Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 9/21/08

Overall, last week’s picks came out ahead but not by much. The good news was that Against The Spread, the picks were 8-3 making the ATS picks for the year a cumulative 13-8. That’s a 62% win record and you can hammer your local bookie with that kind of win percentage over the course of a season. Of course, this is only over two weeks and not over a season…

The Baltimore/Houston game was postponed because of Hurricane Ike; obviously, I will pick that game again when it is actually played out on the field.

The OVER/UNDER picks are a different story. Last week, totals picks were a pathetic 1-4 bringing the cumulative season record for Totals to 3-9. That is a win percentage of 25%; rest assured, your local bookie would go to church and light candles for you hourly if you had that kind of record with him over a season. Once again, this has only been two weeks and not an entire season.

Please notice that I am not crowing about my 62% documented win record against the number here and hinting that – for a fee of course – you might have access to my “premium grade picks” for the rest of the year. The reasons for that are simple; I do not have any confidence that I will maintain a 62% win percentage picking every game for the rest of the year and I do not have any “premium grade picks” to sell to you even if you were willing to pay for them. Beware of touts that use this kind of advertising and promotion.

There are some good handicappers out there who reliably show profits with their picks and money management strategies over the course of a season. The reason some of them are hard to find is that they do not scream out their successes on a daily/weekly basis. They go about their business quietly with their clients who have sought them out.

In no way should anyone use any information here as the basis for making a wager involving actual money. Doing that would make me think you are pretty stupid. How stupid? Well, I would probably think that the best way to raise your IQ would be to taser you about a dozen times.

General Comments:

Last Monday’s game (Dallas/Philly) drew an audience of 12.95-million homes in the US. That is the largest audience ever for a telecast on cable TV. That gives ESPN the top two cable-TV audiences in history; last year’s New England/Baltimore game had held the record until last Monday night.

For at least the last season and a half, I have been saying that Tarvaris Jackson was a detriment to the Vikings when he was on the field. That does not mean he is a bad person; it means that unless he somehow improves as a quarterback by the end of this season, he ought to be out of work. The Vikings demoted Jackson this week – - and it’s not as if they went to a highly rated rookie or an aging vet with possible HoF credentials to replace Jackson. Gus Frerotte will be the Vikings’ starting QB on Sunday. Frerotte has been in the league for a long time; he came to the Redskins in 1994 – - the same draft that brought them Heath Shuler. Frerotte’s career has been one of slightly better than average games mixed in with below average games. He rarely lights things up; he rarely stinks out the joint.

Jackson has completed 30 out of 59 passes so far this year for 288 yards. Given that the Vikings are a run-oriented team, that percentage of completions is simply unacceptable; they do not ask Jackson to hit bombs or deep outs to the sideline often; all he would have to do is complete about 62% of his short passes and he would be effective. Even worse, the Vikings have only converted 9 of 29 third-down attempts. For a run-oriented offense, those conversions are essential.

The KC Chiefs announced they will start Tyler Thigpen at QB this week. Actually, Thigpen was originally drafted by the Vikings out of Coastal Carolina in 2006. Coastal Carolina had winning seasons all four years that Thigpen was there; he played in 41 games and blossomed in his senior year with a 64% completion record and just less than 10 yards per pass attempt. Moving him into the starter role tells me that the Chiefs know that this team is going exactly nowhere this season and they want to find out if young players like Thigpen have sufficient skills to keep them around during the rebuilding process – - or if they have to continue to look for another QB.

Whilst thinking about NFL quarterbacking “issues”, I am reminded that at the end of two games Kyle Orton has thrown exactly zero TD passes for the Bears. The Bears next face Tampa Bay where pass defense is one of the team strengths. At some point, the Bears may find themselves in a situation similar to the Vikings. They will want to feature Matt Forte and the running game but they have to have some kind of passing threat to avoid facing overloaded defenses geared to have more people playing the run than there are blockers.

I do not want to hand all of the Bears’ offensive woes on Orton because he is not the alpha and the omega of the problems there. The OL is average at best; the wide receivers are sub-standard. The Bears have five WRs on their active roster as of this morning; if you can actually name all five, you have been studying fantasy football depth charts way too much. Nonetheless, the Bears need to get something going in the passing game one of these days.

