After witnessing the season-long success of our guest prognosticators, I have decided to put this faux-gambling experiment into its proper perspective. It is time to compare our results to this year’s NFL teams.
While still not earning the most money in this contest (that honor belongs to me), our celebrity guests are faring better percentagewise. Our compilation of superstars is picking games correctly at a 61% clip (45-29-1). Do you know who’s winning 61% of their games this season? The New York Giants.
Let’s be honest. Just like we didn’t expect our readers to out-pick us, nobody here expected the Giants to be 8-5-1 at this point of the season. In an uber-competitive NFC East, a division in which all four teams currently hold playoff seedings, the Giants are as surprising a team as there is in the NFL. The Big Apple has seen the reemergence a once-thought-cashed Saquon Barkley. Far from it. Barkley ranks fourth in the league in rushing.
Our second-best percentage on the season belongs to yours truly, who is picking games at a 56% clip. You know which NFL teams are winning 56% of their games? The Chargers and Dolphins who, at 8-6, both have tenuous holds on the six and seven seeds if the playoffs started today. We’re not surprised either of these teams are where they are. They might not make it far in the post-season, but they are not teams anyone wants to see in the opening round.
And finally, somebody must be the caboose. The dumpster fire, er… I mean, mastermind behind the Wife Hates Sports is picking games at a 44% clip (33-41-1). You know which teams are winning at around a 44% clip? The Packers, Buccaneers, Browns and Raiders. It’s hard to look at all four of these teams and not be tremendously disappointed.
I think you see where I’m going with this. There are three weeks left in this contest. Anything can happen down the stretch.
Now, on to our standings, our picks… and a happy holiday season to everyone!
$50 on Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-5)
This really should be the game of the week but for some reason, it’s not on in prime time. I guess the networks finally got tired of shoving NFC East matchups down our throat, which is too bad because this is the only one that we really wanted to watch. The 13-1 Philadelphia Eagles don’t have home field advantage locked up in the NFC yet, but they’re close. The Vikings are 11-3 and the Niners are 10-4. The Eagles can still afford to drop a game and finish the season strong to ensure the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC runs through Philly. I hope someone bought Santa a battery-proof vest. MVP front-runner Jalen Hurts has a bum shoulder and while we might not know until game time whether he’s ready to go (Minschew is slated), in this one it might not matter. The Cowboys are admittedly flighty, but this should be a game they get fired up for. They’ve clinched a playoff berth and are probably looking at a five-seed but there is still plenty of football left to play. Anything can happen, especially if Jalen Hurts isn’t 100%. This game might not matter much in the standings, but I do see it as a statement game. The Cowboys are 7-1 at home this season and while the Eagles have yet to lose a road game, that streak ends Saturday. The two-headed rushing monster of Zeke and Pollard remains effective, Dak will look better than he is, and the Dallas defense should stifle Philly’s offense, especially if Gardner Minschew is the one taking the snaps. I have this sneaking suspicion Dallas is going to have something lined up for the Eagles. The crowd should be rabid, and Philly might just enter the playoffs showing America, and America’s team, there’s a chink in their armor. Cowboys roll and cover the four-and-a-half.
$40 on Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-3)
Nobody is high on the Titans right now. Understandably so. The AFC South division leaders have lost four straight games. They hold a narrow lead over the young Jacksonville Jaguars who are breathing down their necks for that top spot. Fortunately for Tennessee, they return home this weekend to play the Houston Texans. Unfortunately, they don’t have their starting quarterback. The Titans home record (3-3) shouldn’t give you a warm and fuzzy. Neither should their scoring differential. Along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they are the only division leader to be in the red in that category. They are, however, 3-1 in their own division and are still, in my opinion, the AFC’s South best team despite their flaws. Although they are 1-12-1, the Houston Texans give people fits. They almost beat the Cowboys and the Chiefs in back-to-back weeks, which explains why this line is so low. Vegas is tired of losing money to people taking the Texans and the points. That, and Tannehill’s status, is why the Titans are only laying three, which still seems ludicrous. Even without Tannehill, this line should be higher but Houston’s recent combined ten-point losses to Dallas and KC may have skewed betters’ perceptions. Not mine. This is still a bad team with nothing to play for while Tennessee needs a win to stay the course. Look for a king-size dose of Derrick Henry in this one as the Titans cover.
