Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/27/16


Last week was mythically profitable for the NFL Picks.  I made 14 selections and the record for the week was 9-4-1.  Since the start of the NFL season, the combined weekly results lead to a record of 91-55-4.

Two games last week were relegated to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin’s record was 1-0-1.  So far this season, the coin has been more successful that one should expect from a flipped coin; the cumulative record is 11-8-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Bucs +7.5 against Chiefs.  Bucs won straight up.
  • Steelers – 7.5 against Browns.  Steelers won by 15 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Bills/Bengals OVER 47.  Total score was only 28 points.
  • Cards over Vikes “pick ‘em”.  Vikes won by 6 points.

Notwithstanding last week’s mythical profitability, I must remind everyone that there is no inside information nor any unique insight contained in these Mythical Picks; they are not and should not be taken as authoritative.  No one should use anything written here as the basis for making a real wager on areal NFL game this weekend if the wager involves real money.  Here is how stupid you would have to be to do something like that:

If I told you that Christmas fell on Friday this year, you would hope it was not a Friday the 13th.


General Comments:


For reasons of Thanksgiving Holiday social commitments, these comments will be significantly curtailed this week.  Last week, the Cleveland Browns gave up 8 sacks in their loss to the Steelers.  As you might imagine, teams that give up 8 sacks in a game are highly likely to come out on the short end of the stick.  The Browns have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and Thanksgiving Day is not yet upon us.  That is something else that happens to teams that yield 8 sacks in a game…

That loss set the Browns record for the 2016 season at 0-11 meaning they must now be watched carefully in terms of becoming only the second team in the NFL ever to go winless in a 16-game season.  The Lions sank to those depths in 2008.

Let me project for a moment that the 2016 Browns will match that level of incompetence and fail to win a game this year.  If that is the case, you know that people will try to compare the two levels of ignominy to identify which team was more inept.  Let me offer some data here for your cogitation:

  1. In 2008, the Detroit Lions were 4-0 in the Exhibition Season and then lost every game in the regular season.  One could argue that this demonstrates the abject meaninglessness of the Exhibition Season games; or one could argue that this record demonstrated that the 2008 Lions had a small kernel of talent/competency at the core.
  2. In 2016, the Cleveland Browns were 0-4 in the Exhibition Season and – if my surmise here were to come to pass – they would then have lost every game in the regular season too.  They would have lost 20 games in the 2016 season when on the same field with professional competition.

Think about it for a while because come January 2017, I believe this will be a topic of discussion in sports commentaries…

With the Steelers win over the Browns last week and with the Ravens loss to the Cowboys, the Steelers and Ravens are tied atop the AFC North division.  The two teams have gotten there in opposite ways.  The Ravens win on defense and have prevailed in a lot of really close games; the Steelers go out and outscore opponents.  The Ravens’ defense did a good job in containing Ezekiel Elliott until a final long run from scrimmage added significantly to his yardage total for the game.  Not to worry though if you are a Cowboys’ fan; Dak Prescott stepped up and delivered 301 yards and 3 TD passes for the day to win the game comfortably.

For the past several seasons, the Bengals have joined the Steelers and Ravens in dominating the AFC North and finding ways to get more than one team from that division into the playoffs.  That is not looking to be likely this year.  As of this morning the Bengals record is 3-6-1 and the future looks grim.  In the Bengals’ loss last week to the Bills, the Bengals appear to have lost the services of AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard for the rest of the year.  That takes a big chunk out of a Bengals’ offense that has only produced 20 points per game this year.

I wonder if this downturn in success by the Bengals will put Marvin Lewis’ job in jeopardy.  Going into the season, Lewis had made the playoffs for 5 straight years and had lost in the first playoff game each time.  Some speculated that he would need to win a playoff game or wind up looking for a new gig.  At least one columnist in Cincy is turning up the heat already.  Stay tuned …

The Seahawks beat the Eagles by 11 points behind a very good game from Russell Wilson.  It was not a spectacular win but it was very workmanlike.  As of this morning, I think the Cowboys and the Seahawks are the two best teams in the NFC by a significant margin.  They do not meet in the regular season; I suspect they will meet in January 2017…

In the NFC North, the Lions and Vikes have the same 6-4 record.  The Lions own the tiebreaker here based on a win over the Vikes a couple of weeks ago.  The teams meet in the early game on Thanksgiving Day and I have to say that it has been a while since the “early game” on Thanksgiving Day had inherent significance for both participants.  Both of these teams won last week.

The Vikes cracked a 4-game losing streak with a 30-24 win over the Cards.  The Lions beat the Jags 26-19.  There was an eerie similarity in the way these two teams won:

  • Both teams had a Pick Six last week.  The Vikes was a 100-yard return.
  • The Lions returned a punt for a TD.
  • The Vikes returned a kickoff for a TD.

