Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 11/24/13

First, let us take a peek at last week’s Mythical Picks to see how they did…

    I liked Colts -3 over Titans. The game was a Push.

    I liked Falcons/Bucs UNDER 43.5. The game went way Over. No!

    I liked Jets +1.5 against Bills. Jets lost by more than 3 TDs. No!

    I liked Steelers +2.5 against Lions. Steelers won outright. Yes!

    I liked Skins/Eagles OVER 52. Game stayed UNDER. No!

    I liked Chargers -1.5 over Dolphins. Chargers lost the game. No!

    I liked Bears -3 over Ravens. The game was a Push.

    I liked Browns +6 against Bengals. Not nearly enough points. No!

    I liked Raiders/Texans UNDER 42.5. Game total was 51. No!

    I liked Jags +7 against Cardinals. Not enough points. No!

    I liked Chiefs/Broncos UNDER 49.5. Game total was 44. Yes!

    I liked Broncos -8 over Chiefs. Broncos won by 10. Double Yes!

    I liked Vikes/Seahawks UNDER 46. Not even close. No!

    I liked Seahawks -121.5 over Vikes. Seahawks covered easily. Yes!

    I liked Niners/Saints OVER 47.5. Total was only 43. No!

    I liked Giants -5 over Packers. Giants won by 2 TDs. Yes!

    I liked Pats/Panthers UNDER 46.5. Game stayed Under. Yes!

The tally for last week is a mythically unprofitable 6 – 9 – 2. Those hardly laudable numbers make the season record an even more embarrassing 65 – 103 – 4. At the rate these Mythical Picks are going, one of the things I will give thanks for next week is that the season is heading into the final stretch meaning my opportunities for embarrassment are limited.

Of course, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a wager on an actual NFL game this weekend in the event that said wager involves real money. Anyone dumb enough to do that would also think that “Private Enterprise” means owning one’s own starship.

General Comments:

You may recall earlier this season when Niners’ safety, Donte Whitner, announced that he was applying for a legal change of name to Donte Hitner. Well, he must have suffered a spasm of sanity in the last week or so, because this week Whitner said that he had withdrawn that application for a name change.

The Raiders beat the Texans last week 28-23 riding the passing arm of Matt McGloin and its 3 TD passes to a win. There are a couple of interesting storylines from this game:

    McGloin was a walk-on at Penn State and had to earn a scholarship there. He was not invited to the NFL Combine and so he marketed himself to all of the NFL teams. No one drafted him but the Raiders did sign him as an undrafted free agent and brought him to camp as the #4 QB. Then, the team cut Tyler Wilson (nominally the #3 QB) and then Matt Flynn played his way out of town and then Terrelle Pryor hurt his knee and had a few less-than-stellar games. Enter Matt McGloin, starting NFL QB…

    The Texans are a mess. There remains a lot of effusive prose out there about the wonders of Case Keenum as the QB-of-the-future for the Texans. Like Matt McGloin, Keenum was also an undrafted free agent. I wish the Case Keenum acolytes – should I call them the “Cult of Case”? – would recognize that he has not won a game yet. And do not tell me that is too much to ask of a team’s QB-of-the-future…

    When the Texans benched Keenum in the second half last week, they put Matt Schaub back on the field. It is not clear if this move angered the Texans’ fans more than it confused them or vice-versa. The way it all ended was with Schaub and WR, Andre Johnson, in a shouting match on the sidelines at the end of the game with Johnson walking off the sidelines.

    In the first quarter, the Texans had the ball 1st and 10 at the Raiders’ 23 yardline. Three plays later – and without any penalties –, the Texans punted the ball from the Raiders 40 yardline. That gives you an idea of the futility of the Texans…

The Broncos beat the Chiefs 27-17 putting the Broncos on top of the AFC West by virtue of holding the tiebreaker with the Chiefs for now. I have two observations and one question from this game:

    Observation #1: Peyton Manning had good protection and was therefore able to analyze, diagnose and finally dissect the Chiefs’ secondary. Do not underestimate how good the Chiefs defense was in that game or how well the Broncos’ OL protected Manning. Both units played well.

    Observation #2: The Chiefs’ lack of a credible “explosive offense” allowed the Broncos’ defense to contain the Chiefs’ offense. The Broncos have shown a vulnerability to teams with serious downfield threats on offense (e.g. Cowboys and Colts) but the absence of such a threat here allowed the Broncos to “hide” that vulnerability.

    Question: Yes, the Chiefs did try to stretch the Broncos defense with little success. So, why did they persist so long in trying something that just was not working?

