Don't worry though, they're not clawing at my door so I can get this column done without threat of imminent death.
After Week 10, things are beginning to fall into place. We've already got a tad more clarity with the Colt win over the Titans on Thursday Night Football (you can read my review of it here) and will have even more by Tuesday morning after Week 11.
Of course, every time we think we have clarity, the NFL blows us up. Which is part of the fun, right?
I think we've got some walking dead in the NFL and can probably pronounce a significant portion of the 32 teams dead, but still walking.
OK, let's stop beating this analogy to death (in its zombie brains) and move into who those corpses belong to.
The Walking Dead
Ok, so I lied, I wasn't done running that into the ground. There are no NFC East teams on this list right now—because any of them can win the division. They are all equally uninspiring. But three of those four will miss the playoffs—you just have no clue which three.
Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-8
This team is kind of a mystery to me. It has some talent, but it also has huge holes. And not just in one place. This team has holes everywhere. It seems like the rebuild process here is going to be lengthy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1-8
Ladies and Gents, I present to you the best 1-8 team in the history of 1-8 teams. The two flaws I see? Coaching and quarterback. Mike Glennon may end up being a good NFL quarterback, but I don't see it yet. As for Greg Schiano.....well, if he's not gone, this is not likely to be 2014's Kansas City Chiefs. And it should be. There are few holes on this team and it should be a quick turnaround.
Houston Texans: 2-7
For several years I have said that Matt Schaub was an anchor around the neck of this offense. The wheels were going to come off at some point and not only did they come off, they caught fire and exploded. Evan Silva of Rotoworld.com pointed out that 8.2% of Johnson's career TD catches have come in Keenum's last two starts. That's an 11 year career folks. five touchdowns in an 11 year career for a No. 1 receiver shouldn't move the needle like that. So start at quarterback Houston - all the other pieces are there.
Minnesota Vikings: 2-7
This kills me a bit because, unlike most on this site, I actually like the Vikings. That said, the team is a bit of a mess, but it again comes down (mostly) to coaching and quarterback. I don't think Christian Ponder is the guy—I don't like what I see him do three years in and I see only small improvements. I think coaching is bigger though—because this is one of the worst run offenses in the NFL. Leslie Frazier and Bill Musgrave having Adrian Peterson is like my 8 year old being handed a beautiful, cherry 1968 Mustang. Yeah he gets it's nice but he doesn't know how to use it.
Atlanta Falcons: 2-7
What the heck happened here? Julio Jones and Roddy White being injured happened. An offensive line with question marks happened. Injuries to Steven Jackson and members of the defense happened. This team isn't this bad though and a rebound in 2014 should be easy to forecast assuming nobody does anything stupid and overreacts to one bad season in Mike Smith's tenure as head coach.
Oakland Raiders: 3-6
I like Terrelle Pryor, but he's a long way from being a true quarterback. He's great running the ball but he has very little pocket presence right now. A quarterback has to throw, and right now he's not there. The rest of the team is all right, but there are very few pieces that make a great foundation here.
Buffalo Bills: 3-7
Another team which seems to have some talent but struggle all the time. Defensively there are solid players but injuries and lackluster play have weighed it down. The same for the offense—the hardest hit coming at quarterback where they've rotated three different players as starter because of injuries. It'd be nice to know if EJ Manuel is a potential franchise guy because they could be looking the chance at a good quarterback in this year's draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 3-6
Theoretically the Steelers can make it but they have to climb over a lot of teams to do it. This is a team which desperately needs to rebuild and it could be a while. The offensive line is a travesty, the defense is old and they are staring at a potentially large contract for Ben Roethlisberger.
Those are the guys who are absolutely out. There are some teams on the bubble—St. Louis is a loss away from missing a Wild Card slot, as is the entire NFC East. Someone in the NFC North will miss out. Carolina looks good but their position for the Wild Card is precarious, as is San Francisco's. Ditto Arizona, Tennessee, Cleveland, Baltimore, the Jets, Dolphins and Chargers.
We'll keep tracking this over the coming weeks.
Last week was a good one and I went 10-4, though three of my misses were on games I felt most confident about—the Colts, Titans and Washington let me down. Two of them were huge upsets and a lot of people missed on those (suicide pools lost a lot of fine folks with that Jaguars win) so insofar as missing picks, those aren't that bad.
So far I am one for one, as I picked the Colts last night, though they managed to almost let me down there anyway.
Here's the rest of my picks and thoughts on this week's slate, from most confident to least.
