NFL Week 17: Holy Hell, is it Really Week 17? Edition
Okay, I will Face the Music. Call It What You Want but remember, I am still the New Kid around here, but damn those Games. Let’s Try It Again. I promise that we Got It (The Right Stuff) and Step By Step we are still Hangin’ Tough. Please Don’t Go, Girl. Don’t Turn Out the Lights!
Of course, as the new kid I am the lowest on the totem pole around here and most certainly a philistine when it comes to film. So much so that if you asked me about Planet of the Apes I would hope to hell you were referencing Screeching Weasel or had a profound misunderstanding of the work of Dr. Jane Goodall. Be that as it may, come last Sunday afternoon there I was, head thrown back and fist to the sky, doing my best Charlton Heston as I cried out in vain, again and again, GOOOOOFFFFFFFFFFFF! Come to think of it, maybe I was doing William Shatner. See what I mean? The inability to correctly identify my impotent howls of rage kind of proves my point.
Week sixteen highlights, eh NFL YouTube intern? You’re a real card, pal.
Evs as the kids say. No apology would mean much to you or represent any sort of recompense from me, and we don’t do that here, but if it helps salve a metaphorical wound or assuage a financial loss, I took that Rams loss night in the ruts, to use an old Aerosmith gag. In fact, if you re looking for a late makeup gift for a certain special someone in your life, perhaps I could interest you in some human hair of reasonable quality? I would offer you plasma but shipping any of my blood product across a state line would violate all manner of ABC laws. Then again, I suppose if you live in the greater New York City area and for some reason wish to sabotage your own lymphatic system, hey, get at me.
When I first arrived at the Ruthless International Unlimited complex I laid down two – and out of respect, only two – rules to keep in mind throughout the process. Specifically, we don’t bet more than we can afford to lose, and we don’t bet with our hearts. Well, on Monday morning, Dr. Mr. Goat Esq. swung past my desk in the basement and gave me my company holiday gift, inspired by a new rule of sorts. It’s one of those crocheted wall things that usually contain folksy down home humor and / or wisdom, like Bless This Mess or Kiss the Cook. Mine says “Do Not Insist That Any Pick Is Free Money, You Fucking Dolt”.
It’s nine feet by twelve feet and covers the whole chain link cage that serves as my wall. He also told me I have to help kill cockroaches while I am down here. I assume that puts me square with the rest of you. [NOTE: JJ is not yet allowed in the Break Room, where all the Ruthless Corporate decisions are made. You know, decisions like whether or not to eliminate his $1 per year salary -The Management]
So the picks for week 17 are HOLY HELL WEEK SEVENTEEN?!?! Does it really feel like the last week of the regular season already? To say nothing of the end of the year? Its weird, right? In the abstract it feels like the Thursday night season kickoff happened about a month ago, but I simultaneously get the sense that Tiffany’s dad has been the president for several years, and that this general societal malaise kicked up somewhere between Justin Bieber and What are thooooose? I’m sure that has something to do with ceaseless news coverage in perpetual cycles, cable television, reaction .gifs, assembly-line trap beats, Twitter, and 100 other things that our forthcoming alien overlords will deem as justification for the looming takeover.
Maybe the answer is simpler. Perhaps it is just a matter of economics. A substandard 1-3-1 week that brought our overall record back down to even would, logically, make it all seem like running in place. There is probably some dumb metaphor about gambling being a futile pursuit, that a ploy to obtain money for nothing that reaps no benefits is just getting what is deserved. However, those would be the words of moralists and bluenoses, prudes all too quick to sneer at any unaccompanied woman in downtown Magdala after sunset. And they can stick it or eat it with a fork as they see fit. Were literally dead-up, 27-27-5 with one more week and a full playoff slate still to play. Well be just fine, thankyouverymuch. Stick with me, all tides ebb and flow.
