By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — So … how was your week?
Anything fun or exciting happen?
The presidential election nabbed a headline or two this week, for sure. Some Americans have had their eyes on that puppy, no doubt. It feels a bit odd to be writing an NFL picks column in the midst of it, but clearly there’s nothing in the world that can stop the NFL train from rolling along.
COVID-19, though, is making quite the push. Perhaps the election overshadowed this, but it was a rather grim week for the NFL in terms of virus control.
In San Francisco, the 49ers have shut down their facility on Wednesday. They’re scheduled to host the Packers on Thursday night. The NFL’s initial word is that it’s “game on” for Thursday night … but the word here is that such a dream won’t be possible. It feels safe to assume we’ll be skipping our Thursday Night Football dosage this week.
Considering everything else going on, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
(Side note: Whenever these situations have sprung up this year, league officials have loved to use the words “game on” when telling reporters what the plan is. Game on! It’s so uncouth! Real humans are testing positive for a virus that’s causing pain and suffering — and, you know, death — across the globe, and the NFL can’t wait five seconds before texting “Game on!!” to Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport. It’s uncouth, I tell you. Simply uncouth.)
Back to football: In Green Bay, running back A.J. Dillon tested positive. Two other players were determined to be close contacts of Dillon and thus wouldn’t be allowed to play on Thursday night (if that game were a possibility to happen).
In Denver, team president John Elway and CEO Joe Ellis tested positive for COVID-19. A Broncos player — Graham Glasgow — tested positive last week.
In Baltimore, star cornerback Marlon Humphrey tested positive. Seven “high-risk” close contacts were identified on Baltimore’s roster. Those players can only play in Week 9 if they test negative throughout the week.
In Cleveland, a player this week reported COVID-19 symptoms, so the team went remote for meetings.
In Arizona, two players — Devon Kennard and Byron Murphy — tested positive for COVID-19 during the team’s bye week. Thus far, it hasn’t spread to other players or coaches.
In Dallas, quarterback Andy Dalton tested positive.
All along, the NFL stated that it expected positive cases. The NFL believed that with adherence to protocols and contact tracing, those situations could be managed. Thus far, they have. Games will be played this week.
It just feels like the right time to note that as the weather turns and numbers around the country go up, the NFL is being affected. At the same time, the league is apparently considering an expanded postseason field, in order to account for the very real possibility of missed games on the schedule. The NFL continues to modify its protocols, making players wear masks on sidelines and locker rooms more than they have been, but that can only limit the spread so much.
Perhaps a lot of that didn’t get the attention it might have during normal weeks, so consider this your heads-up.
And whatever you do, don’t look at my record from last week. Let’s make sure that it doesn’t get much attention. Much appreciated. Thank you.
UPDATE: In the hours after this story published, the Lions placed quarterback Matthew Stafford on the COVID-19 list (while kind of indicating that he was merely a close contact, rather than a positive case) and the Buccaneers placed defensive lineman Will Gholston on the COVID-19 list. That makes for at least nine teams dealing with new, active COVID situations.
UPDATE AGAIN: On Thursday morning, the Texans announced they had a player test positive.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Add the Colts to the list.
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
GREEN BAY vs. San Francisco
I’m not picking this game, because it cannot happen. I was ready to say that the Packers were going to win 3-2. It was going to rock. Alas.
(UPDATE: Apparently, I’m the crazy one, as the NFL is full steam ahead for playing this game. It’s not fair for either team and probably not safe, but the NFL needs its TV show!!!)
Denver (+4) over ATLANTA
The Broncos are … rounding into form as a decent team? It’s probably too soon to say that. But it’s likely the smart move to stay away from a Falcons team where players are openly ranting about not being traded prior to the deadline.
BUFFALO (+3) over Seahawks
The Bills aren’t that good but Seattle’s got to run out of momentum at some point, right? The one game they lost, they made it to overtime and had their game-winning play called back due to a penalty. With a defense that weak, aren’t they due for a clunker? I say yes. And I have literally never been wrong*.
*technically not true.
Chicago (+5.5) over TENNESSEE
The Titans really showed some incredible fortitude to come out of their COVID mess with two impressive wins, but it seems as though they’ve run out of gas in that effort. They’re only human.
INDIANAPOLIS (+2.5) over Baltimore
I’m loath to believe in the Indianapolis Colts, but I’m foreseeing some issues for Baltimore coming out of a COVID week. With eight players unable to practice, and the left tackle gone for the year, it’s a tough time in Baltimore.
KANSAS CITY (-10.5) over Carolina
It’s really just up to the Chiefs each and every weekend whether they want to win and how much they want to win by. It’s rude.
MINNESOTA (-4) over Detroit
This game’s gross! Yucky! No thank you!
Houston (-7) over JACKSONVILLE
What the heck?! No.
Las Vegas (+1) over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
The Chargers are the best bad team out there. They are so spectacular at almost winning but then not winning. It’s a skill and they’ve perfected it.
New York Giants (+3) over WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
I’ll never not laugh when I wrote those three words. Washington. Football. Team. It’s art, really.
It’s tough picking the Giants. They’d be pretty good if Daniel Jones wasn’t awful. Who could have possibly known that the kid out of the quarterback factory that is DUKE UNIVERSITY would stink? Happens to the best of us.
Pittsburgh (-9.5) over DALLAS
Feels like an odd trap game potential for the undefeated Steelers, but you can’t really pick the Cowboys after what they put on your TV last week.
ARIZONA (-5) over Miami
Kyler vs. Tua? The NFL would be wise to market this game, if you ask me. Get some eyeballs on the screens.
TAMPA BAY (-5.5) over New Orleans
There are two types of people in this world: The people who will tune in to see how Antonio Brown will look in his Bucs debut, and the people who are liars.
It’s crazy how much Tom Brady is still doing for the league in terms of national TV windows. By all reasonable measures, he should have been out of the league three years ago. Yet here he will be in prime time for the third time in a one-month span, the same ratings driver he’s always been. How nice of him to help out his friend Roger like that.
New England (-7) over NEW YORK JETS
How bad are the Jets? Let’s look at the scoreboard.
The Jets have been outscored by 144 points this season. That is, obviously, worst in the NFL.
The second-worst team? That would be the Cowboys, who have been outscored by … 81 points this year.
The Jets are more than 75 percent worse than the second-worst team.
Third-worst? Jaguars, at minus-66. The Giants (minus-54) and Texans (minus-51) round out the bottom five.
The Jets aren’t even in the same stratosphere of the rest of the league’s bums. Truly incredible stuff from Adam Gase and Co.
Last week: 4-10 (ouch.)