First, let us review last week’s Mythical Picks:
I liked Lions +3.5 against Texans. Texans won by only 3. Yes!
I liked Redskins/Cowboys Over 47.5. The game went Over. Yes!
I liked Jets +7 against Pats. Pars won by 30. Boo!
I liked Bengals -8 over Raiders. Bengals won by 24. Yes!
I liked Bills +3 against Colts. Bills lost by 7. Boo!
I liked Bills/Colts Over 51. Not even close. Double Boo!
I liked Titans/Jags Under 43.5. Total was 43. Yes!
I liked Chiefs +11 against Broncos. Chiefs covered. Yes!
I liked Falcons/Bucs Over 48. Total was 47. Boo!
I liked Seahawks -3 over Dolphins. Dolphins won the game. Boo!
I liked Chargers “pick ‘em” over Ravens. Did not happen. Boo!
I liked Rams +2 over Cards. Rams won by 2 TDs. Yes!
I liked Giants -2.5 over Packers. Giants won by 28. Yes!
Last week was mythically profitable by the slimmest of margins; the record was 7-6-0. [Remember that there were no lines posted for four NFL games when I wrote Mythical Picks last week.] The season running total remains mythically profitable at 100-76-5.
Notwithstanding the results to date, no one should consider using any information herein as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on an actual NFL game this weekend – or any weekend for that matter. Anyone dumb enough to do that would probably think to raise his/her IQ by climbing a ladder.
Last year, I suggested that Peyton Manning was the Most Valuable Player in the NFL because when he did not take a single snap for the Indianapolis Colts, the team went 2-14 instead of being in the playoffs where they usually were. Using that same form of perverted logic, let me suggest two QBs from this season who might contend for that version of an MVP Award:
Ben Roethlisberger: The Steelers were comfortably in the AFC North race and/or the wild card race until Roethlisberger went down in the Chiefs’ game. From that moment forward, the Steelers have looked like a team that might go 6-10 over the course of a season – at best. Against the archrival Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers are 7-4 when Roethlisberger starts and they are 0-6 when “someone else” starts at QB.
Jay Cutler: If my counting is correct, since the start of the 2010 season, the Bears are 27-9 when Jay Cutler plays QB and they are 1-8 when he does not. There just is not a whole lot more to say on that matter.
Speaking of starting QBs, I think that the controversy going on in San Francisco now is the most interesting QB controversy in a long time for the simple reason that both guys there have shown the ability to win games. The Niners’; situation requires a lot more mental energy to deal with than say the Jets’ QB controversy which only requires one to think with his or her glands. The Niners’ situation reminds me of the Redskins’ QB controversy back in the George Allen Era when they had both Billy Kilmer and Sonny Jurgensen on the roster.
When the Cards lost to the Rams by 2 TDs at home last week, the fans in Arizona were not happy. Cards’ linebacker Quinton Groves heard the complaining and was quoted in the Arizona Republic saying:
“The fans turn on you, the media turns on you, and at the same time, those guys in the locker room have to band together, with the coaches as well, and say we’re all we got.”
There is nothing new or notable in that quotation from a player standpoint; that is the standard “us against the world” rhetorical style. However, since we are discussing NFL quarterbacks, allow me this intervention:
Memo for Quinton Groves: When “all we got” translates into Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and/or Ryan Lindley to play QB, then “what you got” is insufficient.
By the way, Rams’ rookie CB, Janoris Jackson returned two INTs for TDs in that game against the Cards. He is the first NFL player to do that since Bobby Franklin did it in 1960. Like Jenkins, Franklin was a rookie in 1960.
Another NFL linebacker seems to have had an issue with the hometown fans. After Jets’ fans booed the team off the field at halftime on Thanksgiving night – recall that the Jets had surrendered 35 points in the second quarter of that game – Jets’ linebacker Bart Scott heard some things he preferred not to hear. Later he said that he had no respect for fans like that because they were probably the ones who were picked last in dodge ball games in high school and could not even withstand a high school practice session. Obviously, the NYC tabloids picked up on that…
Rex Ryan reportedly took Bart Scott aside and had a private talk with Scott. The NY Post said that Ryan told Scott that what makes the NFL great is the involvement of the fans and their identification with players and teams. Supposedly, this conversation led to Scott arriving at a happier place; sounds like a Hollywood kind of ending here. Except…
Was it last year or the year before that the calm and serene coach of the Jets, Rex Ryan, told a Jets’ fan to “Shut the [bleep] up!” as he was leaving the field after a home loss?
