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The Week of NFL Reckoning

In many situations, the bell tolls for thee once Week 11 rolls around. Plus, the picks on this week’s slate of games.

It’s Week 11! I love Week 11! Here’s what happens in Week 11 …

We Can Officially Cross Off One-Third of the NFL’s Teams
Go away, dregs of the NFL! YOU WILL NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS! For the next seven weeks, these 11 teams exist only to screw up three-team teasers, generate “Will (fill in the blank) get (fired or benched)?” headlines, feed our fantasy football addiction, ruin any eliminator pools that aren’t over yet, provide unintentional comedy fodder, and (in the case of Chicago, anyway) ruin their city’s collective will to live. Your 2014 cross-offs: Oakland, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Tennessee, both New York teams, St. Louis, Washington, Houston, Minnesota, Chicago, and Chicago a second time.

The “Loser Leaves Town” Matches
Before the WWE hijacked every U.S. pro wrestling corner, smaller promotions in Texas, Georgia, Memphis and Canada survived by developing their own stars. Many times, those stars would leave for bigger promotions like NWA or WWE, only it was wrestling, so they’d “leave” by losing what was called a “Loser Leaves Town” match. In the NFL, those matches start happening in Week 11 — one or two “Loser Leaves Town” (or in this case, the playoff picture) games that actually mean something. Like Miami (now 6-4) knocking out Buffalo (5-5) last night. Sayonara, Buffalo. See you in 2014. And get out of town, Michael Hayes!

The “My Team Doesn’t Suck Quite Enough” Conundrum
A November staple covering any fan base that gives up on the current season, starts dreaming about the next draft’s franchise-saving QB (in this case, Marcus Mariota), shifts into rooting-against-my-own-team mode, then watches in abject horror when they can’t even tank the season correctly. You know, like the Jets upsetting Pittsburgh last Sunday. Congrats on the win, Jets fans! Say good-bye to the Marcus Mariota era! Enjoy the anonymous 6-foot-8 right tackle you’re drafting!

Struggling Coaches Losing Their Minds
We saw it before Week 10 when Lovie Smith inexplicably benched the vaguely promising Mike Glennon for the not-promising-whatsoever Josh McCown. And we saw it again this week when Jeff Fisher claimed that 25-year-old Austin Davis would remain St. Louis’s QB for the rest of the season, then inexplicably benched him two days later for 34-year-old Shaun Hill. And why? According to Fisher, “the best thing to do at this point moving forward is to lean on the experienced quarterback.” Experienced in what? Losing? Since 2010, Shaun Hill is 3-8 as a starter! That’s like Fox firing John Mulaney from Mulaney because it wanted to lean on a more experienced actor like Ian Ziering. Coaches LOSE THEIR SHIT in November.

Random Press Conferences Get Sad-Wonky
In October, as coaches and players get more and more frustrated, press conferences start getting angry-wonky. And that’s how you end up with moments like this.

“IF YOU WANT TO CROWN ’EM, THEN CROWN THEIR ASS! BUT THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE! AND WE LET ’EM OFF THE HOOK!”

Thanks, Coach. But in the Weeks 10-11 range, as teams and fans start giving up hope, press conferences become more sad-wonky. And that’s how you end up with a lifelong YouTube headline like “Bucs QB Josh McCown cries in post-game press conference.”

Beleaguered Fan Bases Graduate From “Profoundly Depressed” to “Really Bitter”
And it manifests itself in occasionally hilarious ways. Like this fake Tampa radio ad begging for volunteers for the Bucs’ overmatched offensive line. Or Chicago fans responding to that Packers-Bears annihilation by cranking out mean Internet meme after mean Internet meme. Actually, Bears fans are so bitter that, when The Onion wrote an article pretending that Jay Cutler blamed the punter for Chicago’s woes, Bears fans believed it was real and flipped out. All bets are off in the bitterness/biting-humor departments when your team sucks in November. Speaking of Cutler …

The Annual “Jay Cutler Is Jeff George” Email Barrage
First the foliage changes, then comes Halloween, then the Cutler-George email barrage, then Thanksgiving. Those emails usually resemble this recent one from Andrew in Las Vegas: “Why hasn’t anyone compared Jay Cutler to Jeff George yet? Big arms, tremendous upside, misanthropic QBs who always stink it up but put up big numbers. If smoking Jay Cutler grows a mustache, this comparison is a lock. Cutler through 2014: 26,030 yards, 172-121 TD-INT, 85.5 rating. George’s career: 27,602 yards, 154-113 TD-INT, 80.4 rating. Jay Jeff George Cutler.” Please, hold this thought for when we get to the Bears section of this week’s picks.

