First, we need to review last week’s selections:
I liked Seattle +7.5 against SF. Seattle covered by half a point. Yes!
I liked Washington/Giants Over 49.5. The game went Over. Yes!
I liked Washington +6. Washington lost but covered. Double Yes!
I liked Arizona/Minnesota Under 40. The game was Under. Yes!
I liked Dallas -1 over Carolina. Dallas won by 5. Yes!
I liked Tampa +3 against New Orleans. Not enough points. Boo!
I liked Green Bay/St. Louis Under 45.5. The game went Over. Boo!
I liked Houston -6.5 over Baltimore. Houston covered easily. Yes!
I liked Houston/Baltimore Over 48. The game went Over. Double Yes!
I liked Indy -1.5 over Cleveland. Indy covered. Yes!
I liked Buffalo -3 over Tennessee. Buffalo lost straight up. Boo!
I liked Jets +11 against New England. Jets lost but covered. Yes!
I liked Oakland -4 over Jax. Oakland won by 3 in OT. Boo!
I liked Pittsburgh/Cincy Over 45.5. The game stayed Under. Boo!
I liked Cincy +1 against Pittsburgh. Cincy lost by 7. Double Boo!
I liked Detroit/Chicago Over 47. Not even close. Boo!
That list of picks was marginally profitable – in a mythical sense of course. With that week’s record of 9-7, the cumulative total for the year’s Mythical Picks now stands at 60-48-3, which too would be mythically profitable.
Clearly, this week’s selections are using very early lines some of which will change by several points by kickoff. As an example of how that can change one’s fortunes, look at the Total Line last week for the Skins/Giants game.
When I wrote Mythical Picks and made my selection, the line was 49.5
At kickoff in the sportsbooks in Las Vegas, the line was 51.
The total for the game was 50.
Ergo, my pick was correct and anyone who made their bets early in the week cashed their tickets. For anyone backing the Over on Sunday, the pick was wrong and the casino kept the cheese.
No one should even think about using any information here as part of the basis for deciding what side to back in a real wager on an NFL game this weekend should said wager involve any amount of actual cash money. Anyone who would do that probably has imaginary friends who are smarter than (s)he is.
After a BYE Week to evaluate “stuff”, the Kansas City Chiefs have decided to start Brady Quinn at QB with a healthy Matt Cassell on the sidelines as the backup. Just in case he is needed, Ricky Stanzi is third on the Chiefs’ depth chart at QB. This is what the KC fans wanted; they even hired an airplane to tow a banner over the stadium calling for Cassell’s replacement. Now they have what they want; but since, I do not think Brady Quinn is the answer at QB, I wonder who will be the next guy the fans there want the Chiefs to start. Here are some “available” folks:
I said previously that Cam Newton was suffering a “sophomore slump”. I would now like to revise and extend my remarks on that topic.
Cam Newton is suffering a meltdown.
The Panthers are now 1-5 and have lost 4 games in a row. Now, Cam Newton seems to be questioning the play-calling for the team and seemingly ignoring that he threw a brutally ugly INT in the Cowboys’ end zone last week in a game that the Panthers lost by only 5 points. That kind of finger-pointing from the nominal team leader usually puts the team on the downslope of a ski jump – except the landing is not usually as pretty as a skier going off a ski jump.
Newton said after the loss last weekend that “something had to change”. Well, after four straight losses, you have to give him credit for being a master of the obvious. Here is a suggestion:
How about limiting the turnovers on offense?
Sticking with discussions of QBs, the Raiders – and Carson Palmer – had to go to OT at home to come from behind and beat the Jaguars. Here are three takeaways from that performance:
1. Carson Palmer looks done. That big trade the Raiders made for him last year looks like an abject disaster and as if it is going to take the franchise a while to recover from it.
2. Matt Leinart is the second guy on the depth chart. By now, it should be apparent to about any NFL observer that Leinart is an NFL scrub at best.
3. Terrelle Pryor sits at #3 on the depth chart. The fact that he cannot find the back-up slot on Sundays competing against the two guys ahead of him tells me that he has not impressed anyone on the practice field.
When was the last time the Raiders had a real franchise QB? Jim Plunkett? Ken Stabler?
In that game between the Jags and the Raiders, Jags’ starting QB, Blaine Gabbert had to leave the game with a shoulder injury; Chad Henne replaced him. Gabbert is questionable for this week. If the Jags have another QB on the roster, I do not know who that would be but if he is not serious competition for the tandem named above, then it does not matter whom it may be.