Another drawback associated with being the new kid is that it feels too early in our relationship to give you some of those sweet, pleasing best of – worst of opinions that always sprout up at the end of every year. Beyond the fact that what we discuss is the very definition of time sensitive content – you are of course welcome to bet on Brandon Marshall racking up the most receiving yards on the season, though I wouldn’t recommend it – we are still in the process of establishing a rapport. Furthermore, my value to you is measured in real dollars as opposed to my tastes, exquisite though they may be. I would hate to be the Flock of Seagulls of pro football handicapping, patronized purely for artifice as opposed to my eminently respectable .500 record and always-novel dishwasher and Goat’s-gonna-fire-me jokes!
Then again, this is Ruthless, itself a celebration of counterculture and truth, stripped of bullshit, exhibitionism, and the occasional apostrophe [EDITOR’S NOTE: If you only knew. WordPress assassinates those things like a Bee-Keeper does yellow jackets]. A paragon of forward-thinking criticism, art in the assessment of same. We are comfortable. We are furious. Why shouldn’t we laud the things we love, the diamonds in the dross, the stuff that really matters? Well, other than the fact that my list would probably wind up looking too much like this, minus Spazz and plus Despise You?
The real talent around here already has movies covered. The only comment I can add is that the premise of Get Out occupies its own perverse state of creepy, such that I, a 40-something adult male watching in my own living room during daylight hours with my wife and attack mutt beside me, kept gasping and balling up my fists until the backs of my hands literally ached.
The best T.V. show I saw was Silicon Valley. However, as a fan I’m pretty baffled by T.J. Millers decision to go all Katherine Heigl on his show-runner and co-star on the way out the door. I’m sure hes got a fat sack of Emoji Movie cash still sitting around, minus whatever the weed guy takes every half hour. I bet Monique thought her Precious money would hold out too, but the next thing you know even Goat skips Almost Christmas. Hatchet jobs like this don’t happen simply because the profile writer had a bad day. Just be careful, dude.
I am old, so the best live show I saw all year was Slayer on July 27 at MSG. Technically, since neither Slayer nor almost any other band is as big as they were in the days of yore, the show was at the Felt Forum / Paramount / WaMu / Theater at MSG. If you care, I know for a fact that the people who schedule and book the theater literally refer to it as the ass end of the Garden. Yes, I am aware that Lombardo and Hanneman rules and / or ruled, respectively, maaaaaan, and that Tom Araya now takes the form of a homeless Santa wizard villain you would expect to eventually see toppled and unmasked by Scooby Doo and friends, but so what? The Exodus guys are perfectly competent and Tom Araya has managed to still look intimidating at a paunchy 56, an effort at which so many others in the genre have failed before him.
Honorable mention goes to the laughably named Classic East, at which the wife and I and another virile, sexy power couple saw Earth Wind & Fire, Journey featuring Filipino Guy, and Fleetwood Mac at Shea Stadium on July 30. 17-year-old me would have beaten the hell out of modern day me for even considering going to this, but 17-year-old me was wrong about a lot of things. The moment I found myself double-fisting Bud Light tall boys and swaying with 40,000 other animate stereotypes to the coda in Faithfully was when I learned that one can appreciate things both ironically and genuinely at the same time. Thankfully I kept the eye rolling to a minimum, even during Mr. Guys most excessively histrionic moments, lest one of Stevie Nicks still-populous army of Wiccan lesbians turn me into a newt.
The worst of 2017 would be encompassed by shows booked by The Fall at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, initially for a run beginning on September 13, then rescheduled for February 19, 2018, before being cancelled altogether ten days ago without any new dates announced. This course of events, coupled with the grim physical appearance of Mark E. Smith at his recent European gigs, rings far too similar to the Lemmy-drinking-screwdrivers nonsense we heard back in 2015 and portends unpleasant news regarding a legitimately anti-establishment legend.
