Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/2/08

I am writing this on the Eve of the Feast of All Hallowed Souls. Therefore, Happy Halloween to all.

Last week’s Mythical Picks were bad. There is no way to spin it such that it might appear as if they were anything other than bad The OVER/UNDER picks were 2-4 for the week bringing the season totals for that kind of selection to 23-26-2.

The Against the Spread picks were worse. Those picks went 3-7-1 for the week [New England – 7 versus St. Louis produced the push]. The season totals for ATS picks now stands at 40-39-2.

With those statistics staring you in the face, it is hard to imagine that anyone would be dumb enough to use any information that follows in this piece as the basis for making an wager on any football game this weekend. But just in case someone out there remains unconvinced that these picks are for entertainment purposes only; let me explain how dumb you would have to be in order to use this as your betting guide. You would be dumb enough to think that Tibet is the reason people travel to Las Vegas.

General Comments:

Kerry Collins has gained quite a following this year based on his stepping in for the injured Vince Young and leading the Tennessee Titans to an undefeated record here at the end of October. Some of the commentators seem shocked that such a performance is even possible and that makes me wonder if they actually pay attention to NFL football. It is not all that unusual for a basically sound football team to lose their starting QB for a while – or for the whole season – and for the back up to play well. The reason is that the rest of the team is good and the back up can win games without having to resort to heroic actions every week.

The following list is pulled from memory; I do not have the time to go and dig out every nuance of fact here. And because the list is pulled from memory, I am sure that I have forgotten some entries on the list entirely. With those caveats, here are some really good performances turned in by back-up QBs for good NFL teams in the recent past.

    Randall Cunningham stepped in for Brad Johnson in Minnesota in the late 90s (I think it was 1998, but it could have been 97). The Vikings went 15-1 under his guidance that year and obviously made the playoffs.

    Kurt Warner was a back-up QB for the Rams when Trent Green went down in the pre-season. Warner took the Rams to the Super Bowl and they won it in January/February 2000.

    Trent Dilfer (Baltimore) and Tom Brady (New England) were also back-ups who took over the job in mid-season and led teams to Super Bowl victories earlier in this decade.

    Jake Delhomme was a back-up QB in Carolina who led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 04 (or was it 05).

    Ben Roethlisberger was not the starter in Pittsburgh in his rookie year. He took over for Tommy Maddox; and under his guidance, the Steelers finished the season with a 13 game win streak and made the playoffs.

The conclusion here is that back-up QBs can indeed do very well if the team constructed around them is a solid one to begin with. In no way am I trying to diminish what Kerry Collins has done this year; his performance has been nothing but laudatory. But I wish some of the talking heads would stop treating his performance to date this season as something so unusual that one must speak of it in breathless prose.

Since I mentioned Vince Young above, I want to comment on the nonsensical statement he made about his injury and his reported psychological issues. I am not a psychologist so I make no pretense that I understand what is going on in Vince Young’s head, but others have reported that he was suffering from issues involving things like depression and injured self-esteem. I don’t know if those “diagnoses” are valid and their validity is unimportant to the point that needs to be made.

Vince Young said something to the effect that the media treated him badly in his period of injury by focusing undue attention on the story. Moreover, he claimed that the media did it for mercenary reasons and that a lot of folks got rich over his misfortune. That is where I get off the train…

Newspapers and TV reporters work on stories that are newsworthy. In the broadest sense, newsworthy means that the story involves someone famous or the story involves something out of the ordinary or the story involves a community/cultural institution that is widely known by the public. It is not newsworthy if Joe Flabeetz mows his lawn; no one knows Joe Flabeetz; no one cares if his lawn is mowed or not.

Vince Young is an NFL QB. Vince Young was the overall #1 pick in the NFL Draft. The NFL – and by derivation the team in Tennessee – is a cultural institution that millions of people care about. Therefore, anything that might interfere with Vince Young participating in NFL games is newsworthy. And if there is something unusual about the reason for why he will not participate in NFL games, then it becomes “newsworthy-squared”. So let’s review the bidding here – - from memory so some of the facts may be omitted:

    Vince Young injured his knee/leg in the first game of the season.

    The next night someone from his family reportedly called someone involved with the Titans saying that Vince had gone out and was unreachable on his cell phone and that Vince had been “down” when he left the house.

    When the Titans could not locate Vince, they called the local police who found him safe and sound with his cell phone turned off.

