I shall start with a review of last week’s Mythical Picks:
I liked Bears -3.5 over Seahawks. Seahawks won outright. Boo!
I liked Packers -7 over Vikes. Packers covered. Yes!
I liked Rams +7.5 against Niners. Rams won in OT. Yes!
I liked Jets -4 over Cards. Jets won by 1 point. Boo!
I liked Chiefs +3 against Panthers. Chiefs won outright. Yes!
I liked Colts/Lions Over 51. Game went way Over. Yes!
I liked Jags +6.5 against Bills. Not even close. Boo!
I liked Pats/Dolphins Over 51. The game stayed Under. Boo!
I liked Pats -7 over Dolphins. The game was a Push.
I liked Titans +7 against Texans. Not enough points. Boo!
I liked Bucs +7.5 against Broncos. Broncos won by 8. Boo!
I liked Browns +1.5 against Raiders. Browns won outright. Yes!
I liked Bengals -1 over Chargers. Bengals covered. Yes!
I liked Eagles/Cowboys Under 43.5. Game total was 71. Boo!
I liked Eagles +11 against Cowboys. Eagles covered. Yes!
I liked Giants/Redskins Over 51. Game total was 33. Boo!
This was an unprofitable week for Mythical Picks with a 7-8-1 record. The cumulative season record remains in the profitable range at 107-84-6. As usual, no one should use anything here as the basis for choosing which side to back in a real wager involving real money related to an NFL game this weekend. Anyone dumb enough to do that would also be dumb enough to plan a drive-by shooting using a unicycle.
I want to invoke the name of Jerry Rice here. Jerry Rice was the best WR I ever saw by a clear margin over whomever you might want to suggest should be #2 on that list. Two players this year can approach a couple of his records:
Calvin Johnson: Through 12 games, Johnson has 1428 yards receiving and that projects to 1904 yards for a full season. Jerry Rice holds the single-season record for receiving yards at 1848 back in 1995.
By the way, Johnson is on a run of 4 consecutive games where he has caught passes for 140 yards or more.
Wes Welker: When Welker caught 10 passes in last week’s game, it was the 17th time in his career that he had done that. That ties Jerry Rice’s record for most games catching 10 or more passes in a game.
I mention these two players and their accomplishments for a very simple reason. It is a stone-cold fact that any time a WR in the NFL can be compared in positive way to Jerry Rice, it is a very positive reference for that WR.
With the Bronco’s win over the Raiders last night, the Broncos ran their season record to 10-3. They have won the AFC West and are now seeking a bye-week in the playoffs. As a measure of how dominant the Broncos are in the AFC West, consider that with last night’s loss by the Raiders, the rest of the AFC West carries a cumulative record of 9-28.
In the pre-game show last night, one of the talking heads said that Peyton Manning had thrown 29 TD passes this season setting a Denver Broncos’ record. That surprised me; but indeed, John Elway never threw 30 TD passes in a single season in his career. In fact, his highest season total was only 27 TD passes. That fact shows the degree to which the game of pro football has changed over the last 20 years and how the rules changes have emphasized the passing game.
The Raiders were clearly the lesser team last night against the Broncos, but the NFL schedule maker has given the Raiders a relatively soft way to finish the season. Here is the Raiders’ dance card for the rest of the month; these are winnable games:
At home against the Chiefs (currently 2-10)
At the Panthers (currently 3-9)
At the Chargers (currently 4-8)
Last week, the Falcons were +5 in turnover differential against the Saints and still only scored 23 points and only won by 10 points. How did that happen? Well, for starters, the Falcons were 1 for 13 on third down conversions against a mediocre defense…
The Chargers led the Bengals at the start of the fourth quarter and coughed the game away again. If my count is correct, that is the fourth time this year the Chargers have done that and those four games – plus any more choke jobs the Chargers execute between now and the end of December – will be prime reasons why Norv Turner might not be living in Del Mar California next year.
The Bengals are on a bit of a roll. They have won for games in a row including last week’s fourth quarter win over the Chargers. That was a one-score game; the other three games were not close at all; the Bengals won them by an average of 21 points.
