Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that December 7, 1941 was a date that will live in infamy. Clearly on a much smaller scale than the events that plunged the US into World War II, my NFL Mythical Picks for last weekend also mark a date destined to live in infamy. As you will soon see, my picks last weekend are at a level described by Joe Queenan in his book Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon; those picks descended to:
“…the deepest recesses of the inner-sanctum of the Star Chamber of the Temple of Doom of the Tri-Lateral Commission of Suck.”
Here are the far less than wonderful results from last weekend:
I liked the Saints – 13 over the Rams. The Saints lost outright. Yuck!
I liked the Giants – 10 over the Dolphins. The Giants won but did not cover. Yuck!
I liked the Ravens – 13 over the Cardinals. The Ravens won but did not cover. Yuck!
I liked the Ravens/Cardinals game Under 43. The game went Over. Yuck!
I liked the Vikes/Panthers Over 48. The game stayed Under. Yuck!
I liked the Colts +9 against the Titans. The Colts lost by 14. Yuck!
I liked the Texans – 10 over the Jags. The game was a Push!
I liked the Lions/Broncos to stay Under 42. The Lions scored 45 all by themselves. Yuck!
I liked the Redskins +6 against the Bills. The Bills won by 23. Yuck!
I liked the Seahawks +3 against the Bengals. The Seahawks lost in a rout. Yuck!
I liked the Niners – 9 over the Browns. The Niners covered by a point. Yes!
I liked the Steelers +3 against the Pats. The Steelers won outright. Yes!
I liked the Eagles/Cowboys to go Over 50.5. The game went Under; the Cowboys were allergic to scoring. Yuck!
I liked the Chargers – 3.5 over the Chiefs. The Chargers lost outright. Yuck!
The mythical results for last week were 2-11-1, which stinks beyond belief. The only thing I will say in my defense is that I did have this sentence in the paragraph that followed the results from two weeks ago:
“The season total stands at 62-48-4. Anyone foolish enough to have been following these picks with real money wagers ought to stop now and take profit – - as they say on Wall Street.”
Well, that mythically profitable season total from last week sure took a hit. It now stands at 64-59-5, which is slightly in the not-profitable zone for the season. Surely, no one would be tempted to use any information in this week’s edition of Mythical Picks as the basis for making a wagering decision involving real money on any NFL game this weekend. Anyone dumb enough to do that would also not be smart enough to know the difference between hard water and ice.
Going into last week’s Lions/Broncos game, the question facing sportswriters who had to do game stories for that contest was this:
Will Tim Tebow be Daniel in the Lions’ den – - or – -
Will Tim Tebow be the Christian thrown to the Lions?
For one week, it was clearly the latter. The Lions won the game 45-10 and this is one case where the dominance on the scoreboard accurately reflected the dominance on the field. Tebow was 18-39 passing for 172 yards and a TD. That is not a good performance, but it is not a horrible one either – - until you look a bit deeper into the stats:
The Broncos converted only 2 of 14 third down tries.
Tebow was sacked 7 times.
He threw an interception that was returned for a TD.
He lost a fumble that was returned for a TD.
The week before last against the Dolphins, Tebow’s less than stellar stats could have been overlooked because he rallied the Broncos to tie a game in the final few minutes and then the Broncos won the game in OT. There was no storybook finale last week against the Lions.
Speaking of the Dolphins, Miami led the Giants by double-digits and looked as if they had serious momentum going for them. However, it all came apart at the seams and left the Dolphins exposed as a seriously flawed football team. The Giants rallied to win by a field goal even though for a while, it looked as if it was the Giants who deserved the label as a miserable excuse for an NFL team.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals were having their way against the Ravens in Baltimore. The Cardinals led by 3 TDs only to cough up that lead and lose the game 30-27. That epic collapse provided some measure of cover for the Broncos and the Dolphins bad losses last weekend because the Cardinals’ collapse was even worse.
Having noted the epic collapses from last weekend, there is some question as to what the biggest humiliation of the week might have been. The candidates are:
A. The Redskins being shut out by the Bills even though the Bills had been giving up 24.5 points per game.
B. The Saints for giving up 31 points to the Rams even though the Rams had only scored 56 points in the first 6 games of the year.
