One line to fool them all – 1.4.16

Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.

NFL Football

Jacksonville Jaguars 6, Houston Texans 30

Line: If defense really wins championships, watch out for the Texans. Of course, if it’s actually quarterbacks…

What it means: There are two cliches about winning championships in football that seem to contradict each other. One school of thought suggests that the team with the best defense has the best chance of winning. Another school of thought is that the only thing that really matters is who has the best quarterback. The Texans have a great defense but not a great quarterback, so Texans fans are hoping the first school is correct.

Pittsburgh Steelers 28, Cleveland Browns 12

Line: The Steelers may have backed into the playoffs, but they’re still the scariest team in the AFC.

What it means: The Steelers needed help (in the form of another team losing) in order to even qualify for the playoffs today. They got that help and therefore just snuck into the playoffs as the last team to qualify. Don’t let that fool you though, they are one of the most dangerous teams because of their explosive offense. When their passing game gets going, they have the potential to simply score faster than other teams can keep up with.

New York Jets 17, Buffalo Bills 22

Line: Rex Ryan gets his revenge.

What it means: Buffalo Bills head coach, Rex Ryan, was head coach of the New York Jets for years before being fired last season. The fact that his new team had a chance to knock his old team out of the playoffs with a win today was almost too good to be true, plot-line-wise. This Jets loss seemed inevitable, not just because of the Rex Ryan factor but also because of the Jets long history of losing the most important football games in the most excruciating ways possible.

New England Patriots 10, Miami Dolphins 20

Line: It’s hard to tell whether the Patriots didn’t care about this game or did care but couldn’t get anything going.

What it means:  After starting the year 10-0, the Patriots lost four of their final six games. The team looked oddly out of it today but it was hard to tell if they were dispassionate or impotent. If they were dispassionate, it’s because the only thing they had to win today was the first overall seed in the playoffs, which they might not care about. If they were impotent, it’s because they’re still missing two of their top wide receivers and the bulk of their offensive line.

Tennessee Titans 24, Indianapolis Colts 30

Line: Too little, too late for the Colts. And probably their coach and general manager.

What it means: The Colts were supposed to win their division this year and content for the Super Bowl. Instead, their season was an unmitigated disaster, and even the major injury that their star quarterback, Andrew Luck suffered, doesn’t seem like it will help their coaching staff and front office keep their jobs. Expect word of their firings to come out soon.

Baltimore Ravens 16, Cincinnati Bengals 24

Line: Great win, but will Dalton be back for next week?

What it means: The Bengals, once a laughingstock, have turned into a model of consistency. This will be their fifth straight trip to the playoffs. Surprisingly, the biggest concern for Bengals fans is not that they’ve lost their first game in the playoffs in each of the previous four years. Instead, they are worried about the thumb of their starting quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton fractured that thumb four weeks ago and the team was surely hoping to snag a first round bye to give him another week to heal. That won’t be the case, so he’ll either need to press that thumb into early action or the team will be stuck with their back-up quarterback A.J. McCarron.

Washington Redskins 34, Dallas Cowboys 23

Line: Why not?

What it means: The Redskins didn’t need to win this game — it had no bearing on their playoff positioning at all. If you’re a true Washington player or fan, there’s never a bad time to beat up on your arch-enemies, the Cowboys, especially when they’re down as far as they were this season.

New Orleans Saints 20, Atlanta Falcons 17

Line: These teams are going to look different next year.

What it means: Both of these teams disappointed their fans this year. More importantly, perhaps, they both disappointed their owners. It’s a good bet that at least one and maybe both of their coaches will get fired in the next few days. Lost of players, including long-time and beloved Saints quarterback Drew Brees, could also be on their way out.

Detroit Lions 24, Chicago Bears 20

Line: This game was so meaningless, I heard a rumor that the Red Zone channel didn’t even bother to show its scores.

What it means: The Red Zone channel is an NFL product that’s sole stated purpose is to show every score of every game every Sunday. For them to ignore a game would be a nearly unthinkable statement about how meaningless the game was. I doubt it actually happened, but just that the rumor exists is enough to describe this game.

Philadelphia Eagles 35, New York Giants 30

Line: Bad team that fires its coach beats bad team whose coach is about to resign?

What it means: The Eagles made headlines last week when they fired their coach and general manager, Chip Kelly. Kelly has been one of the most controversial figures in the league over the past three years, coming in as a college offensive savant, and leaving as a bumbling coach and inscrutable general manager. The Giants coach, Tom Coughlin, will go down as one of the franchise’s best ever, having won two Super Bowls during his tenure. Still, it’s possible that tenure is over after a very rough season. He probably won’t get fired but he might retire. He is almost 70.

St. Louis Rams 16, San Francisco 49ers 19

Line: Dysfunctional beats boring, I guess.

What it means: The 49ers have been a dysfunctional organization for the past two years, thanks to power struggles between their old coach, Jim Harbaugh and General Manager Trent Baalke, a bizarre head coaching hire, Jim Tomsula, and a mid-season quarterback change. The Rams haven’t been dysfunctional, but their coach, Jeff Fisher, guarantees that they’ll be boring. They believe in running the ball and playing solid defense and not much else. There’s little to no creativity in the way they play, and the results show that.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10, Carolina Panthers 38

Line: 15-1 and the 1 seed and somehow the Panthers still feel underrated.

What it means: The Carolina Panthers will end the season with the best record in the entire league. Their quarterback, Cam Newton, is the favorite to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award. Still, somehow, despite all of that success, their name doesn’t come up in discussions of Super Bowl favorites nearly as much as you’d think it would.

Oakland Raiders 17, Kansas City Chiefs 23

Line: It ended up not mattering, but the Chiefs still have to feel good going into the playoffs with 10 straight wins.

What it means: The Chiefs were hoping that this win would let them leapfrog the Denver Broncos into a higher playoff seed. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the Broncos also won, so that won’t happen. Seeding aside, there’s no team that should feel more confident heading into the playoffs than the Chiefs, who completed a near-miraculous recovery from a poor start and the loss of their best offensive player to win their last 10 games and make the playoffs.

San Diego Chargers 20, Denver Broncos 27

Line: Manning’s back. Which makes me wonder, was this whole thing a ploy to get him rested coming into the playoffs?

What it means: The Denver Broncos clinched the top overall seed in the AFC by winning this game. They also reignited a quarterback controversy by replacing quarterback Brock Osweiler with future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning after halftime. Manning was himself replaced by Osweiler earlier in the season and the Broncos had more or less convinced everyone that they were happy to go with the younger Osweiler for the rest of the season. Now it seems like Manning will start their first playoff game. It’s an odd situation and choice that makes me wonder if the Broncos planned to go back to Manning all along.

Seattle Seahawks 36, Arizona Cardinals 6

Line: The Seahawks should change their name to The Walking Dead. Or Mark Twain.

What it means: We all should have known better than to declare the reign of the Seahawks over after only six games. When they were 2-4, we piled on and said (and wrote) that they were not a great team anymore. That was a mistake! Now they look just as good as ever and I would not be surprised to see them make the Super Bowl again, for the third straight year. Oh, and the references? The Walking Dead is a zombie show, where dead bodies come back to life. Mark Twain is often quoted for his line about how the news of his death was “greatly exaggerated.”

Minnesota Vikings 20, Green Bay Packers 13

Line: Congratulations Vikings, your reward is to play Seattle next week.

What it means: This is sarcastic. By winning this game, the Vikings won their division and secured themselves a higher seed in the playoffs and a home game in the first round. Unfortunately for them, it also means that their first round opponent will be the Seattle Seahawks, who look like one of the best teams in the league. They’re certainly more dangerous than the Washington Redskins, who the Packers now get to play in the first round. Sometimes a win is a loss and a loss is, well, at least a good thing.

One line to fool them all – 12.28.15

Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.

