First, I need to review last week’s Mythical Picks:
I liked Titans -12 over Jags. Jags won the game outright. No!
I liked Eagles +1.5 against Packers. Eagles won outright. Yes!
I liked Bills +3 against Steelers. Not enough points. No!
I liked Giants – 7 over Raiders. Giants won by only 4. No!
I liked Colts -9.5 over Rams. Rams won by 30 points. No!
I liked Seahawks/Falcons UNDER 45. Total was 43. Yes!
I liked Ravens +1.5 against Bengals. Ravens won in OT. Yes!
I liked Lions/Bears OVER 51.5. Total was only 40. No!
I liked Niners -6 over Panthers. Panthers won 10-9. No!
I liked Texans/Cards UNDER 41. Total was 51. No!
I liked Broncos/Chargers OVER 57.5. Total was 48. No!
I liked Saints – 6.5 over Cowboys. Saints won by 32. Yes!
I liked Dolphins -2 against Bucs. Bucs won outright. No!
That was a miserable week for Mythical Picks. The tally comes to 4 – 9. That makes the cumulative season record a pathetic 59 – 94 – 2. To quote William Bendix from his role as Chester A. Riley:
“What a revoltin’ development this is…!”
The disclaimer this week needs to be short and sweet. Do not use anything here as part of a decision regarding a real bet on an actual NFL game this weekend involving real money. Anyone stupid enough to do that would be challenged in life to be a success as a saliva container.
Other than the obvious level of embarrassment that I ought to feel regarding the stench level of this year’s Mythical Picks, let me pose this question:
What is more embarrassing?
A. Losing to the 0-8 Jaguars at home.
B. Losing to the 0-8 Bucs on MNF.
C. Losing to the Rams by 30 points at home.
D. Losing to the 1-7 Vikings after leading by 13 points.
That is not idle speculation; all of those things happened in last week’s NFL games. All of these teams belong on a “You Should Be Ashamed” List. Let me take those events in reverse order here.
The Redskins led the Vikings 27-14 with 9 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. The Redskins piled up 192 yards rushing for the game and did not turn the ball over. Nonetheless, they lost the game 34-27. That is bad to begin with but here is what is worse:
Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel combined to complete 21 of 27 pass attempts in that game. That works out to be a 77.777…% completion rate – for those guys.
The Redskins’ defense should be ashamed; they could not cover a corpse last week.
The Colts hosted a mediocre Rams team – one which had scored a total of 45 points in its last three games – and managed to lose the game 38-8. It was no fluke; the Rams led 38-0 and intercepted Andrew Luck 3 times. The Rams held the Colts to 18 yards rushing for the game and 17 of those yards came on 4 scrambles by Andrew Luck. The Colts only converted 2 out of 12 third down situations.
The entire Colts team – particularly the offense – should be ashamed.
The Dolphins lost to the previously winless Bucs in Monday night’s nationally televised game. If you thought the Colts had trouble running the ball, consider that the Dolphins total rushing offense for the game was 2 yards. Those 2 yards were the result of 14 rushing attempts meaning the Dolphins averaged 5.15 inches per carry. Calling the Dolphins’ performance “pathetic” would be laudatory. The team has lost 5 of its last 6 games and look to be “done” for the season.
The entire Dolphins’ organization should be ashamed of the product they put on display last Monday night.
The Titans could have moved to within a game of the AFC South division race with a win here – as the Colts went and wet the bed against the Rams. They had the winless and feckless Jags coming to their stadium; this one looked to be “in the bag”. The Jags wound up winning by 2 points – the margin of victory coming as a result of a holding penalty against the Titans in their own end zone. However, that is not the extent of the strangeness in this game. Somehow, the Jags found a way to score 27 points in addition to that safety despite showing nothing to speak of on offense.
Passing: 14-23 for 180 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.
Rushing: 30 carries for 54 yards
Total Net offense: 214 yards
Third Down Conversion: 3 of 12.
That too was a shameful performance by the Tennessee Titans…
The Eagles beat the Packers last week. Yes, I know that was Scott Tolzein taking the snaps under center for 90% of the game but nonetheless the Eagles came away with a win at Lambeau Field – and that could not have been one that every Eagles’ fan had circled on the schedule as a “sure-fire winner” back in August. The Eagles are now 5-1 on the road and 0-4 at home. Only the Chiefs (4-0 on the road) and the Seahawks (5-1 on the road) have similar levels of success to this point of the season. At the same time, only the Jags can match the Eagles’ level of futility at home…
The Packers hope to have improved their stopgap QB situation by signing Matt Flynn this week. Good luck with that…
The Cardinals beat the Texans 27-24 last week goosing their record to 5-4. The schedule in front of the Cardinals for the next 5 weeks is not daunting:
Vs St. Louis
If the Cards can win 3 of those five games, that would put them at 8-6 in mid-December with the last two games being against the Seahawks and the Niners – and they could get to the playoffs from that point.
