As usual, I shall begin with a review of last week’s Mythical Picks:
I liked Chargers +7.5 against Eagles. Chargers won outright. Yes!
I liked Ravens – 6.5 over Browns. Ravens covered. Yes!
I liked Titans/Texans UNDER 44. The game went Over. No!
I liked Dolphins +3 against Colts. Dolphins won outright. Yes!
I liked Panthers/Bills UNDER 44. The game went Over. No!
I liked Rams/Falcons UNDER 47.5. The game went Over. No!
I liked Rams +6.5 vs. Falcons. Rams lost by 7. Double No!!
I liked Packers – 7 over Skins. Packers dominated. Yes!
I liked Chiefs – 3 over Cowboys. Chiefs won by only 1. No!
I liked Bears -6 over Vikes. Bears won by only 1. No!
I liked Saints -3 over Bucs. Saints won by only 2. No!
I liked Lions/Cards OVER 47.5. Total score was 46. No!
I liked Raiders – 5.5 vs. Jags. Raiders won by 10. Yes!
I liked Broncos/Giants Over 54.5. The game went Over. Yes!
I liked Niners/Seahawks UNDER 45. Game stayed Under. Yes!
I liked Steelers +7 against Bengals. Steelers lost by 10. No!
Last week’s Mythical Picks would not have been profitable; the final tally is 7-9. That result is sort of a good news/bad news situation:
The good news is that it is a helluva lot better than Week 1’s record of 3-13-1.
The bad news is that 7-9 does not help me in my quest to get the cumulative record back to .500 – or more elusively to “mythical profitability” status.
After two weeks, the cumulative record for the season stands at 10-22-1. Obviously, that record should not entice anyone to take these picks too seriously. Nonetheless, let me make it clear that one would need to be truly stupid to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend. Such a person would be dumb enough to think that “Arab Spring” is a new brand of deodorant soap.
Early this week, there seemed to be genuine interest in whether the Lions’ Reggie Bush might be able to play in this week’s game against the Redskins. Bush took a helmet to the knee in last week’s game against the Cardinals and had to leave the game. Subsequent tests showed no structural or long-term damage to his knee but he was very sore. If he does play and wears a knee brace for some reason, the game will feature two former Heisman Trophy winners in knee braces playing against each other. I wonder if that ever happened before…
Speaking of the Skins, you may not realize just how bad their defense has been this year. Granted, the Skins’ offense has not been great but here is what the defense has done in the first two games:
In the first halves of the two games, the Skins have allowed 693 yards and 38 first downs.
Of those 693 yards, 525 of the yards came on pass plays. Opposing QBs have thrown 39-52 for 5 TDs and 0 INTs in those first halves. [Aaron Rodgers went over 300 yards passing in the first half last weekend.]
Opposing running backs have averaged 5.9 yards per carry in those first halves.
In those two first halves, Skins’ opponents converted 16 of 21 attempts on third down.
The combined score at the end of the first half of the first two games is
Obviously, the Skins’ opponents dialed things down a tad in the second halves because the game was in hand. Last week, the Packers gave their defensive starters a lot more time on the sidelines during the second half than would have been the case if the outcome were remotely in doubt. And that is yet one more reason why I hate fantasy football. RG3 accumulated more than reasonable stats in the second halves of both games rewarding his fantasy team owners even though the stats came in totally meaningless action.
Granted, it was against the Skins’ abjectly inept pass defense that Aaron Rodgers threw for 480 yards last week. Nevertheless, it sure did not look to me as if he missed having Greg Jennings at WR even a little bit.
In my pre-season predictions for the NFL, I said that the Eagles’ defense was not good and that I did not see anything in the Chip Kelly history that indicated that he was the guy to lead a defensive resurgence for the Eagles. Yes, it has only been 2 games; but the Eagles’ defense is not only a weak link for the team but it is working against the offensive philosophy that Kelly wants to bring. The Eagles are not going to be able to run 85-90 plays per game if the opponents can play keep-away with the ball. Last week against the Chargers, it was the Chargers who ran off 79 plays in the game and they did not have to throw the offense into “Warp-drive” to do so.
On the other hand, do not blame the Browns’ 0-2 record on the Cleveland defense. That defense has played well and stopped both of its opponents’ ground games. Last week, the Ravens had only 58 yards rushing and the Cleveland defense shut out the Ravens for the first half. The problem is that the Cleveland offense only scored 6 points in that first half and then proceeded to score not a single other point for the game. The rushing game does not look to be much improved going forward since the Browns traded Trent Richardson to the Colts in the middle of this week.
Believe it or not, the Saints’ defense is the unit getting a ton of attention in 2013. They are improved from last year – but that is damning by faint praise because the Saints’ defense in 2012 was the worst statistical defense in the history of the NFL. No, this year, the defense is actually a team strength. In two games against division opponents, they have only given up a total of 31 points.
