‘Tis time for the penultimate Mythical Picks of the football season. However, before I embark on that journey, let me go back and review last week’s commentary.
I liked the Ravens +3 against the Steelers and the game to sneak Over 37. The Ravens did not cover but the game was more than comfortably Over 37.
I liked the Packers +2.5 against the Falcons and the game to go Over 44. The Packers won outright by just under 4 TDs and the Packers went Over 44 by themselves. Exacta!
I liked the Seahawks +10 against the Bears and the game Over 41. The Seahawks lost by 11 but the game was comfortably Over 41.
I liked the Jets/Pats game Over 44.5 and I reluctantly liked the Pats – 9. The Jets won outright but the game was comfortably Over 44.5.
That was a mythically profitable week – - assuming an equal wager on all eight selections. Nevertheless, only a person with significant limitations in the cerebral dimension would take that fact and then presume to use anything that follows here as an authoritative guide to wagering on the two NFL games this weekend. A person that stupid would probably opt to sit on the TV and watch the sofa.
When the Pats were marching down the field with only marginal resistance on their first drive of the game only to see Tom Brady throw his first INT in 11 games, did you think that the air went out of the Pats’ balloon right there? I did.
Tramon Williams has had an amazingly good season in 2010. You just do not find a whole lot of top-flight cornerbacks who went undrafted in their year of draft eligibility. He was originally with the Houston Texans but was released after the final exhibition game in 2006. The Packers signed him to a 4-year contract extension this year – - with a team option for a 5th year.
Given what Aaron Rodgers did to the Falcons defense last weekend, do you think that any of the Atlanta fans in the stadium had flashbacks to General William Tecumseh Sherman?
Syndicated columnist, Norman Chad, had a very direct analysis of Aaron Rodgers as the Packers’ QB:
“It looks like the Packers made the right decision in 2008. Rodgers is younger, healthier and maybe as good as Brett Favre, and I don’t think he even has a text-messaging plan.”
Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel was fully expecting a Patriots’ win last weekend and had this description of Jets’ coach, Rex Ryan, in a weekend column:
“By the way, do you know the difference between Rex Ryan and the Hindenburg? One is a flaming gasbag and the other is a zeppelin.”
At the time of the NFL Draft in 2009, there were abundant reports that the Washington Redskins wanted to “trade up” to get Mark Sanchez. In that same off-season, there were plenty of reports about the Redskins’ efforts to put together a trade to acquire Jay Cutler when Cutler had become disaffected with new coach, Josh McDaniels, in Denver. Obviously, neither of those situations bore fruit from the Redskins’ perspective.
Now there is a 25% chance that these two young QBs will oppose each other in the Super Bowl in two weeks. Meanwhile, the Redskins current QB inventory sees them entering the 2011 season – - if there is a 2011 season – - with Rex Grossman as the starting QB. You just know that Danny Boy Snyder is asking himself:
How the [bleep] did THAT happen?
When teams have to play against an opponent with a great return man, there is a standard inquiry line in the week leading up to the game. It starts with the assumption that teams do not want to kick to the likes of Devin Hester or DeSean Jackson or Leon Washington; and so, the question becomes whether or not the team will actually do that. What I would love to hear a coach say to that kind of speculation – - and Mike McCarthy has the opportunity this week to do so – - is that the Packers have no intention of kicking to Hester all day long BECAUSE:
1. The Packers’ objective is never to have to punt the ball!
2. The Packers will be most willing to kick it to him every time after they score a TD. And that’s the truththth… [/ Lily Tomlin]
The Steelers have won more Super Bowls (six of them) than any other team. However, the NFL was awarding championships prior to the creation of the Super Bowl back in the AFL days. In the history of the NFL, the Packers have won more NFL championships than any other team (twelve of them). The Bears are no slouches here; they have the second most NFL championships of all (nine of them). And then, there are the Jets.
Historically, the Jets are “outsiders” in this group. However, no one can say the Jets do not belong in this group in 2011…
In their two meetings this year, the Packers sacked Jay Cutler a total of 9 times and 6 of those sacks came in the final game of the year when the Packers had to win to stay alive in the wild card race. You might think that the Bears’ offensive line would be significantly motivated to demonstrate that they can get through a game with the Packers without giving up those kinds of sack totals.
The Packers’ defense has been most impressive in the playoffs. They started on the road in Philly against the offense ranked #2 in the NFL; then they went on the road to Atlanta to take on the #1 seed in the NFC bracket – - a team that had gone 13-3 for the season. Here is a stat from those two games that should be enough to make you sit up and take notice:
The Packers had a total of 8 sacks in those two games AND they only allowed 8 conversions on third down in those same two games.
Meanwhile, the Packers defense also created 5 turnovers and only allowed a total of 476 yards combined in the two games.
Having said all those nice things about the Packers’ defense, the Bears’ defense is pretty damned good too. That game ought to be “VERY in-ter-es-ting” [/ Arte Johnson]
(Sun 3:00 PM EST) Green Bay – 3 at Chicago (43.5): While it is unusual for a road team to be favored at this point of the season, please remember that the Packers were a 10 to 11 point favorite against these same Bears on this same field in the final game of the season. The Packers won that day – - getting themselves into the playoffs and into a position to make another trek to Soldier Field – - but they did not cover. As noted above, both of these teams have excellent defenses that are playing well right now. I like the Packers’ offense better than the Bears’ offense because the Packers’ pass catchers are superior to the Bears’ pass catchers. I think the Bears will need to be able to rush Aaron Rodgers effectively with their defensive line to give them 7 pass defenders if the Bears are going to contain the Packers. With Julius Peppers rushing, the key would seem to be whether or not Tommie Harris shows up with his motor on or off. The weather forecast for the game calls for cloudy skies and temperatures in the “high-teens”; that is Bear weather or Packer weather depending on which team you happen to root for. I see this as a low-scoring game dominated by defense and field position football. I’ll take the game to stay Under and I’ll take the Packers to win and cover – - but not by a whole lot.
(Sun 6:30 PM EST) Jets at Pittsburgh – 3.5 (39): So far in these playoffs, the Jets have gone on the road to play against teams operated by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Those are the two best QBs in the game today and both will be enshrined in Canton sometime in the future. Nevertheless, the Jets have won both games as underdogs. So, how can the Steelers possibly hope to survive? Last week, the Jets [with the #3 defense in the league] faced the Ravens [with the #4 defense in the league]; this week the Jets get the Steelers [with the #2 defense in the league]. The Jets have already won a game in Pittsburgh in 2010 (back in December) so there is a degree of familiarity they bring to the field this weekend. The Steelers’ defense will surrender points in the most grudging manner; the Jets’ defense should be similarly able to keep the scoring to a minimum here. The weather forecast for game time is for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the “low-teens” at the start of the game with a chance for “single digits” by late in the 4th quarter. I like this game to stay Under and I’ll take the Jets with the points – - and I am happy to have that hook on top of a field goal in the spread.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…