HAZMAT ALERT! There has been a breach in the containment system; everyone put on your gas masks and protection gear. THIS IS NOT A DRILL!
OK you have been warned. It is time to look at the disaster that was last week’s Mythical Picks:
I liked Bears -7.5 over Giants. Bears won by 6. No!
I liked Packers -3 over Ravens. Packers won by only 2. No!
I liked Bengals -7 over Bills. Bengals won by 3 in OT. No!
I liked Browns +3 against Lions. Lions won by 14. No!
I liked Texans -7.5 over Rams. Rams won outright. No!
I liked Raiders +9 against Chiefs. Not enough points. No!
I liked Vikes +2 against Panthers. Vikes lost by 25. No!
I liked Steelers +2.5 over Jets. Steelers covered. Yes!
I liked Eagles/Bucs UNDER 46. Total was 51. No!
I liked Broncos -26.5 over Jags. Broncos did not cover. No!
I liked Seahawks/Titans OVER 40.5. Total score was 33. No!
I liked Saints +3 against Pats. The game was a Push.
I liked Cards +11 against Niners. Cards lost by 12. No!
I liked Redskins/Cowboys OVER 53. Total was 47. No!
I liked Colts – 1.5 over Chargers. Chargers won outright. No!
That is the single worst week of Mythical Picks since their inception more than a decade ago. The tally for last week was 1-13-1. That brings the season total to a disastrous 33-63-2.
Let me do a little math here. There have been 92 games in the NFL this year; there are 256 games in the NFL regular season plus 11 playoff games making the total 267 games. Ergo, there are 175 games left.
I will not make picks in all those games because I already know that I will be out of the country for at least one weekend – and possibly two – later in the season. Moreover, there are those pesky Thursday Night games that I sometimes ignore because I do not make the picks until Friday morning. So, let me estimate that I will make selections in 150 games for the rest of the NFL season. If my goal now is merely to claw my way back to .500 in the picks, I need to be 30 games over .500 for the rest of the season. That means I have to be 90-60 for the rest of the season; I have to pick at a rate of 60% over the rest of the season. And the difficulty here would be…?
Before a bunch of folks communicate that I am the Supreme Dumbass of the Known Universe based on last week’s selections, allow me to observe that is it not easy to amass a 1-13-1 record any more than it is easy to amass a 13-1-1 record. Try it; make all the picks against your logic and/or your “astral projection/spiritual connection with the forces of the universe” and see if you can go 1-13-1 – or worse.
Obviously, none of the information in these Mythical Picks gives one an edge when deciding if or how to wager on NFL games; those numbers speak for themselves on that matter. However, just be sure … Only a moron would use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on an NFL game this weekend. Here is how I might describe anyone who would consider doing that:
His is a .22 caliber intellect in a .357 Magnum world.
After Matt Schaub had to leave the Texans/Rams game last weekend, his backup, TJ Yates, came into the game and promptly threw a Pick Six returned 98 yards. Schaub had a string of 4 straight games with a Pick Six working but was injured before he could extend the streak to 5. Perhaps Yates’ Pick Six was an homage to the Texans’ fallen leader. On the other hand, maybe it was just Yates’ fundamental mediocrity coming to the fore…
In basketball, players strive to achieve a “double-double”. Last weekend, the Raiders achieved an ignominious “double-double” in their loss to the Chiefs:
1. The Raiders committed 11 penalties
2. The Raiders gave up 10 sacks.
If you would like a recipe for losing NFL games, that kind of a “double-double” is a pretty reliable way to achieve that dubious end.
By sacking Terrelle Pryor 10 times last week, the Chiefs raised their sack total for the first 6 games of the year to 31. Last year, the Chiefs recorded only 27 sacks for all 16 games.
There was a note in the NY Daily News last week as the Giants prepared to take on the Bears. According to the report there, at the beginning of the year, the Giants started a “countdown clock” in their locker room that counted down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the Super Bowl in February. Even though the Giants are now 0-6 and are unlikely participants in the playoffs – let alone the Super Bowl – they should keep that countdown going. After all, they would not want to miss the game on TV, would they?
