Normally I do not cross into the baseball world while doing my weekly football piece, but I have to give props to the Kansas City Royals. I did predict them to make the playoffs (at 89-73, thank you very much), but their historic run through the postseason was even beyond my expectation.
It begs the question, is there an NFL team outside of the usual blue bloods capable of coming out of absolutely nowhere to reach Super Bowl XLIX?
This week’s picks will try to identify such teams while you can still get good odds. Which teams have endured even more frustration than the Royals over the past 29 years?
Week 6 record: 8-7
Season record 52-38-1
New York Jets (1-5) +9.5 at New England Patriots (4-2)
Think the Royals had a drought? When Joe Namath led the Jets to victory in Super Bowl III, pitchers and catchers were just weeks away from reporting, for the Kansas City’s inaugural season. The Patriots themselves got rolled in Kansas City, just like every other team over the past fortnight. It was supposed to be the end of Tom Brady. Guess not. I expected this spread to be a few points steeper.
ATS pick: Patriots
Minnesota Vikings (2-4) +5.5 at Buffalo Bills (3-3)
Let’s see, the NFL’s longest playoff drought along with a coach who came into the season on thin ice. Doug Marrone may just have some Ned Yost in him.
ATS pick: Bills
Miami Dolphins (2-4) +3.5 at Chicago Bears (3-3)
When the Royals won it all in 1985, the Bears were in the midst of their own dream season. The Dolphins provided the lone speed bump on Bears road to Super Bowl XX. History will not repeat itself, Jay Cutler is greater than Jim McMahon.
ATS pick: Bears
New Orleans Saints (2-3) +3 at Detroit Lions (4-2)
Historically these are the two franchises best representing futility in the Super Bowl era, with only one appearance between them combined. The Lions are the lone NFL team to be a perfect 0-for-48 in missing the big game.
ATS pick: Saints
Carolina Panthers (3-2-1) +7 at Green Bay Packers (4-2)
The Panthers game in Cincinnati last Sunday ended just like the 2002 MLB All-Star Game in Milwaukee. Roger Goodell threw his hands up in frustration as Mike Nugent missed the game-winning field goal.
ATS pick: Panthers
Cincinnati Bengals (3-1-1) +3 at Indianapolis Colts (3-2)
One cannot ignore the Colts royal blue color scheme. Andrew Luck would look right at home alongside Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas.
ATS pick: Colts
Seattle Seahawks (3-2) -7 at St. Louis Rams (1-4)
It could be a huge sports day in St. Louis with a potential NLCS Game 7 looming. But when I think Rams football, I see a team that once played in Anaheim Stadium. And Jeff Fisher reminds me way too much of Mike Scioscia these days.
ATS pick: Seahawks
Tennessee Titans (2-4) +5.5 at Washington (2-4)
In an evolving mystery, the Titans have yet to wear their home powder blue jerseys, which bear resemblance to the Royals old road outfits. Other than that I’m really stretching for baseball angles.
ATS pick: Titans
Cleveland Browns (3-2) -5.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6)
In a wide open AFC North, the Browns might just be the Royals’ doppelganger and make the playoffs. The long-term dilemma is which quarterback they keep after the year. It is a spot not unlike the Chargers a decade ago when Drew Brees was cut loose. Brian Hoyer looks far better than someone keeping a chair warm right now.
ATS pick: Browns
Atlanta Falcons (2-4) +7 at Baltimore Ravens (4-2)
After throwing five touchdown passes in the first 16 minutes last Sunday, Buck Showalter was probably wishing he could plug Joe Flacco into the Orioles rotation.
ATS pick: Falcons
Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) +4 at San Diego Chargers (5-1)
What would be crazier than Kansas City’s baseball team in the Fall Classic? Maybe San Diego’s football squad winning the AFC, and I wouldn’t rule it out. Philip Rivers became the first quarterback in league history to record at least a 120 passer rating in five consecutive games on Sunday. This team is firing on all cylinders.
ATS pick: Chargers
New York Giants (3-3) +6.5 at Dallas Cowboys (5-1)
Postseason baseball in New York used to be a right of autumn. Odell Beckham’s stock in Gotham rose faster than Oswald Cobblepot even before Victor Cruz got whacked by the Joker on Sunday Night Football. Then there are the Cowboys, relevant again in the Metroplex and riding a five-game win streak. Josh Hamilton is right, Dallas is a football town.
ATS pick: Giants
Arizona Cardinals (4-1) -3.5 at Oakland Raiders (0-5)
Former Cardinals coach Dennis Green is still upset over the A’s blowing the American League Wild Card game. “They were who they thought they were, and we let them off the hook,” he said. “If you want to crown the Royals, then crown them!” By the way, Billy Beane would be a great choice for Raiders general manager. He could be thrifty assembling a roster instead of overpaying for washed up veterans, imagine the concept!
ATS pick: Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers (4-2) +6.5 at Denver Broncos (4-1)
The Niners defense is so shorthanded that Jim Harbaugh wants to see if Hunter Pence could help. It’s an idea, but Hunter Pence can’t pass protect, Hunter Pence cannot play three-technique and Hunter Pence cannot read Peyton Manning audibles.
ATS pick: Broncos
Houston Texans (3-3) +3.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)
Head coach Mike Tomlin faced scrutiny after his team’s 31-10 loss to the Browns. But don’t worry, he has as much rope as Ron Gardenhire, it will take four bad years for him to be removed.
ATS pick: Texans