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.


Week 15 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.

New York Jets (-3.5) vs. DALLAS

Robert Sabo/New York Daily News

Robert Sabo/New York Daily News

Derek: There’s no way I’m taking Dallas unless I get 10 points or more. While I acknowledge that the NFL could be celebrating Star Wars week with a trap, I’ll pick the Jets with confidence.

Will: Add me to the list of people who didn’t realize that there’s a Saturday night game this week. I suppose I would have picked the Jets, but I’m afraid I must recuse myself. 

MINNESOTA (-6) vs. Chicago

Derek: Minnesota has lost two in a row, but the Bears haven’t lost by more than six since Week 3. Surely the Vikings will win and keep their playoff hopes alive, but the Bears cover.

Will: It’s December and it’s finally starting to get cold in the Midwest. I’ll take the team from farther north. Minnesota.

JACKSONVILLE (-3) vs. Atlanta

Derek: It’s a battle of former Seahawks defensive coordinators! This should be a fun fourth quarter. The Falcons might be the coldest team in the league, and I have no interest in backing them. I’ll take Jacksonville.

Will: This game offends me. Jags.

INDIANAPOLIS (-2) vs. Houston

AP Photo/Patric Schneider

AP Photo/Patric Schneider

Derek: According to Football Outsiders, the Texans have a 46% chance of winning the AFC South while the Colts have a 45.4% chance. I’m not a mathematician, but I imagine the odds of victory will rise considerably for whoever wins this game. And I just don’t understand why the Colts are favored after their last two performances. Houston wins.

Will: A banged up Matt Hasselbeck going against a pissed off Texans defense? Houston.

Kansas City (-7) vs. BALTIMORE

Derek: We’ve got one of the hottest teams in the league playing one of the coldest. Let’s not overthink this. Chiefs cover.

Will: Ditto.

Buffalo (-1.5) vs. WASHINGTON

Derek: We’ll never know what to expect from either of these teams, so I’m just going to default to the home underdogs.

Will: Sure, that sounds good.

NEW ENGLAND (-14) vs. Tennessee

Derek: The Titans have gotten torched through the air over the last few weeks, and that happened facing Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Those guys aren’t Brandon Weeden bad, but they also aren’t Tom Brady good. I’ll say ol’ Tommy lights it up in a big Patriots victory.

Will: I wish I had the balls to take the Titans. Alas, I do not. Pats.

Carolina (-4.5) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS

Derek: I can see it already. The Giants win the NFC East, then upset the Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs en route to beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl. It all starts with the Giants handing Carolina their first loss.

Will: In the Year of the Dab, I’ll take Cam over Eli. Panthers.

SEATTLE (-15) vs. Cleveland

Derek: Now that we’re here, I can think of only one way to pick this game: SEAHAWKS BY 50!!!

Will: How dare you. Seahawks by 14.5. Browns cover.

Green Bay (-3) vs. OAKLAND

Derek: This is one of the toughest picks of the week, which would have been wacky to think at the beginning of the year. Though the Packers have won two in a row, they were outplayed in most of the Detroit game and beating Cassel’s Cowboys isn’t much of an accomplishment. I may very well regret this, but I say Raiders cover.

Will: I feel like franchises’ true colors come out in December. That does not bode well for the Raiders. Packers.

SAN DIEGO (-1.5) vs. Miami

Derek: The only reason to tune into this one is to see if the Dolphins have more fans in attendance even though they’re on the other side of the country. I’ll take the points and hope I never find the answer.

Will: This game is so dumb. I love the Dolphins.

PITTSBURGH (-6.5) vs. Denver

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Derek: And this was the toughest pick of the week. Most would agree the Broncos have the best defense in the league, while in my opinion the Steelers have the best offense in the league. Pittsburgh has been able to score on pretty much anyone when Roethlisberger is healthy, especially at home. I don’t think the Beast Incarnate Brock Osweiler will be able to keep up. Steelers cover.

Will: It feels a little too easy to take Pittsburgh, but I can’t think of a great reason not to. The Steelers have scored 30-plus each of the past five weeks. Denver has held three of their last four opponents to 15 points or less, but those three were the Raiders, Chargers, and Bears. I hope Brock gives ’em a scare, but I’m not holding my breath. Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati (-6) vs. SAN FRANCISCO

Derek: I, for one, am pretty excited to watch AJ McCarron vs. Blaine Gabbert. You can’t prove that I’m not. I don’t think McCarron is enough of a drop-off from Dalton to seriously consider picking the Niners. The Bengals have the advantage in pretty much every matchup and I say they cover.

Will: I watched the Cleveland Browns play San Francisco last week. I watched the Cleveland Browns play Cincinnati the week before. I know the transitive property doesn’t work in football, but there is no way the Bengals don’t cover this.

