I need to change the format here at least temporarily. My computer is very uncooperative at the moment and so I am limited in the number of things I can have open at one time to be able to flip back and forth among them. This is either going to require significant professional treatment after the Holidays or perhaps a new machine.
In any event, last week’s results boiled down to the weekly Mythical Picks going 9-7-1 bringing the total season record to 103-137-5.
The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games were 3-1-0 for the week edging the coin closer to the expected .500 level. The season total is 17-22-1.
Disclaimer: No one should use any information here as even a small part of a decision to make a real bet involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend. Anyone doing that would be so dumb that blondes would tell jokes about him/her.
I have a confession to make. I yielded to temptation last night. No, not that way; get your mind out of the gutter! Let me explain…
My intention for last night was to clean up after dinner and repair to Curmudgeon Central to begin to write today’s Mythical Picks piece. I had exactly zero intention to watch the Titans/Jags game on Thursday Night Football. However, the news broke on SportsCenter at 6:00 that the Celtics had traded Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks and then I learned that ESPN would have its Grantland Basketball Show (with Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose) on at 7:00. Of course, I wanted to see that…
And that got me to 8:00 and I had not descended to the den that is Curmudgeon Central and it was really close to kickoff time and … I told myself that I was only going to watch a couple of series and then turn the game off. Well, I did not do that; I actually was mesmerized by the blatant ineptitude on display. Moreover, as each blunder unfolded on the screen in front of me, I began to wonder if I was the only person tuned in who did not have “a little something” on the game. With that thought in mind, I wondered how many of the viewers with “a little something” on the game really needed an intervention and a visit to a counselor.
Both teams brought 2-12 records to the field last night. The Jags won the game; it is their third win of the season. However, the curmudgeonly centerpiece of the game is The Tennessee Titans. Consider:
Last Sunday, the Titans (then 2-11) faced the NY Jets (also 2-11). The Titans lost that game.
Four days later, the Titans (then 2-12) faced the Jax Jaguars (also 2-12). The Titans lost that game too.
The Titans, Bucs and Raiders all have 2 wins as of this morning. The Bucs and Raiders have 2 games to play and the Titans only 1. This is the race to the bottom to see what the draft order will be next Spring. My understanding for tie breaking at the bottom of the standings is that strength of schedule is the primary criterion. Without going through all of the calculations, my suspicion is that this would favor the Raiders because they have 6 games in their division against teams over .500 and that cannot be said of the Bucs in the NFC South or the Titans in the AFC South.
In last week’s loss to the Jets, Titans’ players got into a brawl with Jets’ players on the field after someone hit Geno Smith with a sucker punch after a play. That was probably the most entertaining moment of the game for those folks who tuned in either because it was the only NFL game on the air in their part of the country or because they had “a little something” on the game.
Last week also brought us the NFL debut of Johnny Manziel as a starting QB. He was just plain awful; and to his great credit, he said just that in his post-game session with the press. The Browns’ total offense with Manziel running the show was 107 yards for the game; the Browns only snapped the ball 38 times on offense; the Browns gained less than 3 yards per offensive play. That is not merely bad; that is embarrassingly bad. I want to be clear about two points here:
1. Brian Hoyer is not a great QB by any definition and he had played less-than-satisfactorily for the last 3 or 4 games as the Browns’ starter. However, none of his performances came close to being as bad as the stinker Johnny Manziel dropped on the turf last week.
2. How come no one asked Mike Pettine after the game what it was that he saw in Manziel during recent practices that gave him the idea – obviously wrongheaded in hindsight – that starting Manziel gave the Browns a decent chance to win that game? Remember, the Browns were in the thick of the playoff race going into the game. They are not mathematically eliminated today, but the Browns will need lots of things to break right for them to get back onto the playoff picture. Most NFL teams do not have fairy godmothers looking out for them…
Browns’ fans have to be hoping about now that Johnny Manziel is “The Anti-RG3”. Griffin’s first game was spectacular and his first season was “transformational” according to some folks. Today, RG3 is not playing nearly as well as Brian Hoyer has played this season. Now if Manziel is “The Anti-RG3”, fans can take that horrid first game and a virtually meaningless rookie season and project great things for Manziel in 2016. That is how fanboys roll…
Here is my “glass is half full” assessment for Manziel’s first start:
If he plays worse in future games, someone is going to begin to suspect that he has “a little something” riding on the game – and that he took the opponent and laid the points. That should be motivation for him to play better…
The Bucs and the Panthers met in a scintillating NFC South showdown; the Bucs lost sinking their season record to 2-12. However, consider these two things:
1. The Bucs have lost 4 games this year by 5 points or less. Had those games gone the other way, the Bucs would have 6 wins and would be tied for the lead in the NFC South and they could look at the final game of the season at home against the Saints as a possible ticket to the playoffs. How sad is that?
