Panthers lose, Seahawks lose, and JOHNNY RUNS: NFL Week 16 Recap

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wild and crazy Week 16 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Seahawks ending a streak, Johnny Manziel’s polarizing day, the Panthers finally losing, the Steelers getting upset, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.

AP Photo/Ed Zurga

AP Photo/Ed Zurga

Will: You were eerily prescient with your Seahawks-Rams prediction, except it went worse for the ‘Hawks than you hoped. That said, your boys have a playoff spot locked up with a week to go. Does clinching a postseason berth take the sting out of losing to a division rival?

Derek: I guess it makes me feel a little better, since the Seahawks are still in a similar situation and now the Rams get a worse draft pick, but that was a terrible showing. I’ve been happy to not talk about Seattle’s offensive line for the last month or so, but they made sure to remind us they’re not very good in this one. Christine Michael was getting destroyed four yards in the backfield. Aaron Donald and William Hayes had our guards beat before Russell could even complete the exchange. I’ve seen pundits taking the loss as a sign that the Seahawks really need Marshawn back, but even he wouldn’t have had success the way the O-line was getting manhandled.

This is what the Rams do, though. I always joke that the Rams only look good at the end of the year because they want to con us into making them a popular sleeper pick like we do every year. They’ve now won three in a row, and you better believe they’re going to blow the 49ers out next week. I can already hear Skip Bayless picking them to win the NFC West in 2016 because they finished 2015 on a four-game win streak.

Tony Overman/The Olympian

Tony Overman/The Olympian

Just two final thoughts. First, I’d like to pour one out for an impressive streak that ended Sunday. The loss to the Rams was the first game of Russell Wilson’s career that the Seahawks did not hold a lead at any point in the game. I’m not sure if that’s an impressive streak compared to others because I haven’t seen anyone mention it, but I personally am pretty impressed by it. And I’m going to miss it.

Second, I’d like to add attention to Rams punter Johnny Hekker, who likes to hit people from behind and then crumple to the ground when those people look to retaliate later in the game.

Apparently he does this kind of stuff all the time. I’m not usually a fan of laying out punters, but Hekker is making me reconsider.

I watched the Browns game closely due to my Chiefs responsibilities, and I was pretty impressed that the Browns managed to cover. Not the highest praise, I know, but I thought they were going to get blown out. What was your reaction to the game? Were you happy to improve draft position, or did you want to the Browns to play spoiler? And is Tramon Williams always as bad as he has been the last two weeks?

Will: I didn’t watch most of this game as I was on the road, returning from some holiday travel. I was thus reliant on the radio voice of the Browns, Jim Donovan, to tell me how excited I should or shouldn’t get. And I’ll tell you what — I was pretty excited! Johnny Manziel only completed 13 of 32 passes, but he ran for 108 yards and didn’t get sacked once by a fearsome Chiefs defense. That comes with an asterisk since Justin Houston and Tamba Hali (14 sacks combined) missed the game due to injury, but still! I was also glad to see the Brownies play hard and not give up 30 points for the second time in nine weeks.

Re: draft position, I don’t think I want the Browns to have the No. 1 overall pick. Far as I can tell there isn’t any one player who is the clear-cut top guy, so why put that extra pressure on a consistently crap front office? No. 2 is very nearly No. 1, and they should — should! — be able to find a player at that spot.

Let’s move to relevant teams. The NFC playoff field (Panthers, Cardinals, Packers, Redskins, Vikings, Seahawks) looks way better than the AFC (Patriots, Bengals, Broncos, Texans, Chiefs, Jets), right? Let’s say for the sake of argument that the Panthers, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks have a real shot at winning the Super Bowl — due to either 2015 performance or previously-earned benefit of the doubt. Does any AFC team beyond the Pats feel like a genuine contender?

Derek: The Chiefs have shown us anything can happen, but I wouldn’t put any of those AFC teams on the same level as New England. I mean, look at those quarterbacks: AJ McCarron, Brock Osweiler, Brandon Weeden, Alex Smith, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Would you really trust any of them in a playoff game? It certainly looks like whoever comes out of the NFC will be a clear Super Bowl favorite unless they’re facing the Patriots, or said NFC team is too beat up from playing the other NFC teams.

Watching Johnny these past two weeks, it became clear that he’s not a great quarterback right now, but he’s exciting and way better than he was last year. Did watching him evade pressure time and again make up for the fact that he completed 13 passes on 32 attempts for 136 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception?