Arizona (-3.5) vs. PHILADELPHIA

Derek: As much as I’d love to see Arizona lose this game, they’re very close to clinching the NFC West and a first round bye. They should be able to score a great deal on the burnable Eagle secondary. Cardinals take care of business.

Will: The Cardinals are kicking the most ass and getting the least attention. Perhaps hammering a nail into Chip Kelly’s coffin will attract some eyes. Cardinals.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) vs. Detroit

Derek: It’s a rough night of television on Monday. You’ve got this game no one cares about, and it won’t even be worth flipping over to wrasslin’ because the Christmas week episode is almost always terrible. Let’s just go with the points.

Will: Points it is. I cannot wait for this season to end.

Last week

Derek: 12-4

Will: 9-7

Overall

Derek: 96-105-7

Will: 94-107-7


Feeling Lucky: NFL Week 13 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.

Cincinnati (-9.5) vs. CLEVELAND

Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

Derek: I’d normally take a 9.5 point home underdog in a division game, but after what happened Monday night the Browns might be toxic. Austin Davis is in, it’s a short week, the team is shell shocked, and the crowd will probably be depressed and/or sarcastic. That’s assuming it doesn’t end up being a de facto home game for the Bengals. As you may have guessed, I’m going with Cincinnati.

Will: Might be toxic?? That’s the nicest thing I’ve heard about the Browns all week. The crowd at the Ravens game was already depressed and sarcastic, which actually made for a fun experience. It was more like an open mic night than a football game — and what a joke that closer was! Thank you, thank you. I’m going to be at this one too. Pray for me, and for this pick. Browns by three touchdowns.

CHICAGO (-7) vs. San Francisco

Derek: The 49ers defense has really, really sucked on the road. In Chicago’s last four games (at San Diego, at St. Louis, vs. Denver, at Green Bay) the Bears haven’t allowed more than 19 points. Considering the 49er D is a sieve on the road, and the fact that I don’t trust Blaine Gabbert on the road against a defense that’s playing well, I’ll take Chicago.

Will: You’ve sold me. Chicago’s 28th ranked run defense is a bit of a concern, but San Francisco’s rushing offense is ranked No. 20, so nevermind. The spread is a little higher than I’d like, but the Niners also have the lowest-scoring offense in football. I don’t know why I’m wasting words on this. Conciseness is a virtue. Bears.

TENNESSEE (-2.5) vs. Jacksonville

Derek: Ugh. These two are playing again? At least there aren’t playoff implications anymore. I’ll take the points.

Will: Same. Let’s move on.

BUFFALO (-3) vs. Houston

Derek: The Texans might be overachieving, but they’re red hot. I’ll ride their hot streak and underdog status and take the points.

Will: Also same.

MIAMI (-3.5) vs. Baltimore

Derek: The Dolphins just changed offensive coordinators and they’re playing a bad team! This is pretty much Miami’s wheel house. I’m all over the Dolphins here.

Will: Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold the pho–no just kidding, the Ravens totally suck and I would take no pleasure in picking them, especially after last week. Dolphins.

Carolina (-7) vs. NEW ORLEANS

Derek: I’ll make this a narrative pick and say that this is the Saints’ Super Bowl and they’ll want to make up for not scoring a touchdown for the first time in the Payton/Brees era last week. I don’t have the guts to take Carolina straight-up, but I like the Saints to cover as home underdogs.

Will: I’ll make a different narrative pick and say that this is the week where the Panthers get their fourth straight blowout win and everyone really starts to talk about them as a Super Bowl favorite. They’ve gotten plenty of pub lately, what with Cam Newton on the Sports Illustrated cover and all, but I haven’t gotten the (totally arbitrary) sense that people would really favor them over the likes of the Cardinals and Patriots. Yes sir, I smell another Panthers beatdown. 

Seattle (-1) vs. MINNESOTA

Derek: The Seahawks have covered two weeks in a row! The offense is catching fire! Here we come, NFC! SEAHAWKS!

Or at least I hope so. The Vikings are the Seahawks’ secret rivals. They stole Steve Hutchinson from in that shady poison pill debacle. They conned us into taking Percy Harvin. They conned us into taking Darell Bevell. They might be sore about that time Shaun Alexander scored five touchdowns against them in the first half. Screw you, Vikings. I hope Thomas Rawls scores 10 touchdowns in the first quarter.

Will: I reckon this is the best game of the week, and I reckon it’ll come down to whether or not the Seahawks can slow down Adrian Peterson and force Teddy Bridgewater to beat them. They’ve allowed the fifth fewest rushing yards of any team in the league, so I like their chances. The Vikings have only scored eight touchdowns through the air this season; this could be a good week for the embattled Seattle secondary. Seahawks it is.

