Ah, December. This is the time in the NFL season when young teams’ dreams of playoff contention become a beautiful reality.
Or they come crashing down into a hopeless mess of nightmares, with locker rooms becoming boxing rings, stadiums having more concession workers than fans, and coaches getting locked away in those stadium jails that we always hear about.
This is week 14 of asinine analysis.
Thursday, December 4
Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears
After embarrassing Thanksgiving showings, which surely caused their fans plenty of indigestion, the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears get a mulligan by playing each other this Thursday. Somebody has to win and bring back some sort of honor to their franchise, or find themselves at the bottom of an extremely competitive playoff race.
Unless the game ends in a tie. Then I think we should semi-seriously consider taking away the Thanksgiving game from the Cowboys to keep them from ruining the beginning of the holiday season ever again.
Sunday, December 7
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
Last week, Andy Dalton threw three interceptions and only one touchdown, but the Cincinnati Bengals still won the game. You would think this would confirm the resiliency and passion of a team to push on and win, and you would be incorrect. They did it against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I don’t think that many turnovers would lead to a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, considering Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 400 yards and still lost to the New Orleans Saints.
St. Louis Rams @ Washington Redskins
Okay, I surrender. I’m giving up on any sort of belief that what I say about the St. Louis Rams won’t lead to frustration. I say that they have no featured running back, and Tre Mason does his best Jamaal Charles impression, rushing for over 100 yards and two touchdowns and tallying 40 more receiving yards and another touchdown. Granted, it was against the Raiders, but really… 52-0? Why do the Rams play these games with me and the city of St. Louis?
Now the Rams play the Washington Redskins, who looked good for three quarters against the Colts. Of course the game was pretty much decided in the first.
New York Giants @ Tennessee Titans
While it isn’t official yet, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s retirement tour really isn’t going too well. Seven losses in a row, in games that the Giants weren’t at all competitive. Last week’s loss came against the Jacksonville Jaguars, which is only a little less embarrassing than losing to the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets or Tennessee Titans.
So now the Giants play the Tennessee Titans, because embarrassment needs to be a slowly twisting knife of a season.
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
We can all rest easy now. The division winner of the NFC South will most likely not have the worst record ever for a division winner, as the New Orleans Saints won last week. They may still tie the worst — the 2010 Seattle Seahawks at 7-9. The Saints finish off their season with the Panthers this week, the Buccaneers in the final week and the Bears and Falcons sandwiched in between.
Then again, the Carolina Panthers could win out and take the division with a slightly better 7-8-1 record. Hooray for math!
New York Jets @ Minnesota Vikings
To the Jets fans who stuck it out at MetLife Stadium last Monday night, sitting in the cold rain watching every sort of running gimmick play ever found in any playbook, you have my respect. Braving the traffic, elements and eventual (inevitable?) disappointment that now comes normally with a Jets game takes special dedication.
At least you won’t have to go this week, as they fly to Minnesota to face a Vikings team with their own issues at quarterback. Maybe the Jets will make an in-game trade for Matt Cassel.
Baltimore Ravens @ Miami Dolphins
It’s a tale of two teams: the Baltimore Ravens, fresh off a come-from-behind loss to the San Diego Chargers, and the Miami Dolphins, fresh off a come-from-behind win over the New York Jets.
Does this mean the Ravens come down south and show the Dolphins what a real football team looks like, or the Dolphins answer last week’s wake-up call, saying to themselves, “Hey, we almost lost to the Jets. Let’s get back on track, yeah”?
Indianapolis Colts @ Cleveland Browns
We can all breathe easy now that our hopes have been answered: Brian Hoyer is still the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. We only had to deal with one money sign from Johnny Manziel, and that was enough for Mike Pettine to think, “Wow, I never want to see that again, no matter how many interceptions Hoyer throws.”
So of course Pettine would make his decision even harder by starting Hoyer again against the Indianapolis Colts, when he’ll probably have to throw as many touchdowns in one game as he has thrown interceptions all year: 10.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions
Going to a Buccaneers home game has to be tough. There your team is, intercepting the opposing quarterback for the third time and driving for a potential game-winning field goal to end the game. This is the sort of exhilaration you look for when you go to a football game! Then Josh McCown completes a 20-yard pass. You’re in range! Wait! There’s a penalty! Too many men on the field! ON THE OFFENSE! And I thought counting to 11 was part of the Wonderlic test!