The Annual Fantasy Football Angry Email Chain
I love when this happens. See, Week 11 is when one-third of your fantasy league realizes that it can’t make the playoffs. That leads to one of the following three outcomes: (a) someone making a shady trade to help a buddy, (b) a checked-out owner forgetting to sub out a starter on a bye, (c) someone who’s been mathematically eliminated grabbing the best waiver-wire free agent anyway, just to be a total dick.

What happens next? Any of these three events trigger a leaguewide email chain that starts off as a ball-busting thing and degenerates into mean-spirited barbs that keep degenerating … and degenerating … and if someone doesn’t squash the chain, potentially, someone will cross the line with something like, “That’s why I hooked up with your girlfriend in college, because YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE.” And then the email chain dies and everyone pretends it never happened.

The “Nobody Believes in Us” Team Officially Reveals Itself
Really, that team revealed itself in Week 10 … but we didn’t realize its identity until Week 11. The obvious candidate here: Arizona losing all Super Bowl believability after Carson Palmer went down … or did it? (We’ll get to that later.)

The stealth candidate? This one hurts … I blew it. Last Friday, I posted my Week 10 column, made a bunch of M. Night Harbaughlan jokes and received two subsequent emails that made me want to injure myself. I can’t believe I missed it. Dammit. Anyway, those emails …

Drew in Seattle: “I want this on record now after your Week 10 picks. The Niners have quickly become the ‘Nobody Believes in Us’ team. Everyone is so concerned about Harbaugh leaving and not paying attention to the fact that they are clearly the most dangerous team. Have wins over the ’Boys and Eagles (so they win any wild-card tiebreaker) plus still have one Arizona game that could be for the division. Niners are going to run the table and finish 12-4. They will then meet your beloved Pats in the Super Bowl and what happens then, well, probably can’t show that on network tv. Hope you run this email, after all of this comes true.”

Michael in Santa Barbara: “I just saw another headline titled ‘Are the 49ers done?’ This follows a stream of trade rumors, reported tension, mutiny, insider trading, treason, and ebola. It’s official — nobody believes in the 49ers. The remaining schedule is: @NO, @NYG, WASH, SEA, @OAK, @SEA, SD, ARI. I suspect they will be a good, healthy team by the time they host the Seahawks on Thanksgiving. They are in most successful road team over the past 3 seasons. They can win 6 of their remaining games. And NOBODY BELIEVES IN THEM! Not even Vegas. The 49ers are 25/1 odds to win the Super Bowl. Let that sink in for a second. They are going to peak at the perfect time. If they have a ticket to the dance, they are posed to make a run like the 2011 Giants. The 49ers at 25/1 is more enticing than your Royals bet at 18/1. (By the way, why didn’t you and Sal hedge?)”

And now? They’re 17-to-1. And they’ll probably be 7-4 in two weeks … with that Thanksgiving home game against Seattle waiting. Hmmmmmmmm. Is it too late to believe that nobody believes in the Niners? Quickly, here’s the case for the Cardinals.

Punnet in Phoenix: “Last week you wrote about the Cardinals transitioning from a ‘nobody believes in us’ team to an ‘everybody believes in us’ team. Now that Carson is out with a torn ACL and Stanton is in, we’re back to ‘nobody believes in us!’ Has any other team transitioned so quickly? It captures what it means to be an Arizona sports fan — you oscillate back and forth with legitimate hope and depression about your teams.”

Ben C. in Tempe: “I can’t believe this! (No I’m not mad, I’m happy). Yes, Carson Palmer obtaining a potentially career-ending injury 2 days after obtaining a 3 year contract extension is pretty depressing, but think about the most important ramifications of yesterday’s game. Not only did the Cardinals win, but we went from being the possibly-over-hyped- too-much-confidence-team to once again…. wait for it…. NOBODY BELIEVES IN US!!! There is a white guy who loves wearing kangol hats who is very ready for the rest of this season. P.S. sorry Carson.”

