Can you expect a .500 team to suddenly be perfect?

Steve Brownlee

Though it’s now probably too late for it to mean anything, I just wanted to express my annoyance at all those pundits who say things like, “If Minnesota wins out, they’ll win the NFC North.”

Well, if the Vikings were that good, they wouldn’t NEED to win out to accomplish anything.

People were saying this a couple weeks ago when Minnesota was something like 6-6. For any team that makes it through a major part of the season, say, halfway through, at .500 and goes on a six- or seven- or even eight-game winning streak the rest of the way, I’ll show you 10 or 20 other teams with that record continuing to play at .500 right until the end.

If you’re 4-4, then you should expect to end up at 9-8 or 8-9. Sure, there’s the oddball second-half comeback, but remember, we’re all cherry picking and only looking at the super-success stories.

For example, right now no one is closely examining the merry band of teams in the NFC South — the “quality” teams there, New Orleans, Atlanta at Tampa Bay — and seeing how and why they’re going to go from 3-3 to 6-6 and finally to winning the division at 8-9.

Why not? Because that’s what you expect from mediocre teams — continuing mediocrity.

Now that we’re so close to the finish line — just three games remain — it’s not so far-fetched to hope you could win all three and vault yourself somewhere you didn’t expect to be.

But there’s a huge difference between a three-game winning streak and a six-or seven-gamer in the NFL.

Just ask the Detroit Pistons — they’re in rarified air losing 24 in a row. Not something you — or anyone else — does every day.

Now onto this week’s picks:


Today, 8:15 p.m.

New Orleans at Los Angeles Rams — A pair of 7-7 teams — mediocrity at its finest. The Rams have ridden more of a roller coaster getting there, though, and seem to have cleared up a number of injury issues. Rams, 27-24.


Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh — I wasn’t surprised by either team’s result last week, so I think I have a feel for this one. But I get a sinking feeling every time I have a team or two figured out. Still, let’s go with the Bengals, 28-23.


Saturday, 8 p.m.

Buffalo at Los Angeles Chargers — This could be the ultimate coaching change bounce as it would seem replacing the Chargers coaching staff would be an extreme improvement. I just have a hard time wrapping my head around THAT much improvement after the way Buffalo took care of Dallas last week. Bills, 24-20.


Sunday, 1 p.m.

Indianapolis at Atlanta — I like picking against the mediocre NFC South more and more. So let’s keep going. Colts, 33-23.


Green Bay at Carolina — Speaking of the NFC South … Packers, 30-21.


Cleveland at Houston — With Cleveland’s defense, I’m not so sure Texans backup quarterback Case Keenum can handle the task at hand like he did guiding Houston to an overtime win over Tennessee last week. Browns, 22-16.


Detroit at Minnesota — I’ve already told a few people that they better enjoy the Lions’ win on Saturday night, because there’s a possibility it might be the team’s last win this season, what with two games vs. Minnesota and another left against Dallas, plus whatever comes their way in the playoffs. This one seems close enough that I’ll go with home-filed advantage making the difference. Vikings, 30-27.


Washington at New York Jets — Two weeks ago, I thought the Jets had the edge as management was feeling the heat under their seats. Now that I’m reading it’s actually that way, maybe it’s making the Jets’ offense even worse — things are tight around their throats. But look at who they’re playing — a team that seems like it’s mailing in the rest of the season. Jets, 13-10.


Seattle at Tennessee — Trap, trap, trap! The Titans are lightly regarded AND Seattle is traveling cross country to play a game at 10 a.m. their time AND they played on Monday night AND they scored a big victory over the Eagles. Egad! Titans, 22-14.


Sunday, 4 p.m.

Jacksonville at Tampa Bay — Hopefully the Jaguars see how their season is unraveling, but they may not have QB Trevor Lawrence (concussion protocol) to guide them out of the swamp that is this all-Florida matchup. On a hunch, Buccaneers, 24-19.


Arizona at Chicago — While the Bears may just want to let Arizona win to improve their own chances for the overall No. 1 pick (the one they got from Carolina), Chicago has too much pride and too many worries about their own future to play “the process.” Bears, 26-20.


Dallas at Miami — Hmmm. Until a week ago, neither one of these teams could beat a team with a winning record. That is, until the Cowboys beat Philly. But then Dallas was just humbled by Buffalo last week. Miami is more consistent — they just never beat a winning team — but they are at home. Dolphins, 37-31.


Sunday, 8:15 p.m.

New England at Denver — Maybe it’s easy for me to say from my brand-new lofty position as a Lions fan, but shouldn’t we just let the half-dozen worst teams in the NFL only play against each other for the rest of the season? But then there’d be no huge, embarrassing upsets. Broncos, 29-19.


Monday, 1 p.m.

Las Vegas at Kansas City — The ultimate Jekyll and Hyde, otherwise known as the Las Vegas Raiders. Two weeks ago, Vegas would’ve won if it could’ve just put together two safeties (they lost 3-0). Then last week, they pumped the Chargers for 63 points. Give me the team I trust far more. Chiefs, 24-12.


Monday, 4:30 p.m.

New York Giants at Philadelphia — Sure, the Eagles are shellshocked. But they’re also a wounded animal, and a rather weak division foe should look like a tasty meal. Eagles, 23-17.


Monday, 8:15 p.m.

Baltimore at San Francisco — Right now, this looks to be the most likely Super Bowl matchup there is out there. Too many things will probably happen between now and then for that to happen, but this one sure looks juicy right about now. 49ers, 28-24.


Last week — 11-5, 69 percent. Season — 140-84, 63 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 552. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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