By Sterling Pingree
Baltimore at Atlanta
Here’s a fun question: Does Joe Flacco ever start another game for the Ravens? Lamar Jackson is 2-0 as a starter and Baltimore didn’t spend a first rounder to sit him behind the most blah quarterback in the AFC. Which brings me to my new favorite game: how much will Jon Gruden give this veteran QB to come to the Raiders? Gruden already has AJ McCarron as a backup, but couldn’t you picture a world where Jon Gruden, in his search for the next Rich Gannon or Brad Johnson, has a quarterback room with McCarron, Joe Flacco, Ryan Tannehill and what the hell Nathan Peterman.
Carolina at Tampa Bay
Carolina needs to make up their mind: are they good or bad. Because I’ve picked them (and Cincinnati) to win three weeks in a row and they’ve lost all three. Guess what, I’m picking them again. This is the litmus test game of the week, if the Bucs win this game, it’s going to be a wild week 13.
Chicago at NY Giants
Week two of the Chase Daniels era in Chicago and I still can’t get over the fact that he looks like my buddy Juice who played quarterback at WPI. At tailgate parties, Juice would have a few beverages and then become the parking lot quarterback. Like Brett Favre in a busted play, he’s hold the football and just point to random people walking up route 1 to Gillette, which is the universal signal for “Go deep”. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the 54-year old, all-district DE from Foxborough High School run a button hook around a fire pit and make a diving catch into the back of a GMC. It was great fun watching Juice fire “the pig” to random strangers, because Juice could seriously spin it. To beat the Giants this weekend, who by the way they used Barkley last week are most definitely tanking the rest of the season, Chase Daniels really only has to throw the ball as well as Juice did around the parking lot of the America’s Best Inn.
Buffalo at Miami
Guess what game we get on CBS at 1pm this week? That’s right, Josh Allen vs Ryan Tannehill! If you’re into tall, hardly accurate quarterbacks then you’re in for a treat. The Bills have a good defense, but their putrid offense easily overshadows it. It will be fascinating to see what happens to head coach Sean McDermott, the Bills through 7 weeks were the worst offense in NFL history, yet they’ve won 4 games, including victories over the Vikings and Titans. With the low level of talent that they have, 4 wins is impressive but how long can they maintain? Like most head coaches, his future will be determined by whether or not Josh Allen is a winner.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
Try telling someone last August that the Colts would be one of the hottest teams in the NFL and the Jaguars have less wins than the Buffalo Bills. Leonard Fournette is suspended this Sunday for getting into a fight last weekend and Jalen Ramsey continues to talk smack regardless. OH BY THE WAY, Black Bortles was benched for Cody Kessler. It’s funny, even after Bortles almost beat the Patriots in the AFC title game, if Jags fans were really honest with themselves they would still have predicted that this moment was going to happen.
Cleveland at Houston
So the Browns aren’t bad anymore, Hue Jackson still is and the Houston Texans are an absolute wagon. On Monday night, the Titans got up quickly 10-0 and then the Texans beat Tennessee like they wanted their lunch money. Watson is getting healthier by the week, but the unpredictable thing is how well Houston has run the ball with Lamar Miller this season. The Chargers have been the savvy football observers’ team this season, but I think the Texans might be the scarier team in January. However, as with every team, but more so with the Texans, health will dictate their ability to win playoffs games.
Denver at Cincinnati
I want to thank the Bengals, as mentioned earlier, I’ve picked both Cincy and Carolina the last 3 weeks and they’ve each lost all three. But I want to thank them for hiring Hue Jackson, because everything the man touches turns to garbage. Jackson shows up in Cincinnati and the Bengals immediately lose Andy Dalton in a loss to the Browns. And in the wake of this, I’m done: I’ve quit picking the Bengals to win the rest of the season, so thank you Bengals for……well, being you.
LA Rams at Detroit
The Rams in a dome. That oughta be good for your fantasy team.