Will: This is backhanded praise to be sure, but this is the Johnny that I’ve been waiting for. Exciting, slippery, yet not completely competent. He had plenty of missed throws, but based on the comments I’ve seen many of them were due to shoddy fundamentals. I’m not sure whether to view this as a good or bad thing. Part of me thinks it’s correctable stuff he can iron out, while the other part is saying you idiot, what was he working on all last year?

I still have no idea if he can be a legit quarterback in the National Football League. What’s your gut feeling: Should the Browns give Johnny a shot next year or bring in QB TBD?

Derek: Can’t it be both? Johnny has shown promise, but he’s also shown that he may never learn. I’m fine with giving Johnny a shot as long as there’s some kind of backup plan. If the number two quarterback isn’t an established veteran or an early draft pick, that’s a problem. On a related note, I feel I should point out that as of this writing Jared Goff has over 400 yards and six touchdowns in his bowl game and it’s not even the fourth quarter yet. Either he or Paxton Lynch will be the first quarterback off the board in the draft, and the Browns will probably have a shot at both of them. I wouldn’t hold it against Cleveland if they picked one of those guys to be the Kirk Cousins to Johnny’s RGIII. If I were running the show, one of those two (or possibly Joey Bosa) would be a Brown next year.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

We both thought the Steelers would run circles around the Ravens, but they lost the game and possibly their playoff spot. How much did you enjoy seeing that? Was it the best part of Week 16?

Will: I also didn’t see this game, but I did listen to a good chunk of it on the radio; I was driving from my brother’s place in Pittsburgh back home to Cleveland, so it was a treat to hear the radio voices of the Steelers wonder what the heck was going on out there. But yeah, with the exception of Johnny running for 100 yards, Pittsburgh losing was definitely a high point.

That said, I’ve been a real grump this whole season. The Browns have sucked, and that’s dovetailed nicely with my waning enthusiasm for the NFL in general. That said, what storyline should I be interested as we enter the playoffs? TEACH ME TO FEEL AGAIN.

Derek: I sort of alluded to it earlier, but I think almost every NFC playoff game is going to be must-see TV. Maybe the Vikings and Redskins aren’t on the same level as the other four teams, but any combination of the Panthers, Cardinals, Packers, or Seahawks would be pretty compelling. You can also watch Brandon Weeden start a playoff game. That should be fun.

The Panthers have finally fallen! Are you happy, disappointed, or somewhere in-between?

Will: Somewhere in between. Even though I would have picked them to win out, I’m not shocked that they lost, even to the Falcons. It would have been fun to have an undefeated team in the postseason, though I don’t know if I could handle the associated TV talk about Cam Newton’s relative eliteness.

Say, you didn’t menace anyone with a bat this week, did you?

Derek: Maybe.

sting hogan

But that’s my business, and mine alone.

Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.

Gentlemen of the Week

Derek: Julio Jones can do this:

julio catch

That looks difficult. I’m going to give it to him.


Most Hungover Fan Bases

Derek: I’m returning this coveted award to the Steelers. They lost to Ryan Mallett(!) in a game they needed to make the playoffs. They only scored 17 points(!) against one of the worst defenses in the league. They might be the second best team in the AFC, but they’ll need help to back into the playoffs. And if your Browns upset them next week, expect to see the Steelers here again.

Will: Oh god that paragraph gave me a chub. Thank you. I look forward to next week’s game undoing that and Cleveland taking Pittsburgh’s place as Most Hungover.

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 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.

The big, bad Seahawks beat the Browns: NFL Week 15 Recap

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wild and crazy Week 15 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Seahawks-Browns showdown, Odell Beckham losing his mind, Brandon Weeden coming back from the dead, the Chiefs earning an apology, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.

AP Photo/Scott Eklund

AP Photo/Scott Eklund

Will: In one of the least surprising results of Sunday, the Seahawks trounced the Browns and covered the spread in the process. What’s it like supporting the winner of an NFL squash match? Were you remotely concerned at any point? Were you in awe of the Browns gifting Seattle a field goal to end the first half by virtue of a penalty on a Hail Mary? DO YOU FEEL LIKE A BIG MAN NOW, HUH?

