I feel for teams like Atlanta, Houston and Washington this time of year. They’re not going to the playoffs, which means their only motivation is to play for their jobs next year. And meanwhile, their general managers are secretly wishing they’d tank so they could stockpile high draft picks.
So much for the fun and romance of professional sports.
Thus, while you’re salivating over the Seattle-San Francisco and Carolina-New Orleans games, spare a moment for the guys playing out the string and hoping they’re doing enough to keep their jobs. Because that’s not a great place to be.
On the bright side, an enterprising ESPN blogger discovered that, yes, the heretofore hapless Jacksonville Jaguars could actually make the playoffs. Of course, a lot of things have to go right, and not just the Jags winning all their remaining games. More than a few teams have to pull out upsets this month, and there may be something involving the One Ring and a space-time anomaly. But it could happen. So go Jags!
And on that happy note, on with the picks. (Winners in italics.)
Houston at Jacksonville: This is your big Thursday night game, NFL Network? Plan 9 From Outer Space would top this in the ratings.
Indianapolis at Cincinnati: This is more like it — a game with serious playoff implications and two good but inconsistent teams. Better than, say, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but not quite Lord of the Rings territory.
Atlanta at Green Bay: The big question here is whether the Packers can muddle through until Aaron Rodgers is thawed from carbonite.
Cleveland at New England: These days, the Patriots are a lot like Mal’s crew from Firefly. They can stymie an interplanetary autocracy, only to fall victim to a two-bit scam and barely escape intact.
Oakland at N.Y. Jets: Gang Green’s lantern has gone out.
Detroit at Philadelphia: The Lannisters are powerful, but prideful and inconsistent. It’s like Cersei is coaching them.
Miami at Pittsburgh: Mike Tomlin will start on special teams for the Steelers, thus solving the problem of the coach’s evident desire to get in and play.
Buffalo at Tampa Bay: Jack Sparrow tries to manage a herd of wild bison. That sounds as ridiculous as this game could end up being.
Kansas City at Washington: If the Chiefs mess this up, they should voluntarily quit the season, take the black and make for the Wall.
Minnesota at Baltimore: Why are the Vikings winning? What new devilry is this? No matter.
Tennessee at Denver: On fan appreciation day, the Broncos will pick a fan to play wide receiver, and Mannng will throw him or her three touchdowns. And then they’ll go have coffee and pie.
St. Louis at Arizona: There are life signs coming out of the desert, Captain.
N.Y. Giants at San Diego: The Giants need access to a TARDIS to make the playoffs.
Seattle at San Francisco: I don’t care what your plans are Sunday afternoon. Watch this game. And then tell me about it, because the NYC area will be forced to watch the Giants.
Carolina at New Orleans: Dome sweet dome.
Dallas at Chicago: This is the Cowboys’ chance to prove they’re not stuck in a December loss time-loop.
Last week’s record: 11-5
Season record: 122-69 (better than all but three of these guys; call me, ESPN)