The Bengals beat the Browns 40-21. The Browns kept it close for about 20 minutes; but by the end, the game was a laugher. Bengals fans need to maintain a level of angst because Andy Dalton threw 2 more INTs in this game.

The Bucs now have a 2-game win streak going. They beat the “Floundering Falcons” 41-28 last week moving the Bucs ahead of the Falcons in the NFC South race. Bobby Rainey was sort of the “do-it-all guy” for the Bucs here. Rainey ran the ball 30 times for 163 yards and 2 TDs; he caught two passes for 4 yards and one more TD and he attempted a halfback-option pass that was incomplete. The team stats do not reveal if he also kept the Gatorade buckets full on the sidelines.

The Bills walloped the Jets 37-14 last week as Geno Smith channeled his inner Mark Sanchez. Smith threw 3 INTs in the game and also lost a fumble inside his own 10-yardline. Late in the game, the Jets pulled Smith and inserted backup Matt Simms. Naturally, the NYC tabloids immediately began to speculate on who would start at QB for the Jets going forward. Moreover, Rex Ryan found a way to keep that speculation alive by saying:

“I think without question Geno’s going to start this game.”

Here are some facts that will have to affect Rex Ryan’s decision making here:

    Geno Smith has been responsible for 20 turnovers this year (16 INTs and 4 lost fumbles). The Jets as a team have only committed 21 turnovers for the season. Just to clarify, that is not a good stat for Geno Smith.

    Matt Simms has only appeared in 2 games in his career and has only attempted 13 passes. The Jets are in playoff contention; it would be a big gamble to turn to someone with that background under these circumstances absent an injury.

    Oh, by the way, the third QB on the Jets’ roster as of today is David Garrard who has not been in an NFL game since 2010.

The Colts beat the Titans in typical Colts’ fashion. They fell behind early by 2 TDs and then stormed back in the second half to win at the end by a field goal.

The Packers lost by 2 TDs to the Giants. It seems pretty clear that the Packers are hardly a fearsome bunch with Aaron Rodgers on the sideline. Scott Tolzein may be a wonderful person and might develop into a quality QB one of these years, but as of November 2013, he is not yet ready for prime time. Meanwhile the Giants have risen from their 0-6 start to sit in third place in the NFC East a mere 1.5 games out of first place there.

The Eagles lead the Giants and the rest of the NFC East after beating the Redskins 24-16 last week. The Skins’ offense and defense decided to take the first half of the game off and the Eagles led 24-0 at halftime. There may or may not be an “issue” between the Skins’ QB and the Skins’ coaches; there is definitely an issue between Trent Williams and the umpire in last week’s game. Williams has accused Umpire, Roy Ellison, of cursing him (Williams) out during the game. According to a Washington Post report, a team official said that each of the Skins’ interior linemen wears a microphone in every game and that they had those mics last week. This controversy seems rather simple to me; someone needs to play the tape from one or all of those microphones.

    [Aside: Why do they all have microphones in every game? Does the NSA know about this?]

The Seahawks beat the Vikings 41-20. When I saw that score, the question that popped into my mind was, “How did the Vikes gat 20 points here?”

The Steelers beat the Lions 37-27. This was the CBS game that was on in my viewing area last week and that leads to this pleading to Roger Goodell:

    Mr. Commissioner, could you possibly see your way to implementing a new NFL Rule that would prohibit the Steelers from wearing those black and gold striped uniforms from 1934 ever again?

    Thank you in advance…

The Steelers’ win happened because Ben Roethlisberger threw 4 TD passes. The 2013 Steelers just cannot run the ball. Granted the Lions front seven on defense is better than average but here are the Steelers’ rushing numbers for that game:

    27 rushing attempts for 40 net yards (1.5 yards per carry)

The Bears beat the Ravens 23-10 in OT and the game was delayed 2 hours due to tornadoes in the Chicago area. At the time play was halted, the Ravens led 10-0. I am waiting patiently for either Ray Lewis or Terrelle Suggs to suggest that the delay was orchestrated by Roger Goodell as a way to keep the Ravens from running away with this game.

The Ravens have had trouble with their running game all season but they ran the ball effectively here (41 tries for 174 yards). That leads to three possible explanations:

    1. The Ravens figured out a blocking scheme that works.

    2. The Ravens ran the ball because the conditions forced them to do so.

    3. The Bears’ rush defense is terrible.

Ravens’ fans need to hope the answer is #1 above. For last week’s game, I believe #2 and #3 above are the more likely explanations.

The Cards beat the Jags 27-14. If you wanted to see two examples of “lack of a running game”, this was the game you needed to watch.