$30 on Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins (-3 ½)
Somehow, some way, the Green Bay Packers are still alive for the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers is doing his damnedest to ensure Jordan Love never sees a single snap. Their playoff hopes will likely end this weekend in South Florida. The 6-8 Packers take their lack of talent to South Beach and while the Packers have found the fountain of youth in Christian Watson, the Miami Dolphins have simply too much firepower. Case in point: the Packers are 2-5 on the road and the Fish are 5-1 at home. You do the math. This has all the makings of a track meet. At 49 ½, this is the highest over/under on the board. (Hint: Take the over. It’s the only warm place in the nation.) The Packers have won their last two but that was against the Rams and the Bears. The Packers feature an extremely average defense which, like most other defenses in the league, is about to let up a lot of points to Tua and company. I feel perfectly comfortable laying points in this contest in what could once again be Aaron Rodgers final start of the season. Fish over cheese by the field goal.
$20 on New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns (- 2 ½)
Browns start their second consecutive game at home and this week welcome the banged-up Saints. The Brownies are still kicking the tires on Deshaun Watson. Cleveland’s defense stepped it up last weekend, holding the Ravens to only three points. This week, the Saints can barely field a team. Both Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry are inactive, leaving Taysum Hill and Andy Dalton with only Alvin Kamara to throw to. Vegas likes this game to go low too, the over/under is only 32. We’re probably in for a snooze-fest but the line here is minimal (2 ½). I can’t imagine the Browns not giving Nick Chubb the ball, a lot, in what should be some very unwelcoming weather. An opportunistic Browns defense combined with a depleted New Orleans wide receiver corps leads me to believe the Browns should win another home game as the Saints struggle to score. Browns cover.
$10 on Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers (-2)
Franco Harris passed away this week. For many people my age, Franco Harris was the first football name you remember hearing. In addition to that, this is the weekend’s 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, the play Harris is most known for. Franco Harris played in a time when the Steelers were mainstays in the Super Bowl. He was a big reason for that. He’s a nine-time Pro Bowler, a four-time Super Bowl champion, and a Super Bowl MVP. He is also, obviously, a first ballot Hall of Famer. The Pittsburgh crowd should be in full effect this weekend as fans come out in frigid weather to pay their respects. With both teams 6-8, the loser of this game is likely out of the playoff hunt. The winner still has a shot. This line is only two. I’m going with hometown sentimentality as there will be too much Steeler juju in the air to allow them to lose this game. Steelers cover the deuce.
THE WIFE HATES SPORTS WEEK SIXTEEN
$50: Detroit Lions (-2.5) at Carolina Panthers
In the “if it ain’t broke” department, let’s go for the Detroit Lions for a second straight week in this slot. It still feels crazy saying that. Also, Detroit could see itself in playoff position following a win this week. Surprised is one way of saying it. Clark has other ways. Carolina has also played much better since the departure of Matt Rhule. The Panthers remain one game out of first, considering an ugly year for the NFC South. But the Lions rank 8th in passing offense, while the Panthers sit 30th. Considering the firepower and momentum that Detroit currently has, I like the Lions to cover on the road.
$40: Washington Commanders at San Francisco 49ers (-6.5)
The 49ers have won seven straight games by an average of nearly 17 points. That includes wins over the Dolphins, Bucs, Seahawks, and Chargers. Washington, meanwhile, couldn’t manage a win in two tries against a Giants team that was heading in the wrong direction. The Commanders are holding onto a playoff spot by the skin of their teeth. Chase Young returns this week, but I don’t expect much of an impact. I could see limited snaps and he hasn’t exactly lit up the stat sheets in his career to this point. And no team is hooter – uh, I mean hotter than San Francisco right now. 49ers cover at home.