Over the past two weeks, the Packers have protected Aaron Rodgers well and the passing game has come to resemble what people thought it would be at the start of the year. The Packers already porous defense did not get any help when Charles Woodson broke his collarbone last week, but it sure does look as if the Packers are back to a stage where they can win “shoot-out games”.
This week, the Packers play the Jags and next week they get the Cardinals. Then comes a BYE Week. If you took a picture of the playoff teams in the NFC, the Packers would be in the picture – - and towards the center of that photograph.
The Cardinals’ QB situation is a dangerous one. The Cardinals OL has given up 35 sacks in 7 games. Call that unit the Maginot Line because it offers exactly no protection. The Cards are last in the NFL in this category; the next worst team is the Packers who have yielded 26 sacks. John Skelton was the punching bag last week; he is back in the lineup after an injury earlier in the season because his replacement, Kevin Kolb, is now on the sidelines with a rib injury. Kolb needs to take the “long view” with regard to his career and take a couple of extra weeks to recover and be “ready to play” because it is not safe behind the Maginot Line.
The Jets played very well against the Pats last week; in fact, they outplayed the Pats for most of the second half. Mark Sanchez had a good game passing (328 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) but did cough up two fumbles. I find it interesting that the Jets’ passing attack has not dried up and blown away since Santonio Holmes went down for the count. He is the highest paid receiver on the team – by a fair margin – and nominally the #1 receiver. Nonetheless, the Jets passing game looks as good – if not a little better – with him out of the lineup. Interesting…
The Buffalo Bills’ defense was supposed to be better than just average this year after the team went on a spending spree in the offseason. The Bills’ defense started out miserably; that was attributed to the fact that they needed to learn to play together. Well, the Bills’ defense remains awful halfway through the season. That unit went into last week’s game against the Titans surrendering 32 points per game. The Titans are not an offensive juggernaut by any means against the rest of the league; but against the Bills, they scored 35 points. That Bills’ defensive unit is giving up 5.8 yards per rushing attempt.
So, you would have to think that the Bills’ defensive fortunes have hit rock bottom and some kind of improvement is due.
[On Wall Street, when a company is in danger of bankruptcy and the stock plummets 50-75%, people expect a brief rally in the stock, as some investors believe the stock is now so cheap that it is worth buying. The name for that kind of rally is a “dead cat bounce”. Picture it…]
This week, the Bills’ defense gets a BYE Week to settle things down and see if they can get something/anything right. They really need to do that because when they return to action, here are their next two opponents:
New England Patriots
Speaking of poor defenses, you cannot have that kind of conversation for very long without mentioning the Washington Redskins. They give up more yards passing (329 per game) than anyone else in the NFL. They have played 7 games this year; in 6 of those games, the opposing QB has thrown for more than 300 yards; in that other game, Josh Freeman only threw for 299 yards.
The Redskins’ problems on defense are easy to identify. They do not generate a lot of pass rush – due in some part to season-ending injuries to two starting players in the front seven. However, when you add to that the fact that the players in the secondary cannot cover a turtle with a bed sheet, you have the makings of “an ongoing problem”.
The Redskins outplayed the Giants for most of the game last weekend; they actually should have won the game and led by a field goal with less than 90 seconds to play. Then they gave up a 77-yard TD pass where the receiver was never touched by a defender and simply ran past everyone in the secondary as if playing against a high school team.
The Redskins run defense has been good so far this year but London Fletcher left last week’s game with a “hamstring problem”. Fletcher’s ironman streak is in jeopardy this week; if he cannot play, that will hamper the Skins’ run defense more than a little bit.
The Redskins are an excellent case in point regarding the current status of the NFL. The Redskins have rushed for 100+ yards in each of their last 13 games. Twenty-five years ago, that would have been a dominant type of offense; today, the Redskins are not close to .500 over that 13-game stretch. The NFL has become a passing league; to be successful, you need to be able to throw the ball well AND you need to be able to defend the pass well enough to keep the other guys out of your end zone on two out of three possessions.