NFL Football

Indianapolis Colts 18, Miami Dolphins 12

Line: I hope the Colts don’t make the playoffs, but I feel awfully good for Frank Gore.

What it means: Many years ago, Frank Gore was a star running back for the University of Miami Hurricanes college football team. Today, in what was likely one of his last games in South Florida, he scored two touchdowns and helped push his team to victory. Their win means that they have not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. I happen to think that the Colts don’t really deserve to make the playoffs this year, but I’m still happy to see Gore play well in such an emotional game.

Chicago Bears 26, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21

Line: Hard to believe that after 15 games, the Bears are still a complete mystery. Are they good? Are they bad? Huh?

What it means: Normally, you can peg how good an NFL team is after about four or five games. This year’s Bears team is as confusing as any team I remember. They’ve won six games and lost nine, but they also seem to have had terrible luck. Are they a talented team that caught some bad breaks? Or are they dysfunctional to the core? We may never know.

Cleveland Browns 13, Kansas City Chiefs 17

Line: The Chiefs have actually clinched a playoff spot while the Broncos haven’t. How weird is that?

What it means: Although the Chiefs are behind the Denver Broncos in the standings for their four team division, thanks to the vagaries of the NFL’s tie-breaking procedures, they are guaranteed a spot in the post season but the Broncos, (who are ahead of them in the standings, for god’s sake,) are not. I guess that’s because, even if the Chiefs lose all their remaining games, the worst they could be is tied for the last wild card spot, and they would then win the tie-breaker against whoever is tied with them while the Broncos, in the same situation, might lose the tie-breaker. It’s a weird situation that will probably resolve itself on Monday night when the Broncos play the Bengals.

New England Patriots 20, New York Jets 26

Line: You think the Patriots threw this game?

What it means:  Controversy and conspiracy theories always seem to surround the New England Patriots. The idea that they intentionally lost this game to the Jets is absurd, but the loss may be beneficial. The Jets win, coupled with a loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers, may end up costing the Steelers a playoff spot. The Steelers have been the team in the Patriots’ conference that people believe is the most threatening to the Patriots…

Dallas Cowboys 6, Buffalo Bills 16

Line: Think the Cowboys wish they still had Weeden?

What it means: This is a little foreshadowing. Read on to the Texans vs. Titans game to learn more about Brandon Weeden. For now, it’s enough to know that he’s a quarterback who played well today, which is something the Cowboys didn’t have and desperately needed.

Carolina Panthers 13, Atlanta Falcons 20

Line: The Champagne corks will be popping in Miami.

What it means: The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team in history to go throughout an entire NFL season undefeated and win the Super Bowl. So, some obnoxious members of their team ostentatiously drink champagne each year when the last undefeated team in the league, in this case the Carolina Panthers, loses. At least they’re enjoying themselves. Unless the Champagne is only metaphorical. Please tell me it’s physical. Please?

San Francisco 49ers 17, Detroit Lions 32

Line: Maybe Blaine Gabbert is not the answer.

What it means: The San Francisco 49ers entered this season with Colin Kaepernick as their starting quarterback. Although there were some questions swirling around him, Kaepernick was still the young phenom who had led the team to the Super Bowl only a couple years ago. Certainly, he would be their leader for the next decade. Not so fast. By midseason, he was gone, and in his place played Blaine Gabbert, a former first round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Things started out well for him, and some 49ers fans may have hoped their team had stumbled into something good. Now it looks like maybe Gabbert isn’t the answer at quarterback either.

Houston Texans 34, Tennessee Titans 6

Line: Brandon Weeden!!!

What it means: The Texans starting quarterback in this game was Brandon Weeden. Why is that something to holler about? Well, he’s starting for his second team this year after the Dallas Cowboys fired him just a few weeks ago. This is a rarity in the NFL and honestly, as much as people like to make fun of Weeden (mostly because his name is Weeden but also because he failed spectacularly as a young player,) it’s impressive that he could learn another team’s offense and the language they use for their plays in mid-season. He played extremely well in this game and it’s lucky for the Texans that he did, because a loss would have had disastrous consequences for their playoff hopes. As it is, they should win their division and make the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers 17, Baltimore Ravens 20

Line: Never turn your back on a rival.

What it means: The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens have had the fiercest rivalry over the past fifteen years. Games between them are always hard-hitting and often close affairs. If any one shouldn’t have been, it was this one. The Steelers came into it as one of the hottest teams in the league, while the Ravens were a mess, starting their third quarterback of the year and without their best running back or wide receiver. As you can tell from the score, things didn’t go as planned for the Steelers. They can still make the playoffs, but they’ll need help. The Ravens, on the other hand, will be laughing all throughout the offseason.

Jacksonville Jaguars 27, New Orleans Saints 38

Line: If Drew Brees is going out, he’s going out with a bang, not a whimper.

What it means: Quarterback Drew Brees has been the most visible player for the New Orleans Saints for the last decade. He led the team to a Super Bowl win and is said to have embraced and been embraced by the city like few other sports figures. There are rumors that this may be his last season with the team. If that’s true, this was his last game in New Orleans. Suffering from a foot injury that would have kept most players out of the game, he played and dominated. My guess is that he was trying to make a statement to management, reminding them what they’d be losing if they get rid of him.

St. Louis Rams 23, Seattle Seahawks 17

Line: The Seahawks too? So much for momentum.

What it means: Like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Seahawks were one of the hottest teams in the league before this game. After a disappointing loss to a divisional opponent, the Seahawks are also not assured a playoff spot. They’re more likely to make it than the Steelers, but the loss is equally surprising, even if the consequences are less likely to come to fruition.

Green Bay Packers 8, Arizona Cardinals 38

Line: Anyone feel like betting against the Cardinals in the playoffs? As long as Carson Palmer is upright? I didn’t think so.

What it means: The Arizona Cardinals have a rare combination of excellent offense and excellent defense. Most great teams are noticeably better on one side of the ball than the other but the Cardinals are balanced and magnificent. They’ve had the potential to be this good for the last couple years, but each time, quarterback Carson Palmer has gone down with an injury and everything has unraveled. As long as Palmer is healthy, this team will be a force to reckon with, probably deep into the playoffs.

New York Giants 17, Minnesota Vikings 49

Line: This is what happens when a team that cares plays a team that doesn’t.

What it means: The New York Giants knew coming into this game that they had already been eliminated from the playoffs. The Minnesota Vikings knew that they a win would help their playoff positioning. Despite being professionals, motivation matters. As is often the case, the motivated team destroyed the unmotivated one.

One line to fool them all – 12.21.15

Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.

NFL Football

Kansas City Chiefs 34, Baltimore Ravens 14

Line: I guess everyone likes Jamaal Charles too much to say it, but this team is experiencing a classic Ewing Theory season.

What it means: The Ewing Theory is a creation of sports columnist Bill Simmons. His idea is that when a team loses its best player, they sometimes counter-intuitively play better than when they had him or her. In the case of the Chiefs, they had won only one game and lost four when their star running back, Jamaal Charles, was lost for the season to an injury. Since then, they’ve only lost one game and won seven!

Houston Texans 16, Indianapolis Colts 10

Line: What a year for Brandon Weeden!

What it means: Brandon Weeden was once a high draft pick of the Cleveland Browns. He was a disaster there and slunk away to fulfill his destiny as a player obviously not good enough to be a starter — being a backup quarterback. He started this year on the Dallas Cowboys and took over for them when their starting quarterback, Tony Romo, broke his collarbone. After a few games of seeing Weeden as a starter, the Cowboys realized what the Browns had and cut him. Just a few weeks later, when the Houston Texans needed a backup quarterback, they signed Weeden (maybe just because he was in the neighborhood?) When their starting quarterback in this game, T.J. Yates, injured his knee, in came Brandon Weeden to lead the Texans to a major victory. With only two games to go, Weeden and his new team are a game ahead of the other teams for the lead in their division. He could get to the playoffs… if he doesn’t get cut first.