Derek: First, I just want to apologize to our dear readership for our inability to put together a Week 14 Recap and last week’s Wrasslin’ Wednesday. My traveling plans kept me from watching sports last week, much less forming some sort of reasoned analysis. Toss in 48 hours in planes and airports in a seven day stretch and I just couldn’t get my brain to do anything productive in a timely manner. I hope you’ll forgive us. To football!

I DO FEEL LIKE A BIG MAN. Though I admittedly was worried when Johnny hit Barnidge to cap a 15-play opening drive. I was reminded of that time the Seahawks were trailing 21-0 at home to the 0-7 Buccaneers in 2013. Sure, the Seahawks went on to win that game in overtime before winning the Super Bowl, but it was still an unpleasant memory.

I’ve been fortunate enough to make a recent habit of supporting the winner of an NFL squash match, and it seems like some sort of trap. Nine of Seattle’s first 11 games were nail-biters. Now they’ve won their last three games by a combined score of 103-26. My guard is permanently up after Super Bowl XLIX. How is this seemingly good thing going to horribly crush me in the worst possible way? Whose ACL is going down? What terrible fourth quarter collapse am I going to have to suffer through? Rip the band aid! GET IT OVER WITH!

I suppose the Browns version of that oncoming car crash was the field goal gift. I was in awe as it happened, and even more so after the fact. You noted that Seattle covered the 15 point spread, but they wouldn’t have if it weren’t for that field goal. I hope the folks who gambled on the Seahawks plan to send The Cleveland Facemasker a batch of Christmas cookies.

How are Cleveland fans dealing with The Cleveland Facemasker? How did you feel after the Browns’ opening drive? Did you see anything that makes you feel good about the future?

Will: The Facemasker, if I’m not mistaken, was former Green Bay Packer Tramon Williams. Six months ago, one might think of him as a reliable, savvy, veteran player from a winning franchise. Now he’s playing like a Brown. Poor guy never stood a chance. I think this season is too far gone for anyone — anyone reasonable, at least; a bunch of people still seem to enjoy tossing out words like inexcusable and disgraceful and embarrassing — to get too upset about it.

Funny thing is, I feel like the Browns didn’t play all that badly. Considering they were on the road against a really good team, I think it was a respectable 17-point loss. Johnny did some stuff, and Duke Johnson did some stuff, and Travis Benjamin did some stuff. Rookie offensive lineman Cameron Erving got tossed around and the secondary got shredded, but hey, whatreyagonnado?

Can you explain Doug Baldwin catching 10 touchdowns in his last four games? I can chalk up those allowed by the Browns to garden variety poor play, and I suppose the same goes for the Ravens, but this is still crazy production. Has he separated himself from the rest of the Seahawks receivers? What does he do well?

Derek: I can’t. I like Doug Baldwin a lot, in large part because he has Michael Jordan’s ability to find a slight in almost anything. One of the perks of going home was finally getting to enjoy the mountain of Seahawks stuff I bought after they won the Super Bowl. One of those Seahawks things was the Blu-Ray that I got for subscribing to Sports Illustrated for a year. And my favorite part was when the camera zoomed in on Baldwin’s sour visage during a regular season game and he angrily proclaimed “there aren’t enough 89 jerseys in the stands.” I love it. I’m going to start trolling him on Twitter and if I see him in public I’m going to pretend I think he’s Percy Harvin. You’re the best, Doug. Unless you’re reading this, in which case you suck.

But still, I can’t explain this kind of explosion. He’s doing things no one has ever done. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s the eighth best receiver in the league this year. He’s not the most athletic guy in the world, but he’s sneaky and tough and has a two-ton chip on his shoulder. I can’t wait to see the look he gives Seattle’s beat reporters when he doesn’t make the All-Pro team.

Is there a Cleveland player you’re still enjoying even though things are falling apart? And what are your views on tanking? Should the Browns bench everyone for a shot at hometown hero Joey Bosa or a(nother) quarterback?

Will: I don’t know if I’d say I’m enjoying Johnny, but I am fascinated by him and the offense. The offensive line has slowly fallen apart due to injury, so there are a whole bunch of plays where he’s just running for his life. You can see that he has a better grasp of the offense than he once did, and I think he’s trying to do all the regular boring things that quarterbacks do, but the most fun thing in the world is when he bails out and looks for someone to chuck it to downfield. If it goes to Duke or Benjamin, all the better.

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 haven’t dived into mock drafts and such yet, but I’m excited about another top-three pick, even if history suggests I have no reason to feel that way.

