By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Life is cyclical. So are sports. That’s why it’s important to enjoy the highs of life as much as possible — because you know some lows are on the horizon in the not-so-distant future.
That may sound like a bleak outlook on life, sure, but it certainly applies to a whole lot of NFL franchises at this moment in time. Sure, there’s still plenty of time left in this season for some teams to climb out of their ruts and perhaps salvage their seasons. But for a lot of them? It just seems hopeless.
The Atlanta Falcons are 2-4 (two-and-four!) and just lost starting running back Devonta Freeman for an indefinite amount of time. He may be lost for the year — like it even matters, though. The Falcons are in last place in their division, having fully fallen off the post-Super Bowl loss cliff after valiantly hanging in there for a full season last year.
Speaking of the Falcons, how about their Week 7 opponent — the New York Giants? The New York Giants may be the mess to end all messes. They’re 1-5 (one-and-five!), the receiver to whom they dedicated $65 million in guaranteed money is proving to be a problem, their 37-year-old quarterback is just going through the motions, their defense ranks in the bottom third, and their coach still looks like Standard Adult Male:
Seriously. I’ve seen Pat Shurmur a thousand times. I have no idea what he looks like.
Anyway, the only thing the Giants have going for them is that their throwback uniform get-ups are gorgeous, and their running back makes at least one highlight reel-worthy play every game. Wee!
Over in the AFC, the Buffalo Bills are scrambling because their bad rookie quarterback is injured, which forced them to play their even worse backup quarterback, who was so bad that they now have to go to an all-time bad backup quarterback who signed a week ago. Whoever could have seen that quarterback tandem being a problem for that team?
The Oakland Raiders under Jon Gruden have devolved into a national joke. A punchline. Every time Gruden speaks about needing a pass rusher, America guffaws. I’m not sure what he was supposed to do upon taking that job (and the reported 10-year, $100 million contract that accompanied it), but the goal probably wasn’t to turn the franchise into a laughingstock before Daylight Savings Time in year one.
The Indianapolis Colts probably were excited to get Andrew Luck back on the field. He’s been fine; nobody else on the team has. Though their secondary has some cool celebrations.
The Colts’ defense has busted out that planned celebration in two straight weeks. That’s two straight weeks where they gave up 38 points to the Patriots and then 42 points to the Jets. TO. THE. JETS.
We all have no other choice but to fully respect that move.
Elsewhere in the AFC South, the Jacksonville Jaguars were supposed to be good, and things were going to plan when they beat the Patriots in the Week 2 Super Bowl. They’ve since gone 1-3, most recently losing 40-7 to the Cowboys. (The Cowboys had been averaging under 17 points per game prior to facing that ferocious, fierce Jaguars defense.) And what about the Houston Texans? They were supposed to be a real AFC contender with Deshaun Watson back on the field. Instead they’re 3-3, which only touches on how uninspiring they’ve been.
The Cleveland Browns are just regular-bad now, instead of historically bad, so I guess that’s a positive. The Denver Broncos are 7-15 in the last two seasons and have not even reached the playoffs since their 2015 Super Bowl win. The current defending champs, the Philadelphia Eagles, are fighting to keep their heads above water, and the Detroit Lions have losses to the Jets, 49ers, and Cowboys. With all of the coverage and praise heaped upon Ryan Fitzpatrick in September, you’d never know that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-3. The Seattle Seahawks are a perfectly mediocre 3-3, and the Arizona Cardinals likely had something better than their 1-5 start envisioned when they drafted Josh Rosen. The Pittsburgh Steelers look like they have things figure out a bit after a rocky start, but still: they couldn’t beat the Browns. That’s a red flag and a half.
That’s a whole lot of trouble around the league. In that group, some teams will surely rebound and end up with a respectable nine-win season. Some may make the playoffs. But looking around the NFL, it does not appear to be a situation where there are haves and have-nots. There is a group of four of five teams of mostly-kinda-sorta-haves, and a big giant crop of definitely-do-not-haves.
It’s mid-October. Getting to be late October. It’s officially “Figure It Out” season.
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
Denver (-1.5) over ARIZONA
Well. This doesn’t look like it’s going to be fun for anybody, now does it?
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-7) over Tennessee (in London)
I was the last remaining passenger aboard the Titans bandwagon. I had banged that drum all summer, talking about the most improved team in the AFC, a real contender to stand toe-to-toe with the Patriots and Steelers, a dark horse threat to make a Super Bowl in Mike Vrabel’s first year.