Arizona (-6) vs. ST. LOUIS

Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Derek: The Rams are 4-7, meaning they need to win four games to reach their 8-8 standard that makes them a popular sleeper pick next season. It’s like death and taxes. Rams.

Will: As much as I enjoy that logic, St. Louis has been hot garbage over the past month. They beat the Cardinals when they met in Week 4, and Arizona had some trouble with San Francisco last week, but I’m going to conveniently overlook that. Cardinals keep rolling.

TAMPA BAY (-1) vs. Atlanta

Derek: Remember when we were talking about the Falcons going undefeated because they had such an easy schedule? Well, they’ve kind of gotten destroyed in those easy games. I can no longer back them in good conscience. I’ll take Tampa.

Will: Uh, yeah. Considering that the Falcons lost to the Bucs at home a month ago, I see little reason to pick them this time around. Crab legs.

New York Jets (-2) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS

Derek: This is a “home” game for the Giants, but that’s more of a technicality. I’m sure the Jets are psyched about calling the coin toss in their own building. I bet they’re even more psyched about facing the Giants’ secondary. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have been matchup problems for many teams this year, and I think this will be one of them. Jets cover.

Will: I kind of like both of these teams, though both have struggled over the past couple weeks. The Jets haven’t held anyone under 20 points since the Dolphins in Week 5, but that may be misleading; they’re still a top-five defense by DVOA. The Giants, meanwhile, are below average by DVOA on both sides of the ball. I would stay away from this one if I could, but gentlemen like ourselves can’t stay away from the hard choices. I will also take the Jets.

Denver (-4) vs. SAN DIEGO

Derek: Here’s another game with a “home” team. I’m sure there will be 70% Broncos fans here. Mike McCoy might actually go to the wrong sideline. The Chargers haven’t covered at home since Week 1. I’ll take Denver.

Will: Poor San Diego. The only thing worse than the team is how few native San Diegans come out to support them. Brock’s streak continues

Kansas City (-3) vs. OAKLAND

Derek: This was the toughest game of the week for me to pick. As such, I’m going with the points.

Will: Both of these teams are top-10 in offensive DVOA. Kansas City’s defense has been back to its quarterback-marauding ways, which makes me concerned for the well-being of Derek Carr. I think this will be a good game, but I like the Chiefs.

NEW ENGLAND (-9.5) vs. Philadelphia

Derek: I would not want to be an Eagles fan this week. Part of me thinks this is one of those stretches where the Patriots look bad before picking it up in the playoffs. The other part thinks the Patriots are going to angrily blow out the reeling Eagles. I’ll err on the side of the Patriots.

Will: Maybe this is the week to take Philly as a contrarian play?

Never mind. Pats.

PITTSBURGH (-7) vs. Indianapolis

Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

Derek: I feel pretty good about the Steelers here. Their offense has been otherworldly at home when Roethlisberger plays, and it appears he’s good to go. Last year, Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and six touchdowns against Indy. The Hasselbeck-led Colts have been a good story, but I don’t think they have the horses (heh) to keep up with Pittsburgh. The Steelers cover in a high-scoring affair.

Will: I expect quite a few points in this one. Roethlisberger could probably go for 250 and a couple scores from a wheelchair, and the Colts defense ain’t nothin’ special. Pittsburgh’s defense also ain’t nothin’ special, and I like Old Man Hasselbeck to throw for about (his age + 200) yards on them, perhaps including a touchdown for the backdoor cover. I’ll ride the Colts.

WASHINGTON (-4) vs. Dallas

Derek: I’m picking the Cowboys solely because I’m rooting for it to happen. Divisional disarray is fun when your team isn’t involved. It’s possible (perhaps likely) that every NFC East team will lose this week except for the winner of this game. If that happens, the Cowboys and Eagles will be 4-8 and one game behind the Redskins and Giants for first place. Related: Tony Romo isn’t on injured reserve yet. You know, just in case. Let’s all root for the 6-10 Cowboys hosting a playoff game and actually being taken seriously as a contender because Romo will be back.

Will: Good luck living up to last week’s Monday nighter, fellas! Yikes, what a game, and what a division. I have the same hopes as you. I wish all of these teams could go 4-12. I expect this game to be a closely contested rock fight, so I will also pick Dallas. It’s about time Greg Hardy caught a break, no?

Last week

Derek: 7-9

Will: 7-9

Overall

Derek: 75-94-7

Will: 78-91-7


NFL Week 12 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.

