Oakland (plus 7.5) at Cincinnati
Scott Feschuk: The Oakland Raiders are dead last in the NFL in points allowed – more than 32 a game. They’ve struggled against the pass, they’ve struggled against the run, they’ve struggled to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks – heck, this team is so clueless they could even struggle to remember the chorus to We Will Rock You, and that thing’s a piece of cake. It’s not hard to imagine them on the sideline trying to puzzle it out. Is it, “We will… we will… kiss you? Eat you? Validate your parking? LET’S BUCKLE DOWN AND FIGURE THIS THING OUT, GUYS.” Meanwhile, this game marks Carson Palmer’s return to Cincinnati, where he played for the bulk of his career –
so many three great memories! Pick: Cincinnati.
Scott Reid: It’s important when picking a rock anthem to select something you’re going to easily recall. For example, Meatloaf’s Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad seems like a good idea until the moron beside you starts screaming “I want youuuu. I need youuuu. But there flaaint staayy bbonnd I’m ever going to bbbblllll trueeeu. Now don’t schleeep flaabbd. Cuz two out of three ain’t…baddd” (hint: after drifting through the middle, he’ll likely lean in to that last line with extra expectorating gusto). But don’t be too harsh on Oakland. It’s become a bit hopeless there. Today’s Raiders can’t play defence. Protect the quarterback. Or stay in 4/4 time. The Raiders should instead pick a song that more neatly fits their skills. Like I Drink Alone. Pick: Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh (even) at Cleveland
Reid: A pick ’em game for the Steelers? At Cleveland? The two-win Cleveland Browns? The Cleveland Browns who couldn’t beat Dallas last week even after the Cowboys made every imaginable mistake short of going for a drive with Hector Camacho (too soon?). Obviously, Pittsburgh is fielding a Frankenstein-like team sewn together from left-over body parts such as Charlie Batch and the just-signed Plaxico Burress. But I still think they’ve got enough fire power and D to take this game handily. And hey, how hard can it be for Burress to walk into the locker room and pick up the playbook after lying idle for a full year? We know he’s got plenty o’ smarts. It’s not like just dummies go to nightclubs with an unlicensed gun stuck in the elastic band of their sweat pants. Or inadvertently fire the gun into their thigh when it unpredictably falls down your pantleg? Or doesn’t realize that they’re shot until the bottle-service hottie points out that your white Chuck Taylors are turning red from the blood streaming out of your body? A guy like that, he’s gonna pick up a complicated playbook but fast. Proving that football isn’t actually all that hard, I predict he’ll score at least twice. Pick: Pittsburgh.
Feschuk: I just want to use this space to extend formal thanks to whomever scheduled those three games on U.S. Thanksgiving: over the span of 11 hours, we got to see a) an overtime thriller that included a quarterback getting hoofed in the jewels by a 300-pound man basically doing a cartwheel, b) Dallas losing (always a crowd pleaser), and c) the New York Jets enduring America’s most intense public humiliation since the police knocked on the window of Hugh Grant’s car. I’m telling you: that Jets’ loss to New England was something else. Rex Ryan called it a “nightmare of a game.” The New York Times called it “a three-hour loop of tragicomedy — of blown coverages, of miscommunication, of ineptitude on all phases.” Hollywood called it an infringement on the legally binding copyright of The Three Stooges. A whole bunch of Jets fans were so depressed that they left at halftime so they could turn their attention to something more pleasant, like sitting in New Jersey traffic or dying a slow, painful death. Pick: Cleveland.
Denver (minus 10) at K.C.
Feschuk: Anyone who follows college sports is weary of the incessant realignment as schools flit about among conferences. But maybe that’s the solution for the woeful Chiefs – maybe it’s time to pick up the phone and see if there’s any room left in the Big Ten. Playing against Indiana, Minnesota and Maryland, this K.C. squad could easily go 6-6 and, fingers crossed, land a sweet, sweet invitation to the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Don’t worry, Romeo Crennel: It’s just like the Super Bowl, but with more mufflers. Pick: Denver.
Reid: Ever get so bored during a football game (as you surely will watching this matchup) that you begin to think about time travel? And, then do you find yourself playing that mental game where you ask yourself, ‘well, if I could travel through time, what era would I visit?’ I play that game a lot. And here are a few conclusions I’ve reached. You don’t really want to travel to the Old West – no bathrooms, bad oral hygiene. Much harder life than it appears on the Lone Ranger. The early ‘60s are also out now that we’re saturated in Mad Men-mania. Middle Ages? Too much plague. 1930s? Too much poverty. And I’m sure as hell not going to visit any era that had prohibition. No, after careful consideration the perfect time to travel to is obvious: 1972 was a year when even Bob Barker was tearing it up but good. Set the flux capacitor for Holly’s dressing room!
