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Week 15: A weekend of football and ‘Star Wars’

It’s a one-of-a-kind weekend where NFL picks and lightsaber duels come together.

Denver Broncos v New England Patriots
Master Belichick displays his Jedi hood and cloak on the sidelines.
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

I’m only writing about this because the day I saw “The Last Jedi” in theaters will probably always be remembered as one of the top three or four most memorable days of my life. Probably the only future days that will have a chance at topping it will be the birth of my future children, the day I get to attend an NBA Finals game at the Boston Garden, and maybe … maybe my wedding day. (Shhhh, don’t tell the Queen.)

Anyway, here’s how my day unfolded (don’t worry, no spoilers included). If you don’t give a hoot about Star Wars, feel free to just skip ahead to the Week 15 picks below.

I woke up on Thursday morning thinking about Star Wars and nothing else. I spent the entire day thinking only about Star Wars. The epic saga has been a big part of my life since I was six, and when “The Force Awakens” released two years ago, it completely reinvigorated my fandom and raised it to a whole new level. So to say the least, the anticipation for “The Last Jedi” has been building and building for two years. My roommate Nikki (also a huge Star Wars fanatic) and I bought tickets for a 12:45 am showing on the morning of Friday, Dec. 15 – the official release date – a month in advance, and we then spent the following weeks watching all the movies in order, beginning with “The Phantom Menace” and culminating with “The Force Awakens” just before the big release.

So anyway, I rolled out of bed on Thursday morning and did my normal things. Watched some Netflix, checked emails, worked a little bit on my football picks for this week, and then eventually went to work in the afternoon. The entire time I was at work, I couldn’t keep a thought in my head. I tried to keep myself busy, hoping it would make the time pass faster. I was just an absolute mess. Finally 9:00 pm rolled around, and I went home to prepare myself for the long night that was ahead.

Nikki and I pre-gamed by watching a couple of the Family Guy parodies of Star Wars, which are just pure comedic gold. There aren’t many things that get funnier and funnier the more you watch them, but Family Guy manages to do it, and the Star Wars parodies outperform everything else. One of my favorite parts happens in the parody of “The Empire Strikes Back” when Darth Vader (Stewie) uses the Force to choke Admiral Ozzel (the “He’s A Big Fat Phony!!!” guy) to death through the television screen. Vader says, in the classic Stewie voice, “You’ve failed me for the last time, Admiral. Didn’t know I could choke you through the TV, did ya! But I can!” Hilarity at its absolute finest.

Once it hit midnight, we headed over to theater. And I was legitimately nervous. I was so nervous that Nikki and I actually had this exchange:

Me: “I haven’t felt this nervous about something since Game 7 of the Celtics-Wizards playoff series.”

Nikki: “Yep, Star Wars will do that to you.”

When we arrived, our theater was finishing up a showing of the movie, so we sat outside and waited. About 25 minutes before our movie was supposed to start, the previous showing wrapped up and people started flooding out of the theater. We immediately covered our ears, terrified that we might overhear important details from one of the loudmouths that had just seen the movie. Trust me, with something this important, you can’t take any chances.

The movie theater employees quickly cleaned out the theater, and then we went inside and waited for the movie to start, still trying to grasp the fact that we were actually there, about to see “The Last Jedi” after waiting for two long years. We couldn’t believe it was finally happening. Two and a half hours later, we left the theater, and it was safe to say that our lives had been changed forever. At this point, it was about 3:30 am. We went to Waffle House for an early breakfast, where we rehashed the movie and dissected just about every angle of the film that we possibly could. There were a lot of questions that we couldn’t find the answers to. I can’t get much into it without spoiling anything, so I’ll leave it at that.

Nevertheless, it was an unbelievably memorable day. In 40 years, it will probably still be in my top seven or eight. We’ll see if Episode IX, which releases in December 2019, can do the same. If you haven’t seen “The Last Jedi” yet, go see it.

And now, let’s use the Force to make some picks for Week 15 …

LIONS (-5.5) over Bears

Nobody should get sucked into the Bears on the road this week just because they throttled the Bengals on the road last week and Mitchell Trubisky submitted the best game of his very young career (25-32, 271 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions). No, I definitely didn’t see Chicago winning 33-7 in Cincy. No, I definitely don’t think they are doing it two weeks in a row.

(And by the way, I’m not knocking Trubisky. I haven’t bought into him yet, but I haven’t written him off yet either. Way too early in his career. Get him on a better team, or get him a better supporting cast in Chicago, and we’ll see what he can do.)

CHIEFS (+1) over Chargers

Last week, I raved about the battle for first place in the AFC West between Kansas City and Oakland, and that game was a bigger letdown than Luke Skywalker’s dialogue in “The Force Awakens.” And since I have another Star Wars analogy sitting on the tip of my tongue, I have to use it here: the Raiders performed worse than Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader in their original lightsaber duel on the Death Star in “A New Hope.” I’m officially writing them off for this season. They aren’t winning this division.

