The NFL schedule-maker has been kind to us fans this year. Often in mid-December, the weekend card has 2 or possibly 3 “important games” with regard to the playoffs. Last week there were about 8 or 10 games that were important; this week there are at least 5; the schedule this year is a bonanza. Of course, last night’s Matchup of Misery between the Colts and the Broncos was nowhere near important; in fact, it could not claim even to be relevant.
Before getting to the games, I found it interesting that the Browns’ new GM, John Dorsey, gave voice to a rather obvious shortcoming in Cleveland. Most fans there recognize that the roster playing as the Browns in 2017 is significantly talent-deficient. Yes, they have torn down the team and accumulated draft picks, but the drafting process in the past couple of years has had a couple of wild misses. The Browns could have had Carson Wentz two years ago and they traded down; they could have had Deshaun Watson last year and they traded down; given that the Browns in 2017 played most of the time with DeShone Kizer at QB, one might conclude that the analytics gurus in the Browns’ Front Office would not know a QB prospect from Yosemite Sam.
Basically, John Dorsey came out and said that. In fact, this is what he said in a radio interview:
“You know what? You’ve got to get a guy like [Coach Hue Jackson] players and you know what? I’ll come straight out with it. The guys who were here before, that system, they didn’t get real players.”
John Dorsey will never be a UN Ambassador or an empathetic counsellor for people with low self-esteem. However, he spake the truth there…
The Jets must go to the bullpen for their QB for the rest of the season. Josh McCown had surgery on his hand last week and so the Jets will turn to Bryce Petty this week. The Jets are not going to be in the playoffs and they are also not going to be taking a look at Christian Hackenberg – their 2nd round pick in 2016 – to see if he is near ready to play NFL football. To use John Dorsey’s phraseology, I wonder if Hackenberg is a “real player” …
RG3 has not taken a snap in an NFL game for about a year now; absent his outstanding rookie season in Washington in 2012, he has not had much success in NFL games in his career. RG3 is an engaging person and I suppose that is why he was a guest on ESPN’s First Take this week where he said that he would be an addition to the Philadelphia Eagles right now because he can do “Carson Wentz-type things”. When I read his remarks, I shook my head wondering what sort of hallucinogen he was on and if he could pass the NFL drug screening should the Eagles place a call. Then I started to make a list of the things that Carson Wentz and RG3 have in common. See if you notice a trend here:
- They are both bipeds.
- Neither one plays the bassoon.
- They both exchange oxygen in the biosphere.
- Neither one has won the Nobel Prize.
What is the trend? The trend is that the similarities between RG3 and Carson Wentz are the same similarities between RG3 and Tom Brady or John Elway or John Unitas; none of the similarities has much to do with playing QB in the NFL.
One last item before getting to the weekend games, a New Orleans Saints’ fan is suing the Saints over the national anthem protests. The plaintiff wants the cost of his season tix refunded (plus his attorney fees) because – he says – he would never have bought the tickets if he had known that the team would protest the national anthem. According to reports, the plaintiff bought season tickets worth about $8000; and in his lawsuit, he names Coach Sean Payton and Saint’s owner Tom Benson as being complicit in the anthem protests.
There is actually a bright spot in that story. The plaintiff wants his attorney fees refunded as part of his petition to the court. That means that his attorney was smart enough not to take this case on a contingency fee basis. Hey, sometimes you have to look hard to find a “bright spot”.
The Lions host the Bears on Saturday Afternoon (4:30 EST); the Lions are 5-point favorites at home. The Lions are still alive for a playoff slot but lots of things have to fall just right for them to make it. The Bears are toast. Matthew Stafford continues to play with an injured throwing hand; last week, the Bears offense erupted to score 33 points in a win over the Bengals. That offensive eruption is indeed unusual because the Bears are only averaging 17.5 points per game this year. What the Bears need to do is to get the NFL to put them in the AFC. The Bears are 1-9 against NFC opponents and they are 3-0 against AFC opponents in 2017.
The Chiefs host the Chargers on Saturday Nite (8:30 EST); the Chargers are 1-point favorites on the road. (You can find the game as a “pick ‘em” game at two Internet sportsbooks this morning.) This game means a lot; the winner will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC West. If the Chiefs win, they would essentially have a 2-game lead over the Chargers since the Chiefs prevailed in their first meeting this season. I ran across this stat and forgot to note where I got it, so I cannot cite it properly:
- Phillip Rivers is only the 3rd QB in NFL history to throw for more than 3500 yards in 10 consecutive seasons. The other two are Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.
The last time the Chargers beat the Chiefs was in 2013; since then the Chiefs have won 7 in a row in this series. Another trend is that the Chiefs are 8-1 against the spread in their last 9 games against AFC West opponents. I will be checking this game out on Saturday night; you can count on that…
The Eagles pay a visit to the Giants on Sunday; the Eagles are 7.5-point favorites in the game. The Eagles have clinched the NFC East and are in the playoffs; I believe my schedule analysis is correct in saying that if the Eagles win this game, they are assured a Bye Week in the NFC playoffs. As of this morning, the Giants would have the second pick overall in the NFL Draft next Spring. Like the Bears, the Giants need to find a way to migrate to the AFC. In 2017, the Giants are 0-9 against NFC opponents and 2-2 against the AFC. Wagering on this game presents a pair of less-than wonderful options:
- Take the Eagles with Nick Foles at QB and lay more than a TD’s worth of points
- Take the calamitous/dreadful/lousy/woeful Giants.
The Packers go to Carolina to play the Panthers on Sunday; the Panthers are 2.5-point favorites. I am sure you have heard that this game marks the return of Aaron Rodgers from his clavicle fracture a little more than 2 months ago. Here is the problem for the Packers; Aaron Rodgers does not play defense. If the Packers are to make the playoffs, they need to win out AND they need some other games to fall their way. The Panthers are tied with New Orleans atop the NFC South, but they are only a game ahead of the Falcons in that division race. This is an important game for both teams.