(So … Niners or Cardinals? I’ll give my verdict later in the column. Let’s hope nobody believes in my verdict.)

We’re Officially in “One Sunday Annihilates Every Gambler” Range
Every November features one bonkers gambling Sunday that crushes absolutely everyone. Bonkers Gambling Sunday always happens in Week 11, 12 or 13; it always features at least two big-money dogs winning outright along with two other crazy endings that send Vegas into a tizzy; and it always ends with Chris Berman declaring on Sunday night, “And Teej, that was one WILD Week (fill in the number) in the National Football League.”

Because I’m a masochist, I love knowing that Bonkers Gambling Sunday is coming, then insisting on betting and trying to brazenly avert the Bonkers Gambling Sunday land mines the way you’d sidestep cars if you stupidly walked across a highway. WARNING: Bonkers Gambling Sunday might happen this weekend. The favorites went 10-2 last Sunday/Monday and climbed over .500 against the spread in 2014. In other words …

The RGABJTLTTHWAUCTWDNCHHJATNMIPTCWUJLTOW
That’s the acronym for “Roger Goodell’s annual botch job that’s limping toward the holidays with an unclear conclusion that will definitely not cost him his job as the national media intermittently pretends to care while ultimately just looking the other way.” (I really need to work on getting better at acronyms.) This time around, the Goodell-Rice saga somehow made it to mid-November without a clear resolution to the question “Why did Goodell re-suspend Rice without any new evidence, and why did he pretend that he DID have new evidence?” The two-day independent hearing concluded on November 6. Hold on, I’m not good at math … wait, that was eight days ago. What’s going on? Why don’t we have a ruling yet? It has taken eight days and counting to digest a two-day hearing? No wonder this country is so screwed up.

The Sneaky-Great Division Wager
By Week 11, there’s always one under-the-radar divisional wager with sneaky-great odds lurking out there. So what’s that wager in 2014? I’m glad you asked! It’s the 6-4 Ravens fetching +260 odds to win the AFC North. Just do the math.

STEELERS (+320 odds): They’re 6-4 with a fairly easy schedule remaining (@TN, bye, NO, @Cin, @ATL, KC, Cin), but that’s also the problem. Mike Tomlin’s Steelers teams love blowing games to NFL doormats — as you might have noticed last weekend, or if you frequent Reddit’s NFL page and stumbled across the “Steelers are 2-10 in their last 12 games against teams with a .200 or worse winning percentage” thread. Remember, THIS was the team that blew a playoff game to Tim Tebow. Throw in the actual news headline “Ben Roethlisberger: Don’t Blame Justin Bieber for Steelers Loss” and I don’t know how the Steelers are finishing 9-7 … but they’re finishing 9-7.

BENGALS (+280 odds): Andy Dalton already sucked the life out of their season; there’s a really decent chance that Sunday’s Superdome blowout loss (and you know it’s coming) will earn him the Matt Schaub Award, given annually to the once-competent starting QB from a playoff team who becomes so shellshocked that it overwhelms his team’s playoff chances. If/when they lose in New Orleans, the Bengals will be 5-4-1 with home games against Pittsburgh and Denver and road games at Houston, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Pittsburgh left. Put it this way: Katherine Webb is probably doing a one-week juice cleanse to get ready for all the camera time she’s about to get.

BROWNS (+260 odds): Jumped to a 6-3 start thanks to the NFL’s easiest schedule. As Todd in Denver put it, “My excitement over the Browns’ current first-place standing, even as a lifelong Cleveland fan who has been battered and bruised since being born shortly before Red Right 88, is tempered by this link.” You mean it might be a red flag that Cleveland’s nine 2014 opponents have won only 36.9 percent of their games? Throw in Cleveland’s history and … I mean …

RAVENS (+260 odds): Maybe they’re 6-4, but the Ravens rank second overall in DVOA (12th offense, ninth defense, second special teams) and have only two “hard” games left (at New Orleans in Week 12, at Miami in Week 14).1 They’re also riding the residual karma of how wonderfully they handled Ray Rice’s situation from start to finish, especially the part where Ravens owner and frequent Roger Goodell golf buddy Steve Bisciotti held a 45-minute press conference to discredit ESPN.com’s September 19 Outside the Lines report that “found a pattern of misinformation and misdirection employed by the Ravens and the NFL” after Ray Rice’s elevator attack, then followed up by saying nothing about them ever again.


