Last week was another mythically profitable weekend for the NFL picks. I made 15 selections and the record for the week was a tidy 10-5-0. The record for the season now stands at 112-65-4.
The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol made 2 selections last week and did exactly what one would expect from a coin flip. The week’ record was 1-1-0; that makes the coin’s season record 14-10-2.
The Best Picks from last week were:
- Lions +6 against Saints. Lions won outright by 15 points.
- Seahawks -7 against Panthers. Seahawks won by 33 points.
The Worst Picks from last week were:
- Jets “pick’em” against Colts. Colts won 41-10
- Dolphins +3 against Ravens. Ravens won by 32 points.
- Niners +1 against Bears. Bears won by 20 points.
Lest anyone take the wrong message from the success of Mythical Picks last week or from the record for the season, there is nothing authoritative or insightful that goes into these selections. Only a very stupid person would use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend or any other weekend for that matter. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do something like that:
You think Baba Ghanoush is some guy who cuts hair in Boston.
I am a planner; my long-suffering wife has come to think that I would plan for Armageddon if given the opportunity; I recognize that it is not an endearing quality, but as Popeye the Sailor often said:
“I yam what I yam.”
Given my bent for planning ahead, I am pleased tip my hat to a devoted Cleveland Browns’ fan for his efforts to organize a parade for the Browns’ team to celebrate the team going 0-16 for the NFL season. According to a report in USA Today, a Browns’ fan named Chris McNeil has sent a letter to the city fathers in Cleveland to hold a “peaceful parade” on Jan 7 2017 that “will be a celebration of our Cleveland Browns’ historic 0-16 season.”
You can find all the info you need about this event – should you want to venture off to Cleveland next month to participate in this celebratory affair – at this link.
With all the BYE Weeks in the rear-view mirror, the NFL season heads into the final quarter of the season. Four of the 8 divisions would appear to have interesting races to see who will be the division winner and automatically get to the playoffs. A fifth division could get interesting; the other three divisions are pretty much decided.
Here are the “decided divisions”:
AFC East: Pats have a 3-game lead over the Dolphins with 4 games left.
NFC East: Cowboys have a 3-game lead over the Giants with 4 games left.
NFC West: Seahawks have a 3-game lead over the Cards with 4 games left.
Here are the divisions with “interesting races”:
AFC North: The Steelers and the Ravens have the same record (7-5) and both are playing good football lately. The Ravens have a tougher schedule ahead with 3 of their 4 remaining games on the road but there is a head-to-head showdown between these teams in Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve.
AFC South: The Texans, Colts and Titans all have a 6-6 record this morning. The Texans have 3 division games left to play in their 4 remaining games; the Colts and Titans each have 2 division games on tap.
AFC West: The Raiders hold a 1-game lead on the Chiefs and those two teams play tonite; the Broncos are 2 games out of the lead but are not out of the race because they still have head-to-head games with both the Raiders and the Chiefs on the schedule.
NFC South: The Falcons and Bucs are tied atop the division at 7-5 and the Bucs have won 4 games in a row. The Falcons’ schedule is a bit easier given that the Bucs have to play a game on the road against the Cowboys.
Here is division where the race “might get interesting”:
NFC North: The Lions lead the Vikes and the Packers by 2 games with 4 left to play. The Lions are hot; they have won 4 in a row. On the other hand, if you look at historical precedent; these are the Lions after all and they have often found ways to go south at the least advantageous moment…
Last week, the Cowboys beat the Vikes 17-15 on Thursday night. The Vikes’ defense kept the Cowboys’ offense in check for most of the game but the Vikes’ offense was too limited to take advantage of that strong defensive effort. Yes, the Vikes were hosed on the final 2-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game; there is no question about that. Replay showed clearly that the officials missed 2 calls on the same play:
- First, there was a false start by the Vikes’ offensive right tackle which should have blown the play dead before it started and the Vikes should have been forced to try the conversion attempt once again but from the 12 yardline and not the 7 yardline.
- Second, if the officials did not blow the play dead as they should have, then there was a clear penalty on the Cowboys for a “blow to the head” of the QB which was also a shot to his facemask.
It is not correct to say that those officiating blunders “cost” the Vikes the game; even a successful 2-point conversion – not a certainty to be sure – would only have created an overtime situation where the Vikes may or may not have prevailed. However, it is correct to say that once again the officials botched an important play in a game.
Here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald about the officiating in the Cowboys/Vikings game:
“To give you an idea how many calls referees supposedly missed during Thursday Night Football, the opening coin toss that the refs said was heads was actually tails.”
