We settle for straight lines this week and run-down, under duress, of the NFL playoff picture.
Deadlines have never been something I have been particularly fond of, and so I’m writing this under duress, under the ever-watchful eye of my editor, who sits about two feet away and keeps a massive bullwhip under her desk for whenever I seem to be drifting, staring wistfully out the window or rolling over the double line, shifting in my seat and gearing up for a serious, old-style tangent, for which, I suppose, I have, in the past, been known. She says we must write about football today, that the American public longs for it, needs it, and seeing as I bruise easily, I suppose she’s right.
With a win last night, the Broncos are 10-3 and locked up the AFC West. Three other teams are already locked in to the playoffs, which leaves about eight spots open for 28 teams. Oakland and Arizona are out, as are the Chiefs and the Chargers, the Dolphins and the Titans, the Browns, the Bills and probably the Bucs. The Saints, the Rams and the Jets have all gone the way of the dodo, as has any type of cat not named the Bengals. They’re all gone now, wondering where exactly they were when the fun stopped. That leaves the Bears and the Packers tied atop the NFC North, the ’Niners protecting a precarious one-game lead in the West, Tampa Bay and Minnesota struggling to stay afloat at 6-6, and Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, the Giants and Seattle all chiming in at 7-5.
And Hot damn! How’s that for writing about football? No lashings, and the only teams we missed there were the Cowboys and Redskins, who at 6-6 apiece seem to be in a fine position to make a run at the NFC East, and the Philadelphia Fighting Children who, at 3-9 and having lost eight in a row, are not. We also overlooked the Ravens and the Colts, who, given their respective schedules, could both finish at 10-6 and be in trouble in the very first round.
As for those few teams on the cusp, Washington and Pittsburgh with relatively easy schedules look good for wild card berths, as does Chicago (with Green Bay winning the North) and, by god, maybe the Colts? Is that really how the whole playoff picture shapes up? And all without being bullwhipped?
We were tight today, people; no tangents or nothing. Not even a scrape and were on to the lines:
Pittsburgh (-6.5) over San Diego
Norv Turner needs to start savoring all the screen time he can get; come Week 17, his only appearances will be on local access television channels with nothing better to show on a Friday night but division II high school football, live from buttfuck nowhere Nebraska.
Detroit (+7.5) over Green Bay
No Jordy Nelson and Packers haven’t been blowing anybody out this season.
Cincinnati (-3) over Dallas
In last week’s nationally televised snoozefest, Dallas managed to just barely squeak by a 3-9 Philadelphia team, with a rookie QB, and no LeSean McCoy, no DeSean Jackson and an absolutely awful offensive line. And Philly still managed to put 33 points on the board. This week they draw a team that’s not only hot but healthy.
Chicago (-3) over Minnesota
The long and short of this game here is that Chicago needs this win to stay on pace in NFC North; beating the Vikings would go a long way to upending the Packers for the division.
Atlanta (-3.5) over Carolina
I often forget that Carolina is a team, who for better or worse, still plays football in 2012.
Baltimore (+2.5) over Washington
Upsetting the Giants at the tail end of their annual midseason collapse is not something that earns you 2.5 points against a 9-3 Ravens team that has had a penchant for explosive games against weak secondaries. This is the best bet of the weekend.
Tampa Bay (-7.5) over Philadelphia
Philadelphia is 2-9-1 against the spread. 2. 9. and 1.
Quick Slants: New England (-2.5) over Houston, Kansas City (+6.5) over Cleveland, New York (-2.5) over Jacksonville, St. Louis (+3) over Buffalo, Tennessee (+5.5) over Indianapolis, Seattle (-10) over Arizona, Miami (+10.5) over San Francisco.
Last Week: 8-6-1
Catch up on past Playbook's here.