Last week was about as bland a week of Mythical Picking as you could have. I made 16 NFL picks and the record for the week was 8-8-0. That brings the season record to 29-20-0.
[Aside: The reason the entire week of Mythical Picking was bland is that I also made 18 NCAA picks and that record was 9-9-0. Hard to get more plain vanilla than that…]
Meanwhile, in Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games, the coin had a perfect week going 2-0-0 and bringing the Coin’s record for the year to 3-1-0.
The Best Picks from last week were:
Broncos +3 against Bengals. Broncos won outright by 12 points.
Raiders +2 against Titans. Raiders won outright by 7 points.
The Worst Picks from last week were:
Steelers – 3.5 against Eagles. Steelers lost outright by 31 points.
Texans – 1.5 against Pats. Texans lost outright by 27 points.
Boring as last week’s selections were, I shall continue to make these selections in upcoming weeks. As usual, I want to remind any reader that he/she should not use anything here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this weekend or any other weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to something like that:
You go to an LA Clippers game to get your hair cut.
Last week’s games began with the Texans/Pats game where the Pats were down to their third-string QB who had never seen the field in an NFL game. Not to worry, Pats’ fans; Jacoby Brisset managed the game while the defense pitched a shutout and the result was sufficiently satisfying that Bill Belichick was caught on camera smiling on the sidelines BEFORE the time ran out in the 4th quarter. That happens about as often as a total solar eclipse. The Pats special teams were also dominant. When they were not pinning the Texans inside the 15-yardline with a punt, they were forcing fumbles and recovering them deep in Texans’ territory. The Texans did not snap the ball in Pats territory until 1:15 was left in the third quarter.
That was the good news. The bad news is that Jacoby Brisset injured his thumb late in the game. Word is that both Brisset and Jimmy Garoppolo (injured shoulder) practiced with the team on Tuesday of this week. In vintage Belichick fashion, however, neither QB threw a pass during the portion of the practice session that was open to reporters. It was noted however that Brisset had his thumb and wrist taped during the practice. Who will be the Pats’ QB this week? Maybe they will exhume Babe Parilli …?
The Dolphins beat the Browns 30-24 in OT. Frankly, the Dolphins were fortunate to win this game. The Browns had a chance to win with a final second field goal from 46 yards out but the ball was hooked so far to the left that you could call it a Vladimir Lenin attempt. The kicker who missed that try was Cody Parkey and he was signed by the Browns about 24 hours before the game because the Browns regular kicker injured his leg in practice on Saturday. How typical of the Browns…?
The Browns had another “Cody” in the game; Cody Kessler started as a rookie QB for the team; and while it may look as if he lit it up by putting 24 points on the scoreboard, a closer look will tell you that the Browns’ first offensive TD came in the 4th quarter. As the game went to OT, Cleveland won the toss and elected to kick off; had the Dolphins scored a TD, that would have ended the game. Instead the Browns forced a punt – but could not do anything on offense giving the ball back to the Dolphins…
Oh, and I have to mention Terrelle Pryor here. In the game he threw passes, he ran the ball from scrimmage and he caught passes. More importantly, he did all those things more than once in the game. Too bad he wasn’t the place kicker on the final 46-yard attempt …
The Skins beat the Giants 29-27. On Friday before the game, here is what Bob Molinaro had to say about this game in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Sorting it OUT: Is it too soon to call Kirk Cousins “embattled?” That’s one of the cliché adjectives the media hang on struggling quarterbacks. In two Redskins losses, Cousins was 1 for 8 with two interceptions and zero touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line. Now he goes to the Meadowlands, where last Sunday, the Giants held Drew Brees’ Saints to 13 points. At the same time, the Giants’ offense failed to score a touchdown. I’m picking Gruden’s guys in this one. Not because I think they’ve got their act together, but because the Giants aren’t good enough to run off three in a row.”
