Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/23/08

The last couple of times I did Mythical Picks, I sort of whined about breaking even for the week and how boring that was. Last week should have been so good. Last week’s picks simply stunk and I am now sub-.500 for both kinds of picks. Am I going to go and sit in a corner and channel Jack Horner? No way! I choose to channel Alexander Pope and to believe that:

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast …”

The OVER/UNDER picks were 2-5 last week. That brings the season record for Total wagers to 28-35-2. Double Yuck!

The Against the Spread picks were 4-7 last week. That brings the season record for ATS wagers to 49-51-2. Merely a Single Yuck!

Given the way these picks have been going recently, I can’t believe anyone would be stupid enough to use any information here as even a small element of their thinking should they choose to make a wager on an NFL game. Such a person would be monumentally stupid – - so stupid in fact, that he/she must be a reincarnated being because no one could possibly amass that much stupidity in a single lifetime.

General Comments:

There are some Eagles’ fans calling for Andy Reid’s head and for Donovan McNabb to be ushered out of town. The fans’ relationship with both Reid and McNabb has been testy for a couple of years now but last week’s lackluster tie game with the Bengals plus McNabb’s revelation that he did not know that NFL games could end in a tie brought this kettle to a boil. It is difficult to reason with someone while he/she is thinking with his/her glands instead of his/her brain, but let me try.

Since 2000, Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles have won more games than any other franchise in the NFC. Go look it up. True, they have no Super Bowl Championships to show for that, but they have not been carrion for all of that time. I understand that their lack of Super Bowl rings makes this analogy a tad imperfect, but please consider the fate of the Chicago Bulls when the front office there decided that Tim Floyd could be plugged in for Phil Jackson and that Michael Jordan could be replaced by “the system”. The Bulls have not been relevant since then.

    Memo to Eagles’ Fans: Be careful what you wish for…

As a rule of thumb, teams need to win 10 games to get into the playoffs. I know that there have been teams that won 11 games in a season and have not made it; I know that 10 wins do not the playoffs make. Nonetheless, that is a reasonable target for a team to make them relevant down to the last week of the season. Five teams – the Titans, Giants, Cards, Panthers and Bucs – are shooting for that goal in an effective way. All five of those teams are undefeated at home.

There is no mystery that it is harder for an NFL team to win on the road than it is to win at home. Road teams this year are 62-95-1; they only win 40% of the time. Therefore, teams that dominate at home have more margin for error in their road records as they point toward the coveted 10 wins. In the extreme, a perfect home record would allow a team to have a really sub-standard road record of 2-6 to get to 10 wins.

For the record, there are seven teams that have only lost once at home so far this year – the Jets, Ravens, Chargers, Cowboys, Vikings, Falcons and Saints.

If you look carefully at the two lists of teams who are playing extremely well at home, you will notice that teams should not want to have to go to visit any of the teams in the NFC South. Those four teams are a combined 19-2 at home; none of the four has lost more than a single game at home. Impressive.

There are lots of surprise teams and turnaround stories this season in the NFL and the Atlanta Falcons are one of them. This team was in shambles during and at the end of last season and they have made themselves into an amazing turnaround story. Here in Curmudgeon Central, I like to look at the things that the Falcons threw away in order to make themselves into a winning team instead of who came in to make things different. From that perspective, the Falcons rid themselves of Michael Vick – actually, a judge in a courtroom did that for them – and Bobby Petrino, a man whose coaching system made no impact at all at the NFL level. Additionally, the Falcons cleared their locker room of two “3Ms” – Mouthy, Malcontented Me-first players – Joe Horn and DeAngelo Hall. They even managed to get a second round draft pick for Hall from the Raiders, who also ditched Hall halfway through this season. The Atlanta Falcons shed a lot of dead weight in the off-season…

The Denver Broncos lead the AFC West by 2 full games with a record of only 6-4 and with a poor defense that has been riddled with lots of injuries to its best players. The Broncos have been outscored in their ten games by a total of 23 points; and in their last five wins, the cumulative margin of victory is a measly 14 points. That should tell you something about the three other teams in the AFC West…

The Oakland Raiders have not scored an offensive TD in the last 13 quarters of football they have played. The good news for the Raiders last week was that they scored more than twice their average over the previous 5 games. The bad news is that they only scored 15 points last week and lost again. Since Lane Kiffin was granted his reprieve in Oakland and Tom Cable took the reins six games ago, the Raiders have scored 2 offensive TDs. Last week they had 11 third-down situations and converted 2 of them. [In their last 4 games, they are 7-50 on third down conversions.] Against Miami last week, the OL surrendered 6 sacks.

The only reason that the Raiders are not held up to national ridicule is that the Detroit Lions preternatural ineptitude provides cover for the Raiders. The Raiders are a horrid football team.

Speaking of the Lions, they will be part of a Thanksgiving Day triple-header that may involve the worst trio of games in the history of the NFL’s Thanksgiving offerings.

