NFL Week 17

Not going to spend my time writing an elegy for the career of Jon Jones, or rather, what Jon Jones could have been. Part of me wants to. Part of me remembers what Jon Jones was, who Jon Jones was, back when he was begging the referee to make him stop battering his opponent, a deaf fighter named Matt Hamill, with vicious elbows in what turned out to be a star turn. Back when he was the kid who fell into a title shot on short notice and won the light heavyweight championship of the world on six weeks notice, posed to become one of the greatest of all time.

As you may know, Jones pissed hot for Turinabol in a surprise test on December 9, making that his third career drug test failure, not counting an out-of-competition pop for cocaine in 2014 and all sorts of chicanery involving literally running from the scene of a car accident after doubling back to grab wads of cash and allegedly hiding under an octagon when USADA showed up at his gym.

UFC tried to sweep everything under the rug, and somehow got USADA to rule that the Turinabol present on December 9 was residue from the same Turinabol that he got popped for on July 28, 2017, despite eleven completely clean tests between the two failures. This led to a disgraceful press conference during which Jones kept repeating the word pictogram and Dana White, ever the diplomat, braying who is gonna pay my taxes? after being confronted with the incontrovertible fact that moving the fight to Los Angeles – a move done solely to protect the Jones fight after Nevada refused to license him – would cost every other fighter between 9.25 and 13% of their purses due to California tax laws. At the lowest point, Jones bullied an ESL female reporter who was not MacKenzie Dern but looked to be all of 20 years old, whining for someone to “take the mic from her” and, as is befitting a world champion and not a fifth grader, repeatedly hissing better journalism, you suck.

What does this have to do with professional football? Nothing and everything, I suppose. For weeks I have been tinkering with a preambular thinkpiece about whether or not I have become an outlier within the sports fan demographic, and whether that goes for all of us here. I am not trying to be funny (why start now?) when I always say I respect this readership, and I count myself among you, so the Will Leitch piece in the Daily Intelligencer caused me to at least examine the question. The Leitch piece relates back to a Daily Beast article written by Robert Silverman.

The Silverman thing is a deep dive into the culture surrounding Barstool Sports, Dave Portnoy, Dan Katz, and so forth, and whether a sort of malleable dickishness, inclusive of misogyny is now intractably embedded into the very nature of sports fandom, at least online. I am of course the tiniest of potatoes in this world, but I do write about sports – or a sport, I guess – online, and I do so for a readership that I assume is largely in favor of free speech absolutism, fed up with gamergate, smarter than Vice, anti-corporate media, etcetera.

So why am I so mad at Jon Jones and Dana White that I am scolding them in a column about football gambling? Because I cannot stand that shit, and you do not deserve it, either. Nobody likes being lied to, but if I may speak for all of us, I think we really hate being lied to by people that think they are getting away with it, when in fact we see right through it. Dumb people lying is analogous to the smirking, ribcage elbow from every Cernovich, Prilosec, and Shapiro who thinks that because they falsely brand themselves as countercultural intellectuals, they are somehow in league with actual countercultural intellectuals, when in fact we want nothing to do with them.

Jon Jones took steroids. Big fucking deal. I have taken steroids. Some of you have taken steroids. Lots of fighters take steroids. Lots of football players take steroids. Some football players will end up in wheelchairs. Some will be fed with a spoon by a trophy wife not knowing what she was getting herself into. We know all of this. Thanks to you-know-who, everything is now a battlefield in the larger cultural war, and sports is not an exception. For reasons economic, emotional, traditional, or otherwise, some of us keep watching anyway. How dare you try to make me feel like a sucker or your ally for doing so. We are no suckers, and damn sure not gonna cape for you when you get caught doing your own dirty work. HEY LOOK FOOTBALL!

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CAROLINA v. NEW ORLEANS -7

I will get to the pick in a minute, but I apologize for the lack of levity up there. It really does piss me off, though, and I truly think that I am advocating on behalf of all of us, regardless of the volume or size of my platform. Anyway, here is to trying to loosen up a bit.