Tennessee Titans 16, New England Patriots 33

Line: Looks like the Patriots won their scrimmage pretty easily.

What it means: This wasn’t a very competitive game. The Patriots are one of the NFL’s top five teams and the Titans are easily one of the league’s worst.

Buffalo Bills 25, Washington Redskins 35

Line: This game wasn’t as close as the score would suggest.

What it means:  How can the score of a game, which is measured primarily by score, be deceptive? Well, in this case, Washington was up 28-3, a near unassailable lead, before they let their opponent score their first touchdown of the game. The Bills got a few more scores late in the game, but only after the result was basically a fait accompli.

Chicago Bears 17, Minnesota Vikings 38

Line: Uh… According to one way of looking at things,Teddy Bridgewater had the best game a quarterback has had since 1964.

What it means: An NFL employee named Randall Liu noted today that the quarterback of the Vikings, Teddy Bridgewater was the first quarterback since 1964 to complete 85% of his passes, pass for four touchdowns, run for one, and avoid throwing any interceptions. Realistically, it’s the running for one that makes this such a rare feat — quarterbacks don’t usually run for touchdowns — but that doesn’t lessen the impact. Bridgewater had a hell of a day!

Carolina Panthers 38, New York Giants 35

Line: What is it with the Giants and undefeated teams?? I guess they’ll win the Super Bowl now.

What it means: In 2007, the New England Patriots were 15-0 going into their last regular season game, which happened to be against the New York Giants. Although the Patriots won, 38-35, the Giants gave them a much tougher game than expected. Both teams made the playoffs and eventually met in the Super Bowl, where the Giants upset the Patriots. The Panthers were undefeated coming into this game, and remain undefeated after winning it. Still, there’s something eerily similar about the scenario, right down to the score…

Atlanta Falcons 23, Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Line: Somehow this one loss for the Jaguars sucks as much for them as the previous six did for the Falcons.

What it means: The NFL gives an automatic playoff spot to the team in each four-team division that ends the year with the best record. The Falcons are in the same division as the undefeated Carolina Panthers, so you felt they were fated not to win the division even before they lost six games in a row. The Jaguars, even though they have a worse record overall than the Falcons, were still in contention for winning their division before this game. That’s why losing this game hurt Jaguars fans so badly.

Green Bay Packers 30, Oakland Raiders 20

Line: Not a bad football game, for one played in the shower.

What it means: Rain doesn’t normally effect the play of professional football players. Usually, only a few inches of snow on the field or high winds have a noticeable effect. This was an exception. Judging only from what I could see on television, there seemed to be a perpetual fine drizzle that soaked the field and the football, and made it very difficult for anyone on either team to do what they were trying to do. In the end, the more experienced team won.

Cleveland Browns 13, Seattle Seahawks 30

Line: Who let the Seahawks find a way to claim that they’re under-appreciated again this year?

What it means: One of the favorite motivating tactics for sports team is to claim that “nobody believes in us.” For some reason, this seems to be an extremely effective message to rally around. It also helps that virtually every team can claim it’s true — all they have to do is find a few newspaper columnists or bloggers to latch onto. The Seahawks ought to have been the exception to this rule, having been to two straight Super Bowls and won one of them. Who would be crazy enough not to believe that they can do it again? Thanks to a very slow start, they suckered a few critics in (myself included) and now they have the high ground of external disbelief.

Cincinnati Bengals 24, San Francisco 49ers 14

Line: No Dalton, no Eifert, no problem.

What it means: The Cincinnati Bengals were having a dream season, winning most of their games and seeming like a shoe-in for the playoffs, before last week. Then, in the span of a few minutes, they lost their starting quarterback, Andy Dalton, to a fractured thumb, and one of their best pass catchers, Tyler Eifert, to a concussion. It may catch up to them, but it didn’t in this game against the 49ers. The Bengals won easily and clinched a spot in the playoffs.

Denver Broncos 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 34

Line: Can we see this game again in three weeks?

What it means: This was one of the best games of the year — a back and forth game played with skill and nerve by both team’s offensive and defensive units. There is a chance that these two teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs, three weeks from now. If they do, it would be a wonderful encore to a wonderful game.

Miami Dolphins 14, San Diego Chargers 30

Line: Good to see Rivers and the Chargers go out with a win, if this really is the end.

What it means: The San Diego Chargers are one of three teams rumored to be moving to Los Angeles next year. If they do move, this game will be their last in San Diego. Things haven’t been good or fun for the Chargers and their fans this year, but they’ve had a good run with quarterback Phillip Rivers over the past eleven seasons. Although he’s never been able to lead the team to a Super Bowl, it certainly hasn’t been from a lack of effort or skill. I’m glad Rivers and company were able to give the home fans one last thing to cheer about while they were busy protesting the team’s impending move.

Arizona Cardinals 40, Philadelphia Eagles 17

Line: Hope you had David Johnson on your fantasy team… or at least weren’t going against him.

What it means: Week 15, the current week of the NFL season, is also usually the finals or semifinals of most fantasy football leagues. Why do the fantasy football playoffs fall before the NFL playoffs? Read this. Cardinals rookie running back, David Johnson, swung a lot of important fantasy matches with his outsized real life contribution to the Cardinals win: 187 yards rushing, 42 yards receiving, and three touchdowns. In most scoring systems, that’s close to 40 points — four times an acceptable day for a running back and twice a very good day. That’s enough to swing most fantasy playoff games he was involved in.

One line to fool them all – 12.14.15

Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.

NFL Football

Detroit Lions 14, St. Louis Rams 21

Line: We’ve gotten to the point in the NFL season when there are games no one cares about, not even fans of the teams involved. This was one of them.

What it means: Okay, sure, maybe some of the fans of these teams cared about this game. Surely, the players and their families at least cared about getting through the game without injury. But with both teams either mathematically eliminated from playoff contention or all but, this was at its heart, an uninteresting affair.

Atlanta Falcons 0, Carolina Panthers 38

Line: Soul searching time for the Falcons.

What it means: The year started out so well for both of these teams, who play in the same division. After five weeks, both teams were undefeated. Heading into this game, the Panthers were still undefeated but the Falcons had lost all but one of the intervening games. That’s a bewildering fall from grace and being shut out by a division rival won’t help anything. It’s hard to think of anyone on the coaching or managerial staff whose job is or should be safe.

Washington Redskins 24, Chicago Bears 21

Line: And that’s why we still call it football. Two games in a row for the Bears.

What it means: The Chicago Bears have now lost two games in a row thanks in large part to their field goal kicker, Robbie Gould, missing two late-game field goals last week and this week. In this game, the Bears had a chance to tie the game in the last minute but couldn’t get it closer than the 32 yard line before turning to Gould to make a 50 yard field goal. That should be within his range, but he kicked it wide. This leaves Washington still in first place of their division and Chicago eliminated.

Buffalo Bills 20, Philadelphia Eagles 23

Line: Doesn’t it seem like Rex Ryan’s teams always kill themselves with penalties in big games?

What it means:  This was a big game for both teams in terms of playoff positioning, but it was also an emotional game thanks to a blockbuster trade between the two teams during the offseason which left hard feelings on both sides. The Buffalo Bills coach, Rex Ryan, is said to believe in encouraging his players’ emotions. Sometimes this works well — it may give them confidence they wouldn’t otherwise have — but it can also backfire if the players get too emotional to play well. One sign of that is the total number of penalties the team takes. The Bills took 15 penalties, which is an enormous and damaging number, in this game.

San Francisco 49ers 10, Cleveland Browns 24

Line: Johnny Manziel, blah blah blah.

What it means: Television networks and other sports media outlets love to make a big deal about Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who has been in and out of the starting lineup as many times as he’s been in and out of trouble with his team and in and out of rehab. Alcoholism is no joke, but it’s also not a particularly compelling story, especially when tied to a team as bad as the Browns. Boring!

