By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — If we are being frank with one another, the picture of the NFL right now is … not great.

COVID is a major problem again, with seven teams in intensive protocols as of Wednesday. Baker Mayfield is supposed to play on Saturday afternoon on national TV, but he’s tested positive. The virus really hasn’t disrupted the league much at all this year, but that’s changed a lot this week.

It’s a little stressful, as there are no more bye weeks, and there’s a tight schedule to follow, so postponements and rescheduled dates don’t seem to be particularly possible for a league that plans to hold its Super Bowl in the 90 bazillion dollar SoFi stadium in February.

But talking about COVID, breaking down COVID, worrying about COVID, following every second of every COVID story … people don’t exactly love that stuff. Understandably so. (We’ve been doing it for a little while now.)

That’s why, at this moment in time, the situation calls for us to look back on something that everyone outside of Marion County in Indiana does enjoy.

That moment was the Colts’ unforgettable fake punt vs. the Patriots.

Oh my. The fake punt. Technically, it wasn’t even really a fake punt. The punt team was on the field, but they had nothing to do with the play. That play almost defied reality.

I still can’t believe it.

Let’s watch it.

When I searched Twitter for that video, this was the first result that came up:

That’s about right.

And, oh my goodness, there’s an entire Wikipedia entry dedicated to the flub. It’s called “Colts Catastrophe.” Literally nobody calls it that, but that hardly matters.

That Wikipedia page informed me that NFL Network included the play in its list of top 10 worst plays of all time, which makes sense. But the play was listed at No. 6! Sixth!!! You’re kidding me. The plays supposedly worse than it? Hilariously enough, the Patriots were the beneficiaries on two of them: The Butt Fumble (of course) and Russell Wilson’s goal line pass in Super Bowl XLIX.

Listen, those were great. But I disrespectfully disagree. The fake punt that wasn’t? That’s the golden goose, baby. That is the good stuff.

This moment made so many of us simply giddy. I’m not sure of the exact chemical reaction at play, but something about that snap from Griff Whalen to Colt Anderson inspired feelings of unbridled glee. I mean, look at it:

The Indianapolis Colts line up for a fake punt vs. the Patriots in 2015. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Colt Anderson gets tackled by the Patriots after the worst fake punt formation of all time. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Colt Anderson gets tackled by the Patriots after the worst fake punt formation of all time.(Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

It is, in every sense of the world, unbelievable.

And we’re all the hero of our own stories, right? So I had to go back and see how I reacted in the moment to witnessing this unique slice of NFL history. It was fun to even relive that.

I wrote a whole story about that game. The story was titled, “Colts Run Single Worst Play In NFL History And Other Leftover Patriots Thoughts.” It was 3,200 words long. Granted, five of those words were, and I quote, “Aaaaaaaahahahaahahaahahaha hooooooooo boy haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa hoooooooooohohohoho.” And another one of those words was “Bahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhahahaahahahaahahahaahaaha!” Still. That’s a lot of words. I ended it with a photo, too:

The best part about the thing that’s kind of been forgotten over time is the fact that the Colts only trailed by six points when the Fake Punt For Idiots was employed. The Patriots only needed six plays to score a touchdown from the 35-yard line. They’d end up winning by just seven points. The nationally televised face-plant was actually impactful, beyond being hilarious.

It also dropped the Colts to 3-3, and then they promptly lost their next two games to fall to 3-5. They’d finish the year 8-8. After reaching the AFC Championship Game a year prior (and getting throttled by … the Patriots), the Colts didn’t even make the playoffs during their Fake Punt Season. They went 8-8 again in 2016, then 4-12 in 2017. Some might say they’ve never fully recovered.

Nor have I. Have any of us? How does one even begin to recover from witnessing such majesty, such terrific failure? We certainly have never been the same, and we never will be. And you know what? We’re better for it.

We’ve since learned that there was some reason for the mistake, as a rookie named Clayton Geathers was the one who performed as the “center” when the Colts practiced this “play.” Geathers, though, suffered a first-half injury and wasn’t available to run this awesome play.

That still … yeah, no. That doesn’t explain what happened. Because what happened was a once-in-a-million-lifetimes event. Today, we can all be thankful we lived it.

That felt nice. Let’s make some picks.

(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)

Kansas City (-3) over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
I’ve got this working theory that the Chiefs are at the point with this current group that they’re good enough to just decide in December, “Let’s be great now.” A Thursday nighter with some revenge at stake feels like a good opportunity to show that to be the case.

Las Vegas (-1.5) over CLEVELAND
Really a tough one to call, considering a ton of Browns are on the COVID list right now. That includes the quarterback and the head coach. Big-time serious NFL reporters have indicated that the league simply will not even consider moving this game (not even to Sunday??), so it feels as though the NFL is happy to tell the Browns to eat a poop sandwich this week.

For a team that has the same record as four other teams, all vying for the final two playoff spots in the AFC, that is a tough poop sandwich to swallow.

It is possible that some of the dozen players on the COVID list manage to return in time for the game, but this doesn’t feel like the recipe for a big victory on a Saturday afternoon.

New England (+2.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
I really don’t think the Patriots are a “rattle off a winning streak that covers half of the damn season” level of good. I really don’t. They’re good, don’t get me wrong. But eight-game winning streak good? Zero losses from October 24 through Christmas good? That’s a lot!

So my inclination is to go with the home team here. Jonathan Taylor is legit, obviously. There’s some talent on defense. The environment in Indy on a Saturday certainly favors the Colts, especially with a rookie QB trying to run the offense amid the chaos.

But … the Colts … they really don’t beat good teams. They just don’t.

