Forgive Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher if they are feeling a bit envious this weekend.
The three legendary Monsters of the Midway — brutal tackling machines all — eyes bulging as they sweep across the field sideline to sideline — instilling fear in opposing coaches and pain in opposing ballcarriers — can only watch and wonder…
How many sacks would they have recorded, fumbles would they have jarred loose, batted balls would they have swatted into teammates waiting arms, if only they’d had the opportunity to line up across from the hapless offensive line that the Giants will trot out this Sunday. And what is the prize that awaits on the other side of this mass of Big Blue Swiss Cheese? Only one of the slowest, most stationary, statuesque targets in the history of the NFL.
Yup, Butkus, who turns 76 one week from this Sunday and is the survivor of a multitude of knee surgeries in his life, would still beat Eli Manning handily in a 40-yard dash were they to race tomorrow.
Okay, so maybe the Giants aren’t going to run the table.
No, the Giants will not be NFC East champs this year, and I’m afraid we are simply stuck with watching the Cowboys be somewhat less inept than Washington and Philly on their way to a 9-7 NFC East title.
But admit it — it would have been a lot more fun my way, wouldn’t it? Yeah, well whatever, Big Blue couldn’t even bluff legitimacy for another couple of weeks to keep things interesting, instead choosing to put up another stink bomb last week in Philadelphia, in a season full of them, and now it is on to other projections.
Like this week, when the Bears and their latest immortal linebacker come to MetLife Stadium to take on the “nothing left to play for” Gints. Of course, the easy prediction on the heels of last Sunday’s Giant collapse, is a complete about face, where we now suggest the Giants won’t win another game this year.
Yes, that’s the easy call, and one that may end up actually coming true. But there is no fun to be had with the mundane. Instead, we can hazard a guess as to how good that awful New York defense can make Bears backup QB Chase Daniel look when the clock strikes 1 on Sunday afternoon.
What do you think? Will Daniel throw for three or more TD’s? Will the no name backup carve up that sieve of a Giants secondary for more than 300 yards? How many points will the Bears offense put up? Whatever that number may be, add another 14 to it, and you’ll get close to the final Chicago point tally, because the Bears defense is good for at least two TD’s on their own tomorrow. Is an over/under of 30 for the Bears a fair line?
Poor Eli. If he’s secretly wishing that the Giants brain trust had decided to phase him out this week against the nasty Bears D, could anyone really blame him? But no, we all know that’s not Eli. He will do what he always does. Trot out there with class, calm, and his trademark stoicism — and proceed to get the snot pounded out of him.
So I’m going to go with a different kind of over/under tomorrow in New Jersey. Let’s make this a sack over/under, and let’s place the number at 5. Who’s got the over? Yep this could get ugly.
Khalil Mack must be salivating over the Giants game tape as he prepares for this one. And he’s had ten days to rest up since leading the Bears to their Turkey Day win over the Lions. I’m giving Mack three sacks on his own, and let’s throw in one of those forced fumble/recovery/TD sequences for the former Raider also. If Eli wasn’t so darn indestructible, I’d put a bet out there on what quarter he’d be helped off the field for the first time.
And how about a couple of Eli’s patented pop flies? You know the ones. Eli, waiting for one of his receivers to get a step, his pocket collapsing all around him, finally rearing back to release, only to take a helmet to the ribcage before getting the ball out of his hand. And up flies the pigskin, fluttering like a butterfly without a care in the world, while three Chicago defenders fight one another for the easy pick six. Yup, it figures to be that kind of day.
That Bears defense is worth the price of admission, it’s just a shame that Eli will be forced to stand in there and be their foil for three-plus hours tomorrow. Let’s declare the Bears division champs of the NFC North right now, joining the Saints and Rams (oh yeah, and Dallas) as the 2018 NFC division winners (however the only one with their defense leading the way into the postseason).
