Ho Ho Ho!
RJ Claus is in town and I've brought all of you gifts from the NFL Pole!
I've made my list and I've checked it twice, I know which teams are terrible and which are nice. It's a White Christmas for some folks while the Grinch has stolen the playoff dreams of others.
Week 16 kicks off with a Christmas Eve matchup on NFL Network's Thursday Night Football. So giddy up, giddy up, let's go! I can hear those sleigh bells ring-ting-tingling which means it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride with you through my weekly picks!
Don't touch the reindeer. They bite. I'm trying to calm them down, but they take after Odell Beckham Jr. so there's not much that I can do about it.
Thursday Night Football: San Diego Chargers (4-10) At Oakland Raiders (6-8)
The boughs of holly are all around the Black Hole this week as it will be the final time that the Raider Faithful will get to see one of the finest to ever lace 'em up - Charles Woodson.
The Heisman-winning Wolverine announced that this season would be his last earlier this week. The Raiders responded by announcing that they might channel his Michigan days and line him up at wide receiver or have him serve some return duties. What a Christmas Miracle that would be!
Charles could line up at all 11 positions at the same time and probably beat this Chargers team as they are pretty spent. The Bolts have quit on the season as they seem to be destined for life in Los Angeles. Things could be worse.
Prediction: Chargers - 17, RAIDERS - 30
Saturday Night Football: Washington Redskins (7-7) At Philadelphia Eagles (6-8)
The NFC East could be sewn up Saturday Night when the Washington Football Club visits the land where Super Bowls run dry... the city of Brotherly Love - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Those Redskins caught a little bit of fire last week with their impressive win over the Bills. The Eagles might as well have been on fire with how bad they played at home against the Cardinals.
Chip Kelly might be the real-life incarnation of The Grinch with all of his smoothie drinking ways. DeMarco Murray is little Cindy Lou Who... confused at how Chip would want to steal happiness and joy from him.
There will be no joy for either Chip or DeMarco as Kirk Cousins, of all people, will put the exclamation point on his Cinderella season. I like that.
Prediction: REDSKINS - 27, Eagles - 23
Carolina Panthers (14-0) At Atlanta Falcons (7-7)
This is your weekly reminder that Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons are criminally overrated.
After he throws two interceptions this week, yes it is happening, Matty "Ice" will officially tie Peyton Manning for the league-lead in interceptions this season. As shocking as that sentence is remember that Manning hasn't thrown a pass since November 15th.
As terrible as the Falcons are, the Panthers are equally awesome. I'm convinced that these guys are untouchable. Whether you want them to go undefeated or not you need to accept that the fate of NFL History resting on the Atlanta Falcons is not a good idea.
Prediction: PANTHERS - 37, Falcons - 13
Dallas Cowboys (4-10) At Buffalo Bills (6-8)
The Kellen Moore bandwagon has pulled into town! Are you on it?
As doubtful as that is, I'd imagine that Moore's crowd of supporters is still larger than Rex Ryan's. The Buffalo Head Coach has huffed and puffed more than usual this year, and it's gotten his team nowhere. Shocker.
The Dallas Cowboys are past the point of being desperate for a win. At this point they just want to not be totally embarrassing. The odds of that against 'ol Rexy are pretty good if you ask me.
Although Rex Ryan is as inept as they come, these Cowboys have served as a great tune-up game for those in need. Eddie Lacy was having a terrible year and under some heavy scrutiny up until two weeks ago when he played the Cowboys and everything was perfect again!
Look for all of the Buffalo problems to suddenly be their area of expertise on Sunday.
Prediction: Cowboys - 19, BILLS - 24
Chicago Bears (5-9) At Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)
There are so many storylines going on around the NFL all the time that some are bound to slip through the cracks.
Lovie Smith is getting a chance to face his former team at his new casa. He's probably prepping some coal for their stockings.
I want to like the Bears. I really do. They have what should be at least a watchable team, but they find ways to continually ruin it.
Jameis has been so up and down during his rookie season, but he'll find a way to get it going on Sunday. His rookie year will go full circle as he beats the team based in the city where he was drafted. Hooray for circles!
Prediction: Bears - 20, BUCCANEERS - 27
Cleveland Browns (3-11) At Kansas City Chiefs (9-5)
Who has a better chance at survival... Frosty the Snowman in July or the Browns against any professional football team? Tough question, isn't it?
