Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 12/26/10

Last week’s Mythical Picks went 9-7 – - actually 9-6 because my Rams’ pick was based on Brodie Croyle starting at QB for the Chiefs and he did not. Either way, that was a mythically profitable week.

Nonetheless, only a monumentally stupid person would consider using information here as the basis for making a wager on an NFL game this weekend if said wager involved risking real money. How stupid would that person have to be? Well, he/she would probably hear this question routinely:

    So, you changed your mind. Does this new one work any better?

General Comments:

With two games left in the season, Peyton Manning has attempted 608 passes – - 43.5 passes per game. The league record for attempted passes in a season is 691 [Drew Bledsoe] is within reach if the Colts throw the ball as much in the next two weeks as they have all season long. Yet one more thing for the stat mavens to track in the final weeks of the 2010 NFL season…

Arian Foster leads the NFL in rushing at this point by 21 yards over Maurice Jones-Drew and by 42 yards over Jamaal Charles. Foster was an undrafted free agent signed by the Texans and originally assigned to their practice squad at the start of the 2009 season. Should Foster win the NFL rushing title, it would be only the second time an undrafted free agent accomplished that feat in the NFL drafting era. Priest Holmes was also an undrafted free agent and he led the NFL in rushing in 2001.

Maurice Jones-Drew wears the number, 32. His choice of that number is not an homage to Jim Brown or OJ Simpson who wore that number before him; he chose that number to represent the number of teams that passed over him in the draft. The number reminds him that he has to prove to everyone that he should have been taken earlier. In the 2006 draft, Jones-Drew was the sixth running back selected behind:

    Reggie Bush
    Laurence Maroney
    DeAngelo Williams
    Joseph Addai
    LenDale White

The last time the New England Patriots offense turned the ball over was on November 14. In the 5 games since Nov 14, the Pats have outscored their opponents 189 – 89.

For the season, the Pats have played 14 games and only turned the ball over 9 times all season long. The NFL played 14 games per season from the early 60s until the late 70s. In that period, the lowest turnover total for a team in a 14 game season was 14 turnovers.

As the potential for a sub-.500 team to make the NFL playoffs increases, the howling about how unfair that is also increases. There is talk in the blogosphere of banning such a team from the playoffs and adding a third wild card from that conference in place of a division winner with a losing record; there is talk of reseeding the playoffs to prevent a losing team from hosting a playoff game. I have not been listening to an abundance of sports radio this week so I don’t know if there is talk of ritually disemboweling members of division winners with less than .500 records – - but that would not shock me.

The word is that the NFL Competition Committee will take up this matter in the off-season. Because the NFL maintains the “division groupings” within the conferences, I seriously doubt that it will bar division champions from the playoffs. Denying a home playoff game to division winners with less than 8 wins – - or 9 wins if the season expands to 18 games – - might come out of that committee. Ritual disembowelment would have to run afoul of at least one of the US labor laws…

Last weekend, the NFC West teams did not play each other and all of them took that opportunity to lose their games. The combined record of the NFC West – - including games against each other where the division must necessarily split – - is 21 – 35. None of the four teams has outscored its opponents [The Rams are the closest with a 37-point deficit.] and the cumulative score for all of the division teams is 1042 – 1342, a 300-point deficit.

Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this comment regarding losing teams making the playoffs:

“There is even a movement promoting a Constitutional amendment to exclude any sub-.500 team from any playoffs. It would be called the 49th Amendment.”

Terrell Owens had to leave last week’s game in the first quarter with a knee injury. Chad Ochocinco did not start last week’s game but did play. Let us review the bidding here:

    T.O. on the shelf.
    “Ocho” demoted.
    Bengals record 3-11.