Now, for the second week in a row, we’ll lead off with Big Blue as part of the SportsAttic NFL Six Picks segment (home team in ALL CAPS):
Bears (-3.5) over the GIANTS — I’m taking the over on everything here. Bears to crack 30, Bears defense to blow through five sacks, Chase Daniel to throw for 350 yards and three TD’s. In a league that has eschewed defense for points and more points (and the desperate hope that with more points comes revived television ratings), the Bears are unique and actually fun to watch because of their D. The Chicago defense may outscore the Giants by itself on Sunday, but despite the obvious mismatch, Saquon will still probably do at least one thing that will cause me to smile and shake my head at his once in a generation talent. Let’s hope Shurmur gives his rookie back the ball a time or two after the half this week. C’mon, Pat, this game doesn’t matter anyway, so what the heck? (Chicago, 34-13)
Browns (+5.5) over the HOUSTON TEXANS — The NFL is a self-correcting league. The Texans began the season 0-3, which was clearly an overcorrection to the losing, left side of the ledger. They corrected matters and then some with their (still going) eight-game winning streak, which has placed them firmly in the AFC South drivers seat, and make them many folks choice to come out of the AFC and onto the Super Bowl in February. Too strong a correction back to the right? Could their streak really be in jeopardy, playing at home, against the Browns of all teams? Yes, it says here it could. Brash Browns QB Baker Mayfield is still feeling the mojo after his diss of former coach Hue Jackson last week, followed by his defiant unwillingness to walk back said diss when given the chance by the press. Good for you, Mayfield. Throwback stuff. And who really likes this whole bro-hug, jersey-exchanging league of mutual appreciation among opponents anyway? Upset special. (Browns, 30-27)
CINCINNATI (+5) over Denver — Two teams that embarrass the league by being 5-6 at this juncture and actually believing they could make the playoffs. That’s how bad the parity has become. The Bengals will almost certainly change coaches this offseason (finally, although could they truly be contemplating replacing the incumbent Marvin Lewis, who lost his voice in the locker room right around the time Obama was reelected, with Hue Jackson, late of the Raiders and Browns? Answer is yes, they are the Bengals after all), but a win at home against the terrible, but somehow still in it Broncos, will put them at .500 and with some hope. And what to think of Denver? They beat the Steelers last week and seem to play everyone except the Jets tough. Could they sneak into the postseason at 8-8 and be the AFC three-seed’s worst nightmare waiting in the Wild Card round? Stranger things have happened. Let’s call this one a final kiss on the cheek for the soon to be departed Lewis. (Bengals, 24-20)
DOLPHINS (-3.5) over the Bills — Is there a player worth watching on either of these rosters? Add the Fish to the list of AFC pretenders who have no business being in the playoff hunt at 5-6 based on their shoddy performances this year, but thanks to league wide parity (mediocrity, you say?) have a golden opportunity in front of them, along with the disaster that is the 2018 Buffalo Bills. Perfect spot for a Miami fold as they start to look ahead? Yes, but the Bills are so bad that even the Dolphins won’t be able to find a way to kick this one away. (Dolphins 21-17)
Vikings (+5) over the PATRIOTS — I feel as though I should avoid this game with every fiber of my being. I can’t get on the right side of the Jeckyll/Hyde Vikings to save my life, and my dislike for the Pats makes objectivity impossible. So you don’t pick a game like this, right? Wrong. There are so few good games this week, that I’m compelled to include this one. And the Vikes looked damn good last week, so I’m sucked back onto the Minnesota bandwagon against my better judgement. And who knows, maybe this is the week Brady begins to show his age? Only been waiting for that for the past seven years or so. Odds must be getting better, right? (New England, 28-27)
Washington (+7) over the EAGLES — How can the Eagles be favored by a TD over anyone after looking so horrific last week (even if they did come away with a season-preserving W)? Yup, I know, the D.C. starting QB got Theismanned, and we are watching a backup go against what was a good Eagles defense (in 2017 anyway). Anyone else hoping to see Mark Sanchez get in a few a few snaps for the visitors on Monday Night? Only worth keeping this game on after halftime if you’ve wagered on the outcome. And seven points is just too many to lay in this one. (Eagles, 20-17)
Last Week’s Six Picks Ledger: 3-3 (33-30-3 on the year)
And now it’s Lucky 7 time once again!
AtticDaughter1 looked like a winner for two quarters last Sunday, but like one of my drives off the tee back when I still occasionally pretended to be a golfer, as the flight continued things began to look worse and worse. AtticDaughter1 earns points for loyalty to the favorite team of her youth, but in the end the Airplanes couldn’t keep up with Brady, Gronk and the rest of the arch enemies.
Replacing AtticDaughter1 as Guest Prognosticator this week, will be none other than Fantasy League Rob, hailing from Morristown, New Jersey — a stone’s throw away from the Florham Park headquarters of the New York J-E-T-S. Fantasy League Rob is bemoaning the fates that motivated Kansas City to act swiftly and cut Kareem Hunt on Friday, thus costing Fantasy League Rob the chance to execute a rare repeat championship in his local Fantasy Football league. Oh well, you snooze, you lose, as they say. Welcome, Fantasy League Rob!
Chargers (+3) over PITTSBURGH — “Hello to SportsAttic. Despite not putting up the gaudy stats many of his big name peers have this season, Philip Rivers continues his solid play as the Chargers offense delivers again. RB Austin Ekeler shines in place of injured Melvin Gordon. The Chargers unsung D stifles Antonio Brown and James Conner, although JuJu runs wild. In the end, Joey Bosa forces Big Ben into gunslinger mode, complete with dumb decisions leading to multiple ill-timed INT’s. Take the Chargers and the three points, they win outright on the road under the bright lights.” (Chargers, 27-24)
SportsAttic Take: This is a tough one to handicap. I’m guessing Big Ben’s bad mouthing of his coaches and teammates on his radio show this week has the desired effect, as Pittsburgh rebounds from its embarrassing loss to the Broncos last weekend. Meanwhile, the other L.A. football team has to deal with cross country travel, the time change, and a driving rain storm in the forecast. The Chiefs losing Kareem Hunt leaves the AFC West door open just a crack, so as a result the stakes are ratcheted up for the Bolts. And sorry Fantasy League Rob, but as is their history, the Chargers will come up small once again. (Steelers, 31-20)
And there you have it for Week 13 in the NFL.
Enjoy December, SportsAttic Nation!