It's the right time to rock the night away for the Browns. Your season is over, Cleveland. This is who you are. Embrace it.
The Chiefs are rolling right now. If you think the Browns are getting in the way of that then you've had one too many candy canes this year.
Prediction: Browns - 16, CHIEFS - 33
San Francisco 49ers (4-10) At Detroit Lions (5-9)
Our poor eyes.
Go to the store and get yourself a can of chicken noodle soup. You're going to need it after watching this game. I don't care that the Lions are coming off a win on Monday Night Football... these are two of the worst teams on this planet.
This year to, to save me from tears, I'm giving this game to someone special - Ebenezer Scrooge. Take care of this game for me, will ya buddy? Make it go away forever.
Prediction: 49ers - 9, LIONS - 23
Houston Texans (7-7) At Tennessee Titans (3-11)
This is a real thing.
The potentially Brandon Weeden-led Houston Texans can clinch the AFC South, and therefore a home playoff game, by beating the Zack Mettenberger-led Tennessee Titans.
What did we do to deserve this horror? This is supposed to be the season of joy to the world!
Heaven and Nature are singing about how weird of a season this has been, and this game is as much proof as you need.
Joy to the Texans. You're less terrible. Barely.
Prediction: TEXANS - 17, Titans - 6
Indianapolis Colts (6-8) At Miami Dolphins (5-9)
Seriously... what did we do as a society to deserve such terrible football games this late in the season?
I mean, you think "Week 16" and you immediately think about epic games with so much on the line. You think about watching this year's Colts with Matt Hasselbeck and now potentially Charlie Whitehurst versus this year's Dolphins and you feel like someone kicked you right in the jingle bells.
Santa has seen these teams when they were sleeping, and he thinks they play better football there in their dreams than they do on any kind of field.
Watch out, you will cry. You can pout Colts, I'm telling you why.
Prediction: Colts - 16, DOLPHINS - 27
New England Patriots (12-2) At New York Jets (9-5)
Finally! A real game! This is just a stocking stuffer, but get excited.
We've got a great division matchup here between the Patriots and Jets. New England is in contention for the number one overall seed in the AFC while the Jets are trying to keep their wildcard hopes alive. This game smells like a peppermint mocha... nice and epic.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is on fire, man. This is real fire, too, not just a case of playing the Cowboys recently. Tom Brady is Tom Brady, though. Who will prevail?
The Jets are going to get up for this game. They're going to throw the kitchen sink at the Patriots. This is the type of game that usually can overwhelm New England.
Which is why they're going to win it dramatically at the end.
Prediction: PATRIOTS - 34, Jets - 32
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) At Baltimore Ravens (4-10)
I could not care less that the Ravens beat the Steelers in the first matchup of these teams earlier this season.
That was a completely different Steelers team, one that was not scoring at absolute will on teams.
Pittsburgh just proved that their offense can hang with the best with their victory over the Broncos last week. All that Baltimore proved was that they seem to choose the pants that the team wears in the dark, or that they just don't care about looking good at all.
Give me Pittsburgh. Big.
Prediction: STEELERS - 37, Ravens - 10
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9) At New Orleans Saints (5-9)
There's a heavy-scoring offense taking the field at the Superdome on Sunday. It's the Jacksonville Jaguars, not the New Orleans Saints.
The Jags are going to let it snow points everywhere! The Saints would have a difficult time hanging with them normally, but consider that Drew Brees is hurting and might not play and you've got a disaster waiting to happen.
You're going to hear some boos in New Orleans during this game. The Saints loyalists are going to reach their limit when they're getting boatraced by the Jaguars. Can you blame them?
Prediction: JAGUARS - 31, Saints - 14
Green Bay Packers (10-4) At Arizona Cardinals (12-2)
Sunday is going to be a silent night in Green Bay.
All of the cheeseheads are under the incredible misunderstanding that they have a good football team on their hands. Has anyone caught more breaks, or had an easier schedule, than the Pack this year? Anybody? Bueller?
This is going to be a trip back down to earth for Aaron Rodgers as he and his friends are going to face an elite team for the first time in quite a while.
It's a shame that Tyrann Mathieu tore his ACL last week, but it won't matter during this game. The Cardinals are going to rock around Aaron Rodgers like a Christmas tree.
Prediction: Packers - 20, CARDINALS - 45
St. Louis Rams (6-8) At Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
Jeff Fisher has one pretty reliable consistency with his Rams, and that's that they always get up for division games.
