By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s Week 16 of the season, and everybody is going gaga for the playoffs. We’ve got playoff scenarios being laid out in extreme detail. We’ve got celebrations of clinched playoff berths. We’ve got people talking about the dang Super Bowl already. Everybody’s got postseason fever!
But hold on just a second. January is coming, folks, and we will have plenty of time to soak in the glory of playoff football.
But let us not allow an NFL season to close its doors without us taking the proper time to reflect upon the deep, pathetic failures that have taken place before our eyes over the past four months.
Yes, today, let’s share our thanks for being able to bear witness to these great football flubs.
In the NFC, we are thankful for the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers. Last year’s NFC title game participants currently own a combined record of 11-16-1. Way to string that success together, fellas.
As for the Super Bowl champs, let’s all soak in the glory of John Elway deciding to go into a season with Trevor Siemian at QB. Frankly, considering he won a Super Bowl with a quarterback who couldn’t get a pass through a taut sheet of paper if his life depended on it, it’s hard to blame Mr. Elway too much. But we have all learned the Broncos’ limits.
Oh, and while we’re on the quarterback train, take a bow, Brock Osweiler. Take a bow!
OK, well Brock’s not here. But he is on the bench. Earning $37 million guaranteed. After throwing 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. That’s not a failure, technically, if you ask me. It’s more of an American success story. But you get the idea.
Any conversation on failure would be incomplete without referencing the head coach of the All-Failure Team, one Mr. Jeff Fisher. The Rams, having no sense of humor (or perhaps the cruelest sense of humor?) fired Fisher just after he tied the record for most losses by a head coach in NFL history. Perhaps they spared him from the shame, but honestly, is a badass like this even capable of feeling shame?
While we’re at it, let’s give a nod to the Jacksonville Jaguars for allowing head coach Gus Bradley to reach an unfathomable win-loss record of 14-48 before firing him (and saying that he can now have a happy and stress-free Christmas). That is remarkable.
Let’s thank Ryan Fitzpatrick for playing terribly, getting benched, getting his job back due to injury, playing well, calling out his coach and GM, then playing terribly again and once more losing his job. That was funny.
Let’s also thank Rex Ryan for claiming that he and the Bills “won the offseason.” Oh, Rex. He will never learn!
And of course, we can’t forget the Cleveland Browns, who are setting a new standard for losing. They still have some work to do to topple the ’08 Lions as the worst team ever. The winless Lions were outscored by 249 points. This year’s Browns have been outscored by 188 points. Can they lose their final two games (vs. San Diego, at Pittsburgh) by 62 points? Those of us on official Fail Watch will be closely monitoring.
We thank Phillip Rivers for leading the league in interceptions. We thank the Minnesota Vikings for going 2-5 after starting the year 5-0. And we thank the Atlanta Falcons, in advance, for what will sure to be a gripping home loss to the Packers a few weeks from now.
This list wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the officiating in the NFL, which is terrible on a weekly basis but nevertheless gets excused by Dean Blandino. We should all be so fortunate as to have such a forgiving boss.
It all may be the ultimate tribute to commissioner Roger Goodell, a man who somehow managed to step in a pile of dog-doo despite remaining in relative hiding for the bulk of the year. While the flubs are many, his decision to bypass his own domestic violence policy so that Josh Brown would not have to miss playing time for the Giants was a truly wild decision, one that shattered any semblance of respectability the commissioner might have been maintaining among the lesser-informed fans.
There may be more failure yet to be achieved over these final two weeks, but in the season of giving, it’s only appropriate that we took this time to give our thanks. Failure — as much as anything else — keeps us all watching.
Speaking of failure, it’s picks time.
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
New York Giants (-2.5) over PHILADELPHIA
I wanted to take the Eagles, because they’ve been getting frisky with close games lately. But Thursday games aren’t typically tight affairs. The average margin of victory on Thursday nights over the past 10 weeks has been 13 points. Only two games were close (Dallas-Minnesota, New Orleans-Carolina). And the Giants’ defense is playing crazy right now. And Carson Wentz isn’t exactly getting better as the year wears on.
The only question, really, is what rule will Ben McAdoo’s squad violate in this one? And will the league care? Film at 11.
Tennessee (-4.5) over JACKSONVILLE
Why is this line so low? Are the Jaguars going to suddenly play an inspired football game now that Gus Bradley is gone, as if his presence was what was holding them back?
BUFFALO (-3.5) over Miami
Why is Rex Ryan getting fired? I don’t quite follow. At one point did anyone in Bills management believe that team was any better or worse than about a .500 club? In terms of games the Bills lost this year that they should have won, you could probably put the Jets game and the trip to Miami on the list. But they did win in New England and at Cincinnati.