The Colts have lost Bob Sanders to an ankle injury for a while. That will hurt Indy a lot because the Colts have looked less than awesome on offense so far this year. Maybe it’s nagging injuries; maybe it’s Father Time catching up with the Indy offense; maybe it’s bad biorhythms for the offensive players. The results are what they are; the Colts’ offense has been sputtering this year and that is about as pretty a picture as one can paint. Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney are the two best players on the Colts’ defense; the team will lose half that combo for a while.

Perhaps fortunately for the Colts, they get the Jaguars this weekend and the Jags have not been offensive juggernauts so far this year. Then Indy gets a bye week. Then come Houston and Baltimore – neither of which are threats to score 35 points on any given Sunday. So, maybe the defense can rally and carry the Colts through this injury time or until the Colts’ offense shows itself to be something that bears a passing resemblance to the Colts’ offense of the past several seasons.

I read this stat somewhere and found it stunning:

    In two games, the St. Louis Rams have yet to run a single play in the offensive red zone.

The Raiders signed DT, Tommie Kelly, to a contract that made him the highest paid DT in the history of the NFL when it was signed. That was unbelievable. Now, Tommie Kelly got picked up for DUI. Is there someone out there scripting all of this to make the Oakland Raiders seem even more clownish as an organization than they actually are?

NEWS FLASH – - NEWS FLASH

This just in to Curmudgeon Central. The Raiders have listed Coach Lane Kiffen as “questionable” for this Sunday’s game at Buffalo. We are working our sources to find out if the Raiders actually have a seat reserved for him on the shuttle bus to the airport. More news when it happens. Now back to your regularly scheduled rant…

I realize that NFL football players on average are not MENSA candidates and that many of them attended college – - but not college classes. Nonetheless, Bears’ special teams player, Brandon McGowan, lowered the bar of intellectual expectations after last week’s game. McGowan was flagged for two special teams penalties last week and one was for unnecessary roughness. After the game, McGowan explained that penalty happened because, “I just felt like hitting somebody.” Wow! Good thing he “just didn’t feel like taking a dump” at that particular moment of history. The FCC would have fined the network carrying that game big-time…

In case you had not noticed, the Packers with Aaron Rodgers at QB have scored 72 points in two games while the Jets with Brett Favre at QB have scored 30 in two games. Last weekend against the Pats, the Jets had a first down on the Pats 3 yardline; they ran the ball three straight times and then kicked a field goal. Excuse me, if you have a rookie or a sub-standard QB in there, I can understand three straight dives into the line but with Favre under center…???

Mythical Picks:

KC at Atlanta – 6 (36): Dig out your copy of Roget’s Thesaurus from your college days. You will need it to find enough adjectives that have meanings parallel to ugly, putrid and repulsive to describe this game. Show some pity for the TV crew – in front of and behind the cameras – that has to put this game on the air. You have the choice to watch something else or even do something productive like trimming your nostril hair; they have to pay attention to this game. Do not – I repeat NOT – bet on this game. For mythical purposes only, I will take the game OVER only because I think each team’s defense could give up a big play TD and that would account for almost half the points needed to take the game OVER.

Arizona at Washington – 3.5 (42): Kurt Warner has been reincarnated and the Cardinals offense is actually potent once again. Somewhere, Don Coryell is smiling. Washington’s offense was horrible against the very good Giants’ defense in Week 1 and then woke up against the decidedly mediocre Saints’ defense in Week 2. The Cards’ defense more resembles the Saints than the Giants. I think there will be points aplenty here so I want this game OVER.

Houston at Tennessee – 5 (39): Tennessee is a big team that relies on power football on both offense and defense. I think they can push the Texans around and I believe that Kerry Collins can minimize errors in the game. This game is always a rivalry game given where the Titans used to hang their jockstraps, but I do not think that rivalry factor can keep the Texans within a TD this weekend. I’ll take the Titans to win and cover.

Oakland at Buffalo – 9.5 (36): Will the real Oakland Raiders’ offense please stand up? I know they will not run the ball for 300 yards against Buffalo this week the way they did against KC last weekend, but can they run for 120? If they can muster a ground game, that might allow JaMarcus Russell to get something happening in the passing game. I do not think that is going to happen. Buffalo had a huge upset win last week and will have to avoid a letdown here against the Raiders. I like this game OVER – - but not a whole lot OVER. What are the odds that Al Davis and Lane Kiffen speak with each other on the charter flight home after the game? What are the odds that Kiffen is allowed on the plane? Those are bets worth considering here…

Tampa at Chicago – 3.5 (35): Start the chant now: “Dee-fense … Dee-fense…” Here are two offensively challenged teams who compound their offensive challenges by playing very conservative football. There should not be a lot of scoring here and a great proposition bet might be the OVER/UNDER on the number of punts in the game. At 17.5 punts, I would be tempted to take over… I like Tampa with the points here.

