It does matter who you defeat

Steve Brownlee

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself — it’s hard not to as a fan of a Lions’ team that so rarely makes the playoffs — but I was listening to the sports cable channel pundits pick their playoff favorites already with five weeks still left in the regular season.

I didn’t hear much about Detroit, which is probably good because I never really hear about what it would be like for the Lions to make the Super Bowl, mainly because I doubt it’s a very high chance as far as those pundits are concerned.

Here’s what I’m thinking, though — certain teams have really good records, but haven’t beaten a single team with a winning record all this season.

Miami comes to mind as I see that, with tiebreakers, the Dolphins currently hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

And Dallas is in the same boat just as the Cowboys have a chance to tie for the best record in the NFC if they can beat Philadelphia this weekend.

At least Detroit defeated the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs way back in Week 1, even though KC didn’t have all-everything tight end and Taylor Swift love interest Travis Kelce then.

Considering that unless the NFC South goes a second consecutive year with no team posting a winning record, nobody will be playing a team with a losing record in the playoffs.

So, yes, your record vs. teams with winning records makes all the difference in the world come playoff time.

I didn’t take the time to look up every potential playoff team and see who they’ve beaten, but that will be something to look more closely as we get toward the final week of the regular season in early January.

Don’t even get me started about that and how the Super Bowl won’t be held until around Valentine’s Day.

That’ll be a subject for another day in this space.

So with the final byes of the season — just two teams, Washington and Arizona — we have an almost full schedule this week:


Thursday, 8:15 p.m.

New England at Pittsburgh — When you go three games in a row without giving up more than 10 points, and you don’t win ANY of them, it’s time to find a new league. Steelers, 17-3.


Sunday, 1 p.m.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta — In the middle of this quagmire known as the NFC South, I’ll punt and just take the home team. Falcons, 23-19.


Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore — I’m going to continue the line they used to excuse the Lions’ blowout to Baltimore about a month ago: teams that never play the Ravens don’t have a clue about how to defend quarterback and runner extraordinaire Lamar Jackson. Ravens, 34-24.


Detroit at Chicago — First, Lions QB Jared Goff started struggling, which exposed the Detroit defense as quite leaky. Goff figured out how to keep the ball in his possession last week, but the Lions still almost blew their game at New Orleans. I just don’t have enough faith in the Bears being able to take advantage of a bad “D,” so I’ll go with the Lions, 37-31.


Indianapolis at Cincinnati — I’m more impressed with the Bengals’ overtime win at Jacksonville than I am with the Colts’ extra-time victory at Tennessee last week. Being at home hopefully cancels the one less day Cincy has to prepare. Bengals, 26-22.


Jacksonville at Cleveland — A matchup of teams almost certainly without their star QBs. But Cleveland has a much better defense. Browns, 23-16.


Carolina at New Orleans — More of the quagmire in the NFC South, except the Panthers are simply the worst of the worst in the entire NFL. Saints, 30-20.


Houston at New York Jets — I’m on the Texans bandwagon, and I’d pick them to beat at least three-quarters of the league. The Jets qualify to be talked about alongside the worst the NFL has to offer. Texans, 27-17.


Sunday, 4 p.m.

Minnesota at Las Vegas — The bloom has gone off the rose with the Raiders’ coaching change. But the same can be said about the remarkable start in Minnesota by Vikings QB Josh Doubs. Going back to the long ago days (about five weeks ago) before these events happened to each of these franchises, Minnesota seemed the better team. Vikings, 28-23.


Seattle at San Francisco — These teams’ fortunes are definitely trending in opposite directions, excellent for San Fran and not so great for Seattle. Even if the opposite was true, I’d be tempted to take the home team in this matchup. 49ers, 33-24.


Buffalo at Kansas City — This could be an excellent game as both teams are like wounded animals — they could either strike with ferocity or simply keel over and expire. The one unit in this game I still totally trust is KC’s defense, which would’ve been really odd to say even just a year ago. Chiefs, 24-19.


Denver at Los Angeles Chargers — Sure, the Broncos were exposed last week against Houston. But that’s because the Texans know how to win with their rookie QB C.J. Stroud. Not something I can say about the Chargers. Broncos, 23-20.


Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

Philadelphia at Dallas — Thank goodness this is a prime time game as it should be the league’s game of the week. With both teams blown out by the 49ers this season, they really are pretty equal, not to mention how closely they played against each other earlier in the season in Philly. I was going to go against my gut on this one and pick the Cowboys, but with head coach Mike McCarthy out in the middle of this week with appendicitis — his own gut problem — I’ll go back to my gut and take the Eagles, 29-26.


Monday, 8:15 p.m.

Tennessee at Miami — With the Titans having a losing record of 4-8, it means Miami is eligible to defeat them. Maybe “eligible” isn’t the right term, though it seems to fit the more I think about it. Dolphins, 38-21.


Green Bay at New York Giants — Something weird when they have two Monday night games with the same starting time. However, neither one may be worth watching in the second half. Packers, 34-24.


Last week — 9-4, 69 percent. Season — 122-71, 63 percent.

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


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