Just a foreshadowing here… I am not sure that I will be able to do Mythical Picks next week due to social commitments with family and friends. If I get to do them, they will be done with early lines and minimal “research”.
Now for a retrospective, here are highlights from last week:
I liked Jax +3.5 via a coin flip over Carolina. The Panthers won by 6 proving the coin to be wrong. Yuck!
I liked Denver/Tennessee Under 42.5. The game was comfortably Under. Yay!
I liked New Orleans – 4 over the Houston. The Saints won by 7. Yay!
I liked Minnesota +3.5 against Detroit. I also said I liked that half-point hook. The Vikings lost by 3 in OT. Yay!
I liked the Giants +9 against Philly. The Giants won outright by 13 points. Yay!
I liked New England/Buffalo to go Over 53. The total was 65. Yay!
I liked Miami/Cleveland Under 41. The game stayed Under. Yay!
I liked SF + 2.5 against Cincy. The Niners won outright. Yay!
I liked Oakland +3.5 against the Jets. The Raiders won outright. Yay!
I liked Oakland/Jets to stay Under 41. The game was Over by more than 2 TDs. Yuck!
I liked Baltimore – 3.5 over St. Louis. The Ravens won by 30. Yay!
I liked San Diego to win and cover 15 points against KC. The Chargers eked out a 3-point win. Yuck!
I liked Tampa to win and cover a point against Atlanta. It was not pretty but the Bucs won by 3. Yay!
I liked Green Bay/Chicago to go Over 45.5. The game went Under. Yuck!
I liked Arizona – 3.5 over Seattle. The Seahawks won outright. Yuck!
I liked Pittsburgh to win and cover 11 points against Indy. The Steelers won but only by 3 points. Yuck!
I liked Washington + 5.5 against Dallas. The Redskins lost but covered. Yay!
I liked Washington/Dallas Under 46. The game was comfortably Under. Yay!
That was a fine week of Mythical Picking going 12-6. That makes three weeks in a row with a mythically profitable outcome from all of the Mythical Picks and that is the perfect opportunity for me to reiterate that wagering on every game in the NFL on the weekends is a very bad money management strategy. My overall picking record this season after three weeks is 32-18-1. I have exactly zero confidence that I will break even for the rest of the season such that I might finish 14 games “in the black”. Many of these “successful picks” are not much more than wishful guesses.
Having said that, it ought to be clear that no one with two neurons close enough to play tennis with each other should take anything here as sufficiently factual to use as the basis for making a wagering decision on an NFL game this weekend should that wager involve actual money. Anyone who might do so would also be challenged by the nuances in a recipe for toast.
Things are looking up in Detroit; the Tigers are in the AL playoffs; the Lions are 3-0 and looking formidable in the NFC North; General Motors is still in business. What Detroit needs is one more boost to get it back onto a trajectory where folks might not actually be depressed about living in Detroit. Maybe if the Tigers win the World Series or if the Lions win the Super Bowl, the fans can set a portion of the city on fire thereby materially increasing the value of all the buildings left standing. Or not…
Based on the very small sample of two NFL games, there was plenty of speculation that Tom Brady might break Dan Marino’s record of 5,084 yards passing in a single season. That record has been around since 1984 and it has survived in spite of NFL rules changes that favor the passing game and the widespread use of no-huddle/spread offenses for much of the game by many teams. Marino’s record may or may not fall this year, but the reality is that it is in jeopardy in the current incarnation of the NFL. Recall that it was only two years ago that Drew Brees threw for 5069 yards in a season meaning that Brees was one well-blocked screen pass away from breaking Marino’s record.
Speaking of Tom Brady, in a losing cause last week he threw for 4 TDs and 396 yards. Normally, those numbers produce a victory but in addition to those positive things, Brady also threw 4 INTs one of which was returned for a TD.
Cam Newton did not throw for 400+ yards last week but he did something much more important. He won the game against the Jags by managing the game in a deluge. At some point, I would not be surprised to see someone say that the Jags are the only team to hold Newton to less than 200 yards passing. Yeah, right…
The Jags’ rookie QB, Blaine Gabbert, also played in that deluge and did not do much of anything. After one quarter of play, the Jags had a total of minus-1 yard of offense and they had given up a safety. At the end of the day, Gabbert’s first start in the NFL yielded these stats: 12-29 for 139 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. I have seen worse but those are not good numbers…
By the way, the Jags/Panthers game was a Woolworth game at halftime. The score was 10-5.
