Last week’s Mythical Picks sank below mediocre and plummeted to just plain awful. The record for the week was 4-8-0 making the season record drop to 63-71-5. The Coin Flipping fared no better; the coin’s record last week was 0-1-0 bringing the nominally neutral coin’s record for the season down to 6-10-1.
The “Best Pick” from last week was taking the Panthers +2.5 points; the Panthers won the game straight up.
The “Worst Pick” last week was taking the Saints and giving 7.5 points; the Saints lost outright.
Obviously, you would have to be mightily stupid to take any information herein and use it as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend or any other weekend. Here is how dumb you would need to be:
You would try to kill a fish by drowning it.
Aqib Talib is not going to be playing this weekend for the Broncos. He is suspended for a game by the league for poking an opponent in the eye during last week’s game. Watching the replay, I thought Moe Howard had been resurrected, signed by the Broncos and inserted into the game as a CB. The NFL announced the suspension; Talib appealed the suspension; the league upheld the suspension; all that happened by Wednesday at noon.
I mention this because I hope it is a recognition by the NFL that they can – and they should – make these sorts of decisions quickly. Granted, there were not a lot of nuanced levels of evidence to collect via investigation in this matter. Nonetheless, recent history would suggest that it might take the NFL appeals process two weeks to decide between milk and half-and-half for the coffee served at the hearing.
Kudos to the NFL for their alacrity here.
Keep it up!
I do not know who it was at ESPN who came up with the Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) system nor do I know who maintains the database that generates the ratings. What I do know is that like many other forms of advanced analytics, some of the conclusions just do not pass the “Eyeball Test”. Here are some data on starting quarterbacks this year. Which of the following statements does not pass the “Eyeball Test”?
1. Sam Bradford ranks 31th among starting QBs and Nick Foles ranks 30th. They were traded one for the other. Looks like a trade that did not do much to help either team.
2. Carson Palmer has the highest ranking among starting QBs this year. He is having a fantastic season.
3. Andy Dalton has the second highest QBR among starting QBs this year. He too is having a fantastic season.
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick has the 3rd highest QBR this year; Aaron Rodgers has the 4th highest rating and Tom Brady has the 5th highest QBR.
Hold it right there; we have a winner; that last one makes me wonder about the value of the QBR itself. All that Tom Brady has managed to achieve this year is an 8-0 record while throwing more TD passes and fewer INTs than any other starting QB.
The Detroit Lions fired their GM (Martin Mayhew) and their team president (Tom Lewand) last week. It was only a couple of weeks ago that the team fired a couple of the offensive coaches to include the offensive coordinator. The Lions record as of this morning is 1-7 and that is the worst record in the NFL; the Lions are not merely losing games, they are losing some of them by a lot. The average score of a Lions game this year is:
In 2009, the US Government bailed out General Motors when the company was about to go belly-up. Well, the Lions are going paws-up this year and could use a bailout. Unfortunately, the Lions are owned by the Fords not the General Motors…
Last Thursday night, the Bengals handled the Browns with aplomb. Johnny Manziel got the start at QB for the Browns and played the entire game. To be sure, he did not throw up on his shoes but he also did not do anything to announce that he is the franchise QB of the future for a team that has not had a franchise QB since re-entering the NFL in 1999. At the end of the game, the announcers were asking rhetorically if Manziel had shown enough in that game to merit the starting job in future weeks. Here is my answer:
The Browns are going nowhere this year – as has been their wont. Since 1999, the Browns have been over .500 exactly twice (in 2002 and in 2007). They need a franchise QB badly and they have to make a choice:
Draft another QB sometime soon – or –
Go with Johnny Manziel
The only rational way to make that choice is to see a lot more of Manziel in real game action against the starters for the opposing teams. That does not happen nearly enough in the Exhibition Season, so the time is now…
Speaking of throwing up on one’s shoes, the Saints did that and more last week as they lost to the sorry-assed Titans. Yes, I know; the Titans looked like a new team now that they have a new coach. Pardon my skepticism there… A few weeks ago, it looked as if the Saints’ defense and the defensive coaching staff had figured out how to deploy those players in a way that made the opposing offenses have to work to score points. Recently, let me be polite and say the Saints have had a relapse on defense.
