And away we go. Been far too long since we got to look over a real deal NFL schedule and anticipate who to pull for and against. It makes many of the non-Dolphins games far more entertaining, and it lessens the sticker shock I have over splurging for the NFL Sunday Ticket (in truth, it's been worth it, especially last year).
To be clear, this is just my personal rooting guide. Some of it is guided by raw mathematics insofar as certain games will simply help the Dolphins' chances at the playoffs. But there's also some visceral emotion behind some of the picks, where I pull for or against a team simply because I love or loath them.
There are a few really fun games this week, along with several absolute stink bombs that should be avoided at all costs. Here's where my rooting interests will lie:
All game times are Central, seeing as how I'm in Texas.
Thursday, 7:20: Dallas @ Tampa Bay: I grew up down here in San Antonio, Texas hating the Cowboys, thanks to their success in the early '90s combined with their horrendously obnoxious, fair-weather fans. And I've loved seeing them flounder for the past 25 years. Still, I would love seeing Tom Brady lose even more. I actually like nearly everything else about the Bucs, but between Brady and Antonio Brown, I have enough reason to hope for their demise. Rooting for: Dallas
- 12:00 GAMES:
- Pittsburgh @ Buffalo: The Steelers are another team I thoroughly dislike, but I detest the Bills at this point. It was enough that they had the gall to get really good last year. Then they had to humiliate us to end our season. On top of that, they have a couple of real dopes on their team. Easy pick here. Rooting for: Pittsburgh
- NY Jets @ Carolina: Pretty easy one here. Scuzzy division rival? Rooting for: Carolina
- Jacksonville @ Houston: I'm sort of apathetic here. There's no clear benefit to the Fins in this one, so I'll just root to see Houston fail so hard that that entire, wildly dysfunctional front office and coaching staff gets fired. Maybe even the owner gets run out of town on a rented nag. I want to like Houston, but it's impossible right now. Rooting for: Jacksonville
- Arizona @ Tennessee: I also don't have a strong feeling here. The logical path is to root for the NFC team to beat the AFC team at all times, and I get that. However, I kind of pull for Ryan Tannehill and that scrappy Titans squad, while Kliff Kingsbury seems like sort of a dope. Rooting (slightly) for: Tennessee
- LA Chargers @ Washington: I've already grown weary of the praise being heaped on the Chargers. Yes, they'll probably be pretty good, now that Anthony Lynn is gone and they're coming back healthier. But I'm agitated that I've seen so many "experts" picking them for a Wildcard spot while leaving the Dolphins out in the cold. Screw that. Rooting for: Washington
- Philadelphia @ Atlanta: I don't have a strong leaning in this one, but I think I've already grown sick of the Eagles being the punching bag of NFL prognosticators everywhere. Sure, maybe they'll be as nausea-inducing as they appear, but I lived in the Philly area for 14 years and I grew to enjoy the Birds quite a bit. Rooting for: Philadelphia
- Minnesota @ Cincinnati: The Bengals completely pissed me off last year, with all that dirty garbage they were pulling against us. Granted, it did give us the viral video of Brian Flores stomping in a fury over to the Bengals sideline, looking for all the world like he was going to do murders. That was fun. But I'll despise that Bengals team for a while after those super cheap shots at Jakeem. Rooting for: Minnesota
- San Francisco @ Detroit: You have to admit that there's something fun about Dan Campbell. The throwback, caveman-like approach seems like an entertaining return to a bygone era of NFL football. We Dolphins fan got to see some of it back when he took over for Philbin in 2015. But we also saw exactly its limitations. The "We! Are!! Spartaaaaa!!!" management style really doesn't fly in the long term in the modern NFL. It'll be a treat to see how many losses it takes until Campbell's intensity wears on his players. In the meantime, I'd enjoy them pulling an upset over a Niners team who I actually like. Rooting for: Detroit
- Seattle @ Indianapolis: These are two teams that I'm kind of sick of, for different reasons. Seattle seems to be stuck in high neutral ever since the Legion of Boom faded away. And the Colts and the Irsays just keep lingering around the playoffs, thanks to hitting the lottery on two generational quarterbacks, then convincing loudmouth Philip Rivers to roll with them for a season. Both teams have sniped the Dolphins a few times in recent years, making them equally annoying to me. So I'll fall back on the old "NFC over AFC" thing. Rooting for: Seattle
- 3:25 GAMES:
- Miami @ New England: duh. Go Fins!!
- Cleveland @ Kansas City: I've come around a fair bit on the Browns, who in 2018 and 2019 were more raw talent and swagger than actual production. But they really got it together in 2020 under Kevin Stefanski, and they look like they're finally living up to their potential. Still, I like Andy Reid and the Chiefs. It's a shame that this game is on at the same time as our Dolphins; otherwise, I'd be watching this one live. It promises to be the best one of the weekend. Rooting for: Kansas City
- Green Bay @ New Orleans (in Jacksonville, due to hurricane): I don't have a super strong rooting interest in this one. But I still love watching Aaron Rodgers sling it around, diva or not. Rooting for: Green Bay
- Denver @ NY Giants: I'm still aggravated that last year, Drew Lock decided to have one of his ultra-rare decent games against us. Then there's the fact that, like the Chargers, pundits are predicting that the Broncos will be better than the Dolphins, possibly even grabbing a Wildcard spot. All this, despite the fact that the team hasn't really done squat under Vic Fangio as head coach. Rooting for: Giants
- 7:20 GAME:
- Chicago @ LA Rams: Not super invested in this one, though it'll be interesting to see if/how much the Rams offense is improved with Matt Stafford replacing Jared Goff under center. Rooting for: a good game with no injuries
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
- Baltimore @ Las Vegas: Kind of torn on this one. Jon Gruden kind of annoys me as a person, while the Ravens kind of annoy me as a team that's kicked my team's ass unmercifully for over a decade running. I think my schadenfreude meter will be filled just a little more by seeing Gruden fail. Rooting for: Baltimore
And that's it for me. I'm thrilled that NFL football is back, and I fully plan to do disgustingly little on Sunday aside from take in as much of the action as possible.
Have a great week and weekend, everyone, and let me know how you feel about any or all of this week's matchups in the comments section below. Go Dolphins!!