That is what you call “prescience”. The Giants were just not good enough to win three in a row. The Giants turned the ball over 3 times and committed 11 penalties costing them 128 yards. That is bad play; there is no other way to describe it. Kirk Cousins had a fine day throwing for 296 yards and 2 TDs. Haters will say that those numbers are not up to the standard one expects from a “$20M QB”. The correct answer to those haters are the words famously ascribed to the late Al Davis:
“Just win, Baby.”
The Giants are 2-1 for the season and all three of their games have been decided by 3 points or less. That has surely kept Giants’ fans on the edge of their seats for the full 60-minutes…
The Bills beat the Cardinals 33-18. Recall last year; the Cards were in the NFC Championship Game; now they are 1-2 in 2016. They lost their opener at home to the Pats who started a QB that had only taken a kneel-down snap in the NFL; last week, they lost to a team that had been 0-2 by 15 points. The Cards’ offense was their selling point last year. Bruce Arians was a great play-caller and the team has pass-catching weapons all over the place. Well, last week, not much of any of that was on display. The Cards amassed a total of 348 yards on offense. If that sounds OK to you, recall that the same Bills’ defense allowed the Jets to amass 493 yards of offense just the week before. Carson Palmer was awful here:
26 of 50 for 261 yards with 0 TDs and 4 INTs. AND he was sacked 5 times.
Here is a sentence from the cbssports.com summary of this game that gives you an idea that the Cardinals’ offense was AWOL last week:
“The Cardinals combined for just 2 yards net offense and no first downs on their first five possessions.”
The Vikes beat the Panthers 22-10. Recall last year; the Panthers were in the NFC Championship Game with the Cards and then went on to the Super Bowl; now they are 1-2 in 2016. Their losses have come against two of the best defenses in the NFL – the Broncos in Week 1 and the Vikes last week. Here is how dominant the Vikes were on defense:
Sacked Cam Newton 8 times
One of those sacks resulted in a safety.
Panthers’ total offense was 304 yards.
Vikes intercepted 3 passes.
Meanwhile, the Vikes’ offense did nothing spectacular by any means but what it did was important. It did not invent ways to lose the game. The offense only generated 211 yards of offense but Sam Bradford threw for 2 TDs and did not turn the ball over even one time.
The Raiders beat the Titans 17-10. I guess the Raiders decided to be sure that they packed their defense for this trip. In the first two games, the Raiders had allowed more than 1000 yards to opposing offenses; last week, the Raiders’ defense generated 3 turnovers, held the Titans to 2-for-12 on third down conversions and limited the Titans to 10 points. [Aside: One other possibility is that the Titans’ so-called “exotic-smashmouth offense” is a mirage…] I think the conclusion to draw is that Marcus Mariotta and the Titans’ offense cannot turn the ball over 3 times in a game because it is not good enough to overcome that many setbacks.
Home field is supposed to provide an advantage in the NFL. It would seem that the Titans have decided not to go along with that plan. In their last 18 home games, the Titans are 2-16.
Sebastian Janikowski set an NFL record in this game. His 52-yard field goal in the second quarter was the 53rd time he hit one from 50 yards or more. Until then, he had been tied with former Broncos’ kicker, Jason Hanson for the most long-range field goals. Janikowski has been in the NFL 17 years – all of them wearing silver and black.
The Ravens beat the Jags 19-17. I picked the Jags to win the AFC South; I am now ready to pronounce:
The Jags are dead.
Blake Bortles loves to throw INTs in the first quarter; he leads the league for his career in that category; that puts the Jags in a come-from-behind mode where he throws a lot to get them back in contention. Sadly, that usually leads to him throwing a pick or two in the 4th quarter to lose the game. I do not want anyone to infer that I think the Ravens are nearly as good as their 3-0 record might indicate. This game was a tire fire; here are some of the happenings in the FOURTH QUARTER of this game:
4 INTs by the two teams
1 blocked field goal
1 muffed punt.
Can you spell, “YUCK”?