Could be an interesting time on Thursday afternoon …

In their loss to the Lions last week, the Jags gave up that punt return for a TD and that Pick Six and threw in yet another INT.  The Jags are 2-8 so far this year.  Are you surprised?

In the Cards’ loss to the Vikes – giving the Cards a 4-5-1 record for the year – it sure looked to me as if Carson Palmer’s career arc was on a steep downward slope.  We saw what happened last year when the team had to play backups at QB and it was not pretty.  Perhaps the Cards are in for a “tear-down/rebuild” project?

The Chiefs loss to the Bucs in KC was a surprise and it may be a loss that comes back to haunt the Chiefs somewhere down the road.  It was the Chiefs’ first loss at home this year.

The Rams led the dolphins 10-0 with 5 minutes to play in the game.  Up to then, the Rams’ defense had dominated the game; the Dolphins gained a total of 88 yards on offense in the first 55 minutes of the game.  Then the Rams gave up 2 TDs in the final 5 minutes to allow the Dolphins to win their 5th game in a row.  The first 11 possessions for the Dolphins ended as such:

  • 10 punts
  • 1 INT

Then came the deluge…  Jared Goff made his first start for the Rams; he was 17 for 31 for 134 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs.  Let me label that as “less than fully satisfactory” and leave it at that…


The Games:


All 32 teams are in action this week.  The final teams with BYE Weeks for the 2016 season will take them next week.


(Thurs Early Afternoon) Minnesota at Detroit – 2.5 (43): This game means a ton to the Lions.  If they win, they will be one game ahead of the Vikes in the NFC North standings on the basis of wins and losses and will be two games ahead in reality because they will have won both head-to-head games this season.  I know, by inversion, that means the game means a lot to the Vikes too.  I have a hunch that last week’s win – ugly as it was – over the Cards gave the Vikes a new lease on life in the NFC North and that they will carry that forward here.  I’ll take the Vikes plus the points.


(Thurs Late Afternoon) Washington at Dallas – 7 (51):  This is not the Game of the Week – – but it is indeed the Game of Thanksgiving Day.  Why the NFL scheduled the Skins to play on Sunday night last week and then had to go on the road to play on Thursday afternoon this week for their subsequent game is something known only to the folks on mahogany row in NFL HQs.  The Skins are playing very well and Kirk Cousins is playing to prove that his $20M salary this year is a baseline for this upcoming long-term contract negotiations.  Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are playing on rookie contracts that cannot see as high as $20M annually without a 100-inch telescope.  I said above that I think the Cowboys and the Seahawks are the class of the NFC; this is the time for class to show itself.  I’ll take the Cowboys and lay the points.


(Thurs Nite) Pittsburgh – 3 at Indy (54):  Short and sweet here…  I think the Steelers are the better team and I think that they are poised to make a late season run to assure themselves the AFC North title.  I like the Steelers to win and cover – even on the road.


San Diego at Houston – 2 (46.5):  The Texans hold a 1-game lead over the Colts and a 1.5 game lead over the Titans in the AFC South.  This game means a lot to them regarding the AFC playoffs.  The Chargers are not going to make even a slight noise – not even a whimper – in the AFC West but that is because the three teams above them are really good – – much better than the Texans.  I like the Chargers plus the points here because I think the Texans are nothing more than the best of a sorry lot – so far this year – in the AFC South.


Tennessee – 3 at Chicago (42.5):  I know that I took the Bears last week and that they covered last week.  Nonetheless, the Bears lost last week.  I think the Titans are the better team here and I think the Titans would love to take this opportunity to win a game on the road as a favorite just to get some of the “disbelieving media” to shut up.  I like the Titans to win and cover.


Jax at Buffalo – 7.5 (45.5):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  At 5-5, the Bills are not out of the wild-card race; they are not in good shape in that race, but they can still play to achieve that objective.  The Bills’ problem is that they are anything but consistent.  The Jags are an underachieving hot puddle of pig puke.  I am turning this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.


Cincy at Baltimore – 4 (40.5):  Both teams will know the outcome of the Steelers/Colts game from Thursday nite.  Both teams will see that outcome and recognize that a Steelers’ loss will give them a huge opportunity here and that a Steelers’ win will put the loser of this game in a disadvantageous position.  In fact, in the latter case, if the Steelers win and Bengals lose, the Bengals are probably toast.  I think the two injuries cited above (AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard) will doom the Bengals on the scoreboard.  My hesitation here is that the Ravens do not know how to put teams away; they always seem to find a way to make a game come down to the final two or three plays.  With trepidation, I’ll take the Ravens and lay the points.


