As the days grow longer and the nights grow colder, time spent at the office is more brutal then ever. There are some days where it seems like all the coffee in Columbia wouldn't be enough to keep you awake.
But Sunday is so tantalizingly close that you can taste it. You can feel it. It's almost here!
And while this isn't the best slate of games we've ever seen (OK, it's probably the worst group of the entire season), there are still myriad opportunities for entertainment.
As always, I present them to you here, in this, the Friday Clock-Watcher's Guide to NFL Week 9:
Nowadays, people just can't seem to stop complaining about the crisis in Washington.
Everyone has an opinion on the reason why and who's to blame. The talk is starting to consume us all.
The bottom line is that it's nobody's fault. That's right. You heard me. It's no one's fault.
What's that, you say? Republicans? Democrats?
I'm not talking about that crisis. I'm talking about the 2-5 horror show known as the Washington Redskins.
The 'Skins have played absolutely putrid football for the vast majority of this season, none worse than after they took a 21-7 lead last Sunday on the road in Denver. From that point on, the Redskins were outscored by the ridiculous total of 38-0 en route to an embarrassing 45-21 defeat.
The main reason why they lost wasn't their porous defense, which has been about as effective as a Ted Cruz filibuster.
No, the reason they lost was because of the horrendous play of quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Griffin is obviously coming off a torn ACL, so it's hard to be too critical of his performance this year, but boy, he's been awful. He isn't running the ball as effectively, and his throws have been wildly inaccurate, too. Other than that, he's been great!
The silver lining? Last year, the Redskins started 3-6 before rattling off seven consecutive wins, culminating in an NFC East title. But that was with a healthy RG3.
Washington faces a must-win on Sunday when it hosts the Chargers. If Griffin plays poorly again, the Redskins will certainly lose, and the crisis in D.C. will continue.
That's something that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on.
Ever deal with someone in the office that suffers from a clear identity crisis?
Maybe it's the girl who looks super hot one day and average the next, leaving you craning your neck every time you pass, wondering "Is that...the same girl from yesterday?"
Maybe it's the dude that really wants to wear tight shirts to show off his muscles but isn't sure what's appropriate. One day, he'll wear a normal-fitting shirt, and the next, it looks like he bought his ensemble at Baby Gap.
Things are no different in the NFL, where teams suffer from identity crises all the time. This year, however, there is one that clearly stands out from the pack:
The Carolina Panthers.
Carolina started 0-2, and then 1-3, before rattling off three consecutive wins, all in blowout fashion, to move to 4-3.
Their coach, Ron Rivera, used to coach games wound tighter than a drum. Now, he epitomizes the term "riverboat gambler," going for it on fourth downs with the reckless abandon of a gambling addict doubling-down on 12 at the blackjack table.
Their quarterback, Cam Newton, used to give bizarre press conferences after losses that had you wondering if he was mentally stable. Now, he has an excess of charm and charisma, and appears to have evolved into a true leader.
What the hell is going on in Carolina?
Bottom line: The Panthers are good, and have an opportunity to be great. But if they want to be great, they need to take care of business against the putrid 2-5 Falcons on Sunday.
So, which team will show up? Will it be the tightly wound bunch that everyone saw start the season 1-3? Or the loose group that's looked dominant in three straight victories?
I can't wait to find out.
Most of us have been bullied in our lives at some point or another, usually at school. You don't need me to tell you that it really sucks.
It's even worse when your rival continually picks on you, and in front of your entire class, too.
That scenario is exactly what's been playing out between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns since the latter returned to the NFL in 1998.
Imagine you're a Browns fan. You grew up loving your team, hoping and praying for a Super Bowl. You watched John Elway rip your heart out somewhere in the range of 10 and 30 million times, and kept coming back for more. And then, boom. Your team left, heading to Baltimore.
And now the Ravens kick your butt each and every year.
In fact, since John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco came to Baltimore in 2008, the Ravens haven't lost once to Cleveland. Not one time!
This Sunday, there's a chance that the Browns can beat their rivals. There's a chance they can finally punch the big bully in the mouth.
Take the comments of star Browns cornerback Joe Haden, who said that the reason why Cleveland can win on Sunday is because "the Ravens aren't the Ravens of old, per Cleveland.com."
Think about that. Haden isn't crediting his own team, but saying that Baltimore isn't as good as it once was.
Wow. The disrespect is palpable.
And I love every second of it.
It's going to make for a fascinating contest on Sunday. Can the Browns finally stand up to their rival in front of the entire country, knock them down and essentially out of the AFC North race? Or will the bully once again reign supreme, and take away the Browns' lunch money?
If that doesn't get your heart racing, check your pulse.
I know that the work week has probably been tough. Maybe your boss has been a pain in the butt, or maybe you're just exhausted.
But fear not! There's a surefire way to make yourself feel better this Sunday night.
And while I could be talking about Carrie Underwood singing the Sunday Night Football theme song in daisy dukes, I'm not.
I'm talking about watching recently benched Texans quarterback Matt Schaub on the sidelines, because you just know that camera is going to be on him every couple of minutes.
Schaub fell off the proverbial cliff this season, throwing pick-six interceptions like a college freshman throws back shots of Fireball whiskey, and provided Texans fans with the same result as the stupid student: puking.
That led to his benching in favor of unproven quarterback Case Keenum, who will lead Houston onto the field on Sunday night when it hosts the first-place Colts.
Schaub is healthy, and everyone knows it, making the benching all the more embarrassing.
This means that Sunday night is going to provide guaranteed entertainment. Either Keenum will play great, and Schaub will have to put on a happy face even though he's miserable, or Keenum will struggle, and we'll get to experience the thrill of wondering whether or not Schaub will be inserted into the game, and when he'll throw a pick-six! It's a win-win!
Don't worry, you cube monkey, you. Sunday night isn't that far away.
Last week, I gave you four potential choices for your survivor pool. Once again, I hope you listened, and I nailed each and every one of them.
This week is the toughest one yet. If you haven't used Seattle yet, it's obviously the pick, as it'll beat Tampa Bay by somewhere in the range of three thousand points.
But if, like me, you have used Seattle, you'll have to look elsewhere.
I don't like taking road teams until it's absolutely necessary, so that eliminates New Orleans (at the Jets) and Kansas City (at Buffalo) off the list.
This leaves us with two primary choices: the Cowboys (over Minnesota) and the Panthers (over Atlanta).
As detailed earlier, Carolina is a team that is suffering from an identity crisis. It looks great now, but would it shock anyone if it laid a Tar Heel-sized egg on Sunday? No. And what the heck is a Tar Heel, anyway?
That leaves the Cowboys as the pick.
I know that it's not an ideal selection, but the good news is that Christian Ponder looks to be the Vikings starter for the weekend, and at this point, I'm not sure if Ponder could beat Baylor, much less the Dallas Cowboys.
Take the Cowboys with a modicum of confidence. They aren't a lock, but they're the best option this week.
Now, onto actual gambling.
I absolutely love the Seahawks this weekend. Somehow, they're only 15.5 point favorites against 0-7 Tampa Bay.
Look at the Bucs. They're winless. They clearly aren't responding to their authoritarian, out-of-touch coach, Greg Schiano, who has handled his tenure in Tampa Bay with all the grace and aplomb of the dudes that ran Enron. They have a ridiculously long, cross-country flight, all so they can get their tails handed to them by the Seahawks.
You think they're going to walk into CenturyLink Field, in front of Seattle's 12th Man, and put up a good showing?
Don't be scared of the number. Take the Seahawks with confidence.
You'll thank me when Richard Sherman is returning an interception for a touchdown to go up 21-3 in the second quarter.