Who had the “fans are people too” chat with Coach Rex?
Let me stay with the Jets for just another moment here. In the second quarter of last week’s game – the quarter when they gave up 35 points – there was a 1-minute slice of that quarter where the Pats scored TDs on offense, defense and special teams against the Jets. That is the environment that led to the verbal assault on the players as they went to the locker room. The fans’ feelings seem not to have abated. Consider:
A column in the NY Post this week urged Jets’ fans to stay home from the game this weekend to “send a message” to owner Woody Johnson that the status quo is unacceptable. The column urged folks not to sell their tickets; rather, it said to mail them directly to Johnson and even gave the mailing address. The column suggested there needed to be enough empty seats that Johnson could not choke down a shrimp cocktail in his suite because of the starkness of the empty stadium.
Fans may not be willing to waste their tix by mailing them to Johnson, but they are not heading to the game in droves this weekend. You can buy tix to the game this weekend on StubHub for as low as $15.
Some Jets’ fans paid $30K for a PSL that would permit them to buy tix to Jets’ games that are now selling on a secondary market at a 70-80% discount. Those PSLs were touted by Johnson – and by Roger Goodell too – as “investments” in the Jets’ franchise.
By the way, I have asked this before but it does bear repeating here:
Memo for Jets’ Fans: Do you remember last year when the vast majority of you were frothing at the mouth about how Brian Schottenheimer was stunting the growth of Mark Sanchez and how Schottenheimer-the-Younger was the sole reason that the Jets’ offense was so inept? Let me assure you that Tony Sparano is not Brian Schottenheimer in disguise, so tell me:
How is that working out for you?
Speaking of “How’s that working out for you,” perhaps Eagles’ fans are beginning to see that the problem with the Eagles’ offense might not have been just who was playing QB behind that OL and the problem with the Eagles’ defense might not have been the defensive coordinator.
Last week, the Steelers turned the ball over 8 times, went 1-9 on third down conversion tries and only lost the game 20-14. The Steelers were offensively inept but consider that the Browns used 8 turnovers to produce only 20 points. The Steelers signed Plaxico Burress because they were short at WR. Burress did not catch a pass but did create a pass interference call for the team. I guess one might say that the Steelers gave Burress’ career a “shot in the arm” but in his case, the Steelers do need to worry that it is not a “shot in the leg”.
The Texans looked awful against the Lions but came away with an OT win anyhow. That makes two games in a row where the Texans have not played well but they won both games. That is what good teams do; they win games even when they do not play to their capacity.
The Falcons did the same thing last weekend. They were not sharp against the Bucs – but they won the game by a point. The Bucs are a pretty good team, but their defensive secondary is going to prevent them from being a very good team.
The Indy Colts are 7-4; I do not know how they are doing it because their defense often plays like a C-USA defensive unit – but they continue to win games.
The KC Chiefs scored 9 points last week against the Broncos; that makes two games in a row where the Chiefs could not find the end zone. The last time the Chiefs scored as many as 20 points in a game was September 30 against the Chargers. Through 11 games, the Chiefs are averaging 14.6 points per game – the lowest scoring average in the NFL.
The Oakland Raiders gave up 34 points last week. Since October 28, the Raiders have played 4 games and have given up 169 points (42.25 points per game). Back on October 28, the porous Raiders’ defense played opposite the inept Chiefs’ offense. In that contest, the Chiefs put 16 points on the board.
Mark your calendars. On 16 December, the Chiefs and Raiders will have their rematch in Oakland. The game will be meaningless in the standings but will be interesting because it will pit a horrid defense against a bumbling offense.
The Chad Henne Era is two-weeks old in Jax and the Jags beat the Titans last week. I really hope that Blaine Gabbert invested his signing bonus money wisely.
Colin Kaepernick played very well against the Saints last week. However, the Niners’ defense had two “Pick Sixes” on Drew Brees and sacked him 5 times. That Niners’ win belongs to the defense.
The Seahawks gave up 3 scores in a 4th quarter come-from-ahead loss to the sputtering Dolphins. That is not the way playoff-caliber teams finish off non-playoff-caliber opponents.
Ryan Lindley threw 4 INTs for the Cards in their loss last week to the Rams. Moreover, Lindley threw the ball 52 times. At some point, you have to wonder if the person sending in the plays was watching to see what came of those plays.
The Chargers had the game against the Ravens in the bag. Then they gave up the 4th-and-29 play that you have seen re-run on ESPN at least 4 bazillion times. Yes, I too think that the Chargers got a bad spot from the officials and that Rice really only gained 28.5 yards but still… The only thing that matters is what was called on the field and then “confirmed” by review.