In talking about the Chiefs win last week over the Panthers, most of the attention has gone to the emotional situation surrounding the murder/suicide events on the day before the game. I do not want to minimize that in any way. Nevertheless, Brady Quinn gave the Chiefs a positive game at quarterback and he has not gotten nearly enough recognition for that. Quinn’s stat line for the day was 19-23 for 201 yards and 2 TDs.
The Rams record in the NFC West is 4-0-1. Their final game of the season will be at Seattle where it is tough for visitors to win and where Seattle may need the game for playoff possibilities. In August, that looked like a lackluster game on the schedule; now it might be a big game.
Speaking of the Seahawks and the playoffs, there is a game scheduled for 23 December in Seattle with the Niners coming to town. Between now and then, the Seahawks play the Cards and the Bills; they should be favorites in both games and if they win, they will bring a 9-5 record to the game against the Niners.
Meanwhile, the Niners host the Dolphins this week and then have to go cross-country to play the Pats in Foxboro. If – I said IF – the Niners split those two games, then their record going into the game against the Seahawks would be 9-4-1. That game on 23 December could be for all the cheese in the NFC West.
A friend of mine was trying to convince me that Adrian Peterson should be the Comeback Player of the Year and I think that Peyton Manning has that award sewed up. He then asked me if I thought Peterson would get consideration as the MVP given that he already has 3 games with 200 or more yards rushing. My response was that unless the Vikings make it to the playoffs – and that is not looking very good right now – he probably would not get any votes for MVP. I believe the only time the league MVP came from a non-playoff team since the AFL/NFL merger was OJ Simpson back in 1973 when he became the first running back to rush for more than 2000 yards in a season.
Quick Quiz: No peeking now…
What is the lowest-scoring team in the NFL this year?
The answer is the Arizona Cardinals who have scored only 186 points in 12 games. I do not want to lionize Kevin Kolb here; but in the four games he played in September before he was hurt, the Cards scored 91 points (about 23 points per game). Since 30 September, the Cards have lost 8 straight games and have scored a total of 95 points in those 8 games (about 12 points per game). During the 8-game losing streak/offensive drought, the Cardinals have not gone over 20 points a single time.
Last week, against the Jets, Ryan Lindley’s stat line was 10-31 for 72 yards and 1 INT. The net yardage passing was only 56 yards after you count the losses from the 2 sacks he took.
At some point, wouldn’t you think that someone on the Cards’ coaching staff might suggest that they call something other than another pass play?
Here is a continuing update on the Eagles’ defense. They have played 6 games since they fired Juan Castillo as their defensive coordinator. In those 6 games the Eagles’ defense has given up 195 points (32.5 points per game). Before Castillo was fired, the Eagles’ defense gave up 125 points in 6 games (21 points per game).
The Ravens led the Steelers in the fourth quarter last week in a low-scoring game. One might think at that point that the Ravens would want to try to take some time off the clock. Not so; Ray Rice never touched the ball in the fourth quarter of that game. What is up with that kind of play calling?
Here are some interesting rookie stats for this season:
Ben Roethlisberger holds the record for highest QB Rating by a rookie QB at 98.1.
Robert Griffin III has QB Rating of 104 so far this year
Russell Wilson has QB Rating of 95 so far this year.
Rams’ rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein is 7 for 11 on field goal attempts of over 50 yards. Last week, he hit a 53-yard field goal on the final play of regulation time to send the game to OT. Then he hit a 54-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in OT to win the game.
I am not a doctor and I do not play one on television, but there was a report that Steelers CB, Ike Taylor, suffered a fractured ankle in last week’s game and would be out for “two to six weeks”. Two weeks on a broken ankle? Wow!
It is that time of year when you need to check weather forecasts for some games. We are in December and there are home games scheduled in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cincy, Green Bay and New England. ‘Nuff said…
Baltimore at Washington – 2 (47.5): This is one of the better games of the weekend. The Ravens’ offense has been AWOL since they scored 55 points against the Raiders on Nov 11. The Redskins defense is not a formidable unit by any means, but it has improved over its cadaverous status early in the year. There is nothing wrong with the Redskins’ offense; it ranks 3rd overall in the NFC. This game opened the week as a “pick ‘em” proposition, now the line is as high as 3 points at one sportsbook and as low as 1.5 points at one other sportsbook. The Ravens have a two-game cushion in the AFC North, but their schedule is not easy from here on out. The Redskins need to win to stay in the NFC wild-card hunt and/or in the mix for the NFC East title should the Giants falter. Here are two conflicting and meaningless trends:
Ravens are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games ATS.