2. If the Bucs braintrust looks at that and concludes that they are only one player away from being a good football team, they will have descended to a level of self-delusion equivalent to Chuck Norris trying to play Hamlet.
One more thing about the Panthers/Bucs game. If the Panthers manage to win the NFC South and go to the playoffs, please remember that Derek Anderson was the starting QB for two of those wins – both at the expense of the Bucs.
The Falcons held Steelers’ RB, Le’Veon Bell to 47 yards on 20 rushing attempts last week. So, where has that run defense been all year? In any event, that effort was not sufficient for the Falcons to win the game…
The Saints had their way with the Bears last week. It is an open question as to whether the Saints’ defense began to demonstrate competencies in that game or if it was just piss-poor offense on the part of the Bears. I tend to lean toward the side of the “dysfunctional offense” on that particular continuum. The Saints recorded 7 sacks in the game and on some of the plays, I am not sure Usain Bolt could have scrambled his way out of harm’s way.
The Cardinals and the Rams played a defensive game with no TDs scored. There were, however, plenty of “three-and-outs”. In fact, in their first 5 possessions of the second half, the Rams produced 5 “three-and-outs”.
I mentioned the Jets/Titans game from last week above. Some of the stats from that game were far short of inspirational:
Titans were 6 for 16 on third down. That was actually very good because the Jets were 2 for 13 on third down.
Total yards passing in the game was 416 yards – that is the total for both teams.
Titans’ leading rusher gained 50 yards on 156 carries.
The Lions beat the Vikings by 2 points last week. In that game the Vikes’ kicker missed all three of his field goal attempts. (To be fair, the last “miss” was a desperation try from 65+ yards on the final play of the game.) In any event, do the math…
The Chiefs scored 21 points in the 3rd quarter to beat the Raiders 31-13. If Dick Vitale did color commentary for the Raiders – perish THAT thought – he would definitely call the Raiders a Dow Jones team. They go up and then they go down… Consider:
After losing their first 10 games from Sept 7 through Nov 16:
Nov 20: Raiders beat Chiefs 24-20. UP!
Nov 30: Raiders lose to Rams 57-0. DOWN!
Dec 7: Raiders beat Niners 24-13. UP!
Dec 14: Raiders lose to Chiefs 31-13. DOWN!
I do have a question for the Raiders’ offensive coaches from the most recent game. The Raiders only trailed 10-3 at the half; they were in the game. Nevertheless, you had Derek Carr throw the ball 56 times in the game. Really?
The Broncos beat the Chargers last week to secure themselves a playoff spot – and likely a bye in the first round of the AFC playoffs. Philip Rivers threw 2 INTs on the final 2 possessions for the Chargers.
In the Ravens’ win over the Jags last week, they sacked Blake Bortles 8 times and he spent more than a few other plays scrambling for his life. I got to watch much of this game and noted that the Jags had not quit despite their miserable record. They played hard for the whole game; they just do not have sufficient talent/experience to compete against teams like the Ravens.
The Pats also secured a playoff spot last week beating the Dolphins handily. I said last week I anticipated a rout in this game; that is precisely what happened. The Pats’ defense has to get some mention here despite the fact that the Pats scored 41 points in the game. The Dolphins were only 3 for 16 on third down attempts; that is good defense.
Remember back in late September when the Chiefs had just beaten the Pats 41-14 and folks were wondering if the Pats’ dominance of the AFC East had come to an end and perhaps if Tom Brady had gone beyond his expiration date? Well, here is what has transpired since then:
Pats record is 9-1 (The loss was at Green Bay)
Pats have averaged 36.2 points per game.
Pats have scored 41 or more points in 5 of those 10 games.
