NFL Picks, Week 16:
In a Meaningless World, Pick Seattle
by Pete Tothero
Last time I picked: 9-5
Weeks I Skipped: Oh, God, I don't know. Do you?
Atlanta (12-2) at Detroit (4-10)
While I was traveling on business recently, I thought to myself, You know, I don't really feel like picking NFL games for that artsy website again this week. So I just didn't. And when they e-mailed, I didn't return their emails. I did this for many weeks. And then when I e-mailed them last week and said maybe I felt like picking games again, guess what they said? "Sure!" This is why artsy creative people don't do well in this world.
I'm tempted to pick Detroit here, on the theory that every team has at least one Fury Game in them. A Fury Game is when your season has been a disaster, everything is over, you're angry about your team, your season, the general state of everything, and so on one afternoon, everyone on an inferior team just takes out their anger by stomping a superior team. I could really see that happening here—the Lions just getting incredibly nasty at home, repeatedly punching the Falcons in the mouth, and winning 17-15.
How did I arrive at the Fury Game theory? Why do I have thoughts and insights about anger at yourself, a squandered season, and a general failed state of everything? I will not say. Pick: Detroit.
New Orleans (6-8) at Dallas (8-6)
The fact that Dallas has crawled back into contention in the NFC East makes me want to hurt one of my co-workers—not because the co-worker is a Cowboys fan, just because I want to hurt someone. I think I will choose Ted in accounting. He said my travel reimbursement forms weren't filled out right. I did my best, Ted! Gawd!
Sometimes a man has to think not with his head, but with his heart. That has never actually worked for me—in fact, it has led to me getting rolled in an alley behind a bar in Reno, losing tons of money investing in a friend's "Doggie Spa" business (she was hot; I was young), and what I will only refer to as the "Omaha disaster." And yet, I persist. New Orleans, you had me at "Dallas's opponent this week is..." Pick: New Orleans.
Tennessee (5-9) at Green Bay (10-4)
Let me break this match-up down grammatically. When a match-up begins with "Tennessee at", did you know that in the English language, that match-up can be filled in with the name of ANY OTHER TEAM—it doesn't matter which team—and it means that you should pick the other team? It's weird, but true—that's just how English works. But we're not done. Let's look now at how the match-up ends: "at Green Bay." When a match-up ends with "at Green Bay" and occurs in the month of December, it doesn't matter what team occupies the "visiting" position of the match-up—what is indicated is that you must pick Green Bay. I don't want to get too technical, but in grammar this is called a "double obvious."
A match-up like this will often reveal when someone has learned English as a second or third language, because that person will read the match-up, and then if you patiently ask them who they think will win the game, they'll actually think about it. It's just one of those little things about English that even fluent second-language learners will never quite master. This match-up appeares to indicate a game to them, though all native speakers intuitively understand that "Tennessee at" matched with "at Green Bay" in December means this is not actually a game.
Language is fascinating! Pick: Green Bay.
Indianapolis (9-5) at Kansas City (2-12)
Word on the street is that Indianapolis offered Kansas City the option of forfeiting this game, and Kansas City was about to take them up on it (since KC is going to lose anyway) until Indianapolis stupidly oversold the deal by adding, "You know, because that way you'd have a couple extra days to do your Christmas shopping and to spend time with your families." Upon hearing that, Kansas City hesitated. They thought about it. And they said, "Um, actually, we'd like to play the game. Yes, this game we have will require meetings and practices and preparation, and then there's the game itself—this 'game against Indianapolis' thing could keep us kind of busy all week, with unfortunately little time to go shopping or hang out with our families. In fact, we demand that this game be played. Yes! We are going to take it very seriously, and begin practicing for it right now."
So I guess it's on. Pick: Indianapolis.
Buffalo (5-9) at Miami (6-8)
Buffalo: [glumly] So yeah. And then we got beat by Seattle 50-17.
Miami: [CHOKES briefly on its muffin] You what?
Buffalo: Lost to Seattle.
Miami: But what did you say the score was?
Miami: [coughing fit, wheezing] Sorry, I'm sorry. But how does that happen?
Buffalo: Well, you know. A couple turnovers here, a botched thingamajig there—
Miami: Listen, Buffalo—we're the Miami Dolphins. We know from turnovers and being bad at football in general. But you do not lose 50-17 to the Seattle Seahawks. You need to get that checked out.
Buffalo: No, it does happen. They beat Arizona 58-0.
Miami: You realize you just compared yourself to the Arizona Cardinals, right? You hear what you're saying? You need to get that checked out.
Buffalo: The point is just that it's not unheard of. It does happen to teams.
Miami: You need to get that checked out.
San Diego (5-9) at NY Jets (6-8)
Voice A: We're really good. We could easily, like, be in the Super Bowl this year.
Voice B: We're going to win it. I mean, probably. We really truly believe that.
Voice A: A lot of teams are scared to play us. On account of we're so good.
Voice B: Us, too.
Voice A: For instance, our quarterback. Our quarterback is awesome. He's like, totally elite.
