubbub, I’m afraid I haven’t even peeked at this week’s schedule. My picks will thus be abbreviated, because football picks aren’t what’s really important this time of year. You know what is? God. Country. Family. The American Way. All of which points to a big Panthers win.

TAMPA BAY (-3.5) vs. Chicago

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: One thing I’ll enjoy about football season ending is not having to put thought into who’s going to win games between teams that are out of it, like this game and the following three. Well, unless you think the Jaguars really have a shot at winning the AFC South.

Oh yeah, Bucs-Bears. I guess I didn’t put much thought into it after all. I’ll just take the points.

Will: You took the words right out of my mouth. Points all day.

BUFFALO (-6.5) vs. Dallas

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: I’ve seen my fair share of Cowboy quarterbacks this year. I’ll take Buffalo.

Will: I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that the unusually warm weather will knock the Bills askew. Dallas prevails in the mildness.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) vs. Jacksonville

At stake: The Jaguars are mathematically still alive, but they’ll need to win out and get lots of help in the form of Colts/Texans losses and fortuitous tiebreakers. Football Outsiders puts the chances of this happening at 3.5%.

Derek: Drew Brees is playing with a painful injury, and the underdog Jags are clinging to their slight playoff hopes. I’ll take the Jags.

Will: The Saints’ performance this season has been every bit as drunk as New Orleans itself. While I respect that — a team should always reflect its city — I reckon they’ll be dealing with a nasty holiday hangover. Jags take it.

DETROIT (-10) vs. San Francisco

At stake: Draft position.

Derek: These two teams have been out of the playoffs for weeks, and I’m supposed to lay 10 points with one of them? I’ll feel so much dumber losing if I die on the “Detroit -10” hill. Niners it is.

Will: That has to be a misprint. San Francisco for sure.

KANSAS CITY (-11) vs. Cleveland

At stake: The Chiefs clinch a playoff spot with a win. They still have a shot at winning the AFC West, but would need help in the form of Denver losses.

Derek: Here’s a quote from Cleveland resident Will Gibson on the state of the Browns:

As far as tanking…I mean, they really don’t have to. If they give up 50 points total in their last two games, they will have allowed more points than the 1999 expansion team. It’s remarkable how bad they are. I also don’t really know who they could bench that would make a difference besides Joe Thomas. Maybe Gary Barnidge? They just suck.

I’ve been a fan of some bad Seahawks teams, but I can’t remember thinking “it’s impossible for us to tank because it wouldn’t really make a difference if we sat our best players.” So, uh, this is a long-winded way of saying I’m taking the Chiefs.

Will: I recuse myself from this selection because I can’t pick against the Browns.

MIAMI (-2.5) vs. Indianapolis

At stake: The Colts have an outside shot of winning the AFC South, but they’ll need to win this game and get some help.

Derek: Maybe if Matt Hasselbeck were making a spot start, I’d feel comfortable taking the Colts. But he’s way too beat up, and I don’t trust Charlie Whitehurst. The Dolphins finish this one with a win.

Will: No idea. I’ll take the points.

New England (-3) vs. NEW YORK JETS

Getty Images

Getty Images

At stake: The Patriots clinch home-field advantage with a win. The Jets will help their Wild Card chances with a win and would benefit from the Steelers and Chiefs losing.

Derek: I was tempted to take the Jets because of all of New England’s injuries, but three points isn’t enough to make me feel comfortable. The Patriots somehow win with a bunch of players no one has ever heard of.

Will: Yep, today’s the day that that James Davis guy (is that his name?) becomes a household name. Pats.

Houston (-3) vs. TENNESSEE

At stake: The Texans clinch the AFC South with a win and a Colts loss.

Derek: This seems like some kind of philosophical question. Do you side with the horrendous Titans at home, or a team led by Brandon Weeden? There isn’t supposed to be an answer, so I’m not picking one. I’ll say the Texans win by exactly three for the push.

Will: I so so so love that this game has playoff implications. What a dumb season. I’ll take the points.

Pittsburgh (-10) vs. BALTIMORE

At stake: The Steelers clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Jets loss. They still have a shot at winning the AFC North if they win out and the Bengals lose out.

Derek: I think this is going to be ugly. The Steelers want revenge for blowing their game against the Ravens on Thursday night in Week 4. Ryan Mallett(!) is starting for the Ravens. They’ve been blown out at home by the Seahawks and Chiefs the last two weeks. The Steelers need this game for playoff purposes. I wouldn’t take the Ravens unless I was getting more than 20. Needless to say, I like Pittsburgh.

Will: Agreed all around. The Ravens are nearly on the Browns level in terms of ineptitude, except they have more injuries to help explain themselves. Stillers.

ARIZONA (-4.5) vs. Green Bay

At stake: Arizona has clinched the NFC West. They clinch a first-round bye with a win. Football Outsiders gives them a 2.2% chance at the NFC’s top seed, but that would require winning out and the Panthers losing out. The Packers have clinched a playoff spot. They clinch the NFC North with a win and a Vikings loss.

Derek: The Cardinals are on a tear, and the Packers have looked just bad enough in the last month to make me not trust them outside of Lambeau, especially against a superior opponent. Honestly, I think the spread is a little low because the Packers are such a public team. Arizona clinches a bye.

Will: In my heart of hearts I think Arizona is absolutely good enough to win this thing by two touchdowns, but I’m backing the Packers based on Aaron Rodgers alone.

SEATTLE (-12) vs. St. Louis

Michael Thomas/Getty Images

Michael Thomas/Getty Images

At stake: Seattle has clinched a Wild Card spot and has no chance at the NFC West. They are playing to get either the fifth seed (a trip to Washington) or the sixth seed (a trip to Green Bay or Minnesota).

Derek: I like to fall asleep with the TV on. In the days leading up to Sunday, I like to put on an old football game between the Seahawks and whoever they’re playing that week–preferably a game the Seahawks won handily, because I’m insane. I’ve had some trouble this season since Seattle hasn’t had much recent luck against the AFC North and NFL Game Pass only goes back to 2009. I also had trouble this week. Most of Seattle’s games with the Rams in the last few years have been either losses or ugly wins. Not the sort of thing to help me rest easy.  And that’s why I say the Rams cover. I think the Seahawks will win, but not in a way that helps me sleep during either Rams week next season.

Will: You are insane. I say the Seahawks win comfortably.

MINNESOTA (-7) vs. New York Giants

At stake: If the Packers lose, this game is meaningless, as the Packers and Vikings play next week in what would essentially be the NFC North Championship game. If the Packers win, the Vikings need to win this game to keep their hopes of winning the NFC North alive, and next week would still be the NFC North Championship game. The Vikings are in the playoffs regardless. The Giants are eliminated since the Redskins won the NFC East on Saturday night.

Derek: It’s tough to pick this game since, as mentioned, there’s a chance this game won’t mean anything to the Vikings and they bench everyone. But there’s also a chance it’ll mean a lot to them. It won’t mean anything to the Giants either way, and they won’t have Odell Beckham. I’ll go out on a limb and say the Vikings cover.

Will: How about some good old fashioned Ewing Theory action? I’ll take the Giants.

DENVER (-3.5) vs. Cincinnati 

At stake: Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with a win. They clinch the AFC North with a win or a Steelers loss. Denver clinches the AFC West with a win and a Chiefs loss. They clinch a playoff spot with a win or a Jets/Steelers loss.

Derek: AJ McCarron was serviceable last week against the lowly 49ers. On the road at Denver is an entirely different story. Broncos win, and possibly win big.

Will: I like the way you think, friend. Broncos it is. Now let’s all go get holiday drunk.