It’s championship week, boys and girls, the weekend where the last remaining college football teams stake their claim to a playoff berth. Michigan, Georgia, Florida State and Washington control their destinies. All they need to do is beat Iowa, Alabama, Louisville, and Oregon.
Piece of cake, right? Then tell me why Oregon is such a massive favorite over undefeated Washington, or why Las Vegas thinks Iowa will score less than ten points, or how Florida State can continue their perfect season without their starting quarterback or how Nick Saban might fail in a building he rarely does.
In addition to the tantalizing slate of college games, we also have a fight for the playoffs brewing in the NFL. We’ve already seen some head coaches fall with rumors of more, but it’s not Black Monday yet so let’s allow these coaches to keep their jobs until ownership decides they’re no longer worthy.
This week, we invite back Rising Storms, frequent contributor to the site and new Detroit resident. He may be 8-2 career in this contest but apparently, he never got the memo that nobody moves to Detroit, only from it.
I’ll enjoy the Florida sunshine while my competitors this week shovel snow. Here’s hoping the sun sheds a little light on my picks…
SportsChump 34-25-1 +$290
The Wife Hates Sports 33-26-1 +$180
Celebrity Guest Contributors 26-33-1 -$190
$50 on Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Rams (PK)
Does anybody remember that last time we saw Joe Flacco throw a football? Sorry, allow me to rephrase. Does anybody remember the last time we saw Joe Flacco throw a football well? I do. The date was September 21, 2022, well over a year ago. As then quarterback of the New York Jets, Flacco looked ageless. He threw for four touchdowns and over 300 yards as the Jets traveled to, of all places Cleveland, in Flacco’s last career win as a starting quarterback. One game later, he would be benched for Zach Wilson. Do you know how bad you must look to be benched for Zach Wilson, who is now officially, and disgracefully, the Jets third string quarterback. Why do I bring this up? Because Joe Flacco will be starting for the Browns this weekend as Dorian Thompson-Robinson is in concussion protocol. Unless the Browns practice the same concussion protocol tactics that the Miami Dolphins used in rushing back Tua Tagovailoa, expect Flacco to start. The Rams have had a disappointing season, but they have won two straight and still, somehow, maintain playoff aspirations. The Rams aren’t a team you want to give too many offensive opportunities to. If the Browns are unable to string together quality possessions, the Rams could make this a long afternoon for the Browns defense. As it stands right now, the Browns are in the playoffs, but they’ll be hard-pressed to keep pace with no starting quarterback, or a starting quarterback whose name is Joe Flacco. Rams win handily at home.
$40 on Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars (-7)
Remember Week One or even last off-season when the Jags finished strong, and the Bengals were dynamic? Despite falling short of their goals to reach, and win, a Super Bowl, the future appeared bright for both teams. Both teams had found their quarterbacks of the future. Both teams had dynamic weapons on offense. We could easily envision Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence competing with Pat Mahomes in the AFC for years to come. Then Joe Burrow hurt his wrist, and all was lost for the Bengals faithful in 2023. Jaguars’ fans still have high hopes, however. After a slow start to their season, (they lost two of their first three), the Jags have won seven of their last eight. This line opened at seven and will likely continue to climb as the game gets closer, as it should. If you take away their embarrassing loss to the Niners, the Jags have been playing some pretty good football. They may have even learned a little something about themselves in that game. They have the chance to put the Bengals out of their misery and I fully expect them to do that. Expect all smiles and flowing locks from the Jacksonville sidelines on Monday night as the Jags continue their chase for home field advantage in the playoffs for as long as they can have it. Jaguars cover the touchdown.
