Every Friday for The Drive, Sterling writes out notes on each NFL game, these are those notes, barely edited for public consumption.
By Sterling Pingree
Tennessee at Buffalo
So the Titans are good? And Buffalo is bad again? The Titans are winning weird, ugly games, but getting W’s is all that matters, especially in the AFC South. Colts are 1-4 and Texans 1-3, Jags and Titans will battle for this division. Vrabel has a lot of buzz surrounding him right now as an up and coming head coach. Bill Belichick interviewed Vrabel coming out of Ohio St. and said that where Vrabel was projected to be taken, there was no way the Jets would get him but Belichick said he would sign him when his rookie contract was up. And when Vrabel’s contract came due in Pittsburgh, Belichick signed him in 2001 with New England. The rest is history. (Anecdote courtesy of Ian O’Connor’s new book “Belichick”.)
Atlanta at Pittsburgh
Most used phrase now in NFL prognosticating podcasts is “Loser Leaves Town”, I heard the term used on 3 different shows this week talking about this game. Both teams only have one win through the first 4 weeks and one win in the first five weeks is quite the hole to dig out of. I hate that I have to say things like “one win in five weeks” because four teams have freaking ties this year. Pittsburgh has a better chance of losing this game and still making the playoffs though, due to conference and division. The Bengals and Ravens have looked okay so far and the Browns might be a little, dare I say, frisky. But this has always been the Steelers division and is until they lose it.
Denver at New York Jets
Broncos should have beaten KC last Monday, though watching that game made me realize again how good Von Miller is. I’m picking Denver this week because I think the Broncos front 7 can travel and they’ll make life hell for Sam Darnold. Darnold is starting to look shaky. I’m going to the Pats at Jets game November 25th, my prediction for that game is that Josh McCown is the starter.
Jacksonville at Kansas City
This is the game of the week. Jacksonville has been home for three weeks in a row, seems like that never happens in the NFL. The Jags finish up the season with 3 of their final 4 games on the road. Mahomes passed a big test on the road last week, made plays when he needed to. Kelce got his head knocked off on Monday night, concussions are starting to pile up for him unfortunately even though he’s not listed on the injury report. Can Jacksonville win on the road? How injured in Fournette?
Green Bay at Detroit
Even for the Packers, this is a weird Packers team. They’re the only team to beat Chicago (who looks like a wagon) they lose to Washington and then shut out the Bills with a shoestring defense. The Packers have no receivers, Ty Montgomery is back at running back, Rodgers bubble gum and paper clips knee looks almost normal. Maybe we’re just used to watching him throw off one foot now, I really have zero feel for this team, so I guess I have something in common with Mike McCarthy.
Baltimore at Cleveland
Who is making more questionable personnel moves: ESPN or Jon Gruden? Gruden traded Mack which was stupid, but ESPN handed Sean McDonough a beer and said “Watch this!” Let me get this straight, in almost any job beyond general labor or fast food you have to have some sort of applicable experience or skills, but to be an NFL color commentator you just need to have played for the Dallas Cowboys? Tony Romo retired and immediately replaced Phil Simms on CBS’ biggest broadcast each week with Jim Nantz. Jason Witten, has the personality of a dry sponge and he’s thrown into the Monday Night Football booth. How does this make sense? By the way, whose idea was the Booger Cart? Booger has experience, he’s worked for ESPN for several years working on college football and someone had the idea:
“Why don’t we make Booger McFarland, put him down on the field, but I want him sitting down. We’ll build one of those chairs that lift senior citizens up the stairs at church, except this one will just go end zone to end zone.”
“One question, will it have a cup holder?”
“Are you kidding? Of course it will have a cup holder.”
This is the most ridiculous thing in sports.
I just realized none of this has anything to do with the Cleveland Browns, thank you for Josh Gordon.
New York Giants at Carolina
The Giants are bad, Carolina is okay. I don’t want to watch a second of this game. In fact, one of my goals this year is not to watch the Giants play anymore football. I had to watch them in prime time against Dallas that means there’s only one more of those this season. Can we flex them out every week? Can we do a national black out of any Giants game? They have Barkley and Beckham yet watching the Giants is like being stuck on an airplane and being forced to watch Kanye West’s SNL performance on a loop. It’s disorienting, confusing and completely objectionable.
