For what it’s worth, only December and May/June are ahead of November on the list of my favorite months of the year. December is an obvious choice. All four major sports are in season—for future reference, my four “major” sports are NBA, NFL, College Football and College Basketball—and it’s freaking Christmas time! Seriously, how can you not get jazzed up for the holiday season? I’ve already started listening to Christmas music.
I combine May and June as one month because when I lived in New York this was the time of the year when we started to see good weather—in Elba, New York there is a legitimate chance you could see snow nine of the twelve months of the year—and it’s the freaking NBA Playoffs. Seriously, how can you not get jazzed up for postseason basketball? I’ve already started thinking about playoff scenarios (more on this in the upcoming weeks).
November is the month that can claim the most fun activities. It’s the month of Thanksgiving, Survivor Series, the release of a bunch of Academy Award contenders, the beginning of Christmas season—as I mentioned, I’ve already started listening to Christmas music—all of the college basketball holiday tournaments (think Maui Invitational, Jimmy V Classic, 2K Classic, etc.) and it’s when we’re supposed to start to understand the NFL season.
I’ve already half-heartedly gone over this over the past few weeks, but I might as well do it again in full-form. Here’s the simple version: for the first half of the NFL season everything will feel particularly goofy as we try to figure out what to make of every team. By Week 10, we’re supposed to have a pretty good grasp on the season. And in some respects, that’s the case this year.
We know that New England and Denver are both really good. We know that there are four teams who could win the AFC North. We know that the NFC South is the worst division in football. We know that the AFC is probably better than the NFC. We know that Brandon Weeden shouldn’t be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
That’s about it. Compare that to the list of the things we don’t yet know, with my suspicion about the answer in parentheses.
We don’t know if Arizona is really the best team in the NFC (I think they finish with the best record in the NFC, but don’t make the Super Bowl). We can’t yet be absolutely sure about any division winners with the exception of Indianapolis (I’m taking Denver, New England, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Green Bay, Arizona and New Orleans). We don’t know who will win the MVP (At gunpoint I’d guess Andrew Luck). We don’t know if Tony Romo’s back will hold up (fingers crossed that it will, but I’m not confident). We don’t know if New England should be the definite odds-on-favorite after whooping Denver last week (they’re a Rob Gronkowski injury away from being just another good team). We don’t know who ends up getting the Wild Card spots (Give me Seattle and Detroit in the NFC—sorry Philadelphia, I don’t trust Mark Sanchez—and Cincinnati and Kansas City in the AFC).
Should I keep going? Eh, let’s go through a few more just for kicks.
We don’t know if Cleveland is actually good, or if they are the beneficiary of some good mojo that LeBron brought back to the city (We’ll know more about this after tonight’s game). We don’t know if Jadeveon Clowney is ever going to be a difference-maker (Not on the level of teammate J.J. Watt, that’s for sure). We don’t know if Jim Harbaugh is going to be employed by the San Francisco 49ers for more than 24 hours after their season ends (I’ll say no). We don’t know if the Redskins should be starting Colt McCoy or Robert Griffin III (notice that I left Kirk Cousins out of that mix).
This exercise can go on for a while, but I’m sure you get my point. Let’s get to a lightning round of my Week 10 NFL picks, with a homey theme.
CINCINNATI BENGALS over Cleveland Browns
I’d take Cleveland here if they were playing at home. The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t have too much positive mojo so far this season, so I’m certain the Browns aren’t going to be able to borrow any 250 miles away.
Kansas City Chiefs over BUFFALO BILLS
Maybe our first “win or go home” game of the season. The Chiefs and Bills are both in the mix for one of the two AFC Wild Card spots, and they have plenty of company. San Diego, Miami, and every AFC North team have a stake in this game. I trust Kansas City’s defense (the best against the pass in the league) and their run game, even on the road against the immortal Sammy Watkins and (gulp) Kyle Orton.
DETROIT LIONS over Miami Dolphins
This one is a virtual “win or go home” game, but it doesn’t have direct tie-breaker implications for either team since they play in different conferences. Miami is right in the thick of the playoff picture after demolishing the Chargers last week in Miami. You know how that going East from the West thing goes. Even though they’re 3-1 on their home turf, the Lions have played shaky football on at Ford Field so far this season. Every Matt Stafford pass is an adventure, but Calvin Johnson will supposedly be back for this one and that makes enough of a difference for me to take Detroit.
