And so, the end is near. And so I face the final curtain.”

Paul Anka wrote that in his famous song, “My Way,” which was recorded by Sinatra, Elvis, and many others. Fair warning, if you Google it, Limp Biskit’s song pops up and that one isn’t nearly as good.

But that’s where we find ourselves, dear readers. We’re at the end of the regular season, and even with expanded playoffs, many football fans will find their season comes to an end today.

Sure, Cowboys and Chiefs fans are just getting through today and waiting on the real excitement to start next week. But for Texans fans, this week is like finally getting parole.

At the start of the season, every team and every fanbase have high expectations. Sometimes it works, like in Cincinnati and Arizona. And sometimes the season is such a roundhouse kick to the head that fans come out of the final week angry and ready to fire everybody. Thanks for playing, Chicago. And Seattle. Oh, and every team with the words “New” and “York” on their letterhead.

Let’s face it, this season has been like an episode of Saturday Night Live. It’s a couple of exciting moments, wrapped in a whole lot of forgettable bad ones poorly executed.

I’ve always thought that NFL success works in windows. You get a good roster, you’ve got about three years to take advantage of it, longer if it involves a young quarterback and a smart front office. Every year those windows open and close, which makes the long-term stability of teams like Pittsburgh and Green Bay even more impressive. And the same in places like Detroit and Jacksonville, honestly even negativity consistency is mathematically notable. But there’s enough turnover for optimism, every year.

And for eighteen franchises, that optimism starts Monday.

Now on to the picks.

Coming into the final week of the 2021 regular season, I’m 68-40 straight up, and 53-52-2 against Vegas, which means one more bad week and I’ll have to pretend this season never happened, Bobby-Ewing-in-the-shower style. As always, these are for the purposes of comedic discussion only. No wagering.

Carolina (+8) at Tampa Bay: I’m trying to cut costs, so instead of paying for streaming entertainment, I’m just going to follow Antonio Brown on Twitter. It’s got comedy! Thrills! Shocks! Suspense! More nonsensical plot twists than “Lost!” It’s all there. Everything except football, I mean.

Pick: Tampa Bay to win and cover, winning by nine or more.

Green Bay (-3.5) at Detroit: Much like that writer who raised a stink this week, I’m also not voting for Aaron Rodgers for MVP. Of course in my case, it’s because I don’t have a ballot, after my offer back in 1994 to trade my vote for the secret McRib recipe was “frowned upon” by the league.

Pick: I predict that anyone you’ve heard of for the Packers is on the sidelines in a baseball cap and slippers by halftime, but the Packers still win and cover, winning by four or more.

Washington (-7) at NY Giants: Between teammates punching each other on the sidelines and Washington’s stadium collapsing after a home loss, I can’t decide which one is the perfect metaphor for the Dan Snyder era.

Pick: Washington to win and cover, winning by eight or more. I guess. Please don’t make me watch this.

New Orleans (-3.5) at Atlanta: I feel like in terms of bizarre wide receiver stories, Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown completely stole the thunder from Michael Thomas. Assuming a healthy quarterback, next year should be a pretty exciting one for the Saints.

Pick: Falcons to win it outright.

Cincinnati (+6) at Cleveland: This is a case of two franchises not playing their franchise quarterbacks, but for vastly different reasons.

Pick: Browns to win but not cover, winning by five or fewer.

LA Chargers (-3) at Las Vegas: The season comes down to this final game. The winner is in, the loser goes into the offseason crushed from the weight of expectations. Well, again.

Pick: Chargers to win but not cover, winning by two or fewer points.

I’ll also take the 49ers to beat the Rams and take the playoff spot, the Colts to beat Jacksonville and make the playoffs, and the Chicago-Minnesota game to be the last for at least one of the coaches. Good luck everybody.

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