As we approach the end of the season, it's easy to forget that NFL teams aren't the only ones scrambling to make up for early season losses.
If you bet on the NFL and took some bad beats early in the year, this column should help make up for past mistakes and turn you into a late season contender. Let's take a tour through some of the juiciest lines from Week 14.
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Rams
Pick: Rams (-5.5)
Belichick finds a way. Belichick has always done a lot with a little. It's kind of his thing. But this year it's just ridiculous. This 2020 Patriots team is so bereft of talent, their skill level is comparable to an American Idol worst of compilation video. As the forgotten Randy Jackson may have once said: they're just not any good dawg.
Yet this team is 4-1 in the last five weeks. But evening great coaching has its limitations and you have to believe those limitations will be met this week when the Patriots take on the Rams in Los Angeles on Thursday night. The Rams are one of the more balanced teams in the NFL. They can run, pass, defend, and have a great coach of their own. Maybe Sean McVay will finally get revenge for Super Bowl LIII. Look for Aaron Donald to take over this game.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: Titans (-7.5)
No one is taking this Jaguars team seriously. Every week they are predicted to get smoked by their opponent, and yet 3 out of the last 4 weeks they lost by 4 or fewer points and beat the point spread. But I just can't see that happening this week against the Titans.
The Titans will be seeing red after falling to a 31-7 deficit in the first half of last week's game. The Titans climbed back into the game showing what they are capable of but it was too little, too late. The Titans were defeated 41-35. I'm looking forward to seeing how this Titans team will respond. If I'm the Jaguars I'm thinking: "Is there anyone you would want to piss off less than Derrick Henry and AJ Brown?" The answer is a resounding no. Look for these Jaguars to get slapped up. My money's on the Titans.
Houston Texans at Chicago Bears
David Banks/Getty Images
Pick: Texans (-1)
I did a double take when I saw the line for this game, then quickly placed my bet before the line had a chance to change. What a bargain. Now I know the Texans have a depleted passing game- and running game- and defense- and they have an interim head coach. But they still have Deshaun Watson. When you say that out loud or type it to yourself in your living room next to an obscenely, loud, snoring dog it really begins to wash over you just how good Deshaun Watson is. Then it begins to wash over you how sad it is he's got no talent around him and this season will be lost to the sands of time. What was Bill O'Brien thinking?
Anyway, where was I? Oh right: Watson can dismantle this Bears team by himself because that's what Watson does. And Mitch Trubisky won't be able to keep up, because not being able to keep up is what Trubisky does. The Bears embarrassed themselves when they traded up to draft Trubisky over Watson, look for the Bears to embarrass themselves further this Sunday verse the Texans.
Minnesota Vikings at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick: Bucs (-6.5)
Remember the "And 1 Basketball Live Tour?" If you missed it just envision a new age version of the Harlem Globe Trotters and you'd be envisioning exactly the right thing. Players nicknamed things like "The Main Event," "Spyda," and "Hotsauce" would travel around the country and dominate local talent with their brilliant ball skills and creative dunks. But pair that And 1 squad verse legitimate NBA players and the Street Hoop stars are quickly exposed.
That kind of reminds me of what this Vikings offense is this year. When they compete against the dregs of the league they have the ability to dice you up. But pair them verse a legitimate defense and they are exposed. Well expect exposing this week. This Vikings offense runs through Dalvin Cook, too bad this Bucs defense is the number one rushing defense in the league. If the Bucs defense can put the clamps on Dalvin Cook, I don't see Kirk Cousins keeping pace with Tom Brady and company. I see the Bucs rolling over the Vikings at home.
New York Jets at Seattle Seahawks
Pick: Jets (+13.5)
The Jets have gone from a dumpster fire to just a dumpster. The team is still no good. Adam Gase is still going to get fired. And Darnold is still going to be replaced. But at least Gregg Williams is gone. I'm looking for that release to fire up this Jets team SO MUCH that the Jets lose by less than two touchdowns.
Getty | TNS
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Pick: Packers (-7.5)
Aaron Rodgers is playing like an MVP candidate. He has Davante Adams and Aaron Jones back in the lineup which means only one thing: they're going to destroy the Lions. Look for the Packers to lay a smackdown upon their division "rival."
Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Chargers
Pick: Falcons (-2.5)
Here we have two teams who seem to have no concept of how to win. Both teams have looked brilliant in some moments and dreadful in others. And both teams have managed to lose games they should have won. So for me, it really comes down to which team is more mentally tough. And by that measure I'll give the slight edge to the Falcons.