Brandon Weeden was a Browns’ first-rounder, and now he is an NFL starter again, this time for the Houston Texans. Will you take solace in his starting for three different franchises when you have a personal failure? Does Brandon Weeden have the most inspirational career in football?

 Michael Conroy

Michael Conroy

Derek: I think Steve Harvey is going to get me through all of my personal failures for years to come. But I’m always looking forward to more Weeden. He’s certainly inspirational, in that he inspires me to take out a huge loan so I can bet against him in the playoffs and set myself up for life. I really can’t express how excited I am to watch him in the playoffs. They’re going to lose 3-2 and J.J. Watt will glare at him so fiercely that he’s banished to 300 cycles in the Phantom Zone. Still a great night!

What did you think of that Panthers-Giants game? Was it the Game of the Year?

Will: It was pretty freakin’ awesome. I didn’t watch most of it once the Panthers went up 35-14, because what was gonna happen, Eli leading the Giants comeback against an undefeated team? But that’s exactly what he did. New York scored four touchdowns in a 15-minute span across the third and fourth quarters. Alas, they left Cam and company almost two minutes to get three points, which turned out to be plenty.

The greater story, sadly, is that the shine appears to be coming off of Odell Beckham. delivered a nasty headshot to Josh Norman and earned himself a one-game suspension in the process. In your most outraged voice, how much contempt should we have for him?

Derek: <outrage>He’s a thug and he should be suspended for a year!</outrage>

I wasn’t too bothered by it. He absolutely should have been ejected or benched, but it was one of the most compelling things I’ve seen all year. The only legitimate contempt I can muster is for Beckham and the Giants’ PR teams, who are out in full force trying to make the situation look different than what it was. It was bats! It was gay slurs! Or maybe he was a little too amped up and got carried away. This is why I don’t like PR people.

Is there any subplot or playoff scenario you’re looking forward to seeing play out over the last two weeks?

Will: The AFC playoffs could be really, really bad. The quarterbacks could, anyway. Right now we’re looking at Brady and Roethlisberger, then its A.J. McCarron (in for Andy Dalton), Bork Osweiler, Brandon Weeden, and Alex Smith, with Ryan Fitzpatrick hoping to butt in. In the NFC, meanwhile, we have Cam, Carson Palmer, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson (and Kirk Cousins and Teddy Bridgewater). Too early to take the NFC money line in the Super Bowl?

Is there any random non-playoff team that you have found yourself getting somewhat attached to this season, for better or worse? Who compels you?

AP Photo/Nick Wass

AP Photo/Nick Wass

Derek: They may not end up being a non-playoff team, but I’ve been really interested in the Chiefs. Way back in Week 5, you asked me if I thought any teams were already done for the year. I said the Lions (because they sucked) and the Chiefs, because they were 1-4 and they just lost Jamaal Charles for the year. “It was going to be difficult to crawl back to respectability with Charles,” I said. “Without him, they’re done.” Now they’re 9-5 with home games against Cleveland and Oakland to close out the year. They have the same record as the Steelers and the Seahawks. I don’t know how this is happening. If they do get that sweet, sweet playoff game against Brandon Weeden, they’ll deserve it.

Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.

Gentlemen of the Week

Derek: Who else but Ron Rivera? No more bats on the field! That’s a load off.

Will: I’ll second that. Look at this stupid shit:

A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Beckham felt threatened when [Marcus] Ball carried the baseball bat onto the field in pregame warm-ups and motioned with it toward the receiver while making comments.

You’re threatened by a guy gesturing with a bat when 300-pound dudes trying to break every one of your ribs is an every-play thing? C’MON MAN!

Most Hungover Fan Bases

Derek: Cowboys fans. They’ve had to watch some truly, truly horrific quarterback play this year. Matt Cassel got flagged for intentional grounding and threw an interception on the same play, which I didn’t think was possible. Now they’re going to finish in last place in one of the worst divisions in recent memory and somehow the quarterback they cut earlier this year could start a playoff game for the Texans. It’s difficult to pity Cowboys fans, but I do. That’s a rough run of luck.

Will: I’ll go with San Diego. The Chargers may have played their last ever game in San Diego, and that just plain sucks. Also, how weird is it that we don’t yet know the fate of the Chargers, Raiders, or Rams? Doesn’t it take longer than six months to build a stadium and move a franchise? The NFL is so dumb.

