By Sterling Pingree
NY Jets at Buffalo
Why are the Jets starting Sam Darnold here? They’re paying good money for Josh McCown to be the backup, as I covered last week, do the Jets feel like they got their money worth already? I find it odd that New York is going to trust it’s “future of the franchise” qb to a lame duck head coach. That’d be like giving the keys to your new Jeep Cherokee to your who just got his license taken away.
NY Giants at Washington
Mark Sanchez is starting for the Redskins. Let’s just let that soak in for a minute. Watching the former Sanchize play on Monday night was like watching a football movie where Mark Sanchez is pretending to be an NFL quarterback. It just seems like so long ago that Sanchez was the starting quarterback for the Jets and going to back to back AFC title game. Maybe it’s because the Jets have been so bad for so long, or perhaps because Rex Ryan has already come and gone from another AFC East team since those Jets’ teams. Think of this as you don’t watch any of the Giants/Redskins this weekend: in 2011 the two starter QBs were the toast of New York. Eli Manning was in the process of winning his second Super Bowl and Mark Sanchez had just taken the Jets to two AFC title games. Both had recently beaten the Patriots in the playoffs.
You hate to see where they are now.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
Feels like this one is set up for the Saints revenge game. New Orleans has lost two games all season: last week at Dallas and week 1 against, you guessed it the Tampa Bay Bucs. Tampa is just good enough to screw themselves right now. Last month, it seemed pretty cut and dry that the move was to fire the head coach and don’t pick up Jameis’s option and start over. Now with a couple of nice wins under their belt, they’re set up at 5-7, which probably just good enough to extend Dirk Koetter, pick up Jameis Winston’s option and pick outside of the top 10. Way to go Bucs!
New England at Miami
I don’t feel quite the same fear going into this game that I normally do when the Patriots head to South Beach. Maybe it’s the new stadium with the partial roof or maybe it’s the fact that Ndamukong Suh now plays for the Rams. In no way do I feel cock, I can’t forget the Pats Monday Night loss last year at Miami when freaking Jay Cutler torched the Pats like he was Dan Marino. If the Patriots can play the game they played last Sunday against Minnesota, the Patriots are once again going to be a tough out because the contrast was so stark in that game. The Vikings had an offensive mindset that they were going to beat the Patriots with underneath passing, no rushing attack and what the heck some more screen passes. When that didn’t work, besides the last drive of the first half, the Vikings never made at adjustment as the game went along. The Patriots offense on the other hand was so varied that they ran the ball with 5 different players and Brady completed passes to everybody besides of Mike Reiss. The Patriots played a very multiple offense, with a lot of weapons that can do a lot of different things, if they can spread the ball out and keep their legs under them, the Patriots will win their 10th straight AFC East Championship.
Baltimore at Kansas City
On paper looks like KC in a rout, but I think the Chiefs could be due for a let down some time soon. After the Kareem Hunt debacle, they were primed for a clunker and probably would have had one if they hadn’t been playing the Raiders. It doesn’t appear that they’d lose at home to the Ravens, but a team with a young qb and a solid defense no matter where the game is played might give the Chiefs a hard time on Sunday. Think of what the last month has looked like for the Chiefs: they lost the shoot out with the Rams on November 19th, had the next week off, then released their league leading rusher before traveling to the west coast to take on the Raiders. That’s not a normal month. Thinking about that turn of events where Hunt was release last Friday night and then the team likely boarded a plane the next day for Oakland, what do you think the conversations were like amongst the Chiefs?
Indianapolis at Houston
I’m officially more worried about the Texans than any other team in the AFC if I’m a Pats fan. Not so much in a head to head sense, (though the Texans traditionally play the Patriots tough, generally in defeat) they are tied with the Patriots record wise at 9-3 and here is their schedule down the stretch after this week: at the Jets, at the Eagles and home for the Jags. The absolute worst they could do is go 2-1 with the only possible loss being to the Eagles on the road. I thought Indy could give them a run and then they got shut out by a Jaguars team last Sunday who then 4 days later let Derrick Henry rush for 238 yards and 4 touch downs. This is one I’ll be watching very closely on Sunday, because with the Pats going to Miami and Pittsburgh in the next 8 days, I wish the Texans had atleast one more loss.
