Buffalo (plus 11) at New England
Scott Feschuk: As a Bills fan, I’ve so far refrained from criticizing QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, largely because he represents a genuine upgrade over guys like Trent Edwards and J.P. Losman. Remember Losman? You couldn’t find a more incompetent quarterback if you took Ryan Leaf’s brain, stuffed it inside Matt Leinart’s skull and handed the skull to JaMarcus Russell to throw 12 feet over the head of a wide-open receiver. But enough is enough. Fitzpatrick just isn’t getting it done and the fact that he graduated from Harvard and probably knows how to use a protractor does not make up for the fact HE NO CAN THROWY MR. OBLONG. Right now, the only thing that will save 2012 for Buffalo fans is if it turns out that the Bills’ season syncs up perfectly with Dark Side of the Moon. Fingers crossed. Pick: Buffalo.
Scott Reid: Breaking News – the Buffalo Bills, whose defence has allowed an NFL all-time high forty squinjillion points, has fired its entire defensive team and replaced them with the Muppets and Wall-E.
Head coach Chan Gailey explained that, while unconventional, the technically lifeless Muppets would still represent a substantial upgrade to most positions. “Gonzo played a little Division II ball before he got into show biz and Kermit has great instincts around the ball – as long as we can keep that pig away.” New free safety Animal had this to add in an interview with WNY Sports, “Lurrghh.” In other news, the Bills denied that they’ve been negotiating with Tennessee for the rights to field goal kicker Stuart Little. Pick: New England.
Tennessee (plus 6) at Miami
Reid: At 3-6, it seems like the Titans have played – and lost – at least two more games than everyone else in the NFL. Matt Hasselbeck, back under centre, is now so old that his age is measured by geological era in place of years (for the record, he’s teetering right on the line between Paleozoic and Precambrian). His opposite number this weekend is superstar-in-the-making Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphin’s rookie quarterback possesses many enviable advantages over the common man: arm strength, football smarts and life mate.
Yes. As if not enough things were going right in Tannehill’s life (bazillionaire contract, success as a starter, looks good in aqua) he’s actually married to an aspiring model (why she’s still “aspiring” is a mystery fit for Ellery Queen). In case you’re wondering how this affects Sunday’s matchup, perhaps you need additional photographic details.
Still not clear? Okay, perhaps further research will help.
Ryan Tannehill, I think I speak for all men when I ask: Why do you ever leave the house? Pick: Miami.
Feschuk: The Titans are such a gong show that the team’s owner, 89-year-old Bud Adams, was moved to make a public statement after the team lost by 31 to Chicago. “In my 50 years of owning an NFL franchise, I am at a loss to recall a regular-season home game that was such a disappointment for myself and fans of the Titans,” Adams said. “We were grossly outcoached and outplayed from start to finish today.”
Adams continued: “If performance and competitiveness does not improve, I will look at all alternatives to get back to having the Titans become a playoff and championship football team.” I think we all know what that means: Bud Adams is breeding an advanced race of atomic supermen who will dominate the league, alter the face of athletic supremacy in the professional ranks and ultimately devour us all. So adjust your Christmas plans accordingly. Call me crazy, but I think Adams should focus on the positive. You know who’s not giving up? The Titans’ cheerleaders. This is how they came out dressed for Sunday’s game:
It’s like Lombardi used to say: Nothing says “giving 110 per cent” quite like “covering only 0.7 per cent of your thigh area.” Pick: Miami.
Houston (plus 1) at Chicago
Feschuk: Listen – it was a neat idea to air old hockey games to ease the pain of the NHL lockout, but the novelty has worn off. There are only so many times you can say, “Whoa, look how tiny the goalie pads were back then! AND GRETZKY SURE WAS SKINNY!!” Fundamentally, here’s the problem: The games have ALREADY BEEN PLAYED. We know who wins. We know who loses. We know that Bob Cole forgets where he is and starts reciting lyrics from old Merle Haggard songs. People of Canada: we need a new pastime. Forget about ridiculous fringe sports like darts, binge eating or soccer. I recommend we instead create a new one: competitive hurricane coverage. As we saw during coverage of Hurricane Sandy, a lot of people can stand out in a storm for no reason. But who can withstand 100 mph winds while juggling three bowling balls and singing Bohemian Rhapsody? GAME ON, ANDERSON COOPER. Pick: Chicago.