    Early in the day, the Lions host the Tennessee Titans. Assuming the Titans take care of business this week and win their game at home against the Jets and assuming that the Lions take care of business this week and fold like a lawn chair at home against the Bucs, you can call the Thanksgiving game the Bagel Bowl. Tennessee will be 11-0; Detroit will be 0-11. How swell…

    Later that afternoon, the Seahawks visit the Cowboys. Other than the continuing story lines within the soap opera that is the Dallas Cowboys, that game is about as exciting as a broccoli and tofu pizza.

    Then, after a big meal of turkey and with all that l-tryptophan kicking in, people will try to stay awake to watch the Arizona Cardinals play the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cardinals can actually have the NFC West clinched by kickoff time; the Eagles’ drive to the playoffs took an exit ramp last week in Cincinnati. Staying awake until the third quarter of that game should qualify one as a football fanatic for life.

Do I hear anyone continuing to call for Jim Haslett to be the permanent coach of the St. Louis Rams anymore? Does anyone want him to be the coach of his or her favorite NFL team? [Philly fans: Would you trade Andy Reid for him? He will be available…] In their last four games, the Rams have been outscored 139-48. Not surprisingly, they lost all four of those games. The Rams were 3-13 last year and they need another win this year to match that level of incompetence. They still have home games against Seattle and San Francisco in December, so not all is lost for the Rams…

Last week, the Niners scored 5 consecutive times they touched the ball against the Rams. Like the Raiders, the Rams are maneuvering through the 2008 season under the cover of the Detroit Lions’ preternatural ineptitude.

The Games

Philly at Baltimore – 1 (39.5): If you take the Eagles here, the only way that point helps you is if the game ends in a tie. Now that Donovan McNabb realizes that is a possibility, maybe it can happen two weeks in a row. NOT! The Eagles rushing attack is anemic this year; the Ravens will shut it down. You would think that the Eagles’ defense might confuse rookie Joe Flacco, but remember that Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh was on the Eagles’ defensive staff prior to taking the job in Baltimore. The Ravens are home after three straight road games and their only home loss this year was to Tennessee. I like the Ravens here to win and cover.

Houston at Cleveland – 3 (50.5): Houston is 0-5 on the road. Cleveland is 1-4 at home. Someone has to win here, right? No, you can have a tie in an NFL game. [/Donovan McNabb] Houston’s pass defense is vulnerable so Brady Quinn may have a chance to have a decent game statistically for a change. The Browns’ run defense was exposed once again on Monday night giving up 186 yards to the Bills. Even with the Texans’ current – and historic – problems on the road, I’ll take the Texans with the points here.

SF at Dallas – 10 (46.5): The Niners are playing much harder for Mike Singletary than they did for Mike Nolan; nevertheless, they have only won once on the road this year. Dallas actually looked as if they gave a damn against the Redskins last Sunday night; if the Cowboys play with the same degree of energy this week as they did last week, they should bury the Niners. The Cowboys stuffed Clinton Portis last week so – with similar effort – they should be able to stuff Frank Gore this week, no? I’m guessing the Cowboys’ focus will extend one more week and so I’ll take them to win and cover here.

Tampa Bay – 9 at Detroit (42): The Bucs are only 2-3 on the road. Of course, the Lions are 0-10 on Planet Earth so that would seem to trump the Bucs’ road problems. Bucs’ RB, Earnest Graham, is out for the rest of the year but others should be able to run against a porous Lions’ defense. Usually in low-scoring games, I want to take the points, but I do not see the Lions scoring very much against a tough Tampa defense. I am flipping a coin and it says to take the game UNDER.

Minnesota at Jax – 2.5 (40.5): Minnesota is tied for first in the NFC North. Jax pretty much watched their season disappear into the sink trap last week. That line sort of tells you what the betting public thinks of Minnesota as a “first place team”. The Jags are a mess. They have had off-field issues with their players; they demoted their defensive captain to special teams after an altercation between the player and the head coach in a team meeting. The Jags spent a lot of money to sign Jerry Porter to play WR; Porter has caught a total of 7 passes all year long. The Vikings are 1-4 on the road this year; the Jags are 1-4 at home this year; the team that makes the last mistake loses here. I’ll take Jax to win and cover – - only because I promised to make a pick in every game.

Buffalo – 3 at KC (44): The Chiefs have played much better the last three weeks. The Bills have now lost 4 games in a row. Trent Edwards threw 3 INTs in the first quarter against Cleveland on Monday night but the Bills’ defense kept the game within reach. The Bills’ season will be ruined with a loss here; I think they will play a lot better than they did Monday against a lesser opponent than they had on Monday. I’ll take the Bills to win and cover on the road. I also like this game UNDER.

