Last week was a boring week of mythical picking. For the semi-finals of the CFP, the two Mythical Picks were 1-1-0. Not very exciting to say the least. That took the season record for NCAA Mythical Picks to 110-94-0 with one game left to play where I might make as many as two picks. It is going to be a “mythically profitable year” for NCAA Mythical Picks.
In the NFL, the mythical picks were just a tad less wonderful. I made 16 selections and the record for the week was 7-9-0. Certainly, that is not laudable; but it takes the NFL Mythical picks into the playoffs with a season record standing at a most comfortable 134-89-5.
The Coin Flip Protocol continued to be hot, Hot, HOT last week. I used the coin flip to make 3 selections and the coin went 2-1-0 for the week bringing the coin’s record for the year to a surprisingly positive 19-12-2.
The Best Picks from last week were:
- Vikes -5 against Bears. Vikes won by 18 points.
- Clemson +3 against Ohio St. Clemson won the game outright 31-0.
The Worst Picks from last week were:
- Texans – 3 against Titans. Texans lost the game outright.
- Skins – 7 against Giants. Skins lost the game outright.
- Rams +6.5 against Cards. Rams lost by 38 points.
Notwithstanding the fact that both the NCAA and NFL Mythical Picks will end the season in “Mythically Profitable Territory”, one would need to be extraordinarily dumb to conclude that there is any great insight or expertise that went into these selections. No one – and I mean NOBODY – should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real football game this weekend. Here is how extraordinarily dumb one would need to be to do that:
You probably think that a person without common sense (scents) is a woman who wears $2000 per ounce perfume.
Regarding NCAA football, I think that the Selection Committee for the CFP this year demonstrated that their votes/selections had as much to do with football pedigree as it had to do with selecting the teams that were playing the best football at the end of the season. Let me try to explain what I mean without weasel-wording any of it:
- Ohio St. was in the playoffs only because it was Ohio St. and Ohio St. has a long tradition of being an elite football team. They did not win their division within their conference; they were not eligible to play for their conference championship; their “signature wins” included one that happened in September. They were not the team in the Big 10 playing the best football in November/December. That team would be Penn State.
- Washington should not have been in the CFP based on the fact that USC dominated them late in the season. Yes, USC lost 3 games last year but those were early in the year and by the end of the season the “eyeball test” would have told almost anyone that USC was the best team in the PAC-12. But the Selection Committee did not apply the “eyeball test” and gave us Washington.
Do NOT infer here that I think Ohio St and/or Washington is a bad football team; they are not. However, they are not as good in December/January of this season as are Penn St/USC and the CFP Selection Committee just plain blew it. Washington lost to Alabama 24-7. I took Washington +14 points in last week’s Mythical Picks; but at halftime with the Huskies trailing by only 10 points, I knew that Alabama would have to be shut out in the second half for me to “cash in” that mythical pick. Washington was simply outclassed and it was painfully obvious for all of the second half.
Yes, I know that Alabama dominated USC back in September; the thing is that was in September and this is December/January. USC is a significantly better team now that it was then. If the Selection Committee had bothered to pay attention to games on the field, I would have expected them to see that clear and present status. They simply did not.
Ohio St. was depantsed by Clemson. Even a rabid Ohio St. fan or alum had to recognize somewhere in the second quarter that this was going to be an embarrassing time for the Buckeyes. They did not belong in that game on that big a stage. If the Big 10 team with Ohio St’s résumé had been Indiana – only one loss but not the division winner in the conference – there is no way on Planet Earth that Indiana would have been in the CFP semi-finals.
One last thing… I am NOT implying that either USC or Penn St. would have beaten Alabama or Clemson. I am not implying – I am saying it directly – that USC and Penn St. would have put on a better show than Washington or Clemson put on.
On to NFL commentary …
I have grown tired of NFL coaches and commentators saying that a team underachieved because they suffered an injury to their starting QB. Sure, that is a big deal; no team wants that to happen. Nevertheless, such a happenstance is not a one-way ticket to the NFL boneyard. It is not uncommon for a team to have to fill in for a starting QB for 4 games in a season and in that circumstance, let me point out how one team managed to muddle through such a situation this year:
- The New England Patriots started 3 – not 2 but 3 – different QBs this year; two of those starters had never started an NFL game in the past. The Pats managed to survive to the tune of a regular season record of 14-2. They will not play this week as they sit at home and get ready to host the lowest-seeded team to survive the AFC wild card round this weekend.
