Just about every year, the best team in the league gets out to a hot start and goes 9-0. It’s far too early at that point to start thinking about an undefeated record, so nobody does, and soon enough, that team drops a game or two and finishes 13-3.
Very few teams reach the 13-0 mark, at which point things start to get serious and they can no longer dodge the questions about 16-0. Now, at that point, you can either cower away (Colts, 2009) or embrace it (Patriots, 2007). While we don’t know how the 2011 Packers’ season is going to end, they’ve made it abundantly clear that they’re taking this challenge head-on.
“I think I can speak for coach [Mike McCarthy] in that he’s going to try to go for this thing,” B.J. Raji told ESPN.com.
“It’ll be the same pressure to win the Super Bowl, so you might as well do it with a zero in the loss column,” Jordy Nelson told The Associated Press.
It’s clear they’re not afraid, which in turn makes me a bit afraid. I picked against them last week with the Raiders in Wisconsin, which turned out to be laughable, and with the Chiefs, Bears and Lions left on the schedule, a 16-0 record seems almost inevitable at this point.
We’ll get into how the Packers match up with the coach-less, quarterback-less Chiefs, and all the other 15 games on the NFL slate, as well as some Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week’s Picks (RQFLWP).
(Home team in caps.)
ATLANTA (-11) over Jacksonville
It tells you how bad the Jaguars are when they win 41-14 one week and enter the next as 11-point underdogs to a team barely in the playoff picture. But yes, these Jaguars are brutal to their core, and a blowout win over Tampa doesn’t change that.
Dallas (-7) over TAMPA BAY
Speaking of that 41-14 blowout … the Bucs are bad. Real bad.
Carolina (+6.5) over HOUSTON
Just as everyone is starting to say, “Gee, I guess the Texans really can win with T.J. Yates as their quarterback,” they’re obviously due for a setback, which at the very least involves a close game with Cam Newton and the Panthers.
Did you know Newton has more passing yards than Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mark Sanchez?
RQLFWP: “Houston [is] a playoff team with a winning record, but the Texans didn’t get there behind T.J. Yates.”
Note: As soon as they started showing the Yates family watching the game sitting high in the sky in Cincinnati, I knew I’d be eating these words.
Washington (+7) over NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants may come out and win this one, but the Redskins have two things working for them:
I’ve said all year long that the Redskins are exceptionally mediocre, which is good enough to hang around with the Giants.
Miami (+1.5) over BUFFALO
Remember when the Bills were 5-2 and the Dolphins were 0-7? Now the Bills are 5-8 and the Dolphins are 4-9.
I guess, what I’m trying to tell you is that you should not watch this football game.
Seattle (+3.5) over CHICAGO
What can I say? I’m a sucker for Skittles.
I also can’t ever put any faith in a team led by Caleb Hanie and with a running back as foolish as Marion Barber proved to be Sunday night in Denver.
New Orleans (-6.5) over MINNESOTA
The Saints are 10-3 and are on the winning side of an average score of 32-22 every week. The Vikings are 2-11 and get outscored 28-21 every week. I guess this line is under a touchdown because the Saints lost a couple of road games earlier in the year, but that was before they turned into the Super Saints in Week 9. I can’t see anything but a blowout for the Saints in Minnesota, where the Vikings haven’t won since Oct. 9.
Cincinnati (-6) over ST. LOUIS
The Bengals as a six-point favorite is a bad idea against almost any football team except for the Rams.
Tennessee (-6.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
My two-week stretch of trusting the Colts to cover absurd spreads served me well, but if we’re talking single digits, we can’t really talk at all. The Colts went 3-8 against the spread in their first 11 games … when I picked against them 11 times and thusly went 8-3.
You have no idea how comforting it is to get things back to normal.
That’s really saying something, too, because I watched Jake Locker run around and take a sack and not even have the presence of mind to at least heave up a prayer into the end zone on Sunday. Actually, there were points on that final play where he didn’t even look into the end zone. It was an utterly dreadful play. He might be playing again this week, and I still trust him to beat the Colts. By a touchdown.
RQFLWP: “The Titans are ready to stun me and everyone else with one of those random games that just happens from time to time.”
Note: The only stunning part was that Locker didn’t even try to throw the football at the end of the game.
Green Bay (-14) over KANSAS CITY
I think the Chiefs are better without Tyler Palko. I know the Chiefs are better without Todd Haley.
