A guy walked into a bar, and as he sat down he noticed two pieces of meat hanging from the ceiling. He sat down at the bar and the bartender asked him if he was ready to order his drink. The guy ordered a beer, and said to the bartender, “Hey man, I have to ask, what’s the deal with the meat hanging from the ceiling?” The bartender said to him, “So here’s the deal, if you can jump up and grab the meat down from the ceiling, all of your drinks for the night are free. But if you can’t grab the meat, you have to pay for everyone’s drinks for an hour.”
So the bartender grabbed the man his beer, and the man was still looking up at the ceiling, pondering whether he could get up there to grab the meat. The bartender handed the man his drink and asked him, “What do you think, wanna give it a try?” The man looked up at the ceiling one more time and said, “Nah, I’m good. The steaks are too high.”
The reason I told y’all this sidesplitting joke is because I’ve deemed this week High Stakes Week 8! Almost every game on the slate has tangible, visible, real world stakes, and because of that, I’ll be breaking down the games in order from lowest stakes to highest stakes.
BALTIMORE over San Diego
Probably not the stakes most would have expected going into the season, but this Chargers/Ravens showdown could end up being a key point in the timeline of determining who has the number one pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. By the way, have we come up with a cutesy nickname along the lines of “Suck for Luck” for when teams start tanking for the number one pick in the draft? Scoff for Goff? Put Your Season in the Book for Connor Cook? Throw it Away for Nkemdiche? Get at me on Twitter if you’ve got anything better.
Minnesota over CHICAGO
ATLANTA over Tampa Bay
We have two NFC teams jockeying for Wild Card position in the facing off against two NFC teams jockeying for position in the Put Your Season in the Book for Connor Cook sweepstakes. This is pretty standard stuff … let’s move on.
HOUSTON over Tennessee
Pending an Indy loss at Carolina on Monday Night Football, the winner of this putrid game is right in the thick of the race to win the AFC South. That race might resemble a power-walk more than a full-on sprint, but still, if Houston wins they’d somehow be tied with the Colts atop the division. Yes, the Houston Texans, a team that trailed 41-0 at halftime against the Miami Dolphins last week. If someone from Elias Sports Bureau is reading this (Hi!), get back to me and let me know if ever in the history of football a team has held the share of a division lead only one week after trailing 41-0 at halftime.
ST. LOUIS over San Francisco
Arizona over CLEVELAND
If you look at the NFC West standings you might see that the St. Louis Rams are chasing the Arizona Cardinals in division standings … but doesn’t it feel more like both of these teams are chasing Seattle, and the Seahawks have just given them both a head start? Regardless, this is another instance where two teams are chasing Playoff berths and the other two are trying to figure out how blatant their tanking attempts might end up being.
New York Giants over NEW ORLEANS
The Giants are in the drivers seat in the NFC East, and are still a tasty 25-1 longshot to win the Super Bowl (seriously, I know I’m going to be kicking myself for not figuring out a way to make a wager on this). The Saints have won their last two, and since they’re in the middle of the pack in the NFC that’s good enough to make you like their outlook. A win for the Saints brings them back to .500 and it launches them into a three-game window where they’ve got Tennessee, Washington and Houston, all winnable games.
And then there are those pesky New York Giants, who have a history of blowing these sorts of games — the games where they can put a stranglehold on a division lead or solidify themselves as one of the NFC’s best. Look, I never know what to make of the Giants, except for the fact that their ceiling and basement are further apart on a year to year basis than any other team in the NFL. This year it just seems like they’re trending closer to be a ceiling team than a basement team. A win over New Orleans would make me feel a little better for making a statement like that.
CAROLINA over Indianapolis
It would probably seem like an overreaction to say that this is Indy’s last chance to turn their season around since, as I mentioned above, they’re still the consensus favorite to win the AFC South and play a home game in the postseason. But just take a peak at their final eight games of the season after this one:
Denver, at Atlanta, Tampa Bay, at Pittsburgh, at Jacksonville, Houston, at Miami, Tennessee
If the Colts defeat the Panthers on Monday Night Football they’ll be 4-4 and at least have an inkling of momentum on their side moving forward. With a loss, they’d be 3-5 and they’d be underdogs in four of their last eight games, leaving the door at least cracked open for Houston or Jacksonville to slide in and win the division with an 8-8 record. God the AFC South sucks.
