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Tennessee Titans inside linebacker Jayon Brown (55) celebrates after the Titans beat the San Francisco 49ers in an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Power poll

So, the NFL has one more week — a never-before-seen week 18 — before the playoffs.

That leaves me longing for fall practice in some strange way. It also leaves me with these two thoughts, one factual, the other fantasy.

First, the Tennessee Titans, who are a 10-point favorite Sunday at Houston, are a win from the 1 seed in the AFC. The value of that can't be overstated, and it is not because of the home field. An extra week means extra chances for Derrick Henry to recover from surgery and return for the playoffs.

And friends, does any defense in the AFC want to see a fresh Derrick Henry come January? No, I didn't think so.

As for the fantasy, the penultimate weekend is almost always the championship weekend for our fantasy football friends out there. (Side note: The NFL commercial where the dude knocks on the door and shows up at his fantasy draft dressed as a Centaur and says, "I got my fantasy dates confused" is aces with me.)

If you had a bad beat — or better yet a great win — in your fantasy league, feel free to share. Being without a fantasy team this year has been both a blessing and a frustration. (Side question: I wonder how many fantasy championships were altered with Najee Harris' last-second TD run on Monday Night Football?)  

Like the foreman on a fence crew says to start the day, let's get to the poll.

1. Green Bay. Another team that is starting to add pieces and get healthier. In a week that has bowl-game-level motivation questions in terms of gambling, does Green Bay minus-11 at Detroit — and the unknown status of so many Packers since there is nothing to play for — feel too high?

2. Kansas City. The Chiefs lost Sunday at an inspired Cincinnati with home field in their control. They lost in the regular season to the Titans, who own the 1 seed tie-breaker. But, unless I get assurances that Henry will return, a Henry-less Titans is not better than a Mahomes-led K.C.

3. Tennessee. It's simply amazing what the core of the Titans has accomplished this year. Amazing. And now think of this: These Titans are 11-5, and two of those losses are to the Jets and the Texans. Go figure.

4. Tampa Bay. Yes, Tom Brady's lack of offensive sidekicks — whether due to injuries to Fournette and Godwin or the booting of AB — is a concern, but are we really going to back any of the other flawed-NFC teams over this Bucs bunch? Here's a story of a lovely Brady.

5. Cincinnati. Yes, Bengals over Rams. For two reasons. Currently and factoring in injuries, the Bengals have the best wide receiver room in the NFL with JaMarr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. (Side note: It may only be the second-best WR room in the state, though, considering THE receiver collection at THE Ohio State.) Secondly, I trust Joe Burrow more than I trust Matt Stafford.

Powerless
 
28-9. New Yorks. The Jets and the Giants. Pick one. Or don't. They both stink. On ice.

30. Houston. The season is about to end, and I offer this as a reminder of a story to follow in 2022 and fingers crossed for some real reporting on the matter: What really happened with DeShaun Watson and his massage therapists? And notice I said fingers crossed and not breath held because which media outlet has come close to covering this story with any type of depth. Kaepernick became an everyday headline for taking a knee and Watson, who is five times the QB Kaepernick ever wished to be, is either wrongfully accused or a serial sexual predator and he vanishes like a whisper in the wind from the headlines.    

31. Detroit. It's been a decidedly draft-focused December for Detroit. But all the chatter about Aidan Hutchinson as a top 2 overall pick baffles me. Hey, I love the draft, you know this. But Hutchinson was invisible against Georgia, and if proximity is the priority in the draft, well, that would be so Detroit Lions football, no? And how that dude was invited to the Heisman — and finished ahead of Will Anderson in the balloting — begs the question of what in the world were some of the voters thinking?  

32. Jacksonville. Wow, round 1 of the Jones vs. Lawrence rookie QB discussion was as entertaining as Tyson-Spinks.  So is Urban Meyer the worst NFL coach since the Reagan administration? Discuss.

 

Yellow belly, "Yellowstone"

Regular Don used a great word Monday when describing Sunday's season finale and entire run of season four of "Yellowstone."

Duped.

And it's fair. Whether Taylor Sheridan was craftily using this season as the springboard for "1883" or whatever Jimmy and the '6666' Ranch will be, or even if he's overworked with the other shows that Paramount has picked up, we were sold a bill of goods in season four.

It was blah-tactic from start to finish, both the season and the season finale.

And what a wasted chance, too. Considering that "Yellowstone" was such a binge treat for so many during the trials of 2020 and into 2021, the season premiere drew almost 15 million viewers, which is "Game of Thrones" and "Walking Dead" territory, people.

