By the end of this season, I worry my readers might think I’m bipolar.
The fact of the matter is that after writing perhaps my most depressing column ever last week, I’m sitting here on Cloud 9. It wasn’t just the sports in my life going well this weekend that are making me feel this good, but that certainly helped.
I spent my weekend back home in Chicago hanging out with my dad and most of my close friends. It had been way too long since I’d seen them so it really warmed my heart to spend some quality time with some of my closest people. Most of my friends back home don’t care about sports at all, so it was a nice change of pace from my usual surroundings.
It was an interesting one as well. I tend to watch my team’s biggest games by myself because of the animal I turn into once things begin. Think of the transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London. This weekend however, I watched the Missouri-Tennessee game with a group of friends who knew nothing about college football. While I was pacing, shouting and pumping my fists, my buddies Jakub and Adrean were next to me having an in-depth conversation about World War II aircraft. (In fact, Adrean’s favorite part of the game was the flyover during the national anthem.) If you had walked into the room and seen this transpiring, you would have thought I had broken in.
But that has always been the nature of our relationship. One of Jakub and I’s biggest fights started because he would not stop incorrectly spewing the phrase “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” to my face. He had no idea what it meant, just that I didn’t like Kansas. In fact, him saying it wrong made it worse, because it made it all the more obvious that he was just trying to get a rise out of me. He thinks I’m a caveman for caring too much about sports, I think he’s a caveman for not caring at all, but we’ve been brothers forever. That’s what friendship is all about.
I have to add that even though my good friend Jakub knows very little about football and has little desire to learn, he still manages to beat me in fantasy football almost every time we play. It is usually a hard pill to swallow but I wouldn’t have it any other way. He knows which games matter most.
It’s nice to have people close to you with different interests than your own. We can get so caught up in our own little worlds that we don’t really know or care about what’s going on outside of them. I’m glad my friends can keep me in the real world. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Anyways, back to sports and this week’s quick hitters.
The aforementioned Missouri game was perhaps the most fun I’ve had watching the Tigers since I enrolled. They steamrolled Tennessee 36-7, getting revenge for four straight lopsided losses. Walk-on Cody Schrader had almost 400 scrimmage yards in the win and should now be the new dean in Knoxville.
David Fincher’s newest movie, The Killer came out on Netflix last weekend. While it wasn’t one of my favorites from him, I still had a great time with it. It had great pace, Michael Fassbender is tremendous and it’s a pretty easy watch. I’d give it a recommendation.
While the superhero genre has struggled mightily in theaters recently, it is thriving on Prime Video. I watched two shows dealing with supes this past week, Gen V and Invincible. If you do not like gore they might not be for you, but they are right up my alley.
I have officially run out of space in my apartment for more LEGO sets. My dining room table has become a city, my living room shelf is full, and my newest set, a 7,000 piece rendition of the Razor Crest from The Mandalorian, is just sitting on my floor with nowhere else to put it. The first step is admitting you have a problem…
Last week was massive for the column, as I finally was able to snap my losing streak with a positive Week 10. I mentioned early on in last week’s edition that the schedule for the weekend was one of the worst of the year, but man did the league deliver. Six games ended with walk-off field goals, setting a record. I didn’t exactly dominate the board, but sometimes you just have to see the ball go into the hoop. The confidence that had once disappeared has returned once more. Hopefully I can get back on track and string together a few more positive weeks to keep my goal of finishing the season above .500 a possibility. It starts right here with another good slate in Week 11.
Let’s do this.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
This is certainly a doozy of a matchup to start us off this week. Both teams are coming off losses at home last week, with the Bengals falling to the Texans and the Browns taking down the Ravens. It was concerning to see from Baltimore, because even though they have looked incredible more times than not this year, blowing a two-touchdown lead late last week was something the Ravens have done too often in recent years. The Bengals need this game in a bad way considering the rest of their division is in the playoffs right now, but I’m not sure they get it done. I’ve been picking against Baltimore a lot recently and while it worked out last week, it hasn’t been a profitable decision.
