By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — We are gathered here today in this hallowed cyber space to remark upon the upcoming football games of the week. I understand that. We’ll get to that.
But first, as a way of both deflecting from my own horrible picks of late and also telling a worthwhile tale, I’d like to take a brief moment to share the life of an NFL journeyman. It’s a tale not often told, as countless big, strong men get treated like meat sacks on a daily basis in the NFL as they do whatever is asked of them in order to chase their dream.
This week, it’s tight end Eric Tomlinson whose story deserves some telling.
The quick Wiki on Tomlinson: 27 years old, played at UTEP, undrafted, spent time with the Eagles, Texans, Jets and Giants over the last four years before getting picked up by the Patriots last week. One might think that getting signed by the dynastic, Bill Belichick-led Patriots would be the most significant moment of a person’s week, at least, but for Tomlinson, it was not.
Here’s how the 6-foot-6, 263-pound tight end spent the past week-plus.
Tuesday: Signed by Patriots, participates in practice. Flies to Houston to be with his wife, who was due to deliver their first child.
Wednesday: Witness the birth of his first child, a son named Leslie Stone, born at 8:17 a.m. After a life-changing day, Tomlinson hopped a flight back to the northeast.
Thursday-Sunday: Practice with the Patriots, fly to New York.
Monday: Play on Monday Night Football, get referred to multiple times as “Number 82” by Booger McFarland, take almost half of the team’s offensive snaps in a 33-0 victory.
Wednesday: Informed that he’s been released, in order to create a roster spot for Mohamed Sanu. Miss practice, on account of not being on the team anymore, only to later be informed that Josh Gordon is being placed on IR and thus the roster spot is not needed. The release papers were never officially filed, and Tomlinson remains on the team.
Now, I’m not trying to cast judgments and aspersions on the public at large here. But it does feel like all too often, we may think of the Peyton Mannings or Tom Bradys of the world, or the Antonio Browns and the Le’Veon Bells, and we think of these wealthy, glorious lifestyles that must accompany an NFL career. And those lives certainly do exist.
But it’s the lives of these guys that often get overlooked. They’re obviously an important part of the league, as there are countless Eric Tomlinson stories that play out on a week-to-week basis for 32 teams.
It’s not a plea for sympathy, either, as the initial response to a story like this is always, “Yaahhh, I’d do in a heartbeat if I got an NFL paycheck, too!” OK, Fred. Calm down. While it may not be 100 percent accurate to divide Tomlinson’s salary by 16, he basically went through all of that for some $40,000. That’s not an insignificant sum, true. But you can’t exactly retire on 40k.
On the plus side, though, Tomlinson is now in line to earn another $40k. After that, the Patriots will need a roster spot for N’Keal Harry, and with Ryan Izzo and/or Matt LaCosse likely to recover from their respective injuries, Tomlinson could soon be unemployed again, while also trying to manage his rapidly changing life in Houston with his wife and baby.
That’s … a lot to deal with, to say the least. And while we need not create any GoFundMe pages for him or any other NFL player, it’s just worth it to take a moment to respect the dedication and passion that people like Tomlinson have to the sport that we all love and enjoy.
Now, speaking of that sport, let’s do picks.
(Thursday lines; Home team in CAPS)
MINNESOTA (-16.5) over Washington
Back when the Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs stuff was coming to a head, I wrote the following:
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.
The Vikings have since gone 3-0, outscoring opponents 108-60. Cousins has completed over 75 percent of his passes for 976 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception.
Yeah, Thielen is out on Thursday, but the Redskins are also terrible and have no idea what they’re doing. So in the words of the great Jim Calhoun, if you want me to say I fudged up … I fudged up. Write it.
JACKSONVILLE (-6.5) over New York Jets
Imagine if, after you were caught on a hot mic on Monday Night Football admitting that you were seeing ghosts, you had to then travel to Florida to deal with the 6-foot-8, 300-pound Calais Campbell?
Yikes City, population: Sammy D.
Tampa Bay (+2.5) over TENNESSEE
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been having some trouble with my picks lately. I went 5-9 last week, bringing my season total to 46-59-1.
On the one hand, I’ll own that. Not good.
On the other hand: MAYBE THE RECORD STINKS BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO PICK GAMES LIKE THIS ONE. CRIKEY.