Eli Manning threw 3 more INTs against the Bears – to be fair, one of them was absolutely not his fault – and no one can argue that those INTs helped the Giants’ cause in any way. Nevertheless, there is plenty of blame to go around in the Giants’ locker room for that loss. For example, the defensive line applied exactly no pressure on Jay Cutler for the entire game. In the midst of the 4th quarter, there was a screen graphic that said Cutler had experienced no sacks and only 3 “Hurries” in the game. Basically, he sat back there in comfort on passing plays.
Meanwhile the Bears survived despite playing without three of their best defensive linemen and they lost starting LB, DJ Williams, in the 3rd quarter.
By the way, I have not heard from Antrel Rolle yet as to whether the Giants are going to win their next 10 games in a row and take the NFC East with a 10-6 record.
Having mentioned the NFC East, the Eagles and Cowboys meet this weekend and the winner will be in the lead in the division with a 4-3 record. Given the mediocrity – to be polite – that pervades the NFC East, let me provide a series of prop bets with odds for your consideration. [These are not actual prop bets; I made these up.]
A 9-7 record would win the NFC East this year.
Yes – 220
An 8-8 record would win the NFC East this year
An 8-8 record would win the NFC East this year without needing a tiebreaker.
An 8-8 record would win the NFC East this year by more than a 1-game margin.
Earlier this week, Vince Young “tweeted” that he is READY when and if the Houston Texans call him to come in and play QB for his hometown team. Young obviously wants to play NFL football and the fact that his “homies” might need a QB with Matt Schaub injured last week makes his enthusiasm for that opportunity easy to understand. Add to all that, Young needs the job and the money it will bring; he is still involved in a bankruptcy proceeding.
However, such a public “pleading” for a job demonstrates the level of esteem that NFL personnel folks have for Vince Young and his QB skills at this moment. Look at some of the back-up QBs on various rosters; make a realistic assessment of their competency levels; then recognize that Vince Young remains unemployed. There is a message there…
Last weekend, backup QBs started 7 games and lost 6 of them. Only Nick Foles came out a winner. The losers were:
Recognize, that there are QBs on the bench behind those guys and you will get an appreciation for the way NFL coaches and GMs think about Vince Young’s value in October 2013. Moreover, the Bills signed Matt Flynn earlier this week instead of giving Young an opportunity to work out for the coaches there…
After the Cowboys beat the Redskins last week, there was great weeping and gnashing of teeth here in the DC area. Notwithstanding the loss, the Skins’ defense played a lot better than they had up to that point of the season and RG3 looked a lot more mobile/agile/spry than he had in the first 4 games. The Skins’ special teams were awful; they gave up a long punt return for a TD and a 90-yard kickoff return. Nevertheless, even after those gaffes, the Skins had some momentum and only trailed 21-16; then, they spit the bit. Tony Romo did not play well in the game, but he did close it out – which is something he does not always do for the Cowboys.
To that point about Romo’s late-game “difficulties”, Dwight Perry had this line in the Seattle Times:
“This just in: Dallas Cowboys sign Mariano Rivera to act as Tony Romo’s closer.”
By the way, the Dallas defensive line is also down three of its starters from the beginning of the season now that DeMarcus Ware is out for at least a couple of weeks with an injury sustained last Sunday night.
The Niners beat the Cards 32-20. Scoring 32 points might make you think that the Niners offense was on its game. Well, Colin Kaepernick was not; he continued to look nothing like the efficient and effective QB he was at the end of last season. Yes, he threw for 252 yards. However, 96 of those yards came on two TD passes to Vernon Davis where there were no defenders in the same zip code with Davis when he caught the ball. There was no challenge involved in the completion of either pass.
You have to have heard about and seen the ending of the Pats/Saints game. With all the last-minute heroics on both sides leading up to Tom Brady being the final hero, that was a joy to watch – unless you live in New Orleans.
The Seahawks win over the Titans belongs to the Seahawks’ defense. They held Chris Johnson in check and forced Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw 2 INTs in the game.
The Broncos did not cover 26.5 points against the Jags. The Jags demonstrated that they are pros and showed up ready to play. They are not at the same talent level as the Broncos, but they did not roll over and play dead. That huge point spread generated a lot of interesting commentary across the country:
Brad Dickson, Omaha World-Herald:
“The Denver Broncos are 27-point favorites over the Jacksonville Jaguars. To put this in perspective, the same day, the Harlem Globetrotters are only favored over the Washington Generals by 26 points.”