One of the biggest surprises of the season is that the NFC South has been decidedly better than the AFC South, and that starts with the Panthers 6-0 start. Carolina is the flukiest undefeated team of the six remaining unbeaten’s, and a soft schedule has certainly helped their cause, but there really isn’t a terribly rough stretch in the schedule that could break their season. They’ve got Green Bay next week (wanna talk about a rough stretch: how about the Packers playing in Denver and in Carolina on back to back weeks), but there comes a certain point where you just have to start believing in an undefeated team even if they don’t exactly pass the eye test with flying colors.
SEATTLE over Dallas
Dem Cowboys and the Seahawks were two of the NFC favorites before the season, and now Seattle is fighting an uphill battle while the Cowboys might as well be climbing Mount Everest so long as Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are sidelined with injuries. There have been a few games already where I said this, and it remains true this week: this is a game that the Seahawks can use to get back on track. As Dallas … they’re running out of time, and a fifth straight loss leaves them with an insanely small margin for error moving forward, and it’s not like Tony Romo’s return is imminent.
OAKLAND over New York Jets
If you’re picking Oakland to win this game that means you’re making at least one of the following three assertions:
1: The New York Jets are overrated
2: The Oakland Raiders are underrated
3: The NFL is wacky, and there is no rhyme or reason for what happens on a week to week basis
My take: it’s some sort of concoction of points two and three, with a dash of The Raiders are home and the Jets aren’t, with a sprinkle of Hey, isn’t it time for Ryan Fitzpatrick to have another three interception game? Regardless, these are two of the four teams that seem to be in contention for the two AFC Wild Card spots, along with Pittsburgh and Miami, both of whom are coming up right meow.
NEW ENGLAND over Miami
PITTSBURGH over Cincinnati
We have oh so many things at stake just in these two games. Allow me to bust out some bullet points to break it all down!
- Division rivalry games are always fun and always meaningful.
- Division rivalry games are double the fun and double the meaningful when there’s an undefeated team involved.
- This will be the first opportunity to see whether the Dolphins turnaround under interim Head Coach Dan Campbell has been a byproduct of playing trash AFC South opponents, or if it’s something that can be carried throughout the rest of the season, and that indication can be made even if Miami loses.
- Not only is Cincinnati’s undefeated season on the line, but this is also a good indicator as to whether the Bengals have made the next step from Good Regular Season Team to Legitimate Super Bowl Contender. It’s their first true road test of the season, and the Bengals are only 1-3 in Pittsburgh in the Andy Dalton era. This, by all measures, is a measuring stick game for the Bengals.
- And the stakes are probably most tangible for the two teams that aren’t undefeated. Pittsburgh, with a returning Ben Roethlisberger making all of the difference, and Miami are both hunting for postseason berths, and I’d say they’re probably the two favorites to nab those Wild Card spots, over the Jets and Raiders, just based on talent alone. These Week 8 games could go a long way in determining who gets those spots though.
Green Bay over DENVER
Now this is a Sunday Night Football game! Two undefeated teams clashing in primetime where we might find out the following: Is Primetime Peyton Manning is still a thing? … Which is mightier: Denver’s Defense or Aaron Rodgers? … Is Peyton Manning going to get it right anytime this year, or is this just the Peyton Manning we need to familiarize ourselves with? … Are both, neither, or either one of these teams actual Super Bowl contenders (because I’m not so sure)
That last question is the one I’m curious about. The Packers and Broncos have collectively played one team with a winning record (Minnesota), and the next three most impressive wins between the two teams were against the mildly frisky Raiders, the possibly frisky Rams, and the soon-to-be-surging Seahawks.
After Sunday night one of these teams is going to have a marquee win under their belt and the other is going to still be searching for one, and they’ll probably be searching for some answers to some unanswered questions too.
Detroit over Kansas City
This is yet another London game, and I say the stakes are the highest for this one because I’m becoming legitimately concerned that if we continue to send ass football teams across the pond that eventually England is going to decide to bomb the piss out of us in retaliation.
Last Week: 9-5