1.

The others: at Houston, home for San Diego, Jacksonville and Cleveland.

Here’s how I think it plays out. Everyone but Cincy has a chance to steal the division heading into Week 17. Pittsburgh blows it by squandering a home game against AJ McCarron and the Bengals, allowing their fans to torture themselves for the entire offseason and bemoan all the dumb games they lost in 2014. The New Browns could clinch the division by beating the Old Browns in Baltimore, only it’s Cleveland, so you KNOW how that one is turning out. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Baltimore won this game on a Hail Mary. Don’t rule it out.) And Cincy loses the division by a half-game because of Andy Dalton, but also because Mike Nugent couldn’t make a 36-yarder in OT against Carolina — if he makes that, they finish 10-6 and win the tiebreaker over Baltimore (whom they beat twice), only he didn’t, so they’ll miss the playoffs because God hates Cleveland AND Cincinnati.

And the Ravens? They cash in your +260 division bet before the Karma Police finally crush them in their Round 1 home game against the Chiefs. Hold on, let’s bring in Panic at the Disco covering Radiohead.

Did we cover everything? I think we did! Here’s how I think the playoff picture plays out (and I’m picking games accordingly) …

Top 6 AFC seeds: Pats, Broncos, Colts, Ravens, Chiefs, Dolphins
Top 6 NFC seeds: Cardinals, Eagles, Lions, Saints, Packers, Niners

Hold on, we have to give Cowboys fans a couple of moments to regroup. You guys cool? Can we finish the column? The Week 11 picks …

(HOME TEAMS IN CAPS)

DOLPHINS (-5.5) over Bills
Let’s just say that I wasn’t backing Kyle Orton in a “Loser Leaves Town” match — especially against a talented Miami team that has Indy fans quietly hoping they will NOT grab the no. 6 seed. (You know it’s true, Indy fans.) We need a depressed email from a Bills fan.

Q: I’m a lifelong Bills fan watching this Dolphins game. I’m trying to describe to a friend the frustration with their inability to score a touchdown in the red zone. It’s like we make so much progress down the field … everything looks promising … and then … NOPE. Shut down.  In describing my frustration I came up with the term ‘Bills Balls’ — the football fan version of blue balls. It works in so many levels. The four Super Bowl losses. The Music City Miracle. The year they lost to the Steelers’ backups to miss a playoff spot. Last week against the Chiefs, and so far this game against the Dolphins. This whole season. It’s now 19-9, with the Bills kicking 3 FGs and missing another. I’m already resigned to going to bed with a serious case of Bills Balls.
—Greg, Washington, DC

BS: You were so close. Great concept, solid execution … but wouldn’t it make much more sense to have an aching case of Blue Bills? Even emails from Bills fans about blue balls end up giving you reading blue balls.

CHIEFS (-2) over Seahawks
Q: Has any QB cost himself as much extension money as Wilson this year? Even Kaepernick waited to become bipolar AFTER he got his extension. He was in line to make 20 million a year plus after the Super Bowl, but now with him struggling to complete 50% of his passes and throwing picks like he is Oakland Carson Palmer what is he worth? I don’t trust him to win any game home or away. Opinion has changed 100% percent since February. What do you think he is going to get now? 15 million a year? 12??
—Jason Wright, Seattle

BS: The year after Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl, the Patriots lost four straight games to knock themselves out of the 2002 playoff race. His numbers for those four losses: 906 yards, 6 TDs, 7 INTs, 69.1 rating. The Pats put up 39 points total in the last three losses, followed by everyone in Boston wondering if we screwed up by trading Drew Bledsoe. Here’s the point: It’s way too early to worry about Russell Wilson. Seattle has a shaky offensive line and no game-breaking receivers. He’s in a tough spot. Seattle just isn’t that good.2 I love the Chiefs this week. (Please, Lord, don’t let Andy Reid make me regret this.)


2.

According to Aaron Schatz, the teams with the biggest rise in DVOA from Weeks 6-10 were New Orleans, Jax, Philly, Miami and NYJ … the biggest losers during that same span were Seattle, SD, Cincy, NYG and Atlanta.

