NFL Office Pool Picks Week 16
We are at the stage of the NFL season that is all about contrasts. On one end of the spectrum are the teams that have a playoff spot wrapped up, and right beside them are the squads that are right in the fight - on the verge of big things. Then on the other end are the teams that have been out of it for weeks - or months in some cases - and are just looking for the fastest route from their current, pathetic station to the offseason. This is the time when we see some really good football and some really, really bad stuff. Hopefully, it's also a time when we have a whole lot of success picking winners. Here's how I see this week's games turning out straight up:
Washington at Tennessee: Tennessee is favored by 10 points at home in his one and could easily be favored by a bunch more. The Titans are playing well right now and are solid on both sides of the ball. The Redskins don't have an NFL quarterback and only win when they are playing equally inept teams. Take the Titans.
Baltimore at L.A. Chargers: This game is huge for both teams, with the loser really taking a blow in their pursuit of a division title - races that both of these teams are already handicapped in. Both teams are in a good place right now, enjoying strong quarterback play, sound defense, and confident play. The Chargers' talent probably runs a little deeper, though, and they are at home - not that that is a big deal when it comes to the empty vacuum that the Chargers play in. Take L.A. in this one.
Houston at Philadelphia: Nick Foles makes a good story and is coming off a nice game, but I am not buying the story that he is going to be a Christmas miracle two years in a row. The team has too many issues. Houston is playing with a lot of confidence right now and has a clear edge. Take the Texans.
Jacksonville at Miami: Miami still has a shot at a playoff spot - not a good one, but still a shot. Jacksonville hasn't had anything to play for this year for so long that they forget what relevance tastes like. They are waiting for a new coach and a new plan - because what they are doing isn't working. And a new QB would be good, too. Take the Dolphins.
Cincinnati at Cleveland: Cincinnati makes me laugh so much. Failing under the leadership of Marvin Lewis was stunningly inevitable - only slightly less inevitable than the fact that Lewis will somehow get another extension. Cleveland is just plain better right now, and they will want to make Hue Jackson hurt again. Take the Browns.
Buffalo at New England: New England is broken right now. There is no denying that. But the question is how broken? They would have to be really broken to lose at home to the Bills. That's something the Pats just don't do. I'm not fond of the place the team is in right now, but I still have to take New England.
Atlanta at Carolina: Do I want to back the team that is mentally unstable and has long since quit after being run right into a brick wall by a truly incompetent offensive coordinator? Or a team that has fallen right off a cliff and is trying to win with a quarterback who has to throw without a shoulder? What a stunningly inspiring choice - like choosing between getting a root canal in a barn or a face tattoo at a tattoo school. I'll take the Falcons, but not with a lot of glee.
New York Giants at Indianapolis: I am starting to believe in the Colts a little bit. Of course, last week I finally started to warm up about the Cowboys a little bit, and they played about as badly as a team could play - against these Colts, nonetheless. So, I am going to take the Colts here and do it with a fair bit of confidence. But it is probably going to wind up badly - that's how these things turn out.
Tampa Bay at Dallas: Speaking of Dallas… They are the better team, and their coach is in much less risk of getting fired. I'll take the Cowboys. But if they blow it this time, they are dead to me.
Green Bay at New York Jets: How pathetic it is for the Packers to be in a spot where they are a coin toss at a really bad Jets squad. They will obviously have a new coach next year, but it still isn't obvious what the path from where they are back to the promised land actually looks like. I'll still take the Packers here, but that shouldn't be nearly as scary as it is.
Minnesota at Detroit: The Vikings were a mess, but the offense finally woke up last week. A big change can happen in a small time if the pieces are in place. They need to sustain it, of course, but that shouldn't be too much of a challenge against the Lions - an ineptly-coached team lacking in talent. Take the Vikings.
L.A. Rams at Arizona: The Rams are the pick here. Obviously. But it is amazing how this league works. Up to the Chiefs game you could have confidently picked the Rams to win by about a million. But the offense isn't working right now like it was - not even close - and the swagger is lost. Arizona is a deeply-flawed team, so they can't really be trusted to pull off an upset. But it's not nearly as inconceivable as it was a short month ago.
Chicago at San Francisco: The Bears have wrapped up the division, but they still need to keep fighting because a bye is not out of the question. That won't be as easy to get as it once was because the Niners are playing their best football right now. But that best is still a step below what the Bears should be able to handle. Take Chicago.
Pittsburgh at New Orleans: Pittsburgh is holding on to the lead in their division, but it will be tough on them to open up a further gap on the Ravens when they have to travel to play the best team in the league. Take the Saints.
Kansas City at Seattle: Seattle, like Dallas, was a team that I was begrudgingly starting to give a touch of respect to - not a lot, but a little. Then, like Dallas, they laid an egg in a game that could have made things really comfortable for them. It wasn't as ugly as Dallas' effort, but then it was against a worse team. Kansas City didn't earn their coffee last week - it's only for closers - but they still showed a lot in the loss and come in with more to play for and more talent. Take the Chiefs.
Denver at Oakland: There have been, I'm sure, worse Monday night games than this one. I just don't remember too many of them. Both of these teams are in a dark place. Denver's present is a little less bleak, and at least they get a new coach next year. Take the Broncos.
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