Last week was the final week for NCAA Mythical Picking and I went out on a low note. I took Alabama – 6.5 points against Clemson and Clemson won the game outright. The week’s record was 0-1; the final record for Mythical Picks for NCAA games this year was 110-95-0. That makes two seasons in a row where NCAA Mythical Picks came out over .500 for the year and this year the picks would have been mythically profitable given a wager of the same mount on all 205 games. Trust me; that does not happen very often…
Last week’s NFL Mythical Picks were mythically profitable. There were 4 games and I made 5 picks in those games. The record was 3-2-0; that makes the season record for NFL Mythical Picks 137-91-5.
The “Good Picks” from last week were:
- Texans – 3.5 against Raiders. Texans won by 13 points.
- Seahawks/Lions UNDER 44. Total score was 32 points.
- Steelers – 10 against Dolphins. Steelers won by 18 points.
The “Bad Picks” from last week were:
- Steelers/Dolphins OVER 45.5. Total score was only 42 points.
- Giants +4.5 against Packers. Giants lost by 25 points.
By now, any regular reader here knows that he/she would have to be might stupid to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this weekend. How stupid? Well …
He/She would probably think that jumping to a conclusion meant jumping off a cliff.
One comment about the Alabama/Clemson game in the CFP Final Game… In the first half, I said to myself that Deshaun Watson was playing poorly enough to convince the Cleveland Browns not to take him first in the NFL Draft in April and I thought that was a good career move on his part. By the end of the game, I said to myself, I hope the kid likes living on Lake Erie…
In last week’s NFL playoff games, each of the 4 home teams was favored and each of them won and covered handily; the chalk players did very well in the Wild Card round. Jadeveon Clowney played a dominating game on defense for the Texans in their win over the Raiders. Clowney’s stats are pedestrian, but if you watched the game you saw that he was a disruptive force for the whole game. Candidly, the most impressive part of the Texans’ game for the weekend was that Brock Osweiler played totally error-free. I wonder if the coaching staff went to him after the game and asked him where that kind of quarterbacking had been all year long? Or maybe the Houston coaches realized that they were playing the Raiders’ defense out there and not a reincarnation of the Steel Curtain…
With a rookie, third-string QB under center, the Raiders went into the offensive analog to the fetal position for just about the entire game. As they were playing from behind, the Raiders did throw the ball; Connor cook put it in the air 45 times – but rarely did the ball go more than 5 yards downfield until the very end when the game was no longer in doubt. The Raiders averaged only 2.9 yards per pass attempt in the game; high school teams do better than that. Making the Raiders job much more difficult than it had to be – and it was going to be very difficult in the best of circumstances – the team was undisciplined and the penalties showed that.
The Raiders were 12-4 this year and finished a strong second in the AFC West. They may have difficulty matching that record next year because they will draw a more difficult schedule. Raider fans have to realize that the team pulled a couple of wins out of their ear this year and if a ball bounces the wrong way in any of those “miracle games” the team could have been 10-6. Here is the off-season mnemonic for Raider fans – – D&D. The team needs to upgrade significantly:
- Defense – and –
The Seahawks beat the Lions 26-6; the winner was never really in doubt; only the margin of victory was in doubt. I do want to pose a rhetorical question here:
Did the Seahawks win this game because they have gotten their act together and are commencing a “playoff run” – – or – – did the Seahawks win this game because the Lions are only marginally a playoff team?
The Lions have now lost 4 games in a row; all 4 game were against teams in the playoffs and only 1 of the 4 losses was by single-digits. I realize that Matthew Stafford injured a finger on his throwing hand and has been battling that injury for a month but still … With an injured QB, you would think that the Lions would have found ways to run the football but in fact their leading runner gained a total of 34 yards last week on 11 carries.
During the regular season, the Lions won 9 games and had to stage a 4th quarter comeback to achieve 8 of those 9 wins. Congratulations to them for those performances. At the same time, it is not all that surprising to see that a team who had to do that saw limited success playing against a team good enough to be in the playoffs – a team that has now won 11 games for the season. Fourth quarter comebacks over teams like the Bears and the Jags are one thing; falling behind and catching up with the Seahawks is another.
