Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 12/25/16


Last week was not a particularly interesting week of mythical picking.  I made a selection in all 16 NFL games and the record for the week was 8-7-1.  That is certainly better than a losing record for the week – – but not by much.  As of this morning the record for the season for NFL Mythical Picks is a healthy 127-80-5.

Last week, there were 2 games consigned to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin continued its winning ways going 2-0-0 for the week.  For the season the coin is in a happy place standing at 17-11-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Lions/Giants UNDER 41.  Total score was only 23.
  • Colts +4 against Vikes.  Colts won straight up by 4 TDs.
  • Panthers +6.5 against Skins.  Panthers won straight up.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Jets +2.5 against Dolphins.  Jets lost by 21 points.
  • Cards – 2.5 against Saints.  Cards lost straight up.
  • Raiders/Chargers OVER 49.  Total score was only 35.

Let me take a moment here for the weekly admonition not to take anything here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this week – or any week.  Here is how dumb you would need to be to do something like that:


You probably think that the Indians were in North America before the Europeans arrived because the Indians had reservations.


General Comments:


According to, the Carolina Panthers with their 6-8 record can still make the playoffs in the NFC if a bunch of teams cooperate.  Here is all that needs to happen:

  1. Panthers win out naturally AND
  2. Bucs lose out AND
  3. Packers lose out AND
  4. Saints beat the Bucs and then lose to the Falcons AND
  5. Skins win one of their final two games AND tie the other one.

I am not even going to try to verify the calculations made by here; that would be far more effort than it is worth.  Someone on the staff there has an abundance of spare time.  Oh, and another reason not to verify it is that it is not happening…

The Packers beat the Bears last week 30-27.  The Packers had a comfortable 27-10 lead in the game and looked to be coasting to a win until a Bears’ rally forged a 27-27 tie and forced Aaron Rodgers to need some of his final minute magic to get the winning field goal.  On a bitterly cold Chicago day with the wind blowing (reported wind-chill was minus-15 degrees), Rodgers ignored a calf injury to one leg and a hamstring injury to the other leg and hit Jordy Nelson on a 60-yard bomb.  That set up Mason Crosby to hit the game-winner as the clock hit zero.  Wide-receiver-turned -running-back, Ty Montgomery ran for 162 yards in the game and 2 TDs and the Packers ran for a total of 227 yards in the game.

Meanwhile, the Colts simply dominated the Vikes 34-6.  Does anyone recall when the Vikes were 5-0 and looked as if they would just mosey their way into the playoffs without Adrian Peterson on the strength of their defense?  I suspect the Vikes’ coaches do not.  Last week, the Vikes got Peterson back from his injury rehab and faced the very porous Colts’ defense; it looked like a scripted win for the Vikes – until they teed the ball up for the opening kickoff.  Here is the drive chart for the Vikes’ offense in the first half:

  • 3-and-out
  • 3-and-out
  • 4-and-out
  • Fumble lost
  • INT
  • Fumble lost

Not surprisingly, the Vikes total offensive output for the first half was a miserable 69 yards and zero points.  Meanwhile the Colts took a 27-0 lead to the locker room at halftime and put the game on cruise control for the second half.

Staying with events last week that had impact in the NFC North, the Lions also lost to the Giants by a score of 17-6.  The story of this game was very simple; the Giants’ defense dominated the game again.  The Lions only managed 56 yards rushing for the game and the Giants forced 2 turnovers in the red zone.

The Lions are 9-5 and continue to lead the NFC North.  However, that race just got much more interesting because the Packers are now 8-6 and the Lions and Packers play each other in the final game of the season on New Year’s Day.  If the Packers win and both teams have the same record, the Packers would own the tiebreaker because a win on New Year’s Day would give them a season-sweep of the Lions.