Arizona at Green Bay
It wasn’t very long ago that NBC was touting Rodgers vs Brady as a matchup of “G.O.A.Ts”. What a different a month can make, the Packers have gone 1-2 since losing in Foxborough and now articles are being written like “Rodgers needs to prove he’s a leader” and “Cowherd: Rodgers is Jay Cutler except he can play.”
Kansas City at Oakland
Things happen quickly in the NFL, one week you’re riding high with two losses and an MVP candidate at quarterback and then next you’re cutting your stud running back. In one way or another, teams in the NFL almost never survive a season unscathed and the team who wins it all is generally the one who is best equipped to deal with injuries and happenstance. What Kareem Hunt did wasn’t happenstance, he assaulted several people including a 19-year old girl and then lied about it to the Kansas City Chiefs. Could the Chiefs have done a greater investigation in August when they questioned Hunt about the incident? Probably, but I credit the organization with acting decisively in releasing a star player. What does this mean for the Chiefs going forward? Nobody knows, Spencer Ware will become the starter and they’ll crush the Raiders this week, but the Chiefs have been dealt their first big blow of 2018.
(By the way, the Chiefs said they met with Hunt in August, this incident happened in February. How did nobody know about this for 7 months?)
NY Jets at Tennessee
I went to the Patriots game at MetLife Stadium last Sunday, it was like a D-II college game. There were Journey sing-a-longs, a “Jets Flight Crew” throwing t-shirts into the crowd and thousands of empty seats. It was a little scary seeing how the other half lives.
Two crazy Josh McCown stats: he’s 39 years old and he’s making $10 million this season to be Sam Darnold’s back up. McCown’s base salary this year is $5 million, Tom Brady’s is $4 million. In fact, only three Patriots make more in base salary than McCown: Gronkowski, Hightower and Devin McCourty.
San Francisco at Seattle
The Seahawks are good, how do you think Richard Sherman feels about that? How do you think Earl Thomas feels about that? Michael Bennett? Seattle was a great teams built through the draft but when they all hit that second contract they fall apart because they couldn’t resign the entire Legion of Boom. It opens a window, but hitting on that much talent at one time in the draft is great and is an affordable way to build a great team, but it has a definite window which closes when those rookie deals are up. Somehow the Seahawks have already rebuilt themselves into a borderline playoff team. It goes to show how valuable offensive line play is, because Seattle hasn’t really added any big offensive weapons, they’re just better at protecting Russell Wilson and letting him make plays. The Seahawks are 6-5, but have two more games with the 49ers, 1 more win the Cardinals and then host Minnesota and Kansas City. The Seahawks are going to win at least 9 games and could conceivably run the table.
Minnesota at New England
This is the game of the week and two reasons why I’m picking the Patriots to win:
- The Vikings are awful at defending against pass catching running backs. This feels like a 16-target game for James White where he and Sony Michel gash the Vikings. Which is bad enough, but then add in the return of Rex Burkhead and the Pats can make things really difficult for Minnesota.
- Kirk Cousins on national tv. On the road. In December. Against a team .500 or better.
“This part of the season is Patriots football. It’s what they’re known for. We’ve got to put our foot on the gas and get going.” – Josh Gordon.
LA Chargers at Pittsburgh
Why did Melvin Gordon have to injure his MCL? The Patriots and my fantasy team really needed him to be good down the stretch and it appears he’ll miss about the next month. This week the Chargers travel to Pittsburgh and could easily trip up the Steelers, giving the Patriots more cushion in the race for a playoff bye. Not only that, but the Chargers also have the Chiefs on Thursday night football in week 15. How good is football in week 15? The Chargers travel to Arrowhead and the Patriots go to Pittsburgh.
Washington at Philadelphia
Colt McCoy is starting for the Skins the rest of the way with Mark Sanchez serving as his back up. The Eagles are holding at 5-6 and can get to 8 wins if they beat Washington twice and Dallas, but they’ve still got matchups with the Rams and Texans looming large on the horizon. Far be it for me to say that a champion is finished, but there will be a new champion crowned at Super Bowl LIII.
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.