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 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


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 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


Derek: 75-94-7

Will: 78-91-7

Giving Thanks for Football: Week 12 Thursday Picks

NFL Picks

Here are Will and Derek’s picks for the Week 12 Thursday games. Picks for the remainder of the games will run on Friday.

(Home team in caps. Line per consensus.)

DETROIT (-2.5) vs. Philadelphia

USA Today

USA Today

Derek: As unfathomable as it seems, the Eagles have only won one more game than the Lions. The Lions have also looked surprisingly competent for two weeks while the Eagles have looked lost for quite some time now. I’m not completely on board with the resurgent Lions, so I’ll take the points.

Will: That seems unfathomable indeed. Basically what this pick comes down to in my eyes is which narrative is stronger: Chip Kelly is still a genius, or Chip Kelly is kind of an idiot. The Lions seem like the sort of team that turns an opposing fool into a genius, but they’ve also won their last two Thanksgiving Day games and lost the one prior in overtime. In the name of Tim “the Toolman” Taylor, I’m picking the Lions.

DALLAS (-1) vs. Carolina

Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America

Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America

Derek: Yes, the undefeated Panthers are underdogs against the 3-7 Cowboys. I would have been all over Dallas if I was getting four points or more, but this is just silly. I cannot in good conscience pick the Cowboys under these circumstances. I’ll take the Panthers.

Will: It seems silly that the Cowboys are favored. I feel even sillier wanting to pick them. Behold the power of Romo! Cowboys it is.

GREEN BAY (-8.5) vs. Chicago

Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America

Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America

Derek: Maybe the Packers are finally back. Or maybe not! No one knows. Matt Forte should be back for the Bears, but Alshon Jeffery may not play and Martellus Bennett is already ruled out. Jay Cutler and his supporting cast could have trouble keeping up if Green Bay’s offense is clicking again. I say the Packers take care of business at home.

Will: The Bears, not unlike the Lions, have been quietly semi-competent lately. They’ve won two of their last three games and have been within a field goal in each of their last three losses. I’ll take the points.

I encourage everyone to back the opposite of my choices. Let it be my Thanksgiving gift to you.

Coin Flippin: NFL Week 11 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 consensus. Bye: Cleveland, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh]

CAROLINA (-7) vs. Washington

Derek: As I mentioned yesterday, my picks this week will be the result of a coin flip. We’re off to a great start, as the coin was wrong last night. We’ll get back to my terrible picks starting with the Thanksgiving games, but for now I want to see if an inanimate object can pick games better than I can. Heads I pick the home team, tails I pick the road team. Let’s do this.

The Redskins are on an absolute tear right now, relatively speaking. They came back against Tampa, almost put up a decent showing against New England, and throttled New Orleans. The Panthers have to slip up sometime, right? I’ll take Washington.

Will: Picking games is like playing fantasy football in that it makes me feel stupid because I’m bad at it. I hate picking games. I have no idea what’s going to happen in any of these goddamn things. I’m picking angry this week. Let’s see how it goes. 

I’ve been seeing some talk on Twitter about how mean and nasty the Panthers’ o-line is, which dovetails nicely with my strategy this week. Panthers stay unbeaten, cover at home.

DETROIT (PK) vs. Oakland

Derek: The Lions may have beaten Green Bay last week, but the coin and I will not submit to recency bias. The Raiders have been the better team this year, so I say they pull it off.

Will: …Yeah, I’m gonna put more stock in the seven losses that preceded that win. The Raiders have dropped two straight, but are they not a better team than Detroit? They can’t win this thing straight up? I say they can.

Dallas (-1) vs. MIAMI

Derek: Tony Romo is back! As we all know, the Cowboys are undefeated this year when Romo starts. Who cares about the small sample size? The Cowboys show new life and stay alive in the NFC East race.

Will: I like Tony Romo, and I really really hope he has a good game and everyone celebrates him because he seems nice. Cowboys. (So much for picking angry.)

ATLANTA (-5.5) vs. Indianapolis

Derek: It’s Indy’s first game since news broke of Andrew Luck’s lacerated spleen, meaning Old Man Hasselbeck, one of my personal favorites, will once again take over. Hasselbeck is 2-0 this season, and the Falcons have looked like hot garbage for a little over a month now. That said, this is the first of Hasselbeck’s starts in which the opposing team didn’t spend any time preparing for Luck. They’ve had two weeks to do so, and Julio Jones should be able to take down Indy’s 28th ranked pass defense. The Falcons get back on track.