Memo to Mrs. N. Turner: You can start to pack up the stuff in the attic for the moving company.
Yes, the NFL has manipulated rules to favor the offense; and indeed, some teams win with potent offenses and mediocre defenses. Nevertheless, consider the games on Thanksgiving Day 2012:
The Lions gained 525 yards on offense. They lost.
The Cowboys gained 458 yards on offense. They lost.
The Jets gained 405 yards on offense. They lost.
You still have to play some defense to win in the NFL.
By the way, the Falcons/Saints game last night on NFL Network was unusual in the sense that it matched two teams that usually do not have to play a Thursday night game. The Saints are a good TV draw for the networks and since they pay the NFL multiple billions of dollars per year, they tend to want good draws like the Saints on the weekends when they televise the games. Meanwhile, the Falcons are a good team – and were projected to be a good team back when the schedule was drawn up. So that match-up on Thursday night was an unusual treat.
Seattle at Chicago – 3.5 (38): This is an important game and it ought to be a very good game. The Seahawks are not likely to catch the Niners in the NFC West but they do have decent position at the moment in the wild-card chase. If the Bears lose out in the NFC North and slip back into that wild-card chase, they might find themselves in a tiebreaker situation with the Seahawks; so this game could be very important. The Bears have injury problems; the Seahawks have road game problems. The Seahawks are 1-5 on the road this year while the Bears are 5-1 at home. A key to this game is pass rush. The Bears OL needs to do something to keep Jay Cutler vertical and conscious; Russell Wilson will need to scramble for his life. I like the Bears to win and cover here – but I really wish there wasn’t that half-point hook on the spread.
Minnesota at Green Bay – 7 (47): This is an important game with playoff implications for both teams. Aaron Rodgers was uncharacteristically bad in the game against the Giants last week. Nonetheless, I have to like him in the QB match-up this week over Christian Ponder playing on the road in Lambeau Field. At the same time, I have to like the Vikes’ Adrian Peterson against the Packers’ defense better than any running back the Packers have had since the days of Hornung and Taylor. Here are two meaningless trends that I will cite only because they support my pick in the game:
Vikes are 4-11 against the spread in their last 15 games against teams with a winning record.
Packers are 12-5 against the spread in their last 17 games against teams with a winning record.
I like the Packers to win and cover at home.
SF – 7.5 at St. Louis (40): This is a Ho-Hum Game. The last time these teams met, they played to a 5-quarter tie. I am sure there is a way to search to find out if two teams ever played two tie games in a season, but I tried and could not get an answer there. The Niners come to this game off two important wins over the Saints (last week) and the Bears (two weeks ago). Given that this is their second road game in a row, they might just be a bit flat for the game since they have a 2.5 game lead in the AFC West with only 5 games to go. Here are two meaningless trends that I mention only because they support my pick in the game:
Rams are 4-0 against the spread in their last 4 games against the NFC West.
Niners are 1-4 against the spread in their last 5 games against the Rams.
I like the Rams plus the points at home.
Arizona at Jets – 4 (37): This is a meaningless game and it should be a bad game worthy of consideration as the Worst Game of the Week. Here are two teams with a stunning array of sub-standard quarterbacks such as Ryan Lindley, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy. Add JaMarcus Russell to this list and you have the Seven Dwarfs of Quarterbacking. The Cards have lost 7 games in a row; only the Chiefs can bring a longer losing streak to the table this weekend. If these teams play to form, do not be surprised to see John McEnroe rush to the 50-yardline sometime in the third quarter and scream at both benches:
“You cannot be serious!”
Let me try to give you a reason to watch this game:
Fireman Ed will not be leading cheers in the stands.
The team that commits the final blunder will lose this game. I will hold my nose and take the Jets to win and cover at home.
Carolina – 3 at KC (40.5): This is a meaningless game; it is surely in the discussion for Worst Game of the Week. The combined record for these two teams is 4-18 so no one should tune in expecting to see artistic football on their TV screen. The Panthers are coming off a win last week over the hapless Eagles; the Chiefs have lost 8 games in a row and are 0-6 at home. No other team is winless at home. Let me try to give you a reason to watch this game:
You are in a body cast in a hospital room; this is the game on the TV set in your room and the nurse will not answer your call to come to the room and turn the TV off.
Here are two truly arcane and meaningless trends for this game:
Panthers are 9-1 to go Over in their last 10 games in Weeks 10 – 13 of NFL seasons.
