HEY NOW! Look at that. We've got a sponsor for this weekend's lineup. And it's Vodka!
Because if we're talking about tailgating, there's really nothing better than alcohol with food. As far as what kind of alcohol goes with each type of food... Well, that's another story. For instance, if you're eating Hot Pockets at 3 in the morning, you may as well wash 'em down with some lukewarm vodka you found in a Solo Cup. I think I just described my college experience, actually.
On the other hand, if you're eating Filet Mignon, a classic Vodka Martini seems perfect. Or maybe you're just eating a regular ole dinner after a long day's work? Vodka and tonic. There's a drink that goes with every type of food.
So without further ado, let's rundown this week's NFL lineup by looking at the drinking side of the tailgate. All of these should be made with Absolut Vodka, of course *ch-ching*.
THE GOLD STANDARD: A BLOODY MARY
Colts at Patriots
Line: Patriots by 4
Deciding Factor: Will Tom Brady regain the upper hand in one of the greatest rivalries in NFL history?
Hard-Hitting Analysis: The Patriots have the better team this weekend, but that never seems to matter when these two teams play. And you can call it cliche if you want, but if Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are playing, you can pretty much guarantee it's going to be a fantastic game. Certain things in life, you can just count on. Like a Bloody Mary at a tailgate, there's no need to overthink it. Just enjoy it.
Giants at Eagles
Line: Eagles by 3
Announcers (NBC): Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth
Deciding Factor: Will Michael Vick continue to be pretty much invincible?
Hard-Hitting Analysis: Answer to the previous question: Probably. The Giants are technically 6-3, but it's the way they've looked in those losses that raises red flags. They just don't seem like a very good football team on either side of the ball. Maybe the loss to Dallas was a wakeup call, but probably not.
Bills at Bengals
Line: Bengals by 5.5
Announcers (CBS): Gus Johnson!!!!!!
Deciding Factor: Every game Gus announces is a can't-miss at this point.
Hard-Hitting Analysis: Even without Gus, this is one of those games between bad teams that could end up being entertaining. But once you factor in the Gus effect... Well, you just know that it's going to be close. Last week we put Jags-Texans in this category because of Gus, and then this happened:
We're riding out Gus' charm until further notice.
ALWAYS A SOLID CHOICE: A WHITE RUSSIAN
Raiders at Steelers
Line: Steelers by 7
Announcers (CBS): Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Deciding Factor: The Raiders are in first place. The Raiders are in first place.
Hard-Hitting Analysis: Before this season began I wrote an article looking back at the most insane decade in sports history, and talked about Oakland's playoff chances in 2010:
For them to leapfrog the, San Diego will have to regress at the same time Oakland jumps forward. That's possible, right? The Chargers have collapsed in the postseason for what feels like a decade straight. Eventually, that sort of thing catches up with you. And Oakland, with a new quarterback in , a better defense, and a slew of players coming into their own at the same time, will improve on last year's record no matter what. So, if the Chargers regress... The Raiders should be able to make the leap over San Diego, Kansas City (a credible threat themselves), and Denver (Josh McDaniels ... LOL).
So far, all of that has happened, and the Raiders are currently sitting in first place. But they haven't exactly looked dominant. And even though they beat the Steelers last season in Pittsburgh, this weekend will be a serious moment of truth. Can they show up? They don't even have to win. But if Oakland's a serious threat to win the AFC West, they should at least be able to make this a game. And it's the Raiders, so we really have no idea what to expect here. So, stay tuned.
Texans at Jets
Line: Jets by 7
Announcers (CBS): Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf
Deciding Factor: The Jets have looked painfully average the past two weeks, and yet, the Jets are 7-2 and technically a Super Bowl contender this year. Sometimes, the NFL makes no sense.
Hard-Hitting Analysis: But sometimes, the NFL makes perfect sense. Because as uneven as New York has looked, it's a much better brand of "inconsistent" than Houston. When New York comes out flat, they at least compete for the entire game. That's what won them games the past two weeks. With the Texans, they just shoot themselves in the foot. Whether it's killing themselves with stupid penalties and turnovers (like last week in Jacksonville), or just inexplicably mailing in a game here and there (losses to Dallas and the Giants earlier this year), they're just a bad team. Plenty of talent, but they have no idea how to be successful. And the Jets do. Because as confusing as the NFL can seem, coaching matters. And, well... Rex Ryan > Gary Kubiak.
HEY, IT GETS THE JOB DONE: SCREWDRIVER
Green Bay at Minnesota
Line: Packers by 3
Announcers (FOX): Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
Deciding Factor: How pissed off do you think Fox is that the Vikings are terrible this year?