The Jags venture across the pond to London this week to play the Colts. A loss for the Jags would put them at 0-4 with their BYE Week coming next. In the past, teams that have gotten on their flight home from London at 0-4 have gotten off that flight with a fired head coach. Remember Joe Philbin and the Dolphins last year? How about Dennis Allen and the Raiders from a couple of years back? If the Jags lose that game – particularly if they lose it and look ugly doing it – I think there is a good chance Gus Bradley will be looking for work next Monday morning.
The Packers beat the Lions 34-27. The Packers led 31-10 at the half with Aaron Rodgers throwing 4 TD passes in the first half. At that point, the Packers put in on cruise-control. The Lions meanwhile had to try to come back by throwing the ball thereby producing some skewed stats:
WR Marvin Jones had 205 yards receiving all by himself
Lions as a team had 50 yards rushing on 23 attempts.
Not exactly a “balanced offense” …
The Chiefs beat the Jets 24-3. If you need to label this game, call it the “Ryan Fitzpatrick Meltdown Game”. Here are some of the lowlights:
Jets turned the ball over 8 times
Of those 8 turnovers, 6 were INTs thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Of those 6 INTs, 4 of them came in the 4th quarter of the game.
Can you spell “YUCK”?
By the way, those 8 turnovers by the Jets are not even a club record. Back in 1976, in a game against the Patriots, the Jets found a way to turn the ball over 10 times. You guessed it; the Jets lost that game too…
There is a cautionary note here for Chiefs’ fans, however. The Chiefs forced 8 turnovers; two of these turnovers resulted in TDs (a Pick Six and a Scoop-and-Score). And with all of that, the Chiefs only managed to put 24 points on the scoreboard. That is unimpressive … I know; a win is a win. However, the likelihood of such largesse coming to the Chiefs more than once in a season is small.
The Seahawks beat the Niners 37-18. Before the game began, here is Tweet from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle:
“#49ers Breaking News: Kaepernick on DL with anthem knee”
Well, that did not happen, but it was about the only bad thing that did not happen to the Niners as they were dominated in this game; there is no way to sugar-coat that. Russell Wilson had to leave the game in the 3rd quarter with a “mild knee sprain” and it fell to rookie Trevone Boykin to play out the string here. Wilson has been in the league since 2012 and last week was the first time he has missed an offensive snap for the Seahawks.
This makes two weeks in a row that the Niners have lost by exactly 19 points. Those losses have been total team losses; the defense has underperformed and the offense has underperformed. After the Niners shut out the Rams in Week 1, there was probably some glimmer of enthusiasm in the Bay Area that – perhaps – the Niners would be mediocre instead of bad. After the losses in the last two weeks, there is probably some hope in the Bay Area that the Niners will turn out to be merely bad and not dreadful.
Here is what Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had to say about the Niners in the aftermath of this debacle:
“If you could see any cause for hope for the 49ers in this one, you probably think Monday night’s presidential debate will be a stirring exchange of intellectual thought and political genius.”
Having mentioned the Rams above, they beat the Bucs 37-32 last week. Remember, the Rams had not scored a TD in either of their first two games this year despite the fact that they had won one of those games. Against the Bucs, they score 37 points making you shake your head as you try to figure out how that happened. The team stats do not point to a Rams’ victory:
First Downs: Bucs 30 Rams 18
Total Offense: Bucs 472 yards Rams 320 yards
Turnovers: Bucs 2 Rams 2
3rd Down Conversions: Bucs 8 for 16 Rams 6 for 13
Even more confusing, put these individual stats next to one another and wonder:
Case Keenum: 190 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (and it was a Pick Six)
Jameis Winston: 405 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Case Keenum was on the winning side…
After 3 weeks, the Rams and Seahawks are tied for first place in the NFC West at 2-1. After the game, Jeff Fisher did a very good imitation of Bill Belichick in his post-game interview saying:
“When you score points, which we did, you’ve got a chance.”
