By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — You know, Bill Belichick is nothing if not endlessly benevolent. In this crazy mixed-up calendar year of 2020, misery has pretty much seeped into every facet of American lives. Everybody’s bummed out, and with good reason.
But Belichick –that old sailor — decided to slap some smiles onto faces in living rooms around this great country. That effort began with his delightful sub sandwich advertisements, but the real offer has come in the form of a Patriots team that is 2-4 through Week 7 of the season. If there’s anything that makes Americans smile, it’s seeing the Patriots lose football games.
The Patriots have certainly done a lot of that thus far. It’s rather strange. During the Belichick era, the Patriots (with Tom Brady, of course) lost four or fewer games in THIRTEEN full seasons. Having four losses before Halloween is nothing short of staggering.
As a result, you’ve likely seen pundits — national, local, extraterrestrial, what have you — officially declare the 2020 Patriots to be dead. Those folks may end up being correct. It certainly looks that way.
But I would caution this: Nnnnnnnnnnnot so fast, folks.
Yes, the Patriots looked as bad as humanly possible vs. the Broncos. Yes, it somehow got uglier vs. the Niners. Yes they’re 2-4 and they’re in third place and Cam Newton’s late-June unemployment is starting to look a lot more reasonable. No doubt.
Yet, call me crazy here, but I still see one last push from this Patriots team. There’s a lot of pride in the locker room. There’s a lot of brainpower on the coaching staff. There’s still plenty of talent on the field.
While I do think that a division title and double-digit wins is most likely out of the question right now, I still think there’s plenty of life left in that team. And a trip to Buffalo for a meeting with the Bills — a team and region which the Patriots have absolutely and relentlessly bullied and terrorized for two decades — seems like the right time and place for that last gasp to be made.
If they win in Buffalo, then win at the Jets, and then win two weeks later in Houston, they can be 5-5 at Thanksgiving and can at least be a viable NFL team for the season’s stretch run.
That may not be the crash and burn that many (most? all?) NFL fans outside of New England are hoping to see. But Belichick’s already been plenty generous with his doling out of smiles this year. It’s time to deliver some pain.
Let’s hit the Week 8 picks.
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
CAROLINA (-2.5) over Atlanta
Full disclosure here: I was going to take the Falcons, because — accidental touchdowns and late defensive collapses aside — I feel like they’re trending in the upward direction in the post-Quinn era.
However, I started to think about how absolutely furious and ruined I would be while watching this game on a Thursday night, chewing nails and vomiting fire while filled with disgusted regret for picking the Atlanta Falcons. I just can’t sign myself up for that. I can’t. Even if I end up wrong, I’d rather avoid that risk altogether.
New England (+3.5) over BUFFALO
Uh. Think I said what I want to say about that one. I do hope that Sean McDermott doesn’t spend the whole day embarrassing himself like he did last year when the Patriots came to town. That was honestly tough to watch.
TENNESSEE (-6) over Cincinnati
CLEVELAND (-3) over Las Vegas
DETROIT (+2.5) over Indianapolis
Just not super interested in these football games, to be completely frank.
GREEN BAY (-7) over Minnesota
The funniest line of last week we undoubtedly Green Bay -3.5 at Houston. Did Vegas just make a mistake with that one?
Even this one, I’m not so sure. Seven? Minnesota has one of the NFL’s worst defenses. They got absolutely shredded by Matt Ryan last time. They lost to Houston. Feel like this line should probably be 10. I won’t complain, though.
KANSAS CITY (-19.5) over New York Jets
LOL! Such disrespect.
I honestly am not very certain about this one. Andy won’t be a jerk about it, you know? He’s got bigger things to worry about than beating the Jets by six-hundred points on a November Sunday.
But still. The Chiefs are so good (and the Jets are so bad) that a 21-point win might just happen by accident. Chiefs might mess around and stumble into it.
MIAMI (+4.5) over Los Angeles Rams
Is it foolhardy to pick the Dolphins in Tua’s debut? MAYBE. I will grant you that. It’s a great unknown.
But for one, I would think they’ve got a decent offensive game plan scribbled up for the young man’s debut. They’ve had two weeks to prepare it.
And also, this is a sneaky humongous game for the Dolphins. If they can improve to 4-3, and if the Bills keep slipping, they’re going to find themselves in a divisional race. With, say, six very winnable games left on the schedule, this could be the first step toward … 10 wins?
Maybe I’m putting the cart before the horse, but regardless, Miami’s sure come a long way from being dubbed “the worst football team ever assembled” last fall.
BALTIMORE (-4) over Pittsburgh
This game rocks. The fact that we can’t slide it into a prime-time window is a sin.
Did you know the Ravens have scored in every single quarter this season? Now you do.
Pittsburgh has a good defense, but the Ravens coming off a bye? I like the Ravens coming off a bye here. Just wish the game was on at night. We deserve that. Thanks for nothing, Roger.
Los Angeles Chargers (-3) over DENVER
The Chargers are definitely the best bad team in the league right now. And that counts for something.
New Orleans (-4) over CHICAGO
The Bears are the worst good team in the league right now.
San Francisco (+3.5) over SEATTLE
The Seahawks are a blast and a half, and Russell Wilson is dynamite, but man alive does that defense make everything difficult for that team? The defense stiiiiiiiiinks.
They’ve allowed the most yards and most passing yards per game. They have the fourth-worst sack rate. They allow the most first downs per game. They’re 25th in third-down stops. Stink, stank, stunk!
PHILADELPHIA (-7.5) over Dallas
Tampa Bay (-10.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Everyone likes to make jokes about the NFC East this year, but then, boom. Back-to-back prime-time games featuring three butt teams from the NFL’s worst division, including one game featuring the legendary Ben DiNucci out of James Madison at quarterback. Not so funny now, huh, funny man? Not making your NFC East jokes anymore, Sir Jokes-A-Lot.
Anyways. These games. Woof. In theory, they make for nice opportunities to watch movies or shows. But you know as well as I do that we’ll be tuned in for every snap like the sick animals we are.
Last week: 9-4-1