Since the Patriots aren’t playing until Monday night, the most important Sunday game you should be following (assuming you are a Pats fan) is Baltimore at Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football, since the Pats and Steelers could be battling it out for the top spot in the AFC the following week.
The second most interesting game you should plan your Sunday around: Oakland at Kansas City.
This game could not be happening at a better time, and the stakes could not be any better. Both teams are 6-6, part of a three-way tie with the Chargers (also 6-6) for first in the AFC West – and because that division is so mediocre, there may only be room for one of them in the playoffs. The Chargers will play the Redskins on Sunday in a game that could go either way, and the Raiders and Chiefs get a chance to take a step forward while knocking each other back. And given how their first game of the year turned out – Oakland winning after time already expired, with Derek Carr finding Michael Crabtree in the end zone for the game-winner – it kind of feels like getting ready for Super Fight II between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.
The best part about this game is that several weeks ago, it didn’t seem like this game would be so significant. The Chiefs dominated the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Week 1 and started the season 5-0, while the Raiders lost Carr for a few games and struggled to a 2-4 start. But thanks to the Raiders finding a bit of resurgence, as well as the Chiefs unleashing one of the greatest monumental collapses ever (they’ve lost six of their last seven, with losses to teams such as the Giants, Bills and Jets), both teams are now dead even. That is, until Sunday.
And here’s why I’m rooting for Oakland: watching the Patriots get pummeled by the Chiefs in the season opener really got to me. It wasn’t so much the game that bothered me as it was my Chiefs fan friends, who drove me up a wall with the “Tom Brady is washed up and Alex Smith is God” jokes. It was so eerily reminiscent of the “Monday Night Massacre” game from Week 4 of the 2014 season, when the Pats went into Arrowhead Stadium and received a beating similar to the one Ivan Drago gave Apollo Creed in “Rocky IV” (sorry, the “Rocky” analogies are just flowing today). New England then went on to win the Super Bowl and Kansas City missed the playoffs.
I kept reminding my Chiefs friends of this after Week 1, but they were just so over the moon that the jokes kept coming and coming. And since I’m such a vengeful sports fan, I rooted for the Chiefs to lose every week just so they would be proven wrong. But for the first five weeks, that just wasn’t happening. They were winning in dominant fashion every week, and Alex Smith was actually looking like an MVP. But then reality caught up to them, they lost six of seven games, and now here we are.
And yes, I’ve enjoyed every second of this epic collapse. And yes, I hope it continues.
Let’s make some picks for Week 14 …
BUCCANEERS (+1) over Lions
I give up on trying to help the Lions by picking them, which I’ve usually done just to try to counteract my roommate Nikki’s negativity toward them (she’s a Detroit native). Their 44-20 loss to the Ravens last week did it for me. On top of that, Matt Stafford isn’t even 100 percent healthy. I helped drive Detroit to the playoffs last year by constantly picking them, but I just can’t keep the faith in the 2017 Lions. They are about one more loss away from packing it in for the year.
BENGALS (-6) over Bears
Cincinnati just lost a heartbreaker to Pittsburgh on Monday night. They had that game all but wrapped up, which would’ve given the Patriots a really good chance at getting the top seed in the AFC. But in typical Marvin Lewis fashion, the victory slipped away. Lucky for the Bengals, they are playing the 3-9 Bears this week, and even though they are still the Marvin Lewis Bengals, they are better than the Bears.
BILLS (-4) over Colts
Apparently Tyrod Taylor is a game-time decision after getting injured against the Pats last week, which makes this game really hard to pick. If Taylor is starting, I’ll take the Bills. If Nathan Peterman is starting, not so much. I NEED to know who it is in order to make an educated pick here.
Ahhh, screw it. I’ll put my faith in Tyrod one more time.
Seahawks (+2.5) over JAGUARS
Given the fact that the Seahawks just snapped the Eagles’ incredible nine-game winning streak, as well as the fact that Russell Wilson is having an MVP-type season (having played a part in 29 of Seattle’s 30 offensive touchdowns – throwing for 26 and rushing for three), this seems like a good opportunity to take the underdog on the road.
(Note: It’s too bad Richard Sherman wasn’t around to obnoxiously scream and taunt at the camera after the Seahawks beat the Eagles last week. He needs a TV show.)