Their strength of victory is just .319. The teams they’ve beaten have a collective winning percentage of .319. That is the lowest such mark in the entire NFL. Their best win was a road victory against the Bills, and we can credit them for that? But beyond the Bills, they’ve beaten the Dolphins, Texans (twice), 49ers, Jets and Jaguars. They’ve lost to Tampa Bay, Tennessee (twice), Baltimore, Los Angeles (Rams) and Seattle. That makes them 2-4 against teams currently in the playoffs.

There’s just not a ton of evidence that says they’ll beat the Patriots on Saturday night. They could. But I’m going with the team and head coach that has unequivocally owned the team with the horseshoe helmets — through multiple quarterbacks, through multiple head coaches, through one unforgettable fake punt — since 2010. (In the post-Peyton Manning era, the Patriots are 8-0 vs. their former AFC rivals. New England has averaged 40 points per game.)

Carolina (+10.5) over BUFFALO
Not asking for the world from the Panthers here. But can we keep it to 10 points, fellas?

The Panthers do have a great pass defense. Number one in the league, actually. So maybe limit the scoring, pick off a pass or two from Josh Allen, who’s always liable to give you one. And keep this thing within 10 points. Can we do that, Carolina? CAN WE?

(Asking a team to compete when their coach rotates his quarterback all willy-nilly after fumbled handoffs when an offensive lineman trips the QB is actually asking a lot. I know. I hate it.)

Houston (+3.5) over JACKSONVILLE
I am oddly fascinated by this game. I think anyone who tells you there’s a reason to pick one team over the other is an idiot. We are talking about two of the worst teams of all time. Maybe not 0-16 level bad, but in terms of morale and energy and front offices and head coaches, this is about as bad as it can get.

And here we are. December the 19th. The 2-11 Texans. The 2-11 Jaguars. The Toilet Bowl. Merry Christmas to me!

(I’m going with the Texans because there have been no reports this week of their egomaniacal head coach kicking the kicker while the kicker was stretching. That kind of thing will sink a team real fast. The Jaguars can KISS THE PLAYOFFS GOODBYE after that one.)

Tennessee (-2) over PITTSBURGH
I guess it’s a close line because the Steelers are at home, and they’ve had some extra rest after their Thursday game, and they got some extra theoretical rest thanks to Chase Claypool doing what he could to keep the Steelers from having to play in overtime. The Titans also have had their flops this year, so that’s always a possibility.

But the Steelers just … don’t do anything that well. They’re unbettable. Unpickable. They’ll win some games. They’ll cover some spreads. But with the 21st-ranked scoring offense and 22nd-ranked scoring defense, and with a bad rushing offense and a bad rushing defense, can we really pick them or trust them, dear reader? Reader, I assure you, we cannot.

Washington (+7) over PHILADELPHIA
The Football Team Guys might actually be better than the Eagles. Like, the science shows it may be true. So seven points is weird. Taylor Heinicke is a little bange dup, sure, but you know that psychopath will be out there diving for pylons come hell or high water.

PHILADELPHIA (-7) over Washington
OK, OK, OK, my bad. Can I get a mulligan? Amidst all the wild COVID news, I missed the fact that eighteen people from the Washington Football Team have been placed in COVID protocols. That’s a lot. Fly Eagles, fly. My bad.

Dallas (-10.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Funniest headline of the week: “‘No chance’ Giants fire Joe Judge, who John Mara ‘loves.'”

This organization has just been a head coaching disaster since kicking Tom Coughlin out the door, so this tracks.

DETROIT (+13.5) over Arizona
Let’s go, Dan Campbell! Get these fellas jacked up for this one. One of the top teams in the NFC, coming into OUR house? We are NOT gonna let them win (by 14 points). Not on my watch, brother!

The Lions are 1-11-1, but they’re 8-5 against the spread. They’ve made things interesting this year, that’s for sure. (Not real life interesting. But spread interesting, big time.)

MIAMI (-9.5) over New York Jets
I feel similarly about the Dolphins as I do about the Patriots. I’ll buy them to an extent, but now I have to roll with a six-game winning streak?

Of course, that doubt would only really factor in if they were facing an NFL-caliber opponent this weekend. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that.

SAN FRANCISCO (-9.5) over Atlanta
Kyle Shanahan vs. the Falcons. Feel like there’s some sort of Super Bowl LI corollary at play here where this game and cover will be well in hand, only for the Niners to unnecessarily blow it in the final minute. I hope not. But I’m leery.

Cincinnati (+2.5) over DENVER
The Bengals aren’t good enough to do a ton right now. But they’re good enough to beat the Denver Broncos.

Seattle (+4.5) over LOS ANGELES RAMS
A rash of COVID cases on a short week feels like a tough thing to overcome. Maybe the Rams can do it but the safe bet is to just say, NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNeh not this week.

(I took this approach last year and, anecdotally, it felt like it had a 50 percent success rate.)

Green Bay (-5.5) over BALTIMORE
Not loving the 2021 version of Lamar Jackson anyway. An ankle injury won’t help with that. Green Bay’s also just feeling it right now. Spotting the Bears an entire half of football but still covering a 12.5-point spread. Legendary stuff.

TAMPA BAY (-10.5) over New Orleans
The Bucs have such an easy final month of the year. Two Panthers game, the JETS (LOL!), and this one. Anything short of an emphatic 14-3 record will be kind of a failure at this point for the defending champs.

Minnesota (-3.5) over CHICAGO
Giving us the Bears on national TV in three out of four weeks should actually be against the law. I’m serious. Roger Goodell? Straight to jail. To jail you go.

Last week: 10-4
Season:
121-86-1

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.