Dwight Perry, Seattle Times:
“Oddsmakers have installed the Broncos as a record 27-point favorite over the Jaguars on Sunday.
“To put that in perspective, even Custer got 25½ at Little Big Horn.”
Brad Dickson again:
“It’s just one embarrassing mistake after another for Congress. Today, in an attempt to pay down our debt, members bet $1 trillion on Jacksonville to beat the Denver Broncos.”
The Packers beat the Ravens in Baltimore 19-17. Randall Cobb broke his leg and James Jones went out with an injury. So, Jordy Nelson caught a long TD pass and Eddie Lacy ran for 120 yards to provide just enough points to win. One other observation from this game:
The Ravens’ running game is a stone-cold mess.
The Bengals needed OT to beat the Bills by a field goal. Will the real Bengals’ defense please stand up? This is the defense that held the Pats to 2 field goals two weeks ago; and then last week, they give 24 points to the Bills and Thad Lewis? Here is something positive from that game – since I am such a positive guy. Bills’ rookie linebacker, Kiko Alonzo, made 22 tackles in the game. I would say he earned his paycheck…
When I saw that the Browns led the Lions 17-7 at halftime, I figured that the Browns’ defense would dig in and win the game for the Browns. That did not happen; the Lions won the second half of the game 24-0. Matthew Stafford was 25-43 in the game with 3 TDs – and a rushing TD on top of the passing TDs – and Reggie Bush ran for 100 yards.
The Rams beat the Texans 38-13 and scored twice on defense. Sam Bradford threw 3 TD passes and dropped the Texans to 2-4. If the Texans are going to remain relevant in the AFC South, they need to put together a couple of wins ASAP. However, with KC and Indy as their next two opponents, they will have to play a whole lot better than they did last week to win those games.
Panthers 35 – - Vikings 10. Matt Cassel was the “QB du jour” and put 10 points on the scoreboard.
Memo to Josh Freeman: You’re next…
The Chiefs beat the Raiders 24-7; the Raiders’ defense held Alex Smith to his worst game of the year; he only managed 4.1 yards per pass attempt, which is usually a losing performance. However, the 10 sacks registered by the Chiefs kept them undefeated.
For the record, Terrelle Pryor tied Jeff George as the Raider QB sacked the most times in a single game. George had this happen to him in 1998.
However, the Raiders’ team record for sacks allowed in one game is 11 back in 1986. Three different QBs went down that day.
Jim Plunkett 6 times
Marc Wilson 3 times
Rusty Hilger 2 times
The Raiders had a particularly fetid sequence in the 4th quarter of that game. The score was still a manageable 14-7 in favor of the Chiefs and the Raiders had the ball at the 50-yardline and had a drive underway. Here is what happened next:
1. Holding penalty makes it 1st and 20 at the Raiders 40
2. Sack for a 12-yard loss makes it 2nd and 32 at the Raiders 28
3. Delay of game penalty makes it 2nd and 37 at the Raiders 23
4. Sack for an 11-yard loss makes it 3rd and 48 at the Raiders 12.
5. Incomplete pass makes it 4th and 48 at the Raiders 12.
Now for the real ignominy… The Raiders’ punt went 46 yards; it did not make it to the first down marker the offense was aiming for.
The Steelers REALLY needed a win last week and got one on the road against the Jets 19-6. Jets’ fans probably want the police to put out an APB to locate the Jets’ offense after that game.
With the Bucs losing to the Eagles 31-20 last week to drop to 0-6, the question in Tampa now becomes:
Will Greg Schiano finish out the season with the Bucs?
The team has had its BYE week so there is not the “luxury” of having two weeks for a new coach or an interim coach to prepare for a game. Nonetheless, if the Bucs continue to lose, it will be a toss-up in the minds of Bucs’ fans as to what needs to get outta town first:
A. Greg Schiano – or
B. The MRSA infestation in the Bucs’ facilities.
Eagles’ fans should not let the team off the hook too easily even though they won the game. The Eagles defense – particularly the secondary – allowed rookie Mike Glennon to pass for 273 yards. Those guys cannot cover anyone…
With regard to this week’s games, I wonder if:
This is a must win game for the Jets (3-3) against the Pats (5-1).