New Orleans Saints 24, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Line: Brees and Peyton playing out the string may still be better than the Buccaneers trying to make the playoffs.

What it means: This season will probably be the end of an era for the most successful coach/quarterback combination in New Orleans Saints history. Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees have been together for a decade and were able to win a Super Bowl in their time in New Orleans. Now Brees is getting old and Peyton seems to have lost his edge. Most people expect Peyton to be fired or to leave voluntarily during the offseason. Brees may stay, but his time is certainly limited at this point. Still, for one day at least, the old guys had enough in their box of tricks to beat the up and coming Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes were severely reduced by losing this game.

Seattle Seahawks 35, Baltimore Ravens 6

Line: It’s old hat by now, but the Seahawks are in the playoffs and you don’t want to see your team playing them.

What it means: After a 2-4 early season start, the Seahawks have only lost a single game. Thanks to this convincing win, they’ve clinched a spot in the playoffs. They’ll try to make the Super Bowl for the third straight year, something they’re giving every signal currently of being good enough to do. If you’re a fan of another team, the last thing you want to see is the Seahawks as your team’s opponent in the playoffs.

San Diego Chargers 3, Kansas City Chiefs 10

Line: The first chink in the Chiefs armor in many weeks. They almost let the Chargers tie this game in the last minute.

What it means: Like the Seahawks, the Chiefs have looked to be a team that started out slow but has been rounding into shape as one of the best teams in the league. There’s a cliche that suggests that it’s a good sign when a team wins despite not playing their best, but Chiefs fans would still like to have seen their team look more convincing. The Chargers are one of the most injured, and therefore worst teams in the league.

Indianapolis Colts 16, Jacksonville Jaguars 51

Line: It’s hard to say which division is worse, the AFC South or the NFC East. At 5-8, the Jags may still have a shot at the playoffs.

What it means: The best team in a division in each of the NFL’s eight divisions gets an automatic place in the playoffs. That makes it really noticeable when a division has four sub-par teams. That’s true for two divisions this year, the high-profile NFC East, and the division both these teams are in, the AFC South. If the Texans lose against the Patriots tonight, no team in the AFC South will have a winning record, and the 5-8 Jaguars will only be one game out of first place.

Tennessee Titans 8, New York Jets 30

Line: A win the Jets had to have, and had to have comfortably to feel good about.

What it means: The Jets are currently in the playoffs. They are one of three teams, along with the Steelers and Chiefs, to have an 8-5 record. Given how the Chiefs and Steelers are playing, the Jets may need to win all their remaining games to make the playoffs. That’s a big task, given their upcoming opponents, but their fans were given confidence by how easily the team beat the Titans today. A close win, while just as good for the quantifiable standings, would have felt qualitatively way, way worse.

Pittsburgh Steelers 33, Cincinnati Bengals 20

Line: The Bengals lost a whole lot more than just the game today.

What it means: In the first ten minutes of this game, the Cincinnati Bengals lost their starting tight end for the game with a concussion and their starting quarterback with a fractured thumb on his throwing hand. Losing to the Steelers is never fun, but the real panic among Bengals fans surrounds the loss of these two key players to injury.

Oakland Raiders 15, Denver Broncos 12

Line: Now the Broncos will really have a controversy on their hands.

What it means: As long as legendary quarterback Peyton Manning was injured OR the Broncos kept winning without him, the team was insulated from having a difficult and controversial decision to make. With this loss, the controversy will begin. Although privately, the Broncos probably still think that Brock Osweiler is a better fit (i.e. he takes orders from the coaches and doesn’t make as many brutal mistakes) for the team than Manning, it will be interesting to see how firmly they hold to that conviction.

Dallas Cowboys 7, Green Bay Packers 28

Line: I know I’ve said this about a dozen times before, but this time, I think the Cowboys season is really over.

What it means: The Cowboys inability to win football games this year has almost been matched by the inability of any of the other teams in their division to win. So much so, that each time we were ready to write the Cowboys off, they’d get some help in the standings from all the other teams losing as well. Now, finally, with the Cowboys two games back of the division lead with only two games to go, we can truly say that they’re done.

New England Patriots 27, Houston Texans 6

Line: It’s hard to believe that the NFL is improving on concussions when one of the quarterbacks in a nationally televised game gets obviously concussed, goes back in the game for two more possessions, fumbles twice, and only then is taken out of the game.

What it means: The NFL is supposed to have improved their ability to identify concussions and respond appropriately to them by getting the injured player out of the game and keeping him out. In this game, it was pretty obvious to television viewers that Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer was stunned after a hit. He went back into the game but kept messing things up (no surprise if he had actually injured his brain.)

One line to fool them all – 12.7.15

Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.

NFL Football

Texans 21, Bills 30

Line: Neither team is all that good, but the Bills needed this one more.

What it means: After this game, both teams have won six games and lost six. The difference is that the Bills are in the same division as the 10-2 New England Patriots, and therefore will need to get a wildcard spot to make the playoffs. The Texans are tied for the best record in their division with the Indianapolis Colts and are therefore still very much in a good position to claim a playoff spot by winning their division title.

Ravens 13, Dolphins 15

Line: It’s hard to admit for Ravens fans, but they’re probably better off having lost this game.

What it means: The Ravens have been a consistently good team over the past decade. This year, they couldn’t get things together and then, while they were falling apart, they broke. What does that mean? Well, they weren’t winning many games and then all their good players got injured. Now, it’s probably best for them to lose their remaining games and get the best draft pick in this year’s draft as possible.

Bengals 37, Browns 3

Line: I guess the common/uncommon opponents theory of the Bengals doesn’t hold for the Browns.

What it means: The Bengals have been an excellent team for most of this season. Some smart football analyst out there noticed though, that when they struggle, it’s often in games against teams that are used to playing them, especially if they have played them recently. The Browns, who are in the same division as the Bengals, and who have already played them this year, are a perfect example of a common opponent, who the Bengals might struggle against. The only problem? The Browns aren’t very good. Sometimes the even simpler answer is the correct one.

49ers 26, Bears 20

Line: Oh 49ers fans, Blaine Gabbert is doing just enough to reel them in.

What it means:  The 49ers have had an incredibly bad season. They lost their coach and several important defensive players before the season. They benched their starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, part of the way through the season, and will probably let him leave as a free agent this summer. You’d think they would be looking for a new young quarterback in the draft but the backup quarterback, a guy named Blaine Gabbert who failed spectacularly with his previous team, has done just enough that the 49ers might be able to convince themselves to trust him with their future. It probably won’t end well.

Jaguars 39, Titans 42

Line: Whoa! Dear Sports Fan’s NFL Forecast was right!

What it means: When the formulas that run my NFL Forecast told me that this game was going to be one of the top games of the week, I thought seriously about arguing with it. “No way,” I thought. These teams suck! Suck they may, but apparently they are bad in ways that match up perfectly to create an entertaining football game. These teams play in the same division, so with luck, we’ll see lots of similarly exciting games in the future from them.

Seahawks 38, Vikings 7

Line: Uh oh, the Seahawks appear to have returned.

What it means: The Seahawks have made the Super Bowl in the past two seasons, winning two years ago and losing last year on a fluky play right at the end of the game. From their poor play at the start of this season, it seemed like they were not going to be returning for a third year. Now, after a dominant win against a very good team, the Seahawks have

Jets 23, Giants 20

Line: This one was way more than the battle of New York.

What it means: The easy narrative about this game is that it was a rare (once every four years) game between the two teams who claim to be from New York and play in New Jersey. Neither of these teams cared about that narrative. The game was too important to both teams in terms of their chance to win their division (Giants) or make the playoffs as a wildcard (Jets.) The Jets win gives a significant boost to their playoff chances.

Cardinals 27, Rams 3

Line: Ho, hum.