I don’t know. Rex seems to be doing an OK job. And if the Bills beat the Dolphins and the Jets, they’ll be 9-7. That gets you fired in Buffalo these days? The Bills have won nine games in a year exactly twice since the Y2K crisis. If anything, Rex deserves an extension.
Washington (-3) over CHICAGO
San Diego (-6) over CLEVELAND
NEW ENGLAND (-16.5) over New York Jets
I call this package of games “The War On Christmas.” If these games keep you away from your family for more than one second, then you’ve lost the day.
CAROLINA (+2.5) over Atlanta
Go ahead, call me crazy, but there was something of a glean in the Carolina Panthers’ eyes on Monday night, something that showed they kind of miss playing in games that matter. They may not be playing in games that matter to their own team anymore, but a couple of big showings against the playoff-bound Falcons and Bucs should not be considered a far-fetched scenario.
Minnesota (+7) over GREEN BAY
The scariest pick I’ll make all week, no doubt, after the Vikings face-planted against the Colts last week. Scary scary scary. I know.
But for all the “Packers are back” story lines out there, the Vikings are just one Sunday afternoon at Lambeau from flipping the entire script of the 2016 NFC North. For as bad as the Vikings have been since Week 7, if they win their final two games, they could oust the Packers from the postseason in the process.
You don’t have to feel great about that prospect in order to take the seven points.
San Francisco (+3.5) over LOS ANGELES
OH MY GOD. OH MY. GOD.
OH MY GOD.
I need to watch this game! I have to! Call it a sickness, call it whatever you want. But Christmas is canceled this year. I need to watch this game.
The Rams are 0-2 this year as a favorite, which is surprising to me because the Rams were favorites twice and are now a favorite for a third time.
What a game though. Sign me up. Sign me up right now.
OAKLAND (-3.5) over Indianapolis
The Colts have struggled to string anything together for 14 days in a row all year long. Their longest winning streak is two, but that was sandwiched around the bye week. They can’t win two straight. They are unable.
The Raiders are also still fighting for that No. 1 seed. Jack Del Rio will be calling all sorts of wildness out there.
SEATTLE (-8) over Arizona
Arizona is 4-10 against the spread. That is so miserable.
As an aside, it tickles me to know that Richard Sherman is still deeply, deeply affected by Russell Wilson’s interception. You’d think a Super Bowl champ and an All-Pro like Sherman would have gotten over it by now, but nope. Rick is out there cursing his offensive coordinator and threatening to end the career of a reporter, all because the Seahawks passed the ball from the goal line with Marshawn Lynch in the backfield!
Tampa Bay (+3) over NEW ORLEANS
This game gets the “Most Disrespectful Line Of The Week” tag. The Bucs are underdogs? Am I taking crazy pills?
The Bucs are the better team, and they’re also better on the road (5-2) than the Saints are at home (3-4). The Saints also stink out loud. What is this sorcery?
Cincinnati (+1) over HOUSTON
I’d rather not, just to be honest.
Baltimore (+5) over PITTSBURGH
It may well turn out to be a Steelers blowout. After all, they’re on a five-game winning streak and look difficult to stop. Indeed.
But, maybe it’s just the romantic idea of an AFC North battle with first place still up for grabs in the final two weeks of the season that has me thirsting for a three-point game one way or the other. The Ravens did already beat Pittsburgh this year, so it’s not as if this shouldn’t be a competitive game.
It may prove to be foolish. The Ravens are 0-4 as road underdogs this year; the Steelers are 4-1 as home favorites. But come on, NFC North. Don’t let me down. It is Christmas Day, after all.
KANSAS CITY (-3) over Denver
Don’t you kind of get the feeling that last weekend was the last hurrah for the ol’ Broncos? A win over the Pats, and maybe they’d be feeling juiced up enough to make a run to the playoffs, where they could probably cause a ruckus. But a loss, in that fashion, was so demoralizing. That offense is feckless. The defense spent time putting Aqib Talib on James Develin. Things have gone sour for the champs.
Detroit (+7) over DALLAS
Lots of national TV exposure for Dallas lately. Lots of attention for Dallas all season. Lots of focus on that No. 1 seed, which is no guarantee, given the way the Giants are surging. Lots of Tony Romo talk, too.
It’s just a lot — especially in that market, especially with rookies at the offense’s two most important positions. It’s a lot. And while they may have the mental fortitude to persevere through it and manage to excel, it may be safe to hedge against that. For now, you can do that by taking the points. After all, Dallas hasn’t won a game by more than a touchdown since Week 11. That steam engine has certainly slowed down.
Last week: 9-6-1