Voice B: Ours, too. We actually have two awesome quarterbacks. We have one who's, like, totally awesome, and then another who's all, like, huge and hard to tackle and kind of tricky and stuff. And then our defense is, like—
Voice A: Awesome?
Voice B: Yeah.
Voice A: Yeah. Ours, too. They hit really hard and tackle people and stop them and stuff. It's going to be a great season for us.
Voice B: Us, too. Yeah. It's going to be awesome.
Is that two third-graders talking crazy shit during lunch recess, or San Diego and the New York Jets discussing themselves before the season started? It's hard to decide, isn't it? Pick: NY Jets (only because SD probably won't show up)
Washington (8-6) at Philadelphia (4-10)
Philadelphia must be so embarrassed. They are in last place in the weakest division in pro football; they are playing at home, but I can't imagine picking them; everyone in America wants the Redskins to win, because they want to see Robert Griffin III in the playoffs. This will all be over soon, Eagles. Pick: Washington
Cincinnati (8-6) at Pittsburgh (7-7)
Cincinnati is the better team right now, but I just can't do it—I can't pick against Pittsburgh at home at this time of year when they desperately need to win this game. If they lose, I feel like some kind of vague, unnamed Steelerian era will be over. Though maybe it already is? Pick: Pittsburgh.
St. Louis (6-7-1) at Tampa Bay (6-8)
Oakland (4-10) at Carolina (5-9)
Oh, right. This is why I went walkabout instead of continuing to pick NFL games. How can I work up the energy to care here? I cannot. Picks: Tampa Bay and Carolina
New England (10-4) at Jacksonville (2-12)
Beneath analysis. Pick: New England
Minnesota (8-6) at Houston (12-2)
Minnesota needs this game way more than Houston does, so they'll probably win. But wait! Minnesota is not really that good—that's why they're in the position of needing a game way more than Houston, so they'll probably lose. This is the Mediocrity Paradox: an entity desperately struggles to be dominant, even though the reason they are in a position of desperately struggling is that they are not dominant. And yet, they struggle. How do I know about things like Fury Games (see above) and Mediocrity Paradoxes? I refuse to respond. Pick: Houston
Cleveland (5-9) at Denver (11-3)
Denver is going to struggle in this game, and here is why: They are fighting for home field advantage in the playoffs, and this is a home game against a weak opponent. So they're going to trot out there and say, "Let's crush these guys quick and get this over with." And you cannot crush guys quickly—it's quickly, you want to crush guys quickly, silly Broncos player I made up—in the National Football League. (Warning: this rule does not apply in the state of Arizona or the city of Buffalo.) I predict we see the Broncos press here, getting frustrated in the first half when they're only ahead 10-7 or something like that. Cleveland, with no postseason plans, will be playing free and easy. I bet Cleveland leads by three at some point in the third quarter, while Denver starts to panic. But then Manning will pull Denver together and they'll eke out some kind of slim victory. Pick: Denver
Chicago (8-6) at Arizona (5-9)
Arizona lost to Seattle 58-0 a couple weeks ago. The league should have eliminated them after that. Not from the playoffs. Not from the season. From the league. Pick: Chicago
NY Giants (8-6) at Baltimore (9-5)
NY Giants, we've seen this before. We know what you're doing. "Oh, I guess we'll just barely make the playoffs." "Looks like we'll have to win on the road. That will be very difficult." "Seems like nobody believes in us." Come on. You are big fakers.
Baltimore, you're big fakers too, but in the opposite direction. Pick: NY Giants
San Francisco (10-3-1) at Seattle (9-5)
One of the cities I visited on business recently was Seattle. It is difficult to describe to other people how miserable Seattle is. It was forty degrees and raining, but when you say that, people think, Oh, rain, yes, I know rain. But you don't know winter rain in Seattle. It's like liquid ice spiked with some kind of virus that causes a depression that manifests as a weird disdain for everything and everyone. All of the citizens there have it. The reason Seattle wins so much at home is that as soon as a human being sets foot on the street in Seattle, there is no longer any reason to live. I can assure you that I don't have much going for me even when I'm not in Seattle—for proof, may I offer the fact that I write NFL picks for an artsy website while pretending to do my not-scintillating job? And yet even I, Pete Tothero, gentleman of no import, felt even worse when I was in Seattle.
I have not bet against the 49ers this year. Even amid the Smith-Kaepernick drama, the 49ers just feel like one of those teams that's solid. But at night, in Seattle? You become wet and freezing and there is no escape. No sideline heater is going to dry you out before you have to run back out there. You're just going to be soaked and cold, and everything is stupid, and that's it. The Kingdome was an abomination, but it was there for a reason. Football outdoors in Seattle is still an abomination, but there is no reason. The world is deluge and chaos. There is no meaning. And in a meaningless world, pick: Seattle. (Oh, by the way, Merry Christmas, everyone!)
Pete Tothero is not a certified professional football analyst, and does not have access to any information unavailable to the average American. He is not contractually bound to watch all of the games.