HOUSTON (-3) vs. New Orleans

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Derek: Last week, the coin and I used some twisted logic to pick the Saints on the road, and they naturally got blown out. Now I’ll just turn to regular logic. The Texans defense has been much improved, while the Saints defense looks like it couldn’t stop a decent high school team. Can you imagine what’s going to happen if DeAndre Hopkins gets a few one-on-one matchups with Brandon Browner? It’ll be pass interference or a touchdown every play. The Texans march on.

Will: This week’s picks come courtesy of an ongoing Thanksgiving-derived coma that may never end. Thursday’s feast was merely prelude to the inhalation of leftovers that continued deep into Saturday night. My eyes have a thick sheen of gravy haze over them as I try to make sense of these matchups. It may not go well.

The poor Saints have looked like cold feces since they beat the Falcons, Saints, and Giants successively. They lost to the putrid Titans and were blown out by Washington. The Texans, meanwhile, have won three straight on the back of a rejuvenated defense and the singular brilliance of Hopkins. I’m slightly hesitant to pick Houston, but there ain’t no way I’d pick the Saints. Texans it is.

ATLANTA (-1) vs. Minnesota

Derek: I’m tired of giving the Falcons the benefit of the doubt. Every week I pick them to bounce back and every week they disappoint me. I’m sure the week I finally turn on them will be the week they actually do bounce back, but at least I’ll be able to sleep at night by not backing this horrible team yet again. Vikings cover.

Will: I do believe more than a few of us have been duped by the Falcons. Did you realize that they won a total of 10 games the past two seasons? I sure didn’t. I’ve been operating under the assumption that they’ve been decent for quite a while. Looking at their past two years makes me feel like their losing four of the past five is more rule than exception. The Vikings look darn solid, thus I choose them.

CINCINNATI (-8.5) vs. St. Louis

Derek: Poor Todd Gurley. He has no quarterback, no offensive line, and no receivers. He’s in one of the worst running back situations in the league, which makes it all the more incredible that he’s been somewhat effective.

If Robert Quinn is back and St. Louis’ defense is somewhat healthy, I could see them covering or winning an ugly 12-10 kind of game. But the Bengals should be able to score enough points to cover at home.

Will: There’s really no good to pick the Rams except for all those points and the ongoing belief that the Bengals are booty. That’s good enough for me. Please don’t remind me of this pick when it’s 20-3 at halftime. Rams!

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. Tampa Bay

Derek: I’ve got nothing here. I’m not saying a compelling case could be made for both teams, but certainly a lukewarm case. Matt Hasselbeck surely can’t keep this up forever, and the Buccaneer offense is creeping toward being underrated. On the other hand, the Colts are at home and are indeed undefeated in games Hasselbeck starts. Since I have no idea, it’ll be the points for me.

Will: You, sir, said it better than I ever could. Bleh. Go Bucs.

New York Giants (-3) vs. WASHINGTON

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post

Derek: The Giants are coming off a bye and are a much better team. I never totally trust the Giants in games they should win, but I will do so here. The spread is pretty low and the Redskins have a recent habit of losing by double digits. The Giants have covered four weeks in a row.

Will: I like the Giants quite a bit this year, but this game gives me pause. Something about NFC East matchups makes me think this thing is going to be a derp-off. I’ma take Washington.

Oakland (-1.5) vs. TENNESSEE

Derek: I was really looking forward to picking against the Raiders out of spite, but unfortunately they play the Titans. While I’d prefer to pick against both of these teams, I’ll reluctantly back Oakland.

Will: Does the NFL just suck this year? At risk of insulting this week’s cracker of a Monday night matchup, why would anyone want to watch this game? I think Oakland is the better team, but screw it, I’ll take the points.

KANSAS CITY (-6) vs. Buffalo

Derek: Last week, I thought the Chargers had a shot against Kansas City because the Chiefs have struggled against teams that can pass. Obviously, I was mistaken when I labeled the Chargers as one of those teams. The Bills, however, are in no danger of torching teams through the air. The Bills are a good running team, but I don’t think this is a good matchup for them. The spread gives me pause, but the Chiefs are on a roll and typically kick it up a notch at Arrowhead. I’ll take Kansas City.

Will: Break up the Chiefs! They’ve won four in a row, and the closest of those games was a 10-point victory over the Steelers. The Bills have been mildly frisky this year, but it’s tough to see them keeping this close. Chiefs it is.

NEW YORK JETS (-3.5) vs. Miami

Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Derek: The Jets embarrassed the Dolphins in London earlier this year, leading to the dismissal of Joe Philbin and the arrival of Dan “Joe Philbin” Campbell. The Jets are one of the coldest teams in the league, but the Dolphins aren’t so great either. Their only somewhat decent performance in the last month came against the suddenly horrendous Eagles. I say the Jets get back on track.

