Hey, it’s Moneyline Mo, the man in know, writing this as we get another round of snow. I hope everyone had a great holiday and got the presents they wanted! I got another winning week on my record, which I consider a joint gift from myself and the 10 teams that won for me last week.
As shocking as it may seem, we’re all out of games for 2021! With Thursday night games wrapped up for the season, all of Week 17’s games will take place in 2022. Personally, I thought moving to an 18-game season with 17 games for each team was a mistake, and the way the season is playing out is reflecting that. Sure, there are still a lot of meaningful games left over the next two weeks, but we’re not getting great matchups. Of course, we’re going to consume it, but was anyone craving this? At this point, it feels more like a delay for the postseason than an extension of the regular season. Anyway, here are my picks for the penultimate regular season games.
CHICAGO OVER NEW YORK (N)
It sure feels like Matt Nagy dodged a firing for the second time this season. If Chicago had lost to Detroit on Thanksgiving, I think that would have sealed his fate then. And then this past week. if Seattle had beat Chicago, I feel like Chicago might have done the smart thing and taken advantage of the new window to interview head coaching candidates before the regular season ends. As it stands, now I think they need to ride it out with Nagy. Part of me really hopes they retain him so I can enjoy the continued hijinks, but I’m also willing to experiment with whatever new flavor of ineptitude they eventually select as his successor.
BUFFALO OVER ATLANTA
Buffalo was in full video game mode last week and didn’t have a single punt in their game against New England. Of course, they were smart and only went for it on 4th and short, but if I was a head coach, I would regularly go for it on, like, 4th and 40. My tenure would be short, but hopefully I’d be regarded as an innovator!
CINCINNATI OVER KANSAS CITY
It’s that time of year for some dramatic outcomes that shake up playoff seeding and impact your perception of teams right before the playoffs. I know Kansas City is the better team and are the current favorites to win it all, but something in my gut tells me that this is the game to alter playoff seedings and projections. It could just be Helicobacter pylori, but I’m calling it instinct.
TENNESSEE OVER MIAMI
After looking lifeless for an extended stretch, Tennessee suddenly returned to their impressive form in the second half against San Francisco last week. If they can win out and have Kansas City lose one of their remaining two games, Tennessee would claim the top spot in the conference. That could be of significance if it buys them another week for Derrick Henry to rest up before returning for the playoffs. A.J. Brown is already back, Julio Jones should be on his way, and the potential for Derrick Henry being back on the field has me excited again for Tennessee! Read the archives, fellas! I believe in you!
INDIANAPOLIS OVER LAS VEGAS
Just when I thought Indianapolis would lose their momentum with back-to-back games against New England and Arizona, they kept it rolling and I was about to declare them as maybe one of the top contenders…and then as I wrote this, the news broke that Carson Wentz will be out for at least this game. Until he returns, they’ll have to muddle through somehow.
However, I have faith in Frank Reich to have a winning game plan for the team this week. I haven’t been watching the in-season Hard Knocks with Indianapolis, but you bet your ass I’m going to binge watch it so I’m all caught up for next week when we see the behind the scenes of the team learning Wentz will be out.
NEW ENGLAND OVER JACKSONVILLE
Last week, Jacksonville had 3rd & Goal from the 1-yard line with 14 seconds left and they spiked the ball. Then on fourth down they had multiple guys running around as the play clock approached zero, and they were called for an illegal shift to end the game. At this point, Jacksonville is more interested in securing the first spot in the draft than they are in winning games. Not that I think they’d be much of a challenge anyhow for New England, but this one is a gimme for them.
TAMPA BAY OVER NEW YORK (A)
It looks like we might not get Bruce Arians on the sidelines for this Sunday, but I don’t think that will have any impact on the outcome. From what I can tell, he seems like a guy who empowers his coaches and players to do what they do best and doesn’t seem to interfere with it. So, even though I wouldn’t call myself a Bruce Arians fan, if you’re reading this, Bruce, I hope you feel better soon.
PHILADELPHIA OVER WASHINGTON
I knew that the Sunday night game between Washington and Dallas was going to be bad, but there was no way I could predict it to be as bad as a 42-point loss. Did anyone watch that second half? I can’t remember the last time I abandoned a Sunday night game to the point where I didn’t even have it on in the background as I did other stuff.
I don’t see how Washington can come back from that game and even though I’ve pulled for them throughout the year, I don’t want to have them in the playoffs if all they are going to do is get blown out this year. So, I’m embracing the unknown and rooting for Philadelphia to win this week and make it in over Washington, New Orleans and Minnesota for the final playoff spot in the conference.