What it means: Nothing to see here, really. A dominant team beat a team they were expected to beat. The world continues to turn.

Falcons 19, Buccaneers 23

Line: Ugh. I guess it’s time to admit that Jameis Winston is good at football.

What it means: The number one overall pick from this year’s draft, Jameis Winston, the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is an impossible player to root for. Alas, that doesn’t mean he’s bad at football. Apparently, he’s actually pretty good at it. Damn.

Broncos 17, Chargers 3

Line: Doesn’t look like Peyton Manning’s getting his job back.

What it means: With every Broncos win under understudy quarterback Brock Osweiler’s leadership, the odds of once-legendary quarterback Peyton Manning getting his job back get longer and longer. Longer odds mean something is less likely. Manning lost his job ostensibly because of injury, but even if he could play, it looks like Osweiler is simply better.

Chiefs 34, Raiders 20

Line: That’s six in a row for the Chiefs and four of the last five for the Raiders.

What it means: After a terrible start, the Chiefs have won six games in a row. Meanwhile, the Raiders, who had a good first half of the season, have lost four of their last five games. It’s a tricky stat though, because they won the two games before their last five. So… you could equally say that the Raiders have won three of their last seven games. That doesn’t sound nearly as convincing though, so sports blogs (real ones, that is) won’t admit it.

Panthers 41, Saints 38

Line: The Panthers proved they can win even when their defense plays badly. Watch out NFL.

What it means: The Panthers are the last undefeated team in the NFL this season. They’ve done it to a large degree because they have one of the best defenses in the league. That defense played unexpectedly bad today and the Panthers still found a way to win. They’re still not getting as much press as they probably deserve. I think the Panthers have a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl.

Eagles 35, Patriots 28

Line: With all their injuries, the Patriots need to play close to a perfect game in the other two phases to win. They didn’t come close.

What it means: People talk about their being three phases to a football game: offense, defense, and special teams. The Patriots are missing a lot of important players on offense because of injury. They can still score, but perhaps not as prolifically as before. This means that their margin of error on defense and special teams is narrowed. They lost this game largely because of mistakes on special teams and their defense wasn’t good enough to make up for it.

Colts 10, Steelers 45

Line: Uh… I think the Steelers are going to win the Super Bowl.

What it means: They’re not the team with the best record in their division — that’s the Bengals. They’re not even a lock to make the playoffs — although this win makes it much more likely that they will. But the way their offense plays when it’s playing well, it just doesn’t seem possible to beat them.

One line to fool them all – 11.22.15

Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.

NFL Football

St. Louis Rams 13, Baltimore Ravens 16

Line: With wins like these, who needs losses?

What it means: You know the expression, “with friends like these, who needs enemies?” It’s a clever way of complaining that your friends are treating you as poorly as you’d expect from an enemy. Well, in this case, the Ravens win treated them as poorly or more poorly as almost any loss. The Ravens won the game but their starting running back broke his arm and their starting quarterback tore his ACL. Ouch.

Washington Redskins 16Carolina Panthers 44

Line: I know the Redskins aren’t much, but this is still impressive. I think the Panthers are starting to convince me.

What it means: The Carolina Panthers are one of only two undefeated teams left in the NFL this season but because of their lack of well-known players and a schedule that’s matched them up with mostly bad teams, people haven’t yet really accepted that they are a truly great team. Despite the Redskins fitting the bill as yet another bad team, the way the Panthers dominated should convince some people.

Denver Broncos 17, Chicago Bears 15

Line: I’m not sure we’ll ever see Peyton Manning play again.

What it means: Although he didn’t play today, or perhaps especially because he didn’t play today, the biggest story of this game is Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. He’s had a wonderful career but his play this year has been dreadful. He was finally pulled from a game last week and he sat this week out with a foot injury. The question is, with the Broncos looking better and playing more successfully without him, will he ever get back onto the field?

Dallas Cowboys 24, Miami Dolphins 14

Line: Tony Romo is still undefeated on the year…

What it means:  The Cowboys won their first two games of the year before losing starting quarterback Tony Romo to a broken collar bone. He missed seven games. The Cowboys lost seven games. This week, he finally returned, and the Cowboys won again. They’re lucky that the division they play in has not great (or perhaps even good,) teams, and they still have a shot at making the playoffs. They’ll need to be almost perfect from now on though.

Oakland Raiders 13, Detroit Lions 18

Line: Now that’s the Raiders we all know and love. What the heck happened to them? Things seemed like they were going so well.

What it means: For all but a few years of my life, and certainly my football watching life, the Raiders have been a laughingstock. They’ve been consistently one of the worst teams in the league. Finally, they seemed like they were going to be a good team this year, maybe even one that would be close to making the playoffs. Now they’ve lost three straight games, including this one to the even sorrier, more laughingstocky Lions.

New York Jets 17, Houston Texans 24

Line: Sure, the Texans won, but aren’t these teams essentially the same? Good enough to make you sweat but not good enough to win the whole thing?

What it means: The New York Jets and Houston Texans are both 5-5 (five wins, five losses) and in quite similar situations. Both teams have assembled strong defenses and good “skill position” players (running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers.) The missing piece for both teams is the quarterback. Neither team has a very good quarterback and that holds them back. The only real difference is that the Texans are in a division with no great team this year while the Jets are in a division with the undefeated Patriots. That makes it a more fun time to be a Texans fan — there’s more hope.

Indianapolis Colts 24, Atlanta Falcons 21

Line: Forget about Tony Romo, you know who else is undefeated as a quarterback this year? Matt F. Hasselbeck!

What it means: When I first saw a stat posted by Matt Hasselbeck this year, I thought it was a mistake. There was no way that the 40 year old quarterback, who led the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2005, ten whole years ago, when he was already a veteran player, could still be in the league, could he? He is. And now he’s starting for the Indianapolis Colts thanks to a lacerated kidney to Andrew Luck. So far, the super-veteran is 3-0 and looking just fine in a Colts uniform. Hooray for old guys!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 45, Philadelphia Eagles 17

Line: The Chip Kelly unemployment watch is officially on.

What it means: Chip Kelly, the coach and general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles, has been a polarizing figure throughout his entire NFL career. First the question was whether his college football system would work in the NFL. Then, once he had proven that it would basically work, the question became his increasingly weird personnel moves. His trades and free agent signings were so odd that some of his former players suggested they were racially motivated. Whatever the motivation, they don’t seem to have worked and soon, Kelly may be out of a job.

Kansas City Chiefs 33, San Diego Chargers 3

Line: The Chargers can’t get to Los Angeles soon enough.

What it means: The Chargers are one of three teams rumored to be moving to Los Angeles in the near future. The Chargers are the only of the three whose play this year seems affected by the rumors. The fans in San Diego are upset and the players seem to be too. Nothing is going right for this franchise, and losing 33 to 3 to the Chiefs isn’t going to help.

Green Bay Packers 30, Minnesota Vikings 13

Line: R-e-l-a-x r-e-d-u-x!

What it means: In the middle of last year’s NFL season, the Packers were struggling and their fan-base was in a state of worried excitement. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers told them to relax and actually spelled the word out for them. This year seems like a photocopy of the same scenario. The Packers had lost three games in a row before this one and put a serious fright into their fans. Rodgers didn’t tell them to relax this year but he might as well have. He was masterful in this victory.

San Francisco 49ers 13, Seattle Seahawks 29

Line: Unless you’re a fan of the Seahawks (or zombies,) this season is like a zombie movie. They just won’t die.

What it means: The Seahawks have been the most powerful team over the past two years, going to the Super Bowl in both seasons and winning once. This year, they’ve played poorly enough to be left for dead several times. But just like the bad guy in a zombie movie, they keep walking and moving toward their goal, which in this case is playoffs, not brains, but still.