Atlanta at Green Bay
The first game of the Joe Philbin era in Green Bay and what excitement there will be. I fully expect Aaron Rodgers to have a huge game against a terrible Falcons defense but what interests me the most is if there is any outrage amongst the Mike McCarthy defenders from last weekend after the Packers lackluster effort vs Arizona. I was shocked at how many analysts defended McCarthy against Rodgers, but I want to see if they’ll go back to worshipping Rodgers if he smokes Atlanta Sunday or if they sharpen their knives and go after him for submarining McCarthy by not trying last week.
Carolina at Cleveland
My buddy Rich and I have a tradition, every summer he makes a bold claim that this is the year the Browns are going to be better than people think. We make a wager, generally lunch, on the Browns over/under. This past summer, with the Baker Mayfield hype and the Browns on Hard Knocks, not only did I bet Rich that the Browns would win less than 5.5 games, two other friends jumped on the bet as well. With four games left, the Browns need to win two games for me to lose bets to three people. If I win, they each have to buy me lunch, but if the win, I have to pick up all of their tabs. Which they have assured me will be hefty. I’m picking Carolina again, I don’t like it, I don’t like them, but I’m rooting with my stomach and not my brain.
Denver at San Francisco
The Broncos are starting to break down just as they were hitting their stride. San Francisco is right now the leader in the club house for the #1 pick in the draft. That’s more than needs to be said about this game.
Oh yeah, Super Bowl XXIV rematch. So there’s that too I guess.
Cincinnati at LA Chargers
The Chargers are really good. How many teams could lose a huge chunk of their offense like Melvin Gordon and still mount a comeback at Pittsburgh like they did last Sunday night? The Bengals are spiraling down the tubes of another lost season. How is it every year we wind up thinking that this is finally it for Marvin Lewis? I thought last year was as close as we could get to him finally leaving Cincy, but even crazier now are the rumors that Lewis is going to leave and Hue Jackson will take over as the head coach. He’ll sit in that seat and when you sit in that seat, you get to run things the way you want to run them. Apparently that’s what the Bengals want, a guy that’s going to run things the way he wants to, without caring that the way he wants to run things doesn’t win football games.
Detroit at Arizona
Pittsburgh at Oakland
The Steelers are officially reeling, reeling real hard. They’ve lost two in a row and it really should have been three in a row if Jacksonville had a brain. Why does it seem that when AFC teams are the most vulnerable this year, they always seem to play the Raiders next? Last week the Chiefs had a rough week and they got to play the Raiders and now the Steelers get to beat up Derek Carr before their clash next Sunday with the Patriots. Just what the doctor ordered. But what if they somehow lost in Oakland? Can you imagine? Would Tomlin get fired on the play back to Pittsburgh? Either way, Ben will likely be in a walking boot.
Philadelphia at Dallas
Suddenly this is a pretty good game. Someone told the Eagles they are allowed to try and win the Super Bowl again this year because up until recently they had been playing like they didn’t think they were allowed to win again, like BINGO. (I don’t know how BINGO is run, but winning once seems like enough.) Dallas is riding higher than they have a right to after beating New Orleans, but can they continue on this trajectory? My gut says no, this is the NFC East, it has to be a garbage fight to the end and the winner is the team that can go 9-7 and win in week 17.
LA Rams at Chicago
Great prime time games this week and Rams/Bears is the one I’m most excited for. I really like watching the Bears defense and I’m very interested to see how they perform against the Rams offense. This would be a perfect game for it to snow.
Minnesota at Seattle
The Seahawks are for real and the Vikings apparently have the toughest schedule in NFL history. It seems like every week the Vikings are playing one of the highest profile games, I just looked at the schedule: they have. Week 11 they played the Bears on SNF, then the Packers on SNF, week 13 the played the Patriots in the 4:25p national broadcast and this week they’re on Monday Night Football. Keep in mind, Minnesota needs to win Monday to go 2-2 in those 4 national games.
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.