Seattle (minus 3) at Miami
Reid: In considering the outcome of this matchup, it’s vital that one consider that the two young quarterbacks starting the game are headed in decidedly opposite directions. Over the past two weeks, Seattle’s Russell Wilson has won two games, thrown 5 touchdowns, no interceptions, completed 65% of his passes and notched a rating of 129. During the same period the Dolphins Ryan Tannehill has recorded two losses, thrown 1 touchdown with 5 interceptions, completed merely 55% of his passes and secured a barely-registering rating of 44.7%. Strictly speaking, Wilson’s numbers are slightly better. But the key to shrewd prognosticationizing is learning how to take into consideration off-field factors. For example, working to Russell Wilson’s disadvantage is the disappointing news that he is not a member of the Beach Boys.
On the other hand, as exhaustively detailed for your research needs in Week 10, Ryan Tannehill’s wife (whose Christian name, I believe, is Sizzling) is hotter than the hinges of Hell.
When all factorial considerations are trigonometrized and algorithimed, two conclusions emerge: Wilson will win and Ryan Tannehill is still the guy that every man under the age of 103 wants to be. Pick: Seattle.
Feschuk: Interesting stuff, Prof. Numbers – but if ever you want evidence of the utter uselessness of football statistics, consider this: Mark Sanchez was 26-of-36 for 301 yards and a 94.8 quarterback rating in his team’s 49-19 loss to New England. He was also 1-of-1 in his attempts to turn the wrong way on a handoff and run directly into the ass of his lineman, fumbling the ball in the most pathetic and comic way possible. Afterward (and I am not making this up), Sanchez tried to explain what went wrong: “I was,” he said, “thinking of a different play in my head.” I love that. That’s pretty much the Jets’ motto for 2012. When NFL Films puts together the (presumably brief) highlight reel to summarize the New York Jets season, that should be the title: “I was thinking of a different play in my head.” Pick: Seattle.
Buffalo (plus 3) at Indianapolis
Feschuk: Is there is a worse NFL analyst than Phil Simms? During Thursday’s Detroit-Houston game, it became obvious that he didn’t even know about a suddenly relevant element of the challenge-flag rule (I didn’t either, but I’m not a so-called expert on football. Or any subject.). Earlier in the game, when Ndamukong Suh appeared to kick Matt Schaub right in the nutsack, this was the essence of Simms’ analysis: the kick may have been intentional, but it probably wasn’t intentional, unless it was. He later amended his view to agree it looked intentional but if he had to say definitively whether it was intentional or not he’d say that it wasn’t intentional. Wha? The bigger problem is that Simms hardly ever says anything that seems “analysisy” – he just tells us what we already saw. When J.J. Watt jumped really high, Simms said: Whoa, he really jumped high there! And that guy who sacked the quarterback? He sure got to the quarterback. Hey, Phil, you know what does your job better than you do? OUR EYEBALLS. Pick: Buffalo.
Reid: Agreed. Simms is insufferable – so far up his own ass he can almost see Jim Nantz’s Allen Edmonds. He’s like the Norma Desmond of NFL announcers – sneering at anyone who played the position since he retired (“Eli? He’s not elite. Pshaw. He couldn’t hold my cigarette ash. Max, bring the car around. We’re going to see Mr. DeMille!”) The on-air mucky-muck who really leaves me baffled though is Cris Collinsworth. Would NBC have us believe he’s good? Cuzzzz…he’s not. How many times does he pause to tell us that he had dinner with one of the coaches earlier in the week – and then carry on to tell us something that illuminates the square root of dick and all. The last time Collinsworth said something memorable, he was John Madden. Bring back the coach. He frequently seemed like he was flying on four Oxy’s and a double rum and coke. But he was entertaining at least. Bad Cris Collinsworth. Bad NBC. Fix this, please. Pick: Indianapolis.
