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'Tis the season for Old Takes, with the end of the NFL season upon us and the memories of outlandishly incorrect preseason predictions surfacing on social media. Part of this job is being wrong -- a big enough part, in fact, we did a whole segment on the Pick Six Podcast making fun of our predictions -- and when it came to the Browns this season, I was absolutely wrong. 

My preseason prediction for Cleveland had the Browns going 7-10. And Browns fans are letting me know about it. 

That's their prerogative and I won't stop them. But I do find the 2023 Cleveland Browns team one of the most fascinating cases of an "old take exposed" situation.  

A large portion of my prediction for the Browns involved Deshaun Watson struggling and possibly being an injury risk. Both those things came true! In fact, if you told Browns fans, Watson would struggle, get injured, be replaced by P.J. Walker, who would then be replaced by Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who would then be replaced by elderly street free agent Joe Flacco, Browns fans would likely be thrilled at the concept of going 7-10! 

However, things worked out differently, as they often do in the NFL. Football is weird and it was especially weird in 2023 with the slew of backup quarterbacks pervading NFL rosters. Football games often come down to the littlest things, a bounce here or a bounce there and those bounces end up producing an end-of-year outcome in one-score games that can completely flip the standings. 

The Browns, JUST AS AN EXAMPLE, have gone 6-2 in one-score games this year. Make that 2-6 and they're a 7-9 team. This is not to say they're lucky, because I do believe this is a very good football team that deserves to be in the playoffs -- not to mention a bunch of postseason NFL award recognition -- but they have been fortunate this season. 

Look at the Vikings on that graphic: just last year they went 13-3 thanks to an incredible run in one-score games and now are fighting for a playoff spot because of bad luck in one-score games and a bunch of quarterback injuries. 

That's just life in the NFL. And the Browns have been on the bad end of things for a while now, so I have zero problem rooting for their success this postseason. I couldn't care less if I look stupid regarding my preseason prediction. It's wrong and I'll always own that, I just feel like the process here for a magical Cleveland season to occur was maybe a little bit different than even the most fervently optimistic Browns fan would have suggested.

Fire me up some January Joe and even some February Flacco. Let the old man cook one more time. Speaking of old men cooking, let's get to the final week of regular-season picks. 

Patriots (-1.5) vs. Jets

If this is Bill Belichick's Foxborough finale and his swan song with the Patriots, there's no way you can talk me into fading him against the Jets. The Pats effort has been there the last few weeks and, by the by, see above (re: one-score games and how different this season could be for New England). No Pats fan should complain about bad beats in the post-Tom Brady era, but things could have gone differently for Belichick this season. The Jets might have the better defense, but I don't see them beating Belichick in what might very well be his last game ever in New England. Even if Belichick isn't going anywhere next year, he still really, really hates the Jets and isn't afraid to torch them in a largely meaningless game. 

Rams/49ers under (41.5)

Both Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan have largely committed to playing their backups in this game. Puka Nacua might see a little extended time early in order to break some rookie receiving records, but by and large this will be a backup-fest. We've seen these two guys approach things in a similar fashion in the preseason and I don't think there will be any real desire to run a ton of plays on either side here. If there are some defensive touchdowns or long jailbreaks or Sam Darnold/Carson Wentz just get into a ripping groove, then maybe we cross 40 points but otherwise I like this point total staying submerged. 

Bills (-3) at Dolphins

I'm somewhat surprised at this line because I thought the Bills might be just a pick 'em here, but the motivation angle is legit and so are the health issues on both sides of the ball. The Dolphins, obviously, want to win the division. And the winner of this game takes home the division title. There's plenty of motivation in that regard. The Dolphins would also greatly enjoy knocking Buffalo out of the playoffs. For the Bills, this game could be playoffs or bust depending on what happens the rest of the weekend. Regardless, if they win they take the AFC East, something no one thought was possible a month or so ago. As an added bonus for the Bills side, the Pro Bowl rosters were released on Wednesday night and Josh Allen, despite producing 42 total touchdowns this season and generally playing out of his mind for much of the year, didn't make the cut. NFL players always look for an edge and I think Allen will use this slight on Sunday night. The Dolphins defense is down Bradley Chubb and the offense is down Jaylen Waddle. The Bills defense is playing much, much better lately and Buffalo has righted the ship healthwise. Bills roll here. 

Raiders (-2.5) vs. Broncos

It's pretty shocking that Antonio Pierce hasn't been given the Raiders job already, but it makes sense with what we know about Jim Harbaugh's desire to return to the NFL coupled with him hiring Don Yee (Tom Brady's agent, plus Jimmy Garoppolo's agent, so there are tons of ties to the Raiders in terms of previously positive negotiations). Mark Davis loves a splash hire and Harbs would qualify, especially if he won the natty for Michigan and then jumped back to the NFL. Regardless, we get a team in Las Vegas looking to really make a final push for the interim coach they want hired full time against a team in Denver that might be phoning it in a bit with Jarrett Stidham having taken over for Russell Wilson and the Broncos fully eliminated from postseason contention. 

Seahawks (-2.5) at Cardinals

The Cardinals are coming off their Super Bowl, beating the Eagles outright in Philadelphia to really ruin Jonathan Gannon's old team's season. The Seahawks are fighting for their playoff lives -- they're in with a win and the Bears beating the Packers. I think Chicago is going to keep it close with Green Bay in that game because the Packers defense isn't likely to close anyone out. Which means the Seahawks are very likely to keep their foot on the gas offensively and defensively throughout the entirety of this game. Even if Seattle is scoreboard watching -- and they won't likely be getting any updates until later in the game if at all -- Pete Carroll won't let his team stop trying to compete. The Seahawks' motivation factor here is just too high to ignore. 

Cowboys (-13.5) at Commanders

Buddyroe, this is a hefty line. It's Week 18, which generally means chaos and the Cowboys are massive favorites on the road, despite being a front-runner at home and struggling when it comes to trips away from JerryWorld. Digging a little deeper into the Cowboys' road performance, I think you can make the case they're in a perfectly fine spot here to blow out Washington. Namely, the Cowboys' road "struggles" may be more related to playing good teams and getting them at a bad time (at the Niners in prime time, at Philly, at Buffalo, at Miami). The only really bad loss on the road was at the Cardinals, which was a wheelhouse spot to sleepwalk for a Dallas team that started out hot. The Commanders are likely (?) starting Sam Howell again and behind a bad offensive line he could be in big trouble against this Dallas pass rush. Washington's defense hasn't held anyone to less than 27 points since Week 9, when they beat the Patriots 20-17. That was Nov. 5, their last win. Ron Rivera's last stand is unlikely to be inspiring.