HOLY HELL IT’S WEEK 16 unless we already did that callback? I don’t think so. Weird how fast this season seems, though. I think with the Thursday games being a season-long thing, Saturdays starting this week, and the way the college season is structured now, you never get a chance to take a breath and look at the calendar. No matter. Heads remaining high after last week’s 3-1. I finished the Week 15 piece at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday – and yeah, it showed – but I’m assuming you’ll take winning records over flawless diction. After all, I’m suffering for your benefit, though I’ll grant you I’ve had it better than some.
This is the last column before the holidays, and like a slug I’ve barely done anything in terms of gifts yet. Things are a little easier in an online shopping / gift card world, but somehow I always wind up buying things from soon-to-close stores on December 24 every year. I once literally bought a friend eight boxes of Lucky Charms at 2:30 a.m. on Christmas morning because the 24-hour grocery store was the only place open. Though having shared that I should note that he was the three-year-old son of close friends and he used to eat my cereal whenever they came to our apartment because his hippie parents made him eat a bunch of healthy sugar-free flax crap. Under the circumstances the kid thought eight boxes of Lucky Charms was the greatest thing in the world, although his parents were probably less than thrilled.
Despite my own negligence, however, I want this column to be a public service of sorts. So for those of you who, like me, are so self-centered that you wait until the last minute not just to shop, but to even think of the gift in the first place, I offer you my top three holiday gifts for 2019:
1: AIR FRYER: It seems like every 10 years or so, some goofy as-seen-on-T.V. infomercial product is good enough to go mainstream. Coincidentally, 10 years is roughly the same cycle between charismatic American boxers that can get on The Tonight Show, and the George Foreman Grill is on the level I’m referencing, along with Oxi-Clean and the Slap Chop. Air fryers are on the same ascent right now. I bought one for Mrs. Duquesne last year and we use it all the time. Yes, I am aware that it is basically a convection oven, congratulations, Detective Holmes. Fact is we can make great fried chicken or ribs between kickoff and halftime without a bunch of cleaning. They’re down to about $60 at this point. If you need to get something for a mom or a single person Gen-X or younger, give it a shot.
2: $5 McDONALD’S GIFT CARDS: Want to feel decent about yourself next week? Buy a few cards and give them to homeless people. We can go 12 rounds about the evils of McDonald’s and factory farming and food deserts and blah blah blah if you want, but McDonald’s is incredibly important for homeless people. It’s a place to eat, obviously, but it’s also a warm place to sit, but they’re understandably cranky if you don’t buy anything. A $5 gift card essentially means that someone can get out of the cold for an hour each time they buy something. I don’t want to come off as a scold, but if you’ve got money to bet on pro football, you can buy four $5 gift cards and do something pretty cool.
3. ROYAL CARRIBEAN EAGLES CRUISE: On the other hand, let’s say you’re an asshole. Or, in point of fact, someone you know is an asshole. If so, consider sending them aboard the Anthem of the Seas with 4000 Philadelphia Eagles fans for eight days en route to Florida. Good God can you even fucking imagine? Will people gag themselves to win an argument? Will they hurl batteries at sea lions? Uncertainty is the cornerstone of adventure, after all. The article says that Harold Carmichael, Jeremiah Trotter, David Akers, Vince Papale, and Mike Quick will all be aboard, which virtually guarantees that someone will get thrown into the brig for throwing a punch at Harold Carmichael, Jeremiah Trotter, David Akers, Vince Papale, or Mike Quick. My money is on Akers, if only because about half of them won’t ID Papale because he looks nothing like Marky Mark. Did a business partner cut you out of money? Ready to put that long-contemplated divorce into gear? Did some idiot Ruthless columnist hypocritically insult your friends and / or family just to score cheap comedy points? Just send them on “the utmost riveting experience shared by the most passionate fans in football” and let the rest take care of itself HEY LOOK FOOTBALL!
NEW ORLEANS -2.5 v. TENNESSEE
I was initially a bit taken aback by this line. Obviously, I get that the Titans are still alive at 8-6 while the Saints have already clinched the NFC south, but I’m not so sure that New Orleans is just going to take their metaphorical foot off of the gas here. The Saints can still earn themselves a first-round bye, because a two seed gets a wildcard round bye and a divisional round home game, whereas the Titans could still have an 81% chance at a wildcard if they beat Houston in their last game. That scenario looks more likely after today, when Houston looked bad but relied on Jameis tossing four picks for their 3-point win.
