NFL 2018 Divisonal Round

An angrier man would spit out some sort of ALL CAPS excoriation of the goofy ending to the Cowboys-Seahawks game, wherein a freak injury to a 40-year-old professional football player who we had just backhandedly complimented knocked down a domino that tumbled a set of circumstances leading to Seattle being forced to go for two, down four, with 1:18 left to play. The successful attempt cost us the game by a hook. One half of one point, perhaps the cruelest of margins.

A pragmatic man would tell you to walk away. By my count we are 33-31, technically a winning record. Ruthless as an entity is not without a bruise or two, but we never lie to you, so that is an honest number, devoid of even the Lamar Jackson future bet that in a sense hit seven consecutive times. The problem, of course, is that a 33-31 record represents a winning percentage of 51.6%, a mere nine tenths of a percentage point away from being profitable! Just agonizing. Forget whatever the hell I said about Janikowski up there; that is the cruelest of margins.

Thankfully, I’m not the least bit mad, and you can call me a lot of things, but pragmatic is not one of them.  Obviously, if the fraction of a unit we are down is the difference in making this month’s rent or not, tap out now. Or if God forbid you’re a federal employee whose livelihood is being taken so that some dumb son of a bitch can curry favor with the last of his diehards – ironically, the only people left who truly don’t care if he builds a wall or not – my feelings won’t be hurt in the least.

Actually, I know at least a couple of you really are furloughed right now, and I say in all sincerity that Ruthless supports you. Based on emails and DMs, at least two of you are TSA guys and another is a Hoover Dam employee / burgeoning Dink Inc. type in Nevada. I’m sure words of encouragement in a column purposed to deliver gambling tips you may not even be able to use right now is like lipstick on a pig, but the last thing Pandora let out of the box was hope. Also there is live football betting available now in New Jersey if it’s a thing for you. On one hand, maybe they’ll get sick of this shit and impeach the motherfucker. On the other, maybe someone will hit him in the fuckin’ face with spade shovel. And then impeach the motherfucker.

There is but one solution to a great many of our problems, you see.

Anyhoo, we’re not quitting now. Fuck that. Qui audet adipiscitur.

These razor-close games are exciting, but that weekend excitement makes the annual January football wean worse than usual. Hypercompetitive NFL games make the lack of tide-over weeknight college games that much more brutal. I very rarely gamble on basketball or soccer, so last Wednesday night, for the first time in a while, I was in a total TV abyss; no NFL, no NCAAF, no underperforming Rangers, no Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live, nothing. It got so bad I wound up watching a 30 minute Three Stooges infomercial. At first it was a mere curiosity, sort of like that one time Plex watched Joel Osteen, before God – in an unprecedented dick move, incidentally – told Osteen that his drowning neighbors in Houston could get fucked.

That infomercial made me feel downright patriotic. Obviously, any Three Stooges/Time-Life brand synergy is going to be targeted at the elderly and infirm, because who else buys DVDs anymore, much less a fucking spindle of the damn things comprising more footage than any of their potential customers will live long enough to watch to completion. And it’s almost all clips, which, of course it is, but keep in mind that those guys really only had one gag. So it’s essentially 30 minutes of [line], *punch in stomach*, [line], *literal kick in ass*, [line], *pipe wrench to skull*, and so forth, with a pitch looped in every few minutes.

Hilariously, though, they sold it as nostalgia. Maybe we as a culture have stripmined all of the decent stuff, and Order in the court! I’ll have a ham and cheese sandwich! is all we have left? Anyway, this standard-length commercial hints at the EXTREME good-old-daysism, with the kids of all ages have loved them for generations stuff, but in the long form, they really pour it on, with constant simpler times, and gather the whole family stuff, so much so that I was half expecting Lorne Greene or Jean Shepard to hijack the thing and start trying to sell me Werthers or something.

I know it’ss smart marketing, because scumbags make a mint every day tricking oldies into buying gold or scooters or whatever. And yeah, perhaps the Greatest Generation’s cataract-spotted eyes shouldn’t light up watching a man wearing a barrel scrap rubber for a nickel hamburger at a whites-only restaurant. But spare me the cynicism. Hearing the Time Life guy fondly reference D Day while a guy cracks a violin over his dying brother’s head in the course of stealing a baby is as American as it gets.

Until the weekend, that is. Then HEY LOOK FOOTBALL!

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INDIANAPOLIS v. KANSAS CITY -210

Call me a coward if you like but I didn’t quit, did I? I earned the right. And I want us ahead at the end of the season, so I’m gonna bridge-jump this game and invite you to come along. Though I like the Chiefs straight-up enough to maybe pull a Martin Riggs on you if I have to.

Why yes, Riggs did jump off of a building as opposed to a bridge. Thanks for pointing that out.

If you listen to the PFF Foreca$t – and you totally should, by the way – they said one of the most prescient things on this week’s episode. I’m paraphrasing, but the gist was that the Colts offense is designed to drive defenses crazy, while the Chiefs offense is designed to drive Patrick Mahomes crazy. Truer words may have never been spoken, except I guess when racist dickhead Steve King said just because I’m white and I’m a nationalist, people are calling me a white nationalist. Again, paraphrasing.