$30 on Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-5)
We talked earlier about coaches on the hot seat. Todd Bowles is one of those coaches, at least you’d think so if you follow all the people that I do on social media. Bowles is a nice guy and without question a master defensive coordinator but once you lose a few ball games in the manner he has, you have every Buccaneers fan from here to Plant City calling for his head. I have heard no such rumblings from within the organization and the Bucs, as Bowles reminds us, are only one game off the division lead with two times games left against Carolina. Carolina is who they play this weekend. The Panthers just ousted their head coach meaning there is no reason at all the Buccaneers shouldn’t open this one up. I’m the lone survivor in the Tampa Bay area who thinks firing Bowles with no replacement in sight is rushing to judgment, however, I may jump ship if he can’t beat a team who’s being coached by a guy with no head coaching experience whatsoever. The Bucs offense is talented enough to put up points even though they’re only scoring under 20 points per game. If Tampa’s defense plays the way it’s capable of against a struggling rookie quarterback, they’ll only need to score twenty. Bucs cover the five at home.
$20 on Alabama Crimson Tide at Georgia Bulldogs (-4)
Here is your impressive stat of the week. Did you know that, as head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Nick Saban has lost an SEC Championship Game only once, that coming in 2008 to the eventual champion Florida Gators. Saban has led Bama back to the big game eight times and has won… all… eight. That’s as impressive a streak as they come. In other words, Georgia has never beaten Alabama in an SEC Championship Game. They’ve beaten Auburn. They’ve beaten LSU, twice. They even beat Arkansas way back in 2002. But they’ve never beaten Alabama. And they know this. As hard as it is to beat the unbeatable, this game means too much to Georgia. What we have here is a battle of SEC juggernauts. Despite the high expectations on Georgia this season, they haven’t wavered. They struggled against Georgia Tech but Bama also should have lost their last game at Auburn. Georgia’s been the better team all season. Beating Bama in this game, something they’ve never done, might be as meaningful as winning a national title. Look for the Dawgs to do something they’ve never done in school history, and that’s beat Alabama for an SEC Championship on their own terms. Dawgs cover the four.
$10 on Oregon Ducks at Washington Huskies (+10)
Washington hasn’t lost a game all season. They’ve even beaten Oregon earlier in the season. Yet here they are, participating in the Pac-12 championship game… and they are ten-point underdogs. It’s one of the more inexplicable lines I’ve seen. Oregon passes the eye test, says every pundit who likes the Oregon flash. Hence the double-digit line. Their Heisman candidate Bo Nix leads the nation in completion percentage, completing nearly 80% of his passes this season, a new NCAA record. He’s also thrown 37 touchdown passes to only two interceptions. Washington has a Heisman candidate of their own, whose name rhymes with Nix. Michael Penix, Jr. has about as many passing yards as his counterpart. He just hasn’t been as accurate, but let’s be honest, nobody in the history of the game has. I may be wrong. Oregon could blow way past Washington in this one, as most people think. But if you’re giving me ten points and an undefeated team, I’ve gotta take them. Washington plus the ten.
Rising Storms’s Picks for the Week (Career: 8-2, +$120)
Well, good morning, and greetings from the Motor City! Just to update you guys for a moment, I recently relocated from sunny Atlanta for a new life and job in Detroit. While I have some….feelings…about the local franchises and fans, I’ll have to save that for another day. Chump wants his picks, and he wants them NOW!! So, let me put my 8-2 record on the line…
Miami (-9.5) vs the Football Team: what can you really say here? Tua doesn’t have a concussion, Tyreek is on a quest for 2k, and Washington is once again on the verge of a new coaching staff. 9.5 is a lot of points to give on the road, but this Commanders team is a dumpster fire.
49ers vs Philly(+3): The last time these two met, well, you all know how that went down. The Birds completely destroyed the Whiners, who STILL haven’t let it go. Well, Brock Purdy seems to have recovered from the hurtin’ Hassan Reddick put on him, and Run CMC is doing his best to come in second in MVP voting. On the other hand, 12 weeks in and the Eagles have made an art of the ugly win. As much as I hate to say it, Eagles cover in a close loss at the Linc.
Arizona vs Pittsburgh(-5): Let’s see here. West coast team comes east for an early 1 p.m. start. That 1 p.m. start is in what should be a rainy Accri-Heinz Stadium-Field. Oh, and that west coast is the Cardinals. The ‘burgh covers easily.