The Colts win over the Vikes kept their playoff hopes alive albeit not in the best of health.  Elsewhere in the AFC South, the Texans beat the Jags 21-20.  The Jags had the game in the bag – – and then the Jags proceeded to barf in the bag.  The Jags led 13-0 despite generating a total of 150 yards on offense for the day thanks to two consecutive INTs thrown by starting QB, Brock Osweiler.  Then backup-QB, Tom Savage, led a comeback.  The Texans trailed by 9 at the start of the 4th quarter.  The Texans got a field goal and then a game-winning TD on a drive that featured 2 pass interference penalties against the Jags’ defense; neither call was arguable.  In the final two minutes, the Jags had the ball with a chance to win the game but Blake Bortles threw an INT to avoid the victory.  On the day, here is Bortles’ stat line:

  • 12 for 28 for 92 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT (the one that ended the game)

This loss was the motivating force for the Jags’ to fire Gus Bradley as the head coach.  His record in almost 4 years in Jax was a miserable 14-48; there is absolutely no reason for the Jags even to consider that he might be their coach for 2017.  But I do have to ask these questions:

  1. What will this firing after the 15th week of the season accomplish?
  2. What happened in the Texans game that was any worse than what happened in the weeks before?

Gus Bradley did not throw the INT that ended the game; he is not responsible for the Jags turning the ball over on downs after a 4th and 1 play in the 4th quarter.  Looking from a more distant perspective, he is not the guy who signed a bunch of defensive free agents last year leading the Jags to put a defense on the field that ranks 28th in the league in points allowed.  I just do not understand what harm might have befallen this feeble franchise had he been on the sidelines for the next two meaningless games.

There was turmoil on the other sideline in that game also.  Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien must have channeled Popeye the Sailor in the first half after Brock Osweiler threw two INTs on consecutive possessions.  The thought bubble over his head probably read:

“I’ve had all I can stands; I can’t stands no more!”

Then he chowed down on the spinach; sent Osweiler and his $72M contract to the pine and put Tom Savage into the game.  In addition to guiding the comeback, Savage put up a much more impressive stat line for the game than did Osweiler.  Here, you make the call:

  • Osweiler:  6 for 11 for 48 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Savage:  23 for 36 for 260 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs

In the other AFC South game that mattered last week, the Titans beat the Chiefs 19-17.  The Chiefs led 14-0 in the first half and led 17-7 at the start of the 4th quarter when Andy Reid decided it was time to put the game on ice.  [Actually, the game had been on ice since the kickoff with a temperature of 1 degree and a wind chill of minus-19 degrees at Arrowhead Stadium.]  Reid’s conservatism did not pay dividends here as the Titans scored a field goal, then a TD with a blown 2-point conversion and then another field goal as time expired to win the game.  The game had playoff implications for both teams.  For the Titans, it gave them an 8-6 record putting them in a tie for the moment with the Texans atop the AFC South – with the Colts lurking at 7-7.  The Titans will host the Texans on New Year’s Day in what should be a winner-take-all game.

The Chiefs entered last week on top of the AFC West based on the previous week’s win over the Raiders.  Now they are a game behind the Raiders – but comfortably situated in the wild card race.  They laid an egg last week and now trail the Raiders by one game with two games left.  The “good news” for the Chiefs is that they own the tiebreaker with the Raiders should both teams finish with the same record.  The schedule for both the Chiefs and the Raiders is about the same in terms of difficulty:

  • Raiders host Indy and then go to Denver
  • Chiefs host Denver and then go to San Diego

Meanwhile, last week the Raiders pulled a victory out of their ears last week beating the Chargers 19-16.  The win assured the Raiders as a participant in the AFC playoffs leaving open only where they might be seeded.  The last time the Raiders made the playoffs was in 2002 and they made it all the way to the Super Bowl in that year.  What I think is important here regarding the Raiders is that their defense seemed to come to life two weeks ago; and then last week, they held the Chargers’ offense to 16 points and 265 yards on offense.

The Chargers are the “anti-Lions” for 2016.

  • The Lions have come from behind in the 4th quarter in 8 of their 9 wins this year.
  • The Chargers have led in the 4th quarter 6 times and then lost the game – as they did last week.

