Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 11/18/12

Here is a look at how last week’s Mythical Picks played out:

    I liked Broncos -3.5 over Panthers. Broncos won by 22. Yes!

    I liked Broncos/Panthers Over 47. The game was Over. Double Yes!

    I liked Bucs -3 over Chargers. Bucs won by 10. Yes!

    I liked Bucs/Chargers Over 47.5. Total was 58. Double Yes!

    I liked Titans/Dolphins Under 44. Game stayed Under. Yes!

    I liked Pats -11 over Bills. Pats won by only 6. Boo!

    I liked Ravens/Raiders Over 46. Ravens scored 55. Yes!

    I liked Giants/Bengals Over 48. The game stayed Under. Boo!

    I liked Falcons – 1.5 over Saints. Saints won outright. Boo!

    I liked Falcons/Saints Over 53. The game went Over. Yes!

    I liked Lions -1 over Vikes. Vikes won outright by 10. Boo!

    I liked Jets +7.5 against Seahawks. Not nearly enough points. Boo!

    I liked Eagles +2 against Cowboys. Cowboys won by 15. Boo!

    I liked Niners -11 over Rams. Game ended in a tie. Boo!

    I liked Texans – 1.5 over Bears. Texans covered. Yes!

    I liked Texans/Bears Under 41. Total was 19. Double Yes!

    I liked Steelers -11.5 over Chiefs. Steelers only won by 3. Boo!

Last week, the Mythical Picks were mythically profitable with a 9-7 record. That is not exactly “lighting it up” but it is better than a mythically losing week. For the season the cumulative record for Mythical Picks is now 83-68-4.

Let me take a moment to remind any new readers that nothing here is “inside information” and that no one should use any information here as the basis for deciding what side to back in a wager on an NFL game this weekend in the event that such a wager actually involved real money. Anyone doing anything like that is probably dumb enough to think that Herbert Hoover was the FBI Director.

General Comments:

Since I live in suburban Washington DC, I am inundated with “news” about the Washington Redskins. Hey, we all have our crosses to bear… Earlier this week, the Washington Post and local sports radio outlets were discussing the scenario where the Redskins would go 5-2 for the rest of the year and finish at 8-8. Simultaneously, the Giants would collapse in the second half of the season and also finish 8-8; but the Skins would win the NFC East on the basis of a better division record. Hey, it could happen…

What it takes to buy into that scenario is an interesting ability to keep disparate concepts in one’s mind at the same time.

    On one hand, you have to believe in the extrapolation of recent events as a good predictor of the future. The Giants have lost 2 games in a row and have not looked very good for the last 4 games. So, you project that they will finish the season on a 2-4 run.

    At the same time, you have to believe that the extrapolation of recent events is a terrible predictor of the future. The Redskins have lost 3 games in a row and have only scored 25 points total in the last two games. But they are going to play out the rest of the season diametrically opposed to that mode of performance and finish off on a 5-2 run.

    Like I said, it could happen…

One other bit of Redskins’ related news was on CBSsports.com this week. Back when the Redskins were in Pittsburgh to play the Steelers, someone stole several thousand dollars and Mike Shanahan’s passport from a briefcase in the Redskins’ locker room. The Pittsburgh police have an ongoing investigation into this matter.

    Question:

      Why did Mike Shanahan take his passport with him to Pittsburgh?

    I can say from experience that one does not need a passport to traverse the airport in Pittsburgh if your flight is coming from anywhere in the US.

Prior to last week’s win over the Lions, people were looking at Christian Ponder’s declining performance and analyzing that to death. Here is a comment from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot putting it all in perspective:

“Reality check: An example of the inanity that pervades sports today is the debate in Minnesota about whether Christian Ponder’s recent poor play is a result of revelations that he’s dating ESPN’s Samantha Steele. Imagine a quarterback dating a pretty blonde. If he were dating Lindsay Lohan while she was under house arrest, now there might be a story. But Steele is a sideline reporter appreciated mainly by adolescent males who watch too much college football. She’s not Yoko Ono. Ponder’s play has fallen off because, at best, he’s an average quarterback.”

The Lions’ loss to the Vikings last week was a big loss for the team. Not only are they looking up at the rest of the division and not only does this give them an 0-3 record within the division, this was a road game they could have won. But they did not and that is important because Detroit is not a good road team. Compounding the problem, the Lions’ remaining home schedule consists of 5 games but here are the visitors:

    Green Bay
    Houston
    Indy
    Atlanta
    Chicago

As of this morning, three of those five visitors to Ford Field are leading their divisions and the cumulative record of those 5 teams is 35-10. The Lions play better at home than on the road, but that is a very difficult schedule for them to overcome and make the playoffs. Frankly, the Redskins’ playoff scenario mentioned above might be easier to swallow than a concocted one for the Lions.

