Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 12/23/12

Before looking at last week’s results, let me say that sometimes it is better to “go with your gut” and not “overthink” things. Normally, in the final weeks of an NFL season, I caution everyone that wagering in such times is far more difficult than it is during the heart of the season when all the teams are still striving for something. I did not do that last week because the number of appealing games on the card was unusually high; I thought that rational handicapping strategies would work “just fine”. Now let me look at last week’s results and you will see that those rational handicapping strategies did not work “ just fine”:

    I liked Packers/Bears Under 43. The game stayed Under. Yes!

    I liked Giants +2 against Falcons. Giants were shut out, lost by 34. Boo!

    I liked Bucs/Saints Over 53. Bucs did not score; game stayed Under. Boo!

    I liked Rams -1 over Vikes. Vikes won by 2 TDs. Boo!

    I liked Jags +7.5 against Dolphins. Not nearly enough points. Boo!

    I liked Broncos – 2.5 over Ravens. Broncos covered easily. Yes!

    I liked Texans – 8 over Colts. Texans covered. Yes!

    I liked Lions/Cards Under 44. Game went Over. Boo!

    I liked Panthers +3 against Chargers. Panthers won outright by 24. Yes!

    I liked Bills +6 against Seahawks. Seahawks won by 33. Boo!

    I liked Steelers -1 over Cowboys. Steelers lost in OT. Boo!

    I liked Raiders -3 over Chiefs. Raiders covered shutting out Chiefs. Yes!

    I liked Pats -5 over Niners. Niners won outright. Boo!

    I liked Jets +2 against Titans. Not enough points. Boo!

That was a miserable and mythically unprofitable week at 5-9-0. Three of the losses were not within 3 TDs of the actual outcome; the week was a huge embarrassment. The season total still remains in mythically profitable territory, however, at 123-99-6.

Obviously, no one would look at those results and think for a moment that it would be a smart thing to do to take what is here and use it as the basis for choosing which side to back in a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this weekend. Anyone dumb enough to think that is a good idea is also dumb enough to think that a transistor is a nun that underwent a sex change procedure.

General Comments:

The NY Jets’ implosion on MNF was complete; they narrowly escaped collapsing to the point of creating a black hole that would have swallowed the Earth with that performance. Going into that game, the Titans’ defense had been allowing opponents an average of 30 points per game; the Jets scored 10 points and had a total of 18 yards passing in the first half of the game. Somehow, playing against one of the most porous defenses in the league, the Jets’ found a way to average 5 yards per rushing attempt (146 yards on 30 carries) while that opponent committed 14 penalties and still lose the game. They should get style points for creativity there.

I believe the seeds of the Jets’ season-long disaster were planted during the last off-season when the Jets gave Mark Sanchez a contract extension that had about $20M of guaranteed money in it. He had just come off a less-than-sterling season, the Jets’ locker room was not a tight unit and there were grumblings that Sanchez was not being held accountable for his share of the team’s woes. That was bad enough – and then the Jets’ braintrust doubled down and traded a draft pick to acquire Tim Tebow to assure that Sanchez would have to look over his shoulder all season long. Mark Sanchez is a less-than-mediocre QB; turning him into an anxious and a less-than-mediocre QB could not have been seen as a positive move, could it?

    Aside regarding Tim Tebow: He is less than a mediocre QB. I know he led the Broncos to the playoffs last year (with an 8-8 record) and that he is an inspirational figure. But look at what happened in Denver last year:

      John Fox changed the entire way the Broncos approached and played offense to accommodate Tebow’s limited skills. Then, he stuck with the change because that was all he could trust Tebow to do and “the other guy”on his roster just did not get the job done.

      After the season, Fox and John Elway went out and got a real NFL QB and immediately found a way to ship Tebow out of town to preclude any kind of “distraction”. The Broncos’ playoff appearance was given a nod and then the team moved on.

    Rex Ryan – like John Fox – is a defensive minded coach. The difference is that Ryan never felt he had to go to Tebow as his QB on anything more than a play-to-play basis so he never altered the Jets’ offense to focus on Tebow’s skills.

