Armchair Quarterback: Who will get hot when it really counts?

Steve Brownlee

This could turn into one of those weird seasons where a lot of road teams win playoff games and a wild card team could get to, and even win, the Super Bowl.

Not because there’s so much parity in the league, though there does seem to be a pretty good dose of that.

No, it’s shaping up where some teams that weren’t particularly good in the first half, or even first two-thirds of the season will make a late run and sneak into the playoffs.

And in January, they will be the best teams in the league at that time. Which will mean they’ll probably slice and dice through the teams with better records when they visit those better-record teams’ stadiums.

With six or seven games left for everyone, it’s actually too early to say exactly which teams those will be.

Right now, 7-4 New England and Kansas City are the two worst division leaders by record, but I’d pick them over any and all of the 7-3, 8-3 and 9-2 teams that top every other division in the NFL.

Them plus the 7-3 Los Angeles Rams, the only nonleader with that good of a record.

Actually, the Patriots and Chiefs still have time to fall down and let some other 5-5 or 4-6 team get hot and sneak into one of the last couple wild card spots.

With that in mind, here’s a Thanksgiving dinner’s worth of picks:

Thursday, 12:30 p.m.

Chicago at Detroit — I find it a bit humorous when NFL talking heads on TV say, “Every team in the NFC is still in the playoff race” and only a few will add “well, except for the Lions.”

The Bears are 3-7 and two whole games out of the last wild card position. Until the Lions win a game, I won’t pick ’em. Bears, 27-24.

Thursday, 4:30 p.m.

Las Vegas at Dallas — It’s a short week, which is supposed to be doubly tough on the road team, but Dallas just continues to get banged up. I’ll stick with home team vs. the flat team, though. Cowboys, 23-19.

Thursday, 8:20 p.m.

Buffalo at New Orleans — The smart guys on TV are saying Buffalo has a tough time with particularly physical teams, ones that can run the ball. I remember the Saints as being more of a finesse team, so I’ll take the Bills, 27-22.

Sunday, 1 p.m.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati — The unit I like best between these teams is Cincy’s defense. It would seem easy for the Steelers’ offense to get bogged down against a good “D”, too. Bengals, 24-17.

New York Jets at Houston — Whaddya’ do with a pair of 2-8 teams? And each has half its wins against the seemingly unstoppable Tennessee Titans! Well, since Houston just did it last weekend, I gotta go with the Texans, 20-13.

Tampa Bay at Indianapolis — Indy is another hot team that would be dangerous even without any home games in the playoffs as Jonathan Taylor ran roughshod over Buffalo last weekend. Colts, 30-24.

Atlanta at Jacksonville — I thought the Jaguars were ripe to turn the page and get out of the class of the Jets, Texans and Lions last weekend. Won’t make that mistake two weeks in a row. Falcons, 33-20.

Carolina at Miami — I try not to put too much stock in a Dolphins’ seven-point win over the Jets and I actually like that the Panthers lost their first game with Cam Newton as starting QB (or at least first game in a couple years). That means Carolina will try harder. Panthers, 23-15.

Tennessee at New England — Remember I anointed New England as one of the best teams in the league? Time to put my money where my mouth is. Patriots, 34-19.

Philadelphia at New York Giants — The Eagles and Redsk … oops, “Football Team” … are the up-and-comers in the NFC. Eagles, 27-20.

Sunday, 4 p.m.

Los Angeles Chargers at Denver — The Broncos are coming off their bye, while I’m not overly impressed that the Chargers barely prevailed at home over a wounded Steelers team. And to paraphrase a Spanish-American War saying, “Remember the Altitude!” Broncos, 30-21.

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay — The football gods are testing the Packers, wanting to know which version of their team is better — the one without Aaron Rodgers or the one without all the rest of their players. I worry about both, especially with this LA team coming off its bye. Rams, 34-27.

Minnesota at San Francisco — Two teams that can pull defeat out of the jaws of victory. That means Minny-soda can just go out and run up yards like crazy and not worry if QB Kirk Cousins turns the ball over oodles of times, since San Fran QB Jimmy Garoppolo can match him oodles for oodles. Vikings, 38-31.

Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

Cleveland at Baltimore — When is Baker Mayfield going to let someone else take over at QB? Not because he isn’t good enough to play, but with all his injuries, pretty soon he’s going to be ground down into what looks like it goes in your pepper shaker. Ravens, 27-20.

Monday, 8:15 p.m.

Seattle at Washington — To start the season, this was going to be a real mismatch. It still is, just in the other direction. Football Team, 20-14.

Last week — 8-7, 53 percent (my fifth straight week with either eight wins or seven wins and a tie). Season — 102-62, 62 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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