Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 12/4/16

Once again, this will be an abbreviated version of Mythical Picks.  Last week broke the “boring mold” that had set in for NFL Mythical Picks over the previous 3 weeks.  Instead of going right around .500 for the week, last week was a comfortable – and comforting – 11-5-0.  That makes the season record stand at 102-60-4.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Chargers +2 against Texans.  Chargers won outright by 8 points
  • Seahawks/Bucs UNDER 45.  Total score was 19 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Jags/Bills UNDER 45.5.  Total score was 49
  • Cowboys -7 against Skins.  Cowboys won by only 5 points.

The coin – acting in accordance with the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol of course – was assigned 3 games last week.  The coin went 2-1-0 for the week bringing the coin’s record for the year to 13-9-2.

Despite the gaudy results from last week and the overall mythical profitability for the season, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on an actual NFL game this weekend.  If you would be dumb enough to do that, you would also be dumb enough to believe that …

… a fibula is a little white lie.


General Comments:


The Packers beat the Eagles 27-13 on MNF putting both teams’ records at 5-6 for the season.  I suspect that is where the comparison ends.  In the NFC East, the Eagles are in last place five full games behind the division-leading Cowboys.  In the NFC North, the Packers are in 3rd place but are only 2 games behind the division-leading Lions with 5 games to play.  Historically, the Lions are not a team that inspires lots of trust so the status of the Packers is this:

  • They could be in a lot better position than they are; they will almost assuredly need to win the NFC North to make the playoffs.  Nevertheless, history over the past 25 years or so is on the side of the Packers.

We shall see …

The Falcons doubled up on the Cards 38-19.  Running back, David Johnson, was the Cards’ leading rusher (13 carries for 58 yards) and their leading receiver (8 catches for 103 yards).  As a matter of fact, Johnson was the only Cardinal to gain any yardage rushing for the entire game.  The Cards’ success in the past couple of years has relied heavily on getting the ball down the field.  It seems this year as if they no longer feel confident in doing that – perhaps because their OL has been marginal at best in pass protection and their QB, Carson Palmer, is anything but elusive back there.  When they do call a vertical play that takes time to develop, it often ends up with a sack at worst or with Palmer prostrate on the ground at best.  The Cards are 4-6-1 for the season; they are mathematically alive for the playoffs but their hopes are hanging on a gossamer thread.

The Falcons held their lead on the NFC South division teams despite the Bucs and the Saints both winning last week.  They ran for 116 yards (on 30 carries) and threw for 269 yards and 2 TDs in this game.  After this week’s game at ho0me against the Chiefs, the Falcons finish the season with 4 games against teams that are below .500 as of this morning.

The Dolphins won their 6th game in a row last week beating the Niners 31-24.  I anticipated Dolphins’ RB, Jay Ajayi having a huge game against a Niner’s defense that has had more than a bit of trouble stopping the run so far this year.  Well, the Niners managed to stifle Ajay; he only had 45 yards on 18 carries.  However, Ryan Tannehill came up big throwing for 285 yards and 3 TDs in the game.

Colin Kaepernick had a big day.  His timing with regard to his political activism last week was well off target:

  • He wore a t-shirt during the week that seemed to equate Malcom X and Fidel Castro.
  • Last week’s game was in Miami where Castro is not exactly a hero to a large segment of the population.
  • Oh, and Fidel Castro died about 48 hours before kickoff…

On the field, Kaepernick looked like a QB who might just fit into the Chip Kelly system.  He was the Niners’ leading rusher with 113 yards on 10 carries and he threw for 296 yards and 3 TDs and 1 INT.  If that sort of play is a harbinger of things to come, perhaps the Niners can win another game or two this year.  If that was just a statistical anomaly, the Niners seem doomed to pick second behind the hapless Browns next April.

