Man Getting Hit By Football: Week 11

Some good football games, some not-good football games, and the promise that millions of people will watch all of them.
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Illustration by Brad Beatson.

Indianapolis (-3) at Tennessee

It’s simple enough to explain what Thursday Night Football is—it’s one of those rare TV shows that describes both its schedule and its content in its name, like Saturday Night Live or Rizzoli and Isles. Explaining why it is is a little trickier. You might expect that one of only two games played during the week would be reserved for special matchups between contenders, although of course you would be wrong.

Turns out that, nope, putting a couple teams out there after shorter-than-usual rests does not result in anything particularly fun or even particularly much like NFL football. Last week’s contest between the Redskins and the Vikings—two bad teams whose weaknesses meshed nicely—was entertaining pretty much by accident. Otherwise, this season we’ve also gotten mid-week games in which the Panthers casually throttled the Bucs and another in which Jeff Tuel found himself quarterbacking an NFL team for reasons that are still unclear. For the most part, these games are bad, not least because the short week doesn’t give players enough time to heal from injuries.

The best thing you can say about Thursday Night Football is that it is football on Thursday night, and football is often a pretty crappy sport to watch—the action stops and starts arbitrarily, the blowouts drag on forever, bad offenses can mire the game in a series of dropped passes and punts. Sunday gives us a smosgasboard to gorge ourselves on, and chances are there will be some good games, or at least memorable plays and close scores, scattered in with all the other sad steam-tray meatballs (NFC East) and defeated floppy chicken fingers (AFC South) on the smorgasboard. But when we see one game in isolation, it reminds us that staring at football can be a fairly interminable way to spend three hours of life.

So no, there’s no good reason for Thursday Night Football to exist, other than that it props up the NFL Network up and doesn’t violate any antitrust or workplace safety laws. Fans weren’t especially clamoring for it, many players hate it, and it’s not bringing the game to any poor football-less populations, which is the excuse for playing games in unnatural and uninterested places like London. Except.

Except, as it turns out, even football games between bad teams  played in the middle of the week are preferable to almost anything else on TV—people will watch fucking Giants-Bears instead of playoff baseball. This underscores just how boring a sport baseball is—it’s probably not an accident that the golden age of the game came before mediums that allowed most people to watch it—but it also shows just how addicted we are to this sometimes ugly sport. The whole enterprise of Thursday Night Football is predicated on the cynical, but utterly correct, idea that people are so starved for football that they’ll seek out the NFL Channel and badger their cable providers to carry it just so they can see (for instance) the Colts eke out a shaky win over a Ryan Fitzpatrick–led Titans team. Oh well. We are watching it, aren’t we? Whose fault is that?

PICK: Indianapolis

Atlanta (-1.5) at Tampa Bay

There was a time when Mike Glennon looked like a solid starting NFL quarterback, when he rolled out of the pocket smoothly, extended plays, and found receivers open downfield. That moment lasted about half a game in Seattle. On Monday, he was back to being your brother’s awkward, usually quiet, not-particularly-coordinated friend who somehow finds himself throwing a football to professional athletes under extreme duress due to a monumental case of mistaken identity. The Bucs won because someone had to win the Miami-Tampa Bay game. That’s one of the main rules of football. Either someone wins or it’s a tie. No other options in the National Football League. That applies to this game, too.

PICK: Atlanta

“New York” Jets (+1) at Buffalo

This is the football equivalent of a dream you wake up from and can’t remember, but it sticks in your mind like a shred of sad grilled chicken between your teeth, something to worry over without understanding, something that emerges as a half-formed memory of screeching pain when you’re walking to work. Or just as sad gross chicken that was in your mouth for hours. Anyway, don’t watch this game.

PICK: Buffalo

Detroit (-2) at Pittsburgh

Antonio Brown leads the league in receptions, and yes, that’s likely because the Steelers have had to throw a lot this year because they’ve often been losing and haven’t had any running game to speak of—but hey, Brown is also a pretty good receiver! I spent about ten minutes searching for his highlight reel, and granted there’s not a lot there—he’s not some next-step-in-human-evolution football-devouring monster a la Calvin Johnson—but he has great hands. To wit:

PICK: Pittsburgh

Washington (+3.5) at Philadelphia

There are bad divisions and there are boring divisions, and I’ll take the former every time. Neither the R******s nor the Eagles are particularly good at scoring more points than the opposing team, but they are at least good at scoring points, especially now that Nick Foles is the Next Elite Quarterback, according to an article I read on a site called RantSports.com that I do not believe was written by a human.