SIDE NOTE: You probably notice I have Green Bay edging out Detroit for the NFC North, but still picked the Lions to secure one of those NFC Wild Card spots. Here’s why: after Miami (a losable game, mind you), the Lions have back to back road games at Arizona and at New England. They get a three-game home stretch that includes Chicago (on Thanksgiving), Tampa Bay, and Minnesota. They close at Chicago and at Green Bay (probably for the division). Let’s say over the next eight games Detroit goes 5-3. This is an optimistic projection given how the Lions have closed seasons in recent memory. I’ve got the 5-3 Packers going 7-1 over their next eight games (Chicago, Philadelphia, at Minnesota, New England, Atlanta, at Buffalo, at Tampa Bay and Detroit). That’s 12-4 for Green Bay, 11-5 for Detroit. Lock it up!
BALTIMORE RAVENS over Tennessee Titans
Pittsburgh Steelers over NEW YORK JETS
I can’t quite classify this as a “win or go home” game because the Titans and Jets already went home. Get a quarterback for goodness sake. Random prediction alert: Ben Roethlisberger throws for four touchdowns, zero interceptions and 321 yards, bringing his running three week total up to 16 touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 1,183 yards.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS over San Francisco 49ers
This is a one-sided “win or go home” game. New Orleans has the benefit of playing in the worst division in football and an incredible home field advantage. Even if the Saints drop all three road games they have left (Pittsburgh, Chicago and Tampa Bay) and ONLY go 4-1 at home the rest of the way (let’s assume they drop one of their next three to either San Fran, Cincinnati or Baltimore) that puts them at 8-8, most likely comfortably ahead of the second best team in the division.
San Francisco doesn’t have that luxury. They play in an albatross of a division they’ve already dropped two division games, including a clunker last week at home against St. Louis. They need every win they can get, and I don’t see one coming this week. Like I mentioned above, Jim Harbaugh is likely out the door at seasons end. Is there any chance he could get canned mid-season?
Dallas Cowboys over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
If I’m Jason Garrett, or Jerry Jones—whoever the hell makes roster decisions for this team—I’m telling Tony Romo to go home. Literally. I’m not starting Tony Romo this week. Hell, I wouldn’t even bring Tony Romo to London this week. Sure, that ship has already sailed, but if I were in charge of the Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo wouldn’t have made the ten hour flight from Dallas to London. I’m allowing him to rest his back for the next two weeks—Dallas is on bye for Week 11—and hoping that some extra recovery time could get him through the stretch run. With a back injury that’s not a certainty, though.
With that said, starting Brandon Weeden is essentially a death sentence, even against the 1-8 Jacksonville Jaguars who have actually been pretty frisky the last month or so. Did you know Brandon Weeden is 5-16 as a starter in the NFL? Did you know he’s thrown more interceptions (28) than touchdowns (25)? Did you know he once got lost under an American Flag?
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS over Atlanta Falcons
In Week 3 of the NFL season the Falcons beat the Bucs on Thursday Night Football by the final score of 56-14. Just shy of two months later I’m taking the Bucs at home and I don’t even feel worried about it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the NFL is absolutely goofy.
Denver Broncos over OAKLAND RAIDERS
Credit to the Raiders for going out and competing in Seattle last week. Gutty effort. They even made me sweat just a little bit because of my declaration that I would retire from this column if the Raiders won. And you know what; I’m going to say it again. If the Raiders beat the Broncos this week I’m retiring from this column. All signs point to a pissed off Broncos team making a statement in Oakland. And by statement I mean winning 48-20.
ARIZONA CARDINALS over St. Louis Rams
Definitely not a “win or go home” game for the Cardinals or the Rams, but the Cardinals are a couple of months away from being in a “win two games and play the Super Bowl at home” scenario. It’s never been done by the way. In fact, it’s almost been two decades since a team whose city was hosting the Super Bowl has even made the Playoffs.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS over New York Giants
Usually a home game for the Seahawks meant total domination, but that hasn’t been the case this year. The Seahawks are 3-1 at CenturyLink, but very nearly dropped another to Denver and they only took care of Oakland by six points last week. The 12th Man isn’t up to snuff so far this year, and neither has been the Legion of Boom. If there is an opponent to bounce back against though, it’s probably the Giants. Did you watch that Monday Night debacle? My former modified football and basketball coach and Giants fan Casey Rosemark summed it up perfectly on Facebook during the game, “Drop … Drop … 1 yard run … punt! 1 yard run … -3 yard run … Drop … Punt … Repeat until the games ends.” Well said, coach!
GREEN BAY PACKERS over Chicago Bears
This is a game I might not want to watch at home since it’s just likely to piss my Dad and I off when the Bears lose 52-24, or something like that.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES over Carolina Panthers
Remember the last time Mark Sanchez started a home game in primetime?
And now I’m picking him to win in prime time? Go home NFL season, you’re drunk.
Last Week: 7-6