The Broncos beat the Bengals 29-17 last week. This puts the Bengals down at 1-2 for the year and leaves the Broncos undefeated at 3-0 even with Trevor Siemian playing QB. I sure did not think they would look this dominant in my pre-season analysis. Perhaps John Elway knew what he was doing in refusing to offer Brock Osweiler anything in the neighborhood of $18M per year to play QB in Denver? Oh don’t forget that he also jettisoned Mark Sanchez just as the season started assuring that Siemian would be the starter for a while in 2016. The Bengals led this game at the end of 3 quarters and Trevor Siemian led the team back to a win throwing for 312 yards and 4 TDs.
The Colts beat the Chargers 26-22. The game was a nail-biter; Andrew Luck hit T. Y. Hilton with a 63-yard TD pass in the final 2 minutes to win the game. The Chargers suffered 3 self-inflicted wounds in the final two minutes to invent a way to lose this game.
1. They gave up that 63-yard TD pass to give the Colts the lead.
2. They lost a fumble after that.
3. They lost another fumble after that.
Philip Rivers was 29-39 for 330 yards in this game which is not a bad day at the office. However, he got just about nothing in terms of support. The run game generated a total of 37 yards for the day on 17 attempts – and Rivers gained 2 of those yards by himself.
The Eagles beat the Steelers 34-3. Say what? At halftime, the score was 13-3 and it sure seemed as if this would be a game that went down to the final possession or two in the 4th quarter. Not so; the Eagles scored 21 points in the 3rd quarter and shut out the Steelers thereby leaving the winner of the game in no doubt. The Steelers came into the game averaging 31 points per game and the Eagles’ defense dominated. Ben Roethlisberger had one of his bad days here going 24-44 for 257 yards with 1 INT and a lost fumble. He was also sacked 4 times.
Meanwhile, Carson Wentz was poised and workmanlike all game long. He was 23-31 for 301 yards and 2 TDs – – and he has now gone 3 full games without an INT or a fumble.
Granted that the Steelers were well behind in the game and had to throw to try to catch up, but the Eagles’ defense held the Steelers to 29 yards rushing for the game. Oh by the way, the last time the Steelers won a game in Philadelphia was back in 1965. The coach of that Eagles’ team was Joe Kuharich. Several years ago I did a couple of Topical Rants where I offered up my 10 worst NFL coaches of all time. Joe Kuharich was on that list…
The Cowboys beat the Bears 31-17 last Sunday nite. The Cowboys entered the game with an 8-game losing streak at home. They had no trouble winning this one. The score was 24-3 at halftime; and in the first half, the Cowboys had 19 first downs to the Bears 4 first downs. Ezekiel Elliot had his best game of the year gaining 142 yards on 30 carries.
The Bears are a marginal squad. In this game, they had Brian Hoyer throw the ball 49 times. That simply will not work; if the Bears do that, they might go winless for the year.
The Falcons beat the Saints 45-32 in what looked like a college game at times. The Saints cannot play defense. I know they have injuries to deal with on that side of the ball, but still… The Falcons averaged 7 yards per play on offense and it was a perfectly balanced 7 yards per play – – 7 yards per rush and 7 yards per pass. In addition to providing only minimal resistance, the Saints’ defense produced exactly ZERO turnovers in the game. The Saints have now allowed 96 points in 3 games; I wonder how Drew Brees feels before a game realizing he probably needs to put 5 TDs in the books for the team to have a shot at winning – – and even that is not guaranteed…
The Falcons lead the NFC South as of today with a 2-1 record and face the Panthers this week. The Falcons defense is nothing to write home about. They have given up 91 points in their 3 games and surrendered 474 yards of offense to the Saints.
Before I get to the games for this week, let me make a few general statements:
Cam Newton has been taking a beating in these early games. Yes, the Broncos and the Vikes have exceptional defenses; yes, Cam Newton is a very large and very strong man. Nonetheless, something has to change either with the OL or with the play calling. This kind of physical abuse is not sustainable…
How long a leash should Chip Kelly give Blaine Gabbert this week? Politics and “optics” aside, Gabbert and the offense have not been able to come close to “getting it done” in the last two weeks. The Niners have been “wolf ugly” in those games.
