To quote legendary American songbird Marvin Lee “Meatloaf” Aday, “Motherfucker, you do not wanna fuck with me! You look in my eyes I am the last person in the fucking world you ever fucking wanna fuck with!” And two out of three ain’t baaaaaaad, of course.
No excuses on the Browns loss though. I knew it was a scorpion when I picked it up. As predicted, Freddie Kitchens was unemployed before Baker Mayfield finished DustBustering the stadium, though in a sense that may have been the best thing that could happen to him. Now don’t get me wrong; Kitchens probably should have been fired. He was the head coach of a wildly undisciplined and oft-penalized team. As the backs coach who became an OC before his last promotion, he also has to take responsibility for Mayfield’s regression despite adding two name wideouts to the roster. And, of course, he was also solely responsible for calling the plays that put his QB in near-constant danger despite knowing of the gaping holes in the O line, regardless of whether his former charge actually thinks Kitchens is “an idiot.”
That said, Kitchens could wind up being the mayor of Cleveland if he plays his cards right. He is the type of guy the town could fall in love with. He’s certainly got the average diehard fan’s physique, no question there. He’s also a perennial underdog type, having been hired over the objections of Paul DePodesta – a.k.a. Jonah Hill in Moneyball – because he’s not an advanced stats guy. Two weeks after the brawl that got Mason Rudolph conked in the head with a helmet in a very Daffy Duck-like fashion, he wore a “Pittsburgh Started It” t-shirt to a screening of the Mister Rogers movie. Hell, some poor thirsty bastard literally stood in the rain before sunup just to watch him drive away.
Point being, despite the feelings of Mayfield, the front office, and apparently just about everyone else around the guy, Kitchens is a virtual distillation of the entire Browns fan base into one body. Can you imagine how much money he would make if he opened a bar within walking and/or scootering distance of the stadium? You could even name the joint Lisa Simpson anagram game-style and it would make sense.
Consider the fact that the Mike McCarthy rumors died down after he visited their facility on Thursday, and that Baylor head coach Matt Ruhle thanks-but-no-thanksed the front office the following day. Just so we’re clear, the guy who just lost the Sugar Bowl by double digits told them to get bent so he could remain at Baylor. Now they’re pestering Eric Bieniemy, who spent four years shredding the Cleveland Municipal turf as a member of the Bengals. Kevin Mack and Ernest Byner must be crushed. Kiffin’s Krimson Korner is already set to start broadcasting from Ole Miss next year. Given that nobody seems hellbent on coaching this team that finished a not-embarrassing 6-10, Kitchens may feel lucky under the circumstances.
Oh, and if you think one losing season isn’t enough to earn you Cuyahoga County sainthood, I’ve got two words for you: Peyton Hillis. Granted it’s a different sport, but here in Queens Mookie Wilson still doesn’t pay for a meal, all because of one reached-on-error three decades ago. Mike Pruitt played his last down in orange in 1984, and made a good living selling cars in Akron until 2014. Freddie Kitchens seems like a nice enough guy. He doesn’t deserve to have to start over at some directional Michigan MAC school when he could try and become the next Drew Carey. HEY LOOK (RELEVANT) FOOTBALL!
TENNESSEE v. NEW ENGLAND -4.5
Just like clockwork, an opinion piece in today’s USA Today (yeah, I know, but I need content) asks Is Tom Brady playing in his final game with Patriots? The public actually bet this line down a point with money on the Titans. The world has even come to the PFF Foreca$t, one of the greatest pro football gambling resources one can find, speculating that the dynasty is over.
It is here, dear reader, when I remind you that New England is playing a team led by Ryan fucking Tannehill! Everyone likes a comeback story, and you can extoll his virtues all you like, but that offense is still based almost entirely around Derrick Henry. In fact, Henry doesn’t even get enough credit given that he balances out the 21st-ranked overall defense in the league, but it still makes Tennessee vulnerable given that the top D in the league can hone their focus on one man.
Mike Vrabel is Mike Vrabel because of Bill Belechik, who was his coach during his best years as a linebacker. That’s not to take anything away from Vrabel, who has punched above his weight in the past and narrowly missed the 2018 playoffs in his first season as a head coach. Plus he once tried to swipe eight beers out of a casino deli at 5:00 a.m. on a Monday, so he’s our kind of guy. But there’s no way in hell that he’s outcoaching Belechik, not in this game anyway.
As an added bonus, if the Pats win this game they get to play their next game in KC, a suburb of which was the latest community to be rocked by another cop pretending that some poor soul working at McDonalds made fun of his pathetic snowflake existence. Clearly this will be a major distraction. Give the 4.5 and let’s cash in before the momentum slows.
MINNESOTA v. NEW ORLEANS -7.5
You don’t need me for this game. Statistically speaking, the Saints are the best team in football, something that was the case in the preseason, though there may have been a DVOA dip during the Bridgewater starts. The Vikings got in because of the futility of other NFC teams. Seriously, you don’t need me for this game.
What do you want? Should I say nice things about Drew Brees? Alvin Kamera? Oh gosh golly that Superdome sure is a tough place to play. Here is a cool song based on the Who Dat chant. Here is a brass band. Justin Wilson hawking potato chips. Mannie Fresh. L. Ron Mexico. We good yet?
To be clear, this is not a “free money!” pick. Goat almost fired me for doing that once. There is just absolutely no reason to take Minnesota in this situation. Again, no guarantees, but I would lay the Saints if the line was anywhere south of 14, and I suggest you do the same.
SEATTLE -1.5 v. PHILADELPHIA
I should note up front that, so far as I see it, this is a one-and-done appearance for Seattle. In all fairness, I must admit that I only watched pieces of the Sunday night game. On mute at that, in the process of occasional beer runs in the midst of a raging Poison Idea gig, just in case your perception of me as a man of refined pathetic old drunk punk taste had started to wane.
Regardless, near as I could tell, the Eagles needed three TDs from a practice squad tailback to cover against the Giants. Don’t get me wrong, we got paid so I was thrilled to see it happen, but it’s going to take more than that to beat Seattle, home game or otherwise. We can’t lose sight of the fact that the Eagles are only here because 9-7 was good enough to win this year’s NFC east.
Granted, this ain’t your slightly older brother’s Seahawks either, regardless of the return of Marshawn Lynch, and the Legion of Boom days are over. But Russell Wilson is still an MVP-level quarterback, and that means a lot. You’re free to make momentum arguments if you like, and I’ve seen several people note that Seattle lost three out of their last four, but they’ve also split their last six, including a win against Philadelphia in Philadelphia. We make hot-hand jokes, but it really is a fallacy. Give the point and the hook and let the best team handle the rest.
Back to the playoffs, eh, gang? Let’s hope we have the same mojo we’ve had most of the season. If it matters, I was feeling Houston, though not enough to put it in the ever-important bold letters, but maybe it’s a good thing you’re getting this at the wire. No denying there will be some hellacious games over the next few weeks, and I’m glad we get to watch them in tandem.