With New Orleans the appreciably-better team and still motivated, I am of the opinion that 2.5 points just isn’t enough. I suppose Ryan Tannehill has been a fun comeback story, but a 60.6 QBR makes you better than Marcus Mariota, not better than Drew Brees. The four-game win streak that put the Titans in this position began with a thrilling three-point win over K.C. with 29 seconds left to play… and was followed by three wins over teams with losing records.
I’ll grant the home field making a bit of a difference, but it’s still not enough. The Saints that hung 27 on the Colts last week looked damn near unbeatable, so much so that I was looking at Super Bowl futures. Block out the subplots and lay the demonstrably better team.
KANSAS CITY -6 v. CHICAGO
Out of necessity I take a couple of shots at the Bears in the next analysis, and I don’t want to come off like they’re a total basement-dweller, so credit where it’s due; despite being married to the wrong QB and doomed by a lot of non-divisional losses, they haven’t quit. Since November 10 they’ve won four games and scrapped their way to 7-7, a record that would have them leading the NFC east. They didn’t beat top-tier teams, but they didn’t just tap out like certain teams that play their games in New Jersey despite claiming another hometown.
Under different circumstances, you might give the Bears half a chance here. A younger, hungrier team like the Dolphins could adopt a fuck-the-world attitude and try and knock a divisional champion down a peg. The problem is twofold, though. For one, Trubisky is very obviously on the bubble, as his own swell guy and very professional coach has decided to make very clear to the media. The Bears would have to swallow a lot of pride to draft a new QB next year, not to mention the trades they would have to make to get a Burrow, Tagovailoa, or Fromm-level guy, but a handful of veterans are also likely to be packing their bags after next weekend. Newton, Foles or Bridgewater would all be seen as immediate upgrades in Chicago. Hell, they might even talk themselves into “fixing” Jameis Winston. I’ve dated enough sluts to know that constantly being compared to a bevy of other guys doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
And oh yeah, the other thing. This will be the first meeting between Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes since the former was taken second in the 2017 draft, before the latter was selected tenth. Since then, Mahomes became the first 23-year-old to be named MVP since Dan Marino and went to the Pro Bowl after almost knocking off the Pats in last year’s AFC title game. If I’m Trubisky, this is not the guy I want looking to prove a point while simultaneously competing for a first-round bye in the playoffs. Two units on the Chiefs.
GREEN BAY +5.5 v. MINNESOTA
Here again, I think playoff scenarios are affecting the line, to the detriment of books losing sight of the guys actually playing this game. True, this is a win-and-they’re-in game for the Vikings, though the same is true of their last game against the far-worse Bears as well. Minnesota could actually win the whole division if they win out and the Packers drop their last two, but that seems highly unlikely.
The catch, as it were, might be what happened in Week 2, when the Vikings hung with Green Bay at Lambeau and humbled the defense that had held the Bears to a single field goal in the season opener. However, that performance was almost entirely the work of Dalvin Cook, who racked up 154 yards on 20 carries, one of which was a 75-yard TD. Cook didn’t practice this week, however, and though he’s not an official scratch it looks like both he and Alexander Mattison will be on the bench. That will force Minnesota to rely on backup backup Mike Boone and, more to the point, the arm of Kirk Cousins, which I think is all the more reason that the Vikings are probably counting on the Chicago game to be their path to the postseason.
Last week, I accurately noted that Aaron Rodgers is peaking, and that letting him be his own coordinator had resulted in a 10-3 team with momentum. Rodgers himself said “we have an opportunity to wrap up the division, which guarantees a home game and the third seed, at worst” during an interview this week. 5.5 is a big enough line to make anyone give this one some thought, but I think the RB injuries mitigate the risk, and it’s not as though *groan* U.S. Bank Stadium is particularly frightening, unless you are a bird. Hop aboard, plenty of room on the bandwagon!
[EDIT] THE 49ERS JUST BEAT THE RAMS, WHICH PUTS THE VIKINGS IN THE PLAYOFFS. IF ANYTHING THIS REINFORCES THE RATIONALE BEHIND TAKING THE PACKERS, AS THE VIKINGS NO LONGER NEED A WIN TO ADVANCE – JJ
Holy hell, it’s the last paragraph already! If you’re celebrating Hanukkah at sundown, Christmas on Wednesday, or Kwanzaa on Thursday, I hope you have a great time. We’re far enough ahead on the year that it’s not unreasonable to assume that I paid for at least one of your gifts for a loved one. Not your own kid’s gift, or a spouse gift, but maybe a cousin thing, or an office Secret Santa trinket at least. If not, maybe this weekend gets you over the hump. For both the games and the holiday of your choosing, I wish you