Last week, the Saints gave up 483 yards of offense to the Titans who entered the game with the 31st ranked offense in the NFL. Recall that two weeks ago, the Saints scored 52 points against the Giants and needed a last second field goal to win that game 52-49. You have heard of defenses that bend but do not break; the Saints defense bends AND breaks. Just to clarify, that is not a good thing…
In any event, the Titans’ new coach, Mike Mularkey, is now 1-0 in Tennessee. Before getting carried away, let me say that one win does not make an interim coach into a genius. If you doubt that, check out Dan Campbell in Miami.
Here is a question:
Is Dan Campbell still on the fast track for induction in Canton next summer?
After his Dolphins beat the Titans and Texans in his first two games, much of the media hailed him as coaching genius. Well, since beating those two less-than-fearsome opponents, here is what the Dolphins have done:
Lost to Pats 36-7
Lost to Bills 33-17
In that loss to the Bills, the Dolphins’ defense allowed both Karlos Williams and LeSean McCoy to gain more than 110 yards rushing (as a team the Bills gained 266 yards on the ground) and allowed Sammy Watkins to catch 8 passes for 168 yards. Three of the Bills’ scoring plays were 38 yards or longer. It sure looks as if the rah-rah/gung-ho/tough-guy stuff that Campbell was selling a month ago has reached its Sell By Date.
Those last two losses – both to AFC East opponents – gives the Dolphins an 0-4 record in the division. That is never attractive but it does get worse. In the 4 losses within the division here is the average score:
Greg Cote had this assessment in the Miami Herald:
“The Dan Campbell Bandwagon is now in a ditch and waiting on AAA.”
The Vikings beat the Rams 21-18 in OT. In the first quarter, the Rams got a TD and went for 2 points but failed to convert. That “missing point” turned out to be extremely important when the fourth quarter came around and the Rams kicked a field goal to tie the game and send it to OT. One more point would have obviated the need for OT and put a win on the board for the Rams.
There has been plenty of controversy related to this game and the hit on Terry Bridgewater that knocked him out of the game. Vikes’ coach Mike Zimmer pointed the finger at Rams’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams saying he “had a history” and later various other analysts have said that Jeff Fisher’s teams play dirty defense. I do not read minds and I certainly do not have any inside info from the Rams’ defensive coaches but here is my conclusion having seen the replays:
It was a late hit AND it appears to me that the defender aimed specifically to hit Bridgewater in the head.
Was the defender “coached up” to play that way? I don’t know.
All of that drama has overshadowed the matchup of Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson in that game. Gurley gained 89 yards and scored a TD; Peterson gained 124 yards and scored a TD.
The Jets beat the Jags 28-23 despite Blake Bortles throwing for 381 yards in the game. The Jets recorded 6 sacks, 2 INTs and recovered one fumble in the game; the Saints ought to take notice here; that is a defense that bends but does not break. The Jags are a bad team and bad teams invent ways to lose games. Let me give you a condensed play sequence from late in this game:
Jags are down 21-16 with just under 6 minutes to play. The Jags have driven from their own 10 yardline to the Jets’ 10 yardline in 4 plays.
Next play, Bortles is sacked; he fumbles and the Jets recover the ball at the Jets’ 34 yardline.
Jags hold on 4 downs and force a punt. The returner muffs the punt and the Jets recover at the Jags’ 25 yardline.
Three plays later the Jets score making it 28-16 with 2:41 to play.
Jags score on 3 plays with 2:14 to play making the score 28-23.
Jags hold again and force a punt they receive at their own 8 yardline with 0:54 to play.
First play is an interception by the Jets at the Jags 22. Game Over.
A strip sack; a muffed punt and an INT in the span of less than 6 minutes at the end of a game decided by less than a TD…
The Pats dominated the Skins 27-10. Trust me, it was not that close… All of the RG3 acolytes who climb all over Kirk Cousins for his propensity to throw INTs cannot hang this loss on Cousins. The Pats recorded one INT but that ball hit Pierre Garcon in the hands and on the helmet before bouncing about 15 feet into the air such that a defender could run under it and catch it. Skins’ “pass-catchers” were actually “pass-droppers” here; they have to have dropped at least a half dozen passes that hit them on both hands. Oh, and the “running game” was dormant amassing a total of 37 yards for the day. Meanwhile the Skins’ run defense yielded 167 yards for the game. The only “bright light” for the Skins was that they held Tom Brady to less than 300 yards for the game; he passed for 299 yards.