Referring back to the PFF guys, they were really high on the first half over for the Chiefs, which I think they got at 28. I certainly wouldn’t do that, though. Mahomes is quick out of the gate and this Indy defense is hot and cold to say the least, but K.C. didn’t play the Colts this year. I can’t think of a great team-to-team comp but it’s not hard to envision a situation where the Indy D gives Patty Melt headaches for a little while.

Emphasis on little while. Much respect to the Colts. Andrew Luck could have cooked an omelette on my face this year and Frank Reich of all people looks like a legit long-term hire, with maybe the perfect demeanor for the 34th most populous metropolitan statistical area in the U.S. Yet the Chiefs are *makes centimeter gesture with fingers* thaaaaaat much better. NOT, under any circumstances, 5.5 points better, but good enough to edge out the wolfman at home. Bet it straight up and, accordingly, big.  

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DALLAS v. L.A. RAMS -7

This looks to be a really fun game, and it’s about time the city of L.A. had a major cultural moment. I guess the last major west coast news item I paid attention to was when Offset interrupted *eyeroll* his talentless ex-girlfriend’s set at the Seriously, Who Gives A Fuck? Fest back in December. The ever-lighthearted Gawker types crucified the guy of course, apparently laboring under the delusion that some five-foot-nothing dude could manage to get three gigantic rolling flower arrangements, a cake the size of Rhode Island, and a live mic past the cops, festival bodyguards, her personal security and her sound man without her being in on it. Sure, whatever. Chalk it up to him being in a funk over the Falcons’ dismal season. I know the feeling.

Also, stop calling it the Migos flow. Chuck D rhymed in triplets 32 years ago! Hey wait, football?

Okay, sorry. So we are all keenly aware that Dallas lost ATS last weekend, but had one or two butterflies been stepped on halfway around the world, they could have lost that game by double digits. Janikowski’s unexpected albeit not entirely unforeseeable injury (sorry, still love that guy), Jarwin’s great block on Zeke’s 44-yarder, Gallup beating Shaquill Griffin at the end of the second; a slight alteration to any of those circumstances and Ciara is forced to go without biblically-approved missionary-position sex for another Saturday night.

Yes, Goff seems to have had an unhappy Christmas and a lousy New Years Eve Eve, but Todd Gurley was on the bench, depriving him of his valve, in games where Sean McVay chose to run a disproportionate amount anyway. Gurley is back this week on a knee that doesn’t have to slam into Aaron Donald all night, that knee belonging to a hobbled Zack Martin who will have to keep Rayne Dakota Prescott alive. Seven is a big divisional round line but not big enough to scare me. Lay the TD and watch the fireworks.

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L.A. CHARGERS v. NEW ENGLAND UNDER 47.5

I actually think New England has a good chance of covering the 4 on Sunday for any number of reasons, the most prominent being that Belichick and Brady own Rivers, who has never beaten them. This will be the third playoff clash, and features the highest combined ages of starting QBs in playoff history. It really says something about laser pajamas or constant unprotected offseason sex, not sure which. Can Rivers Finally Beat Brady? would have been a headline on every paper this week were it not for Andrew Luck’s comeback and, let’s face it, Rivers being kind of off putting to everyone but his wife. Peppermint roll!

I am either really right about this, or both teams will score 150 points each. There is no middle ground. However, Rob Gronkowski is very obviously hurt, the weather will be freezing, and the Chargers lead the league in both passing and overall defense. The Pats in the AFC title game, again, would not surprise anyone, but a dogfight just might. Let’s hope that offense sells tickets and defense wins money.

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PHILADELPHIA v. NEW ORLEANS -8

Those poor Bears. You already know about the meticulous junk science of K-balls and the eventual exoneration via instant replay but the vitriol directed at Cody Parkey brought out the absolute worst in some of those fans. Didn’t we just discuss the assholes that sully a historic and otherwise passively enjoyable working class tradition? Shut the fuck up, mouth-breather.

The Saints are still rightly considered the best team in the NFL but do, admittedly, have their work cut out for them. Brees is down a couple of weapons with Simmie Cobbs and Ted Ginn – who I think I might have gone to school with – both being questionable. Alvin Kamara, Drew’s ace in the hole RB, has actually become the second best receiver on the roster.

So can Michael Bennett, he of the ittle bittle shoulderpads, cause enough problems to throw Brees off his game and let Nick Foles and the new cheesesteak-induced cardiac kids come within 8? I’m doubting it. Philly gets to do the scrappy underdog thing again but this is still the Saints team that blew them out by 41 back in November, the same Saints who have never lost a home playoff game under Sean Payton. The eight point line doesn’t look so big now, does it?

Divisional round! Let’s make some money and soak up the fun while it lasts. Before long they’ll start hyping the Super Bowl and all of the casuals will ruin it for the rest of us. Asshole presidents and dysfunctional governments aside, playoff gambling is one of the things that still makes America great. Remember how great America was back when… *is poked in eyes, nose twisted with channel locks*

Good luck!

About J.J. Duquesne

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