Will: REVENGE GAME! Joe Philbin will not have died in vain. The Dolphins avenge their fallen coach (even though they all hated him).

JACKSONVILLE (-4) vs. San Diego

Derek: It’s entirely possible the Chargers are just going to pack it in for the rest of the year. They have too many injuries and zero support from their city. I feel sick to my stomach trusting Jacksonville as a favorite, but the Chargers are a legitimate contender for the number one pick. The Jags cover at home.

Will: What. A. Terrible. Game. I’m starting to think that I just don’t like football anymore. I’ll gladly watch a shitty NBA game like Lakers-Kings, but this doesn’t even threaten to hold my attention. San Diego has been awful, but I’m gonna take the points.

Arizona (-10) vs. SAN FRANCISCO

Derek: I’m tempted to take the Niners, since they play better defense at home. But the Seahawks managed to cover in Santa Clara, and Arizona’s offense is much better. I’ll reluctantly pick Arizona.

Will: The Niners have lost by an average of just over 11 points per game this season. The Cardinals are an above average team. Thus, I pick the Cardinals. This logic is flawless.

SEATTLE (-3.5) vs. Pittsburgh

Derek: Allow me to put my reverse jinx hat on.

The Seahawks shouldn’t be favored in this game. They’ve given me no reason to believe in the mystique of their defense and home field advantage. Richard Sherman should have a decent amount of success, but the thought of Cary Williams covering Antonio Brown or Martavis Bryant gives me nightmares.

There are only three things that make me feel good as a Seahawks fan. First, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett should have some success against Pittsburgh’s offensive line. Second, Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t very good. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a shootout. Third, this is the first time the Steelers have played in Seattle since Super Bowl XL. A stadium full of bitter Seahawks fans could take it to another level.

I think the Steelers will cover. And if they win, I hope they do it without cheating.

Will: The Seahawks are a stinky 3-6-1 against the spread this year, which feels exactly right. They’ve won three of their last five, but two of those were against San Crapcisco (the other win was a 13-12 thriller over Dallas). The Legion of Boom’s glory days look to be deep in the rearview mirror. Even with the homefield advantage, I’m afraid I can’t take them. I pick the Steelers, and now I shall throw up a bunch of stuffing.

New England (-3) vs. DENVER

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Derek: Long ago, I picked Tyrod Taylor in his second career start against New England because I thought he could do just enough to win behind Buffalo’s defense and home field advantage. Now, we have Brock Osweiler making his second career start, at home, with an awesome defense. I’m not making that mistake again. Patriots cover.

Will: Um, yeah. Denver ain’t coming close to winning this game. Pats all day. 

CLEVELAND (-3) vs. Baltimore

Derek: Wooo boy. Clear your schedules for this one, folks! Josh McCown is back under center, which should be better for Cleveland in the short term. The Ravens have been torched through the air this season. And I’m not backing Matt Schaub on the road, especially when I’m only getting three points. The Browns take care of business.

Will: Here’s a fun stat: these two teams are a combined 3-14-3 against the spread this year! That’s even worse than their 5-15 straight up record. Enjoy this one, national television audience! I’m going to this game, more to wield the ticket stub as a badge of honor than out of actual enjoyment of football. But by golly, I’ve gotta pick the Browns. If anyone out there ends up watching this thing, I encourage you to find help. It’s not too late.

Last week

Derek: 6-7-1

Will: 6-7-1

Overall

Derek: 68-85-7

Will: 71-82-7


Jaguars vs. Titans: Week 11 Thursday Picks

NFL Picks

Here are Will and Derek’s picks for the Week 11 Thursday night game. Picks for the remainder of the games will run on Friday.

(Home team in caps. Line per VegasInsider.com consensus.)

JACKSONVILLE (-3) vs. Tennessee

Getty Images

Getty Images

Derek: It’s the showdown we’ve all been waiting for! Nothing kicks off the week of football quite like an AFC South slobberknocker.

But it’s an appropriate start, because this game is the football version of my picks this year. I consistently made fun of myself in last week’s picks, hoping for some sort of reverse jinx. Naturally, I do believe it was my worst week in what was already a pretty bad season. So for one week, and one week only, I am literally going to flip a coin for every game. Heads for the home team, tails for the away team. I will then vigorously defend whoever the coin tells me to. I want to know just how much better inanimate objects are at picking football games than I am. Let’s begin!

Jacksonville has three wins this year. One came when the Bills gave them a ton of defensive points in London, and the other came last week when they only won due to an error by the officials. The Titans do at least have two impressive wins this year, both on the road. Marcus Mariota makes fewer mistakes than Blake Bortles as the Titans cover.