C. The Cowboys for losing 34-7 to a division rival on national TV.
You make the call…
A minor irony here… Two weeks ago, the Cowboys beat the Rams 34-7; last week the Cowboys lost to the Eagles 34-7.
Here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that provides an insight into the economics of pro football:
“Talk about kicking back and counting your cash.
“Dave Rayner, an emergency one-game signee by the Raiders, kicked off to open Sunday’s game against the Chiefs and was never needed to kick again, being as Oakland got skunked 28-0.
“His pay for that one kick: $40,294.”
The Colts could not win again last weekend leaving them and the Dolphins as the only teams without a win for the season. Looking at the schedules:
Indy has two games against the Jaguars and one at home against the Panthers. They might find a win somewhere in there.
Miami hosts the hapless Redskins the week after next. Other than that, there are no “easy pickings” on their schedule.
Speaking of a team with a scarcity of easy pickings on the schedule – - and this time for a team that is clearly in playoff contention – - take a look at what the schedulers did to the NY Giants from here forward:
At New England
At New Orleans
Vs Green Bay
Last weekend, the Steelers demonstrated an excellent tactical means by which to stifle the Patriots’ offense and win the game. The Steelers held the ball for 40 of the 60 minutes of the game; in that scenario, if you can avoid having the defense score points and/or avoid giving up special teams TDs, you have a good chance to beat the Pats because “their game” is to have their offense come onto the field and outscore the opponent. The Pats’ offense is very good, but it is useless while watching the game from the sidelines.
In case you had not noticed, the SF 49ers have won five games in a row. Last week, they beat the Browns handily. Absent a catastrophic set of events for the team in terms of injuries or outrageously bad breaks, they are going to win the NFC West.
In the milieu of teams that had leads and squandered them last weekend, the previously winless St. Louis Rams jumped out to a lead of 24-0 over the Saints. There was no prop bet on this in Las Vegas, but the odds on the Rams having a 24-point lead at any point in the game would have been huge. More importantly, the Rams did not gag on the lead; they held it in the face of a Saints rally and won the game 31-21. Moreover, they did this even though Sam Bradford could not play and AJ Feeley was the QB for the day. Rams’ RB Stephan Jackson was a monster in the game running the ball for 159 yards and 2 TDs.
According to a midweek report, Raiders’ RB, Darren McFadden, will be “rested” this weekend against the Broncos. McFadden had to leave the game against the Chiefs two weeks ago in the first quarter; evidently, the bye week has been insufficient for him to be at 100% for this game. The Raiders do not necessarily have a walkover this week against the Broncos, but with an upcoming game against the Chargers, the Raiders need to take a longer view of the season and have McFadden as healthy and productive as possible for the months of November and December.
Speaking of a player with an injury in the AFC West, I wonder if Philip Rivers is injured. I watched the Monday night game against KC, and it sure looked to me as if Rivers was “short-arming” the ball on more than couple of throws. That is what baseball players do when they have upper arm injuries. If – - I said IF – - Rivers is hurt and cannot play at 100% for the balance of the season, the Chargers have a tough row to hoe.
Bye weeks this weekend belong to:
Carolina: The Panthers are in last place in the NFC South and really do not have a realistic shot at the playoffs. Nonetheless, they are a team that you do not want to face if you must win a game to remain in playoff contention. Cam Newton sure looks like a “Franchise QB” so far…
Detroit: The Lions are comfortably in second place in the NFC North with an excellent chance to get a wild-card slot in the playoffs if the Packers continue their dominant play and win the NFC North.
Jax: The Jags are 3 full games out of first place in the AFC South with 6 losses. It looks as if it will take at least a 10-6 record to be a wildcard team in the AFC, so the Jags would need to “run the table” for the season to make the playoffs. The two operative words relative to that scenario are:
Not … Happening …!
The Jags get an extra week to think about/plan for/ practice to face the Colts next week. Just a hunch here, but that will not be my “Game of the Week”.