Of the five ballets I saw last year, the best was Giselle as it was performed on May 26 at Lincoln Center. Honestly, our ballet tickets are really more the wife’s thing, but I can unequivocally state that no one fell off of the stage or crashed into the orchestra pit. Perhaps more significantly, to their eternal credit the American Ballet Theater promoters schedule every ballet in such a manner that once you learn the layout of Lincoln Center, you can bolt straight to the bar, double up, and down two beers during each intermission. Thankfully, the majority of the other ABT patrons are elderly and thus quite slow on foot. Points off for only selling Stella Artois and assorted Brooklyn Brewery products but to my knowledge this was not the result of any act or omission of the cast and crew of Giselle.
My sister was in the touring version of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and as such it was far and away the best musical of 2017. It was considerably better than the crap version staged on Broadway, which I did not see. However, I heard through the grapevine that it was marred by numerous incidents of people falling off of the stage, crashing into the orchestra pit, etc. She hung out with Carole King quite a few times and said she was a great person. I dared her to ask her about writing the theme song for the Care Bears Movie, and whether she did so because she needed money for crack. I thought it was a fair question – it was 1985 after all – but she refused to jeopardize her entire career for the sake of me amusing myself. Actors. They’re so dramatic.
Finally, the best zany catch phrase literary device of 2017 is HEY LOOK FOOTBALL!
Chicago at Minnesota – 11.5
I can admit that as an NFL traditionalist I was among the last to see this big Vikings run coming, having figured on the Packers sticking to the script, phoning it in on defense, and letting Aaron Rodgers win a bunch of O+25 shootouts. A point in the favor of Minnesota and Anthony Barr, I suppose, for taking matters into their own hands and breaking Rodgers collarbone in week seven. I suppose you could argue legality and intent, though Barr giving Rodgers the finger and doing that pro wrestling suck it gesture immediately after the hit that caused the fracture pretty much closes the latter case for me personally.
The Rogers injury was just a foundation, however, and it was up to the Vikings to build a house. That they did. A lot of people are champing at the bit to give all of the credit to Case Keenum, with his eye-popping season totals: 304 for 452, 3358 yards, 21 TDs against 7 INTs, and even a rushing touchdown. Had you told people a year ago that those would be Keenums numbers, let alone that he would be starting over a healthy Teddy Bridgewater, they would have fitted you with a straitjacket. At the very least men in white coats, cleverly referred to as white coats, would have chased you with butterfly nets for some reason, as often depicted in historical documentary films.
Its not all Keenum, though. I think the bulk of their success is clearly the work of Gen Z marketing and fan experience strateg[ist] Jonah Stillman. Not sure how the hell that works. Perhaps hes the reason the Vikings now wear uncomfortably tight pants, favor adderall over cocaine, and play video games all day. The rampant Snapchats of nude selfies probably took some getting used to, and painting LOL in the visitors end zone seems a bit unsportsmanlike, but at least they got rid of the Generation X guy in the front office. The thrift store sweaters, constant bitching about his parents, and angsty grunge poetry was not conducive to success.
Look, there are remnants of a divisional rivalry here, but the Bears are already checked out. John Fox is getting fired before the fourth quarter whistle stops echoing. Unlike a lot of games this weekend, the roles are reversed in that the Vikings need a win to lock in a home playoff game while the Bears would be playing their way down the draft board with a win. Yes, the Bears beat up on Cleveland and Cincinnati but have lost five out of seven since their bye week. The big line doesnt scare me either, as they’ve lost big when playing against teams with their act together like the Rodgers-led Packers and the Eagles. Hell, they lost to the Bucs by 22 back in week two. Lay the home favorite and let the Bears rebuild in peace.
New Orleans – 6.5 at Tampa Bay
No questions about motivation here, either. Forgive the cliche, but the Saints control their own destiny on Sunday, as a win in Tampa gives them the NFC South title and a home game on wildcard weekend. Otherwise, they would need the Falcons to upset the Panthers in order to end up in the same place.
Speaking of cliches, a lot of people are crediting the Bucs grit and determination in fighting to the finish, as they’ve hung with the Lions, Falcons, and Panthers the past three weeks, losing each game by a field goal in the last minute. The recent games are all that explains the wonky line, which doesn’t make a great deal of sense given the Saints positioning and the fact that they beat Tampa by 20 back in week nine.