Will: I feel slightly guilty picking this game knowing that there’s no chance I watch it. None. Zero. Not even close. Part of that is because the Cavs are playing tonight, with Warriors-Clippers to follow. The NBA is much nearer to my heart than the NFL, and Dubs-Clips is absolute appointment viewing. But even if baby James Naismith had been aborted back in 1861 and basketball never became a thing, I still don’t think I’d watch Titans-Jags. One or more of these teams might even be decent. I just don’t care enough to find out.

HAVING SAID THAT, let’s pick some football! Both teams have been competitive against the spread. Tennessee is 4-5, and Jacksonville 5-4. The Jags’ offense could be sneaky competent. Blake Bortles isn’t all that accurate when he’s chucking the rock, but the Allens (Hurns and Robinson) are putting up big numbers, and T.J. Yeldon is at least serviceable. The thing that tilts the scales for me is this: Marcus Mariota has been brilliant on the road — 10 touchdowns, 0 interceptions. That’s reason enough for me to pick the Titans.

I just hope someone tells me if they won tomorrow.


Think of the Children: NFL Week 10 Recap

NFL Recap Header

wild and crazy Week 10 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including YET ANOTHER Seahawk collapse, Carson Palmer’s performance, the coronation of JFF, the fall of Peyton Manning, the Packer’s slide, showboating, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.


 

AP Photo/Stephen Brashear

AP Photo/Stephen Brashear

Will: The Cardinals beat the Seahawks in what looks to have been a barnburner. Seattle nearly flipped the script of its early season blown leads, rallying back from a 19-0 deficit to take the lead before falling thanks to two fourth-quarter Arizona touchdowns. Judging by the box score alone, this looks to have been a strange game — a safety, a fumble return for a touchdown, somebody called Tukuafu scoring. 1) Do you have any significant takeaways from this game, and 2) Is it time to seriously worry about the Seahawks’ playoff chances?

Derek: Yet another blown lead in the fourth quarter. Do me the courtesy of clicking here and here so I don’t have to rehash my thoughts on the Seahawks in the fourth quarter. My word. It would be funny if they weren’t supposed to be a somewhat decent team.

So, takeaways. First, the Cardinals may be better than I gave them credit for. I thought they were overrated most of the year because they only looked good against bad teams, but I can’t say that anymore. Unless, of course, the Seahawks are also a bad team, which is something I may have to come to grips with. Either way, Carson Palmer was awesome. The Seahawks D was constantly in his face, and they succeeded against him at times. Palmer committed three turnovers — one that K.J. Wright returned to the Arizona 3-yard line, and one that Bobby Wagner returned for a touchdown — but he was fearless. He would step up into the pocket and throw perfect passes that only his receivers could get and they, naturally, extended and made the catches they needed to. I’m very, very close to making an Artists Formerly Known as the Legion of Boom joke, but I thought Palmer played so well that it didn’t really matter.

On the other end, the Seahawks’ offensive struggles continued. The blocking wasn’t great, but I’ve seen worse from them. The penalties were a killer. The Seahawks faced 1st-and-20 a stunning five times in this game. Five! Five drives were pretty much over before they even began. But that was just the beginning. All told, the Seahawks were penalized 14 times for 131 yards. Despite the defense giving them two touchdowns, they still couldn’t pull it off. Ridiculous.

So, yeah, I’d say I’m pretty worried. Seattle needed all three games of this homestand. It wouldn’t be easy. Two of the three teams are pretty good, and all three get two weeks to prepare for the Seahawks. Things are hopefully not bad enough to lose to Blaine Gabbert next week, but what are Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Martavis Bryant going to be able to do after seeing what Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and Michael Floyd did? They’re thinking about it right now, while Seattle is getting ready for the 49ers. Meanwhile, the Falcons own the final wild card spot with a 6-3 record. There are six 4-5 teams looking to unseat them. The Seahawks are behind the Redskins, Buccaneers, and Rams in the tiebreaker. The Seahawks may be a team nobody wants to see in the playoffs, but every week they look less likely to make it. I don’t understand. They’ve been automatic in these situations before. The mystique is fading.

I hate Malcolm Butler so much.

Now, word on the street is you didn’t catch the Browns-Steelers game live. And enjoyed it! Have you found a replay to watch? And now that the Browns have decided to roll with Johnny for the rest of the year, do you still feel it’s the right move?

AP Photo/Don Wright

AP Photo/Don Wright

Will: I haven’t watched it yet; I’m still living in a state of glorious, willful ignorance. I still haven’t seen so much as a replay package. Like your Seahawks, my beloved Browns also racked up the penalty yards: 188 of ’em! Word is that Johnny played the best game of his young career, but the Browns were so overmatched and perhaps deflated by Ben Roethlisberger’s heroic effort off the bench that it didn’t matter.