    What the Jets got was all of the “distractions” Tebow can provide and none of the benefits. Not even a scintilla of that is Tim Tebow’s fault. Every single morsel of the blame here belongs on the folks who brought him to NY in the first place and then on Rex Ryan for not making the offensive coordinator get more from Tebow during the season to offset the distractions.

Recall that Pete Carroll – then at USC – was roundly criticized for saying publicly that Mark Sanchez was not ready to make the jump from college to the NFL when he declared for the draft after his junior season. Carroll was accused of self-interest in that statement and perhaps that was a correct assessment. Nevertheless, Pete Carroll nailed that one; Mark Sanchez was not ready then – and now 4 years later is barely ready – to be a starting QB in the NFL.

One more point about the Jets here… The Jets’ fans like to think of themselves as extremely knowledgeable and as connoisseurs of the fine points of the game. Well, I seem to recall last year that thousands of Jets’ fans thought that it was Brian Schottenheimer’s fault that Mark Sanchez and the Jets’ offense did not dominate opponents. Schottenheimer was the “boat anchor” who was retarding the development of this soon-to-be-elite NFL QB. Remember, Jets’ fans had already decided that Sanchez was “The Sanchize”.

    Memo to Jets’ Fans: You can boo Sanchez all you want now, but you are not going to escape your accountability for enabling his continued poor play and clearly insufficient preparation by pinning all of last season’s blame on the offensive coordinator.

Another imploding team, the Eagles, managed to sack the opposing QB six times last week and still get blown out of the stadium. The Eagles turned the ball over 5 times in the game – four of those turnovers came in a six-minute span in the second half – and those 5 turnovers became 31 points for the Bengals. What a goat rodeo…

Just south of Philly, the Baltimore Ravens were also awful last weekend. The Broncos came into town and simply dominated the Ravens on both sides of the ball. As has been the case this year with a team firing of a coordinator in mid-season, the Ravens played without the services of Cam Cameron as the offensive coordinator and play caller last weekend and lost. I saw much of the game and could not see any significant change in the Ravens’ offense for the better. It must be something in the Baltimore water supply; neither Cam Cameron nor his successor, Jim Caldwell, seems to want to let Ray Rice touch the football very often. In last Sunday’s debacle, Rice never touched the ball on third down for the entire game.

Staying in the I-95 corridor, the NY Giants laid an egg last weekend that makes an ostrich egg look like a salmon egg. Granted, the Giants were playing the Falcons – a team that came into the game with an 11-2 record – but the Giants were shut out on offense and had the ball jammed down their throats on defense. When that game was over, I thought that the NY tabloids would be all over Eli Manning for a week and that the Jets might escape scrutiny for a week or so. Then Monday night happened and Eli is getting a pass from the tabloids.

And at the northern end of the I-95 corridor, the Patriots fell behind the Niners by 4 TDs and stormed back to tie the game only to lose by a TD at the end.

The only real success in the northern portion of the I-95 contingent of NFL teams was the Washington Redskins. They went to Cleveland and played against a team that is limited in terms of its talent but one that had won three games in a row. The Skins trailed early in the game but came back behind their second string QB and dominated the game in the second half.

The Giants lost 34-0 in Atlanta but theirs was not the worst loss of the day. The Bucs and Saints played a division game and the Bucs had “revenge” going for them in the game. Final score:

    Saints 41 Bucs 0

So much for revenge… The Bucs are in a freefall. At one point they were 6-4 and looked like strong contenders for a wild card slot; since that time, they have lost 4 games in a row including a last second loss to the Eagles and a shutout loss to the Saints – the first Saints shutout in the Superdome in 21 years. As of this morning, they are only one game ahead of the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South.

The Packers harassed Jay Cutler all day long. This man ought to sue his offensive line for non-support. This must be the play call that he hears on his headset about 15 times a game:

    OK, Jay, get the snap from center, run around in the backfield as if your life depends on it – because it does – and find a time when Brandon Marshall is downfield with less than three guys on him. Then throw him the ball…

In case you have not noticed, the Packers have a kicking problem this season. Mason Crosby missed two FGs last week against the Bears and has missed at least one FG attempt in each of the last 8 games. The Packers clinched the AFC North so they are in the playoffs. Is that the kind of kicker you want in the playoffs?