The Jets need to get things going in a different direction right away. Their record stands at 1-2 and they lost badly last week. Upcoming on the schedule are:
Seahawks at home
Steelers on the road
Cardinals on the road
If the Jets play the way they did last week, they could be 1-5 at the end of that stretch…
This week starts the season of BYE Weeks for NFL teams. This week we have two teams inactive:
Green Bay preps for 2 straight games against NFC East teams (Dallas and Giants)
Philly preps for 2 straight road games (at Detroit and at Washington)
(Thurs Nite): Miami at Cincy – 7.5 (44): Both teams are 1-2; I get that. Last week, however, the Bengals lost to a very good Broncos team and led at the end of the 3rd quarter. Meanwhile, the Dolphins needed OT to beat the Browns. Using a baseball analogy here because the Browns’ Front Office now houses a bunch of baseball analytics people in positions of authority, the Browns are a Triple A team. The loser of this game will likely be behind the 8-ball in terms of their division so I expect the teams to play as best they can given the short workweek. I wish that hook was not on top of the full TD in the spread – – but it is indeed there. Nonetheless, I’ll take the Bengals at home to win and cover.
(Very Early Sun Morning) Indy – 2.5 vs Jax (48.5) Game is in Wembley Stadium in London: The spread here opened at 1 point and has been expanding as the week progresses. Might it go to 3 points by game time? This is a division game between two significantly flawed teams. The Jags give the ball away far too often and the Colts’ defensive and offensive lines stink. If the Jags cannot score meaningful points against this defense, there should be roster repercussions, coaching repercussions and front office repercussions. At the same time, Andrew Luck ought to be able to light up this defense – – if that offensive line can keep him in a vertical posture for much of the day. I think this will be a high scoring affair so I’ll take the game to go OVER – – without any conviction. Remember I said I would make a pick in every game…
Cleveland at Washington – 7.5 (46): This spread opened at 10 points; it went down to 9 points almost immediately and you can find it at 7.5 points at many sportsbooks as of this morning. I have no idea why Cleveland is taking that much money here; I also doubt the spread will get as low as 7 by game time. When the schedule was announced, I thought this game had an interesting angle to it because it would represent the return of RG3 to FedEx Field. Well he may return to FedEx Field but it will be in street clothes. The Browns are a bad team and this is a second consecutive road game for them. I think the Skins will pound them down; I’ll take the Skins to win and cover.
Buffalo at New England – 4.5 (No Total Line): Not knowing who will play QB for the Pats as of this moment makes any pick in this game at this time nonsensical. However, without a Total Line, I cannot summon the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol to my rescue. Therefore, this is purely a guess based on the presumption that the Pats will have a QB other than Julian Edelman for the game. I’ll make it a venue call and take the Pats to win and cover.
Seattle – 3 at Jets (40): This is a desperation game for the Jets (see above). This game makes the Seahawks fly 3 time zones to play an early game with a QB who suffered a “mild knee sprain” last week. Meanwhile, the Jets’ QB has to blank out last week’s 6 INT debacle. The Seahawks’ weak unit so far this year has been their OL; the most dominant unit for the Jets has been their DL. I think the Jets can win this one outright so I’ll take the Jets plus the points here.
Carolina – 3 at Atlanta (50): A win for the Panthers assures them of a tie for the lead in the NFC South. Yes, this is a road game for them; however, the Falcons’ defense is not nearly what the Vikings’ defense was last week or what the Broncos’ defense was in Week 1. The Panthers should also have revenge on their mind here since their only regular season loss in 2015 came in this building against this team. I like the Panthers to win and cover here and I like this game to go OVER.