The Pick: Ravens -3.5
1 O’CLOCK SUNDAY
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (-9.5)
Every week that goes by, the Lions look more and more like Super Bowl contenders, and I become more and more convinced that I’m living in an alternate dimension. The Detroit offense looked incredible in last Sunday’s win over the Chargers. The running back duo of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs could be the best in the league, while Jared Goff is connecting with all of his receivers and playing great ball. For the second straight week, I am assuming Justin Fields will finally suit up for the Bears in this one, but I was told otherwise at the last minute last week. Every time Matt Eberflus talks I lose brain cells. Too much uncertainty for me to go with Chicago here.
The Pick: Lions -9.5
New York Giants at Washington Commanders (-9.5)
The Giants got absolutely crushed by the Cowboys once again on Sunday afternoon, while the Commanders almost earned a comeback win over the Seahawks on the road. The Giants have looked like one of the worst teams in football all season long, but not in Week 7 when the G-Men held Washington to seven points. I don’t know if New York is going to be able to get another win here with Tommy DeVito under center, but the Commanders have been very inconsistent and the Giants always play them tough. I’m not sure they win, but this has “one-possession game” written all over it.
The Pick: Giants +9.5
Los Angeles Chargers (-3) at Green Bay Packers
The Los Angeles Chargers have the fewest turnovers in the NFL, the 2nd best penalty margin in the league and have scored the most points out of any team in their division this season. They are 4-5. The Packers dropped another game to the Steelers last week with Jordan Love throwing two fourth-quarter interceptions. This is a line that worries me, because I genuinely don’t think it has any business being as close as it is. The Chargers very nearly took down the Lions last week, scoring 38 points. I’m not saying they go out and score 38 again, but hidden beneath a very average record is a very good football team in LA. They take this one easy.
The Pick: Chargers -3
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (-1.5)
The Browns picked up one of the most impressive wins of the season last week, coming back to take down the Ravens after trailing by 14 in the second half. The Steelers won yet again despite being outgained, but the team now has six wins and isn’t apologizing to anybody. Even though Cleveland has proven that they are a legit contender this season, I think this is a game they should be worried about. Coming off of a huge win against a Pittsburgh team they are known to struggle against, this has the makings of an upset. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Mike Tomlin loves when his team is an underdog! NOTE: I wrote this blurb on Tuesday morning before Deshaun Watson was ruled out for the season due to shoulder surgery on Wednesday. The news does not change my pick, but definitely puts a damper on the Browns’ Super Bowl chances. My heart goes out to Browns fans, who have just suffered one heartbreak after another.
The Pick: Steelers +1.5
Dallas Cowboys (-10.5) at Carolina Panthers
The Cowboys took care of business exactly as expected last weekend, rolling over the Giants in a blowout, while the Panthers dropped yet another game on Thursday night, this time to the lowly Bears. The only reason I would pick against Dallas in this one would be if I remembered their early season loss at Arizona, which looks more and more like a fluke as the weeks go by. The Panthers are the worst team in football and even though a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut, I don’t think this is the week they do so. Kind of surprised this line isn’t bigger, but maybe there’s some fight left in Carolina.
The Pick: Cowboys -10.5
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-6.5)
Last week went about as poorly for Jacksonville as the Jags could have imagined, as the team got crushed by the Niners. The Titans looked lifeless in a loss to the Buccaneers. It was an especially tough loss for Jacksonville because questions must be asked. The Jags have played two Super Bowl contenders, the Chiefs and the Niners, and failed to score ten points in each game. While the Jaguars fans might be worried about how the team will fare if it makes a playoff push, this is a game they probably should have. The Titans have lost their last two games though, so this is the perfect opportunity for Tennessee to put together one of its few solid performances this year.
The Pick: Titans +6.5
Las Vegas Raiders at Miami Dolphins (-12.5)
The Raiders have won both of their games under interim head coach Antonio Pierce, while the Dolphins enjoyed a bye after their trip to Germany a couple of weeks ago. The Dolphins M.O. is pretty simple at this point. If they’re playing against a top team, fade them. If they are going against an average or worse team, take them and the points. The Phins have shown no indication of slowing down the scoring in games like this one so until a team that’s not a Super Bowl contender can prove they can put a lid on this high-flying offense, I have to keep picking Miami.