Here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Ex-Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister says he’s living in his parents’ basement and can’t make his child-support payments, despite playing five seasons into a seven-year, $55 million contract he signed in 2004.
“Just guessing here, but he probably wasn’t an economics major at Arizona.”
Even before Kerry Collins had to be taken out of Sunday night’s game against the Steelers, there were reports that he was “limited in practice”. Coaches always say that you play like you practice. Well, that surely applies here…
Clearly, neither Kerry Collins nor Curtis Painter will replace Peyton Manning’s level of performance for the Colts this year. Having said that, the Colts’ defensive players need to play better than they have played so far. Those folks are yielding 28 points per game so far this year. Only Kansas City has given up more in the AFC. Peyton Manning never played a bit of defense so his absence is not an excuse for that performance.
Last weekend should have been labeled “Lazarus Weekend” in the NFL. Consider these games:
The Bills were down 21-0 to the Pats and came back to win.
The Lions were down 20-0 at halftime to the Vikes and came back to win in OT.
The Saints trailed the Texans by two scores and came back in the 4th quarter to win the game.
The Raiders trailed the Jets by two scores and came back to win the game.
The Browns trailed the Dolphins all day and came back to win with a TD in the final minute of the game.
Since I mentioned the Browns last minute win on Sunday, I have to tell you that the Browns almost gave the game away after scoring in the final minute. After the TD, the Browns were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for excessive end-zone celebration meaning the kick-off would be from the 20 yard line. Then on the kick-off return, there was a flag for a horse-collar tackle. The Dolphins took over at the Browns’ 47 yard line trailing by only a point. The Browns tried to give it away…
Antonio Cromartie had a Sunday he would surely love to pretend never happened. In the Jets’ loss to the Raiders, Cromartie committed 4 pass interference penalties and he fumbled a kickoff giving the ball to the Raiders deep in Jets’ territory.
The Bengals played their home opener last weekend against the Niners. Granted the Bengals are not very good and the Niners are hardly a big draw these days in southern Ohio/northern Kentucky, but this was the home opener for the season. The game was played in front of an announced crowd of 43,363 which means that Paul Brown Stadium was a bit more than one-third empty. Wow!
In their three games so far this season, the Vikings have led at halftime by scores of 17-7, 17-0 and 20-0. The Vikings lost all three of those games and folks are pointing the finger at the Vikings’ offense and the play selection in the second halves of the games. So far, I have not heard any of the talking heads suggest this:
Maybe the Vikings’ coaching staff is really over-matched when it comes to making adjustments at halftime and/or realizing that the opponents have made adjustments at halftime for which they need a counter-move.
Many folks have observed that tackling fundamentals are not abundant in the NFL anymore. Well, if those folks took a look at the Rams/Ravens game last week they might think that “tackling fundamentals” should be on the endangered species list. The Rams’ tackling was atrocious…
In the first two games of this season, the Seattle Seahawks had not led for even a single second. Sunday, they beat the Arizona Cardinals. It looks as if the NFC West has 4 mediocre-at-best teams there again this season…
The Chargers are consistent; they continue to play up or down to the level of their competition. Last weekend, they played lackadaisically against the Chiefs. The Chargers won the game because even they cannot sleepwalk through a game sufficiently to have the Chiefs beat them.
The Niners played in Cincy last week and have to travel to Philly this week. Rather than fly to SF and then back to Philly, the team spent the week in Youngstown, OH. That surely gave the players a more restful set of experiences than two transcontinental flights would have; the question would have to be whether there is some lasting torpor inflicted on the team from a week in Youngstown, OH.
Detroit at Dallas – 1.5 (46): This is not the best game of the weekend, but it might be the most interesting one. Unless Jerry Jones flies in a planeload of holy water from Lourdes, the Cowboys will go into this game with the same massive injury list as they had last week against the Redskins. The difference is that the Skins cannot score in the red zone while the Lions have Calvin Johnson. Those 4 field goal attempts by the Skins would likely be 2 TDs and 2 FGs for the Lions instead of only 3 FGs for the Skins. Expect almost all of the Lions’ yardage to come through the air; the Cowboys should shut down the run game. I think the wrong team is favored here. I’ll take the Lions with the points even on the road.
Carolina at Chicago – 6.5 (42): This game will be a test for Cam Newton. The Bears defense is a good unit; they can pressure the passer and they can cover. On the other hand, it is not clear that the Panthers’ defense can put Jay Cutler under sufficient stress to cause him to turn the ball over. I think the Panthers are overmatched here in a road game so I’ll take the Bears to win and cover.