Meanwhile, Seahawks’ RB, Thomas Rawls ran 27 times for 161 and a TD in the game. Added to that dominating performance was the play of WR, Paul Richardson, who made a couple of circus catches in the game. Where has he been hiding all season long?
The Steelers were the most impressive team last week; they obliterated the Dolphins 30-12 and dominated the game from the opening kickoff. In addition to getting 167 yards and 2 TDs from LeVeon Bell, the Steelers gobbled up 3 Dolphins’ turnovers to maintain full control of the situation. That win was the Steelers’ 8th victory in a row; it avenged an earlier loss to the Dolphins in Miami where Jay Ajayi ran for 200+ yards; last week Ajayi was held to 33 yards on 16 carries. LeVeon Bell’s 167-yard performance was the 6th time in the last 7 games that he went north of the 100-yard mark in a game; by the way, in that “other game”, he gained 93 yards so it is not exactly that someone “held him down”.
This week, the Steelers go to Kansas City to take on a Chiefs’ defense that ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing defense. I suspect that the Steelers’ game-plan for this week involves a large helping of LeVeon Bell carrying the ball…
And since I was just talking about a player’s top-shelf performance last weekend, that is a perfect lead-in to a mention of Aaron Rodgers who threw another on of those sorts of things out there for everyone to see against the Giants. For the first 25 minutes of the game, Rodgers and the Packers did nothing on offense; at the end of the first quarter, the Packers had a total of 7 yards passing; with 3 minutes to play in the second quarter, the Packers had a total of 38 yards passing. And then, Rodgers & Co. got things rolling…
From that point on – in 32 minutes of football – Rodgers generated 328 yards passing and threw 4 TDs; the Packers had more than 400 yards total offense and did that against a Giants’ defense that had carried the team to the playoffs. The Giants’ defense had only given up a total of 47 points in the final 4 games of the regular season.
That game was the Packers’ 7th win in a row but it may have been very costly because Jordy Nelson suffered “two cracked ribs” in the game. His availability – or his absence – will be an important factor in the game this week in Dallas.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Giants’ receivers had a horrible showing last week dropping passes that hit them in both hands – two of them in the end zone – I do not draw a bright line between that performance and the trip that the WRs took to Miami Beach on the Monday before the game to party on a boat. Odell Beckham, Jr. did not forget how to catch a football on that boat; what happened is that he took that trip on his day off and then he had a terrible game 6 days later.
I would caution you not to fall into the trap of post hoc, propter hoc – which is Latin for “after that, because of that”. A brief example of why this is not necessarily solid grounds for reasoning:
Imagine that I go out into the street in front of my house and stomp my feet, clap my hands and sing The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy from Company C. More than likely, one of my neighbors would come out and ask me what I am doing.
My reply would be that I was scaring off all of the elephants.
My neighbor would likely then point out that there are no elephants roaming the streets of Northern Virginia.
To which my response would be: “See, it works!”
I am perfectly willing to accept that Odell Beckham, Jr. displays “less than mature behavior” on more than a few occasions and that it would be to his benefit and the Giant’s benefit if he would just “grow up”. But the Giants did not lose that football game because he and his buds took a day off in South Florida instead of watching film in East Rutherford NJ. Pile on Beckham all you want for being “childish” but then tell me how that caused Sterling Shepard to drop a TD pass or how it turned Victor Cruz into the invisible man last week.
Rather than take the time here to talk about the Chargers’ impending move to LA and/or the Rams’ hiring of the youngest head coach in NFL history, I will defer that until next week and get down to the meat of the weekend.