The Falcons are done for the year no matter what happens this week. Julio Jones is gone for the year and Roddy White is hobbled and the Falcons DL has been south of ordinary so far.
The Saints have the week off. With a record of 5-1 and that single loss coming on last second heroics by Tom Brady and Co., I doubt that Sean Payton will be putting the team through “boot camp” this week.
The Raiders have the week off. Unlike the Saints, the Raiders are 2-4 and sit last in the AFC West. After their bedwetting performance against the Chiefs last week, the Raiders have to look to improve in every phase of the game. Terrelle Pryor told Comcast Sports Network in the Bay Area that the Raiders will be back and they will make the playoffs. Technically, he did not say that would happen THIS year, but still…
Memo for Terrelle Pryor: Are you channeling your inner Antrel Rolle?
(Thurs Nite) Seattle – 6 at Arizona (40.5): Both teams come here off short weeks having played physical games last weekend. The Cards lost to the Niners; the Seahawks beat the Titans; both teams have plenty of bumps and bruises. The Cards sit two games behind the Seahawks in the AFC West and they are one game behind the Niners. All division games are important but this one might be more important than some others. Larry Fitzgerald nominally had a hamstring injury going into the Niners game last week but he sure looked spry on that touchdown catch and run for 75 yards. However, this week he will have to contend with two talented and physical CBs; it will not matter which side of the formation he lines up on; he will have a quality defensive back on his case. I like the Seahawks to win and cover here.
New England – 4 at Jets (43.5): The Pats do not have Vince Wilfork to clog the middle of the line against the run and Jerod Mayo also left last week’s game with an injury to his pectoral muscle. Mayo required surgery for that injury and may miss the rest of this season. At some point, the Jets might find that they can control the clock and the game by pounding the ball right up the middle. On offense, the Pats will be without Danny Amendola this week. Might this be the game where Rob Gronkowski makes at least a cameo appearance? I have no idea which version of either team is going to show up here so I’ll flip a coin and take the game to stay UNDER.
San Diego – 7.5 at Jax (45): The Chargers will be on a short week after their win at home against the Colts and they have a long journey to Jax to play this game. The Jags showed some pride last week hustling and making a couple of plays against the Broncos. The Chargers are 3-3 at the moment; even so, they are 3 full games behind both the Broncos and the Chiefs in the AFC West; a loss here would be devastating. Statistically, these defenses give up about the same yardage per game; however, the Chargers on offense produce almost 130 yards more offense than do the Jags. The “signs” are against the Chargers; short week, long flight, let down after a win against a good opponent; Jags energized by their showing against the Broncos. Plus, there is the longstanding Chargers’ tradition to take weeks off during the season against inferior opponents. Notwithstanding all that, I shall take the Chargers to overcome it all and I’ll lay the points.
Houston at KC – 7 (40): Please consider the following stats:
Texans are 3rd in total offense in AFC; Chiefs are 12th
Texans are 1st in total defense in AFC; Chiefs are 3rd
Texans are also 1st in the entire league in pass defense.
Now that you have considered those numbers, how is it that the Chiefs are 6-0 and the Texans are 2-4? Well, the Texans’ proclivity to throw Pick Sixes might explain how that happened… In case you are interested, I did go looking for a prop bet on whether a Texans’ QB would throw a Pick Six this week but could not find one. I say “Texans QB” because Matt Schaub is listed as “Doubtful” for the game meaning TJ Yates and Case Keenum could be the QBs wearing shoulder pads on Sunday. I see a low scoring contest here and so I will abide by my rule of thumb to take the points in such games. I’ll take the Texans plus the points.
Cincy at Detroit – 2.5 (47.5): The game opened as a ‘pick ‘em” game and the line has slowly expanded to this level. You can even find the spread at 3 points at two sportsbooks. The Lions are significantly better at home than they are on the road and the Bengals are not nearly as good on the road as they are at home. So far this year, neither team has lost at home. The Bengals hold a 1-game lead in the AFC North as of this morning; the Lions and Bears are tied atop the NFC North half a game ahead of the Packers. This game means something – and that is not a sentence that one might often write about a Bengals/Lions game over the past couple of decades. Calvin Johnson is supposed to be able to play meaning Matthew Stafford has someone to throw the ball too. I like the Lions at home to win and cover.