Reid: After provoking a passionate debate between reasonable people and Neanderthals, Charles “Peanut” Tillman has indicated that he will in fact play in Sunday night’s game rather than be present for the birth of his child, should the baby arrive on game day. Taking to Twitter, Tillman indicated that the baby is now expected Monday – raising the question: Did Brian Urlacher threaten the uterus into changing its plans? For a full day however, the sports world ground to a halt (other than the six NHL fans left in America who heard about the labour talks resuming) as people debated whether it was a dereliction of official duties for Tillman to skip SNF for the creation of a human being. Mike Florio from Pro Football Talk had this to say: “If they choose not to plan their nine-month family expansion activities to coincide with the eight months per year when their work activities don’t entail playing games that count, why should their teams suffer the consequences?” I like that! Family expansion activities (like doing the dirty boogaloo). Why we’re arguing about this and not asking why Tillman calls himself ‘Peanut’ remains a mystery. Pick: Chicago.
Denver (minus 3.5) at Carolina
Reid: The NFL wants Peyton Manning to succeed the way everyone above the age of 14 wants Gangnam Style to just go the f**k away.
It’s mindboggling how quickly today’s youth burn through these fad celebrities like Psy or Cam Newton. Carolina’s young superstar is having the worst sophomore outing since Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. A year ago he was the next big thing. Today he’s just RGIII without the Roman numerals. I have been alerting North Americans about Peyton Manning’s goopy arm all season (that’s 2,400 yards and 20 touchdowns of goopy for those keeping score). But it seems that, much like my belief that Mitt Romney would be the first President since Bill Clinton to have sister wives, I am falling somewhat short of accurate in my prediction. Pick: Denver.
Feschuk: Forget about his on-field play – we’ve got bigger problems: This Peyton Manning TV commercial thing is officially out of control. It was adorable for awhile but now Peyton – who spends more time on our TVs shilling products than Mitt Romney spent on the FiveThiryEight blog last week yelling, “Move, numbers! MOVE!” – is gassing on about how he’s a proud Papa John’s franchise owner. Have you ever tried Papa John’s pizza? It’s like sinking your teeth into a fart cloud. Pick: Carolina.
K.C. (plus 12.5) at Pittsburgh
Feschuk: The image of the typical NFL coach is well defined: he’s a hard-driving, profanity-spewing workaholic who watches tape into the wee hours, sleeps on his office couch and bakes Shrinky Dinks for his co-ordinators (Norv Turner only). But what’s the real story? Surely, when a team sucks, even the hardest-working head coach must at some point in the schedule just think to himself, “Screw it – I’m going to Red Lobster.” Consider Romeo Crennel: his team has played football for 29,313 seconds so far this season and they have held a lead for exactly ZERO of those seconds.
When Romeo closes his office door these days, I bet it’s to watch Homeland. Pick: Pittsburgh.
Reid: Let’s not waste each other’s time. Pittsburgh wins. Now look, I’ve always been more of a Star Trek than Star Wars kinda guy. The vision is more affirmative. The universe more richly textured. The characters more rounded and, in Kirk’s case, more boner-packing. You take Billy Dee Williams off the table and it’s not even a contest. But news that Disney has bought LucasFilm and will proceed with a new set of sequels has filled me with great excitement. Not only do we get to see what kind of slender beauty Princess Leia blossoms into in her sixties but reaching into the rich Disney history of live-action blockbusters raises the possible return of a CGI-inspired Dean Jones – look, it’s Darth Innocuous! His twisted mastery of the dark side will threaten to wash the entire galaxy in his whitebread values. Surely only a teenaged Kurt Russell “The Spaciest Boy on Tatooine” will be able to halt his deathly march. And please, please, let Lindsay Lohan take on the role of Jedi Master Qui Gon Hosebag – selected to help train Han and Leia’s children in the ways of the force. And driving a hovercraft while coked out of your nebula. Like the Cowboys, Star Wars is a once proud franchise set for agonizing humiliation for years to come.
Atlanta (minus 3) at New Orleans
Reid: News that the NFL head office voided Sean Payton’s contract extension gave rise to immediate speculation that Jerry Jones would make a play to sign up the former Cowboys assistant during the offseason. What’s surprising about this is not that Dallas might secretly be interested in a young Superbowl champion coach. Or even that Roger Goodell is once again, playing nut-yank with the poor depleted Saints franchise. What’s really surprising is the way that Jones doesn’t even bother to acknowledge that he currently has someone under contract who does that job. Asked if he was interested in Payton, Jones emphasized that NFL rules prohibit him from talking to his former employee. That was it! No mailed-in blather about already having a head coach in whom he has confidence. No false protest just for the sake of appearance. Jones made it clear that, given half a chance, he’d snap up Sean Payton faster than Carrie Fisher would snorkle back a new Star Wars paycheque. Yo Jason Garrett, if I were you, I might start paying for my Apple TV month-to-month. Pick: Atlanta.