New Orleans – 7 at Jax (45): The opening line for this game was 9 points but it dropped very quickly to 7 points and has hung there for the balance of the week. Normally, I would lean away from the Saints here because this is a non-conference opponent on the road. That is not the kind of game I normally would want to lay a full TDs worth of points on. HOW-EVAH, the Saints have a high-octane offense run by an elite NFL QB; the Jags have a rookie QB going up against a Gregg Williams defense that will blitz him from each and every direction on the compass. The Jags will have to run the ball often and well to keep Drew Brees and his buddies on the bench or this will get out of hand. It is not often that I like the Saints because of what I think their defense is going to do in a game but that is the case here. I’ll take the Saints and lay the points. And if the Saints get a 2 TD lead in the first quarter, this game could turn very ugly…
Tennessee at Cleveland “pick ‘em” (38.5): Both teams come into this game with 2-1 records. Neither offense is particularly productive; both defenses are solid if not great. I think there is a real possibility that there will be a dozen punts in this game. Purely as a venue call, I’ll take the Browns here.
Buffalo – 3 at Cincy (43.5): The Buffalo Bills are road favorites here; it has been a while since that happened. The Bengals’ locker room should be torqued off about that. The Bills used up a load of adrenaline coming back from 21-0 against the Pats to win the game. That puts the Bills in a “sandwich game situation” – - coming off a big win and possibly looking ahead to a game with a reputable opponent next in the Eagles. It has also been a while since the Bills played a “sandwich game”. The Bills have not been very good for a while so it may surprise you to learn that the Bills have beaten the Bengals the last ten times these teams have met. Having said all that, the Bengals’ defense is pretty good and the Bills do tend to give up points. Therefore, I’ll take the Bengals with the points at home.
Minnesota – 1 at KC (39.5): This is probably the worst game of the week matching two winless teams. This game is similar to the Saints/Jags game in that the Vikings are on the road against a non-conference opponent that is not very good. The problem is that the traveling Vikings are not very good either. The edge goes to the Vikings in the running game because Adrian Peterson will play and the Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles will not. The Chiefs have not had the lead at any point in any of the three games this season. Will that change here? Only because I said I would pick every game, I’ll take the Vikings and lay the point.
SF at Philly – 10 (44.5): Obviously, this spread means that the folks in the sportsbooks are confident that Michael Vick will be the QB on Sunday with whatever injury he sustained to his non-throwing hand. The Niners’ defense is too good for this line to obtain if Mike Kafka – - or Vince Young for that matter – - were slated to play the whole game. The Niners’ offense is something less than “scary” unless you are the offensive coordinator and your job depends on them scoring loads of points. That line looks fat to me so I’ll take the Niners with the points.
Washington – 1 at St. Louis (43.5): I have to tell you that I do not understand this line at all. The Redskins have a history of playing down to the level of mediocre/bad teams but there really does seem to be a new buzz around the team this year. The Rams have not looked good in any of their three losses. Granted, the Redskins have not looked as if they are going deep into the playoffs either. The key here will be the Skins’ ability to run the ball on a Rams’ defense that looks vulnerable to the run. The Skins ran well against the Cardinals but did nothing much on the ground against the Cowboys. The Skins’ passing game is good enough – - until and unless Rex Grossman gets a brain cramp and starts giving the ball away via INTs and/or sack-fumbles. Based on talent, I Iike the Skins to win and cover here.
Pittsburgh at Houston – 3.5 (45): Here is another line I do not understand at all. The Steelers are 2-1 even though they are only scoring 18 points per game and have given up one point more than they have scored this season. That says their defense is pretty good. It will have to be good because the Texans’ offense is also pretty good. I think the Texans will be able to score on the Steelers and I think that the Texans’ defense – - improved as it may be – - will allow the Steelers to score too. I like this game to go Over.
Atlanta – 4 at Seattle (38.5): The Falcons have to pay attention here and not look ahead to next week’s game with the Green Bay Packers. The Seahawks were able to contain the Cardinals’ running attack last week. If the Falcons keep their focus, I do not think the Seahawks will stop the Falcons and Michael Turner this week. The Seahawks were able to contain Larry Fitzgerald last week via a lot of double coverage. If they focus double coverage on any of the Falcons’ WRs, the others will steal the Seahawks’ lunch. Oh, and do not forget Tony Gonzalez in the Falcons’ offensive mix. This is a long trip for the Falcons but they really are the better team – - particularly at QB. I’ll take the Falcons and lay the points on the road.
