Let me begin with an announcement:
There will be no Mythical Picks next week. I shall be out of the country visiting my son, daughter-in-law and grandson; this is the trip that I was supposed to take in October but Hurricane Sandy intervened.
Mythical Picks will return in 2 weeks for the rest of the playoffs.
Here is a look at last week’s Mythical Picks:
I liked Falcons -3.5 over Lions. Falcons covered comfortably. Yes!
I liked Titans +13 against Packers. Packers won by 48 points. Boo!
I liked Panthers -8.5 over Raiders. Panthers covered. Yes!
I liked Bills/Dolphins Over 41.5. The game stayed Under. Boo!
I liked Steelers -3.5 over Bengals. Bengals won outright. Boo!
I liked Pats -14.5 over Jags. Pats won but did not cover. Boo!
I liked Colts -6.5 over Chiefs. Colts won by 7 points. Yes!
I liked Cowboys -1 against Saints. Saints won the game. Boo!
I liked Eagles +7 against Redskins. The game was a Push.
I liked Rams +3 against Bucs. Rams won outright. Yes!
I liked Vikes +9 against Texans. Vikes won outright by 17. Yes!
I liked Chargers/Jets Over 40. The game went Over. Yes!
I liked Browns/Broncos Over 44. The game went Over. Yes!
I liked Bears/Cards Under 37. The game went Over. Boo!
I liked Giants -1 over Ravens. Ravens won by 19 points. Boo!
I liked Niners over Seahawks “pick ‘em”. Niners lost big. Boo!
Last week was mythically unprofitable with a record of 7-8-1. For the season, Mythical Picks remain in a mythically profitable zone with a cumulative record of 130-107-7. As always, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a decision on which side to back in a real wager involving real money on an actual NFL game this weekend. Anyone dumb enough to do that probably also thinks that asphalt is a butt pimple.
As we approach the final week of the regular season, we might be in a postion to identify the worst NFL team of the year. I do not mean the most disappointing team (Eagles, Steelers, Panthers, Saints); I mean the worst team in the league. And the nominees are:
Arizona Cardinals (5-10): Do not be fooled by those 5 wins. In a quarterback-driven league, the Cards have four guys who do not make the grade. Kevin Kolb is marginal when healthy – but does not stay healthy. John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer cannot play.
Jax Jaguars (2-13): Here is another team with serious quarterbacking issues. Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne and Jordan Palmer will not get the job done. Mike Mularkey is the first year coach of the Jags and there is at least a 50% chance that this will be his last year as the coach of the Jags.
KC Chiefs (2-13): Is there an echo in here? The Chiefs have tried to make do with Matt Cassell, Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi. Romeo Crennel is in his first year as coach of the Chiefs and there is an excellent chance that he will not be there next year. Even if he is, there will have to be huge changes made in KC.
Oakland Raiders (4-11): Carson Palmer is by far the best QB on the listings here but he is not able to carry a team. Behind him are Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor. Maybe Pryor can play; we have never had the opportunity to observe him on the field on a Sunday in a game that counts. Dennis Allen is the first year coach there; my guess is that he gets another year in Oakland but it will have to be a lot better than this one for him to be there in 2014.
Hovering just outside this ring of pro football Quarterbacking Hell are the Tennessee Titans. I know that Jake Locker has had injuries in his first two seasons but I also get this vibe when I see him play that this is a guy who looks just good enough every third play to give you false hope that he will develop into a real QB. I am beginning to have doubts about him…
As the season draws to a close and the playoff picture in both conferences is relatively set, this week is more like the last week of Exhibition Season than anything else. Teams will be resting players if they are going to the playoffs; teams will be inserting back-up players to get a look at them in “real game conditions” so that decisions on their future will have some film to back up the decisions. Some coaches will try to “build momentum” this week that will – theoretically – carry over into September 2013. [Good luck with that!] Some teams will hope to create a level of interest in their fanbases that will carry over into September 2013. [An active free agency season and a good draft will do more to raise interest for 2013 than anything done this weekend.] In short, there are a bunch of games this weekend that just do not matter even a little bit.