Redskins are 7-14 ATS in their last 21 games after being on MNF.
I like this game to go Over.
KC at Cleveland – 7 (38): I know that the Chiefs won last week and that the Browns have won 2 games in row. Notwithstanding those facts, I think this will be a bad game between two bad teams. I cannot recall the last time the Browns were favored by a TD over another professional football team, but here it is. I wonder what kind of reception Brady Quinn will get from Browns’ fans… Do not watch this game and do not wager on this game. For mythical purposes only, I’ll take the Chiefs plus the points in a low-scoring contest.
San Diego at Pittsburgh – 8 (41.5): The Steelers need this game badly. They are two games behind the Ravens in the AFC North and they are tied with the Bengals. The Chargers have lost 4 in a row and are playing out the string. This is a long flight for them and the weather is not likely to be “SoCal weather”. The return of Ben Roethlisberger has to be a plus for the Steelers unless his right arm falls off during the first half of the game; watching Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch was painful the last couple of weeks. Here are two contradictory and meaningless trends for this game:
Chargers are 4-1 to go Over in their last 5 road games.
Steelers are 10-1 to go Under in their last 11 home games.
Here is another meaningless trend that is somewhat interesting:
The Chargers have never won a game in Pittsburgh. They are 0-14 against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
That line looks fat to me; I’ll take the Chargers plus the points.
Tennessee at Indy – 5 (48): When these teams played each other earlier this year, the game went to OT and the Colts won. The Colts seem to be on the upswing and would be in the AFC playoffs were they to begin this week; the Titans are treading water. The Colts are 5-1 at home this year and sometimes you just ride the hot hand. I’ll take the Colts to win and cover.
Jets – 1.5 at Jax (38.5): This is another bad football game between two bad teams. The wagering options here are to take Mark Sanchez on the road and lay points or to take Chad Henne with a less than average supporting cast at home. When Mark Sanchez was yanked from the game last week against the Cards, his QB Rating was 21.4. Pathetic… Remember, these are mythical picks; no one should bet real money on this game. I’ll hold my nose and take the Jets to win and cover.
Chicago – 3 at Minnesota (39): Both teams need this game. Chicago is hurting and is tied with the Packers atop the NFC North while the Vikings are two games behind the Bears and Packers and would be all but eliminated from the division title race with a loss here. The Bears’ injuries on defense seem to include all of their top-shelf players and it will be interesting to see how Bears’ fans find a way to blame that situation on Jay Cutler’s bad attitude. Meanwhile, the Vikes will play without Percy Harvin and that will hurt their passing game a lot. Adrian Peterson figures to get the ball early and often. The Vikes are 5-1 at home and 1-5 on the road this year. I see this as a low-scoring affair and so I’ll take the Vikes plus the points here.
Atlanta – 3.5 at Carolina (48): I know this is a division game and division games tend to be close and hard-fought. However, the Falcons are a very good team and they have already clinched the NFC South with an 11-1 record. Meanwhile the Panthers are 3-9 and only 1-5 at home. With that as a backdrop, Panthers’ DE Greg Hardy said this week that the Panthers were a better team than the Falcons.
Memo to Roger Goodell: You might want to put Greg Hardy’s name on a list for more frequent drug testing…
I like the Falcons to win and cover here.
Philly at Tampa – 7.5 (47.5): The Totals Line opened the week at 45.5 and has steadily risen to this level; I would not be shocked to see it at 48 by kickoff. If the Bucs want to be in the playoffs, they pretty much need to run the table; even if they do that, they may need some help along the way. Given that the Eagles have now lost 8 games in a row, this would seem to be a good opportunity for the Bucs to put another game in their win column. However, the Bucs have to resist the temptation to look ahead to next week’s game against division-rival New Orleans. The Eagles defense gives up points [see above] and the Bucs’ pass defense is not exactly watertight. I like this game to go Over.