What do you really want from me?
INDIANAPOLIS (-5.5) over Denver
I’ve seen dead football teams plenty of times over the years. The Denver Flaccos are a DEAD football team.
Seattle (-3.5) over ATLANTA
Oh, did somebody mention DEAD football teams?
BUFFALO (-1.5) over Philadelphia
What a helpless feeling it was, to pick Philly +3.5 in Dallas last Sunday night, only for that pick to get demolished in a matter of minutes. I suppose that’s the price you pay for being stuck in the past. Because the present-day Eagles are just not very good.
(This game will, however, put my Dolphins theory to the test. That theory is simple: Teams are terrible a week after playing against the Dolphins, as they take some time to readjust to facing real NFL competition. It’s thus far claimed every Dolphins opponent thus far. Can the Bills break the trend?)
Los Angeles Rams (-13) over CINCINNATI
The Cincinnati Bengals are not worth anyone’s time. Including mine. Moving on!
Los Angeles Chargers (+4) over CHICAGO
Speaking of teams that used to be good but now stink. Yeesh. The Chargers were last year’s best AFC team (in the regular season), and the Bears were a double-doink shy of reaching the divisional round.
Now, either the Chargers end up losing a fourth straight, or the Bears end up losing a third straight.
Maybe they should just decide ahead of time to end the game in a tie. Both teams could probably use the boost of not losing.
NEW ORLEANS (-10.5) over Arizona
Have Kliff Kingsbury, Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals figured something out during this three-game win streak?!?!?!?!??!
They’ve played the Bengals, Falcons, and Giants.
I’ve stubbornly refused to believe the Saints could maintain their consistency during this brief Teddy Bridgewater era, and I’ve been proven wrong. It’s time to accept reality.
(UPDATE: Turns out Drew Brees wants to play. It’s wild to say … but if you’re the Saints, do you hold him out an extra week, juuuuust to be sure? It’s not like they’ve been struggling without him, you know?)
DETROIT (-7) over New York Giants
Did you hear Pat Shurmur’s postgame press conference last week? He was asked why on God’s green Earth he called a draw play on third-and-18, followed by a fourth-down play that had Daniel Jones get strip-sacked at a point when the Giants only trailed by thee points and still had two timeouts with 2:35 left in the game. He basically said it played out exactly as he envisioned, because he was going to go for it on fourth down no matter what … even if that unsuccessful draw on third down only gained three yards.
Pat Shurmur on 3rd & 4th down play calls with just under 3:00 to play: "It played out exactly out I liked or I would've hoped."
Full explanation from Giants head coach here: pic.twitter.com/yEukLMAdYp
— John Chandler (@JohnChandlerNBC) October 20, 2019
“It played out exactly as I liked! Or I would have hoped!”
Anyway, all I could think of when watching that was that this seems like a guy who would follow his GPS if it told him to drive into a lake.
THE MACHINE KNOWS!!!!!
Carolina (+5.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
Wow. It’s the rare NFL game that is actually appealing! A true unicorn!
I’m predicting a grand total of about 350 combined passing yards between the two teams. And I’d like to hope that the extra rest for the Panthers is enough to keep this one close.
Oakland (+7) over HOUSTON
Living in a world where the Raiders and Jon Gruden aren’t a total train wreck is just no fun. No fun at all.
And while it is possible that Aaron Rodgers finally ended the modest run of decency for the Raiders, their body of work has been so-so. And so-so has to be worth seven points.
NEW ENGLAND (-13) over Cleveland
I picked against New England last week.
That sounds bad. It sounds worse if you say it like this: I picked the Jets to cover against the Patriots last week.
Green Bay (-3.5) over KANSAS CITY
This is the worst line I’ve ever seen. We’re talking about Matt Moore here, folks. The man doesn’t even a helmet that fits his head. You can pick this game without even having to tune in.
Do people forget that the Chiefs’ defense STINKS out loud? Or that Rodgers is coming off a perfect game?
Miami (+14) over PITTSBURGH
If it weren’t for gambling, this game would garner a 0.0 national rating.
(Just kidding, we’re all idiots, and we’re all addicted to football, and we’ll all watch every snap. I’m OK with it if you’re OK with it.)
Last week: 5-9