DeSean Jackson returned to action for the Skins giving them the “deep threat” they say they have needed so badly. He caught 3 passes for 15 yards; the long gain was 9 yards. I doubt that struck fear in the hearts of the Pats’ defensive coaches…
The Steelers beat the Raiders 38-35 in an entertaining game. This gives the Steelers a half-game lead over the Raiders in the AFC wild card chase. However the win came at a price; Ben Roethlisberger suffered a foot injury that will keep him out several weeks. The Steelers survived 4 weeks without Big Ben earlier this year but the Landry Jones’ showing against the Chiefs ought to make the Steelers faithful just a tad queasy.
The Steelers face the Browns this week and then they have a Bye Week. It is possible that Jones will only need to hold the fort for one game here and that is probably a good thing because the Steelers’ schedule after Thanksgiving is not trivial:
The Raiders have had some pretty bad teams over the last 12 years since losing in the Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Bucs after the 2002 season. In that span, they have never had a season over .500; and in 10 of the last 12 seasons, they have suffered double-digit losses. Nonetheless, last week’s defensive showing has to be a low-point even by the standards of the last 12 years.
Defense gave up 597 yards (195 yards rushing and 402 yards passing)
Antonio Brown caught 17 passes for 284 yards.
DeAngelo Williams gained 170 yards on 27 carries with 2 TDs.
David Amerson was the defender chasing Antonio Brown for much of the game; it looked almost as if Amerson was playing flag-football as he lunged and groped just to make contact with Brown. Maybe the Raiders’ fans should not be too harsh on Amerson; after all, he was cut by the Skins just a few weeks ago meaning he could not make the field on that defense. There is no real reason to believe that a change in latitude was going to make Amerson into a Pro-Bowler.
The Giants beat the Bucs 32-18 but the final TD by the Giants with no time left came when they recovered a fumbled lateral and ran it into the end zone. The Bucs were in full-scramble mode on the play and it backfired. The Giants recovered 3 fumbles on the day and those fumble recoveries led to 17 points. Do the math and you will see that the fumbles had a profound effect on who won and who lost. The Giants exhibited bend-but do-not-break on defense. In the first half, the Bucs had the ball inside the Giant’s 10 yardline and came away with 0 TDs.
In another example of a team inventing a way to lose a game, the Falcons lost to the Niners 17-16. Here is what went down late in that game:
Niners lead 17-13 with 4:27 to play in the 4th quarter. Falcons have the ball 1st and goal at the Niners 8 yardline.
After two short completions and an incomplete pass, the Falcons have the ball 4th and goal at the 1 yardline with 3:00 to play. They are down 4 points.
The Falcons kick a field goal leaving them one point down at 17-16.
The Niners take possession at their 20 after the kickoff and proceed to run the ball 5 times to gain 2 first downs and then “kneel out the clock”. Falcons never saw the ball again.
In case you wonder why the Falcons did not just run the ball in from the 1 yardline, here is how the Falcons’ running game was working last week:
They ran the ball 14 times for a total of 17 yards…
Are the Falcons in full-collapse mode?
The Colts beat the Broncos 27-24. Basically, the Colts dominated the first half and the Broncos came back to make a game of it in the second half. I started off these comments with a note about Aqib Talib and his eye-poking incident. That was more than just an unsportsmanlike play; it generated a 15-yard penalty against the Broncos that kept a late Colts’ possession alive. The Broncos’ defense had an off game and the Colts played much better than they have played all season long. Now, the Colts will have to go at least several weeks without Andrew Luck who suffered an abdominal muscle injury and a lacerated kidney in the 4th quarter. Yes, I know that Matt Hasselbeck subbed for Luck earlier this year and won both games. Here is the more important thing; this is what is left for the Colts looking ahead:
At Atlanta (this week)
That is a pillow-soft schedule… The Colts lead the miserable AFC South by a half game despite their 4-5 record.
The Panthers dominated the Packers for three quarters and led 30-14 when the fourth quarter started. The Packers rallied in the 4th quarter and it took a red zone INT by the Panthers to save a score that would have had the Packers only a 2-point conversion away from a tie. Cam Newton threw for 297 yards and ran for another 57 yards. On the other side of the ball, the Panthers defense harassed Aaron Rodgers all game; the defense recorded 5 sacks during the game.