Minnesota: The Vikes are 4 full games behind the Lions for second place in the NFC North and the Vikes have already lost 3 divisional games. They have no realistic shot at the playoffs even though they have played better the last couple of weeks than they did early in the season when they would rush out to a large halftime lead and then blow that lead in the second half…
Last week’s picks may have sucked beyond measure, but if anyone thinks that will make me more conservative than before, they do not know me. I have lots of picks this week and some of them should be characterized as “aggressive”.
There are a half-dozen very good games on the card for this weekend. With or without wagering interest, there should be several games worthy of every NFL fan’s attention here.
Miami at KC – 4 (40): This is not a game I would want to have as my “regional game of the week”; fortunately, I will be in an area of the country where that is not even a remote possibility. The Chiefs come to the game off a short workweek; the Dolphins come to the game off a seemingly interminable 0-7 season. I have no strong opinion on the game other than the fact that I do not want to watch it or bet on it so I will fall back on my preference to take points when I think a game will be low scoring. I’ll take the Dolphins plus the points here.
Tampa at New Orleans – 8.5 (50): This is an important game. The line here is all over the place. It is as high as 9.5 at one sports book and as low as 8 points at another. This number seems to be the most prevalent number at the moment. Here is a game that means something; the Bucs are half a game behind the Saints in the NFC South – - and they are tied with the Falcons in the position. The Saints soiled themselves last week against the Rams and need to find the means to bounce back here. Is LeGarrette Blount ready to be the feature back for the Bucs coming off an injury? If not, things look bad for the Bucs on the road in a less than docile dome environment. I like the game to go Over and I like the Saints to win and cover.
Atlanta – 7 at Indy (44.5): This line started out at 9.5 points and has dropped all week long. I really do not like laying a full TD for a team playing on the road against a non-conference opponent they do not play very often. In addition, the Falcons can easily look past the winless Colts toward a meeting with the Saints next week. Nevertheless, I am loath to take the Colts in a game against a team that can both run the ball and throw the ball effectively and a team that has serious playoff aspirations sitting a half-game out of first place in their division. Curtis Painter has to be getting better at QB with each new game experience, no? Purely on a hunch, I’ll take this game to go Over.
Cleveland at Houston – 11 (41): The Texans have a half-game lead in the AFC South over the Titans; the Browns playoff chances are minuscule. Perhaps Andre Johnson’s hamstring will be sufficiently healed to put him on the field this weekend? If he can play at even 90%, that will be a big help to the Texans. I just cannot see the Browns going on the road and doing damage here to a team that has plenty to play for; the Browns’ offense in politely described as “anemic”; they are averaging 15 points per game. I like this game to go Over because I think the Texans might score 33 points or more. I also like Houston to win and cover.
Jets at Buffalo – 1 (44): This is an important game. The Bills are in first place in the AFC East at the moment based on tiebreakers and the Jets are in third place in that same division. Only one game separates the two teams. Raise your hand if back on Labor Day weekend you had this game as one where the Bills would be trying to hold on to first place in the division. I certainly did not. The Jets’ offense is not a juggernaut by any means but until last week’s shutout against the Redskins, the Bills defense was hardly stout. I think the Jets’ offense finds a way to come alive after a bye week and the Jets win the game outright even though the Jets are 0-3 on the road this year. I’ll take the Jets with the point.
SF – 3.5 at Washington (38): This game has the potential to be a joyous day in DC and it has the potential to be ugly with a capital “U”. The Redskins are a mess; their offense is missing in action; their single best defensive player, London Fletcher, lost it last weekend and got in the face of safety, Laron Landry, for missing his assignment for the umpteenth time already this season. Mike Shanahan has his son as the offensive coordinator and play-caller; seriously, the Skins were no worse off with Jim Zorn as the offensive guy and the retired bingo game-caller up in the booth calling the plays two years ago. The Redskins will either win this game and send their fanbase into a state of false euphoria or the Redskins will lose by 2 TDs and the fans will be booing on their way to the exits in the middle of the third quarter. The Niners have allowed only 107 points in 7 games; that is a field goal less than the Ravens have allowed in their 7 games. I think this game turns into a blowout. I like the Niners to win and cover. The question is this:
If the Niners embarrass the Redskins in FedEx Field and the fans start booing on the way to the exits, will the Skins’ fans then turn their anger on Kyle Shanahan as the offensive coordinator based on nepotism or will they go back to their old standard of focusing their anger on Danny Boy Snyder?