The Bills proved last week that you can beat the Packers if you get them away from Lambeau Field. The Packers’ loss coupled with the Lions’ win puts the Lions in first place in the NFC North. However, the Lions and the Packers will meet in the final game of the year next week and that game will be at Lambeau Field…
By the way, I mentioned last week that there was a report that Aaron Rodgers and his main squeeze refrained from sex on Packers’ game days. After last week’s outcome, I wonder if either or both of them might be reconsidering…
The Eagles/Cowboys game was three games in one. The Cowboys ran out to a 21-0 lead and it looked as if the Cowboys could do whatever they wanted in the game. Then the Eagles rallied to lead 24-21 and it looked as if the Cowboys were going to go into a December swoon for which they have become infamous. Then the Cowboys came back to life and won the game 38-27.
The Colts beat the Texans to assure themselves of the AFC North title despite the fact that the Texans’ defense held the Colts to 2 for 12 on third downs. The Texans lost Ryan Fitzpatrick to a broken leg; that sort of sealed the deal. Rookie Tom Savage came in and the best thing one can say here is that he played better in his first extended action than Johnny Manziel did in his first start. However, the Texans’ bad luck continued when Savage needed an MRI after the game… The next guy up would be Thad Lewis and Texans’ fans have to hope that Thad does not go Thud. Teams that have to start 4 different QBs in a season usually do not do very well…
The Seahawks beat the Niners convincingly last week putting the Seahawks squarely in the middle of the NFC West race and putting the Niners out of playoff contention. Look, I stipulate that the Seahawks have a dominant defense, but there was no way to avoid noticing that the Niners’ offense was pathetic in that game.
The Skins and the Giants put on a far less-than-entertaining show last week. Given the records of the two teams, “entertaining” was really all that fans could hope for; they did not even get that. Here are 3 observations from that game:
1. Colt McCoy started the game but did not make it through the first quarter. While he was in the game, he was lobbing the ball on pass plays and none of the throws went “deep” in any sense of the word. Question:
Which doctors pronounced him fit and ready to play in that game?
2. Bashaud Breeland is a rookie CB for the Skins – and he is probably their best “cover corner”. In the game, he committed a personal foul, had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was called for pass interference twice. And he is probably their best “cover corner”…
3. Giants’ rookie WR, Odell Beckham Jr., caught 12 passes for 143 yards and 3 TDs. All of the other Giants’ pass catchers caught 11 passes for 109 yards and 0 TDs. Question:
Does the “defensive scheme” have any double coverage packages in it?
Gregg Drinnan had this comment in his Keeping Score blog:
“Hey, TSN, it’s one thing to have the same NFL game on four channels, but you did it with the Washington Redskins and New York Giants.”
(Sat Afternoon) Philly – 7.5 at Washington (50): This is a “must win” game for the Eagles if they continue to harbor playoff aspirations. The Skins are playing for next year’s jobs. I’ll take the Skins plus the points with that half-point hook on top of the TD in the spread.
(Sat Nite) San Diego at SF – 2 (41): The Chargers need one of the AFC North contenders to stumble in order to get into the playoffs. The Chargers hold the tiebreaker with the Bills based on their win over the Bills back in September. The Niners just do not score points. I’ll take the Chargers plus the points here.
Minnesota at Miami – 6.5 (41.5): This is a lackluster game between two teams that are neither very good nor very bad. The best news here is that the game is in Miami where the weather has to be nicer than it will be in Minneapolis at this time of the year. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Toss Game and the coin says to take the Vikes plus the points.
Green Bay – 12 at Tampa (48.5): The Packers need to win this game to set up their showdown with the Lions next week. Frankly, the Bucs would do better if they lose this game and secure a higher draft position next Spring. I do not think the Bucs are going to tank the game on the field or on the sideline, but it is pretty clear to me where the incentives and motivations lie in this game. Then again, I do hate to lay double-digit points… I shall turn the selection in this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.
Detroit – 8.5 at Chicago (44): The spread opened at 6.5 and the Total Line opened at 46.5. Then the Bears announced that Jimmy Clausen would take over the QB slot from Jay Cutler and the lines moved almost immediately. Sportsbooks prefer not to have to move lines from one side of a common score difference like 7 points to the other side of that score difference because it creates the possibility for bettors to play middles. Nonetheless, that is what happened here and it happened in about no time at all. The last two times these teams played, Jay Cutler threw the ball 48 times; if the Bears call 48 pass plays for Jimmy Clausen it will probably be due to the fact that they are down by 4 TDs early on. The Lions’ offense has been an underachieving unit for most of the year but the Bears’ defense is lots worse than merely “underachieving”. I’ll take the Lions to win and cover despite them being outdoors and on the road.