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles
Pick: Saints (-7)
This will likely be Taysom Hill's last opportunity to showcase his talents as a quarterback for the season. Drew Brees aims to return in week 15 so you know Hill will be eager to make his case as a viable starting quarterback in the NFL. And he'll have a good opportunity to do just that. The Eagles allowed 437 yards last week against the Packers. Couple that with the fact that this Saints defense is the number one defense in the NFL in terms of yards per game and you really begin to see a path for the Saints to rout this defunct Eagles team. I like the Saints chances at pulling ahead by more than a touchdown.
With October in its twilight, Halloween is right around the corner.
Pumpkins have been carved and placed next to fake rocks with hide-a-keys etched into their underbellies all across America. We'll bide our time glued to the couch watching horror movies we've seen so many times that they're no longer scary but nostalgic. With fear-mongering now in vogue, we ask ourselves: Who has the most to fear heading into NFL week 8? I'll tell you who.
Adam Gase and the New York Jets vs. The Kansas City Chiefs
Adam Gase continues to fail to prove that he's not the problem in New York. Now he faces his former Running Back in Le'Veon Bell. If Bell can have a big game against Gase this week, Gase's inadequacy will only be further proven. And what a scary matchup this already was for this Jets team. Darnold had a passer rating of 31.1 last week against the Bills and gained 4 yards in the second half. Through seven weeks of play Darnold has a touchdown to interception ratio of 1:2 and has declined in almost every major statistical category from last year. The Jets ranked 31st in offense last year and now rank 32nd.
The metaphorical bloom is so far off the rose at this point for Adam Gase that it's six feet underground and being digested by earthworms.
Viewers of Primetime Football Games
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In a weird year like this, we're all constantly seeking these temporary escapes from reality. The NFL acts as America's most popular mental reprieve and with a highly contested Presidential election mere days away, the need for such distractions feels only more pressing. Unfortunately, the NFL primetime schedule isn't cooperating this week.
The week 8 slate kicks off with a low voltage NFC South matchup between the Falcons and Panthers. The Panthers are surprisingly scrappy yet expectedly milquetoast. Meanwhile, the Falcons appear to be allergic to winning, their losses play out as though they were authored by Lemony Snicket. Sunday night the melatonin pills continue as the Eagles take on the Cowboys.
Both teams have 2 wins yet are tied atop the wretched NFC East. The Eagles are a shell of their former team after a storm of injuries, and the Cowboys are starting third string Quarterback, Ben DiNucci. The slate hardly gets better Monday night when a dangerous Tompa Bay takes on a defunct New York Giants team. Can whoever is in charge of flex scheduling please take some pride in their position? These matchups are dreadful.
John Elway vs. Justin Herbert
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
It would appear John Elway is impervious to criticism. Which makes sense, SEE: Hall of Fame Career; Super Bowl MVP; and Peyton Manning. But since Manning's departure, the Quarterback position has oscillated faster than a Lasko fan on setting 3. Is Drew Lock just another failed attempt at bargain shopping at the Quarterback position? The list of quarterbacks to be given the nod since Manning's departure includes Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler, and Case Keenum.
Now Justin Herbert comes to town after his first win against the Jaguars last week. The rookie has been sensational through five games. Even outperforming first overall pick, Joe Burrow. It's not like the Broncos passed up on Justin Herbert, Herbert was selected 3rd overall in the 2020 draft whereas Denver didn't make their selection until pick 15. But Herbert still highlights how quickly a quarterback can step in and be an impact player. Whereas the Broncos are still in "wait and see mode" with Drew Lock.
But Denver threw all their eggs in the Drew Lock basket, despite the 2nd round Pick starting only five games and playing inconsistently. The Broncos's lack of foresight to not have a "Plan B" at the Quarterback position becomes more obvious every week. Herbert's stellar play highlights what a young Quarterback could be.
Aaron Donald vs. Tua Tagovailoa
Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Well here it is, Dolphins fans" the moment you've all been waiting for. Tua Tagovailoa will finally make his start this Sunday vs. the LA Rams. I think we're all going to miss the Ryan Fitzpatrick era in Miami.