(Just checked my local listing and this is the 1pm game on Fox. What. The. Hell.)
Miami at Cincinnati
Sneaky interesting game. I was in Virginia for a wedding last weekend, so the local broadcast was Cincy at Atlanta. Fun game to watch, tons of passing, Bengals defense isn’t as good as they seem, Ryan carved them up, but I think the Bengals offense is better than we thought, Ross and Mixon has made a big impact on a team that I didn’t think could ever change as long as Marvin Lewis is the head coach and Andy Dalton the quarterback. That sentence was really long and Miami is a farce. They’ll be 3-2 Sunday night and the Pats will be tied for first in the AFC East.
Oakland at LA Chargers
Oakland got a gift from the football gods last week to beat the Browns. What were the odds before the season that the Browns would score 42 points in a game? How good is Khalil Mack? The Raiders were a good defense in 2016, an okay defense a year ago and this year one of the worst in the NFL in a season that is lousy with lousy defenses. Not only that, the Bears who had the frame work for an average D add Mack and become one of the best 5 units in the league. I tell ya, I’m so glad Jon Gruden’s back, that guy right there can do some things in the National Football League!
Arizona at San Francisco
So I did some reading up on this game, no really, I did. Stop laughing. The 49ers are missing ATLEAST 4 starters on their offensive line and could possibly miss all 5. Add in that if there is only one thing that the Cardinals do well and let’s face it, it’s probable that there is only one thing that the Cardinals do well, it’s that they can rush the passer. For those two reasons alone, the Cardinals seem like the play. That being said, I want nothing to do with this game in any capacity.
Minnesota at Philadelphia
Really good game, two teams that need a win. Vikings are coming off of a long week having lost to the Rams on TNF 10 days ago but I finally saw something from Kirk Cousins in this offense against a really good Rams front 7. I’m not sure what the Eagles do well, they’re banged up and outmanned on offense right now, not what you want when you’re trying to bring Carson Wentz back to the level he played at in 2017. This will be the only watchable game for cable subscribers in the state of Maine.
LA Rams at Seattle
The Rams are a wagon right now and just steamrolling teams. I don’t see that stopping this week, the Legion of Boom is dead, the only question now is how long ESPN waits to do the 30 for 30 on them with some name like “Legion of Boom or Bust”. For the record, this would be the second 30 for 30 on a Pete Carroll team, is that a compliment that everywhere you leave ends up…….compelling? Earl Thomas being carted off the field was the end of this run for the Seahawks. Their legacy is interesting to think about, after Super Bowl 48, they were poised to be a dynasty.and then the “Butler Pick” happened, Seattle was about to be the ’85 Bears if the ’85 Bears could have kept it together for more than that one year. It’s strange to think that the 3 best defenses in my life time, the 1985 Bears, the 2000 Ravens and the 2013 Seahawks each only won one Super Bowl. Wonder why that is.
Dallas at Houston
The Texas Forever Bowl! Each week this season it seems like there is a match up that I feel like I have never seen before. I can’t remember once watching these two teams play in the 16 year history of the Houston Texans. If this game is going to be on Sunday Night on NBC can we at least make it Friday Night Lights themed? Instead of Collinsworth and Michaels, we’ll get the random radio announcer you never saw narrate the game, Mrs. Coach can sing the National Anthem, Coach T can coach the Cowboys because you can’t tell me that Kyle Chandler couldn’t at least be as good as Jason Garrett and Tim Riggins can play fullback for the Texans. Because you can’t tell me that Riggins isn’t atleast as good as Lamar Miller.
Washington at New Orleans
Goodness this feels like a Monday Night Football game. The only way it could be more of an MNF on ESPN game is if it was in Washington. Storyline to watch, Brees is going for the career passing yardage record and like Tom Brady on Thursday comes into this game with 497 career touchdowns and would be the 4th to reach the milestone. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch Brady and Brees pass each other for 3rd and pretty soon 2nd on the all-time list (Brett Favre is currently second with 508.)
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host of 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.