Going into last week’s game, the Tennessee Titans had allowed 308 points in 9 games (34.2 points per game). Last week, they held the Dolphins to 3 points; Ryan Tannehill’s performance was butt-ugly. Prior to that defensive showing, the Titans were on track to allow more points in a season than any team in NFL history. The 1981 Baltimore Colts who allowed 533 points in a season (33.3 points per game) hold the record. That 1981 Colts’ defense also holds the record for most yardage allowed in a season; they gave up 6,793 yards (424.6 yards per game).

I think the Easter Island monoliths might be able to play defense as well as the 81 Colts did…

The Tampa Bay Bucs are hot; they have won 3 games in a row; they have scored 28 points or more in five consecutive games; Josh Freeman has had a QB Rating of 100 or more in those last 5 games. They have gotten TDs from special teams and the defense too. The team is balanced and playing well. The Bucs have a legitimate wildcard shot in the NFC where 9-7 might be sufficient.

Speaking of young QBs, Russell Wilson is 5-0 at home this year. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill have gotten a lot more ink than Wilson has. However, Wilson has played very well most of the time and has the Seahawks in the thick of the wildcard race in the NFC.

Three years ago, Eagles’ fans wanted Donovan McNabb out of town and Kevin Kolb in at QB. They got that wish. Then Kolb got hurt and Michael Vick played well so the Eagles traded Kolb but when the team did not make the playoffs, Eagles’ fans wanted Andy Reid fired. Now Vick has played poorly and Eagles’ fans want Vick benched and Andy Reid run out of town on a rail. This week, it looks as if their dreams will come true as Nick Foles starts for an injured Michael Vick and plays behind a makeshift offensive line. In fact, the most offensive thing about that line has to be its body odor.

If owner Jeffrey Lurie follows through on his threat and fires Andy Reid, as the Eagles seem destined to a sub-.500 finish this year, Eagles’ fans will “have it all”. I hope they like their new regime better…

In last week’s tie game between the Niners and the Rams, the Rams invented ways to lose the game. Consider:

    On the opening play of OT, the Rams hit an 80-yard pass from Sam Bradford to Danny Amendola only to see it nullified because of a penalty for illegal formation. Excuse me, but the Rams must have had at least 4 or 5 minutes to decide what play they would run if they got the ball first which should have assured that everyone knew where the Hell to line up once the play was called in the huddle.

    Then later, the game winning field goal in OT was taken down because of a delay of game penalty. The holder took responsibility for the delay penalty but wasn’t anyone on the bench watching?

The Jets’ melodrama just keeps on keeping on…

    Anonymous players told the NY Daily News that Tim Tebow is a terrible QB. He is a good athlete but not a good QB.

    Rex Ryan called players who hid behind anonymity “cowardly”.

    Shonn Greene said it might be time to start Tebow over Sanchez because Greene said that it was time to start, you know, winning some games.

    And the beat goes on…

The Games:

Philly at Washington – 3.5 (43.5): The Redskins defense yields about 400 yards per game but in this situation they are at home against a rookie making his first start. If they give up 400 yards here, heads should roll on the roster and on the coaching staff. Rookie RB, Alfred Morris could have a big game running against an Eagles front seven that can allow large gaps to appear more than occasionally. At the same time, this is one of the rare times when the Eagles secondary would seem to match up favorably with the opposing set of WRs because the Redskins’ WRs are beneath mediocre. Here are two contradictory meaningless trends for you to ignore:

    Eagles are 8-3 to go Under in their last 11 road games at Washington.

    Redskins are 6-2 to go Over in their last 8 home games.

Purely a venue call here, I’ll take the Redskins and lay the points.

Green Bay – 3.5 at Detroit (52): The Packers training facility has to look like a M*A*S*H unit. Just in terms of starters you have heard of, consider that Clay Matthews, Brian Bulaga, Nick Perry, Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson and Cedric Benson are out of this game. I understand that every team has injuries at this time of the season, but that is a stunning list of players to have to do without. Yet, the Packers are favored here. The Lions have a potentially key loss too in safety Louis Delmas. He may not be the “household name” that Charles Woodson is, but he is the guy who keeps order in the defensive backfield for the Lions; if he is out, it might look like a Keystone Kops movie back there and Aaron Rodgers might throw for a half-dozen TDs. The Lions must have this game to remain relevant; the Packers would like to use the Bears’ QB misfortune as a way to gain some ground on the division leading Bears. I’ll take the Packers and lay the points – - with trepidation.