Q: Since 2011 and the arrival of Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, did you know Alex Smith is 33-15-1 as a starter in regular season games against the spread? That’s a .687 win percentage! By comparison, over the last three years, Manning is .601, Wilson .601, Brady .536., and Luck .675. How are you guys not all over this?
—Greg Johnson

BS: And he always needed a nickname! Now he has one — The Coverer. Good Lord, did I do enough to jinx the Chiefs minus-2 yet? Let’s just move on.

Vikings (+3) over BEARS
It’s the Bummer Bowl. Let’s not air this game, please.

Q: Do you think we should release Adrian Peterson?
—200 different Vikings fans, Minnesota

BS: I’m a big believer in second chances if they’re earned, so no. I’d rather see the Vikings work with Peterson to become an advocate against child abuse, much like how Michael Vick raised so much awareness for animal abuse. Peterson could have an impact if he wanted to have one. Does he now understand that he went way, way, WAY overboard in disciplining his son? I sure hope so. Does he now understand that it’s not a good idea to whip your 4-year-old? I sure hope so. If he’s not interested in learning from his mistakes, or figuring out how those mistakes could help other people … then, and only then, would I release him. Who wants to root for someone like that?

Q: On Sunday night, all of us Packers fans were having a blast, and our diehard Bears friend that was with us (in desperation) tries to change the subject by asking me, “Have you been keeping up with the Walking Dead?” And I replied, “Yeah, you mean the Bears defense?”
—Robert B., Irvine

BS: Please, remember to tip your waiters and waitresses!!!!!! As promised earlier, here were two Jay Cutler moments from previous columns just to bang home the longtime Cutler-George parallels.

From 2009: “I received so many ‘Jay Cutler is the next Jeff George’ e-mails these past three weeks that I’m going to have to run one just to stop the influx (from Tony in St. Louis): ‘Isn’t Cutler the Jeff George of this era? He has it all: rocket arm, surly disposition, can turn a fan base against him at the drop of a hat. Will he impress one front office after another with his physical skills only to ultimately disappoint and move on after two years? Prediction: In 2022, a wheelchair-bound Al Davis signs balding, 39-year-old Jay Cutler to a two-year, $66 million contract with the Raiders. Then cuts him five days later.’”

And a mailbag question-and-answer from 2012

Q: My brother is a big Jay Cutler fan, but I’ve had to tell him 100 times that Jay Cutler is this generation’s Jeff George. I put 8-5 odds on Jay saying/doing something to a teammate/coach in the next three games that gets him run out of Chicago. My favorite scenario is a Jay Cutler vs Mike Tice wrestling match in the Chicago locker room (think Pinella vs Dibble) where no one tries to break it up because everyone wants to see how it turns out. Followed by the new regime in Arizona trading a #1 pick to Chicago for Cutler in an effort to keep up with the division. In Arizona they will treat him like a savior until an offensive line worse than any in Chicago turns him into Jay Cutler again and his caustic nature drives nice guy Larry Fitzgerald into retirement (I can’t wait to see Larry on FOX). At the end of his career he will end up with the Raiders where he has good numbers for some forgettable 6-10 Raiders teams until he is not resigned. He will then spend 2-3 years being mentioned for every opening on every QB-poor team until people realize he is 40 years old and 300 pounds.
—Joe Burianek, Maple Valley, WA

BS: I enjoyed your Arizona/Oakland scenarios, but we disagree on Cutler’s George potential — something that’s been a recurring theme in this column over the years. (I think I’ve flip-flopped on it nine or 10 times.) Check out their career numbers; they’re totally different.

Cutler: 91 starts, 20,913 yards, 134 TDs, 100 INT, 60.9% completion, 84.0 rating
George: 124 starts, 27,602 yards, 154 TDs, 113 INT, 57.9% completion, 80.4 rating

(Hey, wait a second … )

(The lesson, as always: Jay Cutler is probably Jeff George.)