The Saints beat the Rams 49-21 in a game that confounds logic.  I got the game right in Mythical Picks for all the wrong reasons.  Never did I see a way for the Saints to score 49 points on the Rams nor did I see a way for the Saints defense to hold the Rams to well under 300 yards for the game.  Jared Goff threw 3 TDs in the game; given the proclivities of many sports radio hosts, that means they will be wondering why it took the Rams so long to start Goff in real games – – despite the fact that about a month ago, they were declaring Goff a bust and a horrible pick overall at #1 in the draft.  This is why one should not evaluate the worth of draft picks for a couple of years – – even if as rookies they play like Dak Prescott and/or Ezekiel Elliott.  Remember, RG3 was the Offensive Rookie of the Year; how did that work out?

The Giants beat the Browns 27-13 and the “hero” of this game was Jason Pierre-Paul.  His defensive line play – even discounted to some degree because it was against a sub-standard offensive line – indicates that he has adjusted his play to accommodate his hand injury suffered about 15 months ago.  Oh, and just so you do not forget, the Browns are now 0-12 for the year and they stink!

The Chargers beat the Texans 21-13; Philip Rivers 3 TD passes accounted for the Chargers’ scoring.  Meanwhile, the Texans have to be suffering more than a little bit of buyer’s remorse from the free agency period of last Spring.  Their splurge signing was Brock Osweiler for an annualized $18M per year.  Last week, Osweiler threw for a mediocre 246 yards but he had 0 TDs and 3 INTs.  Here is the bottom line:

  • The Texans could have gotten that sort of performance from a career backup QB for 20% of that price.
  • For the year, Osweiler’s stats are not much better.  He is completing 59.8% of his throws; he has 12 TDs and 13 INTs (most INTs in the league as of this morning); he has averaged 209.7 yards per game.
  • There are still 3 years left on his 4-year $72M deal …

The Ravens beat the Bengals 19-14.  The Bengals are done; with injuries to AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard on offense, there is no zip left to the offense.  It may appear as if the Bengals scored 2 TDs to arrive at their 14-point total.  Not the case; they scored 3 FGs, a safety on the final play of the game and 1 TD with a missed PAT.  That was the 3rd PAT in a row missed by Mike Nugent over a 2-game stretch.  Let’s just say that does not happen all that often even with the added distance on PATs in the past couple of years.

The Bills beat the Jags 28-21.  The Bills continue to aspire to the playoffs and it could happen.  However, it is going to take a lot of things to break just perfectly for them to get in.  The “story” of this game is that the Jags’ leading rusher was QB, Blake Bortles; he carried 8 times for 81 yards.  He was also – obviously – the Jags’ leading passer but his stats there were hardly gaudy:

  • 13 for 26 for 126 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs.

The Titans held on to beat the Bears 27-21.  The Bears had 4 shots at the end zone in the final seconds of the game and did not get the TD that would have at least tied the game and sent it to OT.  The Titans’ record is 6-6 but that puts them in the middle of the AFC South race where the Texans are 6-5 and the Colts are 5-6.  The Titans have their BYE Week this week and are hoping for losses by both the Texans and the Colts.  The Bears are 2-9 and look pretty much like a team with that sort of record.

Speaking of the Colts, they lost to the Steelers last week 28-7.  It was the Thanksgiving night game and the Colts appeared to be suffering from too much turkey tryptophan.  Scott Tolzien played QB for the Colts because Andrew Luck was still in the NFL’s concussion protocol.  The Colts’ OL did not provide Tolzien with much comfort; he was hit and harassed all night long.  Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown hooked up for 3 TD passes to provide the margin of victory.

The Bucs beat the Seahawks 14-5 last week and did it by harassing Russell Wilson from start to finish.  Like Blake Bortles and Colin Kaepernick, Wilson was the Seahawks leading rusher gaining 80 yards on 8 carries.  Like Bortles, his passing stats were awful:

  • 17-33 for 151 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.

The Bucs are in second place in the NFC South only 1 game behind the Falcons.  The Bucs and Falcons split their season series this year and both teams have only 1 loss in the division.  This could be an interesting race to watch…

The Raiders beat the Panthers 35-32.  The Panthers record now stands at 4-7 which is even worse than the Cards’ 4-6-1 record the season after those two teams squared off in the NFC Championship Game.  The Raiders have won 5 games in a row; they are tied with the Pats for the best record in the AFC; they are undefeated on the road so far this year (5-0) and only the Titans in the AFC have scored more points for the season.  The Raiders have two very good teams chasing them in the AFC West, but so far the Raiders have passed every test.