The Pats beat the Rams 26-10. Tom Brady got his 201st win as a starting QB in this game; it was never in doubt that would be the outcome. Jeff Fisher got a 2-year contract extension late last week and then the Rams went out and dropped a stinkbomb on the field in Foxboro. At halftime, the Rams had amassed a total of 25 yards on offense and made exactly 1 first down. It got better in the second half but not all that much better. The Rams managed only 162 yards’ offense for the entire game.
Here is what I do not understand. The Rams are competent when it comes to signing/drafting/developing defensive players. On offense, the opposite is true. Forget coaching; the players on the offensive units for the Rams in recent years have been mediocre players and the Rams have gotten mediocre offensive results. How can that situation continue to obtain?
The Chiefs beat the Falcons 29-28. Talk about inventing a way to lose a game… Eric Berry had a Pick Six to put the Chiefs in position to make this a game to go down to the wire. Then the Falcons get a TD to go up 28-27 and Berry gets a “Pick Two” intercepting the 2-point conversion and taking it back 100 yards for a 2-point score by the Chiefs. The only way Berry would not be named Defensive Player of the Week would be if Godzilla were playing defensive line for some team last Sunday. In addition, the normally buttoned-up Andy Reid ran a fake punt that went for a TD in the second half of this game.
There was an interesting coaching decision by the Falcons in the third quarter that impacted the way the game ended. The Falcons trailed by 11 points with about 8 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter and had a 4th and 1 at the Chiefs’ 10 yardline. The Falcons went for it and failed; instead of possibly trailing by 8 points, they still trailed by 11. Ergo, when the Falcons scored a TD in the 4th quarter to bring the score to 27-22, they had to go for a 2-point PAT which failed. Ergo, when the Falcons scored again to take the lead 28-27 with about 4 minutes left in the game, they again had to go for a 2-point PAT to try to extend the lead to 3 points. That was the point at which Eric Berry executed the “Pick Two” …
The Bengals beat the Eagles 32-14. That may look like a shellacking to you but you need to realize that the score was 29-0 at one point. The final score represents a “rally” from the Eagles… For reasons known only to the offensive braintrust of the Eagles, they had Carson Wentz throw the ball 60 times in this game. When rookie QBs throw that often, good things tend to happen for the other team.
The Steelers beat the Giants 24-14. The Steelers’ defense has not been the dominant unit this year but they throttled the Giants on Sunday holding the Giants to less than 100 yards’ offense in the first half. The Steelers cruised to a win. LeVeon Bell ran for 118 yards in the game to control the clock and field position. Steelers had to sign a new kicker on Friday when Chris Boswell suffered an abdominal injury; Randy Bullock was 3-for-3 on field goal tries here and 1 for 1 on PATs in this game.
The Cards beat the Skins 31-21. Carson Palmer drank from the Fountain of Youth last week. He threw for 300 yards and 3 TDs (30 for 46) and 0 INTs. The Cards converted on 10 of 16 third down attempts. The Skins had a chance to tie in the final 2 minutes down 8 points with the ball on the Cards’ 29 yardline. An untimely INT put an end to that comeback. This loss puts Skins at 6-5-1 and looking up at 2 wildcard teams in the NFC (Giants and Bucs). Cards are 5-6-1 and probably need to win the NFC West to get to the playoffs. With the Seahawks sitting at 8-3-1 with 4 games left, that looks like a real longshot.
The Bucs beat the Chargers 28-21. The Bucs are now the #2 wildcard team in the NFC. They intercepted Philip Rivers twice in the second half to overcome a 14-10 deficit at halftime. The Bucs have won 4 in a row and the last 3 have come over the Chiefs, Seahawks and Chargers – three good teams.
The Raiders beat the Bills 38-24. The Bills led the game 24-9 at one point and then their world turned upside down. Tyrod Taylor turned the ball over twice in the 4th quarter and the Raiders came from behind to win the game convincingly.
The Lions beat the Saints 28-13. For the first time this season, the Lions won without having to come from behind in the 4th quarter. Drew Brees did not throw a TD pass in a home game and it has been a while since that happened (61 games ago since 2009). Brees did throw 3 INTs though. The Lions lead the NFC North but have a difficult schedule ahead of them (versus the Bears, then at Giants, at Cowboys, versus the Packers). The Saints are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs; but in reality, the Saints are gonzo.
The Packers beat the Texans 21-13. This loss drops the Texans into a tie with the Titans who had the week off.; it is the third loss in a row for the Texans. The win puts the Packers back in the wildcard race in the NFC. The game was not really this close; the Texans scored a TD with less than 2 minutes to play in the game.