Here is an assessment of the Miami Dolphins’ final home game of the season (last weekend) from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
“Sunday [12/23] marks the Dolphins’ final home game of this NFL season, and the club is calling it Fan Appreciation Day. Anybody else but me see a shade of irony in that?
“The Dolphins appreciating their fans is something like me thanking the Pulitzer Prize selection committee for all of their unending support.
“I’m not knocking the fans who show up. They deserve medals. I mean fan support in general. Miami this season has the league’s lowest percentage of available tickets sold. The average paid attendance of 58,094 is the worst since the club began keeping track in 1997 — with no-shows whittling the actual attendance to notably lower than that.”
For the record, sun Life Stadium in Miami holds 76,100 folks. That means the paid attendance is only 76% of capacity…
Titans’ owner, Bud Adams, said that he would meet with Titans’ coach Mike Munchak and other staff members after the season is over to get an explanation of what happened to the Titans this year. Adams said he likes Mike Munchak but he expressed his deep disappointment in the 2012 season. Munchak has been a player, assistant coach and head coach with the Titans (and the Oilers before that) since 1982. Now, Bud Adams wants to know why he is so disappointed in the 2012 season.
Memo to Bud Adams:
1. You are disappointed because the Titans just are not that good a football team. A big problem is that they do not have an above average QB on the roster.
2. However, before you do anything rash, think back to the last time you meddled with the “football side” of the team and made them draft Vince Young. How did that work out for you – in addition to the cost to the team of losing a damned good coach in Jeff Fisher?
Steelers’ fans need to stop bellyaching about the playcalling by offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Look, Haley is not a loveable guy so he is an easy target when things go wrong. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that the Steelers lost their last two games because Ben Roethlisberger threw 2 INTs late in both games that led to the opponent kicking a winning field goal. That is not playcalling; that is execution.
The Jets went with Greg McElroy last week and the OL responded to his leadership by allowing him to be sacked 11 times in the game. On a couple of the sacks, he did not have enough time to fart between the snap of the ball and the hit by the defender. Earlier this week, there were reports that McElroy did not practice and that could mean he might not play this weekend leaving Rex Ryan with a Sanchez/Tebow decision to make. Talk about a no win situation for Rex… Then the news came this morning that McElroy was out for the game because he did not pass the NFL concussion protocol. Mark Sanchez returns under center for the Jets…
The KC Chiefs lost to the Indy Colts last week. That is not a surprise; the Chiefs are 2-13 for the year. Here is what is amazing; the Chiefs ran the ball for 352 yards against the Colts’ defense and still lost the game. 352 yards rushing only produced 13 points. Are you kidding me?
Here are two facts from last weekend that you need to juxtapose:
Charles Tillman had a “Pick Six” last week for the Bears against the Cardinals. That is the 8th INT returned for a TD by the Bears this season.
The Eagles intercepted a pass against the Redskins last weekend. It was the first pass the Eagles had intercepted in nine weeks.
The Pro Bowl selections came out this week. They are nice honors for the players so named but the game is disastrously silly and many players would prefer just to collect the bonus money that is in their contract for making the team but not play in the game. You can be sure that 25% of the selectees will find a reason to have someone else stand in for them in the game.
And that is why anyone who writes or talks about someone being “snubbed” in the Pro Bowl selection process is a stone-cold moron. The fact is that the Pro Bowl is a beauty contest and nothing more; without objective criteria for selection, everyone who is not picked is equally snubbed. Consider these two situations and tell me why they make me want to watch the game:
The KC Chiefs (record is 2-13) have 5 players in the Pro Bowl. Seriously…
Jeff Saturday will be the center for the NFC in the Pro Bowl despite the fact that he has been demoted to second-string by his team – the Packers.
I doubt that it will happen, but I believe that two very strong contenders for NFL Coach of the Year are Bruce Arians (even though he was technically the “interim” head coach for most of the season) and Jeff Fisher. They should both be close up in the running for the honor – but I suspect that they will not be there.
The NFL has floated the trial balloon about expanding the NFL playoffs from 12 teams to 16 teams. Looking at the playoff structure this year – and then looking at the teams who are on the outside looking in – please tell me which four of these teams you would add to the playoff mix in Jan 2013 to make the playoffs even more interesting football:
San Diego Chargers
St. Louis Rams
Redskins/Cowboys loser on Sunday.
