With three weeks to go there is some serious drama around which teams get the #1 seeds and which teams makes the playoffs.
But the most compelling NFL drama of the week is the mess in Washington. That team is in total chaos to end the year. Before getting to the picks, I want to lob in a few thoughts on the situation in DC.
1. Mike Shanahan isn’t a good coach anymore. He’s 32-45 as the head coach in Washington. As bad as his record is, his team’s performance is really worse than that. Putting last year aside, Washington has been a complete non-factor in the NFL. This year, he’s failed to deliver even with a talented quarterback in Robert Griffin III. Was Griffin too hurt to perform this year? Maybe. But if that’s the case, it’s on Shanahan. He’s the head coach and he has to either bench a hurt player or adapt to the situation.
2. Shanahan delivered an epic stink bomb on his way out the door. I don’t believe for a second that Shanahan was really going to leave because RGIII was too close with Washington owner Dan Snyder, as was reported last week. It makes no sense whatsoever. As a coach, your job is to win. And RGIII gave him a chance to win. You don’t walk away from a job (and millions of dollars) because the owner eats dinner with the QB.
3. He leaked the story to shift the narrative away from his bad record. Snyder has a reputation for mucking around too much with his team, so it’s not hard for people to believe the narrative that Shanahan leaked to the press. It’s a good way to reframe the story. Instead of talking about how awful Shanahan is, we’re talking about Snyder and RGIII.
4. Starting Kirk Cousins is a perfect solution for everyone involved. RGIII should sit and get healthy for next year. This year is done. He doesn’t need playing time, we know he’s good. Cousins, though, will help Shanahan and Washington if he performs well. Shanahan gets to say to the next employer, “Look at how good a coach I can be. I can take a late-round draft pick and make him a legit QB. It’s Snyder that messed me up.” If Cousins plays well, Washington has a valuable trade piece. They have no first round draft picks in 2014. If Cousins plays well, Washington could fix that problem.
It’s a complete mess, but the good news for Washington is that it will be over by Monday. At that point, most people will focus on football games, leaving Washington alone to sort it all out.
Speaking of football games, let’s make some picks!
For the season, I am 39-50-4. In my last six games, I’m 4-2, so I’m trending in the right direction. Let’s keep the momentum going this week, right?
All lines comes from the Las Vegas Hilton, via Vegas Insider.
The San Francisco 49ers are 5-point favourites on the road against Tampa Bay.
The Bucs aren’t good, but they’re not that bad, either. And the 49ers are still struggling to get their act together. They’re the worst good team in the league. I think 5 points is enough for the Bucs to cover at home.
The pick: Bucs +5
For non-gamblers, that means you just add 5 points to the Bucs score at the end and it should be greater than the 49ers’ score.
The Buffalo Bills are 2-point favourites on the road against Jacksonville.
Why are the Bills favorited here? The Jaguars are playing pretty well right now. They have the longest winning streak in the AFC, and I like it to continue on Sunday.
The pick: Jags +2
For non-gamblers, just add 2 to the Jags score at the end.
The Atlanta Falcons are 7-point favourites at home against Washington.
So, Atlanta is not very good. But, neither is Washington. Other than Kirk Cousins, is there anyone on that team who’s going to give full effort? What’s the point? To help a shady coach that’s going to be fired? I am highly sceptical Washington can win, but 7 points is a lot of points, so I’ll take them and Washington.
The pick: Washington +7
Chicago is a 1-point favourite on the road against Cleveland.
My inclination here is to take Chicago. I think they’re a better team. I think they have more at stake. And that, weirdly, is why I am going to take the Browns. I’m trying to pull a Costanza, and just go with the opposite of my instinct.
The pick: Browns +1
For non-gamblers, just add 1 to the final score of the Browns and hopefully they win.
The Kansas City Chiefs are 4.5-point favourites on the road against Oakland.
The Chiefs are better than the Raiders. They’re probably 7 points better than the Raiders, even on the road. With a chance to win their division if they finish strong, it’s going to be pedal to the metal for Chiefs. I like ’em here.
The pick: Chiefs -4.5
For non gamblers, subtract 4.5 from the Chiefs’ score and it should be higher than the Raiders’ score.
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