Expert NFL Handicapping; How to Bet Teams Out of Playoff Hunt
For 30 of the 32 teams in the NFL, there are six weeks of games left. That's a whole lot of football still to be played. But for several teams none of those games matter - even a little bit. In fact, for many teams it has been six or more weeks since they last played a meaningful game. Any team that is struggling badly is going to have a harder time getting up for games than, well, a good team. But some bad teams are in better shape than others. It's a good time to check in on all the teams that are out of it already to see where they sit and what we might get from them the rest of the way this season:
Bills: There are a couple of reasons for hope for the Bills despite the 3-7 record. For one, Nathan Peterman is no longer on the roster. There is no better way to improve an NFL roster than cutting him. And, more significantly, Josh Allen is back from injury and ready to start again. The best possible thing that could happen for this team is for their rookie QB to stay healthy the rest of the season and get some real reps in. It's not an ideal situation, but guys like Mitch Trubisky have shown us how much a guy can improve with time - even when that time comes with a team going nowhere.
Jets: Sam Darnold is hurt. Todd Bowles is going to lose his job. Many, many changes are coming. Motivation is going to be tough to find. And they have to play the Patriots twice, which isn't going to be a whole lot of fun. It could get ugly down the stretch.
Browns: Beating the Falcons is hardly an accomplishment right now, but Cleveland looked pretty good doing it. I guess you could argue they are playing for Gregg Williams' full-time job, but I really doubt that happening. But the team likes playing for Baker Mayfield, and his continued development is at least some kind of motivation here.
Jaguars: They came into this season thinking they had things figured out - a stellar defense and a quarterback who was maybe turning a corner. After a decent start, though, that defense has fallen off a cliff, and the quarterback is a mess. Now this is a team stranded on an island without a raft - or any trees to build one. It's going to take work this offseason to fix things, and until then it's going to be a rough road.
Raiders: It's not that Jon Gruden's first year with the Raiders has been a complete circus that is surprising to me. It's that people out there actually seem surprised that it has turned into this mess. I mean, Gruden's most marketable skill by far is his ability to self-promote. He's an ego with decent hair, and the league had passed him by the last time he was in it - though he managed to make everyone forget that. It will be an ugly, ugly end to an ugly, ugly year.
Giants: Eli Manning can show flashes from time to time still - as he has the last couple of weeks. But he is totally and utterly done, and any stretches of decent play he shows only makes it tougher for his team to draft a good replacement for him. This is a team that tried to deny the realities of their situation this year, and it hasn't worked out. There is no good football to be watched in Meadowlands this year.
Falcons: They hired freaking Steve Sarkisian to run this offense. If you are going to do something that stupid, I can only assume your goal is to tank. And so Sarkisian is doing exactly what he was hired to do. If they wanted anything else, though, then it was a moronic decision, because nothing he has done in his career has even sort of flashed competence. He's a joke, and he will keep running this team into the ground until he is fired. Lost season.
Buccaneers: The team has gone to Ryan Fitzpatrick as their savior this year. Twice. I like Fitzpatrick and all, but if that is where your team is then you aren't in a good place. They have lost four in a row, and there is no magic left. They looked like they had quit a couple of games ago, and you only rarely see teams un-quit. It's hard to be optimistic.
Cardinals: This is a terrible team, and losing to the Raiders at home is a big blow to them. But this team knew they were going to be horrible heading into the season, and they knew that getting Josh Rosen some experience was all that really mattered. So, while losing is never fun, it has to be easier to take when it was no surprise. Effort should stay fine - to the extent that it has been fine up to this point.
49ers: This season went to a bad place as soon as Jimmy Garoppolo's knee was shredded, and aside from one bizarre week of Nick Mullens magic, it has mostly stayed there. I'm willing to give the entire franchise a mulligan for this year - but they had better use it wisely because they only get one.
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