Hard-Hitting Analysis: I mean, they've shoehorned the Vikings into the prime slot nearly every week, and that just means that most of America has had to watch the most dysfunctional team in the league every week. This paragraph from Elizabeth Merril's Vikings piece summed things up nicely:
Here's what we know: The Vikings, preseason picks to contend for the Super Bowl, are 3-6. The relationship between Favre and Childress has been strained since last season, when Childress tried to pull Favre from the Carolina game. Childress recently got into a heated argument with receiver Percy Harvin in practice. And on Nov. 1, Childress told his team that the Vikings were cutting Moss, only Childress did it before he informed his owner, Zygi Wilf, of the move.
And that's Fox's golden goose! Then again, Joe Buck and the Vikings deserve each other.
Lions at Cowboys
Line: Cowboys by 5.5
Announcers (FOX): Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and GOOOOOOSE
Deciding Factor: It's the Jon Kitna bowl! If you switched quarterbacks in this game (Shaun Hill and Jon Kitna), would either team even notice?
Hard-Hitting Analysis: Jason Garret is going to lead the Cowboys to a late-season resurgence, get hired by Jerry Jones full-time, and then become the next Norv Turner. As a Dallas fan, I know this is going to happen. I can feel it in my bones. AND I HATE IT.
But hey, he sure can throw a challenge flag. You see that wrist action? That's textbook:
Broncos at Chargers
Line: Chargers by 10. 10!
Announcers (ESPN): Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, and Ron Jaworski
Deciding Factor: *checks watch* ... Yup! It's about time for the Chargers to go on a late-season run to steal the AFC West. We're two weeks away from the "Look out for San Diego!" stories, and approximately seven weeks away from their disastrous exit from the first round of the playoffs.
Hard-Hitting Analysis: Having said that, the Broncos have looked surprisingly competitive at various points this season, and what they lack in talent (that their coach gave away), they make up for with effort. It's not a ringing endorsement, because this is pro sports, where effort really only gets you so far. But on Monday, it will at least get them within seven points of the Chargers. And against a Norv Turner-coached team, sometimes that's enough to steal a win.
Browns at Jaguars
Line: Jaguars by 1.5
Announcers (CBS): Bill Macatee and Rich Gannon
Deciding Factor: Is Colt McCoy the savior in Cleveland?
Hard-Hitting Analysis: Because David Garrard's definitely not the savior in Jacksonville.
YOU ARE POOR: VODKA W/ SPRITE
Ravens at Panthers
Line: Ravens by 10.5
Announcers (CBS): Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcotts
Deciding Factor: How many times will Brian St. Pierre get sacked this week?
Hard-Hitting Analysis: This game will be interesting because... Just kidding, this game won't be interesting at all. But it's still fun to watch a good team like Baltimore beat the crap out of someone, and that's what should happen in Charlotte this weekend.
Redskins at Titans
Line: Titans by 7
Announcers (FOX): Dick Stockton, Charles Davis, Jim Mora Jr.
Deciding Factor: Can the Titans win a game they're supposed to win?
Hard-Hitting Analysis: All year long, we've treated the Titans like a contender, but so far, they've yet to put together a really dominating stretch to prove our theory correct. Then again, maybe this just means they're about to peak at the perfect time. Because God knows, if any team is ripe for an confidence-shattering ass-whooping, it's the Washington Redskins.
YOU ARE AN ALCOHOLIC: VODKA WITH GATORADE
Cardinals at Chiefs
Line: Chiefs by 8
Announcers (FOX): Ron Pitts and John Lynch
Deciding Factor: The Chiefs have sort of come back to earth lately, huh?
Hard-Hitting Analysis: And don't look now, but the Cardinals are second in the NFC West. It's not crazy to think that 'Zona could steal the Todd Haley Bowl on the way to winning four of their last seven games, and sneaking into the playoffs at 8-8. Doesn't that feel like destiny?
Having said that, I really like these Chiefs fans.
Seahawks at Saints
Line: Saints by A MILLION
Announcers (FOX): Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick
Deciding Factor: The Saints are still in second place in their division, so this is a game that could be a little dangerous if they give it away.
Hard-Hitting Analysis: Then again, it's the Seahawks, so... They should be alright.
Falcons at Rams
Line: Falcons by 3
Announcers (FOX): Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan
Deciding Factor: This week's winner of the Sam Rosen Sweepstakes for Most Depressing Game Of The Week... The Rams and Falcons!
Hard-Hitting Analysis: But as depressing as this game looks on the surface, Sam Bradford and Matt Ryan are two of the best young quarterbacks in football, and if things break just right, it could turn into a pretty entertaining afternoon for Ms. Rosen. Or, you know, the Falcons could beat the crap out of St. Louis, because Matt Ryan's much better than Bradford, and the Rams are still the Rams.
Bucs at 49ers
Blogs: Bucs Nation and Niners Nation
Line: Bucs by 3.5
Announcers (FOX): Chris Myers, Kurt Warner
Deciding Factor: Bucs Nation or Niners Nation! Which nation will prevail?!
Hard-Hitting Analysis: All due respect to Joe Nedney, but the rest of the nation really doesn't care.