The Broncos beat the Jags 20-10. Paxton Lynch played QB for the Broncos in this game; the coaches must have figured that if the Denver defense could not hold the Jags down to a manageable number, that defense must be a mirage. Lynch was – to be polite – awful (12 for 24 for 102 yards) and the team generated only 206 yards’ offense. The fundamental question about this game is this:
- Did the Denver defense dominate Blake Bortles to win this game or did Bortles just stink out the joint has he has done at multiple venues in the past?
Bortles was 19 of 42 for 182 yards and 2 INTs. That is only a 45% completion rate… Oh, and he lost a fumble too. Oh, and one of his INTs was a Pick Six…
You should have noticed by now that there were more than a few games from last week that were decided by more than one score. However, I have saved the three biggest mismatches from last week for now…
The Seahawks beat the Panthers 40-7. Watching the game, it looked like a 40-7 game; it felt like a 40-7 game. The Panthers appeared to be going through the motions and not much else. They only managed to throw for 182 yards despite being well behind for much of the game and needing to catch up. The Seahawks lost safety Earl Thomas in the game to a broken bone in his leg. That is a big loss. The Seahawks offense came to life – against a not-so-inspired Panthers’ defense to the tune of 534 yards’ total offense.
The Colts beat the Jets 41-10. A late Jets’ TD narrowed the margin of victory here. Like the Panthers, the Jets did not seem to be giving maximum effort for much of the game particularly on defense. The Jets went with Bryce Petty at QB in 2nd half; reports say Petty will start in the last 4 games this year. Here is my assessment of Bryce Petty based on watching him for half of this game:
- Oh my; he does indeed have a lot to learn if “NFL QB” is the career path he has chosen for himself.
And what does that say about Christian Hackenberg who has not shown enough in practice to be considered a “development project” to the point where it is time to expose him to “the real thing”…? But it is OK to throw Bryce Petty out there to see what he can do? The Jets are not in a good place…
The Bears beat the Niners 24-6. That score may not seem as lopsided as some others but the Niners’ performance was laughable. Two weeks ago, Colin Kaepernick looked like he might be a good fit in an evolving Chip Kelly offense in SF. Last week, Kaepernick got benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert – who pretty much has shown that he is not going to be a good fit in an evolving Chip Kelly offense in SF. Total passing offense for Niners was this:
- 5 for 15 for 39 yards. That is the gross passing yardage. When you account for yards lost on six sacks, the net passing yardage for the Niners was 6 yards.
The Niners’ total offense for the day was 147 yards.
All reports are that the new stadium for the Niners in Santa Clara is heartily disliked by fans; I don’t know all the ins and outs as to why that is the case, but there are sufficient reports to believe it is so. So, if the fans hate the stadium and the Niners are the team that will play there 8 times next year, what would make the Niners’ Front Office think they are going to keep up whatever season ticket base they now have? Here is a link to excellent column by Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle regarding the Niners’ ownership and GM:
(Thurs Nite) Oakland at KC – 3.5 (46): This is the Game of the Week and it is on Thursday Night Football. Let me just say that those two things tend not to go together – sort of like mustard and vanilla ice cream. The Chiefs need this game to tie the Raiders in the AFC West race; a win for the Raiders would put them up 2 games on the Chiefs with only 3 game left to play. It is a “revenge game” for the Raiders since one of their losses this year was to the Chiefs with the game in Oakland. I think the Raiders will get their revenge here so I will take the Raiders plus the points.
Denver at Tennessee (no lines): I guess folks are waiting to see which Denver QB will start this game. I do not know of any other significant variable related to the game. Since I have nothing to say about this game, let me provide you with a meaningless trend:
- Titans are 12-37-3 against the spread in their last 52 games.
San Diego at Carolina – 1.5 (48): Short and sweet here … After watching the Panthers not give a damn last week, I wonder if they can summon up any emotion here. Last week, they were taking on a top-shelf opponent and they were flatter than Kansas. Here they take on a team from the other conference that is sub-.500 just like the Panthers are. I sense another sleepwalking effort so I’ll take the Chargers plus the point-and-a-half.
Houston at Indy – 6 (46.5): The winner here will – at worst – be tied for the lead in the AFC South. There are some conflicting trends at work here:
- Texans are 7-0-1 against the spread in their last 8 against the AFC South
- Colts are 19-6-2 against the spread in their last 27 against the AFC South
The Colts are at home and the Colts have the significantly better QB under center. The Colts’ defense looked very good last week – – but calm down here; that showing was against a listless and uninterested Jets’ team (see above). The Texans are 1-5 on the road this year and I just do not trust them in this situation. I’ll take the Colts to win and cover.
Cincy – 5 at Cleveland (43): About the only good news with regard to the Browns in this spot would be:
- They had last week off to game plan and recuperate.