    The Jags ran the ball 16 times for 32 yards (2 yards per carry). And they were the more effective team on the field last week because …

    The Cardinals ran the ball 24 times for 14 yards (0.6 yards per carry).

    The longest run of the day was for 9 yards. If you take that out of the calculation, the teams combined to run the ball 39 times for 37 yards.

The Cards now have a 3-game win streak going but before we anoint them as one of the “elite teams” in the NFL, consider that those three wins have come against the Jags, Texans and Falcons. Those three vanquished opponents combine to have a record of 5 – 25.

The Saints beat the Niners 23-20 and that game raised a question in my mind:

    Has the Saints’ defense matured into a unit that the Saints’ offense can consider as co-equals in the locker room – or – is the Niners’ offense that pedestrian?

The Niners’ passing game was tepid yet one more time. Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis combined to catch 10 passes for 89 yards and 2 TDs. That is good but hardly eye-popping. The rest of the Niners’ pass catchers totaled 7 catches for 38 yards and no TDs.

The Games:

The Bills have the week off. They find themselves in last place in the NFC East once again with a 4-7 record. The Bills have had 8 consecutive losing seasons dating back to 2005 and have had a losing record in 10 of the last 13 seasons. They will host the Falcons next week after two weeks of commiserating.

The Bengals have the week off. Unlike the Bills, the Bengals sit atop the AFC North at 7-4. Everyone else in that division has a 4-6 record so the Bengals have a 2.5 game cushion as they let their bumps and bruises heal. They will fly to sunny San Diego next week for a date with the Chargers.

The Seahawks have the week off. Like the Bengals, they sit atop the NFC West at 10-1 and they lead the Niners and the Cards by 3.5 games. They should feel good about themselves for the next couple of weeks. They will be off until next Monday night when they host the New Orleans saints in what ought to be a very interesting game.

The Eagles have the week off. Like the Bengals and the Seahawks, the Eagles lead their division (the NFC East). Their lead is hardly commanding; they lead the Cowboys by 0.5 games and the Giants by only 1.5 games. They will host the Arizona Cardinals after their Bye Week.

(Thurs Nite): New Orleans – 9 at Atlanta (53): The spread opened the week at 7 points and jumped to this level almost immediately. The Falcons’ season – one that opened with high expectations for a playoff run – is in ruins. The Falcons have lost their last 4 games and have given up 135 points in those 4 games. Yes, the Falcons offense has been hit with key injuries, but it is the Falcons’ defense that is really stinking out the joint. The Saints lead the division but have the Panthers hot on their heels; this game means something to the Saints. Here is the matchup that makes my decision for me:

    Saints are 1st in total offense and passing offense in the NFC
    Falcons are 12th in total defense in the NFC.

I like the Saints to win and cover here.

Tampa at Detroit – 9 (48): The Total Line opened at 45.5 and has been climbing steadily all week. I would not be surprised to see it climb yet higher by kickoff time. The Bucs like to run the ball – probably because rookie QB Mike Glennon is not exactly a great passer at this point in his career. The problem for the Bucs is that the Lions’ front seven is good at stopping the run; the Lions vulnerability on defense is their not-good-at-all secondary. Can the Bucs exploit that weakness? Not enough to win this game… I do believe that Matthew Stafford will be able to throw effectively on the Bucs, however. The Bucs rank 15th in the NFC in total offense but the Lions rank 11th in the NFC in total defense. I find that pairing intriguing. I like the Lions at home to win and cover and I like this game to go Over.

Jax at Houston – 10 (43.5): I suspect the majority of NFL fans around the country have labeled this an “AYFKMG”. Translation:

    Are You F***ing Kidding Me Game

To call this game meaningless would be to grant it a status that is far too exalted. The only new information we will have at the end of this game is which of these two very bad teams stinks more than the other? The Jags do not run the ball well [see above] so they will need to throw the ball to score. That will mean Chad Henne will be in a featured role in this game and that is rarely a good thing for a team. Meanwhile, who knows what is going on with the QB situation in Houston – other than the fact that Matt Schaub needs a food-taster if he decides to order a pizza in Houston these days? The game will be played at Dysfunction Junction and these are the two teams you would want at that locale. I am flipping a coin here and the coin says to take the Jags plus the points. Excuse me, but I need to take a minute and wash this coin off after that fetid choice.

Minnesota at Green Bay – 5 (45): The Packers trail the Bears and the Lions by one game in the NFC North. They know they will be a better team when Aaron Rodgers is wearing a helmet instead of a headset and that time could be imminent. They need this game to stay close to those two teams above them. Meanwhile the Vikings’ season is finito standing at 2-8 at this point in the season. I like this game to stay UNDER.

