Todd: For a little change of pace and given the season, time to put on my Santa hat and simplify my sports opines to two lists.

Patriots defeat Titans to win at least 12 games and clinch a first-round playoff bye…nice.

As I’ve said many times in this space, we need to step back from time to time and truly appreciate the Pats’ tremendous 15-year run of success.  Since the current 12-team playoff format began in 1990, the Pats have now earned a sixth consecutive playoff bye, most in league history (Dallas and San Francisco are second with four each).  As for the game itself, I realize the Pats offense was limited to field goals in the second half vs. Tennessee, but once again the defense stepped up and did their job.

Dont’a Hightower and Danny Amendola returned from injuries last week, only to reinjure themselves…naughty.

If there’s one thing that will derail the Pats’ chances of repeating as Super Bowl champs, it’s injuries.  It’s been said that injuries should never be used as an excuse.  But if they’re not any factor in determining a team’s success or failure, then the demise of this year’s Baltimore Ravens is due simply to poor play and not games lost to injury (including the loss of their QB).  Here’s hoping both Hightower and Amendola are ready to go come Divisional Playoff weekend.

Running back Steven Jackson signs with the Pats this week…nice.

What’s not to like?  Another low-risk, potential high-reward pickup for Bill Belichick.  It’s entirely possible that the 32-year old veteran’s tank is close to empty, but it’s hard to imagine Jackson can’t make at least one or two big plays to help a team that is paper thin at running back (despite the fact I became a charter member of the Joey Iosefa Fan Club last week).  Even during Jackson’s last two seasons in Atlanta, when he failed to run for 1,000 yards, he still averaged over 3.5 yards per carry.

Odell Beckham Jr…naughty.

Not only did the Giants wideout cost his team a game last week by committing three unnecessary roughness penalties, but he was also an endangerment on the field for that intentional helmet-to-helmet hit on Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, who he had been sparring with the entire game.  It was a classless act that more than deserved a one-game suspension and just might cost the Giants a shot at the postseason, something I’m sure most Pats fans wouldn’t mind happening.

Carolina Panthers remain unbeaten behind MVP candidate Cam Newton…nice.

Ok, this one’s nice in the sense that if the Pats and an 18-0 Panthers squad meet in SB50, the Pats can turn the tables and ruin someone else’s attempt at a perfect season.  Just wondering, who would Don Shula and Mercury Morris root for in a Pats-Panthers Super Bowl?  I suppose they’d have to pull for the Patriots, but you know how nauseous that would make them feel?

Dean Blandino will have expanded role during upcoming NFL playoffs…naughty/nice?

It’s nice to think that when there’s a critical play during one of the upcoming playoff games, the odds have now increased that the officials will get the call correct, thanks to the NFL’s VP of Officiating making himself more available to the on-field crew.  But at the same time, Blandino has no actual game officiating experience.  Wouldn’t the better option be to have an experienced official at the stadium in a room full of television monitors who could consult with the game referee?  Baby steps, I guess.

While waiting for next week’s College Football Playoff semifinal games, we are treated to the likes of the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl, played in a driving rainstorm between Toledo and Temple…naughty.

Time to get on my annual soapbox—must we be subjected to all these non-descript games played before Christmas in front of sparse crowds, especially when we finally have a playoff system in place?  What does it say that a college bowl game is played at a 30,000-seat campus stadium just so the 25,000 who do attend look like a near-capacity crowd?  Time to rethink this one, guys?

Prediction for this week’s Pats-Jets game…naughty, I’m afraid.  What it comes down to for me is that the Jets gave the Pats all they could handle in Foxboro back in October when team health wasn’t an issue.  Combine that with the Jets needing this game much more and having a QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick who is less likely to commit mistakes in crunch time, and I envision the Pats fighting hard but falling just a little short, as Brady’s receiving options remain limited.  Jets 20, Patriots 19.

Week 16 Picks (2-1 last week, 22-17 season): Mike and I remain tied with just a couple weeks to go, so let’s make these picks count.  Chiefs over Browns, Seahawks over Rams and the Vikings over the Giants.

Mike: Nice theme this week. Hope you all have a happy holiday.

In keeping with the theme, I'll do a couple of my own.

Todd knowing that there was such a thing as the Marriott Boca Raton Bowl, and apparently watching some of it...naughty

Actually, I'm not sure if naughty is the right list here, but I had to pick one. In fact, it may be nice that he saw some of it, since he may have been the only one...LOL. But his larger point is well-taken, these bowl games are pathetic. Just the fact that teams with losing records are playing in bowls this year with NCAA waivers because not enough teams won the 6 games to be bowl-eligible is just ludicrous. There must be money to be made on these games, but they add nothing to the landscape, and frankly I'd rather watch reruns of "The Big Bang Theory" than some meaningless bowl games. Just expand the playoff, and give us meaningful football, and you'll make even more money. See, everyone wins!

The Patriots suffering even more injuries...naughty.

Can we just stop with the injuries already? Pretty soon, we're going to have fictional characters suiting up!  It might look something like this...

As entertaining a that might be, I can't see Bill Belichick going for it....

The Patriots/Jets game this weekend?...nice

There is no way New England loses to the Jets with a chance to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Pats win 24-13.

Week 16 Picks (2-1 last week, 22-17 season): OK-big week for me here. I'll take the Colts over Miami, the Steelers over Baltimore and the Broncos over the Bengals

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