Seattle over Minnesota:
This should be pretty obvious. Christian Ponder going up against one of the best corner tandems in the NFL? A defense which can stop the run?IN SEATTLE?
Arizona over Jacksonville:
Well, that win was really nice for Jacksonville, but the Cardinals have a good defense, a less-awful quarterback (Damning with faint praise? Don't mind if I do!) and a stud running back in the making in Andre Ellington. The Jaguars have a banged up Maurice Jones-Drew, a solid defense which may be missing Paul Posluszny and Chad Henne.
Detroit over Pittsburgh:
The Steelers are a mess, as I mention above. The Lions are in the lead over in the NFC North and they won't want to let up because Lord knows the Packers and Bears won't. The Steelers' offensive line is going to get shredded by the Lions' front seven and while I never discount Dick Lebeau's defense, the firepower on the Lions' side of the field will be too much.
Philadephia over Washington:
A little bit of home field and a lot of Nick Foles against a Washington secondary that—to be kind—is suspect and inconsistent. The Eagles are rolling and while I expect a good game from Robert Griffin III (my fantasy team hopes so) and Alfred Morris, it's not going to be enough.
Jets over Buffalo:
EJ Manuel didn't look so hot last week and it may be a few more weeks before he starts to get the momentum he had built prior to his injury. He may not have Stevie Johnson, C.J. Spiller is hurt and he's facing one of the best defensive lines in football. Yes, the Jets struggle on the road and yes they struggle in Buffalo (Really, who wouldn't? Have you been there?) but coming off a big win and with two weeks to prepare, this is a game they should win. The defense is going to hammer Manuel all day.
Chicago over Baltimore:
If this were in Baltimore, I'd give the Ravens the nod but not by much. The Ravens defense has solidified, but Josh McCown has shown he can play well and the Bears' weapons—whew. Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennet and Alshon Jeffery are no joke. It's going to be too much for the Baltimore offense—and Joe Flacco's mediocre season—to overcome.
Denver over Kansas City:
You can tell I don't feel an overabundance of confidence here, especially with a hobbled Peyton Manning. Still, this offense can score points and they will, even against the best defense in the NFL. Maybe they won't drop 40 on the Chiefs, but they'll score enough and Alex Smith is not bringing you back from a two touchdown deficit.
San Diego over Miami:
Miami looked broken for large stretches of Monday night's loss to the Buccaneers and that was against a winless team. The Chargers are a much, much better team and head coach Mike McCoy has Philip Rivers playing good football again. Offensively, there is no position where the Dolphins have a better player than the Chargers. Defensively, Miami is better but not by so much that it will matter.
Cleveland over Cincinnati:
Andy Dalton and the Bengals are in a downward spiral while Jason Campbell and the Browns are trending upwards. The Browns are a bit shaky offensively but have the defense to get in Dalton's face and force some bad decisions. Last time out the Browns held Dalton to 206 yards and an interception. I expect more of the same.
Houston over Oakland:
Case Keenum ya'll! As I said up top, getting rid of Matt Schaub was step one. Step two....... Step three: PROFIT!
Oakland is going to have a hard time moving the chains against a better-than-they've played Texans defense.
New York Giants over Green Bay
If this were in Green Bay I think it'd make a difference—it's one of the reasons I lean this way now. Really it comes down to this: which is playing worse, Eli Manning or the Packers defense. Right now, I think it's Dom Capers and the defense. This could truly go either way though.
Atlanta over Tampa Bay:
Could the Bucs build momentum here? The Falcons are bad enough for it. Ultimately, this is a game where the Falcons find their rhythm a bit and get back on track. Also, if the Bucs lose another running back, they will be suiting up fans.
New Orleans over San Francisco:
Here's the thing: Yes Colin Kaepernick is struggling but it would help if he had even one receiver who could get separation. They can't and it's making it awfully hard to complete passes. That's not to absolve Kaep of sucking at times—because he has—but it puts the struggles in perspective. And enough with the "see he's just a read-option guy!" because he proved last year that wasn't the case. That said, his struggles and the inability of the offense to put up points will kill them in this game against one of the more potent offenses in the NFL.
Carolina over New England:
I love the Panthers and I saw this turnaround coming a while back. At home, on Monday night, I think they can take the Patriots down. Yes, Brady has Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen back, and yes the offense looks better than it has. But this defense can shut down anyone. I expect this to be a great game Monday night and while I am clearly not that confident in my pick, I think the Panthers find a way to win this.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.
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