Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 10/21/12

Last week was a good week of Mythical Picking so let me get to it right away:

    I liked the Falcons -9 over the Raiders. Falcons won by 3. Boo!

    I liked Chiefs/Bucs Over 40. The game went Over. Yes!

    I liked Jets -3 over Colts. Jets covered easily. Yes!

    I liked Browns +2 against Bengals. Browns won outright. Yes!

    I liked Lions/Eagles Over 47.5. The game went Over. Yes!

    I liked Rams +4 against Dolphins. Dolphins won by only 3. Yes!

    I liked Cowboys +4 against Ravens. Ravens won by 2. Yes!

    I liked Bills +4.5 against Cardinals. Bills won outright. Yes!

    I liked Pats/Seahawks Over 44. The game went Over. Yes!

    I liked Niners -5 over Giants. Niners lost the game. Boo!

    I liked Packers/Texans Over 47.5. The game went Over. Yes!

    I liked the Chargers “pick’em” over the Broncos. Boo!

    I liked Chargers/Broncos Over 49.5. The game went Over. Yes!

Ladies and gentlemen, that was a 10-3 week for Mythical Picks. I can only recall one week with a better record – something like 12-3-1 three or four years ago – so I will spend a moment here dislocating my shoulder by patting myself on the back. The cumulative record for this season’s Mythical Picks now stands at 51-41-3, which would be mythically profitable.

Reality sets in for me this week because this is my annual Las Vegas pilgrimage where a few of these selections will actually become real wagers involving actual coin of the realm. Since I need to get these picks done earlier in the week than usual, the lines here are mid-week lines at best and some will probably change significantly from these levels as kickoff time arrives.

Do not take last week’s results the wrong way. I have no inside information on NFL games and the picks this week will probably not come close to last week’s success level. Only a dumbass would take anything written here as sufficiently informative to use it as the basis for making a real wager on an actual NFL game. Anyone who does that probably also thinks that manual labor is the Mexican guy who lives around the corner.

General Comments:

The NY Jets dominated the Colts last week; I did not see the entire game but I did see enough of it to recognize that the Colts’ tackling on defense was amateurish at best. Clearly, the emotional tsunami that carried the Colts over the Packers two weeks ago did not carry over to this game. Going into the game there was a lot of discussion regarding who ought to be the Jets’ QB in the game. Greg Cote had this item in the Miami Herald that put the Jets’ QB “debate” in perspective:

“Going from Sanchez to Tebow is like wanting a safer neighborhood and moving from Beirut to Fallujah.”

Speaking of “QB Debates”, I have a direct question for all the Kansas City fans who cheered when Matt Cassell was injured two weeks ago such that he could not play last week against the Bucs.

    How did the switch to Brady Quinn work out?

I did not get to watch the Chiefs/Bucs game last week, but from the game summaries, it looked like a domination by the Tampa Bay Bucs and that is not a good thing to say about your team. The Bucs may indeed be “trending up” when compared to last year’s team that quit like dogs at the end of the season, but the Bucs are not an elite NFL team by any standards.

The Steelers looked awful against the Titans last Thursday night. Nothing looked to be in sync; the Steelers even had a punt blocked. I do not know if the Titans can play much better than they showed in this game; I have seen the Steelers play better this season than they did last week.

The Philadelphia Eagles are a dysfunctional lot and are one sneeze short of coming apart at the seams. The major problems are with the offense – so the firing of the defensive coordinator this week will not solve the problems. The Eagles’ offensive problems can be traced to a couple of things:

    1. The Andy Reid/Marty Mornhinweg version of the West Coast offense needs a QB who can throw the short ball accurately. Michael Vick is a scatter-arm QB.

    2. Their offense needs two quality offensive tackles to keep the QB clean. The Eagles offensive tackles are – - well – - offensive.

    3. The offense needs big WRs who can catch the ball reliably to keep the chains moving. The Eagles’ WRs are small and their top guy is not a possession receiver; he is a speed-burner. When he gets open, he needs a QB who can accurately get the ball to him. See #1 above…

    4. They need a RB who can run a little and who can catch the ball reliably and get yards after the catch. This is the only thing they need that they actually have.

The Eagles get their Bye Week here; they need it badly. If they do not change a lot of stuff on the offensive side of the ball during this two-week hiatus, I think their season is as good as over.