But word has indeed come down that Johnny will start the rest of the way, which is an encouraging development. I feel for Josh McCown, who played admirably as long as he was physically able, but he’s 36 and Johnny is 22. We still haven’t seen enough of Manziel to know if he can actually be a starter in the NFL, so kudos to Mike Pettine and company for making the move to find out. These are the things you applaud when your team is 2-8.

Let’s talk about the good teams. New England beat the Giants on a last-second field goal, which feels about right. Both Brady and Eli put up big numbers, and it looks to have been a pretty even game. In a week loaded with odd results, this one seems like it played to expectation. Anything meaningful to be gained here?

Derek: Well, if Eli could play every game against the Patriots, he’d have more accolades than his brother. That’s something. Though the biggest news may be yet another injury for the Patriots. How long can they keep this up? They’ve managed to keep Brady and Gronk on the field, but most of the offensive line, Dion Lewis, and now Julian Edelman are down. Bill Belichick is the smartest guy in the room, but even he has a limit on how many injuries his team can take before it starts costing them games. Are they always going to be competitive as long as Brady and Gronk are healthy? We may find out soon enough.

The Bengals finally bit the dust, as they could not overcome the onslaught of the mighty T.J. Yates. Plus, we finally got that Dalton Game we’ve been expecting. It is getting a bit colder, after all. How much enjoyment did you get watching the Bengals fall to the (tied for) FIRST PLACE HOUSTON TEXANS?! I’ll just leave this here while you think about it.

afc south

Will: Pardon me while I wipe the vomit off of my keyboard. My god, that division. Old Yeller’s in better shape. I forget to make a crack about not taking the Bengals seriously for one dumb week and they lose to the freaking Texans on Monday night. I still feel vindicated. Never forget that Andy Dalton is Andy Dalton.

Speaking of shoddy quarterbacking, Peyton Manning was benched in favor of Brock Osweiler. Wait, Peyton Manning was benched in favor of Brock Osweiler?? He completed only one more pass to his team (5) than he did to the opposition (4) in what was a surely demoralizing 29-13 loss to the Chiefs. His play this season has been as mercurial as a man of his age’s back; some days it feels good, and others it feels like cold damp death. Do you feel remotely comfortable predicting anything for this Broncos team as long as Manning is at the helm?

Derek: No. A horrendous performance from Peyton has been a long time coming. For whatever reason, opposing defenses haven’t been able to hold on to the balls he throws right to them. He should have thrown four or five interceptions when he played Kansas City earlier this year. Somehow, your Browns were the only team to intercept him more than twice before Sunday. Unsurprisingly, a bunch of injury stories leaked shortly after the game, and we may have seen the last of Peyton Manning. Brock Osweiler looked better in relief, but the standard wasn’t particularly high at that point. I’ll be interested to see how he does. He went 18 picks before Russell Wilson in the 2012 Draft, but we haven’t seen him outside of the preseason so far. His rookie contract ends at the end of this season, so he’s got a chance to make some money.

What I want to know is if Peyton even wants him to succeed. Can you picture Osweiler hoisting the Lombardi Trophy while Peyton scowls under a storm of confetti? I sure can.

While we’re talking about Peyton, I’d like to ask a fantasy football philosophy question. Who should feel worse: the people who started Peyton (-7 points!) or the people who benched the “injured” Ben Roethlisberger and watched him score 27 as a backup?

Will: Peyton, for sure. I won one game this week against a fellow who started Peyton, and I feel terribly about it. The game ended up being a blowout, but imagine those who had solid performances across the board and only needed 15 points or so to win. I’d be insulted and offended if I were a Peyton Manning owner. The Roethlisberger thing also hurts, but starting a shitty player (for one day, anyway) always hurts a little worse than benching a good one. Now, if you benched Roethlisberger for Manning, I would not vote to convict you of any crime that you committed thereafter.

Let’s go north. The Packers lost to the Lions. Wait, the Packers lost to the Lions?? They came within a two-point conversion of tying it in the final minute, but no dice. We — and most observers, I suspect — favored relaxation after losses to the Broncos and Panthers, but those were heavyweight fights. This was a genuine stunner. Are the Vikings — who soundly defeated the Raiders — seriously going to win the NFC North? Could the Packers also be in danger of missing the playoffs?