Oh, one point about the Texans… Despite all the gushing over Case Keenum as the Texans’ QB, you do realize that he has not yet won an NFL game, don’t you?
The Ravens beat the Bengals 20-17 in OT. It certainly appeared as if neither team wanted to win this one. The teams combined to covert 8 of 35 third-down situations; the Ravens’ net yards passing were 104 yards; both QBs were sacked 5 times each; there were 5 passes intercepted in the game; there were 17 penalties enforced in the game; 6 of the Ravens’ 18 first downs came via penalty. Ray Rice carried the ball 18 times last week for 30 yards; for the season Rice averages only 2.7 yards per carry.
The Lions beat the Bears 21-19. The Bears scored a TD with 40 seconds to play and then failed on a 2-point conversion. To score that TD, Josh McCown drove the team 65 yards in 90 seconds. When I saw that, I figured I was going to witness “Vintage Lionosity”:
The 2-point attempt would be good sending the game to OT
The Lions would get a field goal on the first possession of OT
The Bears would run the ensuing kickoff back for a TD to win the game.
Those kinds of things have happened to the Lions more than once in a while – but not last week. Maybe fortunes are changing in Detroit? That makes 2 games this year where the Lions have made the final big play to win the game (remember the QB sneak in the Cowboys’ game 2 weeks ago?). In the past, the Lions were usually on the “wrong side” of such game-winning plays.
The Lions have swept the Bears this season. That could be very important come “tie-breaker time” in late December…
The Saints demolished the Cowboys 49-17 last week and it could have been worse; the Saints took Drew Brees out late in the game and just ran the ball instead of throwing it in the final couple of drives. It is not as if the Cowboys could stop the run. The Cowboys defense gave up 242 yards on 38 rushing attempts (6.4 yards per carry). The Saints set an NFL record chalking up 40 first downs in the game. The Cowboys did not convert a single third-down situation in 9 tries.
The Cowboys have – and need desperately – a Bye Week. They were outplayed to be sure last week; but truth be told, they were outcoached too. Here are some questions that Jerry Jones needs to answer when he looks in the mirror and has to tell the truth to the guy looking back at him:
How does the change from Rob Ryan to Monte Kiffin look now?
The Cowboys gave up 625 yards to the Saints last week and that same defense gave up 623 yards to the Lions just 2 weeks ago.
How important was it to make Bill Callahan the play-caller in lieu of Jason Garrett?
Callahan found a way to get the ball in Dez Bryant’s hands exactly one time in the entire game against the Saints.
How good is Jason Garrett as a head coach?
As of this morning, his record stands at 26-24. Most folks would call that “average”.
The Panthers used defensive ferocity to beat the Niners 10-9 last week. Colin Kaepernick was sacked 6 times; his longest pass completion for the day was 14 yards; the net passing offense for the Niners was 46 yards; the Niners were 2-13 on third down conversions. The Niners now trail the Seahawks by 2.5 games in the NFC West and are only a game ahead of the Cardinals in that race.
Meanwhile, the Panthers would be the #1 wild card team in the NFC if the playoffs were about to begin and they are only a game behind the Saints. Look at the schedule and you will see that the Panthers and Saints have both of their encounters ahead of them (December 8 in New Orleans and December 22 in Carolina). The Panthers have won 5 games in a row now and they have only given up 57 points in those 5 games with 15 points being the biggest score for an opponent.
The 2013 season has seen plenty of “QB Carnage”. I mentioned the plight of the Packers and the Texans above. In addition:
The Bills got EJ Manuel back at QB last week after going through a list of QBs who may or may not have been starters in an arena league. Manuel’s return was inauspicious at best. He went 22-39 for 155 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs. Buffalo fans better hope that was just a bit of rust showing…
Terrelle Pryor was 11-26 for 122 yards against the Giants last week. He augmented that performance with an INT and a lost fumble.
In their “best scenario”, the Rams are playing Kellen Clemens for the rest of the season. I am sure that he is better at the job than Samuel Clemens would be – considering that Samuel has been dead for more than 100 years – but still…
Along the way, the Eagles have had to turn to Matt Barkley in a couple of games. To say he is not ready to be an NFL QB would be like saying that Sally Struthers is not a “regular” at the salad bar.
This is the “business reason” for the NFL to protect its QBs. There are not 32 good starting QBs in the league and some of the back-ups are less welcome than a sewage back up.