Bottom line here: Twelve teams in the playoffs are sufficient…
Like last week, there are plenty of games on the card this weekend that are less than optimal wagering opportunities. There are games where neither team has any real stake in the outcome; there are games where one team needs a win for playoff viability but has been playing terribly lately; there are mismatches galore. If I had actually made wagers on all the Mythical Picks made here this year, I would be sitting on a profit right now. Were that the case, I would probably just sit on that profit and wait for playoff time rather than wager on some of these dog games.
Jets at Buffalo – 3 (39.5): Let me be clear; this is an awful game; it is one of the two worst games of the week. Neither team is very good; neither team has anything to gain or lose from the outcome. In case you did not know, this is the 12th year that the Bills have missed the playoffs and that is the longest streak of its kind in the NFL. The Jets have beaten the Bills the last 6 times they have played each other. Mark Sanchez will start at QB but who knows what Rex Ryan and his band of merry men might be contemplating for the QB position (Sanchebow?); but in the end, does it really matter when the opposing QB is Ryan Fitzpatrick? The Jets’ offense this year averages less than 300 yards per game; that ranks them 15th in the AFC… If I were tasked to find something interesting about the game, it would be this:
The Bills have a pathetic rushing defense (5.1 yards per carry) but the Jets have an equally pathetic rushing offense (3.8 yards per carry).
Something has to give… unless the Jets decide not to run the ball all day long.
Do not wager on this game. In fact, do not watch it either. Since I promised to make a pick in every game here, I’ll take the game to stay Under.
Baltimore at Cincy – 1 (41): A month ago, this looked as if it could be one of the top games on the card for this weekend; not any more… This is a meaningless game since both teams are definitely in the playoffs. Who knows how seriously either team or coaching staff will take the game under those circumstances. Nonetheless, the teams are good enough to merit watching the game if it is available in your viewing area. It might be sort of important for the Bengals to prove to themselves that they can actually beat the Ravens; Andy Dalton has never done that. Since the Ravens are so much better at home than on the road, this might be the time and place for the Bengals to do that. By the way, this is the first time since the 1981/82 seasons that the Bengals have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Here are two conflicting trends for this game:
Bengals are 2-6 in their last 8 games ATS playing at home.
Bengals are 5-2 in their last 7 games ATS playing the Ravens.
I’ll take the Bengals and lay the point.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh (no lines): I presume the reason for “no lines” is the injury status for both Brandon Weedon (doubtful) and Colt McCoy (questionable) on Sunday. [In case you are interested, the two QBs behind Weedon and McCoy are rookie Thaddeus Lewis from Duke and Josh Johnson late of the Tampa Bay Bucs whom the Browns signed earlier this week.] The game is meaningless even though it is a division game between two teams that have a longstanding rivalry. The Browns are quite used to playing meaningless games; the Steelers not so much. Should the Browns win, they would sweep the Steelers for the first time in more than 20 years and it would give the Steelers a losing record in their division. I foresee a low scoring game under any circumstances – but I will not be watching it…
Houston – 7 at Indy (no line): First of all, I do not know why there is no Totals Line for this game. The game will be played in a dome so despite the fact that Indy has a Buffalonian amount of snow on the ground, the game will be played under near ideal conditions. These teams met two weeks ago in Texas and the Texans prevailed – but did not dominate. A win assures the Texans of home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs; the Colts are also in the playoffs but they cannot change their wild-card status. The Texans have never won a game in Indy. Of course, when they traveled there in the past, Peyton Manning was waiting there for them. This week, Chuck Pagano returns to the team from three months of chemotherapy to provide an emotional jolt to the Colts. The Colts are 6-1 at home this season and they are 9-1 against the spread in their last 10 home games. I mention that last trend simply because it supports my selection here. I am very impressed with Andrew Luck’s ability to rally the Colts in the 4th quarter. Therefore, despite the fact that I think the Texans are a better team, I’ll take the Colts here plus the points.