Fitzpatrick was like an all-star on a Washington Generals team. You know his team was built to lose but man did he make it look good. Now Tua will get the nod and make his first NFL start. What a week to do it too. Tua will take the field across the line from Aaron Donald. Donald continues to add lines to his Hall of Fame resume. The five time All-Pro and two time Defensive Player of the Year is having another monster year. He blows up the line of scrimmage seemingly every play and through 7 weeks has accumulated 8 sacks, two forced fumbles, and six tackles for a loss. If you're getting your first NFL start after coming off a season ending injury and getting a surgically repaired hip, Aaron Donald is not the first person you want to play against.
Browns Fans vs. Baker Mayfield
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Browns fans have had it so hard for so long so I hate to pile on here, but this Browns season has got to leave Browns fans feeling disconcerted. Who would have thought after Baker's promising rookie season that two years later he would be the problem? It's got to be frustrating to be a Browns fan. It's always something. This year the rushing attack has been great all year, first with Chubb and now after Chubb's injury with Kareem Hunt.
First year head coach Kevin Stefanski is making the most out of the team talent, which is more than Freddie Kitchens could say, and the Cleveland Defense leads the NFL in takeaways (14). But Mayfield has been inconsistent, Pro Football Focus gives Mayfield a rating of 66.3 for the season and Mayfield has the 25th most passing yards this year and 5th most interceptions. With Odell Beckam out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, can Mayfield step up and be the Quarterback he was drafted to be as a number one overall draft pick? It's a question at the back of every Browns fan's mind and a question that leaves one feeling scared for the state of the team. Happy Halloween Cleveland.
Here we are only four weeks into the NFL regular season, a quarter of the way through.
I'm not one to callously dash anyone's hopes or say their dreams are unattainable, but in the landscape of the NFL, some fan bases might want to consider taking up a new hobby. Come back to the NFL next year or try rooting for a new team this Autumn. Maybe you could try curling or cleaning up trash on the side of a busy interstate, that's a worthy cause. While no teams have reached mathematical elimination from the playoffs, I'm here declaring all hope is lost for some. Four games into the NFL season and already some fan bases have nothing to root for.
"Nothing to Root For" is a series ranking fan base despair. It's not just about a team's likelihood to reach the postseason. Sometimes you have a first year coach or a young quarterback on the team; you know reaching the postseason is unlikely, but fans of teams in said scenario stick with your team and look for growth for next year.
Then there are other teams, teams where maybe the coach and GM are already seasoned, the quarterback is a known quantity. Maybe the GM received a contract extension in the offseason. And now, through four weeks of regular season play, the team has come out looking like the inside of a porta potty atop a hill in a landslide. So which fan bases need to escape the abusive relationships they are in with their favorite football teams and find a new hobby?
1. New York Jets
Things are so bad for the New York Jets team that you have to be hoping for losses at this point. I'd be sleeping with my pajamas inside out and my fingers crossed hoping for another embarrassing loss. Maybe, just maybe, at that point ownership would wisen up and Adam Gase would be out of there.
Things in the NFL are hardly ever so predictable, so riddle me this: How is it that everyone outside of this Jets organization knew Gase needed to be vacated except the Jets themselves? When Ryan Tannehill left the Dolphins as an afterthought and became the centerpiece for an exciting team down in Nashville, the Jets should have seen the writing on the wall. Tannehill wasn't alone in running, not walking, away from Gase.
Whether it was Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, or Mike Gesicki, all these players broke out after separating from Coach Gase. This guy made Le'Veon Bell disappear, and now Jets fans are left to wonder if their $99 Sam Darnold jersey investment is officially...a waste of money. Gase was once seen as an offensive mastermind, but that all now seems offensive to masterminds.
Thank you for social distancing, @AtlantaFalcons https://t.co/0bLjzZxIYW— CheeseheadTV 🧀 (@CheeseheadTV 🧀) 1601959676.0
2. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have started 0-4 to begin the 2020 season, and it's hard to even choose which loss would be most embarrassing. The competition is quite steep. There was the week 2 debacle against the Cowboys, whereby the Falcons lost after leading by twenty and showing they were professional athletes that didn't know the rules of their own sport. Or there was the Bears matchup in week 3, when the Falcons gave up a 16-point lead in 6 ½ minutes to Nick Foles, one week later.
But at least the Falcons were leading in those games, versus their games against Seattle and Green Bay, when they weren't even competitive. Dan Quinn is storing away embarrassing losses as though he were a squirrel storing away acorns for the winter. The guy's a defensive coach–where's the defense?