The early results for 2013 present fans with some questions about a three teams. Consider:
The Pats are 2-0 winning two ugly games against the Bills and the Jets. Are they “living on the edge” as a team whose luck will eventually run out and come crashing down?
The Bears are 2-0 and have needed last minute heroics to beat the Vikings and the Bengals. The same question applies here.
The Texans are 2-0 beating the Chargers on a last-second field goal and needing OT to beat the Titans. The same question applies here.
Here is the thing that fans of those teams have to console themselves with at this point of the season. There are no “style-points” awarded in the NFL; playoff slots are determined by won-lost records and nothing else; those three teams are all 2-0 and most other teams in their divisions cannot make the same claim.
I doubt that Seahawks’ fans are worried about their team “being for real”. The Niners are a good football team and what the Seahawks did to the Niners last weekend was a plain old beatdown.
Ryan Tannehill has looked very good in the first two games – both of which the Dolphins won on the road. Tannehill averages 299 yards per game passing with 2 TDs and 1 INT and he is averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt. That is a good average and it is an improvement over his numbers from last year. The next three games will tell fans if the Dolphins are for real; here is the hand they were dealt:
The Ravens won last week but just looked out of sync – particularly on offense. How much of that was due to the Browns’ playing tough defense (my hypothesis) as opposed to something just not going right for the Ravens?
The Bengals held the Steelers in check on MNF but it is hard to know if that was the Steelers ineptitude on offense or the Bengals’ defensive prowess. This week the Bengals play the Packers. That should tell Bengals’ fans a lot; the Packers’ offense is not inept.
The Steelers’ defense looked competent against the Bengals but you cannot make that claim for the Steelers’ offense. Shockingly, the Steelers only ran the ball for 44 yards in the game against the Bengals on 16 tries. If that does not improve quickly and significantly, the Steelers are toast. The stats say that Ben Roethlisberger was only sacked twice on Monday; however, if you watched the game he was under heavy pressure on at least 75% of the plays where he dropped back to pass. That too has to change quickly and significantly.
The Vikings can run the football. That sort of goes without saying since they have Adrian Peterson to hand the ball to. Nevertheless, if the Vikings hope to see a .500 record at the end of this season, they are going to have to throw the ball a lot better than they have in the first two games.
The Jets’ defense will keep the team in plenty of games. That fact may provide an interesting litmus test:
If Geno Smith is indeed going to become a quality NFL QB, he can demonstrate that career trajectory by pulling a few of these games out in the final moments.
The Giants have been stone-cold awful this year. In two games, their defense has given up 79 points; in those same games, the offense has turned the ball over 10 times. (Eli Manning has thrown 7 INTs already this year!) If that keeps up, there is the danger that Tom Coughlin’s blood pressure readings might hit “quadruple-digits”…
If there is some kind of schism that has developed between Josh Freeman and Coach Greg Schiano, that might explain Freeman’s play in the first two games. If not, his days as a QB in the NFL – let alone as a starting QB in the NFL – may be limited. Freeman showed a lot of promise early in his career but the trend line for his performance is definitely on the downslope over the last year or so.
The Panthers have not looked good in either game this year. Some folks have opined that Cam Newton may never live up to the “potential” that he flashed in his rookie year. I think it is too early to jump to that conclusion and would ask folks who might want to do that to consider the following:
When Cam Newton left the field with 1:38 to play in the game, the Panthers were ahead of the Bills 23-17. That loss belongs to the Panthers’ defense and not to Cam Newton or the offense.
The Jags are just brutally awful. Against the Raiders, their leading rusher was Maurice Jones-Drew who gained 27 yards on 10 carries; the total rushing offense for the game was 34 yards on 19 carries (1.8 yards per carry). Question:
Is it too early to start thinking about another 0-16 season?
Since these picks are made on International Talk Like A Pirate Day… By the way, how arrrr you celebrating the day?
(Thurs Nite) KC at Philly – 3.5 (51): Let me start off with two meaningless and contradictory trends here:
Eagles are 0-5 against the spread (ATS) in their last 5 home games.
Chiefs are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games as an underdog.
Shiver me timbers, one of those meaningless trends will end tonight. The Eagles are playing their 3rd game in 10 days. Yes, the last two have been at home but you might think that the schedule mavens might find a way to avoid such “over-crowding” in scheduling. The Chiefs bring a good running back to the game (Jamaal Charles) and a precision passing game. I think the Eagles’ defense will have trouble with that. Remember, the Eagles scored 30 points last week and lost the game. The Chiefs defense has been good in two games this year – albeit not against the frenetic offense they will see here. I like the Chiefs plus the points.