The Vikings host the Bengals on Sunday; the Vikes are 11-point favorites. The Vikings can wrap up the NFC North title with a win here. The Bengals lost to the lowly Bears last week by 26 points; I have a suspicion that Marvin Lewis’ tenure with the Bengals is about to end but if the team lays another egg like last week, you can change “have a suspicion” to “am confident”. By the way, I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games…
The Bills host the Dolphins on Sunday; the Bills are 3-point favorites at home. The Bills hold the 6th and final slot in the AFC playoffs for the moment; they need to win this game to maintain that position and make the playoffs for the first time in this century. Meanwhile, the Dolphins come to the field off their dominating victory over the Pats last week. The Total Line for the game is 39 and there are some interesting trends related to that Total Line:
- Dolphins are 7-1 to go OVER in their last 8 games
- Bills are 12-3 to go OVER in their last 15 games at home
- Bills are 7-2 to go OVER in their last 9 games as a home favorite.
By the way, these two teams will meet again on New Year’s Eve.
The Texans visit the Jags on Sunday; the Jags are 11.5-point favorites at home. The Jags lead the AFC South over the Titans by a game, but those two teams will meet on New Year’s Eve and the Jags have lost to the Titans earlier this season. That makes this an important game for the Jags. The Texans season ended early this year when they lost JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus in the same game in early October; a later injury to Deshaun Watson put the nail in the icing – – to mix metaphors here. TJ Yates will be under center for the Texans this week. Oh, did I tell you that I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.
The Saints host the Jets on Sunday; the Saints are 15.5-point favorites. The Saints need the game to say in front in the NFC South; the Jets have already exceeded expectations for the 2017 season. Say, do you know what I think about double-digit spreads in NFL games?
The Cards travel east to play the Skins on Sunday; the Skins are 4-point favorites at home. This game is as meaningful as a single snowflake in a blizzard. This game will be on my cable channel this week because of where I live; unless you too live in the DC area or in Arizona, you will be fortunate to have the opportunity to see something more interesting – like an infomercial for a new device that trims nose hairs.
The Browns host the Ravens on Sunday; the Ravens are 7-point favorites on the road. The Ravens are just outside the playoff structure at the moment; they need to win to stay relevant. The Browns have scored only 197 points in 13 games (15.1 points per game); that is last in the league. The Ravens have allowed 246 points in 13 games (18.9 points per game; that is the 4th best scoring defense in the league.
The Seahawks host the Rams on Sunday; the Seahawks are 2.5-point favorites at home. This is a big game for both teams. A win for the Rams puts them 2 games up on the Seahawks in the NFC West; a win for the Seahawks gives them the lead over the Rams in that race based on tie-breakers. Just so you know, the last time the Rams made the playoffs was in 2004. Marshall Faulk, Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce were part of that Rams’ roster. The Seahawks’ defense will have unfamiliar names on the field this week; as many as 5 normal starters could miss the action. The Total Line for the game is 47.5; I think that is low…
The Patriots visit the Steelers on Sunday; the Pats are 2.5-point favorites on the road. Almost assuredly, the winner of this game will have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Other than that, this game is no big deal. The Total Line for this game is 54; if you believe The Weather Channel, there is a 50% chance of rain on Sunday afternoon with temperatures in the mid-30s. Fifty-four points in those conditions …?
The Niners host the Titans on Sunday; the Niners are 1.5-point favorites at home. Yes, I checked to be sure; the Niners are the favorites here. In fact, you can find the line at 2 points at a couple of Internet sportsbooks this morning. The Niners are riding a 2-game win streak as they start the “Jimmy G Era” in northern California. The Titans are still in playoff contention despite their dismal performance last week in a loss to the Cardinals. The Titans need this game because their last two games are against the Rams and the Jags; neither of those games will be a cakewalk. There are two opposing trends at work in this game:
- Titans are 7-20 against the spread in their last 27 road games.
- Niners are 3-10 against the spread in their last 13 home games.
The Raiders host the Cowboys on Sunday Nite; the Cowboys are 3-point favorites on the road. Both teams are on the outside looking in regarding the playoffs; the loser of this game might need the intervention of St. Jude to make the playoffs this year. Interestingly, back in August, lots of folks picked both teams to win their division this year. The Cowboys cannot do that; the Raiders are highly unlikely to do that. The Cowboys scored 30+ points in their last two games. Granted, those games were against the Giants and the Skins but that might be significant here because the Raiders defense in 2017 does not keep offensive coordinators awake at night. The Total Line for this game is 46; I think that is low…
The Bucs host the Falcons on Monday Nite; the Falcons are 6-point favorites on the road. The Falcons are in the playoffs as of this morning, but they are only a game ahead of the Cowboys, Lions and Packers in the NFC. The Bucs have been disappointing on offense this year; Jameis Winston did not “take the next step” in terms of his quarterbacking as folks projected he would. However, the Bucs defense has been even more disappointing giving up 24 points per game on average. No wonder the Buds are mired at 4-9 in the standings. There are some powerful trends at work here:
- Bucs are 1-10 against the spread in their last 11 games against NFC teams
- Bucs are 2-9-1 against the spread in their last 12 games.
- Bucs are 2-7 against the spread in their last 9 games on grass.
- Head-to-head with the Falcons, the favorite (Falcons) covered in 7 of their last 9 meetings.
Finally, Dwight Perry had this observation in the Seattle Times:
“An asteroid 3 miles in diameter is expected to miss Earth by 2 million miles this month.
“Not that we’ve been watching too much football or anything, but … wide left or wide right?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………