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.


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


Could Marshawn Lynch get cut? NFL Week 11 Recap

NFL Recap Header

wild and crazy Week 11 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the performance of Thomas Rawls, the new quarterback in Denver, another JFF controversy, playoff picks, a very bad day in Baltimore, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.


AP Photo/John Froschauer

AP Photo/John Froschauer

Will: Thomas Rawls ran for over 200 yards. What the hell?! Is Seattle’s line getting its act together, or are the Niners just that booty?

Derek: Yeah, the Niners aren’t good. Rawls was great and the line was better than usual, but I’m not going to get too excited given how poorly San Fran’s defense has played this year, particularly in road games. Seattle now has four 100-yard rushers this year, and two of them were against the 49ers. Granted, three of those were by Rawls. Not a good year to be a lover of the legendary Marshawn Lynch, who may be shut down for at least the remainder of the regular season with a sports hernia.

Rawls is very impressive, though. I was worried about Seattle cutting both Robert Turbin and Christine Michael in favor of Rawls and Fred Jackson, but that looks to have been the right call. Turbin was already cut by the Browns and joined the Cowboys, while Michael was already cut by the Cowboys and joined the Redskins’ practice squad. Rawls is looking like the best of the bunch. In fact, he’s looking so good that he’s forcing me to write the following possibly heretical sentence:

Marshawn Lynch might get cut this offseason.

Marshawn! Could be cut! It’s looking more and more likely. Lynch makes a lot of money, and Seattle could benefit from Rawls’ rookie contract in the same way they benefited from Russell Wilson’s. Sad as it is to say, Lynch hasn’t done much this season to show he deserves the job over Rawls. The Seahawks know better than anyone else if he’s just been unlucky or he’s really breaking down, so I don’t want to jump to the conclusions. Marshawn is going down as a Seahawks legend, but Carroll’s regime isn’t afraid to cut anyone. I won’t be surprised if Marshawn is a Cowboy next year, and that makes me sad.

There was almost no sadness in Cleveland this week, but now Johnny is back in the news for the wrong reasons. He’s been demoted to third-string(!) for apparently boozin’ it up in Texas. How are Browns fans taking the news? Do you think it’s fair that he’s being benched? Should Johnny apologize for partying, even if he didn’t do anything illegal?

Will: Not great, Bob. It’s just so dumb. All of it. I was hopeful that Johnny would start the rest of the games so that the Browns could at least figure out if he was decent — I think a lot of people feel that way — but now it looks like the franchise is ready to move on from him. The only reason he hasn’t been cut already, far as I can tell, is to save money. Mike Pettine reportedly has the support of owner Jimmy Haslam and GM Ray Farmer, which is as encouraging as saying that Donald Trump is mentoring you on how to speak quietly and subtlely.

I certainly understand Pettine’s viewpoint. It seems rather arbitrary to demote Johnny so for not doing anything explicitly wrong or illegal. Perhaps the team gave him a set of guidelines to follow during the week and he spat in their face. Perhaps the team is privy to more damning information than we are at this point. Perhaps Johnny’s earlier troubles with alcohol were worse than is known publicly. Or — and I would guess this is the most likely scenario — maybe Pettine was just looking for an excuse to bench him, and this one was good enough.

Basically, I think there’s more to this story than meets the eye, the most important part being the relationship between Pettine and Manziel. Perhaps Pettine feels like he was lied to. Perhaps Johnny is rebelling. Whatever the case, the Browns look as stupid as ever. Ugh.

Say, who’s more dominant: Brock Osweiler or Brock Lesnar?

Derek: On the off chance Brock Lesnar ever see this, I’m going with him. Plus, I mentally refer to Brock Lesnar as “Brock” and Brock Osweiler as “Brock Osweiler.”

Though while his performance was sorely lacking in German suplexes, Brock Osweiler showed that it is in fact possible for Broncos quarterbacks to not throw interceptions. The Broncos even looked, dare I say, enthusiastic and energetic without Peyton Manning. Do you think Manning will get his job back if/when he’s healthy? Will you feel weird seeing him standing on the sideline against Tom Brady this weekend?

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Will: I just don’t see how Peyton can get back out there. Like, it’s been public knowledge for quite a while that he’s lost feeling in his hands. Forget about playing quarterback — it feels borderline irresponsible to put him out there. Brock was pretty darn competent against the quietly-not-that-bad Bears: 20 of 27 passing, 250 yards, 2 touchdowns, no turnovers. With Denver’s defense, what they need more than anything is someone who won’t turn it over. It feels counterintuitive to say Osweiler is a better caretaker than Manning, but Peyton chucked 17 picks in nine games. He’s playing worse than he ever as, except for maybe his rookie year. Let the tall man rumble!

In NFC news, the Packers and Panthers both won handily, with the Cardinals edging out the Bengals. Who do you see as the favorite in that conference?

Derek: I think it’s the Cardinals. They’re the most talented team top to bottom. They problem is they seem to be injury prone. John Brown and Michael Floyd are banged up, Andre Ellington gets injured every five snaps, and Carson Palmer has a history of injuries that can’t be ignored. If they’re healthy going into the playoffs, I think they would be favored against anyone, even if they have to go to Carolina.