The Colts lost to the Texans last week making the Texans the AFC South champion. The Texans won by 12 points but the game was not a blowout. Consider that the Colts fumbled the ball on the 1 yardline in the game and surrendered one TD on a blocked punt.

When the Seahawks scored 50 points against the Bills last week, the Seahawks became the first NFL team to do that since the NY Giants did it in 1950.

The Panthers spanked the Chargers in San Diego. This raises two interesting questions:

    1. If the Panthers win out and finish at 7-9, is that enough to save Ron Rivera’s job?

    2. Where was this kind of efficiency and effectiveness in September/October when the Panthers lost 5 in a row?

The Lions got blown out by the Cardinals last week. In case you have forgotten, the Cardinals lost two weeks ago by a score of 58-0. The Lions are a mess and Matthew Stafford is having a bad year. Last year he threw 41 TD passes; as of this morning, he has 17 for the 2012 season. If the Lions decide to “go in a different direction” and change coaches, they will have to pay Jim Schwartz handsomely because the team signed him to an extension last year after the Lions made a cameo appearance in the playoffs.

The Chiefs/Raiders game was as bad as anticipated. The Chiefs could not score on a defense that had allowed 31 points per game at the time of the kickoff. To make matters worse, the Chiefs total offense for the day against that miserable defense was an embarrassing 119 yards. Meanwhile, the Raiders never did find the end zone in the game and won by kicking 5 field goals.

I watched the Steelers/Cowboys game; both teams are playoff aspirants. Here is what I took away from the game:

    Neither team looks like a playoff team to me.

The Niners/Pats game was extremely entertaining. How many times do the Pats fall behind anyone by 4 TDs? How many times do the Niners relinquish a 4 TD lead? Frankly, I would not mind seeing a rematch of these teams in the Super Bowl.

Two NFL records are in jeopardy as we enter the final two weeks of the season:

    Adrian Peterson needs 293 yards in the last 2 games to break Eric Dickerson’s season rushing record of 2105 yards. It is not easy to average 147 yards per game, which is what Peterson has to do here – until you notice that in his last 2 games he has run for 366 yards (183 yards per game).

    Calvin Johnson needs 181 yards receiving in the last 2 games to break Jerry Rice’s record of 1848 receiving yards in a season. In each of the last 7 games, Johnson has caught balls for more than 100 yards so that record would appear to be within his grasp.

The Games:

There are a bunch of games on the card for this weekend that are little more than a coin flip in terms of wagering opportunities. How will a team that clinched a division championship play this week? How will a team that was eliminated from the playoffs last week play this week? When two bad teams play, which of the two will show up and play hard? If I knew the answer to those questions, I would have more cogent picks for this week’s games. This is a week for caution. I should have posted this kind of warning last week.

(Sat. Nite) Atlanta – 3.5 at Detroit (51): The Falcons are 12-2 and they are the NFC South Champions; they are going to the playoffs. The Lions are 4-10 and have lost 6 games in a row. The reason the spread is so short is that there is no way to know if the Falcons will be motivated to play this game or if the coaches will choose to rest any key players. Statistically, the Lions are the “better team”. The Lions gain 30 yards per game more than the Falcons and the Lions give up 18 yards per game less than the Falcons. However, in the NFL, they do not award style points; you are what your record says you are. And the record says the Lions are a mess. The Lions home record is a pathetic 2-4 and they have lost their last 3 home games. The Falcons find a way to win games; the Lions invent ways to lose games. Last week, Brian Urlacher complained that the Bears were the only team in their division that got booed at home. I hope he gets a chance to watch this game in case the Lions fall behind by 2 scores; he will see then that the Lions also get booed at home. If the Falcons win, they will have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs; that should provide a smidgen of motivation. I’ll take the Falcons and lay the points.