The Broncos lost to the Pats at home last week 16-3.  The defense did its job holding the Pats to 16 points (Other than a shutout loss earlier this season with an injured 3rd string QB at the helm, that is a TD less than the Pats have scored in any game.).  However, the Broncos’ offense was a no-show – – or perhaps what we saw was the start of the blossoming of the Pats’ “Playoff Defense” for 2016.  Here is a stat to give you an idea what I mean here:

  • For the first 5 Broncos’ possessions of the second half, the Pats’ defense held the Broncos to a total of 9 yards.

On the other side of the ball, this is the third consecutive game where the Broncos’ defense has held the opponent to 16 points or less; and yet, the team record in those three games is 1-2.  There were reports of some locker-room discord between the offense and the defense after last week’s game; that may not be camaraderie at the highest level, but it may not be all that unjustified…

Trevor Siemian threw for 94 more yards than Tom Brady did and still the Pats won the game comfortably because the Pats ran the ball against the Broncos’ defense (135 yards) and the Pats throttled the Broncos run game (59 yards).  The loss puts the Broncos record at 8-6 meaning they no longer dominate the second wild card slot in the AFC playoffs.  In fact, they find themselves with the most difficult schedule among the teams in the AFC that aspire to that slot.

As I said earlier, the Panthers are alive in the NFC playoff race but are not going to make it.  If the Broncos also miss the playoffs this year, it will be the first time since the 2002 Super Bowl (Bucs over Raiders) where both teams missed the playoffs in the next year.

The Pats’ win guaranteed that the Pats are the AFC East champions for the 8th year in a row and it also assured that the Pats will have a BYE in the first week of the playoffs for the 7th consecutive year.  Moreover, the Pats have now assured that they have won 12 or more games in each season since 2010.  Somebody must be doing something right in Foxboro…

Elsewhere in the AFC East, the Dolphins held a meager 13-10 lead at halftime over the Jets and then ran away in the second half to win the game 34-13.  The Jets had more offense in the game but it did not matter; a blocked punt that resulted in a Dolphins’ TD early in the 3rd quarter opened the flood gates and the Jets had no way to stop the flow.  The Dolphins started Matt Moore at QB for the injured Ryan Tannehill; all he did was to throw 4 TD passes (first time in his career he ever did that in a single game) and 1 INT.  The last time Matt Moore started a game was in January 2012; it was against the Jets; the Dolphins won that game too.

The Dolphins’ defense simply pummeled Bryce Petty who eventually had to leave the game with an injury leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick to come into the game to administer “last rites” to the Jets’ effort for the day.  I use the term “last rites” purposely here.  Once again, it sure looked to me as if the Jets as a team – and their OL in particular – were just going through the motions in the second half of this game.  If other folks see what I saw and interpret it in the same way, then maybe there is a coaching problem with the Jets.  When a team gets beat because the opponent is a better team, one should accept that as “inevitable”.  When a team comes out and gets behind and “tosses in the towel”, that is whole different situation.

The Bills beat the Browns 33-13 in a humongously meaningless game – save for the fact that it might have been the Browns’ first win of the year.  The problem was that the outcome was never really in doubt save for a fleeting moment or so in the first half when the Browns managed to tie the score at 3-3.  LeSean McCoy led the way for the Bills gaining 153 yards rushing in the game to go along with 2 TDs.  RG3 came close to getting 200 yards passing despite being sacked 5 times in the game; but the game was completely uninteresting from about the 4-minute mark of the first quarter when the Bills took a 10-3 lead.