Oh, let me give you another example… There is a team that lost its starter in one of the meaningless exhibition games back in the summer and had to start a rookie QB who was taken in the 4th round of last year’s draft. That team was surely doomed … except that the Dallas Cowboys finished the regular season with a 13-3 record and will have home-field advantage in every NFC playoff game that they play in this year.
Quarterbacks are extremely important; bad quarterbacking can – and usually does – relegate a team to second-rate or even third-rate status. However, it is not a certainty and commentators should stop giving teams that “easy way out” to explain underachievement…
Oh, while I am at it, can we agree for at least a moment to stop calling it “underachievement” and call it – more accurately – “failure to perform”?
The last week of the regular season should have been designated as “Backup QB Matt Week”. Consider these starting QBs who were backups for their teams:
- Matt Barkley – Bears
- Matt Cassel – Titans
- Matt McGloin – Raiders
- Matt Moore – Dolphins
The Bills started a backup QB (EJ Manuel) too last week – and then sat him down to let their third-string guy (Cardale Jones) get some time on the field. The Bills lost handily to the Jets 30-10 and the play of that QB tandem must bear some of the responsibility for the loss. Combined, that duo produced this stat line:
- 15 for 31 for 182 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs
No one would mistake that sort of production with the descriptor “a key ingredient for winning football”. However, I want to describe one play in the game here simply to suggest that the rest of the Bills’ team may not have been ”fully engaged” in the game.
- Leading 23-3, the Jets lined up to kick off to the Bills. The kick bounced along into the end zone where the Bills just stood over it and watched it come to rest in their end zone. They watched as Jets’ special teamer, Doug Middleton, fell on the ball for a Jets’ TD making the score 30-3.
- You can file this event under “bad coaching” or under “lack of concentration” or even under “not giving a rat’s ass about the game”. You cannot, however, pin this blunder on “bad quarterbacking”.
That meaningless Bills/Jets game also leads to the observation that Darrelle Revis can no longer play cornerback. It is not that he is no longer a “shut-down corner” or that receivers on his side of the field are out on “Revis Island”; Darrelle Revis cannot play the position anymore; Father Time has caught up with him. He is probably smart enough to make a transition to safety and play there if he wants to, but if he insists on being a cornerback and being paid like a top-flight cornerback, his career may be over.
When Niners’ owner/operator, Jed York, addressed the media to announce/explain/justify the firings of Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly, he said:
“I just think it’s time for us to re-establish a championship culture…”
Would that it were as simple to do that as it is to say that… As the Niners proceed in their coaching/GM search, here is an interesting view from the outside. The Niners won 2 games all last year – both against the Rams who are also sniffing around and looking for a new coach. The inescapable conclusion here is that the Niners were 0-14 against the rest of the league and it is 100% certain that the Niners will have to play 14 games against the “rest of the league” next year and the year after that and …
The Raiders lost more than their final game of the season last week. Their backup QB, Matt McGloin, had to leave the game with an injury to his left shoulder – his non-throwing shoulder – and did not fully participate in practice on Wednesday this week. His availability for this week’s playoff game is up in the air. The Raiders needed this game to keep alive the hope of getting the #1 seed in the AFC and they needed this game to assure that they would hold onto the #2 seed in the AFC. They lost out on both of those positionings too. And one way that they lost those seedings was because they lost any connection they may have had to “Pride and Poise”. In a game they needed to win and playing with a backup QB, consider this:
- Total offense in the first half = 50 yards
- Penalty yards assessed in the first half = 90 yards
Granted, the Raiders’ QBs did not cover themselves in glory last week, but the Raiders lost as a team in Denver…
Amid the uncertainty regarding QB availability for the Raiders in their upcoming playoff game this week, the team went out and signed Garrett Gilbert. He was a 6th round pick by the Rams in 2014 and has never thrown a pass in the NFL. However, he does have a Super Bowl ring; he was on the Pats’ practice squad in 2014 when the Pats beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Gilbert was on the Raiders’ practice squad in 2015 so he, presumably, has some familiarity with the offense. Other than that, I have no rays of sunshine to pump up the butts of Raiders’ fans for this weekend…
(Mon Nite) Clemson vs. Alabama – 6.5 (51): Last week, I said that this year’s Clemson team plays up to or down to the level of its opponent and that is why I took them with 3 points against Ohio State. The Tigers won the game in a walk. Once again, Clemson will face a very good opponent and I fully expect Clemson to play well and to play hard. I just think, however, that Alabama is the better team on the field and I do not think that the absence of Lane Kiffin calling plays for Bama is such a big deal. I’ll take Alabama to win and cover.