- The Bengals have lost AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard to injury.
The Bengals are highly disappointing this year – despite last week’s spanking of the Eagles (see above) – but they are simply a better team than the Browns. Unless the Bengals play with no emotion at all, they should cruise here. I like the Bengals on the road to win and cover.
Pittsburgh – 2 at Buffalo (46.5): This game means a lot to the Steelers; the Bills are pretty much out of the playoff chase and so this game is about “pride” and “heart” and all that stuff for them. Call this a “Pedigree Pick”. The Steelers are habitually in the playoffs and the Bills are not. The Steelers’ coach has won a Super bowl; the Bills’ coach swears his team will win one every year. The Steelers’ QB has been the MVP in the Super Bowl; the Bills’ QB is a ham-and-egger. I like the Steelers to win and cover here.
Arizona at Miami – 1 (43.5): The Dolphins saw their 6-game win streak go down the drain last week while the Cards surprised me and beat the Skins. (I liked the Skins straight up to win the game.) Neither team excites me at all; both QBs are up one week and down the next; both teams have – and rely on – an excellent running back; neither defense is great; neither defense is atrocious. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.
Chicago at Detroit – 7.5 (43.5): The spread opened the week at 9.5 points and has settled down at this level for the past 36 hours. The Bears scored 26 points last week; that was their highest point production of the season. The last time these teams met – October 2 – the Bears won 17-14; since then the Bears are 2-6; since then the Lions are 7-1. Here are countervailing trends for these teams:
- Bears are 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 against the Lions
- Lions are 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 against the NFC North.
So, there … That line looks fat to me; I’ll take the Bears plus the points.
Minnesota – 3 at Jax (39.5): The Vikes’ defense is for real; the Jags’ offense led by Blake Bortles is a turnover machine. Only Santa Claus will be handing out more gifts in December than Bortles. The Vikes also need this game to stay in the playoff picture. I’ll take the Vikes and lay the points.
New Orleans at Tampa – 2.5 (51): The Bucs are hot; they have won 4 in a row. The Saints are lukewarm; they won last week but sport a 5-7 record for the season. Drew Brees is not going to be held without a TD pass for the second week in a row and he is not likely to throw 3 INTs either. I smell a shootout coming. I like the game to go OVER.
Washington at Philly “pick ‘em” (46.5): OK, I’ll “pick ‘em”… I like the Skins to win this game notwithstanding the Eagles’ 4-1 record at home.
Jets at SF – 2.5 (44): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week – and it is the kind of dog-breath that exists just after the dog has discovered and sampled the rotting carcass of a now-unidentifiable mammal in the back yard. Please see above for what both of these teams did to leave gigantic road apples on the field last week. The Jets played on Monday night and get to fly about 3000 miles to this game; the Niners gained 6 yards (net) passing for an entire game last week. Bryce Petty versus either Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert defines once and for all the phrase:
- Must Miss TV
Only because I said I would make a pick in every possible game, will I make a pick here. Actually, I will turn it over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol so that I can stand back from the stench. The coin says to take the Niners and lay the points. Remember, the coin said that; I did not say that!
Seattle – 3 at Green Bay (46.5): This is a big game for the Packers and the fact of the matter is that the Seahawks are much better at home than they are on the road. Weather.com says the temperature will be in the mid-20s around kickoff and this “late afternoon game” will start about 15 minutes after sunset. I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
Atlanta – 6.5 at LA (45): The Falcons can score points; they lead the NFL in scoring; in fact, the Falcons have scored 41 more points than the second-highest scoring team in the league (Raiders). The Falcons’ defense is very generous; the Falcons have allowed 331 points so far this year; that is 20 points more than any other team (the Colts) that is at or near the top of their division this week. The question here is simple:
- Can the Rams’ rudimentary offense find ways to score on a very porous Falcons’ defense?
I do not think so. Ergo, I will take the game to stay UNDER because I think the Rams’ defense can keep the Falcons from running amok.
(Sun Nite) Dallas – 3 at Giants (47): This is the best game on Sunday. I am convinced that the Cowboys are for real; their OL dominates games. The Giants’ DL took a hit with the news that Jason Pierre-Paul will not play here. I think the Cowboys will expose and exploit the Giants; I like the Cowboys to win and cover – even on the road.
(Mon NIte) Baltimore at New England – 7.5 (45): This game was the runner up as the Game of the Week; it matches two division leaders who are both playing top-shelf football. The spread opened the week at 8 points; this morning you can find it as low as 7 points at two Internet sportsbooks. I think this game will be decided one way of the other by a field goal or less so I’ll take the Ravens plus the points here.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………