Alas, I am deplaning. Disembarking. Bailing on the bandwagon. Following up a loss to the Bills by getting shut out by the Ravens is a sure way to empty out that caravan in a hurry.
JACKSONVILLE (-5.5) over Houston
I think we just have to accept the fact that the Jaguars are a temperamental team, one prone to fits of Blake Bortles going full Blake Bortles — in both the good and bad directions. Jalen Ramsey’s little postgame performance might signal to some that the Jaguars are spiraling out of control, but really, it’s just an indication that the Jaguars had a classic Jags week. And having a classic Jags week in no way predicts that another classic Jags week is on the horizon.
We also must accept the fact that the Texans are bad.
Minnesota (-3.5) over NEW YORK JETS
Carolina (+5) over PHILADELPHIA
Detroit (-1) over MIAMI
New Orleans (+2.5) over BALTIMORE
Buffalo (+7.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
I don’t know how you can pick a Derek Anderson-led Bills team to compete in a real, live NFL game. I honestly don’t. But I also have no idea how you don’t pick a Derek Anderson-led Bills team to compete in a real, live NFL game. Have you no concept of living?
New England (-3.5) over CHICAGO
Last week, the Patriots were a 3.5-point favorite over the undefeated Chiefs. This week they’re a 3.5-point favorite against a 3-2 Bears team that just lost to the Dolphins and also have a hobbled Khalil Mack. Surely home-field advantage in Chicago is not that powerful. Bad line. I’ll take it.
(Transitive property, by the way, shows that the Patriots beat the Dolphins by 21 points, and the Dolphins beat the Bears by three points, ergo the Patriots will beat the Bears by 24 points this weekend. Just you wait. It’s science.)
TAMPA BAY (-3) over Cleveland
I hope that it rains a lot during this game, and I hope the field gets very muddy, and I hope the players, as they walk to their respective locker rooms after the game, covered in the muck and mud, are forced to ponder not only their professional lives but their entire existence as they know it.
That’s all I’ve got to say about this particular football game. I hope that it rains.
SAN FRANCISCO (+10) over Los Angeles Rams
The 49ers proved on Monday night that they are not quite a full-on disaster in the absence of Jimmy Garoppolo. Which is nice. I guess. It makes for an intriguing line here, because the mighty Rams are obviously 6-0, but they’ve won their last thee games by an average of four points. Here’s hoping the trend can continue, but with the Niners on a short week and dealing with the lingering sting of a game they blew on national TV, I must admit my confidence is not at an all-time high.
But, well, Kyle Shanahan just looked so cool on Monday night, I can’t help myself.
So cool. I’d hit up a brewery with that guy, no doubt about it.
WASHINGTON (-1.5) over Dallas
The Cowboys aren’t traveling well this year, going 0-3 on the road. They’ve also yet to string together two consecutive winning weeks. Neither has Washington, for that matter. But you have to pick one of these teams, now don’t you?
KANSAS CITY (-5.5) over Cincinnati
The atmosphere within and around the Cincinnati Bengals always fascinated me to no end. The most recent instance of Bengalsism came when the Bengals lost the Steelers last week. It was Pittsburgh’s seventh straight win over Cincinnati, and it was the Steelers’ 10th win in the last 11 meetings between the two teams.
For his entire career, all Dre Kirkpatrick has known is losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yet after losing again, this time by a final score of 28-21, Kirkpatrick said this: “We’re better than them. They ain’t better than us. Period. They ain’t better than us. We’re better than them. But they won, so my hat’s off to them.”
No you’re not! You very clearly are not! And yet … they believe.
(Credit to Kirkpatrick for taking his hat off for the Steelers at the end there. A very classy and magnanimous gesture.)
ATLANTA (-5.5) over New York Giants
Imagine if you’re the New York Giants, and you’re such a complete and total mess of a football team that you’re about to head to Atlanta to face a 2-4 Falcons team, and you’re almost a touchdown underdog.
John Mara can point a finger at Odell Beckham all he wants, but that team is a bona fide mess, M-E-S-S, with no hope in sight.
At least we all get to watch them on prime time for a second straight week, a welcome injection to the stretch of Garoppolo-less 49ers prime-time games. Huzzah!
Last week: 7-8