The Baltimore Ravens won a squeaker over the Cowboys last year but lost their best cover-corner, their best linebacker and possibly an All-Pro caliber defensive lineman to serious injuries. Actually, the Ravens did not win that game as much as the Cowboys lost it – and there is plenty of blame to toss around. Smear some on the players and another portion on the coaching staff. Oh, but do not think of putting even a molecule of blame on the GM in Dallas…

The Browns won their first game of the year by running the ball down the throat of the Bengals defense and it was not Trent Richardson doing the damage; it was Montario Hardesty. The Bengals have an opportunity to get some business done in the AFC North given the injuries facing the Ravens, but if the Bengals do not solidify that defense significantly, they are going nowhere but home right after the Holidays.

If you wanted to “blame” someone for the Rams loss to the Dolphins last week, you might be tempted to “blame” the kicker for missing a field goal that would have tied the game with 4 seconds to play. However, that field goal attempt was from 66 yards away so maybe there are a few mitigating circumstances there…

The Raiders intercepted Matt Ryan 3 times last week; those were the Raiders’ first INTs of the season. Daren McFadden ran the ball well enough too. But all of that came up short by a field goal as time expired. They do not have a column in the standings for “Moral Victories” or “Devastating Losses”. Frankly, I think this might be something more akin to a “Devastating Loss”; and if I am correct, it will be interesting to see how their rookie head coach handles that.

The Bills had allowed 97 points in their last two games. The Cardinals offense managed to score a total of 16 points last week coming up on the short end of a 3-point game in overtime. Moreover, the Cards had to spin their QB carousel one more time with Kevin Kolb leaving the game and tagging in his partner, John Skelton. Cue Sonny and Cher…

    “And the beat goes on…”

The Giants recorded 6 sacks against the Niners last week and dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage. Who saw that coming?

After Russell Wilson led a Seahawks fourth quarter comeback to win a game against the New England Patriots, perhaps it is time to ask this question of Seahawks’ fans:

    Do you think you can put your love affair with backup QB, Matt Flynn, on hold for about another couple of weeks?

The Redskins broke an 8-game losing streak at home with a win over the Vikings. The Redskins defense played well all game long and Robert Griffin III had a great game by any standards – not just by rookie QB standards. If the Redskins’ defense can play that way more often, the Redskins will be a tough out in the NFC East.

The Packers dominated the Texans last Sunday night in just about every phase of the game. The Packers just looked quicker and faster than the Texans did from start to finish. If the Packers can play like that every week, they will still be playing in February. However, consistency has not been the hallmark of the Packers’ squad this season.

On MNF, you had to have seen the Broncos comeback in the second half to believe it. In the first half, the Chargers could do no wrong and toyed with the Broncos; in the second half, it looked as if the Broncos were playing a high school team. I wonder if anyone did a chemical analysis of the Gatorade buckets on both sides in the second half…

The Games:

There are some dog-breath games this week. I will try to sort through the mixture to identify the “Hound of Hell Game of the Week”.

(Thurs Nite) Seattle at SF – 7.5 (37.5): This may be the best game of the weekend matching two division foes who sit atop their division. The Seahawks have already lost 2 games in the division and really cannot afford another loss there because that would be tantamount to ceding tiebreaker status later this season. Both teams bring effective and very physical defenses to the field; in terms of scoring defense; these teams rank 2nd and 3rd in the NFL. On offense, the Seahawks struggle to score; they rank 27th in the NFL this year. This game will be a low-scoring event so I will take the Seahawks with that generous helping of points.

Washington at Giants – 6 (49.5): This too should be a good game. The Giants lead the NFC East by a game but both of their losses this year have been in the division. Like the Seahawks above, they really cannot afford another loss within the NFC East. A win for the Redskins would tie them with the Giants but give them a big leg up over the Giants in terms of the tiebreakers. The Giants can score; the Redskins defense played well last weekend but has not been very good so far this year giving up 29 points per game. However, if Robert Griffin III can remain upright, the Skins will move the ball and score too. Here are some meaningless and conflicting trends:

    Redskins are 4-2 going OVER in their last 6 road games.
    Giants are 8-1 going UNDER in their last 9 home games against the Skins.

I like the game to go OVER. I will also take the Redskins plus the points with less conviction.

Arizona at Minnesota – 6 (40): The Cardinals will go with John Skelton at QB here because Kevin Kolb is out “indefinitely”. For just about anyone living outside Arizona, the other QB on the Cards’ roster is a trivia question. For the record, it is Ryan Lindley a rookie from San Diego State taken in the sixth round of last year’s draft. In his final 3 years in college, Lindley threw for more than 3000 yards and 20 TDs in each of those years. In the NFL, he has yet to take a snap. Ergo, if the Cards have to go to him, it is likely that they are in deep kimchi. Despite losing last week, the Vikings are still in a good spot in the NFC North standings. Here are some conflicting trends for this game:

    Cards are 5-1 going UNDER in their last 6 road games.
    Vikings are 8-4 going OVER in their last 12 home games.

