If someone who paid no attention whatsoever to the NFL asked you this weekend what the biggest storyline of the season has been through the first seven weeks, you’d probably arrive pretty quickly at Peyton Manning.
Manning is 39-years-old. He’s had multiple neck surgeries, which have caused him to lose feeling in his fingers. He can’t bend down to take off his cleats on his own after games. He leads the NFL in interceptions with 10, and is on pace to throw more picks this year than he has since 2001. He’s completing just 62% of his passes – his worst rate since his rookie season. His arm looks shot, like a baseball player left in a game one inning too long. The balls wobble through the air as though R.A. Dickey were messing around with his knuckleball grip on a football.
If you spend any time consuming NFL-related content whatsoever, you know this and have heard about it almost as often as you’ve heard about how much money you can win on FanDuel. And on Sunday night, when Manning and the 6-0 Broncos face Aaron Rodgers and the undefeated Packers, you’ll undoubtedly hear about Manning’s struggles every time he misses a throw.
That Manning’s obituary has already been written is unsurprising, especially in the NFL, and I’m as guilty of it as anyone. But rather than shouting for Brock Osweiler, or shouting at anyone who calls for Osweiler, we ought to be able to appreciate Manning while admitting the swan song is well upon us.
So make yourself some chicken parm on Sunday night. Even if the throws aren’t perfect, and he looks like a shell of the quarterback who threw 55 touchdowns just two years ago, a league with a run-down Peyton Manning is still way better than a league with no Peyton Manning at all.
[Record last week: 8-6]
[Record on the year: 47-45-3]
Miami Dolphins (+8) at New England Patriots
- Rich Schultz/GettyImages
Gronk is like that middle schooler who went through puberty four years before everyone else. It’s so unfair.
The pick: Patriots -8
Detroit Lions (+5.5) at Kansas City Chiefs (in London)
Man, what do the poor folks of London have to do to get a half-decent game?
The pick: Lions +5.5
Minnesota Vikings (-1) at Chicago Bears
Why is this line so low? The Bears are trash.
The pick: Vikings -1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7) at Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta hasn’t looked any good in their past two games, but I still think they win easily here. The Bucs are coming off an embarrassing late-game collapse to Kirk Cousins, which, I mean, come on.
The pick: Falcons -7
New York Giants (+3) at New Orleans Saints
- Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Giants lose by more than a field goal.
The pick: Saints -3
San Francisco 49ers (+8.5) at St. Louis Rams
I picked Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon before Todd Gurley. I’m in last place in my fantasy league.
The pick: Rams -8.5
Arizona Cardinals (-5) at Cleveland Browns
The Browns are sort of like the Giants in that both teams are annoyingly bipolar. Needless to say, starting Josh McCown at quarterback last week didn’t do wonders for my fantasy team. Did I mention I’m in last place?
The pick: Cardinals -5
Cincinnati Bengals (PK) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Andy Dalton for MVP!
The pick: Bengals
San Diego Chargers (+3) at Baltimore Ravens
- Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Joe Flacco is the most elite 1-6 quarterback of all time. What world do we live in where the Ravens have a worse record than the Browns?
The pick: Ravens -3
Tennessee Titans (+4) at Houston Texans
If you’re a fan of football, maybe don’t watch this one!
The pick: Texans -4
New York Jets (-2.5) at Oakland Raiders
Let’s see how well the Jets can do on the road against a sneaky good team.
The pick: Raiders +2.5
Seattle Seahawks (-6) at Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant will help keep things interesting, but the Seahawks still win.
The pick: Seahawks -6
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Denver Broncos
- Andrew Weber/Getty
The pick: Packers -3
Indianapolis Colts (+7) at Carolina Panthers
I like the Colts with a backdoor cover here.
The pick: Colts +7