Arizona at Atlanta – 10.5 (44): I guess I am not allowed to say these two teams will go “beak-to-beak” on Sunday without being sent to my room without supper. The Cards bring a good defense to the game; they give up about 65 yards per game less than the Falcons do. Unfortunately, the Cards bring an anemic offense to the game; they gain about 65 yards per game less than the Falcons do. Here are some contradictory trends to ignore:

    Cards are 5-1 to go Under the last 6 times they were the underdog.

    Falcons are 7-2 to go Over the last 9 times they played the Cards.

Despite the records, these teams are more evenly matched than that spread, which looks very fat to me. I’ll take the Cards plus the points.

Tampa – 1 at Carolina (48): This game opened with the Panthers as a 1.5-point favorite but the line moved quickly to favor the Bucs. I think that the Bucs are on a roll offensively and that their defense is the questionable aspect of their game. I say that even though the Bucs have – for the moment – the #1 rush defense in the NFL. Cam Newton continues to suffer a bit of a sophomore slump; he should improve his stats against the Bucs secondary this week but he is still struggling with his game. Here are some trends to ignore:

    Bucs are 6-1 to go Over the last 7 times they played on the road.

    Bucs are 7-3 ATS the last 10 times they played in November.

    Bucs are 3-8 ATS the last 11 times they played the Panthers.

The Bucs are a respectable road team so I like them to win and cover here. I also like the game to go Over.

Cleveland at Dallas – 9 (43.5): There cannot be a question as to which team is the more talented squad here. There also cannot be a question as to which team has been the bigger underachiever over the past 15 years. As is often the case, the Cowboys ought to win this game handily – and they may well do so – but there is a significant probability that the Cowboys will invent a way to lose the game. The Browns are winless on the road this year; typically, bad teams travel badly so that is not a surprise. The way the Browns can stay in the game is to play solid defense and not allow the Cowboys to play on short fields. I think the Browns can do that and keep this as a low scoring game and that makes this line look very fat. I’ll take the Browns plus the points even on the road.

By the way, here are three trends that “support” my selection in this game even though I think the trends are meaningless:

    Cowboys are 5-14 ATS in their last 19 home games.

    Cowboys are 6-15 ATS in their last 21 games vs. AFC North teams.

    Cowboys are 6-18 ATS the last 24 times they were the favorite.

Jets at St. Louis – 3 (38): This line started out at 1 point, jumped to this level early in the week and has stayed there until now. If this is not the worst game of the week, then it is certainly one of the least interesting games of the week. The question for the Jets here revolves around all the drama that infuses the Jets’ locker room [see above] and how the team reacts to the drama. The question for the Rams here is how they react to the boneheaded actions [see above] that led to their tie last week. Personally, I have written off any playoff hopes for both of these teams but the winner will still be seen on over-the-horizon radarscopes; the loser can pack their bags for a New Year’s Day vacation with the family. The Jets like to think that their defense is a top shelf unit and that it can carry the day for them. The fact is that the Rams’ defense gives up fewer yards per game than the Jets’ defense. I like Sam Bradford at QB a lot more than any or all of the QBs on the Jets’ roster. I’ll take the Rams to win and cover.

Jax at Houston – 15.5 (40.5): Here we have another uninteresting game. If you think that spread is large, shop around; there is one Internet sportsbook that has the game at 16.5 points this morning. If you want to assume that the Texans will suffer a letdown after winning a big game last week against the Bears in Chicago, then you might conclude that this game will stay close for about 40 minutes. Otherwise… The most obvious statistical difference between the teams here is that the Jags are 1-8 while the Texans are 8-1. However, here is a glimpse into why that huge difference exists:

    Texans’ offense gains 91 more yards per game than Jags’ offense.

    Texans’ defense allows 108 fewer yards per game than Jags’ defense.

    Total difference is 199 yards per game in favor of the Texans! Yowza!

If you want to make the case that this is a “sandwich game” for the Texans as a justification for taking the Jags, have at it. Yes, they played at Chicago last week and yes, they have a short week coming up as they head for Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. Nonetheless, here is my stance on the game:

    I will not lay 15.5 points.

    I will not take the Jags on the road.

Therefore, I am going to flip a coin here only to make a selection with regard to the Totals Line. The coin says to play the game Over.