I am tossing a coin here in Curmudgeon Central and the coin says to take the game to stay Under.

Dallas – 1 at Carolina (45.5): Shop this line; it is as high as 2.5 points at one sports book. Here is what I do not understand about the spread here. The Cowboys have a better offense (50 yards per game better) and a better defense (92 yards per game better) than the Panthers. OK, Dallas is a better home team than a road team; I understand that. Nonetheless, I would have thought that those on-field stats would bring a larger spread to the board. Whatever. I’ll take the Cowboys and lay the point.

New Orleans – 3 at Tampa (50): If the Saints win here, they overtake the Bucs in the standings. That is not a sentence that has been contemplated – let alone typed – for more than a few years. The Saints defense remains a mess; they give up 456 yards per game and 31 points per game; I doubt that a Bye Week for the Saints last week can cure those problems. The Bucs are anything but a “great team” but they are at home and their defense is marginally better – particularly against the run. Here are some conflicting trends for this game:

    Saints are 9-1 going OVER in their last 10 games
    Bucs are 4-1 going UNDER in their last 5 home games against the Saints.

Purely a venue call here, I’ll take the Bucs plus the points.

Green Bay – 5 at St. Louis (45.5): The Packers have played their last two games on the road and will sleep in a motel again this week. I guess the NFL schedule makers wanted to be sure to have plenty of December games in Green Bay to put on TV so they can show tons of people with visible exhalations this season. The Rams’ defense has improved significantly and has kept the Rams in games this year even though the Rams’ offense sputters on its best days. The Packers’ defense is an inconsistent bunch; they have looked juvenile at times; then last week against the Texans, they looked outstanding. Here are your trends for this game:

    Packers are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games.
    Rams are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 at home against the Packers.

If this game turns into a track meet, the Rams will not be able to keep up. If the Packers get up by 2 scores early in the game forcing the Rams to throw more than they want to, this game might get very ugly indeed. Therefore, it will be the Rams’ defense that holds the key to the game. I think they will be up to the task; so I’ll take the game to stay Under.

Baltimore at Houston – 6.5 (48): This line opened at 4.5 points but as injury news for the Ravens got worse and worse, it has climbed steadily to this level. The Ravens’ defense will be put to the test right away here because the Texans like to hand the ball to Arian Foster. Ray Lewis will not be there to stop him; Terrell Suggs will not be there to stop him; Haloti Ngata will likely play but with an injury of unrevealed extent to his MCL. If the Texans are successful running Arian Foster – and his running buddies –, I think the Ravens are doomed. Meanwhile, do not sleep on the Texans’ defense despite what happened to them against the Packers. So far this year, the Texans have allowed 96 yards per game less than the Ravens have; that is a significant number. I like the Texans to win and cover at home. I also like this game to go Over.

Cleveland at Indy – 1.5 (45): Here is a candidate for the “Hound of Hell Game of the Week”. The combined record here is 3-8; both teams will draft in the Top 10 next April and both might conceivably draft in the Top 5. The new owner in Cleveland has fired Mike Holmgren as Team President and appears to be an “activist owner”. That would not be good for a Cleveland franchise that has stunk since it returned to NFL action in the late 1990s. Trent Richardson is listed as “Probable” for this game; if he plays, the Browns will have the better running game for 4 quarters. The game matches two rookie QBs both of whom have played well in recent weeks. Purely a venue call, I’ll take the Colts and lay the points here.

Tennessee at Buffalo – 3 (46): Here is another candidate for the “Hound of Hell Game of the Week.” Both teams won last week; neither team seemed very dominant in doing so. Neither team has an offense that blows the doors off the opponents. However, both teams put defenses on the field that give up yardage in gobs. The Titans surrender 422 yards per game; the Bills give up 430 yards per game. Only because I promised to make a pick in every game, I’ll take the Bills at home and lay the points.

Jets at New England – 11 (47): At worst, the winner here will share the lead in the AFC East on Sunday night. Both teams are undefeated within the division this year and both have been inconsistent this year. Stats tell part of the story here; there is an imbalance between the two teams:

    Pats’ offense is better than the Jets’ offense by 150 yards per game.
    Jets’ defense is better than the Pats’ defense by 11 yards per game.