Even the Detroit Lions’ curse of busting at the end of the season is no match for the hijinks of these crazy Buccaneers.
Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Another offensive touchdown for defensive end J.J. Watt? Seriously, if it wasn’t for Andrew Luck throwing the ball like a madman and the Texans probable failure at making the playoffs, Watt would be the league’s hands-down MVP. He’d still get my vote, and I can’t vote. Apparently you can’t register for that at the DMV.
But maybe this game against the Jaguars will be the performance that pushes Watt over the pile. He’d probably have to score an offensive and defensive touchdown. It’s the Jaguars, so it can, and probably will, happen.
Buffalo Bills @ Denver Broncos
In light of the sale of the Buffalo Bills to a company that isn’t located in Canada, fans can now rest easy knowing that, for now, they won’t need a passport to see their team. The days of one yearly home game in Toronto were suspended before this season. Sorry, Canada. You have been relegated to your CFL.
Considering the Bills will have to play against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver, this may be the perfect time to start looking at CFL rosters anyway.
San Francisco 49ers @ Oakland Raiders
The jig is up, Raiders. We all expected something fishy happening with the team this year. First you sign Matt Schaub and Maurice Jones-Drew. Then Mark Davis starts his tour of football team-less cities. Now you have Raiders players literally stopping each other from scoring, like when Ray-ray Armstrong tackled his teammate T.J. Carrie after an interception, stopping the potential for a pick-6. Hey, it’s not Armstrong’s fault! He’s PAID to tackle the guy with the ball! He never had to deal with a Raiders turnover before.
Going up against the San Francisco 49ers, Armstrong may get another crack at not tackling his teammates, since Colin Kaepernick has been anything but steady in the turnover department.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Arizona Cardinals
It seems that Antonio Cromartie may have had all of his kids over for Thanksgiving and a lighthearted game of touch-football. It’s the only explanation I can find for his inability to tackle any Falcons players last week. Every time he squared up on a receiver or running back, he would reach out and touch them with both hands and then wait for the play to be blown over.
Hopefully Cromartie remembers that the NFL involves tackling, because Jamaal Charles isn’t likely to fall over for him. Even if he’s a few pounds lighter than Steven Jackson.
Seattle Seahawks @ Philadelphia Eagles
Look out, world. The Seattle Seahawks are back to the sort of football we all know and probably don’t love if we aren’t Seahawks fans: clock-grinding, defensive-minded hard-hitting gridiron football. Their first victim was the San Francisco 49ers, the team they annihilated in San Francisco in front of the entire Thanksgiving nation.
Will Mark Sanchez be the Seahawks’ next victim? Is the butt-fumble due, even if it’s a week late? Time will tell.
New England Patriots @ San Diego Chargers
Okay, everyone, just relax. Tom Brady does not have a dog leash, or a toddler leash, or an S&M leash. It’s a bungee cord used to train quarterbacks how to drop back. Usually this is reserved for high school quarterbacks, but Tom Brady seemed to have forgotten how to hand the ball off last week, so he needed the extra training.
Either that, or Tom Brady just enjoys the attention, which he wasn’t getting enough of with that puff-ball hat of his. Seriously, that thing has to go.
Monday, December 8
Atlanta Falcons @ Green Bay Packers
Good news, Falcons fans! Just like every terrible team in the NFC South (except the Buccaneers, who are too terrible), your team has a chance to win the division! You just need to sweep the rest of the season, and you’ll be 7-9! In that stretch, you will beat the Saints, cementing that division title!
Now all you need to do is take that defensive prowess that you showed against the Cardinals and put it up against the… Green Bay Packers. Oh. Sorry. Carry on.
Patrick Emmel is a sports humorist who once punted a soccer ball fifty yards to his teammate, who then scored the only goal for his college intramural soccer team’s season. Seriously, that kick was placed PERFECTLY. He is also still a believer that Colt McCoy is going to break out as an NFL quarterback. You can read more of his obnoxious commentary at This Jeer In Sports and heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.