Tennessee at Green Bay – 13 (46): Nothing that I saw in the Titans’ win over the Jets at home on Monday night made me believe that the Titans are surreptitiously better than their 5-9 record. However, the Packers clinched a division championship last weekend and ought to suffer at least a small letdown. For that reason, the line looks awfully fat. However, the trends say that taking the points on that fat line may not be such a good thing:

    Packers are 7-2 in their last 9 games ATS at home when the spread is between 10.5 and 14 points.

Is this the week the Packers get Charles Woodson back? The Packers still have a chance to get a playoff Bye if they win out and the Niners lose one of their final two games. I do not think that is sufficient motivation to get me to lay 13 points here. I’ll take the Titans plus the points.

Oakland at Carolina – 8.5 (46): This might be the worst game of the week despite the fact that both teams won last week.. Both teams have been out of the playoff picture for quite a while now. The Panthers lost 6 of their first 7 games; then they went 4-3 in their next 7 games and have won 3 of the last 4. The Panthers have shown signs of life despite an overall 5-9 record. I heard on the radio that Cam Newton has not thrown an INT in the last 5 games; if that is correct, it is mightily impressive. The Raiders started off going 3-4 in their first 7 games; then they lost 6 in a row before beating the hapless Chiefs last week. Despite the similarity of their records, these teams are going in opposite directions. Oh, and the Raiders have to travel cross-country and play in the early time slot this weekend too. The Panthers are the better team on offense and on defense. The line on this game runs as low as 8 points and as high as 9.5 points. I like the Panthers to win and cover here.

Buffalo at Miami – 4 (41.5): Here is another match-up of two teams that have not had any realistic shot at the playoffs for a while now. [Aside: I know; the Dolphins have not yet been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Their chances of getting in are about the same a mine of winning the Powerball Lottery this week.] The Dolphins’ strength is their run defense; they allow less than 4 yards per carry and not a lot of teams can make that claim. The Bills surely cannot; the Bills allow 5.1 yards per carry. If the Dolphins can control the Bills’ running attack, that will put the ball in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hands and that does not inspire any confidence for me. Of course, nothing having to do with the Dolphins’ offense inspires any confidence either. Last week’s loss assured that the Bills will have a losing record for an 8th consecutive season. That is not all that surprising when you look back over the Bills’ schedule and notice that the team has surrendered 45 or more points 4 times this year. The Dolphins are marketing this game as “Fan Appreciation Day” which is interesting since I read a report that said there were 18,000 tickets available for this game. Please do not wager on this game. I am flipping a coin here in Curmudgeon Central and the coin says to take the game Over.

Cincy at Pittsburgh – 3.5 (43): Finally, we have a game between two teams where both teams have actual and palpable playoff hopes. This game would be the best game of the weekend were it not for the SF/Seattle game on Sunday night. This game is very important to both teams. I think I understand the tiebreaking system well enough to say that if the Steelers win out, they will be in the playoffs. If the Steelers lose, they are not going to make the playoffs. The Bengals have their sights set on winning the AFC North by winning out and passing by the Baltimore Ravens who seem to be falling apart like an old Yugo. A lot of folks like to talk about how the Bengals defense has been so fearsome this year; consider that praise in terms of the fact that the Steelers’ defense gives up 47 fewer yards per game than does the Bengals’ defense. The Steelers’ defensive unit has enough injuries that Andy Dalton and AJ Green should be able to pick it apart – if those two guys are truly ready for prime time. Here are two meaningless trends that I will cite because they will support my selection:

    Steelers are 10-6 in their last 16 games ATS against division opponents.

    Bengals are 0-5 in their last 5 games ATS against the Steelers.

I like Ben Roethlisberger more than I like Andy Dalton in this kind of a situation and I definitely think the venue is an important factor in this game. I’ll take the Steelers to win and cover.