I can’t bring myself to trust the Panthers. They’ll probably be the top seed in the NFC, but they look more like a candidate to be upset. Looking at their roster, I just can’t figure out why they haven’t lost yet. Regression could be around the corner, but I’ve been saying that for a while.

I have no idea how to project the Packers. They’ve looked good at times and truly horrible at times. Their chances of success are tied to Aaron Rodgers’ health, which has been a question mark at the end of the last two seasons. I’m giving them an incomplete grade, and I don’t think they’d be favored over the Cardinals on a neutral field.

Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. Now that we’re getting a better idea of who will and won’t be in the playoffs, which team do you think has been the most disappointing this season?

Will: I’m going to leave the Browns out of this, though they’ve been plenty disappointing in their own right. The Ravens were bad even before they were ravaged by injuries, but it’s poor form to rip a team that just lost its quarterback for the season.

I think it’s the Chargers. They were 9-7 last year, and haven’t been worse than 7-9 since 2003. They’ve been pretty wrecked by injuries as well, so I suppose I’m breaking my own rule — and it’s rude to shit on a team that’s been embroiled in relocation rumors all year — but they are real bad. Like, almost-lost-to-the-Browns bad. They drafted Melvin Gordon and have had a full year of Danny Woodhead, but the running game has been flaccid. They have one of the worst defenses in the league.They’re victims of playing in a strong division as much as anything, especially with the Raiders being semi-decent this year, but they’ve also lost six straight.

Looking at the rest of the standings: Beyond the Patriots, Bengals, and Chiefs, most of the AFC is at or around .500. How do you reckon the Wild Card will shake out?

Derek: You know, as much as we make fun of the AFC South, there might be two AFC South teams in the playoffs. The Colts are still in first place after beating the Falcons, but the Texans are going on a nice little run to end the season. In fact, the Texans are currently the seventh seed in the AFC. It makes sense that they’ll make the playoffs when they looked like one of the worst teams in the league earlier this year.

I’d say the Steelers are the pretty clear favorites for the first Wild Card spot, assuming their horrible string of injuries comes to an end. Whoever wins the AFC South won’t enjoy playing them in the first round. The sixth seed is an absolute crapshoot. The Chiefs have it right now, but the Texans, Bills, Jets, and Raiders are the most likely remaining teams to unseat them. If I had to guess, I’d say the Chiefs because they have an easy remaining schedule. I don’t think they have a shot to make any noise once they get there, but they’ve got a good shot to make it.

AP Photo/Gail Burton

AP Photo/Gail Burton

The Ravens lost both their starting quarterback and starting running back for the season on Sunday. How much sympathy do you feel for the former Browns?

Will: My first instinct was less than zero; eat it, Ratbirds, but I do actually have a bit of sympathy for them. Steve Smith is a delight, sort of like Kobe Bryant before the part of him that’s good at basketball died, and Joe Flacco has taken to life as a meme well enough. That said, I wish ill upon them, especially this coming Monday.

We now know that Johnny Manziel won’t be playing on Monday. It looks like Josh McCown vs. Matt Schaub. Why would any non-Browns, non-Ravens fan watch that game? Let’s assume that gambling is one legitimate reason. Are there any others?

Derek: Ummm. Maybe if you hate both teams and their suffering pleases you? Or if it’s on at the bar where you’re getting wings? Or if you want to see how Jon Gruden still manages to love every single player on the field? That’s about all I’ve got. The ratings will tell us exactly how many gamblers and fantasy football players have nothing better to do on a Monday night. I can’t wait.

Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.

Gentlemen of the Week

Derek: Thomas Rawls, come on down! An undrafted rookie who beat out two established draft picks in training camp and ran for the second most yards in a game in Seahawks history? That’s the stuff Gentlemen are made of.

Will: Big week for Tom. I understand that all of the other GotW winners welcomed him into the villa with open arms and open bottles of brandy. Well done by him. I’m going with Austin Davis, the Browns backup quarterback who was promoted from No. 3 to No. 2 on the depth chart for doing absolutely nothing. It takes a little luck to find success in the National Football League, and Austin has done well to seize his opportunity. I look forward to analyzing his clipboard form.

Most Hungover Fan Bases

Derek: Let’s welcome Jets fans to the realm of drunkenness. It wasn’t too long ago that they gave the Patriots all they could handle and looked like a scary Wild Card team. Now they’ve lost four of five and just don’t look good at all. The playoffs look less likely every week.

Will: The Browns feel too on the nose here, so let me see…I’m going back to the San Diego well and picking the Chargers. I feel guilty about ripping on them earlier. They lost by 30 freaking points — at home — to the Chiefs. Fans have to listen to rumors about what part of L.A. the team is going to move to. The team sucks, the circumstances suck, and that’s just no fun. At least the weather’s nice. Enjoy a drink on the beach, San Diego. You’ve sort of earned it.