The problem is that they’re being replaced by Kyle Orton and Romeo Crennel, respectively. Lord knows I love RAC’s work as a defensive coordinator, but he went 24-40 as head coach in Cleveland. He can dial up blitzes and shut down Greatest Shows on Turf with the best of ’em, but when it comes to calling timeouts and making decisions and thinking about anything other than defense, things kind of come crashing down.
Oh, plus the Packers are pretty serious about not lollygagging their way through the rest of the season, and they’re pretty good at football.
There’s also the added optimistic wrinkle that Orton can’t play and someone named Ricky Stanzi will try to play quarterback and end the Packers’ undefeated run. That’s funny.
(It actually would be funny if two former Patriots guys — Crennel and Scott Pioli — were responsible for keeping the Patriots as the only 16-0 team in regular-season history. That still doesn’t mean it’s possible.)
Detroit (-1) over OAKLAND
I guess I forgot during his little leave of absence, but man, Carson Palmer gets scared. He was scared last week in Green Bay, when he channeled his inner LeBron James to throw interceptions: not one, not two, not three … but four.
Now, Mr. Palmer has to face a Lions team that’s fighting to stay in the playoffs and has a fresh-out-of-the-cage Ndamukong Suh, who’s going to look to hurt the quarterback.
Fun fact you can tell all your friends: Palmer has only played in seven games this season, but he’s tied for seventh in the league with 13 interceptions. Perhaps sevens will remain wild and he’ll throw seven more this weekend.
Fun photo of Lamarr Houston to share with all your friends:
Note: I think after 5 minutes it was Green Bay 31, Oakland 0.
New England (-6) over DENVER
I really hate to do this, because sitting on my couch rooting against Tebow Time is not my idea of a fun Sunday evening. But I have to.
As appealing as Tim Tebow is, I do expect his offense to struggle against the Patriots, who have managed the run with relative success this year. So it will be a matchup of the 31st-ranked passing offense of Denver against the 32nd-ranked pass defense of New England. In terms of ineptitude, it’s a stalemate, but Tebow won’t be able to survive another week when he’s 3-for-9 for 15 yards heading into the final quarter. Tom Brady‘s offense is going to score a lot of points (the Patriots have scored at least 31 points for five straight weeks, averaging 34.8 in that span), and that’s what will rob us all of Tebow Time this weekend.
Let us all weep together.
New York Jets (+2.5) over PHILADELPHIA
As much as most of us wish the Jets lacked the wherewithal to somehow keep pulling these December games out, they are going to keep doing it. Even if Jim Leonhard is out, even if Rex Ryan doesn’t know if they’re mathematically eliminated, even if they’re pets’ heads are falling off, the Jets will win.
ARIZONA (-6.5) over Cleveland
Excuse me for a moment as I go back to earlier in this post to copy a sentence from another game. I’m going to change a couple of words.
Bengals Cardinals as a six-point 6.5-point favorite is a bad idea against almost any football team except for the Rams Browns.
That’s called efficiency, kids.
SAN DIEGO (+2.5) over Baltimore
There are a couple of factors at play here. Foremost, the Chargers are on that weird late-season run that they seem to enjoy every year. Also, the inconsistent Ravens lost their only game on the West Coast, and that was to the Seahawks, who are not all that good at playing football.
Past results don’t necessarily mean anything in predicting future results, but if the Broncos lose … and the Raiders lose … the Chargers will take the field Sunday night knowing they trail first place by just a game if they can win. They just may come out on fire.
Pittsburgh (+2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
What, were the Rams and Seahawks too busy to play again for us on Monday night? Bummer!
If we have to watch these playoff teams play … I’ll say that there may be no team more dangerous than the Steelers. The 49ers, despite that shiny 10-3 record, haven’t fared so well against good football teams.
The wrinkle, of course, is whether Ben Roethlisberger will be able to play with that ankle injury, but if there’s anyone who can play through any injury, it’s Grande Ben. He may have sold his soul to the devil in order to buy some more toughness. That’s not a metaphor, either. Like, he’s kind of a bad dude.
But really, based on some of the Steelers’ tweets after the James Harrison suspension was announced, I’m convinced they’re crazy enough to use it as a rallying point.
“They don’t wanna see us succeed,” Emmanuel Sanders, for example, whined.
Athletes may not be the most logical folks at all times, but give them a reason to be inspired, and they’ll generally take it.
Last week: 10-6