The Pats beat the Jets 22-17 last week.  The Jets did not send Bryce Petty out to play QB against the Pats for his second NFL start; Ryan Fitzpatrick played QB once again.  The Jets played hard and the game was as even on the stat sheet as it was on the scoreboard.  The difference was that the Jets led in the second half 17-13 and then Tom Brady worked his “comeback magic” which he has done a time or two.  This was Brady’s 200th career win as a starting QB.

The Chiefs beat the Broncos 30-27 in OT; despite the 57 points, this was a defensive game.  Sometime in the middle of the 4th quarter, Cris Colnisworth said he wished the game could go to OT and he said he was trying to imagine the scenarios that would get it there because it was that good a game.  Well, he got his wish and then he got an ending that saw the winning field goal hit the left upright and carom just a foot or so behind the left upright.  If you get a chance to see the game on NFL Network as a replay and did not see it on Sunday Night Football, sit down with some pretzels and beer or some cheese and a glass of red wine and enjoy it…

The Lions beat the Vikes 16-13.  The Lions are 7-4 and lead the NFC North by a game over the Vikes and 2 games over the Packers.  The Lions have trailed in the 4th quarter of all 11 games this year and have come back to win 7 of them.  Can they keep that up or might they “regress to the mean”?  It almost does not pay to watch any of the Lions’ games until the start of the 4th quarter.

The Cowboys beat the Skins 31-26 despite Kirk Cousins throwing for 446 yards and 3 TDs in the game.  At 6-4-1, the Skins hold the second NFC wild card slot as of today.  Obviously, if the Skins win out, they have to be in the playoffs and all 5 of their remaining games are “winnable”:

  1. At Arizona this week
  2. At Philly
  3. Vs. Carolina
  4. At Chicago
  5. Vs Giants at home on New Year’s Day


The Games:


Two teams have their BYE Week this week – – and that will end the BYE Weeks for the rest of the regular season.  Four teams will enjoy a week off for the first round of the playoffs in January but we should not get ahead of ourselves here.

  1. The Browns have a week off to try to conjure up a spell that will get them a win.
  2. The Titans have a week off hoping for the Texans and Colts to lose.


(Thurs Nite) Dallas – 3 at Minnesota (44):  Holy Cow!  A Thursday night game featuring 2 good teams both of whom are in the thick of things regarding the playoff chase…  I am not sure I am ready for that sort of a shock.  You could convince me that this deserves to be the Game of the Week and I had it on the short list until I bestowed that title elsewhere.  I think the Vikes’ defense will play well here and I think the Cowboys’ defense will be able to stifle the less-than-potent Vikes’ offense.  I see a close game start to finish and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Denver – 4 at Jax (40):  The Total Line here opened at 43 and sagged to this level rather quickly.  The Broncos went to OT last Sunday in a night game; they have to fly 2 time zones to get to Jax and they are not bringing a great offense with them.  Normally, I would not lay points with a team in that situation.  However, these are the Jags whose 1-4 home record is hardly fearsome and whose offense should have real trouble moving the ball against the Broncos’ defense.  I like the Broncos to win and cover here – even with the “short week” and far from home.


KC at Atlanta – 4 (49):  This is my Game of the Week – not because both of these teams are better than the teams in the other games under consideration – but because this game means a ton to both teams.  The loser here is likely to be hurting a lot come Monday morning…  The Chiefs also went to OT on Sunday night and they too are on the road this week.  They are facing a much better opponent in the Falcons than the Broncos are facing.  The Falcons are the highest scoring team in the NFL but the Chiefs’ defense has given up less than 20 points per game so far this year.  The Chiefs may not light it up on offense, but I still am wary of putting too much trust in the Falcons’ defense.  Purely a hunch, I like the Chiefs plus the points here.