The Steelers beat the Bengals 24-20 last week to stay in charge of the AFC North race.  The Bengals had a comfy lead in this game and the Steelers could not get into the end zone for the first half of the game.  In fact, they only got 1 TD all day long – and missed a 2-point conversion on that occasion.  Not to worry though; the Bengals resorted to self-immolation in the style that the Bengals have perfected over the past couple of years.  On the drive that led to the only TD of the day for the Steelers, the Bengals committed penalties on 4 consecutive plays each of which resulted in a first down:

  1. Jumped offside to give the Steelers a first down (5 yards)
  2. Defensive holding (5 yards)
  3. Defensive holding – same defender (5 yards)
  4. Unnecessary roughness (15 yards)

Ten years ago, if I told you a team had that sort of defensive sequence, you would have guessed it was the Raiders.  Today, it could only be the Bengals…

The Bengals’ offense was AWOL in the second half.  After scoring 20 points in the first half, the Bengals total offense in the second half was 38 yards.  Please note that on that penalty-laden Steelers’ drive for a TD, the Bengals amassed 30 yards in penalties.  Just to be clear, that is not a winning strategy…

This game was telecast into the DC area last week and I want to say that the Bengals’ fans stayed away in droves.  As the teams were setting up for the 2nd half kickoff, the TV shots had half of the stands in view for an extended period of time.  My estimate is that 75% of the seats were empty in those camera shots…

The Ravens kept the pressure on the Steelers beating the Eagles 27-26 last week.  This game was also telecast into the DC area and I was very surprised to see the Eagles’ offense do business against a very good Ravens’ defense.  In fact, the Ravens entered the game with the #1 run defense in the NFL allowing only 76 yards per game.  Last week the Eagles ran the ball for 169 yards averaging 4.5 yards per carry.  This week, the Ravens (8-6) take on the Steelers (9-5) on Christmas Day.  If the Ravens win here, they will lead the AFC North based on tiebreakers.

In other NFC East action, the Cowboys maintained their lead in the division getting back on the winning track over the Bucs 26-20.  This win belongs to the Cowboys’ defense after holding the Bucs to 276 yards on offense and generating 4 turnovers in the game.  In the 4th quarter, the Bucs had 5 possessions and those possessions produced a total of 14 yards of offense.  I want to present to you Dak Prescott’s stat line and then ask a question:

  • 32 for 36 for 279 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs and 1 TD rushing

Question:  What do the folks who were clamoring for Tony Romo to start this game after the Cowboys’ loss two weeks ago, have to say now?

On Monday night, the Panthers beat the Skins 26-15.  To call the Skins’ performance a bed-wetting would not be nearly strong enough.  They soiled their bedding through every orifice of the human anatomy.  The Skins managed 29 yards rushing on 13 carries and that included an 11-yard run by Kirk Cousins that was not designed as a running play and they were a miserable 2 for 12 on 3rd down conversions.  Making this even worse, the Panthers had their star middle linebacker on the sidelines in street clothes for the game.  On defense the Skins had three problems:

  1. They could not stop the run.
  2. They did not cover receivers well.
  3. They did not tackle well.

Other than that, the defense was just fine…

The Skins are now 7-6-1; they are still in the playoff race but they need teams ahead of them to lose a game while the Skins win out.

The Falcons beat the Niners 41-13.  The game was as uninteresting as the score indicates.  Here is all you have to know about this game.  The Falcons ran the ball for 248 yards on their way to amassing 550 yards of total offense on a patently inept Niners’ defense.

The Saints beat the Cards 48-41 last week.  Both coaches must have decided to give the defensive starters the day off because the Saints had 488 yards on offense and the Cards had 425 yards on offense. The Saints were 9 for 14 on 3rd down conversions.   Both teams ran for more than 100 yards in the game; Drew Brees threw 4 TD passes and Carson Palmer threw 2.  I hope the fans had an entertaining time watching this game because it had exactly no meaning unto itself.

The first game of last week was the Seahawks clobbering of the Rams 24-3.  The Seahawks won the NFC West with this victory and the game showed pretty clearly that the Rams’ poor showing in the past few weeks had less to do with Jeff Fisher as the head coach than it had to do with the talent on the field.  The Rams were sleepwalking through most of the game; it sure looked to me as if the Rams’ players figured the optimal outcome would be not to get injured and to be early in line to cash their paycheck for the game.  The Rams’ total offense for the game was 183 yards which is not good; however, going into the 4th quarter trailing 17-3, the Rams’ total offense to that point was 90 yards.  That is way less than “not good”; 30 yards per quarter is abysmal.

