(These are the actual notes Sterling writes each week for the Friday edition of the drive, they are hastily assembled and barely edited. More a stream of consciousness list of talking points for every name.)
By Sterling Pingree
Tampa Bay at Atlanta
Fitzmagic is over, heinous Jameis is back and the Yucs are back to being unwatchable. Speaking of unwatchable, the Falcons are 1-4. Atlanta is currently the team we still think is good even though their defense is full of second stringers and the secret is out that their offense hasn’t been good since Kyle Shannahan left after Super Bowl LI.
Carolina at Washington
Carolina becomes good every couple of years, but it’s hard to gauge properly any of the teams in the NFC South. People are ranking the Panthers in the top 5 in Power Rankings right now and sure they’re 3-1, BUT who have they beat? They’ve beaten Dallas, Cincy and Washington, their one loss? Atlanta’s only win the season. You can’t explain the NFC South, especially when they’re playing the NFC East (which is the hottest of hot garbage.)
Seattle at Oakland (But it’s really in London)
You write off Seattle and they almost hand the Rams their first loss. I was reading Sports Illustrated (the physical magazine, I roll like that) and they had an “End of the Seahawks” article after I declared the Seahawks officially done. This game is in London, which is fine for a Raiders home game, because you know, they don’t really have a home. There’s no home field advantage, but the Raiders don’t have any other advantages, so why should they have this one?
Indianapolis at New York Jets
Andrew Luck can’t throw more than 5-10 yards down the field and before the Colts TNF game at New England I thought it had solely to do with his lack of arm strength but now I realize that there’s a chance it’s because only Eric Ebron can catch a football that travels more than 15 yards. Luck has to put his whole body into each throw, which doesn’t lend itself to a quick release. The Jets running game came alive last week against the Broncos, so maybe there is one thing the Jets do well, because “Savior” Sam Darnold has played like a false prophet since week 1 at Detroit.
Arizona at Minnesota
Arizona is a boring team with a good chance of picking first in the draft. They’re free now that they got their token “bad team win” over San Francisco last week. They’re not going to go 0-16 but with the Rams 5-0 and looking like a lock to win the division, why wouldn’t Arizona tank? My question is, if you’re Arizona and you have “Chosen” Rosen under center, David Johnson in the back field, you’re horrible at drafting receivers and feature one of the best pass rushers in the League (Chandler Jones). SO what do you need? Everything else.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Outside of Pats-Chiefs, the most interesting game of the week, that being said I want nothing to do with this game, why? Because there are no winners here. Last year’s game in Cincy was so needlessly violent that I was actually questioning why I watch football afterwards. (This was the Ryan Shazier game, plus a multitude of other unwarranted headshots.) This also feels like the game where Pittsburgh takes control back of the AFC North. Cincy has had a nice start, but Pittsburgh’s offense is starting to figure it out and they’re going to get Le’Veon Bell back when he’s damn good and ready, so they’ve got that going for them. The more things change each season, the more they stay the same in the AFC. Pittsburgh, New England, Kansas City and the Chargers are good and nobody’s quite sure if Baltimore, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Houston or Jacksonville is good. Lather, rinse, repeat.
LA Chargers at Cleveland
This is a game I’d like to watch. The Chargers have weapons, an exciting offense, a good quarterback and the Browns have Hue Jackson. What did Hue mean last week after his kicker booted the winning field goal and he held up two fingers, did he think he had a two-point option after any type of score? Hue strikes me as the kind of guy who doesn’t really understand rules to anything: like he passes “GO” and he tells you to king him.
Buffalo at Houston
One of my rules of picking football games is that every year there will be a few teams that you think are good before the year that will start slow, they’ll rebound. It goes the same for bad teams and this game is a perfect storm of both rules. Houston looked tough before the season and started 0-3. They’ve rebounded with a couple of wins (vs Indy and Dallas but still) and might be on the uptick. Buffalo has beaten Minnesota and Tennessee, but I stand by my original diagnosis that they’re a terrible team.
Chicago at Miami
One team is coming off of their bye, and the other looks like they need a bye for the next 7 weeks. Chicago romped over the Bucs and then had their bye, you could argue that it came at the worst possible time, their offense was rolling and their defense was already a wagon. A week off, reading your own press clippings usually isn’t a good recipe for a young team like the Bears. How many times have the Patriots ruined the Dolphins season? Miami was 3-0 and got smacked by New England and then they blow a big lead to Cincy. Miami may never win again, except they’ll somehow beat the Pats in South Beach as 13 point dogs. Can’t wait for that.
LA Rams at Denver
There could be snow? THERE COULD BE SNOW! A friend of mine who lives just outside of Denver has been posting pictures of snow for a week now and there’s a good chance this game will be played in the white stuff. So help me God, if this game is played in the snow and the networks make me watch Jacksonville at Dallas, I’m going to scream. I’m done with the Giants and Cowboys, DONE. No mas, I can’t do it anymore, who wants to watch these teams? Giants and Cowboys fans don’t want to watch these teams anymore.
Baltimore at Tennessee
If anybody tells you that they know who’s going to win this game with any certainty, they are a damn liar because these are perhaps the two most unpredictable teams in the NFL. Everything is in play with these two teams, I could believe that both teams could make the playoffs or go winless the rest of the way. Everything or nothing is in play with the Ravens and Titans.
Jacksonville at Dallas
The most dynamic defense from a year ago against the most boring offense in 2018. Jacksonville is a perplexing team, since they won their Super Bowl over the Pats in week 2, they’ve played like a team that won it all already. I’m prepared for Jacksonville to be mediocre the rest of the season and still strike fear in my heart as a Pats fan in the divisional round. Oh by the way, Kansas City is trying to convert back up wide outs to defensive backs and Blake Bortles still threw 4 interceptions to the Chiefs last week. Speaking of the Chiefs…..
Kansas City at New England
The game of the week, Sunday Night Football, Foxboro, prime time, Andy Reid vs Bill Belichick: it doesn’t get any better than this. Most in the know are picking this to be a Big 12-style shootout like it’s Oklahoma vs Texas Tech. Patriots fans have complained about the lack of a secondary for the last 4 years, they’ll get a chance to see what a real lacking secondary looks like this weekend. The offensive game plan for the Pats isn’t just going to be about gaining yards and scoring points but maintaining time of possession, keeping Mahomes and company on the sideline while methodically picking up yards and putting points on the board consistently. No Justin Houston for the Chiefs is a huge loss, there are few guys who have gotten to Brady more over the years than Houston. There are no edges for the KC defense in this one except the threat of every stop that they’re able to get, gives their potent offense another chance. The Pats are -3.5 point favorites at home this Sunday.
San Francisco at Green Bay
It wasn’t that long ago that this match up in the playoffs looked like the future of the NFL and the 49ers won that game. Now, 3 head coaches, 5 quarterbacks and a zero playoff appearances since and the 49ers are again left eyeing the draft. If Jimmy G didn’t get hurt, this is a GREAT Monday Night game in Lambeau, but he did so this one is going to be ugly. The NFL has done good things with flex scheduling to get the best games on TVs, but why not be able to flex games all season long? This one is a perfect example.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm-6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.