I’ll be honest with you here, there is nothing that I want to do less on this Monday morning than to write the introduction for this week’s column.
To peel back the curtain a bit and tell you how the sausage is made, I usually write the intro for the column every Monday, do most of the picks on Tuesday, and then finish everything off and edit it on Wednesday before I put it in the paper to be published. Splitting it up over three days allows me to write as much as I want to keep the column consistent, while also spacing it out enough so that I feel fresh while writing and don’t have to rush.
This Monday however, I have no motivation to write about anything. It was a weekend I will want to forget ASAP, as Missouri lost, the Bears lost, all three of my fantasy teams lost (note on Tuesday: I ended up stealing a win on Monday night to go 1-2. How fun!) and I had my worst week of picks possibly ever. To put it bluntly: I’m in a terrible mood. But the show must go on, and there are many people who tell me they love reading this every week, so I will power through.
What’s making me the maddest about all of this is that I’m this mad in the first place. I have committed myself to a life of pain by deciding at an early age that all I will care about is sports. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. I simply care way too much. I know I do, but still can’t stop myself, and that’s what’s really getting to me today.
I’m not going to spend any more time moping, because the more that I think about it, a good chunk of my introductions this season have been just that. We’re in a new week now and are going to try to think positive. I thought about picking each game this week based on what uniform I like more to lighten things up, but I realized that’s a bit harder to do when none of you can see all of them as well.
Like I said, I don’t really have much motivation or happy stuff to write about this week. Let’s just move into the quick hitters.
I am sad that I do not have a high school football game to cover this Friday night. It was a season to remember for a lot of area teams, and all six of them have something to look forward to for next season. I’d like to give a shout out to Manchester head coach Eddie Fields. I was in charge of putting together the Squire preview capsules this season, so I got the chance to talk to Eddie each week and get a feel for the program. I really like what Coach Fields is building down in North Manchester. That team is heading in a very good direction.
It’s been a lot of fun to find myself back covering high school basketball, which is now in full swing. We have a ton of great athletes showing off their talents in Kosciusko County on any given night, so go out and support them!
There is at least a silver lining to my sports woes, as Dennis Gates and Missouri basketball came back into my life this week. After the Tigers took the country by storm in Gates’ first year at the helm, I’ve got some pretty high expectations for this campaign. I am ready to get hurt again.
As I’ve gotten older, my taste in music has changed dramatically. I mainly just listen to podcasts now, but when I do listen to music, it’s not all rap like it used to be. Nowadays, I enjoy soundtracks to movies and video games. I don’t know what that says about me as a person. My current favorite album is the soundtrack to Succession season four.
As I mentioned earlier, it was not a banner week for my picks. I don’t know what I’m going to do differently this week to switch up the results, but I know that my confidence has taken a big hit. It’s going to be hard to get out of this hole, but I wasn’t raised a quitter.
Time to get back on track.
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears (-3.5)
I feel like this is as good of a time as any to say that this week’s slate of games is really really bad. Two of the worst teams in football will be the only ones in action on Thursday night. Justin Fields is once again NOT playing, Tyson Bagent will make his fourth straight start for Chicago. I know it's still early in their careers, but Panthers fans might already be upset that their team selected Bryce Young at No. 1 overall instead of CJ Stroud. We’ll talk about him later. I know the Bears aren’t exactly world beaters, but they’ve shown more fight than Carolina has this season, so Ill go with my guys. Also, the Bears lost the turnover battle by five last week and still only lost by seven points, are they sneaky good?
The Pick: Bears -3.5
SUNDAY MORNING SCHNITZEL
Indianapolis Colts (-1.5) at New England Patriots
We head back to Germany for the second straight week. New England is in uncharted territory under Bill Belichick: last place in the entire AFC. Nothing has gone right for the Patriots, and Mac Jones is regressing every week, so for some reason I picked them to win last week. Genius. The Colts took it to the Panthers and former coach Frank Reich last week, getting two scores from a defense that needed them desperately. Honestly, outside of a game or two, the Indianapolis offense hasn’t missed a beat since Garnder Minshew took over, and the running game has been awesome with Jonathan Taylor getting healthy again. I don’t see a reason for Indy to lose this game, which most likely means I will be wrong, but seriously, how could anyone pick New England here?