Will: This one is tricky, because both of these teams are good but also sorta suck. It’s also tricky because Andrew Luck’s innards exploded. I sniff a hint of Ewing Theory here. Colts cover.

BALTIMORE (-2.5) vs. St. Louis

Derek: Case Keenum is starting for the Rams this week. Todd Gurley is incredible, but he can’t do it all by himself. Baltimore only gives up 3.8 yards per carry, which is tied for sixth best in the league. Call me crazy, but I don’t trust Keenum to make Baltimore regret stacking the box. I’ll take Baltimore.

Will: I will not call you crazy. I don’t trust Case Keenum to deliver a FedEx, let alone a football. Ravens.

New York Jets (-2.5) vs. HOUSTON

Derek: The Jets are only favored by 2.5? That’s a little fishy. Vegas is begging us all to take the Jets. The coin and I shan’t fall for their trickery. Normally, I’d point out that the Jets have had 10 days to prepare and the Texans are on a short week, but my picks suck so I’m glad the coin is pointing me the other way. The points it is!

Will: That’s super duper fishy. What the hell is this about? Houston’s at home, but they’re Houston. Did their Monday Night win swing things that much? Y’all ain’t fooling me. Jets.

MINNESOTA (-1) vs. Green Bay

Lukas Keapproth/Press Gazette Media

Lukas Keapproth/Press Gazette Media

Derek: Okay, this is the week the Vikings lose. I don’t understand how this is happening. The Vikings have covered in every game since Week 2. The Packers haven’t covered since Week 5. It can’t go on forever! I’ll take Green Bay.

Will: And this is the week the Packers get their shit together. It has to be. Right? I say yes.

PHILADELPHIA (-5.5) vs. Tampa Bay

Derek: Tough to pick this one, since I’m not sure how Mark Sanchez will perform in relief of Sam Bradford. Is he a step up? A step down? Who knows? I sure don’t. And as always, when you don’t know, take the points.

Will: No idea. Points.

Denver (-1) vs. CHICAGO

Derek: The Denver defense has feasted on turnovers at times, and now they get to face a turnover prone quarterback. John Fox and Jay Cutler have the revenge factor going for them, but Peyton Manning sitting out may actually be good for the Broncos. I say Denver wins.

Will: I know that don’t want to be the one who doubted Brock Osweiler. When every quarterback in the league is at least 6-foot-8, we’re gonna look back at Brock as the reason why. Broncos.

SEATTLE (-12.5) vs. San Francisco

Derek: Thank goodness. I didn’t want to back Blaine Gabbert in Seattle. I’ll miss watching Colin Kaepernick sail passes out of bounds, but Blaine Gabbert is a nice consolation. Or the 49ers will win and I’ll spend all of next week in a closet. I’ll choose to think positively and pick the Seahawks.

Will: The Seahawks won by 17 last time these teams met, and that was on the road. They oughta win by two touchdowns at home, easy. But nothing comes easy in the National Football League. God help me, I’m backing Blaine Gabbert in Seattle. This will end well.

Kansas City (-3) vs. SAN DIEGO

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Derek: The Chiefs have played two teams that were passing well (Green Bay in Week 3, Cincinnati in Week 4) and got blown out in both games. The Chargers are coming out of their bye and should be able to air it out. I’ll take the points.

Will: Seems like the Chiefs are decent, but I’m not sure they’re favored-by-three-on-the-road decent. Plus, if anyone is going to come up with a garbage time touchdown to cover the spread, it’s Phil Rivers. Points for me too, please.

ARIZONA (-5) vs. Cincinnati

Derek: It’s getting late in the season, and it’s a prime time game! In other words, it’s exactly the sort of game in which you bet against Andy Dalton. Arizona it is.

Will: Oooh! Good game here. I have a hunch that ol’ Andy has another well-viewed loss or two in the chamber. Cardinals.

NEW ENGLAND (-7) vs. Buffalo

Derek: The Bills have started talking smack, which I’d say is ill-advised. How many times have we seen somebody run their the mouths before playing the Patriots and get blown out? Enough for me to take the home team.

Will: …yeah, have fun with that, Buffalo. I recommend Tim Hortons’ Timbits as sorrow-drowning fare. Pats.

Last week

Derek: 2-12

Will: 6-8


Derek: 62-78-6

Will: 65-75-6