Texans (+3.5) over BROWNS
The Browns are in first place in mid-November for the first time in 20 years!!! What could go wrong? How can the Tree of Brady matchup (Ryan Mallett vs. Brian Hoyer) NOT be decided by somebody driving Brady-style for a game-winning field goal in the final minute? I’m grabbing the extra half-point. Meanwhile, you might remember me writing about Ryan Fitzpatrick being one of the least successful starting QBs ever last week. Reader Nathaniel Lee went on Pro-Football-Reference.com’s Play Index, cracked the numbers of everyone who started at least 85 games, and yielded “four distinguished gentlemen, of whom Fitzpatrick has the HIGHEST win percentage.” Those numbers:

Adds Nathaniel, “I find it cosmically satisfying that Peyton and Eli’s dad was essentially the least successful QB in NFL history.” (Hold on, I’m not done pumping my fist yet.) I mean, stop being so petty, Nathaniel.

Q: After watching Carrie on Homeland for 4 seasons, I am convinced her “sleep with the suspect” is a “Sky Hook” level signature move. With both Brody and the Pakistani kid, didn’t she make it look effortless?
—Kevin, Littleton, CO

BS: She’s the craziest character in the history of television. It’s like Showtime took Glenn Close’s character from Fatal Attraction, stuck her in the CIA and hid her meds. She nearly drowned her baby in the bathtub during the first episode this season and it didn’t crack the top five craziest things that Carrie From Homeland has done. And yes, I can make fun of her, because she’s a fictional TV character and I’m pretty sure there aren’t any real-life mentally ill people who continued to gain power at the CIA even after they ran off with a terrorist who tried to blow up the vice-president. Anyway, I wish SNL would do a sketch in which Carrie Matheson became an NFL sideline reporter.

Carrie: I’m here with Mike Tomlin — what do you guys need to change in the second half?

Tomlin: We gotta get rid of these turnovers, we’re really hurting ourselves right now.

Carrie: And if you want to know the truth, you’re also hurting me.

Tomlin: What do you mean?

Carrie: You know what I mean.

Tomlin: I don’t … we’ve never met.

Carrie (makes crazy Carrie face): We’ve never met. (Laughs crazily.) We’ve never MET? We met at the Super Bowl three years ago!

Tomlin: What?

Carrie: In Rita Benson’s suite … we walked by each other, you said hi, I said hi back.

Tomlin: I mean, I don’t remember.

(Carrie moves closer and starts flirting with him.)

Carrie: I totally remember.

Tomlin: I have to go to the locker room.

Carrie: Fine, go!

(Carrie starts sobbing and whips the microphone down.)

Jets’ Bye Week (+6.5) over Dallas’s Bye Week

Q: Is the “30 for 30” documentary on Sunday’s Steelers/Jets game already in production? Allow me to storyboard:

• A really suspicious line. To quote your Friday article: “JETS (+6) over Steelers … The line is suspiciously, curiously low for reasons that CANNOT be explained.”

• Did I mention the suspicious line? Jets had just lost 8 straight games — giving up 24 or more in each game. Steelers off 3 straight wins averaging 40+ in that span.

• 78 line moves.

• Head scratching attempt to field a punt by Pitt results in one of 4 turnovers.

• Badly missed 25yd FG by Pitt.

• The game was played in New Jersey.
—Doug W., Seattle

BS: I think the best part of that case was “The game was played in New Jersey.”

Falcons (-1) over PANTHERS
Bucs (+7.5) over WASHINGTON
SAINTS (-7.5) over Bengals

The Falcons have two wins since Week 1: both against Tampa Bay. They suck outdoors. Their coach might get fired any week. And yet … they’re suspiciously, curiously favored for reasons that cannot be explained? Hmmmmmmmmmm. Meanwhile, you know what I am definitely NOT doing? Laying 7.5 points with the 2014 Washingtons or grabbing Andy Dalton in the Superdome. Thanks anyway.

Speaking of things I’m staying away from, here’s the Shakey’s Pizza Watch for Week 11: the Tom Coughlin era, NYG’s secondary, trying to be a 10-win team with Kyle Orton, Balt’s secondary without Jimmy Smith, Miami’s O-line without Branden Albert, Jay Cutler in any Packers game (1-10, 22 INTs!), Pittsburgh’s run D, the accuracy of Bad News Blake Bortles, Drew Brees as a top-five QB, Sean Payton’s entire 2014 season, Derek Carr, Chicago’s defense/offense/coaching/chemistry/mojo/past/present/future, Joe Philbin’s clock management.