The Eagles beat the Cowboys 33-27 in OT. Matt Cassel played like a real NFL QB in this game; the reason the Cowboys lost this game is that their defense was dragging itself all over the field for the 4th quarter and the OT. Cassel did throw a Pick Six in the game but overall his stat line is commendable (25 of 38, 299 yards, 3 TD) despite the fact that the Eagles’ defense had him under pressure all game long (the defense recorded 4 sacks). The Cowboys are 2-6 – having lost 6 games in row since Tony Romo broke his clavicle – and they need a win badly. The Cowboys are the best team in the NFC East when Romo is healthy and playing QB, but they may be too far behind to win out and still win the division if they lose all of the games that he cannot start.
Imagine a scenario where the Cowboys finish at 8-8 where all 8 wins are games that Tony Romo starts and all 8 losses are games where he is on the sidelines. That might make a powerful argument when it comes time to vote for MVP…
DeMarco Murray’s return to Dallas was a successful one for him and for the Eagles. Murray ran for 83 yards and caught passes for an additional 78 yards. Paired with Ryan Matthews – and using Darren Sproles randomly – the Eagles have a running attack that can control game tempo so long as the Eagles’ OL is in sync.
The Bears/Chargers game on MNF was close; other than that, the game had exactly nothing to recommend it. Alshon Jeffery caught 10 passes for 151 yards in the game.
Here are the teams on a Bye Week:
Chargers: They have two weeks to figure out how to break a 5-game losing streak.
Colts: They will be rooting for the Bengals to beat the Texans on MNF this week.
Falcons: They were 5-0 at one point; now they are 6-3 and look discombobulated; they have 2 weeks to correct that.
Niners: Blaine Gabbert won them a game last week; they now have 2 weeks to figure out who will be their QB for the next game.
(Thurs Nite) Buffalo at Jets – 2.5 (42.5): Forget all the storylines; this game is important because it has playoff implications. The Jets are 5-3; the Bills are 4-4; the winner of this game will have the lead in the wild card chase and second place in the AFC East. Yes, the teams will play again on the final weekend of the season; nevertheless this is a big game. The Jets hold slight statistical advantages on offense and on defense and they are at home. Make this a venue call in a game between two closely matched teams; I’ll take the Jets and lay the points.
Detroit at Green Bay – 11.5 (47.5): The Packers have lost 2 games in a row and fans in Green Bay think the sky is falling. The Lions are 1-7 and fans in Detroit wonder what’s new. I expect the Packers to be rejuvenated by their return home after two weeks on the road playing then-undefeated teams. I hate laying double-digits but I cannot take the Lions against a Packers’ team that needs a win and is playing at home. I’ll take the Packers to win and cover.
Dallas at Tampa – 1.5 (43.5): The Cowboys do need this game (see above). The Cowboys have 6 losses on the books already; still on the schedule are the Panthers (at home on Thanksgiving) and the Packers (in Green Bay in December). It is difficult to paint an early-November game as a “must-win” game, but this one comes close for the Cowboys. The Bucs and their rookie QB play well some of the time and play poorly some of the time; you would need a Ouija board to figure out what kind of game they will play. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game. The coin says to take the Cowboys plus the points.
Carolina – 5 at Tennessee (44): The spread opened at 6.5 and has dropped slowly to this level; you can still find it at 5.5 at a couple of Internet sportsbooks. I understand the thinking that the Panthers may take the Titans lightly after the Panthers navigated a schedule that packed a bunch of good teams on after another against them; by comparison, the Titans look like a walk in the park. However, the Panthers’ defense should make life very difficult for the Titans’ rookie QB. I like the game to stay UNDER.
Chicago at St. Louis – 7.5 (42.5): The Rams rank 31st in the NFL in total offense; they gain an average of 312.6 yards per game. The Bears are better than that; they rank 22nd in the NFL in total offense gaining 347.1 yards per game. On defense the Rams are fifth in the league allowing only 323.8 yards per game while the Bears rank 9th giving up 342 yards per game. This should be a game dominated by defense. Therefore, I’ll take the Bears plus the points.
