The most exciting matchup of the season is under the lights on Monday night. Those fireworks will come 24 hours after Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears are exposed. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)
Last Week: 8 – 6 – 0
Season: 80 – 51 – 2
Avoiding incessant coverage of the Kevin Durant/Draymond Green beef (Bye Week)
In Week 10 the Bills amassed 75 yards of offense on their first two plays of the game. The week prior against the Bears, Buffalo did not reach 75 yards of offense (penalties excluded) until their 32nd play of the game.
I think it was the opening scene of this season’s Hardknocks when Nick Chubb went through the Cleveland airport on his own without security or team representatives while Baker Mayfield was welcomed by an entire convoy. Fast-forward three months and Chubb is the rookie leading Cleveland to victory.
What’s the deal with 2nd round pick Mike Gesicki? Is he too slow for the NFL? Does he stink? Or is this just a rookie taking some time to adjust? I feel bad for the Dolphins. They’re not as bad as they’ve looked over the last few weeks. They’re just super injured.
I keep seeing these “most inaccurate passers when under no pressure” charts popping up all over the place. Tom Brady is near the top. That’s all well and good but it doesn’t mean anything until the Patriots aren’t one of two teams competing for a Super Bowl berth at the end of January.
That blowout loss to the Bills was something. I don’t have exact numbers, but Matt Barkley threw a healthy number of 50/50 balls that the Jets managed to come down with zero percent of the time. I’m assuming Todd Bowles is still employed because the Johnson family doesn’t want to waste any extra money on a salary bump for an interim coach.
Despite their top back going down in training camp, San Francisco is still 4th in the NFL in rushing yards per game. Kyle Shanahan is legitimately a wizard. I’m sure it’s painful, but losing while remaining competitive is the best thing for the 49ers. Adding a top ten pick to that team should pay dividends in 2019.
Packers 24 at Seahawks 27
There are four minutes remaining. You trail by three points. You’re down to your final timeout. You have the greatest quarterback to have ever played football. You only need two yards. Your season is in the balance. Sure, go ahead and punt.
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Cowboys at Falcons
Atlanta missed a huge opportunity to leapfrog a number of Wildcard contenders after that surprising loss in Cleveland. I’m not sure what got into Atlanta’s offense last week, but it looked very similar to their 2017 offense that labored for most of the season. Atlanta simply refused to throw the ball downfield. Matt Ryan finished the game with an average per attempt of 6.3, by far his lowest of the season since opening night in Philadelphia. That offense is too talented to dink and dump its way downfield. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -3
Panthers at Lions
This is worthless information, but Matthew Stafford is in his 10th NFL season. I had no idea he’s been around longer than Cam Newton. Truth is, he won’t be around much longer if his offensive line doesn’t improve. Stafford has been sacked 16 times over the last two weeks. The running game hasn’t helped either, averaging 2.8 and 3.2 yards per rush over that span. Watching the Bears stomp Detroit last week was an example of an offense run by someone who understands offense. Mitchell Trubisky is almost always throwing to guys wide open in space. Stafford is trying to laser eggs into a bird feeder. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions +4.5
Titans at Colts
Mike Vrabel trolling Bill Belichick last week was funny. Not two plays after the Patriots called their reverse pass to Tom Brady, Vrabel did the same with Marcus Marriota. Only, the Titans play went for three times the yardage and actually resulted in a 1st down. Also, Dion Lewis, maybe think before you talk. Criticizing the Patriots for being cheap because they didn’t resign you is all well and good. However, your production this season has proven they were correct in their decision to pass on you. Lewis ranks 27th in rushing yards, 39th in average per carry and is only pace to finish with 1/4 his touchdowns from 2017 in New England. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans +1
Buccaneers at Giants
That Tampa Bay/Washington game last week was enough to make my eyes bleed. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the Buccaneers set NFL records for accumulating so much yardage while not scoring more than 3 points. Tampa’s drive chart is so special. Look at the product of their drives; interception (RZ), punt, missed FG, FG, missed FG, interception, fumble (WSH 29), fumble (RZ). That’s five trips to the red zone and one trip inside the 30 that resulted in a total of 3 points. Fitzmagic is real. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -1.5
Texans at Redskins
Speaking of incompetence, the Redskins are the worst team in the NFC East. Ok, so that may not be true, but it’s not as big of an exaggeration as you may think. Alex Smith and that offense are the worst in the NFC East in both yardage and scoring. Smith is still petrified of throwing downfield. That offense makes the Bills look exciting. You preach winning and record all you want, but the Redskins aren’t any better than the rest of their putrid division. (I hate that I’m picking the Texans. Bill O’Brien doesn’t win these games. It’s impossible.) TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -3
Steelers at Jaguars