The Pick: Dolphins -12.5
Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans (-4.5)
Kyler Murray finally returned from last year’s torn ACL last week against the Falcons, leading his team to a win. The Texans pulled off another huge win for the second week in a row and now sit in the final playoff spot in the AFC. We can move past talking about CJ Stroud in the Rookie of the Year race, because it’s clear that the award is his and he might have a chance to play for something just a little bit bigger. I’m all in on this kid. He’s gotten better each week of his career so far and I don’t see a reason for that to slow down against a Cardinals team that has struggled more weeks than not. Obviously, this is a different team now that Murray has returned, but Arizona lacks the talent on both sides of the ball.
The Pick: Texans -4.5
LATE AFTERNOON SLATE
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers (-10.5)
Tampa didn’t have to sweat much in its win over the Titans last week, while the Niners got a huge win off of the bye against the Jaguars to snap a three-game losing streak. The bye week was huge for San Fran, as the team was able to return Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams, while star running back Christian McCaffrey looked much healthier than he did before the week off. Is it really that simple for me? Do I really think that this bye week fixed all of the problems that the losing streak showcased? Are the Niners really as good as we think when fully healthy? I’m going to answer yes to all three. Tampa Bay has struggled to score against good defenses.
The Pick: 49ers -10.5
Seattle Seahawks (-1) at Los Angeles Rams
The Seahawks used a last-second field goal to squeak past the Commanders last week while the Rams enjoyed a bye. It came at a perfect time for Los Angeles, as now Matthew Stafford is expected to make his return in this one. In case he’s still unavailable, Carson Wentz is the new back up. A week ago, I was confused why the Falcons-Cardinals line was basically a pick ‘em with the trajectory of those two teams. This week, I’m wondering the same thing. I picked Atlanta last week and regretted it, but I don’t think I’ll fall victim twice. The Rams have not looked good in quite a few weeks.
The Pick: Seahawks -1
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-6.5)
The two teams playing in this game are probably the two teams in the league that need a win the most this week. The Jets haven’t scored a touchdown since Week 8 despite facing off against two average defenses since, while the Bills are suddenly sitting at .500 after a loss to the Broncos on Monday and will have to figure it out fast to make the playoffs. Buffalo will have a new offensive coordinator in this game after Ken Dorsey was fired on Tuesday, but I’m not sure he was the problem. The offense has been just fine, it’s been the turnovers that have killed the Bills. Even with all of these problems, I have a hard time thinking a Zach Wilson led offense is going to get it done. That being said, Josh Allen has struggled mightily against New York throughout his career.
The Pick: Jets +6.5
WAITIN’ ALL DAY FOR A SUNDAY NIGHT
Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos (-2.5)
I will say, this primetime game looks a lot more interesting than it did two weeks ago. The Vikings have the longest winning streak in the NFC and Josh Dobbs has picked up right where Kirk Cousins left off. The Broncos are suddenly .500 after winning three straight and Russell Wilson is playing some good football. It’s not like Denver is beating up on teams worse than them either, as their last two wins are against the Chiefs and the Bills. Even with the Broncos’ resurgence, I really like the Vikings in this game. Minnesota has really put it together over the past few weeks and looks like they will be a team to beat for that last playoff spot in the NFC. Play some Creed!
The Pick: Vikings +2.5
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5)
We’ve got a doozy of a matchup on Monday night, as a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl will be played at Arrowhead. Both teams will be fresh coming into this one with byes last week, which should really help the Eagles, as Jalen Hurts has not been himself so far this season despite his team being 8-1. The Chiefs won their last game two weeks ago against the Dolphins in Germany, but the offense left a ton to be desired, going scoreless in the second half. This should be a great game and I can’t wait to watch it. My gut feeling early on is that the Eagles get revenge for last year’s Super Bowl defeat.
The Pick: Eagles +2.5
I’m hoping I can keep it rolling with a second straight week of winners. There’s some good games out there this week as well as some that may end up looking lopsided, but either way, I’ll be glued to my TV all Sunday long.
Last Week’s Record: 7-6-1
Season Record: 73-60-4