Jax at Tennessee – 4 (42): This is the other of the “two worst games of the weekend”. Neither team has been relevant in any discussion of the playoffs since September and they arrive here with a combined record of 7-23. This game is not worth the electricity it would take to run the TV set to allow you to watch it. The Jags are last in the AFC in both offense and defense. The Titans are 11th in offense and 13th in defense in the AFC. Both teams will put marginal QBs on the field; the difference in the game will likely be the Titans’ running attack with CJ Spiller. The Jags just do not have a running back of that caliber. The Jags also are not a good road team; they are 1-6 on the road so far this year. Here is a trend that goes against my pick in this game:
Titans are 6-13 in their last 19 games ATS when they are favored.
Do not wager on this game and do not watch it either. For mythical purposes only, I’ll take the Titans at home and lay the points.
Quick Quiz: Will either, both or neither coach in this game be back next year in the same job?
Philly at Giants – 9 (46): I know the Giants are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet but too many things have to fall just right to say they have a real chance to play on beyond this weekend. The Eagles have just plain stunk since early October. This game looked as if it would be highly relevant back in September but it is only ever so slightly above meaningless at this point. Nick Foles broke his hand last week against the Redskins so Michael Vick will return to the starting QB role. Frankly, Vick should be motivated here to demonstrate that he can still be a starting NFL QB because he is most likely going to be on the market once free agency gets under way. Eli Manning simply has not looked like himself in the last several games; I will leave the explanation for that appearance to the talking-heads on ESPN. This is purely a hunch but I’ll take the Eagles plus the points.
Chicago – 3 at Detroit (44.5): The Bears can still make the playoffs – with a win here and a little help from their friends. The Lions have flamed out and now own the NFL’s longest losing streak at 7 games. The Lions are playing for pride… Get it? Lions … pride… Hold your applause; I’ll be here all week. I have seen the Lions too many times this year to have any interest in betting on them or even giving them a nod in their last appearance in Mythical Picks for the year. I’ll take the Bears and lay the points. I make that pick knowing that Calvin Johnson will be gunning to reach the 2000-yard mark for receiving yardage here (he needs 108 yards receiving in this game to do that) and that Bears’ RB, Matt Forte was wearing a walking boot earlier this week.
Tampa at Atlanta (no lines): This is a meaningless game. The Falcons have home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs; the Bucs are staying home for the playoffs. In the last two games, Josh Freeman has thrown 8 INTs; the Bucs lost those two games by a combined score of 69-13. Despite the Falcons being 7 games up on the Bucs, these teams are remarkably similar statistically:
Bucs are 6th in total offense in the NFC; Falcons are 5th.
Bucs are 14th in total defense in the NFC; Falcons are 12th.
Might this be a week where we see Luke McCown play some QB for the Falcons or maybe even Dominique Davis? Perhaps … but that is still not enough to get me to watch the game.
Carolina at New Orleans – 6 (54): Both of these teams expected more from the 2012 season than they produced. The only small motivational factor here is that the coaches will urge the teams to “go out on a high note”. The only “going out on a high note” that seemed to work really well was Madeline Kahn as Elizabeth in Young Frankenstein. This game has the makings of a scoring festival; both teams move the ball well and neither defense is anything special; however, that Totals Line is awfully high. (If both QBs come out hot and figure out how to dictate to the defense, do not be surprised if there are 70+ points on the board at the end of this game.) I’ll take the Panthers plus the points.
Miami at New England – 10 (47): The Pats can still get a bye-week in the AFC playoffs but it will take a win here and losses by both the Texans and the Broncos. I know that low-probability events happen every day, but I just do not see both the Texans and the Broncos losing this week. Nonetheless, the Pats do need to tune up their offense, which has sputtered a bit in the last two weeks. The Dolphins enter the game with a 7-8 record but that is not out of line with what most folks thought they could achieve this season. The Dolphins have gone to Foxboro 10 times since Tom Brady has been the Pats’ QB and their record in those games is 1-9. I am flipping a coin here in Curmudgeon Central in accordance with the long-standing protocol for coin flipping here and the coin says to take the game to stay Under.