All four of the games this weekend are rematches from the regular season. So, that should make for easy picks, no? Would that it were so simple…
(Sat Late Afternoon) Seattle at Atlanta – 5 (51.5): The spread opened the week at 3.5 points and has been at this level for much of the week. The Total Line opened at 49.5 and you can find it as high as 52 at one sportsbook this morning. This game is offense versus defense. The Falcons scored 540 points in 16 games this season; that was the highest in the NFL by a wide margin; the second highest scoring team (Saints) scored 469 points. In terms of scoring defense, the Seahawks ranked 3rd in the NFL allowing only 292 points in 16 games. When these teams met in October, the Falcons scoring was below their game average for the season and the Seahawks defense gave up more points in that game than they did on average. The previous meeting was in Seattle so the home field has flipped for this game. I will not be surprised to see the Falcons score here – so long as the Falcons’ defense can get off the field. The falcons’ defense ranks 25th in the NFL in yards per game and they are tied with the Niners’ defense (ugh!) for 29th in the NFL in third-down defense; the Falcons have allowed opponents to convert 41.8% of third down tries. I smell a large dose of Thomas Rawls running the ball in this game. I’ll take the Seahawks plus the points even on the road. By the way, here are 2 facts for the game you can keep in mind as you are watching:
- Matt Ryan has only won 1 playoff game in his career; that win came against the Seahawks.
- Only Dan Marino and Bret Favre have beaten the Seahawks more than once in a playoff game.
(Sat Evening) Houston at New England – 15.5 (44.5): I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games. The spread here opened at 14.5 points and went up to 16.5 points early in the week; then it settled back to this level but you can find it as high as 16 points at 2 sportsbooks this morning. The Total Line opened at 45.5 and has been at this level most of the week. In case you are wondering, you can get the Texans at +1,000 on the money line but the books are seriously discouraging bets on the Pats on the money line. If you want to bet the Pats on the money line, you may be looking at a line that is as high as minus-2,600. Forget stats here; use the “eyeball test” from games you have watched this season. Unless someone laces the Gatorade on the Pats’ sideline with Quaaludes, the Pats are going to win this game. I think they will win big so for purely mythical purposes, I will take the Pats and lay the points. After all, the Pats beat the Texans 27-0 earlier this year with Jacoby Brissett at QB. Meaning not the slightest bit of disregard for Jacoby Brissett, Tom Brady will be playing this Saturday evening…
(Sun Early Afternoon) Pittsburgh at KC – 1.5 (43.5): The spread here opened with the Steelers as a 1-point favorite and then flipped as the week went on. The Total Line opened at 46.5 points; dropped quickly to 44.5 points and has been edging down during the week. Given the way the Steelers manhandled the Chiefs earlier this year – a 43-14 shellacking in Pittsburgh in early October – bettors must be entranced by Andy Reid’s 16-2 record after a BYE Week. At one point in that October game the Steelers led 36-0; Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell (first game back from his suspension) had really big days. I think this game comes down to two words:
Ben … Roethlisberger
He suffered a foot injury very late in the game against the Dolphins last week. He will play this week and when QBs play with leg injuries, people worry about “limited mobility”. Roethlisberger plays every game with “limited mobility”; that will not be a problem for him. However, if he cannot push off his leg/foot to deliver the ball, that could be a significant problem against a ball-hawking Chiefs’ defense. Two other points about Roethlisberger:
- He (and his teammates) are significantly better playing at home as opposed to playing on the road.
- He has not been nearly as accurate in his passing as one would normally expect from him as of late. In December, he threw 6 TDs and 6 INTs; that is far worse than his normal ratio.
I think this game will be close but I do think the Steelers are the better team. I’ll take the Steelers plus the points here.
(Sun Late Afternoon) Green Bay at Dallas – 4.5 (52.5): The spread opened at 4 points but has been steady at 4.5 points for most of the week. Stats and the “eyeball test” both say that the Cowboys ought to be able to run the ball and control the clock against the Packers’ run defense. Stats and the “eyeball test” both say that Aaron Rodgers should have plenty of time to pick out his receivers as he carves up a decent-but-hardly-great Cowboys pass defense. I think the Cowboys’ will indeed control the clock to the point where the number of possessions will be lower than normal in this game – absent turnovers. That allows for fewer opportunities to score and so I will take this game to stay UNDER.
Finally, let me close this out with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Automobile: An individual land transport vehicle used mainly to provoke the extension of the human middle finger.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………