Kansas City’s electric offense and the meteoric rise of Patrick Mahomes have allowed Pittsburgh to quietly reel off five straight wins and plant themselves in pole position for a first round bye. Remember, two seasons ago the Steelers went into Kansas City and eliminated the Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Obviously, the Chiefs are different now, but that confidence counts for something in the frigid January temperatures of the postseason. The only question with Pittsburgh is whether or not the end of the Le’Veon Bell saga helps them or not. Do they feel a burden lifted now that the Bell shadow looming over them departed, or was his refusal to join his teammates added fuel to their fire? You’re right. It doesn’t matter. I apologize for wasting your time. Allow me this, though… The notion of Bell sitting out a year also extending his career is hogwash. You only have so many years of your prime. You can’t delay them or take rain checks. If Bell sits out two more seasons does he automatically get those two seasons on the backend of his thirties? Of course not. Bell sat out an entire season during his prime. He won’t get that season back. That’s not the way the body and time work. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -6
Bengals at Ravens
Knowing the Bengals have lost three of their last four and the Ravens have lost four out of their last five, one could safely assume this is a win or go home game. Not in the AFC. There are eight teams between 5-4 and 3-6 competing for that final Wildcard berth. We’re still not sure which quarterback Baltimore will be starting Sunday. If it’s Lamar Jackson, he’ll have to perform horribly for Baltimore to justify giving Joe Flacco his job back. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals +6
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Raiders at Cardinals
Tough sell to fans here. A month or two ago I thought the Raiders could still be exciting while sucking if they just chucked the football all over the field and tried to score a ton of points. Instead, they’ve gone backwards, scoring more than 10 points only once since September. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals -6
Broncos at Chargers
I’m not exactly sure why Denver hasn’t performed better this season, but my first guess would be quarterback play. Case Keenum has not replicated his 2017 season that earned him a two year deal worth $36 million. In fact, he’s already surpassed his interception total from a year ago. Denver is the ultimate “play up or down to the level of their competition” team. Beat the Raiders by one, lost to the Jets, and respectfully lost to the Chiefs, Rams and Chiefs again by four, three and seven, respectively. Then they lost to the Texans by two because their coach is a bozo. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos +7
Eagles at Saints
Listen, I’m not trying to say the Eagles don’t stink. They stink. However, why is everyone writing them off in the NFC East? The Redskins are an equal disaster. Even after the Eagles lose in ‘Nawlins, they’ll still only be two or three games out with two head-to-head matchups with the Redskins remaining. If you think Washington is a sure thing in those division games, or any of their remaining games for that matter, I encourage you to watch tape of their performance this season. It’s not pretty. Also, I’ve heard a few national media types now classify Carson Wentz with Andy Dalton and Ryan Tannehill. Dan LeBatard even said the Eagles will end up in “QB purgatory,” which is essentially where you pay a QB because you have him, not because he’s actually worth it. I was dumbfounded by this swell of anti-Wentz sentiment. Maybe I’m just a homer, but I thought Wentz has been great this season considering he’s not even a year removed from a major knee injury. The stats agree with me as well. Wentz ranks well into the top ten in every quarterback stat that matters. Wentz is good. Back down. By the way, I won’t judge the Eagles on the outcome here. However, their performance will say a lot about whether or not this team still believes it can make a run at the division. I fear the worst, though. This squad has been flat since training camp. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles +9
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Vikings at Bears
I haven’t been a Mitch Trubisky believer all season. He’s Kansas City Alex Smith. A brilliant offensive scheme allows Trubisky to throw to receivers open in space just like Smith did with the Chiefs in recent years. Sunday night is a big moment for Trubisky and me. Minnesota owns what may be the one and only respectable defense in the NFC. They’ll pressure Trubisky and force him to make throws in tight coverage, which I don’t believe he’s capable of. I know the Trubisky truthers are out there. Sunday night won’t be a good night for them, or Bears fans in general. Chicago is a fraud. They have one good win; Seattle in Week 2. Since then, Chicago’s wins have come against the Cardinals, Buccaneers, Jets, Bills and Lions. Those are five of the worst ten teams in the NFL. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings +3
Monday Night (8:15PM ET)
Chiefs at Rams
Any lifelong Eagles fan had a pretty good idea the Rams defense would struggle this season. The Eagles tried this approach in 2011. Bringing in the most talented, available defensive players in the offseason blew up in Andy Reid’s face. Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins were supposed to turn Philadelphia’s defense into an impenetrable force. Instead, the defense surrendered 29 or more points in six of the Eagles eight losses that season. The Rams can’t stop anyone. Kansas City isn’t a defensive juggernaut either but it has proven itself capable of making a big play or two. Regardless, I hope this one lives up to the hype. I can’t imagine a more exciting game. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs +3.5
If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 6 – 8 – 0
Season: 72 – 71 – 5