Giants – 1 at Arizona (44): The Giants tend not to play well in Arizona and that spread says that there are a lot of folks who think that last week’s cuffing of the Eagles in Philly was not an indication that the Giants are back to some kind of beastly status. What I know is that the Cardinals’ defense is mediocre and the Cardinals’ running attack is mediocre at best. Frankly, I do not see any attractive line here so I am flipping my coin and it says to take the game to go Over.
Denver at Green Bay – 12.5 (46): The spread here opened the week at 14.5 and has been dropping steadily. The Total Line opened the week at 48 and has dropped steadily all week too. Denver plays a road game against a non-conference foe but in this case, the Broncos are getting a boatload of points. The problem is that the Packers have to realize that their 3-0 record so far is only good enough to get them a tie with the Lions in their division – - and the Packers will know the result of the Lions/Cowboys game as their game kicks off. Until a team with an average defense holds the Packers in check for an entire game, I continue to believe that their offense is as productive as any in the league in terms of putting points on the scoreboard. I’ll take this game to go Over and I’ll take the Packers and lay the points.
New England – 4 at Oakland (54): This could be the best game of the weekend. The Total Line for this game started the week at 52 points and has moved steadily up. You can find it as high as 55 points at one Internet sportsbook but 54 is the most common line out there. This game screams:
“I AM A TRAP GAME”.
The Pats took a blow to the gut losing to the Bills – - a division rival – - the way they did last week. Next week, they play host to the Jets – - another division rival and one where the emotional pitch for the game will shatter glass. This week, all they have to do is travel 3000 miles to play a team that wants to run the ball down their throats. The Pats’ defense is not their long suit and the Raiders stuck it to the more robust Jets’ defense last week. I suspect that the defensive coaches will make the Pats’ defenders watch that game film over and over during the week. To stop the Raiders from running, the Pats will need to commit personnel to “the box” and that will put the game in Jason Campbell’s hands against a New England secondary that has not exactly been taut this season. Tom Brady will move the Pats on the Raiders’ defense and will score points. Not that this is a trend that matters in this game, but the Patriots have scored 30+ points in their last eleven games. This will be a fun game to watch; I like the game to go Over.
Miami at San Diego – 7 (44.5): The Chargers started the week as a 10-point favorite. Perhaps people expect the Chargers to play down to the competition again this week? I do not see why they would not since that is what they have been doing for the past several seasons. The Dolphins just do not score; they average just under 18 points per game. Granted compared to the Jags and the Seahawks average of 10 points per game, the Dolphins look great, but in reality this is not an offense that ought to be able to score more than 10-14 points against the Chargers. Meanwhile, the Chargers’ offense has been unusually quiet this season. Despite a 2-1 record, the Chargers have been outscored by 4 points in those 3 games and are averaging only 22 points per game. Even with Antonio Gates playing on one foot – - or not playing at all – - this offense is better than that. If the Dolphins lose here to go 0-4, Tony Sparano’s job could be on the knife’s edge because they have their bye week next week with a MNF game against the Jets in NY in two weeks. If the team wants to keep their coaching staff, they had better play well this week; even so, I just cannot see the Dolphins competing here. I’ll take the Chargers and lay the points – - knowing full well that they might just amble their way to win by the score of 10-9.
(Sun Nite) Jets at Baltimore – 3 (42.5): This is the best game of the weekend. Here are two defensive units that love to punch the other guys in the mouth. I see no reason that either unit will change their ways during their practice sessions this week. You may recall last year’s game between these teams ending up with a 10-9 score. It was not pretty and both offensive units had to be happy to hear that final whistle. I do not think we will see another 10-9 game but I do like this game to stay Under.
(Mon Nite) Indy at Tampa Bay – 10 (40.5): I do not think that last week’s game against the Steelers is an indicator that the Colts have adjusted to the absence of Peyton Manning and that their decline has hit bottom. I think they played about as well as they can play in that game and that the Steelers played a far less than perfect game. If mid-week reports are correct, Monday night will be the beginning of the Curtis Painter Era in Indianapolis; the buzz surrounding that is not exactly deafening. I cannot recall the last time Tampa Bay was a double-digit favorite on MNF; I wonder if it ever happened… According to a report on ESPN.com, this is the first time the Bucs will play at home on MNF since 2003. I assume that the Bucs coaches will not have stage fright on MNF and will also be able to keep the players from being awestruck. If that is the case, I like the Bucs to win and cover here.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………