New Orleans – 1 at Washington (50): The dogs are barking here but upon further review, this game finishes second in the run to be labeled the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Both teams can still believe they might be playoff participants; both teams can still believe in the Tooth Fairy too. The Saints lead the NFL in total offense; the Saints rank 31st in the NFL in total defense. This is an outdoor game on grass; that is not the most favorable set of conditions for the Saints. I like the Skins plus the point here and I like this game to go OVER.
Miami at Philly – 6.5 (47.5): I have no idea how this game will play out so I am turning the game over the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the Dolphins plus the points. Let it be written; let it be done…
Cleveland at Pittsburgh – 5 (41): The Steeler do need this game for wild card purposes and they are going to have to go with Landry Jones at the controls and without LeVeon Bell to run the ball. If the opponent here were competent, I would be poised to tell Steelers’ fans to prepare for the worst. But the opponent here will be the Browns and the Browns are not competent. The Steelers are 40 yards per game better on offense and 27 yards per game better on defense. Moreover, that offensive advantage includes 4 games without Ben Roethlisberger on the field. The only thing the Browns have going for them is that this is a big rivalry game but that knife cuts both ways. I like the Steelers here to win and cover at home.
Jax at Baltimore – 5.5 (48): The dogs are howling loudly here; this is indeed the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Both teams are 2-6; neither team is any good. Let me break out the coin once again and submit to Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.
Minnesota at Oakland – 3 (44): These are not the sexiest teams in the NFL but this is clearly one of the best games of the week. The Vikes have won 4 games in a row and would be a playoff team if the season ended now. The Raiders lost last week but are right in the thick of the AFC wild card race. Both teams need to win this game. The Raiders enjoy a 55 yards per game advantage on offense; the Vikings enjoy a 79 yards per game advantage on defense. Make this a venue call; I like the Raiders to win and cover.
KC at Denver – 6 (42): With a 3-5 record, the Chiefs are not out of it with regard to the wild card race; however, they do not have a lot of slack in that line. The Broncos lost their first game of the year last week and now see themselves sitting at 7-1 but not being in position to have a Bye Week in the playoffs. I think there is plenty of motivation for the Broncos and that means the Chiefs will not have any edge at all in the game. I think the Bronco’s defense will be out to atone for last week’s performance. I’ll take the Broncos to win and cover at home.
New England – 7.5 at Giants (55): Here is another really good game on this week’s card. The last time the Pats beat the Giants was in 2007. The Giants need this game to stay in control of the NFC East; the Pats do not need the game in the standings but they need the game just because these are the Giants they are playing and the Giants have been their tormentors. I think the Pats will win here but I also think that line is fat – particularly with that hook on top of the TD’s worth of points. I’ll take the Giants at home plus the points.
(Sun Nite) Arizona at Seattle – 3 (45): This might be the best game of the week. If you want to understand what it means for a team to “need” a win in early November, look no further than the Seahawks here.
The Seahawks trail the Cards by 2 games in the NFC West.
With a win here – and a win in Arizona on Jan 3 – they can catch the Cards.
With a loss here they are in a miasma with a bunch of other teams with losing records hoping against hope for a playoff spot.
Oh, don’t think that the Cards do not realize all of this and recognize the opportunity they have to open up a 3-game lead on the Seahawks with only 7 games left to play. Both teams took last week off to prep for this encounter. Richard Sherman will shut down one side of the field to the Cards’ passing game, but the Cards can throw the ball to a whole lot of receivers all over the field. I think the Cards will win straight up so I’ll take them plus the points – even in Seattle.
(Mon Nite) Houston at Cincy – 10.5 (47.5): The spread here opened at 12 and dropped almost immediately to this level. No, I do not understand why that happened. I do not like the matchup of the Texans’ offense against the Bengals’ defense. I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points.
Finally, now that Jason Pierre-Paul has returned to the field for the Giants after his 4th of July injury involving fireworks and the loss of parts of his hand, here are two comments from sportswriters related to that situation:
“Good to see Jason Pierre-Paul back in action with the Giants. Also good that he’s accepting responsibility for what happened, not pointing any fingers.” [Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle]
“An employee at a chicken-processing plant that supplies KFC lost two fingertips while on the job.
“Even worse, he got blood all over his lucky Jason Pierre-Paul jersey.” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………