Cincinnati at Jacksonville (-8.5): Cincy has clearly regressed back to the mean without Burrow under center. Jacksonville seems like a near lock on their division. The Jags cover in DUUUUUUU-VALLLLLL!!!
And, finally, Detroit (-4) at New Orleans: Simply put, the Lions finally recover from the tryptophan coma they were obviously enjoying against the Packers, and takes care of the Saints down in NOLA.
KP’s Picks: The Wife Hates Sports
$50: Miami Dolphins (-7) at Washington Commanders
Coaching changes (or firings) most definitely impact a team. The impacts can be positive or negative, as well as short term or long term. So maybe it’s a risk to pick against the “Commanderskins” at home, considering the long overdue removal of DC Jack Del Rio (that finally happened following Washington’s Thanksgiving dud against Dallas). Maybe Washington responds. As for the game, I’m not worried about Sam Howell and Washington’s ability to move the ball. I’m more concerned about Washington’s inability to keep Tyreek Hill from running wild. The Commanders rank 30th in pass defense. Offensively, Miami also ranks second in rushing offense. Finally, Washington is dead last in turnover differential (-9). The combination of these stats result in Miami being my top pick of the week. Dolphins cover on the road.
$40: Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars (-7)
Let’s stick with the NFL and the rollercoaster ride that is the Bengals, a team with talent, but buried with injuries. It appears that WR Tee Higgins is set to return this week. That would be big time news if Joe Burrow was still slinging the ball all over the field. Jake Browning’s numbers (2 TD, 1 INT, 65.9% completion percentage) have not been all that bad. The Bengals also sport a +10 turnover differential on the season. Overall, both teams rank in the bottom ten in passing defense, and that more so favors the Jags, considering home field advantage and a healthier offense, including QB Trevor Lawrence. Perhaps more important is Jacksonville’s run defense, which ranks 4th in the NFL. Preventing offensive balance for Jake Browning will be key and I like Jacksonville in primetime. Jaguars cover at home.
$30: Denver Broncos (+3) at Houston Texans
The Broncos have won five straight. Yet, the oddsmakers continue to do them dirty. Sean Payton figured something out in Denver, that’s for sure. The stretch includes wins over the Packers, Chiefs, Bills, Vikings, and Browns. I know that’s not all top tier teams, but over this five game stretch, opponents are averaging 16 points per game against Denver. Houston’s offense is a bit banged up, with multiple key players carrying a questionable tag. The Texans have made improvements in the run game, but remain more reliant on its pass game. Denver ranks dead last against the run, but that’s for the entire season – and it’s not Houston’s strength. Overall, my focus is on the red hot team as an underdog. Broncos cover on the road.
$20: Oregon Ducks at Washington Huskies (+10)
The first time these teams met during the season was in Washington on October 14th, a 36-33 win for the Huskies. This isn’t the first time I have taken Washington as an underdog. As in, the Huskies team that is currently undefeated and in playoff position. That’s the same Huskies team that has Heisman candidate QB Michael Penix Jr. Sure, the Ducks also have a Heisman candidate in Bo Nix – and an explosive offense at that. But the Huskies have run the table to this point, including wins over two other ranked teams (Arizona and Oregon State). Oregon ranks 1st in passing offense and 24th in rushing offense, so Washington will have its hands full. But the Huskies are 9th in pass defense, with 15 INT on the season. Overall, this should be a fun ride. Give me Washington and the points.
$10: New Mexico State Lobos (+10.5) at Liberty Flames
How about we check in on Conference USA? These teams faced each other back on September 9, when the Flames won 33-17 at home. As we often see in sports, it’s not easy to beat a team that soundly twice in the same season. With that said, it’s clear the Lobos have improved as the season has progressed. The most obvious sign might be New Mexico State’s impressive 31-10 win over Auburn on the road. We will never know if the Tigers were looking forward to Alabama, but nevertheless… a three touchdown win against an SEC opponent is impressive. Statistically, Liberty has the top rushing offense in CFB, while the Lobos currently ranks 33rd in rush defense. Holding the run game in check will be key for the Lobos, and I think they do that enough to keep the game close. Give me New Mexico State and the points on the road.