The Pick: Colts -1.5
1 O’CLOCK SUNDAY
San Francisco 49ers (-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Something has to give in this one, as the Niners are on a three game losing streak while the Jags have won five in a row, the longest streak in football currently. I think the bye week that San Fran just had will have done wonders for the team, as Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams and many others were banged up and missing time beforehand. Jacksonville and running back Travis Etienne have been great offensively in recent weeks, but a healthy and angry Niners defense will easily be the biggest test the Jags have had. I still think San Francisco is one of the best teams in the league, and this is a perfect opportunity to prove it.
The Pick: 49ers -3
New Orleans Saints (-2.5) at Minnesota Vikings
There were plenty of storylines in football last week, but few as cool as what Josh Dobbs did for the Vikings. After being traded to Minnesota from Arizona midweek, Dobbs did not practice with his new offense at all before having to come in due to injuries on Sunday and leading his new team to a win over the Falcons. The Saints had a relatively drama-free win over the Bears on Sunday, with the defense forcing a ton of turnovers to make things easy. While I don’t think New Orleans is all that despite leading their division, this is one I think they can get. The Josh Dobbs story is awesome and I wish the Passtronaut the best of luck, but this seems like a week where things come back down to earth with a week of film out there.
The Pick: Saints -2.5
Tennessee Titans at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1.5)
Despite last week’s loss on Thursday night, Will Levis has looked very good in his first few starts for Tennessee. The Bucs have fallen apart after a hot start, with a poor timeout called by Todd Bowles costing his team a chance at a win against the Texans last weekend. I like Baker Mayfield and I like a lot of the guys on that team, but it seems like it’s getting late early in Tampa Bay. The Titans aren’t exactly world beaters, but Tennessee has shown me more successes on offense in two weeks under Levis than Tampa Bay has in about a month. Give me the Titans with a road victory here.
The Pick: Titans +1.5
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-6)
The Ravens are approaching “best team in football” territory with what they’ve been doing to the top teams in the NFC in recent weeks. Baltimore is dominating teams in all phases and could be my favorite to reach the Super Bowl from the AFC as of right now. The Browns blew out the helpless Cardinals last week, with Dashaun Watson returning to quarterback the team. The first time these two teams met, the Ravens destroyed a Cleveland team that Watson was not playing for. This is not going to make much sense after I just gave the Ravens their flowers, but I think this is the game where things get a little messy. Baltimore still wins, but does so in a close one. The Browns defense comes up with a few big plays.
The Pick: Browns +6
Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5)
I told you we were going to talk about CJ Stroud today. The rookie quarterback threw for 470 yards, a rookie record, five touchdowns and no interceptions in a comeback win over the Buccaneers. Stroud has quickly established himself as a top quarterback in this league in less than 10 games. The Bengals are officially all the way back, beating the Bills once again on Sunday night for their fourth straight win. Joe Burrow looks fully healthy, but now star receiver Ja’Marr Chase is dealing with a back injury. He’s listed as day-to-day, which is much better than initially expected. This is tough for me. I don’t want to be a prisoner of the moment and think Stroud will be able to do that two weeks in a row, but I also don’t want to give this game to the Bengals without thinking about it. Considering Cincy is still in last place in a stacked division and still has Super Bowl aspirations, I think they come out ready for this one.