There is an example from this game of why you should look at stats a bit more carefully than just the total numbers sometimes.  Todd Gurley was clearly the focus of the Seahawks’ defense last week; they were out to stop him cold.  He carried the ball 14 times for 38 yards; and if you look at those numbers, you would say that the Seahawks’ defense achieved their objective (2.7 yards per carry).  But they did an even better job than that.  Gurley had 1 run of 22 yards in the game.  That means the Seahawks’ defense held him to 16 yards on his other 13 carries.  Todd Gurley is a very good RB; stifling him to that extent is most praiseworthy for the Seahawks’ defense.


The Games:


Of the 16 games this week, only 4 of them involve teams that have no real Playoff pressure on them.  You can drop that number to 3 games if you allow that the Pats have pressure on them to beat the Jets to maintain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Picking the worst game of the week is not hard on this menu; picking the Game of the Week was much more difficult.


(Thurs Nite) Giants – 2.5 at Philly (42):  The Giants have not clinched a playoff spot in the NFC despite their 10-4 record; the Eagles have lost 5 games in a row but their home record is still 4-2 for the season.  Given that peek into the standings, one might think the spread here should be bigger but Eagles/Giants games tend to be close games and this one shapes up to be a defensive game.  I like this game to stay UNDER.


(Sat Afternoon) Washington – 3 at Chicago (46.5):  The Skins must win to remain “playoff relevant” and the Bears have been out of playoff contention since the start of October.  This season the bears lost 3 games then won a game; after that, they lost 3 games then won a game; after that, they lost 3 games then won a game.  In this cycle, they have lost 2 games so the trend says they are due to lose this one.  What the Skins must realize is that their defense is not nearly good enough to carry the team for 60 minutes.  That means the offense has to be in gear and playing efficiently from the start of the game – something the team has not done consistently of late.  I think the coaches will have the team ready to play from the start; I like the Skins to win and cover on the road.  Having made that selection, I went looking for a trend that would make it look as if I had been shrewd; I found two such trends:

  • Skins are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 road games.
  • Road team is 6-2 ATS in the last 8 games between these 2 teams.


(Sat Afternoon) Miami at Buffalo – 4 (41):  The Dolphins have the 6th seed in the AFC playoffs as of this morning but they cannot afford a loss; the Bills trail 7 other AFC teams who aspire to that 6th playoff slot.  Translation:  The Bills ain’t gonna make it. is calling for rain with temps in the 30s and 18 mph winds; I do not need a degree in meteorology or climatology to recognize that is not Miami weather.  The Dolphins are the better team and they need this game; yet, the Bills are favored at home without blizzard conditions in the forecast.  I do not understand this line.  I’ll take the Dolphins plus the points.


(Sat Afternoon) Tampa at New Orleans – 3 (52.5):  The Bucs need this game to stay “playoff relevant” and perhaps even to catch the Falcons in the NFC South if the Falcons were to lose in Seattle this week.  The Saints can make vacation plans for January.  The problem for the improving Bucs’ defense is that Drew Brees came to life last week after two straight bed-wetting performances; when Drew Brees is hot, the Saints can score points by the bushel and keep up with opponents despite the Saints’ defense which allows 28 points per game ranking 30th in the NFL ahead of only the sorry-assed Niners and Browns.  I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Bucs plus the points.


(Sat Afternoon) Atlanta – 3 at Carolina (52):  The spread opened the week at 1 point and has climbed slowly all week long.  The Panthers appeared to come to life on Monday night beating the Skins on the road; in particular, the Panthers ran the ball well and controlled the clock and the game.  The Falcons’ defense is not the team strength so if the Panthers can maintain that sort of offensive play, they can control the clock here and keep the very potent Falcons’ offense on the bench.  It worked for the Panthers on Monday; can they do it again on a short week?  I think they can; I’ll take the Panthers plus the points.  Here is a pair of opposing trends for this game:

  • Falcons are 7-1 to go OVER in their last 8 games on a Saturday.
  • Panthers are 7-3 to go UNDER in their last 10 Games in December.
  • This game is on a Saturday in December …