New England – 14.5 at Jax (48.5): Will the Pats coast just a bit against a hapless foe or will they stomp on the gas pedal to atone for losing a home game to the Niners last week? If they coast, that line is fatter than fat; if they hit the gas, they may have the spread covered by the middle of the second quarter. I do not have a crystal ball that tells me how the Pats will play this game. I am confident in saying that if the Pats play what is an average game for them, it will not matter what kind of effort or game the Jags put forth. The Pats’ defense is not the strength of the team by any means; nevertheless, the Pats’ defense allows 20 yards per game less than the Jags defense. Both defenses yield 7.2 yards per pass attempt; the difference is that the Pats offense averages 7.3 yards per attempt while the Jags offense only averages 5.7 yards per attempt. If I described the Jags’ pass rush as anemic or lethargic, I might actually overrate it; Tom Brady should have a field day picking out receivers here. As of this morning, the Pats will not get a Bye in the playoffs but if the Broncos lose another game and if the Pats win out, the Pats hold the tiebreaker over the Broncos and could get a playoff Bye. Here is the problem for the Pats: The Broncos close out the season against the Browns this week and the Chiefs next week. Just because I think that Bill Belichick turned up the heat on the Pats this week after losing on Sunday night, I’ll take the Pats and lay that humongous helping of points. But remember, I said I would make a pick in every game…

Indy – 6.5 at KC (41.5): The Colts are the story of the year given the way they stunk out the joint last year, changed QBs, changed coaching staffs, lost their new head coach to chemotherapy and somehow found a way to play a game the weekend before Christmas with a 9-5 record. If the Colts win here, they are in the playoffs a week before the regular season will come to an end. The Colts’ defense is not why they are where they are but against the Chiefs this week the Colts defense has something to shoot for. The Chiefs have scored the fewest points of any team in the NFL this weekend and have only gone over 20 points once in the last 9 games. The Colts’ defense can aim to hold a team to single digits for the first time this year. After all, the Chiefs have been in single-digits in 4 of the last 5 games. Oh, by the way, the Chiefs would not categorically deny reports that Ricky Stanzi might play QB for them this week. No offense to Mr. Stanzi but if he could not demonstrate in practice and in training camp that he was close to the equal to Brady Quinn and/or Matt Cassel, that tells me that he might not be quite ready for real NFL action yet. I like the Colts to win and cover here. Having them make the playoffs this year has to be one of the more unexpected results of the year in all of sports.

New Orleans at Dallas – 1 (51.5): The Cowboys can still make the playoffs and their path to the playoffs is simple. They have to win out. The Saints will be able to participate in the New Years’ Eve hijinks in New Orleans because they are not going to the playoffs. I realize that the Saints pitched a shutout last week but you need to put that into a larger context:

    In terms of yards allowed, the Saints defense is the worst defense in the league.

The Cowboys won last week over the Steelers but did not jump out as a team that should strike fear in the hearts of all its opponents. The Cowboys do not run the ball effectively but the Saints defense allows 146 yards per game on the ground. If the Cowboys can run the ball for anything near that number, they should win the game comfortably. I will choose to believe that the Saints’ defense caught lightening in a bottle last week and cannot repeat that kind of performance here. I’ll take the Cowboys and lay the point.

Washington – 7 at Philly (45): If the Redskins win out, they are in the playoffs and they would enter the playoffs on a 7-game win streak.. The Eagles’ playoff hopes were realistically gone sometime in early November. The last 3 weeks, the Eagles have played well for half of the game and then played like a Pop Warner League team for the other half. They have found creative ways to give the ball away. Last week, one of the punt protectors got pushed back to the punter such that the punt hit the protector in the posterior. You just do not see that every time you go to the stadium to see a football game. Here is a historical fact that is truly irrelevant:

    If the Redskins win, it will be their 5th win on the road this year. The last time they did that was in in 1991 – the year they won the Super Bowl.

I think the Eagles will take this game seriously; it is their final home game of the year. It is likely the final home game for Andy Reid in Philly. The Eagles’ fans ought to give him a standing ovation for his service over the past 13 years; more than likely, the fans will not do that. After all, it would shock no one to learn that Philly fans would boo a Fantasy League draft pick. I’ll take the Eagles plus the full TD’s worth of points here – for mythical purposes only.