St Louis at Buffalo – 3 (42): These teams can both aspire to “break-even” seasons. (Not literally in the case of the Rams who have a tie-game on their record). That is about all there is to recommend this game. The Rams win games when they have some balance in their offense and the Bills’ defense should oblige here because the Bills give up almost 5 yards per rushing attempt. I like the Rams’ potential to check the bills’ offense better than the obverse here. Here are two meaningless trends I will cite only because they support my pick:
Rams are 8-3 in their last 11 games ATS as an underdog.
Bills are 5-7 in their last 12 games ATS playing a team with a losing record.
I’ll take the Rams plus the points.
Dallas at Cincy – 3 (45.5): The Cowboys need this game to remain relevant in the NFC playoff picture; the Bengals are on a 4-game win streak [see above]. Statistically, the teams are quite similar. The Cowboys gain 22 yards per game more than the Bengals; the Bengals give up 6 yards a game fewer than the Cowboys. Make this a venue call. I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points.
Miami at SF – 10 (39): This is a cross-country trip for the Dolphins to play a non-conference opponent in a game that comes after the Dolphins have all but been eliminated from the playoffs. That is not the recipe for a highly motivated team. The question about the Niners is simple. They lost to the Rams in OT last week and have road games against the Pats and Seahawks in the next two weeks so will they be up for this game or looking ahead to the next two? I think the Niners’ defense is too much for a middling Dolphins’ offense. However, I hate laying double-digit points especially when I think the game will be low scoring. I am flipping a coin here in Curmudgeon Central and the coin says to take the Niners and lay the points. Remember, these are Mythical Picks…
New Orleans at Giants – 5 (53): I cannot see Drew Brees having as bad a game this week as he had last week against the Falcons throwing 5 INTs. I can see the Giants secondary giving up yardage to a good passing offense. The key is the amount of pressure that the Giants can put on Brees without having to blitz everyone other than the Tom Coughlin. I like the Saints plus the points here. I also like the game to go Over – even with the number as high as 53.
Arizona at Seattle – 10.5 (35.5): The good news is that the Cards will not start Ryan Lindley at QB this week. The bad news is that the Cards will start John Skelton at QB this week. The Cardinals’ OL is like a turnstile; it barely slows down an opposing pass rush – and the Seahawks do a good job of getting to the passer and covering receivers downfield. CB, Brandon Browner, will begin serving his suspension this week; the Richard Sherman suspension remains in the appeals process. The Cards have been scoring at 12 points per game since September [see above] and a motivated Seahawks’ defense should continue that trend. If I am correct, that leaves me with two considerations:
Can the Seahawks score about 24 points to take this game over?
Can the Cards hold the Seahawks under 20 to allow for an ATS cover?
My answer is that I think the Seahawks will score enough to take the game Over.
(Sun Nite) Detroit at Green Bay – 6.5 (50): The Packers need this game in the NFC North race and will know the outcome of the Bears/Vikings game by kickoff. It has been 20 years since the Lions beat the Packers in Green Bay. To put that in perspective for you, that predates Brett Favre as the QB for the Packers. [Don’t ask who was the Packers’ QB when last the Lions won a road game in this series. I am too lazy to go and track that down.] The Lions will need to play smart and disciplined football to win here and the Lions have shown no ability to play either smart or disciplined football for a while now. I like the Packers to win and cover here.
(Mon Nite) Houston at New England – 3 (51): Not only is the best game of the week, this is one of the five best games of the regular season. It would not be a shock to see these two teams play in the AFC Championship Game for the right to go on to the Super Bowl. Injuries to linebackers and defensive backs have made the Texan’s defense – and particularly the pass defense – less proficient than it was at the beginning of the year. That is not a good thing if you are traveling to New England to play the Pats. Here is a meaningless – but interesting – trend:
The Pats have won 10 of their last 11 games on MNF by an average of 20 points.
I like this game to go Over and I like the Pats at home to win and cover.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………