New England at Miami – 1.5 (42): If I had told you in August that Miami would beat the Pats in Foxboro this year and then be favored when the Pats came to visit Miami in November, you would have asked to share what I was smoking at the time. I know that Tony Sparano will be on the sidelines with the Dolphins, but this is a Parcells/Belichick confrontation at its core. Matt Cassell had 400+ yards passing and 3 TDs last week; he will not do that this week. The Dolphins surprised the Pats with the Wildcat Formation in their first meeting; they will not do that this week. I like this game OVER.

Chicago – 9 at St. Louis (43): The Bears are inconsistent; the Rams stink. The Bears have lost 2 in a row; the Rams have lost 4 in a row. Last week, the Bears lost by 34 points; this week they are 9-point favorites. Does that give you a hint as to how bad the Rams really are? Matt Forte should run wild against what pretends to be a Rams’ defense; Marc Bulger should have plenty of time to pick out receivers against a vulnerable Bears’ pass defense. Do not bet this game. I am flipping a coin here and it says to take the game OVER.

Jets at Tennessee – 5 (41): This is either the best game of the week or the second best game of the week. Both teams lead their divisions but the Jets’ lead is only one game and the two teams chasing them (Pats and Dolphins) play each other so one of them is going to win on Sunday. The Jets are 6-1 in their last 7 games; that’s impressive. Their single loss in that stretch was to the Raiders; that’s unimpressive. For mythical purposes only, I like this game UNDER and I’ll take the Jets with the points.

Oakland at Denver – 10 (42.5): The total line here is a clear statement about the ineptitude of the Raiders’ offense. The Broncos give up an average of 27 points a game; if they do that and win by 10 points as the spread line suggests they should, then the total for the game would be 64. In the season opener, Mike Shanahan ran it up to 41-14 against his former tormentor, Al Davis; he will do it again if he has the chance. If the Raiders’ offense cannot score against this defense, you would have to label the offensive unit as “without hope”. I’ll take this game OVER.

Carolina at Atlanta – 1 (42.5): This will be a good game. A Falcons’ win – along with a likely Bucs’ win in Detroit – would really tighten up the NFC South race. I think the difference here is the Panthers’ superior defense. I’ll take the Panthers with the point.

Giants – 3 at Arizona (48.5): This is either the best game of the week or the second best game of the week. Both teams lead their divisions comfortably. In fact, the Cards might have to play the rest of their games with all of their players carrying refrigerators on their backs to lose the NFC West. The Giants have scored more points than any team in the NFL so far; the Cards have scored one field goal less than the Giants. Last week, the Giants held the Ravens to 165 yards passing; they will not do that again this week. Last week, the Cardinals held the Seahawks’ RB, Julius Jones to less than 2 yards per carry; they will not do that again this week. I like the Giants to win and cover here and I like this game UNDER.

Washington – 3 at Seattle (40): This is one of those teacher/pupil games as Mike Holmgren and Jim Zorn face each other for the first time. It is also the Mother of all Trap Games for the Skins – - Dallas at home last week and the Giants at home next week. Washington has visited Seattle twice in recent years and came away empty both times. Not this time… Seattle gave up almost 400 yards passing last week; Jason Campbell is not Kurt Warner, but he should have a good day. I like the Skins to win and cover here and I like the game OVER. If you like Seattle, shop the line because you can find it at 4 points at some of the sportsbooks.

Indy – 3 at San Diego (49): The line for this game is all over the place; you can find it as low as 1 point or as high as 3 points. The total line also varies from 49 points to 50.5. I have no idea why… Has the change in defensive coordinators revived the Chargers’ defense or did they hold Pittsburgh to 11 points because Pittsburgh’s offense is not hitting on all cylinders? We will find out this week. I think the Chargers have to realize that any more losses this season takes them out of the wild card race and demands that they win the AFC West to get into the playoffs. In essence, their playoffs begin here. I’ll take the Chargers at home with the points.

Green Bay at New Orleans – 2.5 (51): Here is another game where the line is all over the place. It too ranges from 1 point to 2.5 points and the total number ranges from 51 to 53. I have no idea why… Green Bay is in a tie for its division lead and is not in great shape for a wild card slot; they need to win the NFC North to get in the playoffs. New Orleans is last in the NFC South and needs to go 5-1 for the rest of the season to be in the discussion when it comes to the playoffs in January. It is usually hyperbole to call a November game a “playoff game”; but in this case, it might just be true. I smell points aplenty here so I’ll take the game OVER.

Good luck

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

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  • Rich  On November 24, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    If I were a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and giving up on Donovan McNabb, I would think of getting him a nice going away present. What would be more fitting than a tie?

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On November 25, 2008 at 11:07 am


    Listening to the Philly fans vent their spleen on this issue, I doubt they have anything that nice in mind for his going-away present. My sense is that most of them would probably want him to leave town with an incurable case of jock-itch – - or worse.

    As I said, they’d best be careful what they wish for…

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