Feschuk: I’m fascinated by the U.S. election post-mortems in which it’s been revealed that Mitt Romney reckoned he was a cinch to win on Tuesday. Apparently, his advisers presented the candidate with polling numbers that were skewed to reflect an ideal turnout for the Republican party – rather than, say, numbers that reflected the basic contours of reality. That’s kind of like going to the owner of the Saints and saying: “Good news! We’re 3-0 in games we’ve won this year!” The question now becomes how Romney will react to his defeat. Will he get fat and grow a beard like Al Gore? Will he start hawking boner pills like Bob Dole? Personally I’d like to see him do both. “Hi, I’m Mitt Romney [hikes up size 48 Dockers, forcing a 10-second pause as he tries to catch his breath] and I’m here to talk to you [wipes sweat from brow] about Cialis [wheezes uncontrollably]. Pick: New Orleans.
New York Jets (plus 6.5) at Seattle
Feschuk: I was prepared for the New York Jets to be a lot of things this year. I was prepared for them to be a reality show. I was prepared for them to be a soap opera. With the addition of Tim Tebow, I was prepared for them to be raptured. But I’ll tell you this: I wasn’t prepared for them to be boring. Yet that’s what they’ve become. Their defence is boring. Their offence is boringer. Mark Sanchez’s interceptions, overthrows and erratic facial-hair decisions have become boring. Even Rex Ryan is boring now – his shtick has grown staler than those rosemary Triscuits he left in the pocket of his fat pants. Pick: Seattle.
Reid: I couldn’t agree with you more. And yet…when they’re on, I find myself watching. I gaze at the Jets the way a workboot stares at an ant – poised and hoping for the grisly end. I think I just glee in their awfulosity. Wondering when they’ll move from their shitty quarterback to their shittiest-of-all quarterback. Questioning when Rex Ryan will give up altogether and start talking about feet (“Sweet Jesus – I bet that Erin Andrews knows how to treat a work sock”). But I think I’ve found a solution to your listlessness. You know what would make the Jets more exciting? They need more security. Don’t think that’s too thrilling? Well maybe that’s because you’ve not met Special Constable Paulina Gretzky:
Pick: New York.
Dallas (plus 2) at Philadelphia
Reid: Let’s just call this the Severance Bowl. Andy Reid and Jason Garrett have as much chance of hanging onto their jobs as Lindsay Lohan has of hanging onto her driver’s license. Speaking of women with low self-esteem, did you get a load of The Donald’s election night tweets? He railed against the democratic choice of Americans as “a travesty” and then beseeched his followers (a distinguished group that includes Meatloaf, Gary Busey and the cosmetic surgery accident that calls itself Joan Rivers) to take to the streets of Washington and rise up in “revolution.” Really? Are you genuinely suggesting that you extend the Bush tax cuts by seizing control of the government with armed insurrection? Using a militia of reality-TV devotees? Who would your Secretary of War be? Honey Boo Boo? Mr. Trump, I make this suggestion delicately and I recognize I’m not a billionaire (or even a thousandsaire). But it’s a piece of advice that was given to me two years ago by none other than Scott Feschuk. When I joined Twitter he said to me, “Don’t get drunk and tweet like a hateful lunatic. Also, do something about your goddamned hair.” It’s fine advice. Pick: Dallas.
Feschuk: I’m not sure if you’re aware of this actual fact but according to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, nine out of 10 Americans live in a place at significant risk for some kind of disaster – be it hurricane (Florida, Louisiana), earthquake (California) or pestilence (Lindsay Lohan’s bedroom). I know nine out of 10 sounds pretty high but you have to remember that there are a lot of people who live within 100 miles of Philadelphia and Dallas, and right now both the Eagles and Cowboys are in total meltdown. Philadelphia couldn’t stop a pass rush with a sniper rifle and a moat. In Dallas, Tony Romo is on pace to set a league record for making Jerry Jones cry. Ladies and gentlemen, this week we finally find out what happens when stoppable force meets movable object. Pick: Philadelphia.
The other games:
New York Giants (minus 4) at Cincinnati
San Diego (plus 3) at Tampa Bay
Oakland (plus 7.5) at Baltimore
Detroit (minus 2) at Minnesota
St. Louis (plus 11.5) at San Francisco
Twitter: @scottfeschuk @_scottreid