Arizona Cardinals 34, Cincinnati Bengals 31

Line: Okay, the Bengals still didn’t win in primetime, but did they play well enough to banish the monkey?

What it means: Don’t worry, “banish the monkey” is not any kind of sports phrase that you should know. Here’s the deal. The Cincinnati Bengals have been a consistently excellent team over the past four years. Their only problem has been that they seem to have some kind of mental blocks in big games. They can’t seem to win in the playoffs or even at night in the regular season, when the games are on a bigger stage because they’re televised nationally. Last night was another opportunity to shed that reputation and they came very close to doing it. It’s not clear whether coming close against a very good team is enough to make them and their fans relax in the next big game.

One line to fool them all – 11.8.15

Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.

NFL Football

Miami Dolphins 17 vs. Buffalo Bills 33

Line: Seems like the Bills just have the Dolphins number.

What it means: The Bills and Dolphins are in the same division, the AFC East division. This means that they play each other twice every year, which makes the games simultaneously more important and more tactically challenging. It’s hard to play a team that knows your tactics as well as a divisional rival does. This familiarity makes it possible, sometimes, for a team to seem like they’ve solved another team the way you or I would solve an easy math problem. So far this year, the Bills have beaten the Dolphins 41-14 and 33-17.

Green Bay Packers 29, vs. Carolina Panthers 37

Line: The Panthers survived, but if Rodgers had had five more minutes…

What it means: If you hadn’t followed this game (or had lines written for you by someone who did) you would have thought the story was the Panthers retaining their undefeated record by outscoring the Packers in a close game. That’s not really the story. The real story is that the Panthers got up to a big lead and then seemed unable to even slow the Packers down as they launched a furious comeback attempt behind their star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. The Packers come very close to tying the game and given the momentum of the game, if it had been just a little longer, it seems like they would have found a way to do it.

Jacksonville Jaguars 23 vs.New York Jets 28

Line: Surprisingly entertaining for a game featuring Blake Bortles and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

What it means: Neither of the quarterbacks in this game are particularly well thought of among football fans. The Jaguars’ Blake Bortles is a young quarterback who has shown some potential in his time in the league but very little performance. The Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick is a veteran quarterback who has played well for several different teams but never well enough to secure a starting job for very long. Despite their lack of star power, both quarterbacks played well today and helped make this a good back-and-forth football game.

St. Louis Rams 18 vs. Minnesota Vikings 21

Line: Justice was served in this win, but the bigger question is when Teddy Bridgewater can come back.

What it means: The Vikings quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, was knocked out of the game with a suspected head injury after being knocked unconscious a hit by a St. Louis Rams defensive player that most people thought was dirty. Bridgewater had already started sliding feet first when he was hit. When a quarterback (by rule any player but in reality only quarterbacks do this) starts to slide feet first, this signals that he’s voluntarily “giving himself up” or stopping the play. Once he’s started sliding, no one is allowed to hit him. In this game, someone did, and the results were pretty brutal.

Washington Redskins 10 vs. New England Patriots 27

Line: Another Pats win, but how many players can they afford to lose?

What it means: The Patriots are a perfect 8-0 so far this year, but they finished this game having lost their best running back, Dion Lewis, to a scary non-contact knee injury, and were reduced to playing a tight end in their offensive line because of all of the injuries they’ve suffered in that unit. It’s incredibly impressive that they can overcome so many injuries to key players and still win so easily, but fans of the Patriots (and maybe enemies too) suspect there’s a limit to how long the trend can continue.

Tennessee Titans 34 vs. New Orleans Saints 28

Line: Maybe the Saints would be better in the NBA?

What it means: The New Orleans Saints have scored an average of 34.5 points over the past four games, which is an absurdly high number for an NFL football team (okay, maybe not basketball high, but give me and yourself some poetic license!) but they’ve allowed an average of 31.25 points over the same period. That’s also an absurdly high number, and their shoddy defense is the reason why they lost this game today to the not-very-good Titans.

Oakland Raiders 35, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 38

Line: Two questions: how good will these Raiders be in a couple years and how can the Steelers survive another injury to Big Ben?

What it means: Even in losing, the Oakland Raiders continued to impress neutral football fans and convince us that they’re a young team with limitless potential. The Steelers were built to win now, but they lost their star quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, nicknamed Big Ben, who missed four games with a knee injury earlier this year and left this game with a foot injury. The Steelers are a markedly worse team without Roethlisberger. They found a way to win without him before, but that was before they lost their best running back for the year due to torn ligaments in his knee. It will be quite a feat if they can win without him some more.

New York Giants 32, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18

Line: Either the Giants aren’t very good or the Buccaneers aren’t very bad — this game was closer than it looks.

What it means: At one point in the fourth quarter, the score was 20-18. Then the Giants scored two field goals — to make their lead 8, which is still a single possession game — before they scored a touchdown on the final play of the game. That last touchdown makes the score seem like one you’d find in a game with an obvious and convincing winner. This game didn’t really have that.

Atlanta Falcons 16, vs. San Francisco 49ers 17

Line: Not sure the fire everyone the week before the London game gambit is going to work for Jim Caldwell after this showing.

What it means: The London game, which is always followed by a bye week, has become an opportune moment for teams to fire their coaches. As if he knew that might be a possibility and wanted to cut it off at the pass, the Lions head coach fired most of his offensive staff the week before this game. After losing so badly to the Chiefs, this almost blatant attempt to buy himself some time, may not work. Head Coach Jim Caldwell might get fired anyway.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23, vs. Atlanta Falcons 20

Line: It’s hard to figure out what’s happening to the Falcons — no major injuries, no controversies, just sudden badness.

What it means: The Falcons won their first five games. And then lost three of the next four, including this one. Usually, when that type of fall from grace happens, there’s a clear reason, like an injury to a major player or several minor ones, or some kind of on the field or off the field controversy. None of these factors are present, at least that we know of, with the Falcons. They were good and then they sucked. It’s curious and we don’t have a good answer about why.

Denver Broncos 24, vs. Indianapolis Colts 27

Line: It may be too late for fantasy owners, but it’s not too late for the Colts, especially not in their stinky division!

What it means: The Colts players were popular fantasy commodities (in case you want or feel you need a primer on how fantasy football works, we’ve got one!) and have spent most of the season disappointing their fantasy owners by not accumulating good statistics in their real world games. They played so well today, against what many people think is the league’s best defense, that they looked like a completely different team. It may be too late for fantasy owners who relied on the Colts players for their fantasy teams (because the fantasy regular season is about 3/4 of the way done) but it’s not too late for the Colts to make the playoffs in the real NFL. This is particularly true because, despite their struggles, they’re still in first place of their division. Every other team in their division has lost more than they’ve won.

Philadelphia Eagles 33, vs. Dallas Cowboys 27

Line: And Tony Romo’s MVP case only gets stronger.

What it means: Tony Romo is the Cowboys starting quarterback, or at least he was until the second week of the season when he broke his collarbone. Since then, he’s been recuperating and confined to the sideline, and his team has lost six straight games. Saying he should be voted the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) is a little bit of a joke, since the award is really given to the player who has had the best year, for the best team (usually a quarterback), not someone who has had his value proven by getting injured and watching his team completely sink (and stink).

One line to fool them all – 11.2.15

Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.

NFL Football

Cincinnati Bengals 16 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 10

Line: Bad Andy reared his head but the Bengals still won.

What it means: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s career has been full of periods when he plays extremely well, but they’ve never been free of times when he’s played equally badly. Because he’s never had any significant success in the playoffs, he hasn’t really earned any sympathy from fans, so these periods are called Bad Andy times. He played poorly in this game but the Bengals were still good enough to win and stay undefeated.

Green Bay Packers 10, vs. Denver Broncos 29

Line: Maybe the reports of Peyton Manning’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

What it means: The Denver Broncos defense slowed down the Green Bay Packers offense, specifically their quarterback Aaron Rodgers, in a way that’s really never happened before. The biggest news of the game though, might have been the play of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who looked, at least for a night, as good as he’s looked in past years. At 39, people have reacted to his poor play so far this season by predicting his football demise, but tonight gave Broncos fans hope.