St Louis at Tampa – 3 (43.5): Last week, the Rams could not stop Adrian Peterson. In the four games leading up to last week, the Rams had held opposing running backs to 65 yards rushing or less; last week Peterson ran for 212 yards. The Rams are still mathematically alive in the playoffs but when I read what had to happen for them to get in, my mind wandered; and so, my conclusion is that the team’s Fairy Godmother had to visit team headquarters, wave her wand and have mystical baby yaks fall from the rafters who would then fly off and cast a spell on a lot of other teams to make it happen. The Bucs cannot get into the playoffs even with a mystical baby yak intervention. Josh Freeman had been playing well but last week tossed 4 INTs and lost a fumble in the shellacking by the Saints. Here are two conflicting trends for this game:

    Rams are 1- 4 in their last 5 games ATS on the road against the Bucs.

    Bucs are 1- 9 in their last 10 games ATS in December.

I think the Rams have a real shot at winning this game outright even on the road. Therefore, I’ll take the Rams plus the points.

Minnesota at Houston – 9 (44): If the playoffs started this weekend, both of these teams would be in. Statistically, the two offenses here are about equal; statistically, the Texans defense is better by about 30 yards per game. You can parse stats all you want and you can invoke trends all you want; this game comes down to two things:

    Will the Texans play this game to the max?

    Can the Texans – however they play – keep Adrian Peterson from running wild?

My guess is that Texans’ defensive guru, Wade Phillips, will make the Vikings and Peterson work hard for every yard and dare Christian Ponder to try to beat the Texans by throwing the ball. If the Texans can keep Peterson “in check” (let me define that as “hold him to 1 TD and 135 yards rushing”) I like the Texans to be able to win this game without producing too much stomach acid amongst the fanbase. Please do not forget that the Texans have a pretty fine running back of their own in Arian Foster. If the Texans get a 2 TD lead in this game and force the Vikes to do more passing than running, the game could turn into a rout. I am flipping a coin here in Curmudgeon Central and the coin says to take the Vikings plus the points.

San Diego at Jets – 2.5 (40): If the Raiders/Panthers game is not the worst game of the week, then this one is. The Chargers have played sloppy and dispirited football for most of the year; the Jets have played sloppy and inept football for most of the year. The Chargers will play without their top RB for the rest of the year; the Jets will play with their 3rd string QB this week. For all the bluster about Rex Ryan being a defensive guru and Norv Turner being an offensive guru, check out these facts:

    Jets’ defense gives up only 8.2 yards per game less than the Chargers.

    Chargers offense gains only 7 yards per game more than the Jets.

Let me summarize. These teams stink and their coaches are living on reputation. Playing the spread here means having to decide which is the less worse team. I will forego that challenge and simply take the game to go Over on the basis that Philip Rivers and Greg McElroy will find ways to give each other short fields to work with.

Cleveland at Denver – 13 (44): You have to give a ton of credit and admiration to Peyton Manning for his recovery and his leadership of the Broncos’ offense this year. The Broncos are playing as well as any team in the league at the moment. Nevertheless, the Broncos’ defense, which was stout enough last year to get the team in to the playoffs with an anemic offense, is also playing very well this year too. Denver needs to win to assure a Bye Week in the playoffs. That ought to be enough motivation for them at home. The Browns like to put CB, Joe Haden, on the opponent’s best receiver; that often works for them. However, Peyton Manning knows how to go to secondary receivers in a way that makes the secondary receivers look like world-beaters. I think the Broncos are the far better team here but that spread is too much to deal with. I’ll take the game to go Over.

Chicago – 5 at Arizona (37): This game is a must game for the Bears; nevertheless, even if the Bears win here and next week, they will need help in order to make the playoffs. That is the only reason to watch this game or give it anything other than a passing glance. The problem the Bears face this week is that the Cardinals’ defense is the strength of the team and that means the Bears’ offense will have to produce points against serious opposition. That is not something the Bears have shown much ability to do this year – even back during the 7-1 days; remember, the defense was scoring a TD a game for a while back then. I said above that Jay Cutler was under pressure all the time last week; well, the Cards just happen to lead the NFL in sacks at the moment. Having said all that, the Cardinals just need to find ways to score points. Yes, they beat the Lions handily last week but consider these two points:

    1. Matt Stafford tossed them two “Pick Sixes”.

    2. C’mon, those were the Lions.

The Cardinals also have shown that they cannot protect their QB very well. An interesting prop bet would be an Over/Under for the total sacks in the game. Suppose the number were 10.5… So, what we have is two bad offenses going against two good defenses. I like the game to stay Under.