I wonder how they will turn that chicken-bleep into chicken salad on The T-Ocho Show this week…

The Bengals had lost 10 games in a row going into the game with the Browns last week. Owens left after 6 plays; “Ocho” had a limited role; the Bengals won the game. Connect those dots…

The Bengals have the option on T.O.’s contract for next year but no one expects them to exercise it. Here is a prop wager to consider:

    Over/Under 35: The number of wide receivers the Bengals will draft and/or invite to work out for the team before placing the first call to Terrell Owens’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

The Pantloads have the worst NFL record at 2-12; with their remaining two games against the Steelers (tonite) and then the Falcons, it is safe to say that odds favor the Pantloads ending the year at 2-14 and with the first draft pick in April. If that happens, it will the only time in franchise history where Carolina has picked first. Back in 2002, they did pick second in the draft and they acquired Julius Peppers. They should do so well again this time…

Here are three NY Jets’ items – - one good and two not-so-good:

    LaDanian Tomlinson has not rushed for more than 60 yards in any of the last 8 games. Not-so-good…

    Mark Sanchez has not thrown a TD pass in the last 3 games. Not-so-good.

    Since taking over as Jets’ head coach, Rex Ryan’s team is 11-4 on the road. Good!

The Ravens’ second round pick last year, Sergio Kindle (LB-Texas), has been inactive all year – - could not participate in training camp either – - because he fell down a flight of stairs and fractured his skull. This week, the news is that he may not be cleared to play next year either because doctors are still concerned about him taking contact on his skull. NFL linebackers who are not cleared for contact have an extremely short shelf life…

Last week, the Detroit Lions won a road game for the first time since October 2007. They had lost 26 road games in a row prior to that win – - an NFL record. Ignominiously, the Detroit Lions also held the previous NFL record of 22 consecutive road losses. The last Lions’ road win had Jon Kitna as the Lions’ QB; the losers that day were the Chicago Bears with Brian Griese at QB. Now there is a trip down memory lane…

The Miami Dolphins’ home record this year stands at 1-6; that is the worst home record in the NFL. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald provided this description of fan reaction to this state of affairs:

“This Dolphins team that has managed the most embarrassing single season of home performances in franchise history was rightly booed off the field Sunday. The reaction might have been even uglier but for that rule preventing fans from bringing weapons into the stadium.”

Rex Grossman led a furious second half rally to forge a tie with the Cowboys last week only to see the Redskins lose on a last minute field goal. Grossman passed for 300+ yards and had a QB rating of 92. Naturally, he will start again this week as Mike Shanahan continues to “evaluate him”. There is every reason to believe that his numbers will be good again this week playing the Jags whose pass defense gives up 256 yards per game and ranks 28th in the NFL. It is crystal clear that Mike Shanahan does not want Donovan McNabb to be his QB and so it is not surprising that Shanahan did not emphasize this aspect of Grossman’s play last week:

    With the score tied and a little over 4 minutes to play, the Redskins had the ball at their own 4 yardline. Instead of driving the field for a game winning score, the offense held the ball for 6 plays and gained a net of 4 yards (taking two sacks along the way). After punting, the defense gave up a field goal.

    When the Skins got the ball back, instead of driving to get a game-tying field goal, Grossman threw a game-ending interception.

Those are data folks; that is all they are. Interpret that as you might…

The Games:

(Thurs Nite) Carolina at Pittsburgh – 14.5 (37): The Pantloads’ passing offense this year averages 149.3 yards per game. The next worst passing team – the Cardinals – average 181.6 yards per game. If the Pantloads move the ball at all, they do it by running and that is likely to be a problem here since the Steelers have the best rushing defense in the NFL – - allowing only 63.4 yards per game. It is not as if the Pantloads are “opportunistic” and find ways to score on turnovers and short fields. They only score 13 points per game and have scored 61 points less than any other team in the league. I really do not like laying more than 2 TDs worth of points – - particularly in what looks to be a low scoring game. I’ll take the game to stay Under.

(Sat Nite) Dallas – 7 at Arizona (45): The combined records here are 9-19. That is the lump of coal the NFL put in fans’ Christmas stockings this year. I will be paying a lot more attention to family and friends this Christmas evening than I will to this game. It looks as if John Skelton will guide the Cardinals in this game meaning that the Cowboys’ vulnerability (they give up 28.2 points per game) is marginalized. Just a hunch, but I think this game will be played at less than full intensity on both sides so I’ll take the game to stay Under.