Carolina at Minnesota – 4 (38): Two very good defenses play against two offensively challenged teams. Despite the fact that I think I’m catching a whiff of panic in the QB-change decision in Minnesota, I think Gus Frerotte is a step up at QB for the Vikings. No matter; Carolina’s defense will make him earn every yard. Steve Smith returns from his team-imposed suspension for the Panthers this week; that can’t hurt. I’ll take the game UNDER and I’ll take the Panthers with the points.

Cincy at Giants – 14 (41.5): I picked Cincy to win the AFC North; that pick is looking about as good as day old potato salad that was left out in the sun. The Bengals have been just terrible for the first two weeks; they have not run the ball well (153 yards in 2 games); Carson Palmer has thrown zero TD passes and three INTs and earned a QB rating of 38.4; the defense has two fumble recoveries and no interceptions. The Giants should pick the Bengals’ defense apart but at some point the Bengals have to score a little bit – - don’t they? Maybe they score a bit here because the Giants are in “vacation mode” in their schedule – - Rams last week, Bengals here, bye week next week. I’ll take the game OVER – - for mythical purposes only.

Miami at New England – 12.5 (35.5): The Dolphins may be improved this year, but I’m not ready to take them on the road against a team like the Pats. The problem is that I will not be shocked to see the Pats’ defense hold the Dolphins to single digits on Sunday. That made me look at betting the total. The line there started at 34.5 and has risen a full point during the week. I’ll take the game OVER – hoping for at least 12 or 13 points from the Dolphins – but with little conviction.

New Orleans at Denver – 5.5 (50.5): Denver has been exciting on offense this year. Perhaps that has led you to miss the fact that the Broncos’ defense has given up more passing plays of 20+ yards than any other defense in the league. New Orleans spent the off-season trying to shore up its porous defense from last year; based on last week’s showing they still have a LOT of work to do there. Brandon Marshall will not catch 18 passes this week but keep an eye out for the “other WR” in Denver. His name is Eddie Royal and he could be a very good one. I’ll take the Broncos to win and cover here.

Detroit at SF – 4 (46): Last year Mike Martz and JT O’Sullivan were in Detroit. The Lions “eighty-sixed” both of them. Remembering that the Falcons and Matt Ryan – in his first NFL game ever – scored 42 points on the Lions’ defense, what might Martz and O’Sullivan do to the same defense? An interesting prop bet would be the total yards passing for the Niners; OVER/UNDER 355.5? I know the Lions need this game if their current “rebuilding program” is to be taken even marginally seriously. Nonetheless, I like this game OVER and I like the Niners to win and cover.

St. Louis at Seattle – 9.5 (44): As bad as some teams have played in the early going this year, the Rams have played worse. Seattle has had so many injuries at WR that they signed Koren Robinson as a free agent last week and traded for Joe Flabeetz because they need bodies at the position. Do they still have the rights to Steve Largent? St. Louis has shown against Philly and the Giants that their pass defense is a mirage; receivers run open out there about as often as John Madden slurps Brett Favre. If the Seahawks do not win this one big, they will be in for a very long season and a very high draft pick come April 2009. I’ll take Seattle to win and cover here.

Cleveland at Baltimore – 2 (38.5): Tampa and Chicago play the early game on Sunday; Cleveland and Baltimore play in the late time slot. Cleveland/Baltimore is another game with conservative and mediocre offenses going up against better than average defenses. If Cleveland loses here, you can declare their 10-win season in 2007 a fluke of weak scheduling. There could be upwards of 20 punts in this game for you aficionados of the kicking game. I want this game UNDER. And I want this game off the air in my viewing area.

Pittsburgh at Philly – 3.5 (45): Is this the best game of the weekend? If not, it is the second best. Pittsburgh has a good defense, a good running game and an accomplished quarterback – who may or may not have an injured shoulder depending on which report you choose to read last. Philly has been on fire offensively in the first two games. I think this game represents a change for the Eagles. I think it will be close and low scoring. I like the game UNDER and I like the Steelers with the points.