Laying double-digit points in the NFL is not a good “betting strategy”. Laying double-digit points in a division game where both teams still aspire to the playoffs is not a good “betting strategy”. Even at +425 on the money line, I am not tempted to take the Jets; but with 11 points, I’ll take the Jets.

Jax at Oakland – 4 (44): Personally, I think this is THE “Hound of Hell Game of the Week”. The late Pete Axthelm might have labeled this game as an “AYE” game – as in Avert Your Eyes. Both teams enter this game with 1-4 records and both teams have earned those records. The Jags only average 241 yards of offense per game; in the passing-game-friendly NFL of 2012, that is “Horrrrrubull” [ / Bill Walton]. Oh, but the Jags make up for that tepid offense by fielding a porous defense too. It gives up 424 yards per game. That is right; on average, the Jags are outgained by almost 200 yards every Sunday. The Raiders’ team stats are not laudatory, but they do look good compared to the Jags’ stats. The Raiders have 9 players on the IR list, 1 player on the PUP list and 2 players listed as “Out” for the game on Sunday. They do not need a training facility; they need a M*A*S*H Unit. I think the most important difference in this game comes down to Carson Palmer being a better QB than Blaine Gabbert. There are plenty of contradictory trends at work here:

    Jags are 7-3 going UNDER in their last 10 road games.
    Raiders are 5-1 going OVER in their last 6 home games.

    Jags are 2-0 against the spread the last two years after their Bye Week.
    Raiders are 6-0 against the spread after two or more consecutive losses.

Do not watch this game; do not bet on this game. For mythical purposes only, I will take Raiders at home because I cannot bring myself to take the Jags on the road.

(Sun Nite) Pittsburgh – 1 at Cincy (45.5): This game means something to both teams with regard to the AFC North race. The Bengals already have 2 losses in the division; so, this game is an important one for them with regard to tiebreaker considerations down the road. Neither team has looked nearly as good as their fans might have expected at the beginning of the year. The Steelers’ defense seems to be fighting to hold onto a semblance of what it has been recently; the Bengals defense has been susceptible to a power running game this year. The Bengals are at the start of a 3-game home stand here with the Broncos and Giants coming to town after a BYE Week next week. Here are your conflicting trends for this game:

    Steelers are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 road games.
    Bengals are 1-9-1 ATS in their last 11 home games vs. Steelers.

I like this game to go Over. With less conviction, I like the Bengals plus the point.

(Mon Nite) Detroit at Chicago – 6 (47): This is not the best game of the week, but it will be a good one to watch on Monday night. A loss for the Lions puts them down 3 games in the loss column in the NFC North race. Both teams have a loss within the division this year and neither wants a second one at the moment. The Bears allow 14 points per game; the Lions give up 25 points per game. Other than those scoring stats, the teams look relatively even on paper. Both QBs have shown the ability to look wonderful at times and to look abjectly incompetent at times. [For Matthew Stafford those extremes sometimes show up in the same game.] I like this game to go Over.

I will be back on the air next Tuesday after getting home late on Monday and next week will be another abbreviated week where Mythical Picks will need to use early lines. However, I hope to be writing next week’s version with a fattened back account courtesy of the Las Vegas sportsbooks this weekend.

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

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Comments

  • Siggurdsson  On October 18, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Good luck in Lost Wages, sir…

  • Doug  On October 19, 2012 at 6:04 am

    I watched two of your “Boo!” games. The Giants must have some match=up advantages with the 49ers. I still SF is a good team, but after last night I wonder if maybe their offense is a bit overrated.

    The Falcons struggled against a team they should beat and had to have another heroic drive at the end to win. Unless they can find a running game, Atlanta will start losing some of the close games Matt Ryan and Matt Bryant are saving. On the flip side, Ryan was due for a bad game and the week off may be a godsend. They should be the favorite in the next three games before hosting the Cardinals.

    Actually, looking at the Falcons schedule is like looking at a Matt Ryan wish list of lower division opponents to play before starting the real season in January. Of the remaining teams they play, only two have a winning record. Wow!

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On October 23, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Doug:

      The Falcons seem to have drawn a favorable schedule and – so far at least – have not had any serious run-ins with the injury bug. Given the way the Cardinals have played in the last two weeks, I suspect that the Falcons will be favored in that game too.

      The Niners offense is not the source of their success in 2012 – as it was not in 2011.

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