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Football Fantasy! A pizza party in Pittsburgh, Alex Collins faces top run defense, and the Broncos’ toxic promiscuity

Being honest about Carson Wentz’s injury, the Chargers and Chiefs and the 1,001 Nights of the AFC West plus Teddy Bridgewater’s knocking on the door

NFL: AFC Championship-Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Note: If you came looking for fantasy football recommendations, I don’t have anything for you. This season, Football Fantasy! here at Field Gulls will offer a recurring daydream considering the weekly football schedule from a perspective of entertaining narratives and wished-for results across the non-Seattle Seahawks landscape. Here, we welcome storylines and silliness to topple other interests from week to week as we deliver the lowdown on the rest of the league from the land of make believe. For more detailed explanation of the picks, look here.

We never like to cheer injuries. We feel remorseful, and we feel like we are violating some principles of sportsmanship, but most completely we feel insecure enough to follow collectively woven platitudes about “class”—forgetting that’s a term of snobbish pretension representing something that explicitly serves a cutting edge dividing flesh from flesh. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we cheer injuries at large by supporting football in the first place, and we cheer injuries in a particular direction when we make our choice for one team to physically beat another.

I mean, when I was a student at Wisconsin all those year ago, sometime halfway between Russell Wilson’s Rose Bowl year and Darrell Bevell’s, I used to recoil when the student section taunted in unison whenever an opponent’s injury delayed the game, “Shoot him like a horse!” But that was not any honorable revulsion against the implication of euthanasia or mercilessness, more a facile intellectual distancing myself from the doofus dogma and impatience of the crowd, like Saul Williams or Sage Francis trying to break a stale call and response routine.

Classiness in sports indeed always masks true feelings behind a scrim of solemnity that mocks the primal nature of the endeavor. And we have to wear masks all the time to get along, that’s part of what participation means. But what I’m getting at is that here at Football Fantasy! I’m not going to pretend I’m sorry about Carson Wentz going down. I mean sure I don’t wish the man mangled; I’m not going to delight in it, but I want to chronicle the narrative excitement I felt for that change of direction in the drama. Is hoping for his failure so much worse? (This almost begs for a coxmeme.) I was bored by the nimbus of celebration spread around Wentz and would rather feel free to support the Philadelphia Eagles defense and running game that so stoke my coals otherwise, if the right circumstances line up.

Likewise I joked absurdly some weeks ago about Aaron Rodgers getting injured (for the sake of preserving some silly statistic for Dave Krieg), but then when Rodgers did get hurt a few weeks later (too late for poor Mudbone) I did feel guilty. I felt obligated to publicly verse my contrition. But I also genuinely want the Green Bay Packers to lose as much as possible—so I refused to look the gift horse inside its grilled cheese, as they say. I’m not making an argument on behalf of this feeling, I’m only trying to speak its name. There are a hundred pieces of thread motivating me to cheer one way or another on a weekly basis—few of them get to indulge or command—but I admit private devilishness curls its wicked smile and wags its tail ever so often.

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

The Broncos remind me of my friend who was married when I met her in 2014, worked a daytime job and performed in a band. Then she got divorced, quit her job, moved in with a DJ and did drugs every night for a year before enlisting some sidepiece to attack the the new boyfriend with a samurai sword, then started bartending to try to make it on her own but keeps getting fired and every time I run into her she’s hooked up to some new controlling boy in order to have a place to live and some cash. She wants to start a career in photography but I think she’s driving an electric cab or something and one time she told me she’s not independent yet but she’s “intendependent”.

Anyway I know how bad Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler are but it’s still crazy how Denver won a Super Bowl two years ago and now they’re 32nd in weighted DVOA. I look at that defense like I think I see the same person when I see my friend but that only makes everything more awkward. Still more talented than the Colts though.

My choice: Broncos

Sharp pick: Denver (-2.5)

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

With Travis Swanson and Ricky Wagner out, and Graham Glasgow playing out of position for Detroit, this game is a perfect chance for my boy Eddie Goldman to teleport through blockers and challenge the value of a stock quarterback like Matt Stafford.

My choice: Lions

Sharp pick: Chicago (+5)

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

The slippery saga of the AFC West continues, with reversals of fortune for each squad mirrored fully in the peripety of the other until now they meet again tied atop the division. I feel, like the story of the murdered damsel and the Three Apples, more twists will come to shake loose the truth of the conference’s final playoff bid. But I fear Alex Smith is probably the damsel locked in the chest, in this case, while the Oakland Raiders lurk like the detective Ja’far’s treacherous slave in that tale to provide that final revelation when they visit Los Angeles in week 17.