Cincy – 3.5 at KC (43.5): This is probably the worst game of the weekend and surely one of the least interesting. The Bengals dominated the Giants last week so the easy thing to do here is to expect them to slaughter a Chiefs’ team that is going to draft in the top 3 next year – and may draft first. The problem with that reasoning is that the Bengals are not a consistent team and historically have been a bad road team. The Bengals probably still cling to the hope of a wildcard slot in the playoffs; the Chiefs just hope to achieve anonymity because anonymity has to be better than being recognized for what they actually are. Oh, here is a reason to watch the first part of this game:

    How long until the KC fans boo the home team? … the coaching staff? …the GM? … the owner?

I’ll take this game to go Under only because I said I would make a pick in every game.

New Orleans – 5 at Oakland (54): The Raiders’ defense is awful; they gave up 55 points to the Ravens last week and showed no pass rush of any consequence. Joe Flacco dominated the Raiders’ defense. If Drew Brees has that much time to throw this week – and if the weather is not a monsoon –, the Raiders have no chance of keeping pace. Yes, I know the Saints’ defense stinks; the problem for the Raiders’ offense is that both of their RBs are hurt and may not play. That leaves the offense in the position of having to throw the ball 50 times or so; that is not going to get it done. The Raiders have given up 284 points in 9 games; the Saints have given up 256 points in 9 games. This is one of those games where no lead is safe. The Saints have won 2 in a row and the Raiders have lost 2 in a row. I like this game to go Over – even that huge Totals Line.

San Diego at Denver – 7.5 (48): The last 3 times the Chargers came to Denver, they went away as winners. This is an important game. The Broncos lead the Chargers by 2 games in the AFC West; if the Broncos win here it will put them 3.5 games up on the Chargers because it will mean the Broncos have won both matchups. That will effectively end the AFC West race absent some kind of circumstance that only happens in Hollywood movies. [Note: I cannot see either the Raiders or the Chargers “making a run” to capture this division.] The last time these teams met, the Chargers led 24-0 at the half and then lost the game 35-24. The Broncos have been a juggernaut since that time. Peyton Manning seems to have settled in nicely in Denver; in his four home games in his new home, Manning has thrown 10 TDs and 0 INTs and his QB Rating at home is 115.3. I’ll take the Broncos and lay the points here – - but I really wish that half-point hook on top of the full TD was not there.

Indy at New England – 9 (54): This is an interesting game for several reasons. No one – and I really mean no one – expected these teams to bring identical 6-3 records to this meeting. The Colts have won 4 in a row; three of those wins were close games that went down to the wire; the team seems to have “learned how to win”. Oh, by the way, Andrew Luck is the real deal and he might assume the role as Peyton Manning’s surrogate as a rival for Tom Brady in this Pats/Colts rivalry. These teams are not in the same division but they have met in each of the last 10 seasons; given the structure of the NFL scheduling algorithm, that is not an easy thing to do. The Pats’ defense – particularly the secondary – is porous at best but the Colts and Pats both give up 7.7 yards per pass attempt so there does not seem to be a huge advantage for the Colts there. Might the total passing yardage in the game be over 700 yards? Those four wins in a row that the Colts bring to this game have come at the expense of the Jags, Dolphins, Titans and Browns. This may not be the best Pats team in the last decade, but it is a step up in class compared to the colts’ last four opponents. I like the Pats to win and cover here.

(Sun Nite) Baltimore – 3.5 at Pittsburgh (40): The Totals Line for this game began the week at 46 points and dropped to this level. I do not recall ever seeing an NFL line move a full 6 points in a single week; I am sure it has happened but I do not recall it. The Ravens have been a schizophrenic team this year; they are very good at home and very mediocre on the road. So, can they play well on the road here? The Steelers are undefeated at home; their problem is that Ben Roethlisberger will not be the QB here and Byron Leftwich will. No offense intended but Leftwich is a big step down in capability from Roethlisberger and this will be Leftwich’s first start since 2009. The Ravens have injury issues of their own and all of them are on the defense. The result of all those defensive injuries is that the Ravens are allowing an un-Ravenlike total of 390 yards per game. A Ravens’ win would give them a 2-game lead in the AFC North and would put the Steelers back in the muck and mire of the wildcard chase. A Steelers’ win would forge a tie at the top of the AFC North. This game will be both important and interesting. I’ll take the Steelers plus the points at home.

(Mon Nite) Chicago at SF (no lines): I cannot make a pick in a game where there are no lines. On the assumption that both starting QBs sit out this game, I think it will be an even lower scoring game than it would have been with both starters under center. If the Packers win on Sunday, the Bears will need this game to stay on top of the NFC North. The Niners will remain on top of the NFC West no matter what, but a loss would trim their lead to half a game. This is definitely a game you want to see.

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

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