That is not – repeat NOT – the typical set of events that surround every NFL player who suffers an injury in a game. That makes it newsworthy. Where Vince Young might have a beef is if he asserted that no one from his family ever contacted the Titans or that the police never got involved in the matter. In that circumstance, he could rightly say he was being picked on. But he didn’t make that claim – - probably because those events actually happened.

So, the media didn’t do Vince Young wrong. The “problem” he has with the media on that story is that – probably for the first time – the stories written about him were less than flattering. There’s a difference between unfair reporting and unflattering reporting…

The Bengals are 0-8 so far this year. The Bengals are not one of the “storied franchises” of the NFL that go back to the days of the Canton Bulldogs and the Decatur Staleys. Nonetheless, this is the fourth time in the franchise history that the team has started a season 0-8. The worst start for a Bengals’ team was in 1993 when they began the season at 0-10. Check their schedule:

    Nov 2: Jacksonville
    Nov 16: Philly
    Nov 20: at Pittsburgh
    Nov 30: Baltimore
    Dec 7: at Indy
    Dec 14: Washington
    Dec 21: at Cleveland
    Dec 28: KC

The Bengals will not be favored to win any of those remaining games until the final game at home against the Chiefs- – and that one could be a “pick-‘em” game. Since no team has ever gone through a season with a record of 0-16, history says that the Bengals will surprise one of those teams along the way; but based on performance to date, the word “surprise” will be the operative word when the Bengals actually win a game this year.

If you happened to see the Giants/Steelers game last Sunday, you realize it was a really good football game. So, would you be really offended if the Super Bowl this year was a rematch between those two teams? I wouldn’t. Super Bowl games aren’t always great football games.

The Chargers fired Ted Cottrell as their defensive coordinator. The Chargers’ defense has surely been disappointing this year and it remains to be seen if it was the coordinator’s fault or the players’ fault or the GM’s fault. In any event, Ron Rivera – the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears last went to the Super Bowl – takes over the defensive duties. About ten years ago, Norv Turner was the coach in Washington, the team was doing less well than expected, and so, the team fired the defensive coordinator there. The Redskins learned then that they were talent deficient on defense and not lacking in “coordinator skills” because the team did not quickly assert itself as a force majeure.

I think the Chargers’ defensive unit needs a collective kick in the butt. Last weekend, they were part of the “London Game” and gave up 37 points to the Saints and at least 400 yards of offense. At a couple of times in the second half, Chargers defenders did a celebration dance when they stopped a play for no-gain.

    Memo to Chargers’ Defenders: You get paid to stop the other guys and get the ball back for your team.

    When you do that so rarely that the other guys score 37 points and gain more than 400 yards in a game, you look like preening schmoes when you celebrate the all-too-infrequent plays where you stop them for no-gain.

    Do your job.

The Detroit Lions game against the Washington Redskins last week was blacked out in Detroit because they did not sell out the game; the last time the Lions did not sell out a game was in 2002. Please note that there has not been a huge clamor from Detroit fans about what a terrible thing that was and how the blackout was a slap-in-the-face for the entire city of Detroit.

The Games:

Jets at Buffalo – 5.5 (41): The Bills lead the Jets by a game in the AFC East – - and the Pats are tied with the Bills for the division lead. This game is important to both teams. The Bills are undefeated at home; the Jets are 1-2 on the road. I like Buffalo to win this game but that spread is a nasty number. I’ll take this game to go OVER.

Detroit at Chicago – 13 (43): Is this the worst game of the week? This game will not be blacked out in Detroit because it is a road game; and by contract, the Detroit stations must carry this game. I know Chicago is coming off a bye week and beat the Lions by 27 earlier this year, but this line is way too big for me to pas up. The Bears have the undefeated Titans next week so I can’t believe they will be psyched out of their minds for the Lions. I’ll take the Lions with the points.

Jax – 8 at Cincy (39.5): Is this the worst game of the week? Last week, I took the Bengals plus 9 against Houston and got crushed when the Bengals mailed in the game. The Bengals can look forward to a bye-week after this game; maybe that will excite them sufficiently to play with a modicum of fervor? I do not like the spread here and I have no idea if this will be a game where the Jags’ offensive inefficiency matches the Bengals’ defensive inefficiency or not. My coin flip says to take the game OVER.