Jax at Indy – 5.5 (41.5): Before the season, I would have liked this game as the best one of the weekend. Neither team has played to form so far; the Jags are 0-2; if they come out of the gate at 0-3, they might have a hard time making the playoffs. The Jags need to run the ball a lot better than they have; in two games their total yards rushing is only 131 yards; the Jags often gain that in a single game. The OL needs to protect David Garrard better too; he has been sacked 9 times in two games. As mentioned above, Indy is now without one of their two best defensive players. If Jax is going to “get healthy” against a defense and start to run the ball the way they can, this is the defense for them to do it against. I’ll take the Jags with the points here.

Dallas – 3 at Green Bay (51.5): Is this the best game of the weekend? If not, it is the second best. Well, it is definitely the only game of the week where both teams are undefeated. In addition, the Cowboys are the only road favorite in the NFL this weekend. Last year, the regular season game between Dallas and Green Bay gave the Cowboys a tiebreaker in case the two teams met in the NFC Championship game. The Cowboys failed to advance there but could it be that this year’s Dallas/Green Bay game will provide a tiebreaker advantage in the playoffs? Here is something to consider about this rivalry. The Packers have lost nine straight games to the Cowboys in Dallas. The Cowboys have never – - as in not ever – - won a game at Lambeau Field. I foresee a boatload of points in this game and I see the game decided late in the 4th quarter. I’ll take the OVER here.

Jets at San Diego – 9 (44): Last season, the Chargers forced 3 turnovers per game and got themselves a bye in the playoffs. This year the Chargers force only 1 per game in the first two games and they have lost both of them. I have seen the Jets in both of their games; and even with Brett Favre at QB, that is not an offense that will impose itself on a good defense. Like the Jags, the Chargers have Super Bowl aspirations and an 0-3 start could put quite a crimp in them, especially if Denver wins again to take a three game early lead in the AFC West. This is wake-up call weekend for the Chargers. I’ll take the Chargers to win and cover.

Good luck.

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

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Comments

  • JJC  On September 19, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    If I were Lane Kiffin I would make sure that I had a return ticket from Buffalo or hotel reservations. I’m not saying that the Raiders will fire him and leave him stranded, just that it’s a distinct posibility.

    Why, yes, I did notice that Rodgers has so far proven to be the better choice. I have also noticed that he has silenced all of the talking heads, for now, who were questioning the choice. If he beats the ‘Boys you might want to buy stock in the #12 jersey because sales will go through the roof.

    BTW, Farve under center and long time tight end Bubba Franks out there too. They certainly know how to play pass and catch with each other. How they didn’t think of this, I don’t know.

    So there isn’t a secret webpage for the ironclad, lead pipe, immortal lock of the week? And I was getting ready to tell all my friends.

  • Andy H  On September 19, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Mr.Curmudgeon,
    That Eagles-Cowboys game was even shown here in Oz! Our whizz-bang new free-to-air HD channels show two or three NFL games a week now, which is great. Normally they’re only on pay-TV. It was a great game. Can I just ask though: will the young Eagles #10 WR be investigated for match-fixing? DROPPING the ball BEFORE he ‘broke the plane’ (we would probably just say ‘crossed the line’)!!!??? What the???
    Great game otherwise though…
    My outside tip for this week (nb: not iron-clad!) is the Jets to get within 12.5 of NE and their ready-to-fall ‘star’ Cassell. The Pats are not the same team now, they might still win, but I expect it to be a bit closer than expected.
    Andy from Melbourne

  • Andy  On September 22, 2008 at 2:06 am

    Of course that was the DOLPHINS to get within 12.5, not the Jets. Woops.
    End of an era in Boston?

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On September 22, 2008 at 10:47 am

    JJC:

    I will not succumb to the standard ploy of trumpeting one of my picks as the “50-star conference underdog play of the decade”…

    Andy:

    DeSean Jackson is not the first NFL player to do what he did on Monday Night Football. Back in the 1970s, a Steelers’ receiver – - can’t remember his name now – - caught a pass and broke for the end zone. In his exuberance he spiked the ball on the run but he spiked it on the three yardline not in the end zone.

    I don’t think there is a need to “investigate” that kind of thing. The reason behind it is the players are boneheads.

    And you got the Pats/Dolphins call more than correct. Not only did the Dolphins get witing 12.5 of the Patriots, they beat the Pats by double that margin.

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