Detroit at Miami – 3.5 (41.5): The Lions broke their road losing streak last week but still their road record in 2010 is 1-6. As noted above, the Miami home record is also 1-6 and the fans are restless. Chad Henne has been disappointing – - albeit not disastrous – -at QB for the Dolphins this year. His play will probably determine the outcome here. Since these are mythical picks, I’ll take the Lions with the points.

SF at St. Louis – 2.5 (39.5): This game means something. St. Louis leads the NFC West along with Seattle with a 6-8 record. SF can still win the division if they win out. Remember, someone has to win that division. The Rams have not played very well the last few games but then again, no one in the division has played very well since the season started. I am flipping a coin here and that coin says to take the Niners with the points. Remember these are Mythical Picks…

Jets at Chicago “pick ‘em” (36.5): Looking at the records of these two teams, this is one of the two best games of the weekend – - along with the Saints/Falcons game. The Jets win at Pittsburgh last week gave them a nice position in the AFC Wild Card race and a win here would be very important to them. The Bears clinched the NFC North last weekend but still have their eye on the potential for a bye week in the playoffs. The defenses for both teams rank in the top ten in the NFL. As noted above, the Jets are 11-4 on the road since Rex Ryan became head coach there. Two good teams and both have a reason to want to win this game… I’ll take the Bears to win here.

New England – 8 at Buffalo (44): The line for this game is all over the place. It started the week at 8 points; you can find it as low as 7 points at one sportsbook and as high as 9 points at another. The total line is the same no matter where you look. The Pats have won 14 consecutive games against the Bills; and if you tried to concoct a recipe for a Bills’ win here, it would have to include getting turnovers from the Pats. Problem is that the Pats do not turn the ball over much at all [see above]. The weather in Buffalo in December is always a factor and if you believe weather forecasts 72 hours in advance of games are reliable enough to bet on, you will eventually go broke. I’ll take this game to go Over.

Washington at Jax – 7 (46): The Jags have a winning record this year (8-6). Nonetheless, opponents have outscored the Jags by 46 points. The Jags’ running game is potent and since the Skins’ run defense is 29th in the league, there is reason to suspect that potency will continue to obtain this week. The Jags passing offense is rather anemic but the Skins’ pass defense is the worst in the NFC tied for 30th in the NFL; that match up will pit “the halt” against “the lame”. The Skins will try to exploit that Jags’ porous pass defense here. On the assumption that the Shanahans are not going to tank this game to improve their draft position for next season, I’ll take the Skins with the points here and I’ll take the game Over.

Tennessee at KC – 5 (42.5): The Chiefs need a win to stay a game in front of the Chargers and the Chiefs are 6-0 at home this year. [Pats and Falcons are also undefeated at home this season.] Dick Vitale would call the Titans “a yo-yo team” this year. The game means more to the Chiefs; they are at home. I’ll take the Chiefs and lay the points – - hesitatingly.

Baltimore – 3.5 at Cleveland (39.5): The Ravens are solidly placed in the Wild Card race in the AFC but they can also still win the AFC North. Obviously, they have to win out to do that and that gives them reason to play this week against a Cleveland team that ranks last in the AFC in offense. The Ravens’ defense is not what it was 5 years ago but it is still very good. Even on the road, I like the Ravens to win and cover.

Indy – 3 at Oakland (47): Oakland wins by running the ball; they average 157 yards per game on the ground. Indy’s rush defense ranks 29th in the NFL. Indy wins by throwing the ball; they average 298 yards per game – - best in the NFL. The Raiders’ pass defense is the 2nd best in the AFC. The Raiders can still win the AFC West if they win out and other “stuff” happens; the Colts will win the AFC South if they win out. If Indy gets ahead early in this game and Oakland has to throw the ball to catch up, the Colts will win going away but with Austin Collie gone for the rest of the year, the Colts’ passing game has only one top-shelf receiver left on the field making them more easily defensible. I’ll take the Raiders with the points here.