Yet another defensive unit that is in trouble – and has a BYE Week to try to right the ship. That unit belongs to the Baltimore Ravens. They played one of the top offensive teams (Houston) last week without Ray Lewis and Ladarius Webb and with a hobbled Ed Reed and with a clearly-not-ready-for-full-time NFL football Terrell Suggs. Let me be polite and say it was merely ugly. The BYE Week should allow Reed to heal a bit and should get Suggs to a point where he can perform the way Terrell Suggs has shown he can perform, but Ray Lewis and Ladarius Webb are not coming back any time soon and that defensive unit now needs help from the offense.
The Ravens’ offense has two clear options:
1. Start scoring points in quantity. This defense is not going to win many 13-9 games – unless the Jags are on the other side of the line of scrimmage. The Texans scored 43 points last week and it sure looked as if they took their foot off the gas in the second half.
2. Start running the ball more often and more effectively to shorten the game and keep the opposing offense on the sidelines longer. In recent games, the Ravens’ defense has been on the field more than 35 minutes of the game. That needs to change – dramatically and quickly.
The Saints beat the Bucs last weekend and that is all that really matters in the NFL; there are no moral victories for losing teams and winners do not get style points for the way they win. Nonetheless, I would be remiss not to point out that the Saints’ defense did not show up again last week. The Bucs are in the lowest echelon of the NFL as an offensive team (27th); last week, the Saints yielded 415 yards passing and 98 yards rushing to that offense. So, how did they win?
In the first half alone, Drew Brees threw for 313 yards. Just as the Redskins’ secondary is miserable, the Bucs’ secondary is comparably miserable.
(Thurs Nite) Tampa at Minnesota – 7 (42): Will the real Christian Ponder please stand up? He played really well in some early games this year; last week, his performance was “wolf-ugly”. The Bucs just got finished playing against Drew Brees – who lit them up; on his best days, Ponder does not remind many folks of Drew Brees. The Bucs bring the 3rd best rushing defense to this game and if they can contain Adrian Peterson – not a sure thing by the way – they have a real shot to win this game. I think the line is fat; I’ll take the Bucs with the points.
Jax at Green Bay – no lines: With the QB question in Jax still up in the air, I would not expect a line on this game until Saturday. We do know that Maurice Jones-Drew will not play here and that he was in a walking boot earlier this week. Frankly, no matter who does play QB for the Jags, I see this as a mismatch even with the often-generous Packers’ defense.
Miami at Jets – 1 (41): The Jets ran the ball effectively against the Pats last week despite an early injury to Shonn Greene but Miami’s run defense ranks 4th in the NFL. If Green is slowed down in any way from that injury that would put the ball in Mark Sanchez’ hands to decide the game. That is not something that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Miami had a BYE last week so they had a chance to focus on this divisional game for added time. I think points will be at a premium here so I’ll take the game Under – for mythical purposes only.
San Diego – 2 at Cleveland (44): Michael Wilbon likes to talk about “Chargers’ naptime” – referring to a stretch of games that the Chargers seem to go through each year where they look as if they have just been awakened from a deep sleep about 15 minutes before kickoff. After watching the ‘Denver Debacle”, you have to wonder if that was the start of “Chargers’ naptime” for 2012. If that is the case, then the Browns could come away with a win; but the fact is that the Chargers have more talent at the skill positions than the Browns do. I certainly do not think that Norv Turner is a “master-motivator” but with a week off to lick their wounds, I do think the Chargers can go to Cleveland and cover that paltry number. I’ll take the Chargers to win and cover on the road.
Indy at Tennessee – 3.5 (46.5): The Titans give up 34 points per game. The Colts defense tackles poorly and will have to chase Chris Johnson around before getting the opportunity to try to tackle him in this game. The Colts give up 141.7 yards per game rushing putting them 26th in the NFL; the Titans are only slightly less generous and rank 25th in the NFL. The real difference here is in the pass defense. The Colts rank 7th in the league giving up 2011 yards per game; the Titans rank 27th in the league giving up 281 yards per game. That difference is particularly “Lucky” for the Colts and their rookie QB… I like the Colts plus the points here. If you really want to take a flyer on this game, consider a 3-way parlay of:
Indy on the money line at +165
Indy/Tennessee Over 46.5
That would pay about 8-1… All it would take is a final score of Indy 28 Tennessee 24.