AP Photo/Morry Gash

AP Photo/Morry Gash

Derek: How did this happen? The only reason I wouldn’t have said the Lions were bottoming out was because they’re the Lions. Their floor is pretty close to the center of the Earth. But they were certainly flailing, and they hadn’t won in Green Bay since 1991. It’s not like the Packers were complacent or overlooking them, either. They had just lost two in a row and were in danger of losing their grip on first place in the NFC North. Lo and Behold, the Vikings won, and they’re now somehow in first place. I don’t understand anything. Everything pointed to Green Bay winning by 30.

I still can’t panic yet. As long as they have Rodgers, they have a shot. The problem is, he’s gotten injured around this time the last two years. If they’re playing this poorly with Rodgers, just imagine how unsightly they’d be without him. Luckily for us, the Packers have a chance to show us they’re for real this Sunday, when they travel to Minnesota.

Much has been made of showboating in the last 48 hours. Cam Newton did an obscenely long touchdown dance. J.J. Watt called Andy Dalton a Red Ryder BB Gun. Carson Palmer told Seahawks fans to suck it. Any comment on all of this celebration outrage? Should we be thinking of the children?

Will: Yes, yes we should. We should be thinking of the children and wondering why they aren’t better dancers and celebrators and taunters. Rather, we shouldn’t be wondering that — if we vilify captains of creative industry like Cam, Watt, and Palmer, then clumsy-dancing, poor-shit-talking kids is what we deserve. Is that the world you want to live in? Do you not want to see homages to D-Generation X in your local high school games? It’s a slippery slope, and we’re in danger of falling all the way down the goddamn mountain. For shame.

There will rightly be plenty of talk about which game was the best of the week, but which do you think was the worst? We had the Browns amassing 188 penalty yards in a toothless loss to the Steelers. We had a 10-6 derp-off between Tampa and Dallas. We had Washington dropping 47 on the Saints, the Bears beating the Rams by 24, and the Panthers handling the Titans, 27-10. Which would you least like to watch on a loop?

Derek: New Orleans was fun, because I enjoyed the shots of a hapless Rob Ryan standing on the sideline. I’m going to miss him. Steelers-Browns was frustrating, but mostly due to personal fantasy football reasons no one wants to hear about. I can’t complain about the Rams losing. And while Bucs-Cowboys wasn’t pretty, it at was at least close. That leaves Panthers-Titans. Watching Tennessee’s offense was a struggle, and Cam Newton has nearly turned me against the Panthers. I’ve always said the Panthers are my second favorite team, but Cam irritates me to no end. I don’t enjoy watching him succeed. Let’s get Cleveland legend Derek Anderson in there!

Speaking of terrible games, how excited are you for the Jags-Titans game on Thursday night? It has actual playoff implications!

Will: That can’t be true. No way that’s true. I’m gonna pretend you didn’t say that. Let’s move on. Any words of advice or solace for a depressed Browns fan base?

Derek: Maybe Jimmy Haslam’s legal trouble will force him to sell the team? Maybe Johnny will be good? Maybe Josh Gordon will come back next year? Maybe if the Browns keep losing, you’ll get a shot at Robert Nkemdiche or Ohio State’s own Joey Bosa? You don’t have to watch Brandon Weeden or Trent Richardson anymore? Is any of that helping?

In all seriousness, I’ll just say things can turn around in a hurry. The Seahawks were a doormat, but they hired Mike Holmgren and they made the playoffs almost every year. Then they became a doormat again, Pete Carroll and John Schneider were hired, they became good, and won a Super Bowl. You could look back on this season as the beginning of something great. Today is the first day of JFF’s reign. You may remember this day fondly and laugh about how bad you thought it was.

Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.

Gentlemen of the Week

Derek: I’m giving it to the entire Jaguar offensive line. They knew that the referees would screw up the final play of the game, so they allowed Elvis Dumervil free run at Blake Bortles so he could commit the facemask penalty that put Jacksonville in position for the winning field goal. We’re all playing checkers while the Jacksonville linemen play chess. Well done, Gentlemen.

Will: T.J. Yates, you beautiful bastard you. In his first action of the season — and his first since September 2014 — he popped off the bench, tossed a touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins, and knocked off one of the NFL’s three unbeaten teams. It was his finest effort in Cincinnati since, well, his last two games there. He led the Texans over the Bengals in December 2011, and knocked them out of the playoffs in January 2012. T.J. stands for “Lion Tamer.”

Most Hungover Fan Bases

Derek: I’d say the Seahawks, but I think we’re just about numb to this sort of loss at this point. I’m going with the Packers. Three straight losses and the wrong end of the weekend’s biggest non-Ronda Rousey upset likely drove the people of Wisconsin to drink. Well, more than usual. I hope they save some for Rousey’s fans.

Will: Browns. Always the Browns. I mean, not always the Browns, but often the Browns. Whatever. Football’s dumb. Again.