Fortunately, the AFC West gets a chance to make up for it this week with another first place showdown. The Chiefs and Chargers are both 7-6. LA has won four in a row, blowing out its opponents 131-53 in that stretch, while the Chiefs have lost six of their last eight games. If you read my picks column from last week, you’ll remember that I’m anti-Chiefs this year and I must pick them solely for jinxing purposes.

Eagles (-7.5) over GIANTS

Last Sunday, I tweeted “Eagles win the NFC East and lose the Super Bowl in the same night.” It was depressing, and I’m not even an Eagles fan. Philly’s upcoming playoff run was going to be really fun to watch, but since Carson Wentz’s ACL was shattered in Los Angeles last week, their hopes of making it to the Super Bowl are probably dead. After all, would you feel comfortable with Nick Foles as your quarterback heading into the playoffs?

Packers (+3) over PANTHERS


(The unavoidable question: Will the rust be there?)

VIKINGS (-10.5) over Bengals

I’m torn. Which team sounds like a safer pick? The team that will mostly likely end up with the first or second seed in the NFC, or the team that got drubbed 33-7 by the Bears AT HOME last week? I don’t know. I might need to use my Ask-The-Audience option.

BILLS (-1.5) over Dolphins

The spread for this game is officially off the board, so I created my own. And since the Dolphins had their fun last week by taking down the Patriots in Miami, now they can get back to their average ways.

(Also, I was impressed with the Bills pulling out that win over Indy last week in the midst of a raging snowstorm. Even going against Adam Vinatieri, the king of snow games, they managed to keep their playoff hopes alive. Kudos, Buffalo.)

JAGUARS (-10.5) over Texans

It’s been really interesting monitoring the Jaguars this season. It’s a bummer they’ll get bounced in the first round of the playoffs and lose by probably 20 points.

SAINTS (-15.5) over Jets

The Jets were shutout last week by the Broncos, who might be the worst team in the NFL. The Saints are a legitimate threat to reach the Super Bowl and will have had 10 days rest heading into this game. On top of all of that, New Orleans is playing at home. Even with this outrageously ginormous spread, I’m laying the points and rolling with the Saints.

Cardinals (+4.5) over REDSKINS

I never thought the day would come in which I willingly bet on Blaine Gabbert at all, much less on the road. This just goes to show how little faith I have in what the Redskins have become.

Ravens (-7) over BROWNS

The quest for 0-16 is heating up!

Rams (+1.5) over SEAHAWKS

The NFC West has become fairly tight (Rams are 9-4, Seahawks are 8-5). This might be the game of the week. And I would probably be picking Seattle if its defense wasn’t decimated. Richard Sherman is out for the year, and Pro Bowl linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright were injured in Jacksonville last week and are uncertain for this week.

(On a Rams-related note, the road to Super Bowl 52 got a little bit easier last week with the Carson Wentz injury. If they have to play on the road in the playoffs, it will most likely be either at Minnesota or at Philadelphia, which means Jared Goff would be going against either Case Keenum or Nick Foles. I like LA’s chances.)

Patriots (-3) over STEELERS

In case you missed it, here’s what I wrote earlier in the week about this game. Obviously there are huge stakes in this game -- such as the No. 1 seed in the AFC being up for grabs, the Steelers proving that they really are a legitimate threat to win the Super Bowl, the Patriots proving that last week’s loss in Miami was nothing more than an off night for the reigning champs – but let’s put all of that aside for a second. I’m just excited to watch Tom Brady against Ben Roethlisberger, two of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. It will be a nice break from watching Brady against Jay Cutler, or Tyrod Taylor, or Brock Osweiler.

49ERS (-2) over Titans

Jimmy Garoppolo is undefeated as the starting quarterback for San Francisco. Screw it, I’m riding the Jimmy G hype train until it gets derailed.

Cowboys (-3) over RAIDERS

As mentioned earlier, I’ve written off the Raiders for the rest of this season. Meanwhile, the Cowboys still have a shot at making the playoffs, although they would need a few breaks to fall their way during the last couple of weeks. But the good news for them: they are playing a worn out Raiders team that bottomed out in Kansas City last week, and after the Cowboys get through this game, they’ll be getting Ezekiel Elliott back next week to help them in their final push for the playoffs. THEM ‘BOYS ARE NOT DEAD YET.

Falcons (-6) over BUCCANEERS

It seems crazy because this Falcons season has been more of a roller coaster than Mr. Freeze, but Atlanta still has a shot to win the NFC South. All they have to do is win out their final three games. This week at Tampa Bay shouldn’t be a problem (don’t quote me on that, however, because I also said the Pats winning in Miami last week shouldn’t be a problem). Then the Falcons go to New Orleans before finishing out the season at home against Carolina. Even as they sit in third place in the division, the Falcons still control their own destiny. At the very least, it makes for a thrilling end to the season for the Atlanta fans.

(I don’t think they are going to do it, as the Week 16 game in New Orleans will be a tough one, but still.)

Kylo Ren (-3) over Rey

After the way Rey manhandled Kylo Ren in the lightsaber duel at the end “The Force Awakens,” Kylo has to be due for a revenge victory right? I guess the only way to find out would be to go see “The Last Jedi,” which is now playing in theaters. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Last week: 7-9

This week: 0-1