Week 6, all right! Let's get right to it.
Steelers (-6.5) at Titans -- When in doubt, never bet against Matt Hasselbeck?
Bengals (-1) at Browns -- Why is everyone so down on the Cleveland Browns? That's a fair question from Jack Dickey at Deadspin. They're more competent than the 0-5 record would indicate -- and probably better than teams like the Jaguars, Titans, or Chiefs.
Brandon Weeden is actually decent about 80 percent of the time and should get better as he cuts down on turnovers. Trent Richardson's a volcano of rage and awesomeness that erupts every Sunday and, if they get some receivers by next year, the offense could get interesting. Throw in one or two playmakers on defense to go along with their dominant special teams, and the Browns could be a problem as early as next season. (BELIEVELAND.)
On the other hand... 1) Mike Holmgren is running things. 2) Mike Holmgren hired a lot of terrible coaches. 3) Can anyone envision a scenario where we actually take Brandon Weeden seriously? The problem isn't his mistakes, it's that no matter what, he's never going to be a franchise QB. 4) They chose Trent Richardson to be that cornerstone instead, and Trent Richardson is awesome, but Trent Richardson's gonna get hurt. 5) As Football Outsiders pointed out this summer, it's almost like the Browns are working with a Super Bowl blueprint from 20 years ago. 6) Mike Holmgren is running things.
So why is everyone on down on the Browns? Because even when it seems like there's actually more hope than meets the eye, it's just a mirage, cruelly masking the same entrenched hopelessness that's been there forever. As for Sunday, it's just shocking that this isn't a Thursday Night game in December.
Colts at Jets (-3.5) -- TEEEEEBOWWWWWWWW. Mark Sanchez hasn't actually been the biggest problem in New York, but if I were Rex Ryan I'd start Tebow regardless. Rex could make it look like Woody Johnson forced him into it (probably true), then throw up his hands as Tebow throws 35 interceptions in 10 games and the whole season goes up in flames, then he gracefully bows out at the end of the year with a built-in excuse for "What Went Wrong." In every interview all he has to say is "Tebow," and everyone will understand, and soon Rex will have another great coaching job, even though his Jets team was doomed with or without Tebow.
I'm telling you, of all the people who should want Tebow on that field, Rex Ryan even beats Shanoff and Bayless for the top of the list. Tebow would be the perfect scapegoat.
Chiefs (+4) at Bucs -- YUCK. Let's just pretend this game isn't even happening. That "Argo" movie opens this weekend, and it's a good reminder: Hollywood probably needs more spy movies. There's endless material that's 1,000 times better than anything we get anywhere else.
For instance, here's a story from the Smithsonian Magazine about the CIA and a rogue agent, and there's a solid six different movie ideas just in this one article. My favorite:
The Office of Strategic Services, the CIA’s predecessor, targeted the Vichy French Embassy in Washington, D.C. one night in June 1942. An operative code-named Cynthia arranged a tryst inside the embassy with her lover, who was the press attaché there. The tryst, as both knew, was a cover story—a way to explain her presence to the night watchman. After the 31-year-old, auburn-haired spy and her lover stripped in the hall outside the code room, Cynthia, naked but for her pearls and high-heeled shoes, signaled out a window to a waiting OSS safe expert, a specialist known as the "Georgia Cracker." He soon had the safe open and the codebooks removed; an OSS team photographed the books in a hotel nearby, and Cynthia returned them to the safe before dawn. The stolen codes were said to have helped OSS undercover operations in North Africa that paved the way for the Allied invasion there six months later.
Can we please make a movie with Scarlett Johansson wearing nothing but pearls and high heels and stealing German codes in 1942? We could call it "Cynthia and Georgia Cracker." It'd be great. Hollywood releases a new superhero movie every other week, and it's time we take things in a different, much awesomer direction.
Cowboys at Ravens (-3.5) -- Here's what we wrote for Alex Smith in this week's Sunday Sunday Sunday: "Yes, the 'game manager' tag is like saying a girl has a great personality. HOWEVER, ask fans of Tony Romo and Jay Cutler how they feel about dating a crazy hot girl, and soon enough you will see that all things considered, a great personality can sometimes be a much better deal." Really though, as someone who's lived through seven years of Tony Romo, stability is an underrated quality.
Raiders at Falcons (-9) -- Hey, Mark Schlereth!
I'm generally too lazy for advanced states and "sample size" arguments, but Mark Schlereth's career is like a scared-straight documentary for anyone who ever questions statistics and/or logic. It's all fun and games until one day you wake up and realize you sound exactly like Mark Schlereth.
Lions at Eagles (-4) -- "For what? For who?" This story on Ricky Waters is really good.
Rams (+3.5) at Dolphins -- Not sold on the Ryan Tannehill-led Dolphins, but VERY sold on Young GZ and the Rams (at least against the Dolphins).
Patriots (-4) at Seahawks -- Feels like this is the part of the season where the Pats roll off 12 wins in a row and look unstoppable, setting themselves up nicely for one more letdown the playoffs.
Vikings (OFF) at Redskins -- This line's off the board until RGIII's status is confirmed, which is a good excuse to remind everyone that the Redskins are hopeless idiots. It wasn't a designed run that got RGIII hurt last week but, when asked about his playcalling this week, if RGIII plays, Skins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said:
"If I went into a game thinking I had to call a different game because, if he got hit, he’s going to be hurt, then he shouldn’t be playing. If he’s cleared, he’s cleared, he’s okay. That’s my assumption."
Even before he got hurt they were running way too many designed runs for RGIII. So ... Good to know that his concussion changes nothing on that front. It's no less insane than exposing Tom Brady to an extra 10-15 hits per game, and the Redskins do it EVERY SINGLE GAME. So yeah: The Shanahans will almost certainly ruin RGIII.
That's my assumption, and it hasn't changed.
Bills at Cardinals (-5) -- A year ago the five-year, $65 million Kevin Kolb looked like the most ridiculous deal in the league, and suddenly he looks pretty solid for the Cardinals. So hey, maybe there's still hope for Ryan Fitzpatrick and his $59 million deal.
Giants at 49ers (-6.5) -- Spectacular:
You know JPP is good because he can get anyway with saying that in public. That's LT shit right there.
Packers (+3.5) at Texans -- The Texans are like the 49ers, but with a much better offense -- one that's legitimately scary when it gets going, and could drop 40 on anyone in the league. Then they have defense that attacks and makes plays for the entire game. In other words, the Texans are the two-headed nightmare everyone expected from the Packers the past two seasons. But because the NFL makes no sense sometimes, we're taking Green Bay this week.
Broncos (+1.5) at Chargers -- The worst part about having someone like Philip Rivers on your team is that he's just good enough to be the star for his entire career, and never good enough to actually take the team anywhere. In other words, just good enough to make you care, and just disappointing enough to break your heart over, and over, and over again for 15 years.
LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 8-6
OVERALL RECORD: 42-34-2