Giants – 1 at Baltimore (47): Six weeks ago, I would have predicted that this game would be the Game of the Week in the NFL. Not today… Last week, the Ravens hosted Manning the Elder; this week they welcome Manning the Younger; someone in the Ravens’ organization has to be wishing for JaMarcus the Only to come to town. I read somewhere that if the Giants win out, they will make the playoffs. I cannot confirm that here but someone else thought it was sufficiently researched to put it out there. The Ravens have clinched an AFC playoff slot even if they do not win the AFC North crown. Both teams have been disappointing this year to say the least. What is worse:

    Losing 34-0 last week to the Falcons – or –

    Losing your last three games in a row with two of them at home?

Who would have believed that this game would match up the 25th defense in the league (Ravens) against the 27th defense in the league (Giants)? The Giants need this game more and frankly, they are the better team at this point. I like the Giants to win and cover.

(Sun Nite) SF “pick ‘em” at Seattle (39): Once again, the Sunday night game is one that is worth waiting all day for; it is the best game of the weekend.. The Seahawks have scored 108 points in their last two games; I have a hunch that ultra-tightly wound Jim Harbaugh has communicated to his defense that he expects them to hold the Seahawks under 20 points. And if the Niners’ defense can do that, I think the Niners can win the game comfortably. The game features a match-up between two very hot teams and two really good young QBs; it also features a match-up between two very good RBs in Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore. That Totals Line looks low when you consider that the Seahawks scored 50 last week and the Niners scored 41, but it feels close to correct to me. Consider these contradictory Over/Under trends and it might suggest that you stay away from an Over/Under wager here:

    Niners are 4-2 to go Under in their last 6 road games.

    Seahawks are 14-6 to go Over in their last 20 home games.

    Niners are 5-2 to Under in their last 7 games against teams with winning records.

    Seahawks are 11-1 to go Over in their last 12 games in December.

The contradictory trends do not stop there. The Seahawks are 6-0 at home this year; the Falcons are the only other team that is undefeated at home this year. However, the Niners are a good road team; since Jim Harbaugh took over, the Niners are 11-4 on the road. I’ll take the Niners to win in this “pick ‘em” game.

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

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  • Rich  On December 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    A correction is in order here, Curmudgeon. The Jets, performance last Monday did in fact create a black hole, sucking in two stars (Sanchez-6 and Tebow-15), before drawing in another large object (R.Ryan), the posterior of which effectively blocked the hole, ending the threat of world destruction.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On December 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm


      And here I thought Rex Ryan was merely a mediocre football coach when in reality he saved all of the known universe. Thank you for the correction…

  • Doug  On December 23, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Two things from the Falcons-Lions game last night stand out. First, the run-first Falcons are really a passing team and should forget the running game except as a diversion. The conservative play calling in the 3rd quarter last night almost gave the game to Detroit. Maybe they can draft a running back and improve this part of their offense, but Michael Turner’s effectiveness is done.

    The other is the sad condition of Calvin Johnson. It seems he will forever be the greatest receiver in the history of the game and never have a championship ring. He is one of the rare collegiate stars who has actually been a better pro, even though his Ga Tech highlight video is spectacular. The 200 yard game he had last night did not seem all that special until you realized just haw many catches and yards he had gained. Even with all this, he seems happy to be playing a game clearly loves.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On December 24, 2012 at 11:39 am


      Agree that Michael Turner’s best days are behind him.

      Calvin Johnson is worth the price of admission – - except when you pay that price you have to watch the rest of that sorry-assed team too.

  • Ed  On December 24, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Calvin Johnson deserves a Ray Bourque ending – play most of your Hall of Fame career for one team that stinks, then at the end get traded for a couple of years, and contribute to a team that wins it all.

    Because they found an Incan tablet that supercedes the Mayans, that says if the Lions win a Super Bowl, that’s all she wrote.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On December 26, 2012 at 10:41 am


      Calvin Johnson has to become frustrated with the guys that the Lions’ FO continues to surround him with, doesn’t he?

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