I make that a “Pick ‘Em” proposition…
Seattle at Dallas – 12 (44.5): This line started the week at 14 points and now it has several values around the Internet. You can find it as high as 13 points and as low as 11.5 at one sportsbook. The Cowboys embarrassed themselves and the franchise with their performance on MNF last week. If there is any backbone on that team at all, they will want to get that taste out of their collective mouth and a game against the Seahawks – - quarterback tandem of Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst, really! – - is the mouthwash they need. The Cowboys are also tied with the Eagles and Redskins in the NFC East at the moment, so winning this home game against a sub-standard opponent is important. Nevertheless, it is scary to take a team that is as up and down as the Cowboys and to lay 12 points. Instead, I’ll take the game to stay Under.
Cincy at Tennessee – 2.5 (42.5): Last week, I picked against the Bengals because I did not like them on the road and they cruised to a comfy win. I will not make that mistake again. I think the Bengals are the better team here because they have the better defense. Neither offense here is anything special. I like the Bengals plus the points and I like the game to stay Under.
Denver at Oakland – 9.5 (44): Is Carson Palmer up to speed and ready to play QB for the Raiders? They need him to be ready because going to Kyle Boller and/or Terrelle Pryor is not the answer. Is Tim Tebow ready to do something a lot better than he showed in his first two weeks on the field for the Broncos? They need him to be a lot better because they do not really have any alternatives that are better than the Raiders’ alternatives. I think Palmer will do better than Tebow but that does not mean that I think Palmer will be highly effective. I see this as a low-scoring game. I’ll take the Broncos with that generous helping of points and I’ll take the game to stay Under.
Giants at New England – 8.5 (51): This is an important game. This week starts a very difficult schedule run for the Giants (see above). The Giants did not look sharp last week against the Dolphins; while the Pats lost to the Steelers, they still looked like a high caliber NFL team. Unless the Giants have purposefully been keeping the spigot only half open so far this year waiting for this stretch of games from now until New Year’s Day, I think they are about to begin the process of circling the drain. I would not be surprised to see both QBs throw for 350+ yards here. I like this game to go Over.
St Louis at Arizona – 3.5 (43.5): This is clearly the worst game of the weekend. Here is the plain and simple analysis of this game. Neither team is any good. The Rams will probably have to go with back-up QB, AJ Feeley again here; the Cardinals may also need to play their #2 guy, John Skelton. Arizona is only 1-2 at home this year so the fact that the Rams are on the road is mitigated to some degree. I think the Rams will win outright here so I’ll take the Rams with the points.
Green Bay – 5 at San Diego (51): This is an important game. Above I posed the question about whether or not Philip Rivers had an injured throwing arm. I am not a doctor; I do not even play one on TV; nevertheless, I will answer the question I posed above by saying that I think he is less than fully healthy. Green Bay may or may not come out of their bye week with a lot of energy in this road game, but I think they have enough to handle the Chargers with a Chargers’ QB having a lame wing. I like the Packers to win and cover and I like the game to go Over.
(Sun Nite) Baltimore at Pittsburgh – 3 (43): This is an important game – - and it should be the best game of the weekend. After these teams met on the opening weekend of the season, people began to say that the Steelers’ defense looked old and slow. Well, the Steelers are giving up only about 17 points a game after their first 8 games and they have won 4 games in a row. The Ravens’ defense has been rock solid – - save for the first half of last week’s game against the Cardinals – - and that has put the Ravens a half-game behind the Steelers in the division standings. A win for the Ravens here would give them a huge lead for the tiebreakers in the division. I see this game as a reincarnation of your classic Steelers/Ravens games where defenses rule the day. I’ll take the game to stay Under.
(Mon Nite) Chicago at Philly – 9.5 (46.5): This is an important game. The Eagles are trailing the Giants in the NFC East and have to like the fact that the Giants are heading into that tough schedule. The Bears trail the Packers and the Lions – - and they have already lost once to both the Packers and the Lions. The Bears cannot afford a loss here. I think both teams will find a variety of ways to score on the other guys. I like the Bears with the points and I like the game to go Over.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………