Green Bay – 3 at Minnesota (46.5): This is the second best game of the weekend because it means something to both teams. The Vikings need a win for the playoffs; the Packers need a win for a bye week. Oh, and as a side note, Adrian Peterson is shooting for a 2000-yard season (needs 102 yards to do that) and for Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record (needs 208 yards to do that). In the first Vikes/Packers game, Peterson ran for 210 yards. This game is worth tuning in to watch. In the pass-happy days of the NFL, this is not a stat you often see:
Vikes average 5.4 yards per rush and 5.5 yards per pass.
Yes, that means they have an exceptionally good running game and a truly bad passing attack. The Packers have won the last five games in this series. I like the Packers to win and cover – even on the road against a team that has a reason to play hard.
KC at Denver – 17 (42): This game is why the Pats have no real chance to get a playoff bye. If the Texans lose, Denver will know that before kickoff and Denver then will have the motivation to play for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. I really do not think the Chiefs can stop that even with their 5 Pro Bowl players. The Broncos have won 10 games in a row; the last time they lost was October 7 in an away game in New England. I think we will see back-up players for the Broncos for a significant portion of this game. Therefore, I’ll take the Chiefs with a three-score cushion here.
Oakland at San Diego (no lines): Frankly, I am glad there are no lines on this game because I really do not want to have to make a pick. The game is meaningless; the teams have both been underachieving dogs. The Raiders are 1-6 on the road this year and they have been outscored by 16.7 points per game when away from home. I wonder if Terrelle Pryor will get any meaningful playing time in this game. If he does not, perhaps it means that the Raiders’ coaching staff has seen enough of him in practice to know that he is a stiff. I really do not care who wins or loses this game – except for one non-football issue:
If the Chargers were to win this game convincingly, do you think that the Chargers’ owners would hold off on the announcement that Norv Turner is fired as head coach until after the players finish their celebration in the locker room or will the owner go into the locker room and fire him there?
Like I said, I do not care about this game and I am glad I do not even have to flip a coin regarding a pick here.
Arizona at SF – 17.5 (39): The Niners can still lose the NFC West but in order to do that they have to lose this game. If the Niners lose this game they damned well do not deserve to be the NFC West champions. The Cards are unlikely to score very much here but their defense is still good enough to keep the Niners’ offense from running wild. In a low scoring game, I have to take that many points. Give me the Cards plus the points – and please let the Cards’ offense (I am looking at you, Brian Hoyer in your first NFL starting assignment) avoid turning the ball over to the Niners with a short field.
St. Louis at Seattle – 10.5 (41.5): The Seahawks are en fuego (tip of the hat to Dan Patrick for that). The Rams are undefeated in NFC West division games this year and I like the Rams defense, but the Seahawks do not lose at home and they are not going to lose here. The question is can they cover that number… Here is a “something’s got to give situation”:
Seahawks are 7-0 ATS this season at home
Rams are 6-1 ATS this season on the road
My choices here are to go against a team that has scored 150 points in its last 3 games or to go against a Jeff Fisher concocted defense and lay double digit points. Oh, swell… I like the Seahawks to win and cover here – for mythical purposes only.
(Sun Nite) Dallas at Washington – 3 (48): This is the best game of the weekend because the winner takes all the cheese and goes to the playoffs as the NFC East champion. Here are some questions for this game:
Which Tony Romo will show up – “Good Tony” who protects the ball or “Turnover Tony”?
Is Robert Griffin III fully healthy? He did not run all that well last week against the Eagles.
Is Demarcus Ware healthy enough to play like Demarcus Ware?
How many DBs do the Redskins need to deploy in order to cover Dez Bryant effectively?
The Redskins have won 6 games in a row; their last loss was on November 4. The Cowboys are 5-2 in their last 7 games. However, in last week’s game against the Saints, the Cowboys defense allowed 446 yards passing and a total of 562 yards of offense. That will not get the job done here. I like the Redskins to win and cover here.
Finally, I used a Greg Cote line from the Miami Herald above, so let me close with another of his observations:
“Ex-Dolphin great Manny Fernandez took a shot at general manager Jeff Ireland’s drafting, saying, ‘Even a blind hawk finds an acorn once in a while.’ Yes, the bromide usually mentions a blind squirrel. What happened was, a hawk swooped into Manny’s metaphor and ate the squirrel.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………