Broncos (-10.5) over RAMS
Raiders (+10.5) over CHARGERS
Denver played two below-average teams this season (the Jets and Raiders) and beat them by a combined score of 72-34. So … yeah. But if we’re headed for Bonkers Gambling Sunday, then either the Rams or Chargers are winning outright. (FYI: The 2014 Chargers shouldn’t be favored by 10-plus over anyone right now.) You are NOT allowed to tease these teams together, regardless.

In other news, Stephen Thompson in Ottawa believes the NFL should have designated the Raiders-Chargers game as a “Loser Moves to L.A.” match. Now THAT would be a sporting event. I wish we could bet on stuff like “L.A. is definitely getting two teams next season.” It’s happening. My money is on the Raiders and Rams.

49ers (-4.5) over GIANTS
Patrick Willis is out for the year, NaVorro Bowman is heading that way, Michael Crabtree is unhappy … NOBODY BELIEVES IN US!!!!! By the way, ESPN.com’s Mike Sando keeps track of “explosive plays,” which covers any rush of 10-plus yards and any pass of 20-plus yards. According to Sando, the Giants are allowing 9.1 explosive plays per game, the worst single-season figure dating back to 2001. In a related story, Tom Coughlin is one year older than my father. My dad and I just had the following conversation about this week’s episode of The Grantland Basketball Hour (re-airing on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on ABC and 11 p.m. ET on ESPN2):

Me: Did you like Jalen’s “Keeping It 100” segment?

Dad: I didn’t understand it. 100 what?

Me: It means “keeping it real.”

Dad: Keeping what real?

Me: Everything. You know, telling the truth about stuff.

Dad: What does that have to do with the number 100?

Me: It’s just an expression.

Dad: Does it mean that Jalen is hot? Like, he’s 100 degrees?

(Again, Tom Coughlin is one year older than my dad.)

Baltimore’s Bye Week (-13) over Jacksonville’s Bye Week
As much as your dad loves CBS, how has he not gotten the Jerry Stiller/William Shatner role in a sitcom? He’s wise and philosophical, then refers to the Patriots backup QB on your podcast as “Galapagos.” I love the man.
—Nils Dahl, Houston

BS: Once again: My dad is one year younger than Tom Coughlin. I’d like to pick the Niners a second time. As for the rest of the Sneaky-Good Watch: Marcell Dareus, Matt Stafford throwing on the run from weird arm angles, the Chris Borland/Anthony Barr Defensive ROY race, Cleveland’s offense when Josh Gordon comes back, Preston Parker, Mike Evans, the Percy Harvin trade for the Jets, Matt Hasselbeck being my Vocal Doppelgänger, the readers who want every awkward Mike Carey breakdown of every atrocious Jerome Boger call to be nicknamed “Picking Bogers.”

Eagles (+6.5) over PACKERS
CARDINALS (-1) over Lions
That’s right, I am backing Drew Stanton AND Mark Sanchez this week. LET’S DO THIS! In the words of 2016 President-Elect Bruce Arians: “We can win the Super Bowl with Drew Stanton. There is no doubt in my mind.” To be fair, there is some doubt in my mind. Lots, actually. But I like going against the Packers after an easy Sunday-night blowout win, and I love the Cards in the Nest giving fewer than three. Sign me up even though I apparently have magical jinxing powers. Here, look.

Q: You possibly just murdered both the Steeler’s season (they lost badly to the Jets AND the Browns are in first place) and Carson Palmer’s career with your Friday column. Should we expect to see a photo of both the Manning brothers this Friday?
—Andrew, Arlington

Q: Thanks for writing about the Cardinals Superbowl chances last week, it’s your fault Carson Palmer is injured now. May the Colts sign Bernard Pollard this week and ruin your season too.
—Ryan L, Tucson

Q: I’ll be the 100 millionth person to point this out:  you bear full responsibility for Carson Palmer’s ACL injury.
—Brian, Indianapolis

Q: I just finished reading your Y2K article from last Friday. Please spend the rest of the season writing how much the Broncos suck and how Peyton will go down any day now. Or, how Brady is underrated and will tear it up the rest of the year.
—Chris Scena, Littleton, CO

Q: You really put the Simmons STINK on Big Ben and Carson Palmer this week. To quote Ron Burgundy, I’m not even mad that’s amazing.
—Justin, New York

BS: Put it this way … I could have kept running those for another 200 emails. Sorry, Arizona. Just know that an Internet column actually does NOT have the ability to shred someone’s ACL. It’s been proven by scientists and everything.