(Sat Afternoon) Oakland at Houston – 3.5 (37): The oddsmakers are looking at this game as if it will be a 3-yards-and-a-cloud -of-dust throwback to the old Woody Hayes/Bo Schembechler college games. Indeed, no matter how you might do a mix-and-match of the possible QBs in this game, you come up with a faceoff between “Who’s He?” and “Who’s That?” These teams met earlier this year in Mexico City and the Raiders won by a TD then. That was before Derek Carr’s leg broke… Let me be very clear here:
- I have no faith in either Brock Osweiler or Tom Savage as dominant players.
- I have no faith in any of the 3 available Raiders’ QBs as dominant players.
- I have no faith in the Raiders’ defense – other than the Texans’ offensive ineptitude.
- I have minimal faith in the Texans’ defense – given the likely Raiders’ offensive ineptitude.
With exactly no conviction, I will take the Texans and lay the points here simply because they are less likely to go through a team meltdown as the Raiders have done a couple of times this year.
(Sat Evening) Detroit at Seattle – 8 (44): The spread here opened at 4 points and shot up to this level very quickly. The Lions come roaring into this game on a 3-game losing streak. Now, they have to play outdoors – something they do not do well – and they have to play in Seattle – where opponents tend to struggle. The Seahawks are not exactly on a roll here either. In their last 3 games, they have beaten the Rams (Whoop-di-damned-do!), lost to the Cards (ugh) and then beat the Niners by 2 points (ugh, again). Everyone talks about the injury to Earl Thomas and its effect on the defense. I think the injury to Tyler Lockett is also important because it affects the Seahawks’ return game and the passing offense. I see a defense dominated game here so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
(Sun Early Afternoon) Miami at Pittsburgh – 10 (45.5): I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games. With that out of the way, these teams played each other earlier this year (in Miami) and the Dolphins won that game in a walk. Ben Roethlisberger limped his way through about half the game and that had something to do with the outcome to be sure; last I saw, he is no longer limping. The Steelers rested Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown last week so they should be ready to welcome the warm-weather Dolphins to January-in-Pittsburgh-weather. Saturday night the low is forecast to be 11 degrees and on Sunday it will warm up all the way to 18 degrees with 15 mph winds. The Dolphins are a much improved team this year and had a 9-game win streak at one point in the season. However, the Dolphins schedule was not exactly a killer. I think the Steelers are much the better team here. I like the Steelers to win and cover at home and I like the game to go OVER.
(Sun Late Afternoon) Giants at Green Bay – 4.5 (44.5): This is the best NFL game of the weekend. When the Packers were 4-6, Aaron Rodgers said that the team would “run the table” and make the playoffs – – and then the Packers did exactly that. The Giants fielded a defense this year that kept them in games even when the offense – how to put this politely? – sputtered. The last two times the Giants had a playoff date in Lambeau Field, the Giants not only won the game there, they went on to win the Super Bowl later in the playoffs. The Packers’ secondary has so many injuries that the players on the field may be calling each other by number instead of by name. Meanwhile, the Giants’ secondary – as a unit – is probably the best defensive backfield in the league this year. This looks like a balanced game:
- Red hot QB playing really well against a top-shelf defensive unit.
- “Sputtering” offense against a significantly depleted defense.
Not surprisingly, it will be cold in the late afternoon in Green Bay with temps dropping into the single digits as the game proceeds. I think this will be a low-scoring game so I’ll take the Giants plus the points.
Finally, here is how The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm defines Spam:
“Spam: Pork shoulder meat, ham, and gelatinous ooze in a can. Is America a great country or what?
“Spam: Unsolicited e-mail. Proof of the existence of something even more heinous than the product it is named after.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………