By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Are we starting to see why 16-0 talk is a poor allotment of time in the United States of America?
To be fair, there’s no objective measurement to determine exactly how much time is spent on this topic, so maybe I’m reacting to nothing. But here in New England, it at least feeeeeels as though the level of talk has been higher than needed. And the past week has shown how such energy ought to be directed elsewhere.
As it stands now, there are two teams with a “chance” to go 16-0. Apologies to the 49ers, but the Patriots and Chiefs are the only contenders in this conversation, and considering they’ll be playing each other in Week 14, that technically means that only one of those two teams has a real “chance.”
Yet last week, if opposed by a quarterback who was even just slightly below average, the Patriots could have easily lost … in Buffalo. And if the football hadn’t apparently been lathered in Crisco, the Chiefs very well might have lost … to the Lions.
While the competition may not be heating up for the Patriots, the injuries are piling up. Their kicker’s gone for the year. Julian Edelman’s dealing with a chest injury. They’re down two starting offensive linemen and a fullback. Josh Gordon’s got a knee problem. Dont’a Hightower missed last week with a shoulder issue.
Football hurts. And it’s hard. That’s why 99.999 percent of football teams end up losing once or twice along the way, no matter how good they are.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs have Andy Reid. So. Yeah. Eventually, those pesky fourth quarters will catch up to them.
And that’s the short version of why it’s not worth wasting a whisper on 16-0 talk, especially in September.
But the Dolphins going 0-16? Oh, that is happening. Without a doubt. One-hundred percent. You can book it. It’s going to be hilarious.
We can also talk about me going 15-0 this week, because these picks are perfect.
(Home team in CAPS; Thursday lines)
Los Angeles Rams (+1.5) over SEATTLE
Just not seeing enough consistency out of the Seahawks this year, and their worst games thus far have been at home. (WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU, TWWAEEAVLLLVES?) If the Rams can maybe clean up one or two things that allowed them to give up 500 points to Jameis Winston a few days ago, their offense should be nice and warmed up for another night of lighting up the scoreboard.
TENNESSEE (-3) over Buffalo
Sean McDermott seemed to argue that Patriots staffers couldn’t be on the field; he was wrong.
Sean McDermott challenged two plays; he was excruciatingly wrong on both.
Sean McDermott argued that it’s illegal to jump the line on a field-goal attempt; he was woefully wrong.
Sean McDermott argued that a standard football play with an unfortunate result should have led to an ejection; he was, once again, wrong.
The point of all of this is to say that the Bills geared themselves up for their regular-season Super Bowl last week. It did not go as planned, thanks in large part to their head coach. So, I mean, if you want to take them on the road, one week after taking that gut punch? Be my guest. Couldn’t be me, though.
PHILADELPHIA (-13.5) over New York Jets
It’s difficult to love the Eagles this year. It’s much more difficult, though, to love the Jets’ chances of competing as they monitor the progress of Sam Darnold’s recovery from mono. Even if he is cleared to play … how effective is he supposed to be?
Baltimore (-3) over PITTSBURGH
It was odd that everybody seemed to crown the Ravens after they beat … the Dolphins … and the Cardinals … and after they kinda-sorta played K.C. tough. That was all a bit premature.
It’d be unwise, though, to really get behind Mason Rudolph on a short week. Seems like the offense might have a few more issues than it did against the Bengals. And Lamar Jackson is good enough to take advantage of a defense that is just not very good.
HOUSTON (-5) over Atlanta
Both of these teams stink. They bum me out.
Such beautiful throwbacks last week though.
So pretty. It would be way better if they hadn’t lost by two touchdowns at home, or if Julio had held on to that pass.
Arizona (+3) over CINCINNATI
Whatever, man. Just. Whatever. Arizona will win at some point, right? Why not this week? I don’t know. Too many bad teams in this league. I never want to watch the Cincinnati Bengals play football ever again. I need a vacation.
Chicago (-5.5) over Oakland (in London)
I don’t care if Matt Nagy himself has to play quarterback. Khalil Mack is going to score 100 points on his own.
Fun fact that I learned this week: London has hosted 25 NFL games now, and zero of them have featured two teams with winning records. That feels … almost impossible.