The Cowboys get their Bye Week now and as outlined above, they badly need this week off to get themselves straightened out. The Cowboys are tied for the lead in the NFC East but they have looked anything other than a division leader for about a month now.
The Rams have the week off. They are last in the NFC West and probably wish they were in the AFC somewhere because they are 3-1 against AFC teams this year.
(Thurs Nite) Indy – 3 at Tennessee (42.5): Here are two of the teams from the “You Should Be Ashamed” list above. In addition, it matches the top two teams in the AFC South. If you are a trend bettor – which you should not be – you will like these trends:
Colts are 6-1 to go UNDER in their last 7 road games
Titans are 6-2 to go UNDER in their last 8 home games against Colts.
Who could dare buck those trends? Well, I can do that because I think that Indy is the better team even on the road and I like them to win and cover here.
Atlanta – 1.5 at Tampa (43.5): Here is a strong candidate for the “Toxic Waste Dump Game of the Week”. The Falcons have lost 3 in a row; the Bucs have a 1-game win streak. Both of these teams are awful. The Falcons have not won on the road this year; the Bucs only win has come at home. Do not watch this game unless you have to; do not wager on this game even if you have to. I am flipping a coin here in Curmudgeon Central and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.
With the coin flip coming out as it has, here are the trends that make it look like a sane pick:
Falcons are 5-2 to go UNDER in their last 7 divisional games
Bucs are 4-1 to go UNDER in their last 5 home games against Falcons.
Jets at Buffalo – 1.5 (41): The spread opened with the Bills as a 2.5-point favorite and has dropped slowly all week. I have to confess that I do not understand this line at all. I think the Jets are the better team and they are coming off a Bye Week and a win here would solidify their standing as the #2 wild card team in the AFC. The Bills have not been an offensive juggernaut this year; the Jets’ defense ought to be able to handle them. The Bills’ defense has been generous giving up 25.9 points per game this year. By comparison, the Jets’ defense yields only 18.8 points per game. I like the Jets to win outright so I’ll take them here plus the points.
Detroit – 2.5 at Pittsburgh (47): Despite the records disparity, these teams are not at opposite ends of the spectrum in the stats. The Lions are better on offense by about 70 yards per game; the Steelers are better on defense by about 50 yards per game. Here are two absolutely meaningless trends applicable to this game:
Lions are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games in Week 11 of an NFL season
Lions are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games in Weeks 10-13 of an NFL season.
The Lions are 6-3 but have outscored opponents by only 22 points this year. The Steelers are 3-6 and have been outscored by opponents by only 39 points this year. I have exactly no conviction about how this game will unfold and so the coin is coming out of the drawer once again. The coin says to take the Steelers plus the points. Whatever…
Washington at Philly – 3.5 (52): The Total Line opened the week at 48.5 points and shot up to 51 points overnight. It has climbed slowly from that level as the week progressed; I would not be surprised to see it at 53 by game time. The Eagles seek to end a 10-game home losing streak here; if they do, it will Cheesesteak Heaven in Philly on Sunday night because that would put the Eagles in first place in the NFC East with their Bye Week still in hand. A loss for the Redskins would border on disastrous; it would put them 2.5 games out of first place in the division and it would make them 0-3 in the division. The Redskins’ defense has given up 287 points this year in 9 games; that is more points than any other team in the NFC – including the ones that have played 10 games. Only the Jags’ defense has been so generous giving up 291 points in the Jags’ 9 games. I like this game to go OVER.
San Diego – 1.5 at Miami (45.5): After seeing the Dolphins roll over and play dead against the Bucs last Monday night, I do not want to take them in Mythical Picks until and unless I see them come together and play a solid football game. I also do not like the Chargers on yet another East Coast trip as a road favorite. In such a case, we have to go to the coin one more time. The coin says to take the Chargers and lay the points. Don’t blame me; blame the coin.
Baltimore at Chicago – 3 (46): The Ravens’ offense ranks 12th in the AFC; that is not a good thing. The Bears’ defense ranks 12th in the NFC; that is not a good thing. Which “not good thing” is going to prevail on Sunday? The Ravens cannot run the ball and the Bears cannot stop the run. These are two seriously flawed teams. Make this purely a venue call; I’ll take the Bears to win and cover.
Cleveland at Cincy – 6 (42): If the Browns win here, they pull to within a half-game of first place in the AFC North and they would give the Bengals their third division loss. This game is actually an important one. The teams are basically the same on defense; both allow about 315 yards per game. On offense, the Bengals enjoy an advantage of 60 yards per game – but that does not take into account the dismal offensive performances of the Bengals for the last two weeks. I like the Browns plus the points here. Now that I have made my Mythical Pick for the game, let me give you some trends that make me look prescient here – if you believe in trends:
Browns are 6-2-1 ATS in their last 9 games against the Bengals
Browns are 8-3-1 ATS in their last 12 games against Division opponents.