$30: Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens (Under 35 Points)
Let’s double up on this game, starting with the over/under. Desmond Ridder’s first start featured a 50% completion rate and 97 yards passing. Lamar Jackson is out again and hasn’t played since December 4th. Without Jackson, the Ravens have scored 29 points in three games. Both offenses are struggling, especially at the QB position. Add in the weather forecast for the game, which includes temps in the lower 20’s and 10-20 mph winds. That could have an additional impact. Overall, give me the under.
$20: Atlanta Falcons (+6.5) at Baltimore Ravens
The Ridder-Huntley combination isn’t lighting up any scoreboards. Wind could be a factor, along with colder temperatures. Without Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have struggled offensively, scoring 10 points versus Denver, sixteen against the Steelers, and a measly three against the Browns. The Falcons are still in the division race. Atlanta isn’t great against the run (21st, 129.9 ypg), but can focus on it considering Huntley under center. All in all, this should be a cold, ugly, and low scoring game – to the point that some fans may be asking to “hurry this up, Clark”. Give me the Falcons and the points.
$10: Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears (+8)
After a few weeks of failures taking the heavy favorites, I’m taking a more conservative approach. Although, I do admit that this one worries me a bit. The Bills have the clear talent advantage. Both teams have mobile quarterbacks (Eat my rubber!) and may need to focus on the run considering the weather forecast. In Chicago tomorrow, it’s expected to be a high of 13 degrees with 20-30 mph winds. I expect this to impact the pass game and scoring in general. As for run defense, Buffalo ranks 6th in the NFL while the Bears are 27th. Again, a clear advantage for the Bills. If Justin Fields can make a few plays, Chicago may hang around. Give me the Bears and the points.
CELEBRITY GUEST WEEK SIXTEEN: THE BARBER (Last season’s record: 4-1, $+110)
$50: Buffalo (-8) covers in Chicago. That’s right, Justin Fields continues to break records, but the Bills break the Bears. Living in the Chicagoland area for almost a decade now, I watch with interest at how the Bears fans psych themselves up that they have a real contender only to be one of the first teams eliminated each season. On the other hand, my friends’ wives seem to be miserable for a shorter and shorter time frame each year since they know they get their husbands back by Halloween.
$40: SF (-6.5) covers at home over Washington. I never like the east coast teams when they travel west or the west coast teams when they travel east. Time zones suck and even though they are professionals and do this all the time, it still messes with your circadian rhythm and if you ain’t got rhythm, you ain’t got nothing. I see SF winning by a touchdown.
$30: KC (-10) covers at home against Seattle. One last warmup before KC starts sitting some key players in weeks 17 and 18 to avoid injuries. Seattle is fighting for their playoff lives, but KC is going for the #1 seed. Seattle drops this one but has two winnable games following this and maybe still sneak in.
$20: Pittsburgh (-2) covers at home against Las Vegas. And for our final pick we are sticking with the east-west travel concerns and looking at the game in Pittsburgh. A Sunday night matchup for two teams who apparently are still in the hunt despite their records. The Steeler family just lost Franco Harris. With the emotion of losing an icon, I expect the Steelers to come out with energy to win one for Harris. And Vegas is a boneheaded Patriots play from probably being 5-9 and out of contention. I see the Steelers winning by a field goal as a well timed burst of wind knocks the Vegas kick wide as time expires.
$10: GB (+3.5) covers in Miami. Really? I should pinch myself. Did I just pick GB to cover? I did. Why? Not sure. I watched in person as the New England Patriots marched into Green Bay and pushed them to the very last seconds of overtime with a third string quarterback no one had ever heard of. Green Bay just plain stuck then and it has only gotten worse for them. I mean, they are looking up at the Detroit Lions! How often has that happened in the last 20 years? For some reason, Miami is a house of horrors for a lot of teams – maybe there is something in the water or the guys are just breaking curfew to party all night. Either way, I see Miami just squeaking by in this one, leading to more funny faces from Aaron Rodgers and surly answers to questions like “are you washed up” and “do your teammates actually like you” and “are you now a cancer on this club” and “did Santa leave lots of coal in your stocking?” Don’t miss the post-game press conference!