New England (-15) over WASHINGTON
It’s funny, the other prevailing narrative this week in New England is that the Patriots’ offense is toast. This is why you needed Antonio Brown! They gotta get Stefon Diggs! Tom Brady doesn’t have enough weapppppppoooooooonnnnnnnsssssssss!
Relax, nerds. Tom Brady’s offense looked bad on the road against the league’s No. 2 defense. It happens. They’re also now heading to a stadium that will likely be mostly full of Patriots fans, facing a coach who’s in his final days under employ of the team, against a defense that ranks 31st in points allowed and 28th in yards allowed.
Things are probably going to be OK for New England’s offense.
And with the rare mystery of a starting QB involving not two but three players, the Dwayne Haskins/Colt McCoy/Case Keenum prrrrobably will have a bad time against the league’s best defense.
The only question in this game is whether the Patriots’ offense or defense will put more points on the board. I’d put it at even money.
NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Tampa Bay
You can’t act like the Saints have everything figured out after they won a game while scoring 12 points at home. Likewise, you can’t ever assume the Bucs have things figured out, even after they just dropped a thousand points on the reigning NFC champs.
When in doubt, take New Orleans at home. But this is a dicey proposition either way.
Jacksonville (+3.5) over CAROLINA
Last week, I doubted the great Gardner Minshew.
NEW YORK GIANTS (+5) over Minnesota
There are some teams that could legitimately use all of the madness engulfing them and channel it all into a dynamite performance on Sunday. Whether you’ve got one receiver calling out a quarterback, and/or another receiver demanding a trade, there are teams that could shock the world by putting together a cohesive effort on the road on a Sunday afternoon.
And then there are teams that are led by Kirk Cousins.
Denver (+6.5) over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
It is my contention that it is more difficult for a team to come off a game against the Dolphins than it is to come off a bye week. There’s just a false sense of confidence that comes from facing a Pop Warner team, and it can be difficult to re-acclimate to actual NFL competition a week later.
This theory is gaining some real steam lately, too. The Ravens beat the Dolphins 59-10 in Week 1, but then barely beat the miserable Cardinals in Week 2, eking out a 23-17 victory. The Patriots beat the Dolphins 43-0, and while they handily beat the Jets the following week, the offense did completely go to sleep for half of the game. And after the Cowboys beat the Dolphins 31-6 in Week 3, they went ahead and lost 12-10 in New Orleans against a backup QB.
Add it all up, and it’s:
Ravens/Patriots/Cowboys 133, Dolphins 16
Ravens/Patriots/Cowboys One Week After Playing Dolphins 63, Following Weeks’ Opponents 43
That’s a good theory, and I stand by it.
Ergo, Chargers are going to struggle this week. You’re welcome.
DALLAS (-3.5) over Green Bay
I am out on Matt LafLeur. All the way out.
Only a matter of time until Aaron Rodgers joins me.
(The Packers’ run defense also appears to be broken beyond repair, so this just might be the best day of Ezekiel Elliott’s life.)
Indianapolis (+11) over KANSAS CITY
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. After being favorites the past two weeks (and by 5.5 points last week), it only took one dud for the Colts train to empty out. That’s too bad.
The Chiefs will win this one on their home turf, but are we just ignoring their 30th-ranked defense? I was told that the firing of Bob Sutton and the addition of Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu was enough to turn last year’s terrible defense into a viable defense. Yet through four weeks, the only teams with worse defenses are the Cardinals and Dolphins.
The Chiefs are doing an OK job of keeping points off the board, as evidenced by their ranking 19th in points allowed. But the law of averages likely means that 19th ranking and the 30th ranking are likely to meet somewhere in the middle. Which means the Chiefs’ defense? It’s still bad, folks.
SAN FRANCISCO (-3.5) over Cleveland
I’m not exactly the world’s biggest Kyle Shanahan fan (Kyle Shana-STAN, if you will), but I do like his chances of drawing up a few things during a two-week break that could befuddle the team headed by Freddie Kitchens (who doesn’t seem super good) and with a defense led by Steve Wilks (potentially also not all that good). I just like his chances.
Last week, you may or may not have noticed that I was a little over-the-top with my negativity, and I believe that is why I had such a miserable week with the picks. Frankly, though, it’s not my fault that so many teams are bad. Out of my hands, to be honest.
Anyways, I dialed the negativity back this week, scaling it down from “overwhelming” to merely “ubiquitous.” I am certain it will bring about great results.
Last week: 5-10