Chiefs are 12-2 to go Under in their last 14 games that follow a division game.
[Some folks really do have too much time on their hands…]
I am flipping a coin here in Curmudgeon Central in accordance with long-standing coin-flipping protocol here and the coin says to take the Chiefs plus the points. Anyone who bets real money on this game really does need to seek counseling…
Indy – 4.5 at Detroit (51): This is an interesting game because the Colts keep finding ways to win games and the Lions keep finding ways to lose them. The fact that the Colts are within shouting distance of the playoffs in early December is shocking given the turmoil in the franchise over the last year. Another interesting aspect of this game is to see which of the opposing “Lions’ Team Legacies” starts to emerge:
A. Will we see the Lions of the Wayne Fontes Era who stunk in spades until December when they would put on a furious finish to wind up near .500 and give false hope for the next year to Lions’ fans”?
B. Will we see the Lions of the Jim Schwartz Era who start out like the King of Beasts and finish out the season like Tabby cats?
If the teams play to form, it is hard to see how either defense is going to shut down the opposing offense. I like the game to go Over.
Jax at Buffalo – 6.5 (44.5): Here is another meaningless game that needs to be in the mix when pondering the Worst Game of the Week. This game will mark the third week of the Chad Henne Experience in Jax and will also mark the first game where Jason Babin will play defensive end for them. Please do not say that I never find something good to say about the Jags because I just found two nice things to say about them. Meanwhile the Bills continue to stumble along with an offense that can be explosive one week and invisible the next and a defense that is always less than satisfactory. Only two teams in the NFL have given up more points than the Bills’ defense this season (Titans and Raiders). Let me try to give you a reason to watch this game:
Your family has been kidnapped and the kidnappers have called and told you that they will flash ransom delivery instructions on signs in the stands that you can see during the game. How else will you know where to deliver the money?
I do not like the Jags on the road; I also do not like the Bills when I have to lay 6.5 points. Here comes the coin again and the coin says to take the Jags plus the points. If you have enough of a gambling problem to bet on this game, why not parlay this game with the Panthers/Chiefs game. By doing that, you might get a therapist to take your case pro bono because it might provide the therapist with a paper he/she can publish in the Journal of Irrational Behaviors…
New England – 7 at Miami (51): I believe that the Pats can clinch the AFC East title if they win this game. Other than that, this is a Ho-Hum Game. The Pats have scored 407 points this season (37 points per game) and the next highest scoring team has scored 327. That is just about a TD a game difference between the Pats and the next-highest scoring team in the NFL. Wow! Ryan Tannehill has played better than I expected him to play in his rookie season but I doubt he can “keep up the pace” here. Here are two trends that support my pick in this game; I mention them even though they are meaningless:
Pats are 4-1 to go Over in their last 5 games against Dolphins
Dolphins are 4-1 to go Over in their last 5 home games against Pats.
I like the game to go Over. Less enthusiastically, I like the Pats to win and cover even on the road.
Houston – 7 at Tennessee (47): This is a Ho Hum Game because the Texans are on cruise control to win the AFC South and the Titans come limping into the game with a 4-7 record. Three weeks ago, the Texans won a nail-biter against the Bears in Chicago; folks just considered that this was a meeting between two top teams and a close game was to be expected. Then, the Texans did not look good the last two weeks but won both games in OT; now they have another road game against a mediocre team. More OT? The Titans just fired their offensive coordinator; that is not the reason the Titans are bad. The Titans have given up 335 points this year (more than 30 points per game) and their secondary is second-rate. One of two things is going to happen here:
A. The Texans will revert to early season form; Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson will torch the Titans secondary for 450 yards and 40 points.
B. The Titans will play hard and the Texans will continue on cruise control and the game will stay close enough to come down to a late drive in the fourth quarter.
I am leaning toward Option B so I’ll take the Titans plus the points.
Tampa – 7.5 at Denver (51): This is an interesting game between two good teams. Shop the line here because you can find it as low as 7 points and as high as 8 points as of this morning. The Broncos can coast to the AFC West title; they have not won it mathematically yet, but unless the Wicked Witch of the West casts a spell on the Broncos, it is hard to see how they will not be the AFC West champion. Meanwhile the Bucs need this game badly to keep themselves relevant in the NFC wild-card situation. The Bucs’ weakest link is their defensive backfield and that is not a good thing when Peyton Manning is playing quarterback for “the other guys”. The Bucs have not lost a game by more than 7 points this year and they have only lost by 7 points twice. I think they will keep this game close so I’ll take the Bucs plus the points.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore (no lines): This is an interesting game and an important game. If the Steelers do not get some competent QB play, they are in danger of missing the playoffs entirely. The Ravens can all but sew up the AFC North title with a win here. The Steelers’ running backs need to sneak a bit of stickum onto the field this week to hold onto the ball after last week’s fumble-fest against the Browns. The Steelers signed Brian Hoyer to play back-up QB about 10 days ago. Serious question:
If Ben Roethlisberger cannot play and Byron Leftwich’s ribs are still too broken to put him in a game, do you play Hoyer who will not know the offense very well or do you play Charlie Batch who knows the offense but does not execute it very well?
