NFL Mystery Box: Week 14
Exploring the NFL weekend in style
Last week’s Mystery Box was a success, with more readers than I have had in a while. We are going to stick with it to see if you like it and it gains some traction. This week we take a look at the weekend to come, some picks (after my picks, especially my moneyline upset) did fairly well, and some fun nonsense. Let’s get right into it.
Listicle of the Week: Best NFL Quarterback RIGHT NOW
Let’s go with a top 10 here. Remember, it’s RIGHT NOW. Not for the next 5 years, or if they were healthy, or if they play like they did last year. RIGHT. NOW.
Tom Brady. He’s healthy. He has played consistently most of the season. He has handled injuries (and gross stupidity) to his WR group. He is as good as ever at 44 and it’s insane.
Aaron Rodgers. He has been consistent for most of the season. As always, limiting his turnovers, being accurate with passes, moving the offense. He shows you can’t take away a QBs best options when they can do anything.
Kyler Murray. He has dramatically improved his game this season, moving from running first to throwing first, working in all of his options, making smart decisions and keeping the offense humming. Since he is healthy again, I expect a strong finish.
Tua Tagovailoa. This probably feels like a homer pick, but look at the numbers. Since reappearing in the Ravens game following a broken finger, Tua has been on fire, completing nearly 80 percent of his passes, avoiding turnovers and overcoming what is BY FAR the worst offensive line in football. Remember. RIGHT. NOW.
Justin Herbert. The best QBR in the league so far this season, Herbert has been penalized by a bad defense and special teams costing the Chargers games. He has also had some inconsistency and bad turnovers. Overall though, he is the reason they win when they do.
Patrick Mahomes. He has had to adjust how he plays after a very interception heavy start to the season. Teams are daring him to complete short passes, and he is still somewhat inconsistent doing that. He simply is not at his peak RIGHT. NOW.
Josh Allen. Another player teams have started daring to beat them with consistency, Josh has also struggled to keep the offense humming at times. It’s not his fault the defense can’t stop the run and the offense can’t run either. But he has not been at the same level as last year.
Kirk Cousins. The record belies a really strong campaign from Cousins. His embarrassing gaffe of lining up behind the guard to cost his team a timeout doesn’t help. It’s weird how similar his career numbers are to Tom Brady, but he is on the opposite end of the continuum of luck/clutch.
Lamar Jackson. Jackson has REALLY struggled the last month or so. The reasons for this aren’t just on him though. Injuries to the rest of the team have really hurt. Overall, he is still a really good player, and he is the one who has gotten them to 8-4.
Matt Stafford. He has shown a real improvement in LA, but recently he has seen a massive uptick in bad decisions that have cost the Rams. While most of his stats are really good (another great QBR), he has to stop making egregious errors that kill the team. Struggling with lingering injuries as well.
Honorable Mention and a quick reason for their omission. Dak Prescott (struggling in recent weeks despite having great pieces), Joe Burrow (too many turnovers, run heavy scheme), Derek Carr (consistent, but not great), Russell Wilson (has just been terrible, probably because of finger injury), Mac Jones (product of scheme/team/coaching), Carson Wentz (product of scheme, you cannot trust him).
Best quote of the week: Sean McDermott
The recent parade of people willing to cut down their opponents following a loss is bizarre. If you take an L, just live with it. Don’t talk about how your opponent isn’t good and self own in the process. With that said, he is absolutely right. The Patriots game plan wasn’t incredible. It was as simple as hell. The Patriots aren’t geniuses. The Bills just couldn’t stop the simplest approach in NFL history. See what I mean about self-owning?
Fun non-football item of the week:
Holy crap, this is quite possibly the first ever alley-oop goal. If you are not familiar with “The Michigan”, it is this. I don’t usually write much about hockey, but I do enjoy it a lot. Cool plays like this are where the fun is at. Don’t believe me? Check out their reaction on the bench.
Worst Bets For The Week: Because I like them
Over/Under: Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns OVER 42.5
The Ravens and Browns have both been struggling of late, especially offensively, but here, they get each other, which should help. The weather in Cleveland will be unseasonably pleasant for this one. The Ravens are basically out of cornerbacks at this point. The Browns have been struggling immensely to stop teams, and have historically struggled to contain Jackson. I think this is a surprise shootout, just like last December’s meeting.
Spread Pick: Dallas Cowboys -4.5 vs. WTF
The Cowboys have been struggling lately, and the WFT has been playing a lot better than they were early in the season, so this line is down to a very reasonable 4.5. The thing is, the Cowboys have all their weapons back now. They have gotten back key defensive pieces. They are the much healthier team now, especially compared to the last few weeks. I expect them to show they are the division favorite, even on the road, with a commanding victory over an overmatched WTF team.
Player Prop: Alvin Kamara OVER 69.5 rushing yards
I expect Kamara to return this week. The Jets have been struggling all season to contain running backs, allowing them to exceed their expected rushing totals nearly every week. I expect the Saints to take some pressure off of Taysom Hill and go to Kamara early and often. Furthermore, I expect them to be salting away a lead, which means more rushes than receptions.
Money Line Upset: Buffalo Bills +145 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I think this game plays to the Bills strengths in a big way. The Buccaneers have struggled to stop the pass all season. They also rely on the pass to move the ball. Meanwhile, the Bills struggle to run and stop the run, two things that you wouldn’t really focus on against the Bucs anyway. Meanwhile, the Bucs have not been playing their best football of late, and injuries have taken their toll. The Bills also have to be angry after being embarrassed on national TV last week. I expect a very intense Bills team.
My best tweet from the Week: Admittedly Ben was better in the second half.