(Sat Afternoon) Minnesota at Green Bay – 7 (43):  The Packers are the 6th seed in the NFC playoff picture as of this morning.  If they win out, they will win the NFC North; if they lose a game, they will be in a huge jumble to make the playoffs.  A win for the Vikes here would put them ahead of the Packers in the NFC North standings based on a tiebreaker.  The Packers are playing well and their defense is improving over the past several weeks.  The Vikes’ offense has been downright awful for a while now.  In their last 9 games, the Vikes have scored more than 20 points exactly twice – and one of those times was against the Jags so maybe that doesn’t even count.  I’ll go with the hot team here – even though there will not be frigid weather conditions on Saturday – and take the Packers to win and cover at home.


(Sat Afternoon) Jets at New England – 16.5 (44):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  This spread opened the week at 14 points and is ascending to nosebleed levels.  I found the spread at 17 points at two Internet sportsbooks this morning.  The Pats’ motivation here is to maintain home-field advantage in the playoffs; as of this morning, the Pats have a 1-game lead over the Raiders for that position but in the case of a tie between the Pats and the Raiders, the nod will go to the Raiders.  The Jets’ motivation here is that this game brings them one game closer to the end of this miserable season which started with some lofty expectations. predicts a 100% chance of rain with temperatures in the 30s and 11 mph winds.  The Jets’ offense does not need adverse weather conditions to hold it down.  I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.


(Sat Afternoon) Tennessee – 4.5 at Jax (44):  The Titans are in the playoff picture; they are tied with the Texans in the AFC South and could win the division; their 8-6 record puts them in a position to get a wildcard slot if the Dolphins take gas in the last two games.  The Titans are relevant and that has not been something one could say in late December for several years not.  The Jags on the other hand are just miserable.  Consider that the Jags rank 7th in the NFL in total defense (sounds good) but they also rank 28th in the NFL in points allowed per game (not so good).  On offense, the Jags are far more balanced; they are 28th in the NFL in total offense and 27th in the NFL in points per game.  Tennessee is the better team and they should have plenty of motivation here.  The Hollywood ending for the Jags would be for their new coach to give them a “Knute Rockne speech” that kicks their performance into high gear and they win this game.  The problem is that this game is being played in Jax and not Hollywood.  I like the Titans to win and cover on the road.


(Sat Afternoon) San Diego – 5.5 at Cleveland (43.5):  Here is a game where neither team has anything to play for other than pride.  The Browns need a win – any sort of a win; the Chargers do not want to be “that team” – the one that loses to the team that sure-as-heck looks like an 0-16 team.  In case you are wondering why this is not the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, be patient…  Since I do not care about the outcome here one way or the other, I will turn this over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.  For the record, the coin is bucking a couple of meaningless trends:

  • Chargers are 12-3-1 to go UNDER in their last 16 games in December.
  • Browns are 13-3 to go UNDER in their last 16 games in Week 16.
  • So, there…


(Sat Afternoon) Indy at Oakland – 3 (52.5):  Both of these teams win on offense.  Both defenses are mediocre at best but both have been improving over the last several weeks.  Neither has improved to the degree that I would call them “good” but they are improved.  Nevertheless, I see a shootout happening here.  I’ll take the game to go OVER.


(Sat Afternoon) SF at LA – 4 (40):  Your patience has been rewarded.  This is clearly and unequivocally The Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  This is the first year of the Rams’ return to LA and this is the game on the docket for Christmas Eve.  That is the NFL’s “War on Christmas”.  These teams stink and nothing that happens this weekend is going to change that.  The Niners won the first meeting between these two teams in the opening weekend of the NFL season; since then the Niners have lost 13 straight games.  The Rams “recovered” from that shellacking to the point that they won 4 games but they also managed to get their coach fired based on their sparking play.  The “new coach” showed how valuable his insights are last week putting all of 3 points on the scoreboard against the Seahawks.  Do not watch this game – unless you tune in momentarily to see if the stands in LA are more than 40% full.  Do not wager on this game under any circumstances.  Only because I said I would make a pick in every game, I’ll take the Niners plus the points.  I am really going against the trends with this pick:

  • Niners are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 games against the NFC.
  • Niners are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games on grass.
  • Niners are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games on the road.
  • Here they are on the road, playing on grass against an NFC opponent…


(Sat Afternoon) Arizona at Seattle – 7.5 (43):  As of this morning, the Seahawks are the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs meaning they get a home game and a BYE week.  Holding onto that position should be sufficient motivation for the team.  The “home game” would seem to be important to the Seahawks; they are 7-0 at home (the only NFL team undefeated at home) and they are only 2-4-1 on the road. The Cards began the season with Super Bowl aspirations but now see the final two games from the perspective that they are going to finish below .500.  I do not like that half-point hook on top of the TD spread, but I do not like the Cards even more.  I’ll take the Seahawks at home and lay the points.


(Sat Nite) Cincy at Houston – 1 (41.5):  This line opened the week at 3 points and it has dropped to this level at most of the sportsbooks this morning.  There is one sportsbook that has this as a “pick ‘em” game.  The money is obviously going the Bengals’ way but I have no idea why.  The Bengals have nothing to play for and this is a team that needs no incentive to “lose focus”.  The Texans need the win to stay on top of the AFC South and will know the outcome of the Titans/Jags game well before kickoff (likely a Titans’ win).  I really do not like either team here but I will go with the home team and the team that has a reason to play hard for 60 minutes.  I’ll take the Texans and lay the point.


(Sun Afternoon) Baltimore at Pittsburgh – 5 (44.5):  This is the Game of the Week.  As Keith Jackson was wont to say:

This game comes down to the big uglies in the trenches.

The stakes are simple.  The Ravens are a game behind the Steelers but a Ravens’ win would put them in first place in the AFC North on tiebreakers.  The Steelers are at home and are on a 5-game win streak.  Since their loss to the Ravens in early November where they scored only 14 points, the Steelers have gone 5-1 and have scored 24 points or more in each game.  Having LeVeon Bell in game condition for all those games surely contributed to the improved offensive output.  Weather should not be a factor here but I do think that both defenses will be primed to stifle the opposing offenses.  I like this game to stay UNDER.


(Sun Nite) Denver at KC – 3 (37):  The Chiefs lost a game last week that they should not have lost (see above).  The Broncos lost a game last week that accentuated their offensive weaknesses.  The Chiefs have the first AFC wildcard slot in the playoffs as of this morning.  The Broncos are not in the playoffs as of this morning and find themselves in a pack of teams hoping that the dolphins implode so one of the pack can sneak into that 6th seed position.  A loss for the Broncos would be far more severe than a loss for the Chiefs.  The Broncos’ offensive woes begin with the fact that they do not run the ball well (27th in the NFL in yards per game).  That puts the offensive burden on the passing game and while Trevor Siemian is not a stiff, he is not a top-shelf QB that can go out and throw for 375 yards in any given game.  The ray of hope for the Broncos in this game is that the Chiefs’ run defense is not all that good; it ranks 28th in the league in terms of yards per game allowed.  If Denver can run the ball effectively, they can win this game; if not, I think they are doomed.  I am turning the game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Chiefs and lay the points.


(Mon Nite) Detroit at Dallas – 7.5 (44):  The Total Line opened the week at 41 points and has been climbing all week.  I think the folks who got down on the OVER early this week had it right; I see both teams capable of getting 24 points or more on the board.  I like the way the Lions manage to stay close in almost every game; last week’s loss by 11 points is their only loss by more than a TD; in fact, 4 of their 5 losses have been by a total of 18 points.  I will make two picks in this game.  I like the Lions plus the points – particularly with that half-point hook.  In addition, I like this game to go OVER.


Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Wikipedia:  An online adventure in higher learning where the entry for the Second World War is likely to be several paragraphs shorter than the one on “The Brady Bunch”.”

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