San Diego at Tennessee – 3 (44): The Chargers lost to the Texans two weeks ago in the final moments; last week they beat the Eagles in the final moments. Are they this year’s reincarnation of the “Cardiac Kids”? The Titans’ defense last year was not much more than a rumor; it has been much improved in the first two games. I think we will see points going up on the scoreboard here, so I’ll take the game to go OVER.
Cleveland at Minnesota – 5.5 (41): This line opened the week at 3 points and jumped to this level. One sportsbook has the spread at 6 points as of this morning. Christian Ponder and the passing game for the Vikings have been disappointing; the Vikings defense has been more than merely disappointing giving up 30 points in each of the first two games and something in the vicinity of 800 yards too. Aye, the Vikings have played like bilge rats thus far. The Browns defense has been solid but the Browns’ offense seems to have gone AWOL. The removal of Trent Richardson from the squad via trade does not appear to help out in that dimension. The announcement that Bryan Hoyer will be the starting QB this week does not appear to help either – unless the objective is for the Browns to tank the season and seek the top pick in the draft next May. The Browns have a new QB here who probably “has no chemistry with his WRs” and who has yet to show he can even play in the NFL; they have a void at RB; their WRs scare no one. I’ll take the Vikes to win and cover here – with no conviction at all.
Tampa at New England – 7 (44): For the past couple of seasons, if you saw a Total Line on a Pats’ game at 44-points, you would have thought it was a prop bet on how many points the Pats would score by themselves. Not so to this point of the 2013 season. If you are a “trend watcher”, this pair of trends might send you straight to the betting window; it should not but it might…:
Pats are 5-1 going UNDER in their last 6 games versus the Bucs.
Bucs are 6-0 going UNDER in their last 6 games.
However, you might be confused with these two trends:
Pats are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games versus NFC teams
Bucs are 3-6 ATS in their last 9 games versus AFC teams.
Trends are not going to make a pick here. The Pats have the better QB and a solid if not spectacular defense. I like the Pats to win and cover at home.
Houston – 2.5 at Baltimore (45): Frankly, I am surprised that the Texans are favored in this game. In their first two games, the Texans have been all out to beat the likes of the Chargers and the Titans. I said above that the Ravens’ offense looked out of sync last week, but I believe that the Ravens are better than both the Chargers and the Titans. I like the Ravens plus the points at home. Arrgh, if ye cannot find a parrot to put on your shoulder, use a raven.
St. Louis at Dallas – 4 (47.5): I do not have a good sense of either team here. I like the Rams’ pass rush from their front seven; I like the Cowboys WRs. My biggest problem is that I do not have a ton of faith in either QB here; both can light it up one week and then look like a stiff the next. This is a coin flip game. The coin says take the Rams plus the points.
Arizona at New Orleans – 7 (49): After two consecutive division games, the Saints return home to face a conference foe that they have seen only 4 times since 2004. In those 4 games, the home team has won every time and the margin of victory has always been 7 points or more. Larry Fitzgerald is listed as “Questionable” for this game with a hamstring injury. If he cannot play – and by that, I mean play near his normal level of competence –, the Cardinals’ defense will have to be the unit that keeps the Cards in the game. I do not think that unit is up to the task. I like the Saints to win and cover at home.
Detroit at Washington – 2 (49): Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Michael Spurlock should be licking their chops after watching the Redskins’ defense play pass coverage in the first two games this year. Calvin Johnson’s career record for receiving yards in a game is 244 (against the Packers in January 2012); if the Skins secondary covers and tackles as they have in Games 1 & 2, that record will fall here. Then again, you have to take into account the Cementhead Factor – and the Lions as a team are Les Grandes Cementheads. They invent dumb things to do to lose games. Remember, the Lions have never – as in not one single time – won a road football game against the Washington Redskins. I like this game to go OVER. Arrgh, the losing team here should be made to walk the plank!
Green Bay – 3 at Cincy (48): Cincy opened as a 1-point favorite in this game but that did not last long. After watching the Bengals play defense on MNF, I am confident that Aaron Rodgers will not throw for 300 yards in the first half of this game as he did last week. Rodgers is clearly the better QB in this game but I think the Bengals’ defense is also the clearly better unit in this game. Here is a meaningless trend stat for this game:
The last time the Bengals lost a home game to a team from the NFC North was in 2001.
Of course, they only play that division in the other conference every 4 years and only play half of those NFC North teams at home…
Just a hunch, but I like the Bengals at home plus the points. If you like the Pack here, shop the line because you can find it as low as 2 points at one sportsbook.
