Thank goodness the Bears are off this week so I don’t have to think about them outside of my own nightmares. I am sure their next game in prime time against Green Bay will be fun, though. Really, really, fun.
What we did have last week was a crushing Badger victory over the saddest of Michigan teams. I don’t think Illinois or Michigan are any good but Wisconsin has looked terrific in its two games thus far. Northwestern will be a solid test this week but so far, I have found some football joy in my life thanks to Graham Mertz and the Badgers.
But I want to go back to Michigan for a minute. This once storied program has fallen to the wayside. Perhaps it is Jim Harbaugh’s fault, but truly, when was the last time Michigan was an “elite” program? They haven’t beaten Ohio State since 2011. They have never played in the Big Ten Championship game and are 6-12 in bowl games since 2000, including four straight losses.
I bet Harbaugh gets fired this offseason, but will that actually help Michigan “return to glory”? No, because there likely is no return to glory for Michigan. Fans of Michigan remember Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr and being considered a top 5 program in the country, but that’s not an accurate reflection of reality right now. By the way, I could write this exact same column about Nebraska football if people are interested.
Michigan gets highly-rated recruiting classes every year. From 2016-2019, they averaged the 12th best recruiting class in the country. Wisconsin, if you are wondering, is 28th. But they don’t seem to know what they are doing with those recruits. The coaching fails or the actual evaluation of talent failed when they signed those players. Michigan has been severely hampered at the quarterback position, too, despite getting highly-rated recruits like Cade McNamara and Joe Milton. Something is missing in the Michigan cocktail because right now, it’s flat and tastes like toilet water.
I’m not sure what the fix is for Michigan but I’m sure it involves an entirely new coaching staff next year, which likely means the loss of some recruits, and a major rebuild in the future. Turner’s Nick Faralli is likely crying at this point knowing that this is his future, but I know he knows it is true.
What Michigan likely needs to do is reinvent itself. Maybe top 10 recruiting classes aren’t the top priority if the players don’t fit what you want to do? Maybe they need to first figure out what it is they want to do, actually, and then find players who want to be a part of building something instead of just being an NFL factory.
Wisconsin knows the types of players it wants and recruits them. They never crack the top 20 in recruiting (their past two classes are 29th and 26th, respectively) but they recruit players that fit their system. Now, you can argue that Wisconsin hasn’t won a national title with this system, which is very, very true. But you also can’t deny their sustained success and maybe with a few breaks and a down year from Ohio State, they get a crack at the playoffs. Michigan, this bowl season, will be playing a lot of Madden and watching other Big Ten teams play in sunny Florida or California.
I was 10-4 last week but Flickinger won the week. He was very proud of himself. Too proud some might say.
• Arizona at Seattle: I think I’ve bet on Seattle too much this year. I believed in letting Russ cook but now he’s cooked things a little too long and thrown some of the worst picks I’ve ever seen. I know the Cardinals defense is not good but watching Kyler is just a treat. I’ll take the more fun team in this one. CARDINALS 27, SEAHAWKS 24.
• Philadelphia at Cleveland: Can we talk about how the team who wins the NFC East might only have five wins? Can we talk about that? The Bears would be leading that division by two games right now. And they are terrible! I’ll go Browns here but I won’t watch it. BROWNS 24, EAGLES 21.
• Atlanta at New Orleans: I am excited to see 2021 Bears quarterback Jameis Winston play for the Saints Sunday. Thankfully the Atlanta defense is...very forgiving...so his normal bad throws may not be quite so costly. SAINTS 31, FALCONS 20.
• Cincinnati at Washington: Washington stinks and I think the Bengals are due for a W. I love Joe Burrow and think the Bengals will steal this one though Washington needs to win to keep pace in their division...you know, the division where a 3-win team is currently leading. Yuck. BENGALS 23, WASHINGTON 20.
• Detroit at Carolina: The Lions need to win a few more games to keep Patricia around. Hopefully one of those is against the Bears but I’m going with another one against the Panthers. McCaffrey is out again and the Lions seem to have discovered something with Swift in the backfield. Couple that with the return of Kenny Golladay and I think the Lions steal a win. LIONS 27, PANTHERS 24.
• Pittsburgh at Jacksonville: The Packers almost blew it against the Jags last week but that may have been the Jags’ last stand. The Steelers have a much better defense and will pressure Luton enough to make sure the Jags don’t make it close. STEELERS 30, JAGUARS 17.
• Tennessee at Baltimore: The book seems to be out on the Ravens and how to stop them but I really don’t know if the Titans can do it. I think the Ravens come out looking to prove a point after the New England loss and the Titans pay the price for it. RAVENS 27, TITANS 20.
• New England at Houston: Am I going to fall victim to the Patriots again? I do think they are the better team here only because Houston is a dumpster fire but am I confident in this pick? No, absolutely not. PATRIOTS 23, TEXANS 21.
• Miami at Denver: Altitude always matters, especially with a QB who has never played in it. However, I think the Dolphins defense will be good enough to completely stymie the Broncos and the offense will do enough to win. DOLPHINS 20, BRONCOS 13.
• NY Jets at LA Chargers: The Jets are likely going 0-16. Somehow Adam Gase still hasn’t been fired. Incredible. CHARGERS 27, JETS 13.
• Green Bay at Indianapolis: I am very torn on this game. I think the Colts have problems on offense and they have the physical defense that really gives Green Bay problems. However, I think the Packers have enough of a pass rush to give Phillips Rivers trouble. I am currently picking the Packers to win this but reserve my right to change my mind later on in the week. PACKERS 24, COLTS 23.
• Dallas at Minnesota: The Cowboys have maybe a worse offense than the Bears and the Vikings will just pound Dalvin Cook down their throats. The Vikings may find their way into the playoffs which I didn’t expect to say three weeks ago. VIKINGS 27, COWBOYS 17.
• Kansas City at Las Vegas: The Chiefs will be ready to roll here after the early season loss to Las Vegas. The Raiders have discovered the winning formula of running the ball a lot but I don’t think that will be sustainable against the Chiefs. CHIEFS 30, RAIDERS 23.
• LA Rams at Tampa Bay: This is another game I am torn on. The Rams could absolutely win this game but I’ve also seen the Bucs just play lights out this year. I don’t feel confident about either team but if I had to pick one right now, it’s the Bucs. BUCCANEERS 28, RAMS 24.
• Bears vs. Bye Week: The Bye Week has the edge here because the Bears are an embarrassment to football and I hate everything about them.