New England – 7 vs. St. Louis (47): This is “The London Game”. Check the weather in London for Saturday and Sunday before you even think about a wager here because there have been “London Games” in the past where the footing was impossible. It is hard enough to try to handicap NFL games without putting the show on roller skates. The Pats have more talent; the Rams have the younger/hungrier defense. The difference in the game is that the Rams do not have any WRs who will stretch the Pats defense so the Pats’ run defense will benefit from having more folks close to the line of scrimmage. I am tossing a coin here in Curmudgeon Central and the coin says to take the game Under. If it rains for a couple of days in London prior to the game, that might be prescient of my coin…
Atlanta at Philly – 2 (46): The Falcons are 6-0; the Eagles are a mess. So how does this line make sense? Well, the Eagles traditionally play very well coming off a BYE and the Falcons have been lackluster in the last couple of games. The Eagles have turned the ball over 17 times in 6 games; if they give the Falcons the ball 3 times on Sunday, they are going to lose the game; the Falcons are too good to be handed that gratuity. The Falcons have registered 16 sacks this year meaning they tend to get to the QB and Michael Vick has shown a marked tendency to fumble when hit in the pocket this season. On the other hand, the Falcons give up 144 yards per game on the ground and LeSean McCoy could have a monster game here – if Marty Mornhinweg finds a way to keep hold of the sheet that has his running plays on it. I like this game to go Over.
Carolina at Chicago – 8 (43): Will Cam Newton continue to melt down [see above] or can he and the coaching staff “make nice”? I am not sure it will matter playing against the Bears’ defense which is solid everywhere. The Bears may have the best defense in the NFL; it is certainly one of the Top Five; the Panthers have a middle-of-the-pack defense and not much more. I’ll take the Bears to win and cover at home – - although I would really be happier if the line was only a TD.
Seattle at Detroit – 2.5 (43.5): The Seahawks are better at home (3-0) than on the road (1-3). The Lions are better at home (1-1) than on the road (1-3). Detroit is at home so that should be the end of the story … right? Well, the Lions have a short week after playing last Monday night on the road and the Seahawks have an extra-long week coming off the Thursday night game last week. Detroit’s defense gets a lot of coverage because it has “name players” on the DL and a reputation for highlight reel hits. Seattle’s defense is just damned good. I think this will be a low scoring game so I’ll take the Seahawks – even on the road – plus the points.
Washington at Pittsburgh – 4.5 (47.5): The Redskins’ miserable pass defense does not catch a break here; the Steelers can and will throw the ball all over the field to a whole bunch of guys who can catch the ball. The Redskins rank dead last in the NFL in pass defense giving up 329 yards per game. Meanwhile the Steelers’ pass defense ranks 2nd in the NFL yielding only 185 yards per game. In terms of rush defense, the two teams are almost the same. I see the difference here as the Steelers pass offense (6th in the league) exploiting the Skins’ pass defense. Yes, Robert Griffin III will make some dazzling plays and make some of the Steelers’ defenders shake their heads in amazement; but I do not think it will be enough. I’ll take the Steelers at home to win and cover.
Oakland at KC – 2 (42): This game smells like an abattoir on a hot August afternoon. Do not watch the game and do not wager on it. Go find a Jetsons rerun if it is the late game piped into your viewing area. Only because I said I would make a pick in every game this year, I’ll take this game to stay Under.
Giants – 1 at Dallas (47.5): If you believe in “revenge games” this is one of them. Dallas opened the season in the Giants’ home stadium and beat the Giants soundly. The Giants have recovered sufficiently to sit atop the NFC East, but both of their losses are in the division meaning they would not be in a good position relative to tiebreakers should they lose another division game. I suspect that Tom Coughlin has mentioned that at least once this week. I’ll take the Giants to win and cover here.
(Sun Nite) New Orleans at Denver – 6 (55.5): If you love defensive football, watch the World Series next Sunday night. This one will have the ball going up and down the field like a basketball game. Denver comes off a BYE week; New Orleans comes in with a 2-game winning streak. Release the hounds; I’ll take the game to go Over.
(Mon Nite) SF – 6.5 at Arizona (37.5): Yes, I think this will be a defensive game – just as the Sunday Night game will be an offensive game. I am tempted to take the points here but I am just not convinced that the Cardinals are a stable team now. Their QB situation is tenuous and they give away sacks the way Evangelicals hand out religious tracts. I doubt they can run on the Niners’ defense and with only one WR threat, I suspect they will have trouble scoring. Let me be clear, I am not solidly behind the Niners as an offensive powerhouse that can dominate a good Cardinals’ defense. But unless that defense – or the special teams – can score twice in this game, I do not see how the Cards can keep up. I’ll take the Niners and lay the points – even on the road in the desert.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………