Cook’s NFL Picks Week 6: Thursday Edition

Hi, hello & welcome to Week 6 of the National Football League! I’m Steve Cook, and these last two weeks have been pretty unkind to my picking record. Another six-win performance puts me barely above .500 after five weeks. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses, but I am going to provide what I feel might be explanations for this poor effort so far…

-I’ve been reacting too much to week by week performances instead of going with my gut. San Francisco has a much worse roster than Arizona, yet I picked them last week because they had looked somewhat better recently. Of course the Cardinals ran the 49ers off the field because even with Drew Stanton at QB they still had a better offense & defense than the 49ers by a pretty wide margin. Stupid pick.

-The NFL just doesn’t interest me right now. Part of it’s the Bengals being pretty disappointing, part of it is all these primetime games being mind-numbingly dull affairs. ESPN was selling the heck out of that Bucs/Panthers game being exciting, but anybody that actually watched it will tell you that it was the opposite. Close games don’t equal exciting when the games are close because the teams can’t execute. It doesn’t surprise me at all that ratings are down across the board this season. The game is boring, the league takes any bit of fun out of the proceedings, and the stars have been nowhere to be seen. Like this Thursday night game, for example. Peyton Manning was a shell of his Hall of Fame self last season, but fans still wanted to see him because he was a star. This week the Broncos are going to trot out Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch as their quarterback against the Chargers, and nobody gives a damn because they’ve never even been an extra in a DIRECTV commercial.

As a pro wrestling fan I can tell you all about the TV ratings going up when The Rock or Steve Austin or Undertaker or Vince McMahon or other stars from the past appear because the fans care about those guys and don’t care about the current wrestlers because WWE hasn’t given us a reason to care about the current wrestlers. They’re just guys. I think the NFL has reached the point where like WWE they have difficulty making current stars because they don’t really want guys to stand out and be bigger than the brand. They want control. Guys like Antonio Brown try to stand out, but the League gets mad because they twerk after scoring touchdowns and wear images of Muhammad Ali on their cleats. Tom Brady is the biggest star in this sport by a pretty wide margin, and the commissioner made him go away for four weeks for no other reason than to show that he has the most power in sports and anybody daring to go against him will have to pay the ultimate price. Because Roger Goodell is the true star of the National Football League, followed by the owners, then the coaches, then the referees, and then some of the players.

Oh, and the NFL could also take note from what over-saturation has done to WWE. I gotta credit Dustin James for pointing this out during a staff meeting. WWE having three hours on Monday night, two hours on Tuesday night, PPVs every other Sunday and all the stuff on the Network is a pretty good parallel to the NFL spreading their primetime games out from Thursday to Monday and generating a constant stream of news even when they’re not in season. Eventually it gets to be too much and people dial back their interest. This was not a problem for many wrestling fans (myself included) back when WCW, ECW & other indy feds were still around…there was a lot of wrestling on TV then, much more than now, but it was all different stuff. WCW wasn’t ECW. ECW wasn’t Smoky Mountain…you get the picture. Different environments, different workers, different scenarios, different products. To WWE’s credit, they’re trying to make Raw & SmackDown unique from each other, but they were too alike for too long & it’s going to take some time for viewers to buy into the idea of SmackDown not being a lesser version of Raw.

College football being every night of the week has never bothered me for the same reason. Tuesday & Wednesday night MACtion has a different feel than Thursday night games, which feels different from Saturday day games, which feels different from Saturday night games. Another big difference is the style of play, in that college has countless styles implemented by coaches with all sorts of crazy ideas based on their experiences and what their players are good at that make each game unique. Even in the blowouts you’ll get to see some truly gifted players do what they do best. The NFL is a copycat league. Whatever works for one team will immediately be copied by every other coaching staff, and the players have to fit into that scheme or else.

When the NFL is at its best with the most on the line, it’s very exciting. We haven’t seen that so far this season. We will eventually, but man it’s tough getting through all the obstacles to get there.

And now, the Thursday night titanic struggle!

Thursday, October 13

Denver (-3) at San Diego

The Broncos are going on the road on a short week coming off a tough loss at home to the Falcons and without head coach Gary Kubiak, who is recovering from serious migraines. The Broncos are a professional bunch that should be able to take care of business despite this difficulty, and should have plenty of motivation with Kubiak’s condition along with coming off their first loss. I expect their defense to come out incredibly motivated and make life difficult for Philip Rivers.

San Diego has had some incredibly bad luck this season. They should have beat the Chiefs in Week 1 but blew a 24-3 lead & lost in overtime. After whipping the Jags they lost to the Colts by 4, the Saints by 1 & the Raiders by 3, all games they could have won but came up short in. So yeah, the Chargers are 1-4, but they could easily be 3-2 at the very least if the ball bounced their way a couple of times. They’re missing a lot of offensive pieces but Rivers is still getting it done with what’s available and they’re not going to let the Broncos come in & get an easy W.

It’s going to be a close one, but the Chargers’ late-game failings throughout the season combined with Denver’s stout defense makes me lean towards the Broncos this week. It might very well end up being a push.

Week 4 Results: 6-8

2016 Results: 39-37-1 (3-2 Thursday)

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