It pains me to admit it. Especially after he threw away the Raiders final two seasons playing in front of the fanatical fans of Raiders Nation in Oakland, but it would appear Jon Gruden does, indeed, know what he’s doing.
It’s good for the NFL to have the Raiders competitive again, especially after such a dreadful run since…well, since Gruden last coached the team. Derek Carr is kicking ass again, no longer looking like the same shell-shocked guy behind center, and the defense is starting to bring back memories of the Tatum/Alzado/Sistrunk Raiders of the ’70’s.
The Raiders split their two matchups with the Chiefs, handing them their only loss last month, and barely letting one slip away last weekend. That’s proof enough for me that the Silver and Black is back. Kansas City seems to be playing on another level, and are clearly the Thanksgiving Day favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champs come February.
But how cool would it be to see them meet up with Oakland (sorry, but I can’t get used to Las Vegas yet, maybe next season) in the AFC Championship? Shades of Buck Buchanan and Ben Davidson wreaking havoc in the opposing backfields. Daryle “The Mad Bomber” Lamonica to Cliff Branch and Lenny Dawson tossing bombs down the sideline to Otis Taylor.
Bring it on, we are ready for some cold weather football!
Yup, it’s that time of year, with Thanksgiving Day providing us all a little respite and normalcy amidst the trials and tribulations of 2020, courtesy of the NFL schedule makers. Hell, even the pillow fight between two 3-7 NFC East patsies can get the juices flowing right now (playoff implications!), and we can all use the time over the holiday break to better understand the new NFL playoff format (only one bye per conference is about as far as I’ve gotten with it so far).
But before we proceed to the SportsAttic Thanksgiving Locks that are guaranteed to guide your recreational wagering to unforeseen fortunes on Turkey Day, here’s a few additional notes worth pondering around the NFL:
* Can we all agree that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were better off together than apart? It was a fun debate for awhile over who would have the better year, but now reality is setting in. And other than having two teams to root against instead of one, it’s just not working for us. The Pats seem certain to sit out the playoffs, barring an unforeseen turnaround of fortunes, and Brady looks incredibly ordinary despite a myriad of offensive weapons at his disposal. In fact, you could make the argument that the 75-year-old Mr. Bundchen has more weapons down in Tampa than he ever had in all his years in New England. And still, meh. The novelty has worn off and the NFL is the worse for their separation.
*The Browns are 7-3, but does anyone really trust them to make postseason noise? In fact, would anyone really be shocked if they figured out a way to miss the playoffs entirely over the season’s final six games? They go to Jacksonville this weekend, which should be a lock for win number eight, but the line is only 6.5 over the barely-professional, 1-9 Jags. Hmmm…anyone else feeling 9-7 and an epic collapse up in Cleveland?
*Poor Cincinnati. History shows us that this QB injury thing runs deep. Real deep. Remember poor Greg Cook? Of course you don’t. Nobody does. That’s right, we’re not talking about Carson Palmer or Joe Burrow here. Not even the purgatory-ish Andy Dalton Era. Nope, Greg Cook was the first prized first-round draft pick in Bengals history, all the way back in 1969. A can’t miss QB prospect from nearby University of Cincinnati, Cook started as a rookie and had a heck of a year, beating the Raiders and the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs along the way. But a shoulder injury ended his season, and, save for a one game comeback attempt in 1973, Cook’s career was over. This QB ugliness runs real deep in Bengals-land, folks, real deep. Beware the Curse of Greg Cook.
*There’s a lot being written about how a 6-9-1 record could win the NFC East this year. The problem with that theory is that for it to happen, the Eagles would need to go 3-3 from here. And there’s zero chance of that happening. It will be a 6-10 record that takes the worst division in NFL history. And the “winner” will be the one team out of the Giants, Dallas and Washington that “gets hot” and figures out how to play .500 ball the rest of the way. SportsAttic call? Here’s a hint…“Hail, to the no names…”
*I’m tired of Aaron Rodgers’ schtick. The next time we hear him accept responsibility for something having gone wrong in Green Bay will be the first. The whining and coach killing stuff has been going on for years, and now he doesn’t even attempt to hide it. The Packers are a lousy 7-3 team in what is proving to be a highly mediocre NFC. Sure, they’ll make the playoffs, because thanks to their weak division, but look for the Pack to go one and done once the postseason arrives. And here’s betting Rodgers will be pointing fingers everywhere but between his own numbers when the shit hits the fan in the frozen tundra. No wonder Green Bay drafted a QB.
*Speaking of mediocrity in the NFC, who’s going to win the west? It doesn’t seem like anyone wants it right now, but each team possesses a chance despite huge flaws. For a change of pace we’ll throw our support behind Arizona (at least they are fun to watch), but I can’t help but feel they are at least a year away. The Seahawks were the logical choice back in October, but things got wobbly up in the Pacific Northwest since then, and besides, it seems counterintuitive to expect Seattle to have success by outscoring the opposition. Heck, call it for the Cardinals. It is 2020, after all.
And now onto the Thanksgiving slate of games. Home team in all caps:
LIONS (+3) over the Texans — This is the weekend of the home dog, for those of you who occasionally look to place a wager on a gridiron contest. And look to Motor City to kick off that trend. The Lions can’t possibly be as bad as they looked last week against the Panthers, can they? Welllll… yeah, they are the Lions, but lest we forget, this Thursday we get the Thanksgiving Lions. This is football day in Detroit once a year, and the underachieving, barely caring Texans will roll over for the home team after making their year by beating the Pats last Sunday. Lions, 27-17
No Names (+3) over the COWBOYS — Don’t look now, but Ron Rivera has the Washington Football Club playing decent ball despite their suspect talent. And talk about a Thanksgiving feel good story? Alex Smith and what he’s overcome is nothing short of miraculous. Time for Smith to shine with the whole country tuned in, and it couldn’t be more well deserved. Dallas? Yeah, Dalton’s back, and they did have an impressive win (well, sort of, it was against the Vikings) last week. Nah, doesn’t matter. This will be Smith’s day. No Names, 31-20
Ravens (+4) over the STEELERS — Yes, we know, thanks to the Ravens’ Covid-19 outbreak, this game’s been moved back to Sunday, instead of entertaining us as the Thanksgiving night game. We’re keeping it in our picks anyway, only because this is the lock of the week! Look for the Steelers to wake up Monday morning at 10-1. This is a classic first-loss game for undefeated Pittsburgh. A tough, divisional matchup against an opponent loaded with talent, but one that has been wildly inconsistent through the season’s first ten games. This Ravens team despises the Steelers, and they match up well on both sides of the ball. For those of you ready for cold weather football, this is the gold standard on Sunday. Ravens, 23-21
And there you have it. Here’s hoping everyone enjoys a safe, healthy Thanksgiving that ushers in the end of 2020 and the coronavirus. Cheers!