Hey, it’s Moneyline Mo, the man in the know and when it comes to the regular season, we only have one week to go! I’m coming off another week where I matched my season-high of 13 wins. The dream of a 16-0 week is fading, and I know how unlikely it is to pull it off in Week 18 when you have an unpredictable mix of teams trying and teams that are checked out. With that in mind, I need to set a contingency goal for myself. If I can’t go 16-0 this week, my secondary goal is to avoid five losses this week, so I can finish with less than 100 losses on the season.
What do you think, folks? Can I do it?! Without further ado, here are my final regular season picks of the season:
KANSAS CITY OVER DENVER
Back in 2009, there was a feature in that year’s Madden release where if you won a championship in franchise mode, you’d get a unique code where you could order a customized Jostens ring. Three of my closest friends and I were fascinated by this prospect and became dead set on winning a ring together. We would get together every Monday night and play Madden on the Wii while the Monday night game played on another TV in the room. We selected Kansas City as our team and all four of us played simultaneously (my designated roles were fullback or right tackle on offense and middle linebacker on defense). It took maybe a month and a half, but we did it! We won a championship! We gave hugs and high fives as it felt like an actual accomplishment!
And then, as the celebration died down, we waited for the special Jostens ring code/URL, but instead, the game just went to the main franchise menu. We were all befuddled. Our hope was we could each order a ring or at least have one to share, but we never got the prompt. So, only then did we look it up and learn that the Jostens ring feature was only available on the Playstation and Xbox versions of the game, not for the Wii. Am I suggesting that Kansas City maybe should have issued us honorary rings when they won the Super Bowl a couple years ago? Possibly. If they win it all again this year, then I absolutely think the four of us are more than deserving to be included as ring recipients.
DALLAS OVER PHILADELPHIA
I said last week that Mike McCarthy would blow it for Dallas in the playoffs, and he decided to give fans a little sneak peek in Week 17 as he mismanaged his timeouts in the second half. Without any timeouts, Dallas was unable to challenge that Arizona had fumbled the ball and they lost the game. In every Dallas game I’ve seen this year, the broadcast keeps building up Kellen Moore as an offensive genius and a future head coach. If Moore is responsible for the offense, then what is McCarthy in charge of? Game management?! Oh, Jerry Jones…never change, man…never change.
CINCINNATI OVER CLEVELAND
What a feeling to nail that upset pick of Cincinnati over Kansas City last week! I feel like that game alone should be enough to get a Ja’Marr Chase Funko Pop later this year. I’m thinking of pivoting in the offseason and becoming a Jim Cramer for the Funko Pop market. As for Cleveland, I had it right in my first column of the season. I thought they overachieved last year and were due for regression this season. And boy oh boy did they regress!
CHICAGO OVER MINNESOTA
Well, it sure seems like the end of the road for Matt Nagy. Thank you for the years of entertainment you provided me with through schadenfreude. My hope is that Chicago wins this game and, that by ending the season with a three-game winning streak, it’s enough of a glimmer to convince the McCaskey family to keep him for one more season. A fella can dream, can’t he?
INDIANAPOLIS OVER JACKSONVILLE
It’s the Moneyline Mo LOCK OF THE SEASON! Indianapolis needs to win to lock up a playoff spot and Jacksonville wants to lose to secure the #1 pick in the draft. It’s a perfect marriage, they both will get exactly what they want…and apparently there will be a stadium full of clowns to watch it.
GREEN BAY OVER DETROIT
Green Bay is really playing starters in this one? Is it to try to lock up the MVP for Aaron Rodgers? That must be it, right? There’s no other incentive to putting the starters at risk. Start the backups and focus on keeping the clock moving, get out of this game as healthy as possible and enjoy the bye week. But if the stars are going to play, I might as well pick Green Bay to get their 14th win of the season.
WASHINGTON OVER NEW YORK (N)
Washington will announce their new team name in the beginning of February and the cynic in me wonders if that timeline is there to serve as a misdirection if they sense more leaks might be coming from the league’s investigation. I like the generic name they had in place for the past couple seasons, but not enough to ever get any merchandise supporting the team. Maybe if they get a new owner, I might spring for the inevitable Mitchell & Ness letterman’s jacket they’re bound to offer 15 years from now.
BALTIMORE OVER PITTSBURGH
Boy, Ben Roethlisberger really milked that final game at Heinz Field, didn’t he? Might as well make that your final game, right? Like to me, that should be it. Go out with a win in front of the home crowd. I’m not even a fan of the guy, but other than a championship, that’s about as you can have it for a final game.
As for Baltimore, they’ve lost five in a row after looking like they might be the top seed in the conference and now need a parlay of getting a victory in this game and combining it with wins by Jacksonville, Miami and Las Vegas. The current odds for that parlay hitting is +3651, which is the sportsbook’s way of saying that Baltimore will not make the playoffs this year.