CHIEFS (-4) over Raiders
As mentioned earlier in the column, nobody is rooting for this Kansas City meltdown to continue more than me. The Chiefs have no business being favored in this game, considering they’ve lost six of their last seven games (several of them to opponents they should’ve been able to beat while blindfolded). But I’m laying the points on the Chiefs anyway, hoping the old reverse psych trick comes through for me again. After all, it has worked in six of their last seven games.
PANTHERS (+2.5) over Vikings
Case Keenum is working magic with the Vikes this year, who are 10-2 and might wind up with the top seed in NFC. But surely I’m not the only one who is anxiously waiting for Keenum’s hot streak to come up a screeching halt with a three-interception and no-touchdown game, right? I’m not saying he’s going to stink it up in Carolina this Sunday, but he has to have at least one more bad game before the season ends. He just has to.
Packers (-3) over BROWNS
Green Bay is desperately trying to keep its playoff hopes alive, especially since they are looking at a probable return for Aaron Rodgers in a couple weeks. The schedule is very much their friend this week.
49ers (+3) over TEXANS
Until I have reason to think otherwise, I’m going to take Jimmy Garoppolo (the next generation’s Brady) over Tom Savage (who has last four of five games since taking over for the injured Deshaun Watson) every time.
CHARGERS (-6) over Redskins
Here’s the interesting side story of the Oakland-Kansas City game: the 6-6 Chargers are right there with them. If the Chargers can pull out a victory against the Redskins at home, they’ll remain tied for first with either the Chiefs or Raiders. And since the Redskins just gave up 38 points to the Cowboys last week – a team that had only scored 22 points in its previous three games combined without Ezekiel Elliott – I feel a little more comfortable laying the points with Los Angeles.
BRONCOS (+1) over Jets
This game is almost as big of a tossup as trying to choose between Kate Upton and Alexandra Daddario, but I definitely can’t take a favored Jets team on the road. I just can’t.
Titans (-3) over CARDINALS
The Titans have DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in their backfield, while the Cardinals may be down to their fifth and sixth string running backs this week. What a brutal season it’s been for Arizona running backs. David Johnson went down in Week 1, then the Cardinals brought in Adrian Peterson in October – arguably the best running back of this generation – and he missed last week’s game with a neck injury. Sometime in the future, the Cardinals might catch a break. Maybe.
RAMS (-2.5) over Eagles
I already talked about the hype surrounding the Raiders-Chiefs game. The next best game on this week’s slate: Eagles (10-2) at Rams (9-3). Wentz vs. Goff. A potential NFC Championship preview. This game is going to be excellent. Do not miss it.
GIANTS (+4.5) over Cowboys
Eli Manning had his heart ripped out of his chest last week by Ben McAdoo, who thought it would actually be a good idea to replace Eli with Geno Smith. That’s the perfect way to sum up the McAdoo era in New York. Luckily for Giants fans, their team finally wised up and booted McAdoo this week, as well as Jerry Reese. And now, would there a be a better way for Eli to reclaim his territory by leading the Giants to victory over the hated rival Cowboys in front of his home fans, who will be cheering their heads off for him on Sunday? This would be a poetic way for Eli to give his fans at least one decent memory before the Giants wrap up their dreadful 2017 season.
STEELERS (-5) over Ravens
Can the Ravens come into Pittsburgh and upset the favored Steelers in a primetime game in which Pittsburgh can clinch the AFC North title with a victory? I say no.
DOLPHINS (+11) over Patriots
I’m not sure why, but Miami just isn’t the Patriots’ favorite place to play. A lot of times when they visit the Dolphins, they choke. To make things interesting, since I’ve talked so much about New England’s Week 1 loss to the Chiefs, I’ll make another comparison. When the Pats got obliterated by the Chiefs in 2014, they lost in Miami that same year. They wrote the dictionary definition of “choke” in the second half of that game, getting outscored 23-0.
(By the way, I understand this is a meaningless comparison, but I’m just nitpicking because it’s fun.)
I don’t think the Patriots are going to lose to the Dolphins on Monday night. Even though they’ll be without the suspended Rob Gronkowski, they will still do enough to win the game. But since the Pats rarely play their best football in Miami, I’ll go ahead and pick the Dolphins to cover the spread.
I might be crazy, but you never know.
Last week: 8-8
This week: 0-1