Giants at Carolina – 1.5 (45.5): This line opened at 2.5 points and has been dropping slowly all week. One sportsbook has this game as a pick’em game. Neither team has impressed so far this year; both need to come about smartly, matey. That is the polite way to say it; actually, both teams aspire to be called “disappointing” based on their first two outings of 2013. The Giants have done nothing noteworthy (in a positive way) on either offense or defense this year. The Panthers have been anemic on offense and decent on defense – until the critical moment when the team needs a stop and then the defense concedes. Purely a hunch here; I’ll take the Giants with the point-and-a-half. Do not bet for real on these two unreliable sides.
Atlanta at Miami – 2.5 (44/45): The Dolphins opened as a 1-point favorite and the line has climbed slowly to this level. The Falcons will play without Steven Jackson in this game; that thigh injury he suffered last week is obviously more than just a bruise. In addition, Falcons’ LB Sean Weatherspoon went on IR earlier this week. The Dolphins come home after two highly successful visits to the Midwest to start the season. These teams have not seen each other a lot in the recent past; they have only played 3 games since 2001. The teams are pretty evenly matched except for one area. The Falcons defense has given up almost 85 yards per game more than the Dolphins’’ defense has. I like the Dolphins to win and cover at home.
Indy at SF – 10 (46): OK, the storyline here is that the upstart kid QB goes up against his college coach/mentor. Who will get the best of the other? Frankly, I think that the key to this game lies outside the ambit of that interaction. The fact is that the Colts do not stop the run very well and the Niners can – when they choose to – run the ball very well. The aspect of the game that does lie within the ambit of the “mentor/mentee” relationship is that the Colts’ OL is not the league’s best at pass protection and the Niners’ front seven does know how to apply meaningful pressure to the QB. Let me be clear here; I have a high regard for both of the young QBs in this game. I just think that the Niners are a significantly better team at this moment. The addition of Trent Richardson may help the Colts’ offense down the line but not this week. Here are two trends that I like simply because they reinforce the pick that I made before looking for these trends:
Indy is 2-6 in its last 8 games ATS when it is the underdog on the road.
SF is 14-5 in its last 19 games ATS at home.
Despite hating to lay double-digit points in the NFL, I will take the Niners to win and cover here.
Jax at Seattle – 19.5 (40.5): This line opened at 16.5 and jumped immediately to this level. Two offshore sportsbooks have the spread at 20 points this morning. If I am averse to laying double-digit points, what adjective might there apply to laying two times double-digit points? By the way, if you think the Jags can actually win this road game, you can get them at +1700 on the money line. Arrrrgh, if you think the Jags can actually win this game, your brain must be pickled in rum, matey. You are not going to see money line odds of that kind in the NFL more than once or twice every couple of years. The Jags were in Oakland last week; by the time they complete this set of flights to and from Jax to the West Coast they should have Platinum Special Select Status on every airline in the Western World. I flipped a coin and the coin said to take the game to stay UNDER. Do not bet on this game; in fact, do not watch it unless you have a blood relative closer than a first cousin participating in the game.
Buffalo at Jets – 2.5 (39): Neither team is the worst team in the AFC to be sure. Nonetheless, this is not an attractive game. It will not be shown outside the viewing radius where it must be shown according to the TV contract between the NFL and CBS. Aye, it would be torture for our captives to make ‘em watch this bilge. I might call this game A Tale of Two Rookie QBs. However, if I did that, Charles Dickens would likely do a pinwheel in his grave. I do not like either team here. Ergo, I shall fall back onto one of my rules of thumb:
In a game that I think will be very low scoring, I take the points.
I’ll take the Bills plus the points – for mythical purposes only.
(Sun Nite) Chicago – 2.5 at Pittsburgh (40.5): The Bears are 2-0 and will know the outcome of the games for the rest of the NFC North as they prepare to take the field against a Steelers’ team that arrives with an 0-2 record. The Bears will need a win to maintain control in the NFC North; the Steelers will need a win to remain relevant in the AFC North after losing their first two games to the Titans and the Bengals. I see this as a defensive game and unless there are Pick Six scores and/or TDs resulting from the return game, I think this game will stay close all game long. Therefore, I like the Steelers plus the points and I like the game to stay UNDER.
(Mon Nite) Oakland at Denver – 15.5 (49): The only positive factor I might put on the Raiders’ side of the ledger here is that the Broncos’ All-Pro tackle, Ryan Clady, has been put on IR and is out for the year. The Broncos are just better than the Raiders on offense, defense and all special teams aspects save field goal distance potential. I will not deign to compare Terrelle Pryor to Peyton Manning nor will I suggest that the Raiders’ defense is at a similar level of effectiveness as that of the Broncos. Notwithstanding all of that, I will take the Raiders plus that basketful of points.
Oh, before I end this:
What do you call a pirate with both hands, both legs and both eyes?
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………