Houston at Green Bay – 6.5 (45.5):  Short and sweet here…  I like Aaron Rodgers being able to find ways to score here better than I do Brock Osweiler being able to find ways to score here.  I’ll take Green Bay at home and lay the points.


Philly at Cincy “pick’em” (42):  Neither team is going to the playoffs but neither team is disastrously bad.  The Bengals’ offensive woes center around injuries to Giovanni Bernard and AJ Green (see above).  The Eagles’ offensive woes center around a lack of quality wide receivers to catch passes from Carson Wentz.  I’ll make this nothing more than a venue call; I’ll take the Bengals at home to win the game.


Detroit at New Orleans – 6 (54):  The spread here opened at 3.5 points and jumped to this level very quickly.  No, I do not know why.  Here is what I do know; in 11 games this year for the Lions, only 3 of them were decided one way of the other by 7 points.  All the rest were closer than that.  The Lions are 2-3 on the road, but this is at least a dome game for them.  Given how well they have played so far this year, I am surprised to be able to get 6 points in a game against a sub-.500 team.  I’ll take the Lions plus the points.


SF at Chicago – 1 (43.5):  There was not even a ripple of discontent in the audience when I selected this as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  There was, however, a suggestion that I come up with another name that would smell worse than the worst dog-breath ever experienced by mankind since the domestication of the species.  I took that under advisement but left the name as it was…  As I alluded to above, last week may have been a spark of understanding for Colin Kaepernick in the Chip Kelly offense.  I will assume here that to be the case and take the Niners plus the point even on the road.  Remember, these are mythical picks…


LA at New England – 14 (44):  How do I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games?  Let me count the ways … (Hat tip to Elizabeth Barrett Browning) I have to believe that the Rams’ coaching staff has given the Rams’ defensive unit a swift kick in the posterior after giving up 49 points last week.  This like looks awfully fat to me so I’ll take the Rams plus 2 TD’s worth of points.


Miami at Baltimore – 3 (40.5): This game means a lot to both of these teams vis a vis the playoffs but neither team has the pizazz of other teams in similar games this week.  Hence, this is not the Game of the Week.  This is going to be a low-scoring game that will go down to the final possession. I am turning this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Dolphins plus the points.


Buffalo at Oakland – 3 (48):  The Total Line opened at 50 and has been edging slowly down all week.  I think the Bills can score on the Raiders’ defense and I think the Raiders can score on the Bills’ defense.  I like this game to go OVER.


Tampa at San Diego – 3.5 (47.5):  If Tampa harbors any hopes of making the playoffs, it needs to win here – and win a bunch of games down the stretch.  The Chargers won’t say it publicly, but they know they are not going to the playoffs.  I know that this is a long trip for a young Bucs’ team and that Philip Rivers has not given up the ghost just yet.  Nonetheless, I am impressed by the way the Bucs beat the Seahawks and manhandled them last week.  I’ll take the Bucs plus the points even on the road.


Washington at Arizona – 3 (49):  Short and sweet here … The wrong team is favored; the Skins are going to win the game outright.  I’ll take the Skins plus the points.


Giants at Pittsburgh – 6 (49):  This game means a lot to both teams in the midst of playoff runs but I think the Chiefs/Falcons game is a better one.  There are lots of countervailing trends and stats here so I’ll just turn this over to the Coin Flip Protocol.  The coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.  Why not, the coin has been right 59% of the time up to this week…


(Sun Nite) Carolina at Seattle – 7 (44):  When the NFL put this game on the Sunday Night menu back in May, I promise you that the suits thought this might be the Game of the Year.  Well, it sure is not that.  Seattle is up and down this year – – and they were indeed down last week.  Carolina has been mediocre and down all year long.  I think Seattle will return to “good” and that should beat “mediocre”.  I’ll take the Seahawks and lay the points.


(Mon Nite) Indy at Jets “pick ‘em (48):  The oddsmaker wants me to pick the winner.  Ok, I’ll take the Jets at home because I think the Jets will be the better team at controlling the line of scrimmage.


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