But it took 10 episodes for the Duttons to get to the bottom of who pulled off the assassination attempt at the end of season three. It took 10 episodes and a few hours of my life that I'll never get back for Kayce to sit in the woods in his gym shorts and find a wolf/Indian girl to tell him his marriage is in peril. It took 10 episodes for John Dutton to realize he has feelings for that girl from that old "Coyote Ugly" movie.

Heck, Jimmy's transformation from punk criminal to grown bleepin' cowboy was the best storyline of the season, and that's a crying shame. It's also a crying shame that Jimmy's exit from the Yellowstone did not generate more than a tip of the cap from Lloyd, because that would have been a missed opportunity. Maybe he could have pulled something from the trailer that they torched. Maybe Lloyd could have kept something from Jimmy's granddad. I don't know, but it was more than that. And yes, simple can be good — heck it can be great — but considering the roller coaster Lloyd has had through season four, he needed this. We needed this.

And speaking of missed opportunities, the scene with the lady who runs the hedge fund and looks like the daughter of the lady who helped Craig T Nelson's family in "Poltergeist" reading Beth the riot act was as good as any all season. And it was a scrap from Long Sheridan's table used as a tease for a season five that is at least a year away.

I had such super high hopes too. I wanted this to be great. My next TV can't miss in lines with "The Sopranos" and "GoT" and "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul" — speaking of that, when is that returning? — in the line of Sunday night awesomeness. Heck, we bought Paramount+ because of it even though it's on broadcast TV.

But overall, and Sunday's finale, fell way, Way, WAY short. I give both a D.

As in duped.

 

Bowl picks

OK, as I shared with a slew of you, my picks were rocky over the weekend.

Yes, I know they were not published because of some technical difficulties on our end. Apologies. But we were rather blahtastic. A smudge better than season four of "Mellowstone," but not much.

Saturday, we squeaked by on UK at minus-2.5 and won Arkansas. Lost on Notre Dame and Ole Miss, and split with THE Ohio State — winning the over but missing THE Buckeyes laying THE 4.

We made a little entertainment on Alabama — and would have made a bunch if the Tide (minus-5.5 in the first quarter) had found a way to kick that field goal on the last play of the opening stanza rather than the opening play of the second quarter — but lost on Georgia. Sorry Bulldogs backers, we bought into the Michigan, 'team of destiny' mumbo jumbo and paid for it.

On Friday, we got Wake — that was pretty easy — but missed Washington State, which was inexplicable.

So yeah, that was a 7-7 gambling finish, so yeah. Mellowstone.

Which leaves us with just one non-title bowl game left. Like Luc Longley coming to the elbow to set the screen for MJ back in the glory days of the 1990s, pickers gotta pick.

Kansas State minus-6 over LSU and under 48. Egad, what a skeleton crew the Tigers are taking to this Texas Bowl. Yes, I believe they will play inspired for interim coach Brad Davis. But inspired does not mean effective. And it's far from a goal of success. Just too many question marks at too many spots and nothing close to depth at any of them. On the K-State side, well, they actually are returning to full strength, even getting 12-year starting QB Skylar Thompson back for this game.

Regular season: 47-46 against the spread (50.5%, hi Matt)

Bowl season: 27-20 against the spread (57.4%, and yes, since getting to 17-10, we are a very Seinfleld-like 10-10)    

 

This and that

— Big Ben likely played his final game in Pittsburgh last night. It was a cool scene.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall with an update as we move ever closer to Alabama-Georgia, part II.

— Here's today's A2 on the crazy weather machinations of the last couple of days.

— Man, the politicization of the entire COVID thing has reached places that are unfathomable to me. Folks trying to say Betty White died of booster complications — which her agent is denying — is shameful if untrue.

— So, the story across the wires this morning was Auburn leading receiver Kobe Hudson saying he was kicked off Auburn's team. So there's that.

 

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday. (Happy new year Ernie.)

True or false, Derrick Henry returns for the playoffs.

True or false, you will cheer for the Titans in the playoffs.

True or false, you trust Joe Burrow more than Matt Stafford.

True or false, the NFL should rename the All-Pro team the All-Madden team.True or false, since ESPN has multiple NFL games this weekend, Peyton and Eli should be in the booth for one of them.

True or false, you watch "Yellowstone." (If you answered true, feel free to offer your season four/season finale thoughts.)

As for today, let's review.

Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker of the HOuse on this day 15 years ago. Man, we need term limits. For all elected D.C. officials, in all parties.

Don Shula would have been 92 today.

On this day in 1999, Tennessee won the first BCS game.

It's also national spaghetti day. Spaghetti, overrated, properly rated, underrated.

Rushmore of spaghetti. Go.

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