Despite the recent surge, I think more needs to be made of the fact that the Bucs must be exhausted. Remember that Irma caused the scratch of their game with the Dolphins in September, so they’ve since played 15 straight. And while were discussing intangibles, its worth noting that according to some, there will be a bevy of LSU Tigers fans traveling to Florida this weekend to go to Tampa on Sunday and then head east to root on LSU as they play Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl on Monday.
Were I from Louisiana I’d be pretty psyched about my weekend. I wouldn’t quite be expecting a rerun of the week nine obliteration, as that coincided with a Drew Brees start that was a statistical outlier at 22 of 27 and an absurd 81%. That said, of the two the Saints are probably more likely to cover the 6.5.
Washington – 3 at New York Giants
Like most people who like sports, I gradually learned to despise sports radio, and like most people who hate sports radio, I really hate New York-based sports radio. Sweet Jesus, when Landon Collins decided to rip into Eli Apple, referring to him as a cancer, it prompted a wall-to-wall discussion about Collins, Apple’s prior four-game benching, Apples soon-to-be subsequent suspension from the team, a scatalogical joke he made during a locker room scrum, how much the ownership loves Apple, and whether or not Collins, or someone else, should emerge as a locker room leader in the wake of the incident.
Just so were clear, there are multiple win-and-in games on Sunday. If those teams lose, all sorts of dominoes could fall or shift in the wake, depending on who loses and when. Fifteen of the 32 teams in the league are either currently winning their division, in the wildcard slot, or in the hunt. As a matter of fact, for the first time in recent memory, all but four NFC teams currently have a chance to finish at .500 or better. However, none of this applies to the Giants, who are 2-13! For Gods sake, even though he only saw the first action of his career last week, Washington’s best-named player Fish Smithson has more relevance to the actual game than the stupid Apple-Collins soap opera.
Granted, the Redskins can’t get to the postseason either, but the difference here is that they are the demonstrably better team. In terms of stats, they are 7-8 while the Giants are the very bottom of the NFC. If the Browns ceased to exist on this Earthly plane Big Blue would be the worst team in professional football. If you’re feeling more intuitive, East Rutherford is a soap opera and a loss would lock in the second overall draft pick. These aren’t two bad teams. One is middling and the other is a disaster. I don’t see three points saving them. Give the points.
Kansas City Chiefs + 4 at Denver
I’m sure you know the deal here. The Chiefs come into Denver as a dog because they’ve already locked up their playoff spot and have made it known that they wont be starting Aex Smith, who will rest in anticipation of the wildcard round. The thing is, that makes Patrick Mahomes the starter. People barely remember but there were occasional rumblings of Mahomes supplanting Smith at the beginning of the season given how impressive he was in training camp. Then Alex Smith went and had the season of his life, finally justifying his being picked over Aaron Rodgers in the eyes of some, and the next thing you know he represents a three point swing just by being named the starter.
Across the line, Paxton Lynch wraps up the season for the Broncos. Once heralded as the heir apparent in Denver, hes since lost out to Trevor Siemian in training camp and a vaguely-defined shoulder injury seems to always come up in conversation. Lynch appeared in four games last year, losing two of three starts. After the Osweiler debacle this mid-season, he went 9 of 14 for 41 yards and a pick before getting hurt. If anything, he’s probably playing for an argument against cutting him.
There are too many variables to put a lot of money on this, but in terms of raw talent I think Mahomes has a big edge here. Both guys are technically backups, but both also have reasons to look good in a game without major consequences. Under the circumstances I am comfortable with Mahomes and four.
That’s it, gang. Lets get back over the Mendoza line and build some momentum before the big games count. Even more than usual, keep a very sharp eye on the lines right up until kickoff on each of this weekends games, along with any info regarding IR designations and resting players. Its a tough week to navigate with the playoff Hokey Pokey so keep the numbers down and well cash in when everybody’s giving 100%.