TENNESSEE OVER HOUSTON
I should have hedged at the beginning of the season and really impressed you by saying, “I think Tennessee will be the #1 seed in the conference,” but I was greedy and picked them to win it all. I went from being very confident in them to doubting them to now thinking if they can get the bye and Derrick Henry back, they just might do this thing. What a shame that they tainted their season and had a brief affair with Adrian Peterson as running back.
LOS ANGELES (N) OVER SAN FRANCISCO
I really think that San Francisco deserves to be in the playoffs this year, but Arizona’s win over Dallas last week really hurt them because now this game is meaningful to Los Angeles. The Rams either need to win or have Arizona lose to secure the division title. This is the week for fans to really spread out their allegiances, so I have to think that San Francisco fans will be keeping an eye on the Atlanta-New Orleans game and rooting their hearts out for Atlanta. That might be the only way for San Francisco to get in this year.
ATLANTA OVER NEW ORLEANS
Please, Atlanta, I’m begging you. Please beat New Orleans. I deserve some of the blame because I said I was excited to see what Sean Payton would do with Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill at quarterback. It turns out what works best for New Orleans is some really ugly football. And it’s so ugly and unconventional that I’ll be damned if they just might be able to go on a run with it. We know their defense can stop Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, so if they make it in, they’d be a scary seventh seed. Fingers crossed that isn’t the case this season.
BUFFALO OVER NEW YORK (A)
I really enjoyed the All Madden documentary and one of my favorite moments was Dick Ebersol talking about John Madden hosting Saturday Night Live in 1982, with Ebersol casually referring to it as during the heyday of SNL. You know that’s a subtle inception effort on his part to frame his time running the show as the best years of Saturday Night Live. It’s not enough for Ebersol to be the co-creator of the comedy institution, he had to take it one step further and plant the seed that the show was at its best when Lorne Michaels was gone, and Ebersol was the man in charge. It’s a power move on a micro scale, but I respect the hell out of it.
ARIZONA OVER SEATTLE
Since the final game John Madden called was the Arizona vs. Pittsburgh Super Bowl, I’ve seen several highlights of the game over the past week. Now that this game is back in the zeitgeist, I want answers on how it ended. With a few seconds left, Kurt Warner “fumbled” the ball, but it sure seemed to meet the qualifications of the tuck rule. Instead, they never even paused the game to review the turnover. Plus, there was a 15-yard penalty on Pittsburgh after the play, so if they had deemed it an incomplete pass, Arizona would have had one final play from Pittsburgh’s 30-yard line to hit like a mini-Hail Mary. I still wish we got that finish.
NEW ENGLAND OVER MIAMI
Did you know that Bill Belichick has two sons on his coaching staff? We all know outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick from the attention he’s received on broadcasts, but there’s also safeties coach Brian Belichick. Why don’t we ever hear about Brian?
TAMPA BAY OVER CAROLINA
I was counting on Carolina to help knock out New Orleans last week and that didn’t happen. I genuinely let out a “Darn it, Darnold!” while following the game. I fulfilled my own prophecy!
LOS ANGELES (A) OVER LAS VEGAS
My hope for this win-and-you’re-in final game of the regular season is that it somehow matches the 2020 Week 15 Thursday night showdown they had last year. I think people forgot how wild that finish was. If you look at the game summary, the win probably swung multiple times in the final minutes of regulation and then again in overtime.
If Indianapolis loses their game this week, both Las Vegas and Los Angeles would make the playoffs if they ended this game in a tie. I don’t think Indianapolis will lose, but it that does happen, there has to be some discussion before the game by Rich Bisaccia and Brandon Staley right? Staley is secure, but I’m sure he’d love a playoff appearance in his first year as a head coach. On the other sidelines, Bisaccia would love to have the interim tag removed and stay on as head coach.
Again, I don’t see this scenario even being available, but if it does end up this way it would make so happy to have the final game of the season be a gentleman’s agreement of a tie. Make it 0-0 with every possession consisting of four kneel downs. It would also continue the trend of bizarre final regular season games following last year’s Sunday night finale where Philadelphia gave up in the second half to secure their draft spot. Sure, a win-and-you’re-in/lose-and-go-home scenario is exciting, but a rig-the-system-and-both-make-the-playoffs is even better to me.
While this is the last week of the regular season, I’ll be back next week with Moneyline Mo’s Playoff Pigskin Picks. And don’t worry, I’ll be sure to cover all the firings we see after Week 18. My current list of goners includes Darrell Bevell (Jacksonville), Matt Nagy (Chicago), Mike Zimmer (Minnesota), and as much as it pains me to write, I think it’s the end of the line for my guy Slick Vic Fangio (Denver). I think Rich Bisaccia gets to remain as head coach if Las Vegas makes it to the playoffs, but otherwise they’ll be in the market for a new head coach this offseason as well. Joe Judge (New York) and Matt Rhule (Carolina) are both bubble guys, but I think they’ll get another season. The biggest fish would be if Pete Carroll and Seattle parted ways, but I think he’ll be staying and Russell Wilson will be the one going. Enjoy Week 18 and the subsequent firings on Monday!