San Francisco (minus 2.5) at New Orleans
Reid: It’s increasingly obvious that, in a previous lifetime, Alex Smith must have urinated on an old gypsy lady then pushed her grandson off a cliff and, finally, strangled her favourite possum with his bare hands while still leaving her free enough to issue a devastating curse. No one comes by misfortune like his naturally. In an eight-year NFL career that began by being drafted first overall, he’s had one major injury, eleven head coaches, thirty-four offensive coordinators, umpteen benchings and one Peyton Manning up the anterior. Now comes news that, after sitting out with a concussion, he’s likely lost his starting job to rookie QB (and Scott Feschuk doppelganger) Colin Kaepernick. Now people smarter than me who work for the CBC in Newfoundland (that technically means anyone working for the CBC in Newfoundland but I’m actually referring to fellow uber-Niners fan David Cochrane) suggest that the move is the right one and that Kaep can take SF all the way with a far more exciting and vertical game. Maybe that’s right. But I can’t help feeling darn badly for Alex Smith. The NFL can be a cruel mistress. The only guy who had a harsher football experience this week was the weeble posing as Toronto’s Mayor, who tripped over his own intelligence:
Pick: San Francisco.
Feschuk: Haha. That video is funny because he falls down. In other news, I’ve got a question: What is wrong with people? Ian Mendes of Sportsnet was down covering the Jets game and tweeted that he saw a mall parking lot completely full of Black Friday shoppers – at 1 a.m. Listen, I’m all for saving a few bucks, rubbing up against complete strangers in overcrowded public areas and kindling the holiday spirit by slap-fighting my fellow man for the last in-stock Doc McStuffins “Time for Your Checkup” Doll, but at some point you just have to put a price on your own time and personal sanity. On the other hand, if I get to Wal-Mart at 7:30 a.m. and they’re out of the Louis action figure from the One Direction boy band set, I’m going to cut someone bad.
Pick: San Francisco.
Tennessee (minus 3) at Jacksonville
Feschuk: Can you imagine if the NFL had moved to an 18-game schedule? Pretty much every member of the Jacksonville Jaguars would have killed himself by now. It’s bad enough that there are six games left to go in this dismal, unrelenting hellscape of pain, humiliation and reporters asking, “Do you think Tim Tebow would help?” that the Jags call a football season. Can you imagine if there were eight? Also, on an unrelated note, can you imagine if Katie Couric talked with Tom Brokaw’s voice? That would be hilarious. Anyway, the bottom line is this: If I were a member of the Jaguars, I’d totally be Googling “Severest fake injuries that are easiest to fake without getting caught.” Then I’d be all: “Aiiiiieeeeeeeee!!!!! My foot or possibly my knee!!! Wherever my [mumble mumble] liga-whatsit is!! PUT ME ON INJURED RESERVE NOW COACH!” Pick: Tennessee.
Reid: Speaking of permanent injuries – how about this Thanksgiving promo pic released by Pepsi for the Jets-Pats game? Intended to stir enthusiasm for Lenny Kravitz’s half-time appearance, it instead has frightened gay men everywhere into simply giving up.
Meanwhile, down in Jacksonville, Henne-fever is sweeping the town. After throwing for 300+ yards and four TDs (but not a win, this is Jacksonville after all. Winning is outlawed by city ordinance) the former Dolphin has the Jaguars they can start losing games by less. Hope. Change. Can’t they just send this franchise to LA for Christ’s sake. Pick: Tennessee.
Carolina (plus 2.5) at Philadelphia
Reid: Andy Reid is now obviously just dicking around. For whatever reason he must want to be fired before the season ends. There’s no other rationale for the play calling made last week in Washington. Armed with a back up rookie quarterback and an offensive line that couldn’t block sunlight, he called 46 passing plays. LeSean McCoy touched the ball fewer times than I’ve touched Keira Knightley (full disclosure: Keira Knightley doesn’t know me and I’m fairly certain she’d NEVER let me touch her). Carolina has also been on a downbound train but against the crystal meth-like shit swirl that has grabbed hold of the Eagles, it’s hard to imagine even they can’t rally for success. I rank the chances of an Andy Reid-led rally of the Eagles about as high as Selena Gomez letting Justin Bieber drive through her security gate.
Feschuk: Welcome to Monday Night Football, everyone! Tonight: a thrilling matchup pitting the 3-7 Eagles, losers of six straight, a team led by a nervous rookie quarterback whose facial expression suggests he’s about to poop himself, a defence that couldn’t stop an end around executed by the Fierce Five…
…and a head coach who mentally checked out four games ago and is now just calling plays at random and dreaming of gravy, against the 2-8 Panthers, who are not only bad-terrible but also boring-terrible, which are the two worst kinds of terrible. Eagles! Panthers! Are you ready for some– yeah, we’re switching over to The Voice, too.” Pick: Philadelphia.
Minnesota (even) at Chicago
Atlanta (even) at Tampa Bay
Baltimore (even) at San Diego
St. Louis (plus 2.5) at Arizona
Green Bay (plus 2.5) at New York Giants
Twitter: @scottfeschuk @_scottreid