The Pick: Bengals -6.5
Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3)
The Packers finally got a win last week against a Rams side that is falling off fast. The Steelers are somehow 5-3 despite not playing good football 75% of the time. There’s not a lot to say about either of these teams that I haven’t said already. Jordan Love is still struggling mightily, as is Kenny Pickett. You can’t really blame me or anyone else for trusting Pittsburgh more at this point in the season though, as the Steelers have found ways to win a lot more than Green Bay has. Mike Tomlin isn’t great historically as a favorite, but he gets it done here.
The Pick: Steelers -3
LATE AFTERNOON SLATE
Atlanta Falcons (-1.5) at Arizona Cardinals
Barring any setbacks, Kyler Murray will officially make his return from last year’s torn ACL in this one. Taylor Heinicke will be the starter for Atlanta once again. The Falcons are looking for answers after dropping its last two games and falling out of first place in the NFC South. It’s no secret to anybody that the Cardinals are not very good this year, but the return of Murray gives the team some hope and intrigues me. Unfortunately for Kyler, I just don’t think he has the team around him to get it done here. The Falcons need to bounce back badly.
The Pick: Falcons -1.5
Detroit Lions (-3) at Los Angeles Chargers
This could end up becoming one of the most entertaining games of the day. The Lions are coming off of a bye and looking to keep it rolling while the Chargers have won two in a row and are trying to get back into the playoff race, so there’s plenty at stake here. This is a tough one to pick for me, because while I do think the Chargers are starting to figure some things out to make a run, Detroit has been one of the most consistent teams in football. This is looking like another week where I like way too many favorites, but I’m trying not to overthink things and just go with my gut.
The Pick: Lions -3
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-16.5)
Unless I'm forgetting something, I believe this is the most lopsided spread we’ve seen so far this season. This season has been one Giants fans will want to forget as soon as they can, as now Daniel Jones is out for the season with a torn ACL. Tommy DeVito will be his replacement for the time being. Honestly, the Cowboys beat the Giants by 40 on the road with Jones playing earlier this season. If they can’t cover this spread, something went horribly wrong.
The Pick: Cowboys -16.5
Washington Commanders at Seattle Seahawks (-6)
The Seahawks were the latest team to run into the buzzsaw that is the Ravens, getting crushed in Baltimore last week. The Commanders got a big win in New England and are once again in the playoff hunt for the time being. While I do think Seattle is a good football team, the problems I had earlier this season with not trusting Geno Smith seem to be becoming more widespread. I’m not saying the Commanders are this great football team, but they’re a squad that will take advantage of mistakes. I think Geno makes one mistake too many, leaving the door open for a cover.
The Pick: Commanders +6
WAITIN’ ALL DAY FOR A SUNDAY NIGHT
New York Jets (-1.5) at Las Vegas Raiders
I’m just going to get this out of the way. It was perhaps the biggest miss of my career not picking the Raiders to get a win last week with a new head coach. It was the perfect spot for Vegas to have a big game and I just scoffed at it. Bad. To make matters worse, I’m trying to jump on the bandwagon a week too late because I like Vegas to keep it rolling here. The Jets’ defense is still one of the best units in the league, while the offense is slowly starting to creep back towards mediocrity. I think the energy levels for the Raiders at home will be enough to win two straight games. Purdue’s Aiden O’Connell has looked good in his two starts.
The Pick: Raiders +1.5
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills (-7.5)
If the playoffs started today, the Bills would be on the outside looking in. It’s been a weird season up in Buffalo, and the Bills just haven’t looked like the team we’ve seen up there in recent years. The Broncos enjoyed a bye last week after finally beating the Chiefs, but I’m not sure that’s going to matter much, or at least it shouldn’t. Buffalo has some really tough games coming up on that schedule and needs to take advantage of these games as much as possible. If they’re still a contender deep down like I believe they are, this is one they need to make a statement in.
The Pick: Bills -7.5
I’m trying not to think too hard about these picks this week. If they hit, they hit, but I can’t keep stressing this much about my record. It’s starting to take a toll.
Last Week’s Record: 5-9
Season Record: 66-54-3