LOS ANGELES (N) OVER BALTIMORE
It looks like my hopes of a Los Angeles versus Los Angeles IN Los Angeles Super Bowl might be fading. At the very least, it looks like my dream of both conference games being played in Los Angeles and causing logistical nightmares for the league will not happen this year. After the past two seasons filled with chaos and contingency plans, it seemed like it would have been a fitting touch for the postseason. I guess some dreams are just meant to be unfulfilled.
LOS ANGELES (A) OVER DENVER
What the hell, Los Angeles? How can you lose to Houston in Week 15?! A win last week would have put them in a great position to secure a pot in the playoffs. Now they are they are on the bubble and don’t control their destiny. Beyond securing a 1 seed or winning a division, the next priority as a coach/player is to find yourself in a position where you control your fate. While you might not be at the top of your division, as long as it is on the table that if you win out you are then in the playoffs, I think that is a reasonable expectation to have. Heck, that’s how I feel about life at this point, as long as I have some security and the potential to improve upon my situation, I’m probably in a good spot.
For Los Angeles to lose that control must be a tough pill for that franchise to swallow. I think they are going to win out the rest of the regular season, but whether that leads to a playoff appearance for them is out of their hands now.
SAN FRANCISCO OVER HOUSTON
After writing last week about how maybe San Francisco made a mistake in drafting Trey Lance, we now might see him go this week and perhaps the rest of the way depending on the severity of Jimmy Garoppolo’s thumb injury. Clearly, I wouldn’t make for a great general manager.
I’m immediately having flashbacks to the 2012 season when Colin Kaepernick came in during the second half of the year and took San Francisco on a near-championship-level run. I haven’t seen Trey Lance play this year, but this could be his time to shine and take the team on an incredible run.
DALLAS OVER ARIZONA
Dallas fans really aren’t prepared for the Mike McCarthy playoff experience. They might think that they’re ready after going through the Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett eras, but they are wrong. Now that they might be a 2 seed, or heck even a 1 seed, will make the collapse even funnier. I assure you…it is coming.
CAROLINA OVER NEW ORLEANS
I honestly believe New Orleans would have been better off starting Blake Bortles against Miami over Ian Book. I don’t want to judge Book by his inability to read the coverage, but he clearly was not ready to play a regular season football game. Anyone could tell that the real-time speed of the game was too much for him. Blake Bortles may have only been with the team for a few days and barely knew any plays, but at least you know he’s not going to get completely rattled anytime the opposing team blitzes. By the way, did we ever identify the guy wearing the Green Bay Bortles jersey at the Fiserv Forum during the playoffs this summer? Whoever and wherever you are, I hope you’re doing well, man.
SEATTLE OVER DETROIT
I got everything I wanted and more for Christmas, but if I could somehow get a belated present of both Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson departing Seattle, that would bring me so much joy. With Carroll, we’ll know his future in a couple weeks, but any Wilson movement wouldn’t be until the offseason. Maybe New Orleans or Denver for him? Hey, at least we got Seattle’s first losing season in forever.
GREEN BAY OVER MINNESOTA
We’ve got ourselves a COLD WEATHER GAME at LAMBEAUUU FIELDDDDD! It’s kind of weird that our final two games this season are the same as our final two games last year, right? You would think that it would at least flip flop where we’d play Detroit this week and Minnesota in Week 18, but compared to my other gripes about the schedule, this one is pretty minor. If Green Bay can get past this test, I think they learned their lesson from Week 17 last year and Week 2 this year to not take Detroit lightly. They’re in the driver’s seat for the 1 seed. Don’t blow it, Packers!
PITTSBURGH OVER CLEVELAND
It’s the final Monday night game of the regular season and this one might only be slightly less ugly than last week’s Miami-New Orleans contest. I only recently have been made aware that there will be a Saturday doubleheader in Week 18 instead of a Monday night game, but the league is waiting to finalize the games until after Week 17. That’s a tough spot the league has put themselves in to try and configure matchups that are meaningful, but whose outcomes won’t result in other teams changing their strategy on Sunday. I can understand trying one Saturday game in the final week of the season, but not a doubleheader. Why couldn’t we have just had our traditional Monday night doubleheader to open the season instead of this?
Both of these teams amazingly are still in contention for the playoffs, but outside of the fans for these times, would anyone want to watch either Pittsburgh or Cleveland in the playoffs? I think we have one last Ben Roethlisberger game where he throws for three touchdowns and my gut thinks this will be it. And then, fingers crossed, we never have to hear about him again. Have a safe and happy remainder of 2021 and best of luck in 2022!