Detroit – 3 at Chicago (47): Here is the Dog Breath Game of the Week. I had to pick between this one or the Saints/Chargers game for that “honor”; it was a close call. The Bears have plenty of injuries to deal with and they did not have a great roster to start with. As of this morning, I have no idea if Jay Cutler will be active for the game or what level of proficiency he may have given an injury to the thumb on his throwing hand. Cutler at his best can be Matthew Stafford’s equal; Brian Hoyer is not up to that level. I am calling this one a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Bears plus the points. Why not, these are only Mythical Picks…
Tennessee at Houston – 6 (41): The spread for this game is all over the place. It opened at 6.5 points; as of this morning it is as high as 7 points at one sportsbook and as low as 4.5 points at one other sports book. You can find it at every level between those two extremes; I picked the spread that is at more sportsbooks than any other. And no, I have no idea where all these spreads will wind up. There was a report yesterday morning that said that JJ Watt re-injured his back last week and that the Texans put him on IR meaning he cannot play for at least the next 8 weeks. The Titans will bring their run-oriented offense to the game; can the Texans without Watt stop it? That pretty much sets the storyline… I think this is going to be a low scoring game so I’ll take the Titans plus the points here – – and hold my breath.
Oakland at Baltimore – 3 (46): The Raiders played in Tennessee last week, flew back to Oakland and now fly to Baltimore for another early game. Amelia Earhart didn’t fly that much. This is purely a venue call – and a jet lag call; I’ll take the Ravens and lay the points.
Denver – 3 at Tampa (44): The Broncos played in Cincy last week, flew back to Denver and now fly to Tampa for an early game. They did not have the same air miles as the Raiders so their jet-lag hurdle is not as high; moreover, the Broncos are playing at a higher level than the Raiders are at this point in the season. I also think the Broncos are better team than the Bucs and that defense should be able to force turnovers from interception-prone Jameis Winston. Even on the road for a second straight week, I’ll take the Broncos and lay the points.
Dallas – 2.5 at SF (46): The Cowboys’ coaching staff has seen the Chip Kelly offense plenty of times in the past; they will be ready for it. By now, teams have 180 minutes of film to review on Dak Prescott so if he has a fundamental weakness, now is the time where defenses will begin to probe/exploit that. I am sure he is not a “perfect QB” but I am confident that the Niners’ defense is not the unit that will expose him and de-pants him. I like the Cowboys to win and cover on the road.
New Orleans at San Diego – 4.5 (53): This game “lost out” in a photo finish for the Dog Breath Game of the week. Neither defense is very good – and the Saints’ defense is downright awful. I think there will points galore here and the team that has the ball last has a good chance to win it all. Even at this elevated Total Line, I’ll take the game to go OVER.
LA at Arizona – 8 (43): The spread for this game is all over the place. It opened at 9.5 points and now ranges from 9 points to 7.5 points. The spread I used here is the one at the greatest number of sportsbooks. The Rams’ defense is good and that means the Cards’ offense will have to play differently than they did last week (see above). The Rams’ offense is not nearly as good as the defense so that means the Cards’ defense needs to show up and keep them in check. Bruce Arians needs to get those messages through or the Cards will find themselves in a 2-game hole in their division early on. I will bank on Arians’ communication skills here and take the Cards to win and cover at home.
(Sun Nite) KC at Pittsburgh – 4.5 (47): My guess is that the Steelers’ coaches have been less-than-laudatory in their discussions with Steelers’ players this week based on the Steelers’ no-show last week (see above). The Chiefs got 8 turnovers last week including 6 INTs off Ryan Fitzpatrick. In case the Chiefs do not already know this:
Memo to KC Chiefs: This is Ben Roethlisberger you are playing this week. He is a better QB than Ryan Fitzpatrick. You best not count on getting another 6 INTs. Oh, by the way, Le’Veon Bell will be in the backfield this week too…
I like the Steelers to win and cover here.
(Mon Nite) Giants at Minnesota – 5 (43): The Vikes’ defense will have to continue to carry the team here because the Giants’ defense is good enough to keep Sam Bradford and his cohorts in check. For the second time this week, I will go to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the Giants plus the points. The coin has been right 75% of the time so far this year; who am I to argue with that?
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………