Arizona at Atlanta – 4 (50):  Arizona needs this win if it is going to continue to consider the playoffs as anything more than a fairy tale.  As of this morning, the Cards trail the Seahawks in the NFC West by 3 full games; after this contest, there will be only 5 more games in the regular season.  The Falcons are still living off the huge cushion they created with their fast start to the regular season; the Falcons are a game ahead of the Bucs in the NFC South.  I think the Falcons will be able to throw the ball and score on the Cards’ defense despite the statistical advantage the Cards enjoy on defense in this game.  On the other hand, the Falcons’ secondary is nothing to write home about (28th in the NFL giving up 283 yards per game) and if the Cards cannot throw and score on it, then the Cards are finito.  I agree with the oddsmaker here; this game will be a shoot-out and will not be decided until the final few minutes of the game.  I will make this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Falcons to win and cover.


SF at Miami – 8 (45.5):  I am trying to think of some sort of “advantage” that the Niners might enjoy in this contest.  Given the venue, the distance they have to travel, the talent deficit they suffer and the motivation factor on the side of their opponents, it is hard to like anything about the Niners here.  I’ll take the Dolphins to win and cover at home giving them their 6th straight win.


LA at New Orleans – 7.5 (46):  Short and sweet here …  I was underwhelmed by Jared Goff’s opening act last week at home.  On the road in a raucous atmosphere like the Superdome, I think he will have difficulty – – even against the Saints defense (28th in the NFL in passing yards per game and 14th in the NFL in rushing yards per game).  I’ll take the Saints and lay the points.


Giants – 7 at Cleveland (44.5):  The Browns yielded 8 sacks last week; the Giants defense can rush the passer.  The Browns’ running game is meek (25th in the NFL).  I do not see the Browns lighting up the scoreboard here.  On the flip side, the Giants are primarily a passing team.  The Browns’ secondary has given up more TD passes than any other defense in the NFL – 25 so far this year.  I like the Giants to win and cover on the road.


Seattle – 6 at Tampa (45):  I do think the Seahawks are the better team here.  However, that transcontinental trip to the game does not make me anxious to lay 6 points.  I sense a defensive game here so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Carolina at Oakland – 3.5 (48):  Under normal circumstances, I would think that this is one of the less meaningful games on both team’s schedules.  It is not a division game; it is not even a conference game.  However, the Raiders are alone in first place in the AFC West and enjoy the same overall record as the Patriots.  They are motivated to hold their playoff positioning.  Meanwhile the Panthers are in last place in the NFC South but they are only 2 games out of first place there; they are actually in better shape to win their division at the moment than they are to be a wild card team.  They too are motivated for this game if they still harbor playoff dreams.  The Raiders prevailed last week over the Texans but gave up 243 yards to Brock Osweiler in the process; Cam Newton is better than that.  I like the Panthers plus the points here.


New England – 7.5 at Jets (46.5):  This spread opened at 9 points but quickly dropped to 8 points and is now at this level at most of the sportsbooks as of this morning.  I assume that the Jets will start Bryce Petty at QB again this week; I cannot see them going back to Ryan Fitzpatrick again this year absent a dire emergency circumstance and the fact that they put Petty out there instead of Christian Hackenberg tells me that they think Petty is the “more advanced student” at this time.  If I am right, then the Jets will enter the game with an over-matched QB who is not ready for the sorts of subtleties that the Pats’ defense can show him.  I think this could be a rout – even though the Jets’ defense is solid (11th in the NFL in total defense).  I’ll take the Pats and lay the points – even in the Big Apple.


(Sun Nite) KC at Denver – 3.5 (39):  This is the Game of the Week.  These teams are tied for second place – and for the two wild card slots in the AFC – each with a record of 7-3.  The loser here should find itself tied with the dolphins for the second wild card slot in the AFC while the winner would either be in the driver’s seat for the first slot or might be tied with the Raiders for the division lead.  This is a big game but it is not the only time these squads will see each other this year; they will meet again in KC on Christmas Night.  I think this will be a defense-dominated game where points will be at a premium.  In games like this, I like to take the points so I’ll take the Chiefs plus the points here.


(Mon Nite) Green Bay at Philly – 4 (47.5):  The Packers are 1-4 on the road; they have lost 4 games in a row; they have a ton of injuries; there is not much to recommend them here except that they have Aaron Rodgers at QB and even if this is indeed a down year for him compared to other seasons, he is still a great QB.  The Eagles are 4-0 at home; they lost last week to a better team but more importantly they lost 2 RBs in the game to injuries; Carson Wentz may indeed be their QB of the future, but he is not yet anything close to Aaron Rodgers.  I can make a case against both squads here so I’ll turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol.  The coin says to take the Packers plus the points.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………