Patriots (+2.5) over COLTS
(I know I wrote that I believed in the Colts as a serious playoff contender just two weeks ago, but now they’re playing my favorite team on Sunday night and I have to switch gears. I know you understand.)

Indy’s six victories in 2014: Jags by 27, Titans by 24, Ravens by 7, Texans by 5, Bengals by 27, Giants by 16. Congrats on those grueling wins against such tough competition, Indy!

Number of points New England scored in its last five games: 201.

Number of points Indy gave up to Hall of Fame QBs in 2014: 82 (Pittsburgh and Denver).

Over/under on emails from Giants fans furious that I don’t think Eli Manning is a Hall of Famer: 577.5.

And now, it’s time for the weekly good-luck charm Patriots email …

Q: Billy Boy! Nice victory the Pats had this week! You know who enjoyed it? Tom Brady. Do you think he celebrated like Manly Madison Bumgarner and chugged five beers? I’ll bet he di …. Uh oh, wait a second. I hope he’s not crying. That weighs heavily on our new douchemetrics scale. Let’s see … Yup! He looks to be smiling but on closer examination he’s definitely crying into his long, beautiful hair. Yet another reason why Tom Brady is our 2014 Douchebag Champion!
—Eric, NYC

BS: That email gimmick hasn’t lost in 2014! Let’s do this!

Steelers (-6.5) over TITANS
The Titans have scored 56 points total in their last nine halves. And in the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that. Meanwhile, Dennis from New York sent me this life-altering email: “Thank you for introducing me to the 1987 Crystal Light Aerobics Challenge video. I work at a medium size brokerage firm in NYC, and it has become a tradition for me and my co-workers to watch that video every Friday after the stock market closes.  It has become our unofficial way to start the weekend.  I discovered a similar video (this one with former notable pro athletes) that I believe you will enjoy in a similar vain. I especially think you might enjoy as I know of your distain for the NY Football Giants.”

Well, I watched it. And it’s glorious. Watch the first 30 seconds just for the horrible editing and the 1980s porn-movie parallels, which are both extensive, confusing and magnificent. I kept expecting to see Ginger Lynn and Peter North. No dice. From there, fast-forward to 2:24 for the important stuff. My favorite parts in order …

2:30 – Todd Christensen’s hair.

2:30 – Todd Christensen’s mustache.

2:40 – Todd Christensen trying to talk and move in rhythm.

3:01 – Check out Phil McConkey! Are we sure he never made an adult film? Are we sure this isn’t it?

3:14 – If CBS announced tomorrow, “We’ve just seen Phil Simms’s aerobics video from 1987, and we’ve decided to release him from his contract,” would you be shocked? Be honest.

3:29 – “Go Phil, you funky guy, you!” What?

3:40 – Comedy equals tragedy plus time, and comedy equals Phil Simms’s aerobics shorts multiplied by time.

3:50 – If everyone ripped their clothes off and started going at it right now, you would NOT be surprised.

4:01 – “Hey, Phil, it’s time for the cool-down, and I’m about to be abruptly and hilariously edited, I’m outta here.”

4:30 – I was alive in the 1980s and none of this seemed remotely strange. You have to believe me.

4:48 – The blonde who just hijacked the video definitely went to her hairstylist and asked for “The Sikma.”

5:02 – CBS just fired Phil Simms again.

5:09 – Please, watch Christensen in the background. I beg you. I double beg you.

5:14 – “I think you’ll find that you’ll look better, feel better and improve your athletic performance, whether it’s tennis, squash, skiing, wind surfing, or any other sport that wealthy white women do.”

5:24 – “ … Or, just chasing some pretty little girl around the room like my friend Eric here.” If it’s OK, I’m passing up all 507 jokes that would have gotten me fired there.

5:37 – CBS just fired Phil Simms for a third time.

Thank you, Internet. Thank you.

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 7-6
Season: 103-45
3


3.

I went 58-0 from Weeks 4 through Week 7. Also, Roger Goodell had no idea what happened inside the elevator with Ray Rice until September 8.