Atlanta at New Orleans – 6 (56): Despite the records, this game is important to both teams in terms of making the playoffs or not making the playoffs. You cannot say that about many of the games this week. Neither defense is any good at all. Nonetheless, both defenses showed something positive in games last weekend. Both offenses have been erratic/unreliable this year but when they are on, both of them can rack up yards and points. A loss for the Falcons eliminates them from the playoffs. I like the game to go OVER because I just do not trust either defensive unit here. I’ll also take the Falcons plus the points because of the “elimination factor”.
New England at Jets – 11 (47): When the Jets beat the Titans last week, they moved from the category of a “2-win team” to the category of a “3-win team”. Their draft position suffered from that meaningless win. Were it not for the fact that Bill Belichick loves to stick it to the Jets, I would consider the possibility that the Jets might rise up and win another game here just to give their NFL Draft focused fanbase a giant case of agita. The Pats want to win in order to have home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The line looks fat to me; I’ll take the Jets plus the points.
KC at Pittsburgh – 3 (47.5): If my calculations are correct, a loss for the Chiefs eliminates them from playoff participation. A loss for the Steelers would not eliminate them from the playoffs but it could put them in a precarious position. Neither team is consistent from week to week so this is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game. The coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.
Cleveland at Carolina – 3.5 (40.5): Both teams are mathematically alive for the playoffs; realistically, neither team is likely to get in. Cam Newton practiced this week and says he wants to play; he is listed as “questionable” as of this morning. Johnny Manziel has to be better this week than he was last week. The question in my mind is this:
How bad would Manziel have to play in the first half to be benched at halftime so that Brian Hoyer could return to the QB position?
If that were the case, it would be a good thing for the Browns that this is not a home game…
Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Panthers and lay the points.
Baltimore – 5.5 at Houston (42): Short and simple here. The Ravens defense is going against a 4th string QB. I know that the Ravens’ defensive backfield is suspect due to myriad injuries, but still… I like the Ravens to win and cover.
Giants at St. Louis – 6.5 (43): I am going to call this the Dog Game of the Week (ignoring of course the Titans/Jags game from last night) because neither team can make the playoffs and both are below .500. I like the Rams at home to win and cover and I like the game to go OVER.
Buffalo – 7 at Oakland (38.5): Is this a week where the Raiders look like a real NFL team or is this one of their JV squad imitations? The Bills faced Peyton Manning two weeks ago and then Aaron Rodgers last week; the Bills split those two games. This week they face Derek Carr; draw your own conclusions here. I am reaching for the Curmudgeon Central Coin; the coin is in the air and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.
Indy at Dallas – 3 (56): Dallas needs a win to stay in the lead in the NFC East; if they win out, they make the playoffs. The Colts are in the playoffs. However, the Colts are not in good shape to get a bye in the playoffs having lost to both the Broncos and the Pats this year meaning that one or both of those teams would have to lose both of their remaining games for the Colts to move up in the seeding. Not likely… Obviously, the injury to Demarco Murray is a big deal for this game. Nevertheless, I’ll take the Cowboys at home to win and cover.
(Sun Nite) Seattle -7.5 at Arizona (36): The Seahawks’ defense is playing now the way I expected to see them play from the beginning of the year. The Cardinals are down to their 3rd string QB and their best running back is also injured. However, the Cards’ defense is also a formidable unit. Last week, the Cards and Rams played a game where no TDs happened; the Cards might find this game unfolding in the same way. Purely a hunch here but I like the Seahawks to win and cover and I like the game to go OVER.
(Mon Nite) Denver – 3 at Cincy (47.5): Peyton Manning’s “curse” is that he does not play well in cold weather. Night games outdoors in Cincy in December tend to happen in cold weather. Andy Dalton’s “curse” is that he does not play well in big games on national TV. This is a big game and it is on MNF. With all the cursing happening here, it might be the football equivalent of a Howard Stern show. Here is the final Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game of the week and the coin says to take the Broncos to win and cover on the road and in the cold.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………