San Francisco 49ers 6 vs. St. Louis Rams 27

Line: Don’t look now, but I think the Rams are good. Gurley is the real deal.

What it means: The Rams are not a popular team, they’re not on national television often, and they haven’t been good for a long time, but thanks to the excellent play of rookie running back Todd Gurley, they’ve won three of their last four games.

Tennessee Titans 6 vs. Houston Texans 20

Line: The Texans are one game away from first place and one game away from firing their coach.

What it means: The division that the Texans and Titans are in, the AFC South, is so bad across the board, that it’s possible for a team like the Texans to be simultaneously so disappointing that their coach is at risk of being fired AND almost in first place of the division. Football can be a weird sport with small sample sizes and lots of randomness.

New York Giants 49 vs. New Orleans Saints 52

Line: This looked more like a video game than reality.

What it means: Games with this much scoring are very unusual in real football, but thanks to the “solveablilty” of video games, much more common there. Many football fans are or have also been big fans of football video games at some point in their lives. So this game’s bizarre scoring probably felt familiar, if only from virtual reality.

Minnesota Vikings 23 vs. Chicago Bears 20

Line: Hmmmm… the Vikings keep winning, but not in a way that inspires very much confidence. Plus, look at who they’ve beaten.

What it means: Beating the now 2-5 Chicago Bears is something that should be expected of good teams in the NFL, not the product of a dramatic, late-game win, like the Vikings needed today. The Vikings have a very respectable 5-2 record, but if you look more closely at it, the teams they’ve beaten (Bears, Lions twice, Chiefs, Chargers) are a combined 8-23. That’s doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the Vikings’ ability to win against good teams. Sorry Vikings fans!

New York Jets 20, vs. Oakland Raiders 34

Line: Eh, I wouldn’t worry about the Jets too much. Hard to get up for the Raiders the week after the Patriots.

What it means: Last weekend, the Jets lost a close and emotional game against their biggest rivals, the New England Patriots. It’s natural, even for a professional sports team, to have a let-down in the following week. Add to that, a trip to the West Coast to play the historically bad but currently sneaky good Oakland Raiders, and it’s no wonder that they came out flat and lost. The bigger concern is the loss of starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, possibly for the season, with a hand injury.

Seattle Seahawks 13, vs. Dallas Cowboys 12

Line: Can we all agree not to talk about this game again?

What it means: This game was televised nationally and really shouldn’t have been watched by anyone other than die-hard fans of the two teams. A bad game was further marred by the breath-stealing sight of a player on the Seahawks being knocked out on the field and stretchered off. Luckily, he is not paralyzed.

Detroit Lions 10, vs. Kansas City Chiefs 45

Line: Not sure the fire everyone the week before the London game gambit is going to work for Jim Caldwell after this showing.

What it means: The London game, which is always followed by a bye week, has become an opportune moment for teams to fire their coaches. As if he knew that might be a possibility and wanted to cut it off at the pass, the Lions head coach fired most of his offensive staff the week before this game. After losing so badly to the Chiefs, this almost blatant attempt to buy himself some time, may not work. Head Coach Jim Caldwell might get fired anyway.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23, vs. Atlanta Falcons 20

Line: The Atlanta Falcons? More like the Atlanta Frauds.

What it means: Okay, this is a little bit of a snotty thing to say, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. The Falcons got off to a great start this year, winning five games in a row. People thought they were a great team. Then they lost to the Saints, won a close game over the lowly Titans, and now lost to the equally lowly Buccaneers. From the evidence of those last three games, it looks a lot more like the Falcons are an average team that got lucky to start the year than a great team going through a rough patch.

San Diego Chargers 26, vs. Baltimore Ravens 29

Line: I can’t decide if that’s a fitting end for Steve Smith or a totally out of character one. Either way, it’s terrible.

What it means: Hall of fame to be wide receiver, Steve Smith, has been a fan favorite for many years. He had announced at the start of this season that it would be his last, but he didn’t expect it to end so soon. He tore his Achilles tendon during today’s game and will miss the rest of the season. Unless he reconsiders, this was the last we’ll see of him on a football field. What a shame!

Arizona Cardinals 34, vs. Cleveland Browns 20

Line: If the game had ended at halftime, I would have had to seriously rethink what I thought I knew about football. Phew.

What it means: People, myself included, assumed that the plot of this game was as simple as, “good team (Arizona) plays bad team (Cleveland).” What a surprise it was, then, to see the Browns leading the Cardinals 20-10 at halftime. The Cardinals scored 24 points in the second half and held the Browns scoreless, proving us right, albeit in a very tardy way.

One line to fool them all – 10.26.15

Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.

NFL Football

Sunday, October 25, 2015 9:30 a.m. ET

Buffalo Bills 31 at Jacksonville Jaguars 34

Line: You can dismiss the teams if you want, but London got a heck of a game.

What it means: Most NFL teams don’t want to travel to London and it seems like the more powerful ones are able to prevent the league from sending them. As a result, the London games tend to be between teams, like the Bills and Jaguars, who have not been good for many years. That’s led many fans to dismiss the London games as boring or even unwatchable. Not true for this close game.

Sunday, October 25, 2015 1 p.m. ET

Cleveland Browns 6 at St. Louis Rams 24

Line: I can’t think of anything to say about this game. No really. I guess the Rams might be good?

What it means: I can’t think of anything to say about this game. No really. I guess the Rams might be good?

Minnesota Vikings 28 at Detroit Lions 19

Line: It’s hard to believe that this was the Vikings’ first division win on the road in three years. They seem downright respectable this season — like a strong wildcard contender.

What it means: The Vikings have been bad for several seasons. So bad that they’ve lost all their divisional road games (three per year) for the last three years. This week, they broke that streak by beating the Lions. It may seem like a meaningless statistic, but in this case, it’s also symbolic of real progress. The Lions are playing like a playoff team.

Houston Texans 26 at Miami Dolphins 44

Line: It’s amazing how much the Dolphins must have hated their old coach.

What it means: Since the Dolphins fired their coach three weeks ago, they’ve won both of their games in very convincing fashion. Since it’s difficult for a new coach to make tactical changes in such a short time, it’s safe to assume that the Dolphins simply didn’t like their old coach and weren’t playing as hard for him as they are now for the new coach.

New Orleans Saints 27 at Indianapolis Colts 21

Line: This year’s AFC South is last year’s NFC South — 7-9 might win the division.

What it means: Last year, the NFC South division, which the Saints are in, was so poor across the board, that the Carolina Panthers won it and qualified for the playoffs with a 7-8-1 record. This year, the Colts, who play in the AFC South division, may find themselves in a similar position. After seven games, the Colts are 3-4 and still better than the other three teams in their division.

Pittsburgh Steelers 13 at Kansas City Chiefs 23

Line: Big Ben will be back soon.

What it means: The Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is known as Big Ben. He hurt his knee during the third game of the season. Since then, they’ve been trying their best to stay afloat without him. They’ve actually done pretty well — winning two games and losing two — but their fans will be very glad to get their starting quarterback back, probably next week.

New York Jets 23 at New England Patriots 30

Line: Dog bites man, Patriots beat Jets.

What it means: There’s a parable in the news industry that “dog bites man” isn’t news but “man bites dog” is. Well, in football terms, the Patriots beating the Jets isn’t news, but the Jets beating the Patriots would be. No news was made in this game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 at Washington Redskins 31

Line: Kirk Cousins led a last minute drive to win the game and save Washington D.C. from another week of existential football crisis.