Falcons Head Coach, Dan QuinnPhoto by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
3. Washington Football Team
Fans of the Washington Football Team are in between a rock and a hard place. In a terrible NFC East, Washington is only half a game back from leading the division at 1-3. And Dwayne Haskins has only started thirteen games, so you want to stay tuned and see growth from the kid. But the more you watch of him, the more you become convinced the young QB already needs to be replaced.
While Haskins has shown some marginal improvement in his second year, he's also making mistakes that will leave you pulling your hair out. Take this last week when Haskins, midway through the 4th quarter on a 4th and goal and down by two touchdowns, threw a dump off to the nine yard line, where his receiver was shortly thereafter pushed out of bounds. You have to score a touchdown in that situation–what are you doing, Dwayne? With rumors beginning to circulate that Haskins will soon be benched, it's time to start getting excited about the 2021 draft and regular season Washington Football fans.
Dwayne Haskins, QuarterbackAP
4. New York Giants
It's hard to say what Giants fans should even be rooting for here. Quarterback, Daniel Jones, has shown potential at times, but he's also shown an affinity for fumbling the football. Through 17 games the young quarterback has fumbled the ball 21 times. General Manager Dave Gettleman is still trying to convince us that drafting Saquon Barkley 2nd overall was a stroke of genius. Now that Barkley is likely out the rest of the season, Gettleman's campaigning may be falling on deaf ears. Look for fans to begin calling for Gettleman's job if things don't begin to improve for the Giants down the stretch.
New York Giants General Manager, Dave Gettleman
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Is Gardner Minshew THE GUY or just the guy we wish was THE GUY? I mean the dude has got a killer mustache and a great Instagram, but he's also played dangerously inconsistent this year. After an efficient week 1 performance it appeared Minshew Mania was full steam ahead. Now after four weeks, it feels like Minshew Mania may have been a media creation that parallels "Lin Sanity."
Jacksonville Jaguars Quarterback, Gardner Minshew
6. Chicago Bears
You could make the case the Chicago Bears could be higher on this list. And that's saying something considering the Bears are 4-1, and coming off a big win against Tom Brady and the Bucs. But I'm still not buying it. I think this team's in football purgatory. I just need to keep believing this record is hollow and imminently doomed.
This is a team still trying to outrun the fact they passed up on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson to draft Mitch Trubisky, trading up the draft board to do so, no less. Now Mitch is benched, and Watson and Mahomes are each top five quarterbacks. Now Nick Foles is at the helm at quarterback, but I just can't buy into Foles long term. Someone remind me: Why did this team not go after Cam Newton in the offseason?
If you ask me, there's nothing worse than getting "lucky" and stumbling into an erroneous good record for a bad organization. Such luck only worsens a team's draft position and ensures another year in football mediocrity. If the Bears can start collecting some losses, maybe just maybe they'll finally land a top-flight quarterback.
Chicago Bears Quarterback, Nick Foles standing with Head Coach, Matt NagyChicago Tribune
7. Detroit Lions
The Lions right now are the epitome of boring. It's an offensive attack in the first quarter of the season that has centered around geriatric running back Adrian Peterson. AP has looked almost spry. But what else can this offense supply? The Lions are the first team in NFL history to lose six straight games after leading by double digits. Matt Patricia is known to be a former rocket scientist. Maybe he should go back to the rocket science community. So far he hasn't been able to get the Lions off the launch pad.
Detroit Lions Head Coach, Matt PatriciaThe Associated Press
8. Houston Texans
What a shame it is adding the Texans to the back of the list. Especially when it feels like what this team is really missing is the top flight wide receiver they gave away for pennies on the dollar. And there's really no point in rooting for losses. The Texans don't own their first and second round picks for 2021 as those were sent to Miami for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills. The regime change is already under way after Bill O'Brien was fired, so you may as well root for this team to bounce back. And yes 0-4 is ugly, but the Texans collected those four losses at the hands of the Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, and Vikings. If there's any team that can bounce back after going 0-4, it's a team led by Deshaun Watson. There is still a glimmer of hope.
Houston Texans Quarterback, Deshuan Watson
Cincinnati Bengals - Just shut up and watch Joe Burrow work.
Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback, Joe Burrow; Los Angeles Chargers Quarterback, Justin Herbert, Miami Dolphins backup Quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa
Los Angeles Chargers - Remember what I said about Joe Burrow? Justin Herbert has looked even better. Man does this kid have a pretty deep ball.
Miami Dolphins - Fitzmagic is fun to watch. And when he ceases to be a delight Tua Tagovailoa won 22 of the 24 games he started in college.