Do you think Drew Brees ever wishes he could sample the legendary feminine wiles of NOLA? Do you think he could? Mind you, I am not saying he would, or that he ever did. If Brett Favre taught us anything, it was that all of those marriages profiled on Sunday Morning Tacklefuck, or whatever it is called, are to be taken seriously. Hey, just noting that he was probably buckled into the whole San Diego experience, having spent two years there, when he married his college sweetheart in 2003. Then came the shoulder thing and the move south in 2005.

Everyone from San Diego will gladly and repeatedly tell you it is the greatest place on Earth, and I suppose I would have to defer to LRM as to Brees prospects in the Lower Garden District, but I think between his interviews, his hairline, and his overall demeanor, Brees is now so ensconced in his role as the dad who is good at football that it probably would not matter anyway. Bourbon Street sluts would probably ask if he could drive them to campus tours or something.

Those restrictions do not apply to Teddy Bridgewater, who is likely to get more u up? texts than Lil Wayne and Harry Connick Jr. put together come Sunday night. Yes, New Orleans is resting their starters, but this will also be the first NFL start for Kyle Allen, who is replacing the injured Cam Newton. Hopefully he did not pout like a bitch when he found out his season was over.

You are of course free to lecture me about the Saint motivation, or the lack thereof. I will then politely point out to you that the Panthers are 1-6 on the road this year, and that had a couple more butterflies lived, Bridgewater would be starting for a contender, perhaps one nearby. Hell, the Pelicans might be able to cover seven against Carolina. Lay the favorite and scout the prospective NFC champions.

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L.A. CHARGERS -6.5 v. DENVER

You would think I would learn to stop fucking with the 2018 Denver Broncos. Hate on them, they pull a backdoor cover out of nowhere. Lay them on the fucking moneyline and they shoot themselves in the foot against an inferior opponent. It is like people in Colorado are conspiring against me, perhaps in an effort to bankrupt me in retaliation for dragging down the quality of their otherwise prestigious website. Hey wait a damn minute…

AND YET! Look, there is just nothing left here. Vance Joseph could not save his job if they won by 50 and pulled off a flawless Swan Lake during halftime. No marquee player is interested in playing or getting hurt under his lame duck administration. Thus explaining Philip Lindsay sitting with a wrist injury he would have played through six weeks ago, and the efforts put forth against the Browns, 49ers, and Raiders in the month of December.

A Chargers win and a K.C. loss or tie gives L.A. the division, as the Chiefs are also 11-4. They both kick off at 4:25 EST. A win secures a number one seed and a bye, to say nothing of the revenge for the Week 11 upset. That is all of the motivation Rivers and company will need. You owe us, Denver. Lay down and die with dignity.

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INDIANAPOLIS -3 v. TENNESSEE

I hesitate to pick this game not because I lack confidence in the pick, but because it is being broadcast on NBC. If I see another promo for the fucking Titan Games, I’m going to buy an AR-15 (fun fact: the AR stands for Automatic Rifle!) for the sole purpose of pulling a late-period Elvis. Is American Ninja Warrior really such a big hit that someone had to bootleg it? Did that person then have a crisis of conscience and decide that they needed the sort of credibility they could only glom off of someone from the always forthright professional wrestling business?

I am a big boy. I made my peace with Andrew Luck and his apparently bionic body and shoulder weeks ago. That gravy train is not leaving so fast that I cannot hustle my way close enough to grab onto the caboose. Hee-hee Sure, there are Google-happy Andrew Luck slashfic types out there somewhere and they are going to have to sort through this whole column just to be disappointed by this paragraph.

The stakes are clear here: winner makes the playoffs, loser goes home. As of now, Marcus Mariota is still questionable, meaning that the Titans hopes are pinned to Blaine Gabbert. I won’t go with the easy joke here, not again anyway, but I will note that Andrew Luck has never even lost to a Mariota-led Titans team despite sharing a division. Because Luck has never lost to the Titans. He is 10-0 straight up against Tennessee, the last example of which took place on Week 11, when he went 23 of 29 for 3 TDs and 297 yards.

Stick with me, you lovable Ruthless bastards you. We bounced off of the 1-1-1 in Week 15 to be profitable last week, and we are back above .500. Keep the good vibes flowing and we will head into the playoffs with enough stake to make an impact.

Good luck!

About J.J. Duquesne

J.J. is an attorney in New York City. He loves NFL Football...a LOT.