Houston – 3 at Denver (48.5): The Texans’ defense ranks 30th in the NFL giving up 377 yards per game. Not to worry, however, the Broncos’ defense ranks 31st in the NFL giving up 386 yards per game. This game looks to be one of those times when both offensive units can pad their stats. I’ll take the game Over. Less confidently, I’ll take the Texans and lay the points.

San Diego – 7.5 at Cincy (44): Here is another game where the line is all over the place. One sportsbook has it as low as 7; one has it as high as 9; more of them have it at 7.5 than any other number. If the Chargers hope to make the playoffs, they must win here. The Bengals – despite their win last week in the Ohio bowl – are a mess. Cedric Benson seems to have awakened in the past couple of games but the Chargers have the best defense in the NFL and the 2nd best rush defense in the NFL. Unless the Chargers succumb to cold weather here, I think they can throw the ball at will against the Bengals. I like the Chargers to win and cover here despite the venue and the fact that the spread is more than a full TD.

Seattle at Tampa – 6 (43.5): The Seahawks need this game to stay around in that cesspool division they play in. The Bucs shot themselves in the foot last week with regard to the playoffs losing to the Lions at home. However, the Bucs are not mathematically eliminated just yet so they have reason to play hard. The Seahawks are not a good road team and their defense ranks next to last in the NFC. I like the Bucs to win and cover here.

Giants at Green Bay – 3 (43): These are solid teams whose performance in the past couple of weeks has not lived up to earlier expectations. The sixth slot in the NFC playoffs could well come down to the Giants and the Packers so this game would be the tiebreaker. Aaron Rodgers will probably start this week after missing a week due to a concussion [his second this year]. Can he make it through a game against a tough defense that features rushing the passer? The Giants have so many turnovers this year they could open a pastry shop; the Packers’ defense is a good one and an opportunistic one. Can the Giants just hold onto the damned ball? Oh, and just in case it comes down to this again, can the Giants braintrust communicate effectively with the punter to just kick the damned ball out of bounds? All of this will play out on the frozen tundra of … I like this game Over.

(Sun Nite) Minnesota at Philly – 14.5 (43.5): As of this morning, Brett Favre is “unlikely” to play Sunday nite. Last week he was declared “out” for the game in mid-week and then he started. If he does not start, it will be Joe Webb under center for the Vikings. Webb showed athleticism and running skills last week against the Bears but his throwing leaves much room for improvement. The Eagles’ defense against the Giants’ running game last week was very good; they will need to be equally good this week with Adrian Peterson on the field. If they can keep Peterson from breaking big runs, the Eagles ought to control the game. Nonetheless, that line is fat. I’ll take the Vikes with the points.

(Mon Nite) New Orleans at Atlanta – 2.5 (48): Looking at the records of these two teams, this is one of the two best games of the weekend – - along with the Jets/Bears game. The Falcons have not yet clinched home field for the playoffs because they could wind up tied with the Eagles at 12-4 and the Eagles hold a head-to-head win over the Falcons. A win here will take care of that situation for the Falcons. The Saints have not clinched a playoff slot yet, but they are in good position relative to the Wild Card chase. I think this game will be a shootout so I’ll take it to go Over. Despite the perfect home record by the Falcons this year and their 22-1 home record since Matt Ryan took over as QB, I like the Saints with the points here.

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

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  • sports picks  On December 27, 2010 at 3:53 am

    Can the Giants just hold onto the damned ball? Oh, and just in case it comes down to this again, can the Giants braintrust communicate effectively with the punter to just kick the damned ball out of bounds? All of this will play out on the frozen tundra of … I like this game Over

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On December 27, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Well … it turned out that the Giants could not “just hold onto the damned ball”. The game never had a point where instructions to the Giants’ punter might have effected the outcome even a little bit and the Packers took the game Over all by themselves.

    On paper, that looked as if it would be a good game and a close game. It was neither…

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