What it means: Washington is a tortured sports city and their sports talk would have been profoundly depressing this week if it weren’t for a last minute touchdown drive orchestrated by quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Atlanta Falcons 10 at Tennessee Titans 7

Line: This was either an ugly game that a really good team won or a sign that the Falcons aren’t actually a very good team.

What it means: There’s a sports truism that the sign of a good team is that they can win games even when they play badly. The Falcons may have done that today… then again, they may also have just struggled to beat a mediocre team because they themselves are not that good.

Sunday, October 25, 2015 4:05 or 4:25 p.m. ET

Oakland Raiders 37 at San Diego Chargers 29

Line: The future belongs to the Raiders.

What it means: The Raiders have been stuck behind the other three teams in their division, the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, and Chargers for years. Although they still probably won’t catch the Broncos, who are undefeated this year, but their stock of young, talented players suggests that they could surpass all three teams in the next couple years.

Dallas Cowboys 20 at New York Giants 27

Line: By the time Dez and Tony get back, it may be too late for the Cowboys.

What it means: The Cowboys lost their two best offensive players, wide receiver Dez Bryant and quarterback Tony Romo, at the start of the season to long-term injuries. They’re both expected back this year, but it may be too little, too late for the Cowboys to have a shot at making the playoffs. They’ve now lost four games straight without these two players.

Sunday, October 25, 2015 8:30 p.m. ET

Philadelphia Eagles 16 at Carolina Panthers 27

Line: In a weird way, this game was worse for the New Orleans Saints than it was for the Eagles.

What it means: Despite the Eagles loss and general malaise, because of the weakness of their division, at 3-4, they’re still only one game back from the division lead. The New Orleans Saints, who won yesterday and who are also 3-4 are stuck in a division with the Panthers, who moved to 6-0 by beating the Eagles, and the Atlanta Falcons, who are 6-1. It’s going to be far harder for the Saints to maneuver themselves back into the playoff hunt than it will be for the Eagles.

One line to fool them all – 10.12.15

Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.

NFL Football

Sunday, October 11, 2015 1 p.m. ET

Buffalo Bills 14 at Tennessee Titans 13

Line: No Music City Miracle for the Titans in this one.

What it means: The Music City Miracle was a trick play the Titans used to eek out a win over the Buffalo Bills in a 2000 playoff game. These Titans didn’t have anything like that up their sleeves for this game. In fact, it was Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor who had all the tricks. He threw for a touchdown, ran for a touchdown, and even caught a pass!

Cleveland Browns 33 at Baltimore Ravens 30

Line: Who died and made Josh McCown Johnny Unitas?

What it means: Josh McCown is the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback. He’s had a mostly pedestrian career in the NFL, and at 36 years old, no one expected this to change. We were wrong. He threw 457 yards (which is an insane number, even for a game that went to overtime, like this one did) in this game and in doing so became the first Browns quarterback ever to throw three straight 300 yard games. Part of that is due to the league becoming more friendly to passing in general and part of it is due to luck but it’s still fun to compare him to all-time great quarterbacks like Johnny Unitas.

Chicago Bears 18 at Kansas City Chiefs 17

Line: Oh no, not again for Jamaal Charles.

What it means: Jamaal Charles is the star running back of the Kansas City Chiefs and one of the most dynamic players in football. When he’s at his best, he’s truly a joy to watch, dancing around defenders and galloping to long touchdown runs. He went down with an ugly knee injury today and people suspect that he tore his ACL… again. Charles already tore an ACL in 2011, and while the injury is no longer an automatic career ender, it’s still brutal to come back from.

Seattle Seahawks 24 at Cincinnati Bengals 27

Line: Dalton is no longer playing like Dalton. It’s very confusing.

What it means: After watching a player for several years in the NFL, football fans generally figure they know what that player is capable of. Then once in a while, a player like Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton comes back in his fifth season and seems to be playing consistently better than he ever has before. It’s confusing and unbelievable at first, but by now, especially after a come-from-behind win against a good team like today’s, it’s time to simply admit that he got better.

St. Louis Rams 10 at Green Bay Packers 24

Line: Aaron Rodgers finally threw a pick at home, but his defense got his back.

What it means: Before this game, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had an incredible streak of having thrown over 550 passes in Green Bay without a single interception. He threw two in this game, but the Packers still won comfortably largely because their defense “picked off” or intercepted four of the Rams quarterback’s passes.

Jacksonville Jaguars 31 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38

Line: If there’s a shootout in the forest but no one watches, does it matter?

What it means: Sometimes the most exciting games are played between teams, like these two, that aren’t likely to make the playoffs. As a result, only people at the game, and in the home television markets of the two teams, actually get a chance to see the game. More metaphysically, very few people care about the outcome of this game, even if it was one of the more entertaining ones of the day.

New Orleans Saints 17 at Philadelphia Eagles 39

Line: The Eagles are the most confusing team this year.

What it means: Estimates of how good the Eagles are have been consistently different from the way they’ve actually looked during games. Before the season, people thought they would be good, then their first few games were terrible. So, we all switched to thinking they were going to be bad this year. Then, they go out and win a game convincingly like this one. Who knows what to expect other than the unexpected?

Washington Redskins 19 at Atlanta Falcons 25

Line: How else could an overtime game with Kirk Cousins end other than a pick-six.

What it means: Kirk Cousins is Washington’s quarterback and he’s got a history and a habit of making fatal mistakes at just the wrong time. A pick-six is when a quarterback throws a pass someone on the defense catches it (that’s the pick or interception) and runs all the way to the other side of the field for a touchdown (that’s the six, for the six points a touchdown is worth). This game ended when Atlanta’s defense got a pick-six.

Sunday, October 11, 2015 4:05 or 4:25 p.m. ET

Arizona Cardinals 42 at Detroit Lions 17

Line: The Lions couldn’t go 0-16 again, could they? Could they?

What it means: The Detroit Lions are the only franchise in NFL history to ever go a 16 game season with out winning a single game. They achieved this ignominious feat in 2008. Other teams have gone entire seasons without winning a game but only when the season was shorter. At 0-5, these Lions are beginning to elicit unfortunate comparisons to that 2008 team. As bad as they are, they’re very unlikely to end the season winless.

New England Patriots 30 at Dallas Cowboys 6

Line: I’m actually surprised this game was so close, maybe Bellichick spent the bye week plotting ways to beat the Colts next Sunday night.

What it means: Although the Patriots won this game handily, they didn’t dominate the Cowboys the way some people (myself included) expected them to. Part of the reason why we expected them to dominate so thoroughly was because the Patriots had their bye week last week. Because the Patriots play the Colts next week and because the Colts are the team that tried to turn the Patriots in last season for having deflated balls, It’s funny and a tiny bit plausible for the Patriots to have spent the extra time during their week off thinking of ways to beat the Colts, not the Cowboys.

Denver Broncos 16 at Oakland Raiders 10

Line: After 16 seasons of “Peyton Manning carries his defense” there’s some symmetry to “defense carries Peyton Manning.”

What it means: Throughout most of his long career, Peyton Manning fans have wondered how many Super Bowls their hero could have won if he had been on teams with even a league average defense. He barely ever has. Most of the time, when his teams won, it was because he scored LOTS of points. This year, at the end of his career, when he is visibly reduced, he’s playing on a team (the Broncos) that has a great defense. The defense were responsible for winning this game, despite Manning and the offense struggling.

Sunday, October 4, 2015 8:30 p.m. ET

San Francisco 49ers 27 at New York Giants 30

Line: Could this be the rare comforting brutal loss for the 49ers?

What it means: The San Francisco 49ers lost in heartbreaking fashion when Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw a touchdown to tight end Larry Donnell with only 21 second left in the game. Nonetheless, this came may have been encouraging to 49ers fans who probably thought their team didn’t have the heart or the wherewithal to score as many points as they did or keep this game as close as they did. With a 1-4 record after five games, the 49ers will almost definitely not make the playoffs, but based on last night’s showing, all might not be lost for future seasons.