PICK: Philadelphia

Cleveland (+6) at Cincinnati

...Then there’s the AFC North, a boring division that consists of Rust Belt cities with teams built to honor the old American values of

1. Large men hitting each other over and over again.
2. Rolling out of the pocket and throwing the ball away because no one is open.
3. Not scoring touchdowns.
4. Actual humans with rust growing on them.
PICK: Cleveland

Baltimore (+3) at Chicago

Fun Josh McCown fact: when he was playing for the Miami Dolphins he injured his hand helping his brother Luke chop firewood, which led to this charming, if meandering sentence appearing on the Miami Herald’s blog:

“My greatest concern now is how is McCown's head because it cannot possibly be working very well when it allows him to put his hand in the path of a chainsaw knowing that the only way he makes a living is using that hand to throw a football.”

PICK: Chicago

Oakland (+7) at Houston

I attempted to do some googling to determine if McCown’s was the most famous firewood-related injury of all time. I think it is, but in my research I came across this story about a extremely popular and controversial Norwegian television program that “consisted mostly of people in parkas chatting and chopping in the woods and then eight hours of a fire burning in a fireplace.” Before you mock Norwegians for watching something so self-evidently boring, remember that millions (well, thousands) of Americans will be glued to their TVs for this very football game.

PICK: Oakland

Arizona (-7) at Jacksonville

Here’s a tip when you are recording a rap song and video about your team: Stay away from references to specific players that will become dated in a few years time—you want your anthem to be timeless. Don’t waste the $20 you paid for the studio time! Avoid saying, for instance, “QBs on other teams told, ‘Lay still son/ You just got hit by Adrian Wilson.’”

PICK: Arizona

San Diego (-1.5) at Miami

This feels like the NFL version of one of those odd pre-Christmas college football bowl games that pits Northern Indiana State (7-3 in the MAAT Conference) against Aaron Burr A&M (5-1-3 in the LOUUUUUU). It’ll be a fine game, or it could be, but why is it happening? Or, alternately, why isn’t it being played in an underlit stadium in Fresno and being sponsored by AshleyMadison.com?

PICK: Miami

Green Bay (+5) at “New York” Giants

Scott Tolzein was hammering in the final nails of his barn—the third one he’d built that afternoon—when the Packers came a-callin’.

“Tolz, we’re gonna need you after all,” said the Packer man, who looked like Mike Holmgren with the air sucked out of him. “Seneca has gone down, and we’ve got no other options! The football game is happening now!”

Tolz wiped the sweat from his brow, which took several minutes due to the size and seriousness of his brow, and squinted into the sun. “Football… That’s a name I haven’t heard in many years. I swore I’d never play again, after…” In his mind, the game was a blur of screaming and pain. Why wouldn’t they let him build barns in peace?

“I’ll do it,” Tolz finally said, “but I won’t enjoy it.” He spat in his hand and held it out for the Packer man to shake.

And so began the greatest NFL career of all time.

PICK: Green Bay

Minnesota (+12.5) at Seattle

A banged-up Christian Ponder is likely to start this weekend, which seems like a moot point—whoever the Vikings’ quarterback is, he’s just keeping the position warm for whatever pretty young thing Minnesota gets in the draft. This sounds easy but is apparently a very dangerous job.

PICK: Seattle

San Francisco (+3) at New Orleans

Speaking of quarterbacks—and, really, when are we not speaking of quarterbacks?—after a 400-yard passing performance in the first game of a season, Colin Kaepernick has looked suspiciously mortal and has been criticized by Trent Dilfer, of all people. His last performance was lousy—he went 11-22 for 91 yards with no touchdowns and one pick, and got sacked six times—but he was facing a great defense, and after Vernon Davis’s concussion he had no one except Anquan Boldin and a rusty Mario Manningham to catch his passes.

He’s not terrible, he’s just not one of the “greatest quarterbacks ever,” as Ron Jaworski once said. Also, why does everything need to be the greatest or worst ever? Some things are just okay!

PICK: New Orleans

Kansas City (+8) at Denver

Last week San Diego had a fairly decent plan to beat Denver: Run the ball a lot, eat up the clock and keep Peyton Manning off the field, then stop the Broncos’ offense a few times through luck and/or sacks. This didn’t work for the Chargers because, well, they are the Chargers—what do you want from them?

But couldn’t a grind-it-out-and-hit-Peyton-when-you-can strategy work for Kansas City, a team that was built for ugly wins? Sure, why not. They could keep it interesting, at least. I don’t really know, but it should be a decent football game.

PICK: Kansas City

New England (+2.5) at Carolina

Though human men’s magazine cover Tom Brady is in the middle of one of the worst seasons of his career, I have an almost childlike faith in his and Bill Belichick’s ability to beat good teams, even when their supporting cast is a bunch of anonymous limping meatheads with long last names. A more statistically-minded man might look at Carolina’s DVOA rating and conclude the Panthers are really one of the better teams in the NFL, but I can’t in good conscience pick Ron Rivera’s tan visage over Belichick’s sourpussed genius. I have my honor as a mediocre game picker to think of, after all.

PICK: New England

Previous week’s record: 7-6-1
Overall record: 74-70-3
All lines taken from FootballLocks.com


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