Buffalo at Miami – 7.5 (42.5): The Bills’ “QB du jour” last week was Thad Lewis who left the game with a foot injury. As of this morning, the Bills list him as “Probable” for this game. If the Texans’ likely tandem of QBs this week looks “iffy” to you, consider the Bills troika of:
Thad Lewis backed up by
Matt Flynn who has been with the team for 5 days and
The Dolphins had their BYE week last week and they have a 3-2 record in the AFC East; the Bills are not mathematically eliminated (yet) but they have lost 2 in a row and just are not a very good team. The Bills’ defense gives up 395 yards per game. Let me be clear; that is a lot of acreage they give away. I’ll take the Dolphins at home to win and cover.
Chicago at Washington – 1 (50.5): This line opened with the Bears as a 1.5-point favorite but the line switched in favor of the Redskins almost immediately. The Skins need to look at the tape of their game against the Cowboys to see what they should have done against a DL missing three of its projected starters. The reason that would be a good idea is that situation applies to the Bears and it might behoove the Skins to do better this week than last. The Skins also need to figure out a way to energize their passing attack. The team stats for this year are misleading; the Skins have trailed by wide margins in several games and a lot of their passing yards came in “garbage time”. If the Bears OL can keep Jay Cutler nearly as clean as they did last week against the hapless Giants, he might throw for 5 TDs against the Skins’ secondary. I’ll take the Bears plus the point.
By the way, I mentioned above that the Skins’ special teams gave up a punt return for a TD and a 90-yard kickoff return last week. Did anyone notice that Devin Hester is coming to town this weekend?
Dallas at Philly – 2.5 (55): This line is all over the place. The spread opened with the Cowboys as a 2.5-point favorite; that changed overnite in favor of the Eagles. As of this morning, you can find the spread as low as 1.5 points at one sportsbook and as high as 3 points in several sportsbooks. Here is how I see this game unfolding:
The Eagles will be able to run the ball effectively against the Cowboys.
The Cowboys will be able to pass effectively against the Eagles.
I expect 850+ yards of offense combined in this game.
The team that has the ball last is likely to win in a shoot-out so I’ll take the game to go OVER.
St. Louis at Carolina – 6.5 (42): The Panthers rank 2nd in the NFC in total defense; the Rams rank 10th and give up almost 90 yards per game more than the Panthers do. The big difference seems to be in run defense where the Panthers give up 3.8 yards per rush and the Rams yield 4.7 yards per rush. The Panthers have a slightly more productive offense too. What has to give you pause here is Cam Newton. When he is good, he looks like a young QB who is bound for greatness; then there are the other games where he either looks confused or as if he just does not give a damn. The Panthers are 3 full games behind the Saints who cannot possibly lose this week. [The Saints have a BYE, remember?] Ergo, a loss here would pretty much eliminate the Panthers from the division race and relegate them to the wild-card chase. The Rams are still close in the AFC West and might delude themselves into believing they still have a shot at the division title and/or the playoffs. I think that line is fat. I’ll take the Rams plus the points.
Totally after the fact of this pick, I went looking for trends that would confirm or deny this selection. Here is what I found:
Rams are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games as an underdog.
Panthers are 3-6 ATS in their last 9 home games
Panthers are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games as a favorite.
Tampa at Atlanta – 7 (43): The combined record of these two teams is 1-9. Atlanta had their BYE last week but Tampa had one earlier and came out with a stinker after the week off. Atlanta has injury problems on their defense and at WR; Tampa has QB problems. Backing up rookie Mike Glennon is 8-year vet, Dan Orlovsky – who, by the way – was part of that Lions’ team in 2008 that went 0-16 for the year.
Memo for Dan Orlovsky: See any parallels between these 0-5 Bucs and those 0-16 Lions?
If indeed quarterback is the most important position on the team, then Matt Ryan is clearly superior to either Glennon or Orlovsky. On that basis, I’ll take the Falcons to win and cover at home.