Most Important Game Of The Weekend: Los Angeles Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals
This is a huge game for the Rams. This is probably the Rams last chance to catch the Cardinals in the race for the division. In recent weeks, the Rams have struggled, failing to gain ground on the Cardinals while they were missing Kyler Murray and Deandre Hopkins. Now, Murray and Hopkins are back. The Rams are coming off of a bye, but going on the road. They need their defense to step up and deliver an elite game, so they can rely more on a run pass balance to keep Matthew Stafford from trying to do too much. Meanwhile, the Cardinals just need to hold serve at home. They have been up for basically every big game they have played this season, and pounded the Rams earlier in the year. I expect a high level of intensity from the Rams. The Cardinals will need to match it.
The Game That Is On In Hell This Week: Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Coming off a big controversy, the Jacksonville Jaguars are headed to Tennessee. All week, Urban Meyer has been doing his best to dodge accusations that he benched James Robinson, unquestionably their best offensive player, for fumbling. He tried blaming the running backs coach, former Miami Dolphins legend Bernie Parmalee. Of course, blaming an assistant when you are the head coach is ludicrous and I am sure you are thinking that is terrible leadership, but let me remind you, Urban Meyer taught an actual class on leadership, so it couldn’t be. Meanwhile, the Titans will be missing walking Adonises (Adonisis? Adonisii? Adonisses?) Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown. They might get back Julio Jones, but for the most part, sinners will suffer watching boring Ryan Tannehill hand off a bunch to normal player D’Onta Foreman. Sorry Deshaun Watson.
Q and A section:
I’ve got your A’s right here.
Q. Would Shane Falco be a better starting QB than anyone on the Jets current roster? - Twitter user @dustfin13
A. First of all, this is by far the best question we have had so far. Second, obviously. There are several reasons why, so let’s go to the bullet points.
Pedigree. A former Ohio State legend, Falco played the top level of competition in college, unlike Zach Wilson who played a much softer schedule at BYU.
He knows how to overcome adversity. Unlike either Mike White or Zach Wilson, Shane has faced difficulties in his life and bounced back. After leading the Sentinals, the trajectory is clearly up for this legend.
He’s still in his prime. Unlike former legend Joe Flacco, Shane clearly still has the goods. Check out his mobility and arm.
He has common sense. Unlike Joe Flacco, I feel it is safe to assume he would get a COVID shot and not try to give everyone on the team COVID.
He is a true leader. Unlike the three currently on the roster, Shane commands the respect of a motley group of individuals, culminating in success. The Jets have no idea how that would work
None of those Jets guys would do this.
Best Christmas Cookie, worst Christmas Cookie? - my sister
My top 5.
Russian Tea Cakes
Peanut Butter with the Hershey’s kiss
Anything with Shortbread
Chewy Ginger cookies
Classic Sugar Cookies (thin and moist) with minimal icing
The worst: Gingerbread Man cookies. They just aren’t good, and I won’t pretend anymore. Plus you run the risk of losing them to foxes.
Combined question: please tell us what Tim Tebow really thinks about Stephan A. Smith sitting across from him on First Take Molly Querim senses that Cinephobe level tension. There is no way Tebow doesn’t want to give hands to Stephen A., right??? AND… Is Chris Simms the worst qb turned "analyst"? Also, is he the worst "analyst"? Or, is he just the worst? - via @wheatstrawI and @cockofthewalk00 (I guess cockofthewalk AND cockofthewalk0 were taken)
Bad NFL analysts are always a topic of conversation on the internet, and this week, some popular ones did some things. Let’s start with Simms, who had a meltdown when Dolphins Twitter took some shots at him following his bizarre claim that tight end Taysom Hill was more accurate than the leagues most accurate QB at the moment, Tua Tagovailoa.
Here is sampling of the Tim Tebow, Stephan A. interaction.
The problem with a lot of these “analysts” is their need to get attention. With Chris Simms, he frequently adjusts his analysis to deliver ridiculous exaggerations and make wild declarations to get attention. Stephen A. Smith, of course, has been the master of this move for a decade plus. I don’t think there is any real beef between Stephen A. and Tebow. Tebow is simply trying to get in the game by matching the bizarre nature of Stephen A.’s approach to “sports analysis”, which is just to say wild stuff and react as though you have been struck by lightening every time the other person speaks. Stephen A. Smith doesn’t know much about football. He isn’t doing film study. He is a basketball guy. He just gets fed hot takes (the one above happened to be correct BTW) to have and delivers them. Chris Simms is the worse analyst to me, because I actually believe he does study film. He presents himself as a serious analyst, but then deliberately makes crazed claims that he can’t back up to get attention. He could be an informed contributor, but chooses not to be. He is “The Worst”.
Why is Jussie Smollett back in the news? - Jussie Smollett
I don’t know Jussie, but I think we can all agree you put yourself there.
Would we really be that fascinated with Gardner Minshew if he didn’t have a mustache? He is a back up QB. Are there other players who get overhyped due to a non-football attribute? - former grad student intern Nathan
The short answer here is no. As I noted in Monday’s column, Gardner’s sartorial decisions could be best described as 80’s fighter pilot. I think his je ne sais quoi is fun in a sport that is very buttoned down for the most part. I think players who buck the status quo in any way end up being super popular, unless they lose. Losing as an oddball turns you into an outcast (see The Boz). Some quo buckers that come to mind include icons like Colin Kaepernick, Jim McMahon, Deion Sanders or Joe Namath. Some players who are famous for a quirk about them specifically might be Troy Polamalu (hair), Maurice Jones-Drew (height), Cam Newton (style), and even in the recent draft Quinn Meinerz (belly). The human mind is drawn to things outside of the ordinary as a protective instinct, but with the NFL, it lends itself to those who are willing to be idiosyncratic.
Please feel free to submit any questions you have in the comments or on Twitter! No topic is off limits, except who I am or what the hell I am doing.