Add to the Steelers offensive questions the fact that the Ravens have won 16 straight home games. I cannot make a pick here but I do think that the Ravens will prevail here.
Cleveland at Oakland – 1.5 (no line): This is a meaningless game and this will be a bad game. I think it is the Worst Game of the Week but other contests noted here deserve consideration for that ignominy. I am sure this has happened before, but I cannot recall an instance where there was a spread line for the game posted but no Totals Line – - or vice-versa. The issue here has to be the concussion suffered by Brandon Weedon in the late stages of last week’s game against the Steelers and his availability on Sunday. The Browns have lost 12 consecutive road games; this one might be winnable even if they have to play Colt McCoy at QB who has not thrown a pass all year. Let me try to give you a reason to watch this abomination of a game:
Can the Raiders pathetic defense hold the Browns non-existent offense under 30 points?
Even though there is no Totals Line up for this game yet, here are two alluring – albeit meaningless – trends for this game:
Browns are 11-5 to go Under in their last 16 road games.
Raiders are 4-2 to go Under in their last 6 games against the Browns.
I am making a pick in this game only because I said I would make a pick in every game and these are – after all – only Mythical Picks. I’ll take the Browns plus the point-and-a-half.
Cincy – 1 at San Diego (45.5): This will be a decent game since the Bengals are on a 3-game win streak but you always have to hold your breath with the Bengals because they have a self-destructive streak in them. Meanwhile the Chargers are on a 3-game losing streak but they do have talented skill players on the squad. The Bengals actually have a better road record this year (3-2) than the Chargers’ home record (2-3). The line here opened the week with the Chargers as a 1-point favorite. As of this morning, you can find the game as “pick ‘em” at one sportsbook and at 2 points at a couple of others. The line cited here is the most prevalent one. The Chargers’ OL has been a tad “leaky” in the past few weeks so the Bengals DL might dominate this game from start to finish. I am not yet ready to anoint the Bengals as a playoff-caliber team but they are definitely a team on the upswing. I am just about ready to pronounce the Chargers season as “ART” (Approaching Room Temperature) which in hospital terms equates to “DEAD”. I’ll take the Bengals and lay the point.
(Sun Nite) Philly at Dallas – 11 (43.5): This game will be an interesting game in the sense that watching forest fires engulf country estates is interesting. The Eagles had a Monday game last week on national TV; this week the nation gets to see them again to fix in the public’s mind just how bad this team is. The Eagles have lost 7 games in a row and have looked progressively worse as the streak extended. In the first meeting between these two teams, the Cowboys got three TDs from a punt return, a Pick Six and a fumble “scoop and score”. Since then, the Cowboys needed OT to beat the Browns and then they lost to the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day. Meanwhile, since that game, the Eagles were spanked by the Redskins and then took the gas pipe against the Panthers last week. Let me be polite here and say that neither team has played well for the last month. I like this game to stay Under and because I think it will below scoring, I’ll take the Eagles plus those double-digit points.
(Mon Nite) Giants – 1 at Washington (51): This is going to be a Really Good Game – maybe the best one of the weekend. Now that Bill Cowher is away from coaching and in a TV studio, this game matches the two NFL coaches with the most intense scowls on their faces. For the first three quarters of the game, both will look as if they are in the process of getting an unanesthetized colonoscopy. The Redskins need this game badly if they want a chance to catch the Giants in the NFC East as their route to the playoffs – although if the other wild-card aspirants continue to lay eggs the way they did last week, the Skins might have that first wild card slot to themselves. Robert Griffin III continues to play very well and continues to improve; Eli Manning had a rough spell there but seems to have snapped out of it as of last week. Here are two totally contradictory trends related to this game:
Giants are 6-1 to go Under in their last 7 road games.
Skins are 8-3 to go Over in their last 11 home games against Giants.
I think this game will feature a lot of scoring so I’ll take the game to go Over.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………