Handicapping is a difficult task. Making the profitable grade yearly for 36 years is daunting and has its moments. But I remain successful. At the start of this week’s handicapping, there are 230 players among the NFL Covid protocol. Many will be cleared and many will play. And some may also be added between Wednesday and Sunday’s game time. As any good professional, we will make the proper adjustments and move from five (5) games to releasing our top three (3) games. The top three is where the money has been made for my 36 year handicapping career. Here’s to no cancellations or game day changes. Thank You, WAR
10. Arizona Cardinals (10-5)
Could Kliff Kingsbury actually end up back on the hot seat? The calls for Kliff Kingsbury to be fired will only get louder if the Cardinals flame out of the playoffs. Coach Cool has his issues, but firing a winning coach without a solid upgrade plan usually ends in disaster. Just ask the Lions. Furthermore, center Rodney Hudson is a player that might not be on the stats page. Hudson is Kyler Murray's eyes and ears on the line of scrimmage, helps set the protection, alerts Murray and the rest of the offense to formations and takes care of the rest of the lineman on seemingly a play-by-play basis. Whenever Hudson is out, the Cardinals struggle in some way. He has missed five games thus far this season, and Arizona has lost three of them
9. Buffalo Bills (9-6)
They’ve finally realized that they need to let Josh Allen carry the offense. Dion Dawkins said it best after the Bills' win over the Patriots: "Josh [Allen] makes a quarter of a billion dollars. Josh is worth every penny." Let’s also look at their defense. The league's No. 1 pass defense in a variety of categories is anchored by the safety duo of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. They are the only safety tandem in the NFL with at least five interceptions each this season. They are individually tied for the fourth-most interceptions in the NFL this season and have combined for 19 passes defensed (10 Hyde, 9 Poyer). That’s nice to have in the pass orientated league.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)
Joe Burrow has thrown for 941 yards (!) in two games against the Ravens this season. Baltimore DC Don Martindale might want to update his list of quarterbacks who deserve the "gold jacket" treatment from his defense. Cincinnati wanted an immediate playmaker when it drafted WR Ja’Marr Chase, and it certainly appears to have that in the 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner. NOW; beat the Chiefs, and everyone will be on notice about these Bengals.
7. Tennessee Titans (10-5)
That win against the 49ers serves as a reminder of how dangerous this team can be. What a difference A.J. Brown makes. The star receiver dominated the 49ers' patchwork secondary and showed Tennessee can still be dangerous in January, especially if Derrick Henry returns. Chances are Jeffrey Simmons is the catalyst every time there's a big play from the Titans' defense. Simmons' ability to collapse the pocket from the interior has led to multiple interceptions by the Titans. He anchors the middle of the defensive line by routinely blowing up interior offensive linemen and stopping opposing ball carriers for a loss.
6. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
RB Jonathan Taylor's production has helped lighten quarterback Carson Wentz's load significantly, and the running back's ability to dominate on the ground helps keep a defense that has forced 31 turnovers this season fresh throughout the game. The Colts should be a threat in the AFC playoffs, but their most significant obstacle to a deep run might be COVID-19. Indianapolis has among the lowest — if not the lowest — vaccination rate in the NFL, including quarterback Carson Wentz. A dome team perhaps has the best chance of winning in the elements in the postseason. BUT, all I hear and read is that the Colts are the team nobody wants to play. Hopefully the players aren’t reading the same comments.
5. Los Angeles Rams (11-4)
The dodged a bullet on the road at Minnesota. Elite teams win road games in which their quarterbacks throw three interceptions. After a winless November, the Rams swept their December schedule and now are back on top in the NFC West. Now we get to find out if Matthew Stafford is the Super Bowl-worthy quarterback many (including me) claimed he could be while wasting away in Detroit. After all, he has Cooper Kupp. Kupp is setting a new standard with more than 90 receiving yards in 11 consecutive games. With the additional 17th game, Kupp is on pace to tie the single-season receptions record and break the single-season receiving yards mark.
4. Dallas Cowboys (11-4)
The slump that Dak Prescott wasn’t in is now over. The Cowboys' offense finally came alive Sunday while playing against the Football Team. When Dak is locked in, Dallas is hard to beat. Hopefully, the old adage that defense wins in playoffs is still true. LB Micah Parsons should be a lock selection for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award and also should be one of the top contenders for the Defensive Player of the Year. Parsons leads the team in sacks, has made key plays in key moments and has dominated at the line of scrimmage and off the ball.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4)
It’s hard to feel sorry for Tom Brady. as the injuries keep piling up. Can they keep winning despite them? A year after having the best injury luck in the NFL, the Bucs have been decimated as the playoffs approach. If anyone can drag a team to the Super Bowl by himself, it's old No. 12. His big problem though is that there's no way to replace what WR Chris Godwin brings.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
Maybe they needed to bottom out before they could start climbing again.After 16 weeks, we are right back where we started — wondering if anyone in the AFC has what it takes to knock off the Chiefs. S Tyrann Mathieu still leads the Chiefs in interceptions (with three) and fumble recoveries (also with three). He also is the locker room leader who wouldn't let the Chiefs quit on themselves after the season's rotten start. Maybe he’s the answer for those perceived defensive woes.
1. Green Bay Packers (12-3)
Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and DeVonte Adams might be the best triangle of offensive power in the NFL.Adams is arguably the best receiver in football right now, and his connection with Rodgers is unmatched. What's more, teams have been known to dedicate so much attention to him, like the Ravens did in Week 15, that his presence alone is invaluable. It’s not always pretty, but the outcome was very sweet for Green Bay as the Browns shots themselves in the foot last Sunday. The sportsbooks dodged many money line bets.