Baltimore at Cleveland – 1.5 (36): The Ravens won by 18 in Baltimore this year so this line looks a bit strange to me. Home field advantage is usually in the 3-point range and not the 3-TD range. I like Baltimore with the points here.

Tampa Bay – 9 at KC (36.5): This is not the worst game of the week but it isn’t a beauty either. The game opened with a 7.5-point spread and it jumped up to 9 points in no time. The Chiefs played well against the Jets last week despite their loss. Is that a sign that the team is “catching on”? The Bucs demonstrated offensive inefficiency last week against the Cowboys. That’s not news; the Bucs are not dominant on that side of the ball. I like the Chiefs with the points here.

Houston at Minnesota – 4.5 (46.5): Both teams are 3-4; the Vikes can still aspire to a division championship; the Texans are looking at a wild card at the very best. [No, I am not suggesting that the Texans will make the playoffs but their only way in will be via the wild card route.] I think Houston has a real shot to win this game even though they are 0-3 on the road this year. I like the Texans with the points.

Arizona – 3 at St. Louis (48): Arizona is 1-3 on the road this year and some of those road performances have been “less than stirring”. St. Louis has played a lot better since Jim Haslett replaced Scott Linehan on the sidelines. I cannot take Arizona on the road and lay points; by the same token, I don’t know how the Rams’ secondary will stop two really good wide receivers in the same game. I see “points-a-plenty” in this game so I’ll take it OVER.

Green Bay at Tennessee – 4.5 (41): Is this the best game of the week? The Packers come off a bye-week so they have had plenty of time to prepare for the undefeated Titans. The problem is that Green Bay is a team that can be run on and the Titans love to pound the ball with an excellent running offense. I’ll take the Titans at home to win and cover.

Miami at Denver – 3 (49.5): Denver had the week off so they had time to prepare for the Dolphins and the Broncos clearly play better at home than they do on the road. But a week off will not solve the problem of injuries to the Denver defense which will be missing both Champ Bailey and Boss Bailey. [Was there a third brother named Overlord in the Bailey family?] I like Denver to win and cover here. Even with that big total up there, I also like this game to go OVER.

Dallas at Giants – 9 (41): If Tony Romo were playing this week, this might be the best game of the week. But he is not. I don’t see the Cowboys winning this game outright but that line is too fat even in Giants’ Stadium. I’ll take the Cowboys with the points.

Atlanta – 3 at Oakland (41): The Falcons are 4-3 for the year but all three losses have come in road games. Oakland is 2-5 for the season and only 1-2 at home. So there isn’t a strong reason for a venue call here. Purely on a hunch, I’ll take the Raiders with the points at home.

Philly – 7 at Seattle (42.5): The Seahawks trounced a sad-sack Niners’ team last week. The Eagles are not the best team in the NFL, but they are better than the 49ers. The Eagles win over the Falcons last week was not as easy as the score would indicate and the Eagles will have to fight the tendency to look past this 2-5 opponent to their next game at home against the division-leading Giants. I like this game to go OVER.

New England at Indy – 6 (44): Back in July, you would have circled this game as the best game of the month. Not now. The Pats are 5-2; the Colts are 3-4. Lots of folks thought this could be a “battle of the unbeatens” back in July. The Colts are only 1-2 at home this year; the Pats are 2-1 on the road. I don’t understand why this line is so fat other than the fact that some people must think that the Colts are so desperate (four games back in their division) that they will have to stomp on the gas pedal from here on out. I like the Pats with the points here and I like this game to go OVER.

Pittsburgh at Washington – 2 (36.5): Is this the best game of the week? Supposedly, Willie Parker will be back for this game; that can’t hurt the Steelers’ chances. Supposedly, the Skins will be missing Shawn Springs in their defensive backfield; that can’t’ hurt the Steelers’ chances. Pittsburgh’s two losses have come when teams blitzed and put huge pressure on Ben Roethlisberger; that is not the way the Skins play defense. I think Pittsburgh has a legitimate shot to win this game outright so I will take them with the points here. And I really like this game to go OVER.

Good luck.

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

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  • Eric K.  On October 31, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    Vince Young was the third pick overall after Mario Williams and Reggie Bush. (Of course, that doesn’t make all the stories about him any less newsworthy.)

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On November 3, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Eric K.

    You are obviously correct. What I meant to say was that he was the first pick of the Titans in the NFL Draft. Good catch…

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