(Note: I'm travelling today to visit my mother on her 70th birthday. Happy Birthday, Mum. I love you!)
Oakland at San Francisco
Jon Gruden, I'll have you know, was a visionary, a forward-thinker, ahead of the curve, an innovator.
For the past few weeks, and especially this week, there's been much talk around the league about teams jettisoning key players. The New York G****s took some flack for getting rid of Eli Apple and Damon Harrison. This week, with the trade deadline approaching, teams such as Detroit and Green Bay were in the mood to deal players like Golden Tate and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Copycats, I say.
Gruden did it first, and he did it best. The above-mentioned players range from good to serviceable, and their teams waited until half or nearly half of the season was gone to send them (and in some cases, their fans' hopes) packing. Khalil Mack is not merely good; he's among the best players in the league, a young, supremely talented, cornerstone player, and yet Gruden shipped him off to Chicago before the regular season had even begun. It was a clear signal to Oakland, and to its fans, that this season was over before it had begun. Amari Cooper was just a reminder.
As we head into the latter half of the season, I can think of no better team to be showcased on Thursday Night Football. And I can think of no better opponent for Oakland than San Francisco, a team for which the season essentially ended in Week Three when Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL.
So, what do we have here?
Oakland is bad, demoralized, and talent-deprived. San Francisco has a more talented roster, but is dealing with a number of injuries to key players, most notably LB Reuben Foster. Oakland is coming off a game where they actually put up a fight, but were eventually overwhelmed by Andrew Luck, while San Francisco led a lackluster Arizona squad in the 4th quarter, offering little resistance as Arizona came back and beat them late.
I'm basing my pick for this game almost solely on Derek Carr. He's a good QB, he played pretty well last week, and he has heart. If there's anyone I feel sorry for in this fiasco of a season that Gruden has engineered, it's Carr.
Because I'll travelling, I'll miss this game. To be honest, I probably would have given it a pass anyway. I doubt anyone would blame you if you did too.