SF – 4 at Tennessee (40): The Niners need this win so do the Titans. This should be a hard-fought game. The Titans are on a 2-game losing skid; the Niners are on a 3-game winning binge. Statistically, these teams are very close to one another and the Niners are the ones making the long journey to the stadium. Nonetheless, with Jake Locker out, the Titans QBs are Ryan Fitzpatrick and Rusty Smith and – meaning no disrespect to either player – I do not see them lighting up the Niners’ defense. I’ll take the Niners to win and cover on the road.
Here is the trend that confirms my selection in this game:
Titans are 3-10 in their last 13 games ATS against teams with a winning record.
Cleveland at Green Bay – 10 (46.5): The spread opened the week at 7.5 points and jumped to this level right away; it is at 11 points at one sportsbook this morning. A key element for this game will be the availability of James Jones after he left last week’s game in Baltimore and did not return; as of this morning, Jones is listed as “Doubtful” for Sunday. Aaron Rodgers needs someone other than Jordy Nelson to catch his passes and the Packers should not count on Eddie Lacy grinding out 120 yards against the Cleveland defense. By the way, RB James Starks is listed as “Questionable” for this game. The things that favor the Packers here include:
The game is at Lambeau Field
Their defense stifled the Ravens’ offense last week on the road.
Aaron Rodgers is their QB.
I smell a low scoring game and so I will take the game to stay UNDER and I’ll take the Browns plus the double-digit points.
Here are two relevant – albeit contradictory – trends for this game:
Browns are 5-2 to go UNDER in their last 7 road games
Packers are 17-8 to go OVER in their last 25 home games
Baltimore at Pittsburgh – 2 (40.5): The spread here originally was “pick ‘em” but money must have gone on the Steelers side of the ledger such that the spread is at 1.5 points or 2 points just about everywhere. These teams just plain don’t like each other. [ /Keith Jackson] The Ravens need a win to keep the pressure on the Bengals at the top of the AFC North. The Steelers are 1-4 and do not have a lot of margin for error left in the season. Here are two trends that are destined to confuse you:
Ravens are 4-9 in the last 13 games ATS against teams with losing records.
Steelers are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 home games.
I sense a defense-dominated low-scoring game here; and in this case, the team with the better defense is also getting points. That seals the deal for me; I’ll take the Ravens plus the points.
(Sun Nite) Denver – 6.5 at Indy (55.5): The spread here opened at 7.5 points and has dropped slowly to this level. No one would be surprised to learn that the Broncos’ offense averages 476 yards per game; what might surprise some folks is that the Broncos’ defense gives up an average of 407.5 yards per game. [Interestingly, the Broncos lead the NFL in rushing defense and are last in the AFC in pass defense. This surely reflects the fact that opponents have been behind in games and had to throw the ball a lot more than normal against the Broncos.] The return of Von Miller on defense for the Broncos should not hurt the defense, but it is unrealistic to expect that his return is the same as flipping a switch and turning the defense into Fort Knox. The Broncos list Miller as “Probable” for the game. [Translation: If he manages to figure out how to avoid putting his helmet on backwards, he’s starting.] The Colts come to the game off a short week and off a less than stellar showing in San Diego on Monday night. The Colts may have been looking ahead just a bit to this game that has more storylines to it than the US Congress has useless wastes of skin. I do not think that the Colts’ defense will hold the Broncos under 30 points; I also do not think the Broncos’ defense can stifle a focused Andrew Luck and Co. for a full game. I think this is a score-fest in the making; I’ll take the game to go OVER.
(Mon Nite) Minnesota at Giants – 3.5 (47): This game opened as a “pick ‘em game” but the money rushed in on the Giants moving the line all the way to 3 points very quickly. The MNF execs at ESPN probably looked at the schedule and circled this as one of their “good games”. Surprise! Both of these teams stink; they bring a combined 1-10 record to the field. Josh Freeman gets the call at QB for the Vikings here. While I see him as the best of the three options available to the coaching staff in Minnesota, his lack of time to “develop chemistry” with the rest of the offense works against him. The Giants’ defense is most generous giving up 392 yards per game; the Vikes’ defense goes that one better yielding 418 yards per game. I have no idea how this game will evolve and so I will rely on a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip here. The coin says take the Vikings plus the points. Why not?
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………