Bengals are 3-9-2 ATS in their last 14 games against Division opponents.
Bengals are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games against teams with a losing record.
Oakland at Houston – 7 (42.5): Here is another contender for the “Toxic Waste Dump Game of the Week”. Terrelle Pryor has a knee injury that limits his mobility; Terrelle Pryor’s value as a less-than-mobile pocket passer is quite limited. On the other sideline, there is Case Keenum who has gotten a lot of accolades for a guy who has yet to win a game since being anointed as the team starter. I do not like either team here; the spread is not big enough to make me want to take the Raiders on the road while the spread is too large for me to lay with a team as dismal as the Texans. I’ll take this game to stay UNDER – for mythical purposes only – and hope that the defenses on both teams show up ready to play on Sunday.
Arizona – 7 at Jax (41): The Total Line opened the week at 39 and has been climbing during the week. Let me put this game in perspective for you:
The Cardinals on the road are no bargain.
The Jags playing on any continent are no bargain.
This game means something to the Cards in terms of playoff possibilities down the road [see above]; this game is meaningless to the Jags except in terms of which players continue to have NFL jobs next year. Here comes the coin for the fourth time this week; the coin says to take the Jags plus the points. Arrrgggh…
(Sun Nite) KC at Denver – 8 (49.5): The Total Line opened the week at 51.5 and has been dropping all week long. The Chiefs’ defense has been an essential element in the team’s 9-0 record this year in terms of holding down opponents scoring and also in terms of providing the team with points via direct scores and short field to attack. This week the Chiefs’ defense gets a much tougher test than any previous opponent could hope to provide. The Broncos’ defense is not all that good giving up 375 yards per game and ranking 14th in the AFC. The question for this game is simple:
Is the Broncos’ defense good enough to stifle the Chiefs’ pedestrian offense?
I think the Broncos’ defense is up to the task. Therefore, I like this game to stay UNDER and I like the Broncos to win and cover at home.
Minnesota at Seattle – 12.5 (46): The Vikings put 34 points on the scoreboard against the Skins last week. The Seahawks’ defense is not likely to allow them much more than one-third of that total; that defensive unit only allows an average of 289 yards per game. In fact, the Seahawks might hold the Vikes to single-digits. Here is how bad the Vikings are:
The Vikes are 15th in the NFC in offense.
The Vikes are 14th in the NFC in defense.
I like this game to stay UNDER and I like the Seahawks to win and cover at home.
SF at New Orleans – 3 (47.5): The Chiefs/Broncos game will get the lion’s share of attention this week, but this is going to be a very good game and one that has plenty of meaning with regard to the playoffs come January. The Saints hold a 1-game lead over the Panthers going into this game; the Niners hold a 1-game lead over the Cards, Bears and Packers in the NFC wild-card race. Two weeks ago, the Jets ran the ball for 200+yards against the Saints; the Niners are as good a running team as are the Jets. If the Niners can pound the ball reliably against the Saints’ defense that means two things:
1. Drew Brees in not on the field in a position to move the ball down the field for a score.
2. The Niners will not need to rely on Colin Kaepernick’s passing skills to win the game.
I see a lot of points hitting the board in this game; the Niners average 25 points per game; the Saints average 29 points per game. I like the game to go OVER.
Green Bay at Giants – 5 (42): When Scott Tolzein hit the field against the Eagles last week, the Eagles’ defensive coaches were flying blind. Given the way Tolzien played, that was not as disastrous as it might have been. The Giants’ defensive braintrust has had a week to study last week’s game film and should be prepared for whatever he might muster in terms of an offense. I simply do not think that the Packers can go on the road with their QB situation as it is and with their defense playing hurt and come away with a win. The Packers have lost 2 games in a row; I think this will be loss number 3 in a row. I like the Giants at home to win and cover.
(Mon Nite) New England at Carolina – 2.5 (46.5): The spread opened the week with the Panthers as a 1-point favorite; the spread has expanded all week long and is as high as 3 points at one Internet sports book this morning. The Chiefs/Broncos game will get most of the attention over the weekend and the Niners/Saints game will draw lots of attention too. Nevertheless, come Monday night, there will be plenty of attention focused right here. The Pats may need a win here to stay ahead of the Jets based on what happens on Sunday. The Panthers may need a win here to keep pace with the Saints – or even tie them for the NFC South lead. I think this will be a close game all the way. Just a hunch, but I like the game to stay UNDER.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………