St. Louis has played San Francisco, Arizona, and Seattle pretty tough over the last few seasons. In fact they even beat the Seahawks in Week 1 of this season. The Rams rise above themselves for these big games.
Those days are over.
The Rams are having a Blue Christmas, and pretty much a blue existence. The Seahawks are peaking at just the right time and no one, especially the little baby sheep Rams, are going to get in the way of that.
Prediction: Rams - 13, SEAHAWKS - 33
Sunday Night Football: New York Giants (6-8) At Minnesota Vikings (9-5)
The New York Giants have one of the most explosive and talented receivers on their team.
They will be without his services during this game thanks to his antics last week against the Carolina Panthers.
Odell Beckham Jr. is a game-changer and would have given the Giants a huge chance in this contest. Without him they are left to rely on Elisha and we all know how that can go.
Minnesota has lost a teeny little bit of steam, but a teeny bit is all its going to take to beat the G-Men who have 99 problems... all of them being pretty relative to OBJ.
Prediction: Giants - 17, VIKINGS - 27
Monday Night Football: Cincinnati Bengals (11-3) At Denver Broncos (10-4)
There's a lot riding on this game.
The Bengals and Broncos are both in the running for a first round bye in this year's playoffs. The Broncos might even be getting ahead of themselves with that thought as the Chiefs are only a game behind them in the AFC West race. Yikes.
Good thing they have Brock Osweiler! Against AJ McCarron! What a weird season.
The Broncos are starting to fall apart, we saw it in Pittsburgh last week. A dance against one of the deepest teams in football is not the way to rebound and propel yourself forward.
Prediction: BENGALS - 24, Broncos - 20
DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line
The Cowboys got off to a busy start to week two of free agency on Monday, and capped it off by signing defensive lineman Kerry Hyder to a one year deal.
The former Detroit Lion could be classified as a "one year wonder" of sorts, but when you look closer at his career arc, you see that Hyder can provide upside at multiple positions across the Cowboys' defensive front.
After having 8 sacks and 19 quarterback hits as a defensive end in 2016, Hyder missed all of 2017 with an achilles injury. Last season, under new head coach Matt Patricia, Hyder was moved out of position and forced to play as a nose tackle and 5-technique more often.
So, the last time Hyder was healthy and playing in the role in he will likely fill in Dallas, he was productive. Yes that was a couple of seasons ago but it makes Hyder worth the one year deal he received from the Cowboys.
What exactly is that role, though?
I see Hyder primarily as a rotational 3-technique for the Cowboys. At just 270 pounds Hyder isn't going to play over the center often, and won't be very useful as a 1-technique against the run. He's at his best when lining on the outside shade of an offensive lineman, where he can use his get-off and quickness to create pressure.
Kerry Hyder can also fill in at defensive end if needed, especially when the Cowboys go into a nickel package. Hyder is similar to Tyrone Crawford in his ability to move inside and out, but is a bit better of a pass rusher than Crawford when at his best.
Hyder is a high energy, motor, and character defensive lineman who will fit right in with a Rod Marinelli unit. If it all clicks for Hyder and he regains his 2016 form, the Cowboys will have stolen an impressive pass rushing defensive lineman who can win from multiple positions.
If Hyder is actually a "one year wonder" who is more of his 2018-self with the Cowboys despite being put in a better role to succeed, Dallas can move on rather quickly because he is only on a one year deal.
This is a smart signing by the Cowboys front office as they look to re-tool their defensive line, and avoid being pigeon-holed into over-drafting at a certain position this Spring.
New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF
On Tuesday this week it became official the Cowboys would sign former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one year deal worth an estimated $5 million. After his visit Monday morning, speculation around whether and when he would sign was swirling.
Cobb confirmed his intentions to join the Cowboys himself, and did so with some A+ GIF usage on Twitter.
In case you don't know, the GIF Cobb tweeted is Woody from Toy Story, emerging confidently and tipping his cap.
This was Cobb signaling that he his a Cowboy, and he appears excited to be joining America's Team. Cobb also received some social media love from his now former teammates in Green Bay, including wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers had some parting words for new Cowboys WR Randall Cobb
Clearly Randall Cobb made an impact in Green Bay, both on and off the field. Let's hope he can replicate some of that in Dallas now that he has joined the Cowboys.
Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.
McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.
None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.
The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.
Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?
"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.
On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.
Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.
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