These are the show notes from Sterling Pingree for the Friday edition of The Drive. They are loosely edited for this space, but mostly they are the spur of the moment comments and ramblings of an NFL degenerate who has been detoxing off of NFL Sunday’s with loads of playoff baseball the last two weeks. GO SOX!
By Sterling Pingree
Tennessee at LA Chargers
People are calling the NFL of 2018 touch football. We’re seeing 43-40 shoot outs on Sunday Night Football between the AFC’s two best teams and about every third week the Jets’ offense puts up 40 points. How on earth did the Titans get shut out at home last week? Give some credit to the Ravens, they sacked Marcus Mariota 11 times, but a shut out? The Titans offense apparently isn’t very good, but we didn’t know that because they beat Jacksonville, even though they didn’t score a touch down. The Chargers are the darling of smart NFL minds, they were before the season and now that they seem to have found a little of their Bosa-less mojo, some are calling them the conference’s third best team.
Houston at Jacksonville
Two teams that are going in different directions, the Texans started the season 0-3 and are back to .500. The Jags on the other hand, what the heck happened in Dallas last week? Jacksonville made the Cowboys look like the Doomsday Defense was back in pads. Blake Bortles looked like Blake Bortles if Blake Bortles tried was playing left handed while drinking apricot Schnapps. This game is for first place in the AFC South, which many would have predicted before the season, what nobody would have predicted was that both teams would be 3-3 if this was a college bowl game it would be the “Well Somebody Has to Win Bowl presented by Belk”.
Carolina at Philadelphia
The Carolina Panthers got a little big for their britches. Which is never a good way to be when you’re going to play an Alex Smith team. (Patriots fans have all been there before, sadly.) The Eagles are uneven but their defense seems to be getting it together while their offense apparently is still getting reacquainted with Carson Wentz. Eagles are still my pick to win the NFC east, but more so out of lack of better options. This division is a dumpster fire.
Minnesota at New York Jets
The Jets, winners of two games in a row, have scored 76 points in those two games and tallied over 40 points twice. One of the biggest surprises of the season that nobody is talking about is the fact that the Jets are 3-3. That being said, I think this is a bigger test for the Vikings than it is the Jets. The Vikings offense is clicking, Adam Thielen is playing like the best receiver in the NFL, Kirk Cousins’ teammates are playing like they don’t totally hate him. And yet, I can’t help but think about some of Minnesota’s lacking efforts against teams like San Francisco and Buffalo. If the Vikings are going to take control of the NFC North, they have to be able to beat .500 teams on the road.
New England at Chicago
This is a really interesting four game stretch for the Patriots before their week 11 bye week. 1pm at Chicago this week, At Buffalo for Monday Night Football next week, then Packers at home for Sunday Night Football and at Tennessee at 1pm. 3 of 4 on the road, two prime time games and your only home game is against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. A lot like last year when the Patriots played the Broncos at Mile High and then the Raiders in Mexico City back to back, this is the stretch where we will learn the most about the Patriots. After the bye, the Pats will play 4 of their 6 divisional games including both match ups with the Jets.
Buffalo at Indianapolis
Josh Allen is out for the Bills at quarterback, Nathan Peterson was the closer last week in Houston as his pick-6 inside the two minute warning gave the win to the Texans. Sean McDermott has decided that it’s best not to start Peterman, (I can’t believe he’s still on the roster, at this point he’s probably passed Chris Weinke for worst NFL Quarterback of all-time) so instead McDermott is going to go with 35-year old Derek Anderson. Yes that Derek Anderson, and before you say “I didn’t know he was in Buffalo” well neither did Kelvin Benjamin because he’s only been with the Bills for two weeks. This should go well.
Cleveland at Tampa Bay
This one is bowling shoe ugly. If you like bad, weird, unpredictable, self-loathing football: this is the game for you. What you can finally say about the Browns is that they have a chance to win against some of the teams they’ll play with their schedule that was earned with their 0-16 season. The Bucs I think are the winners of the Dennis Green award for team who is “WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE.” Fitz-magic threw us off the scent, but with Winston, Tampa Bay isn’t very good.
Detroit at Miami
It feels like there are a lot of tough games to predict this week and this one might be the toughest. After seeing the Bears give away a game last week in Miami coming off of their own bye week, I’m operating under the theory that NFC North teams struggle in South Beach. A weird scheduling quirk that the Dolphins play the Bears and Lions in back to back weeks at home. Does it make sense to pick Brock Osweiler? Absolutely not, it makes no sense, but neither does anything that happens with the Dolphins in 2018. I’m glad I’m not Las Vegas, because adjusting the line to reflect Tannehill or Osweiler starting would be a nightmare for a plethora of reasons.
New Orleans at Baltimore
Maybe the game of the weekend, if you believe that the Ravens defense is for real. I am a reformed Baltimore believer, I used to pick them in any close game just because they were traditionally a tough team but the last few years of the Joe Flacco era have been so uninspiring. This will be a true test of how good the Ravens D is, if they can beat Drew Brees outside of the dome. The Saints are still trying to figure out their offense now that Mark Ingram is back and how they should best use Alvin Kamara. Now that Brees has his yardage record and two top notch running backs it will be fascinating to see how the Saints offense develops.
Dallas at Washington
I think the Dallas defense is a mirage, a trap game for Jacksonville, you can call it whatever you want, but that game feels like an anomaly instead of the rule. Washington is a team flying under the radar, in the wasteland that is the NFC East, they feel like the team most likely to sneak into the playoffs and nobody is really sure how. I’ll tell you how, Alex Smith. Be honest, how many times have you thought about Alex Smith this year? As an AFC guy, I hadn’t thought about him since last season AND HE’S MY BACK UP QB IN FANTASY FOOTBALL!
LA Rams at San Francisco
Probably the worst game of the weekend, or at least the biggest mismatch. The 49ers are coming off of their most surprising effort of the season where they led the Packers in Green Bay for roughly 56 minutes. The only two reasons that the 49ers lost was because 1. NFL football games are 60 minutes long, 2. Aaron Rodgers plays for the Green Bay Packers. Those are the only two reasons.
Cincinnati at Kansas City
One of the three best games on the weekend because if you like high scoring games, this KC team is for you. Every week they wind up in shoot outs, because their offense scores quickly and their defense would allow Goldie Hawn’s offense from Wild Cats to rack up 600 yards of total offense against it. (And Woody Harrelson played tailback on that team.)
New York Giants at Atlanta
Two weeks ago in this very space, I declared that my goal was to never watch the 2018 Giants again. That week they were the local 1pm game at Carolina and last week their manila folder drab offense got goat roped by the Eagles on Thursday Night Football. This week, they’re on Monday Night Football and there isn’t even a playoff baseball game to watch instead.
Touche’ football gods, touche’. (For the record, I still don’t want to watch them play, but I know me. I’ll watch, because it’s the NFL on TV.)
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 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.