My choice: Chargers

Sharp pick: Los Angeles (-1)

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills

There’s no blizzard in Buffalo this week, but picture this dude trying to play football in sub-freezing temperatures in upstate New York.

My choice: Bills

Sharp pick: Buffalo (-3.5)

Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers

If Green Bay gets eliminated Sunday will Aaron Rodgers continue to put his collarbone at risk?

My choice: Panthers

Sharp pick: Carolina (-2.5)

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns

This is a fantastic matchup of former Seahawk Alex Collins running against the top rush defense in the league and future Seahawk Josh Gordon running patterns through the second best pass defense in the league. Oh and uh it’s a revenge game against Baltimore for stealing a super successful franchise from Cleveland, winning two Super Bowls, and leaving them with an expansion team that has gone 88-213 in the 18 years since then. Baltimore won its 88th game during its 11th season. Seattle won its 88th in its 12th year of existence.

My choice: Browns

Sharp pick: Baltimore (-7)

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

Now the pizza has cooled enough to cheer for Jacksonville again, both to topple the excruciatingly crusty powers of the AFC and for a chance at a spicy Super Bowl rematch. Although I suppose a chance to split a pie with the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers would be just as delicious.

My choice: Jaguars

Sharp pick: Houston (+11)

Cincinnati Bengals at Minnesota Vikings

Most underrated subplot of the NFL season might be the quarterback triumvirate in Minnesota: Remember, Sam Bradford started the season completing 75 percent of his passes for 8.9 yards per attempt and a QBR of 72.4. Case Keenum’s QBR is somehow even better (73.7, tops in the league among players available to the playoffs), and there remains a real chance Teddy Bridgewater swoops in to take over the job before or during the postseason. Would Mike Zimmer risk fussing with a recipe that may get the Vikings the top overall seed in the tournament, with a chance to be the first pro football team to host its own Super Bowl win? I’m cheering for any scenario that raises those odds, both for entertainment’s sake and for Bridgewater’s.

My choice: Bengals

Sharp pick: Cincinnati (+10.5)

New York Jets at New Orleans Saints

Five-finger grass and jimson weed; dragon blood sticks and chicory; cherry plum, honeysuckle; amazonite and star of bethlehem; Marshon Lattimore’s eyelashes, Von Bell’s hearing, Kenny Vaccaro’s adidas—what am I doing? Why rubbing up a voodoo Kearse, of course!

My choice: Jets

Sharp pick: New York (+15.5)

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

My choice: Giants

Sharp pick: Philadelphia (-7.5)

Arizona Cardinals at Washington Redskins

So many people got caught in the Kirk Cousins-Kyle Shanahan reunion narrative that I think folks overlooked the fact a downfield passing game with help from David Johnson might be a perfect landing spot for the flawed but gunslinging Washington quarterback. Far as I’m concerned Cousins and Bruce Arians deserve one another, not that Arians will be around to coach that group.

My choice: Redskins

Sharp pick: Washington (-4)

New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

As unusual as it sounds, the Steelers can actually clinch homefield throughout the AFC two weeks before the end of the season with a win Sunday and a Jacksonville loss. Much though I despise New England, that’s no fun in a playoff path that already seems like a transition foam mattress for those three teams. On another face, the Jags are the only club to win in Pittsburgh this season and a third conference loss for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would give Jacksonville the inside lane to the second seed. I’m going to cheer for chaos instead of determinism anyway.

My choice: Patriots

Sharp pick: Pittsburgh (+3)

Tennessee Titans at San Francisco 49ers

People so drunk on Garoppohol that the 3-10 49ers are gonna favored over a likely playoff team? To that I say Jimmy GaroppoLOL.

My choice: Titans

Sharp pick: Tennessee (+1.5)

Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders

Dallas and Oakland have a weird tradition of facing each other in the preseason—the opposite conference foes have played exhibitions 30 times in 48 years since the AFL-NFL merger, in addition to a semi-regular series of August joint scrimmages in the 1990s and 2000s and of course 11 regular season games over the years. Somehow, despite playing in a combined 22 of the first 36 conference title games between 1966 and 1983, the teams never met in a Super Bowl.

My choice: Raiders

Sharp pick: Oakland (+3)

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Falcons likely have to win all their games to make the make the playoffs. Against the full roundhouse of the NFC South, Tampa probably won’t win any.

My choice: Buccaneers

Sharp pick: Atlanta (-6)

On the year:

My choices (straight up): 75-120 (7-8 last week)

Sharp picks (against the spread): 94-87-4 (7-6 last week)