San Diego at KC – 5 (41.5): We get to see just how resilient the Chiefs are in this game. They had better not be looking ahead to their re-match with the Broncos next week because the Chargers are not without weapons despite having lost 3 games in a row. Both teams yield 6.0 yards per pass attempt. However, on offense, the Chargers enjoy an advantage; they gain 8.0 yards per pass attempt while the Chiefs only gain 5.5 yards per attempt. I agree with the oddsmaker here that this will be a low-scoring game. Therefore, I will follow my rule of thumb and take the Chargers plus the points in the low-scoring game.

Carolina – 4 at Miami (41.5): The Panthers are en fuego winning their last 6 in a row. Only the Seahawks can match that win streak at the moment. The Dolphins are at 5-5 which puts them mathematically in the AFC playoff picture but I think that is a mirage. I believe that the Panthers pass rush will get to Ryan Tannehill here – as has every other defensive unit that has played the Dolphins. Yes, the Panthers might suffer a bit of a letdown or even some premature exaltation after wins in the last two weeks over the Niners and the Pats. They might even be tempted to look ahead to two games against the Saints in December. Nevertheless, I think the Panthers are the better team here and I’ll take them to win and cover – even on the road.

Pittsburgh at Cleveland – 2.5 (40): The Ravens, Steelers and Browns are tied in the AFC North race 2.5 games behind the Bengals. The loser of this game will have a tough row to hoe to make the playoffs; the winner of this game will still need assistance from other teams to get squarely in the playoff picture, but there will be a glimmer of hope. The Browns started the season with a tough defense that kept them in games even though their offense was tepid. Lately, the defense has taken a step backwards and the offense surely did not stop forward in last week’s shellacking by the Bengals. The Steelers of 2013 are not the fearsome team that some previous Steelers’ teams were, but I think they are heading in the right direction while the Browns are headed south. I like the Steelers plus the points here. Now that I have made that selection, here are two trends that are not very encouraging:

    Steelers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 road games.
    Browns are 3-2 ATS in their last 5 home games.

Chicago at St. Louis – 1.5 (46.5): Here is a game where I nominally need to pick between Josh McCown playing QB or Kellen Clemens playing QB. That is sort of like asking someone if they prefer to be shot or hung. The coin is out; the coin is in the air; the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.

Jets at Baltimore – 3.5 (39): If you go by the alternating week theory, this is the Jets’ week to win a game. If you go by the theory that the Jets do not play well on the road (they are 1-4 when traveling this year), this is the Jets’ week to lose a game. The Ravens are hardly a model of consistency this year. The only thing that seems constant is that they do not run the ball well and the Jets do play run defense well; they are the best in the NFL as of this week. Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Ravens at home and lay the points.

Tennessee at Oakland – 1 (41.5): Here the quarterback match-up is Ryan Fitzpatrick versus Matt McGloin. No way am I going to try to analyze the way this game will unfold. Make this another venue call with exactly nothing more to it than that. I’ll take the Raiders at home and lay the point.

Indy at Arizona – 2.5 (44.5): This could be a very good game. The Colts have a 3-game lead in their division; their motivation now would seem to be seeding in the AFC playoffs. The Cardinals are tied with the Niners behind the Seahawks in the NFC West and need a win to remain “playoff-relevant”. If the Colts fall behind by double-digits – as they have been wont to do this year – it may be more difficult to roar back against a good Cardinals’ defense. I think the oddsmaker has the Total Line too low here; I think the Colts will be able to score a bit on the Cards and vice versa. I like this game to go OVER.

Dallas at Giants – 2.5 (45.5): Here is a game that means a lot to both teams. Yes, the Cowboys are the definition of mediocre with a 5-5 record but they are coming off their Bye Week. Yes, the Giants lost their first 6 games this year but with 4 straight wins they sit only 1 game behind the Cowboys in the NFC East. The winner here will gain half a game on the division-leading Eagles who will likely be watching this game on TV during their week off. I think the Giants are beginning to find a running game and stopping the run is not the Cowboys’ long suit. In fact, stopping anyone is not the Cowboys’ long suit; they rank dead last in the NFC in total defense giving up an average of 439.8 yards per game and twice this year giving up more than 600 yards in a game. I like the Giants at home to win and cover.

(Sun Nite) Denver – 2.5 at New England (54): This is the best game of the weekend. These are two good teams and both of them are in close races within their division. The Pats have a 2-game pad over the Jets and the Dolphins, which may in fact be a significant lead due to the yo-yo performances of the Jets, and dolphins this year. Nonetheless, the Pats’ coaches will neglect to mention that aspect of the standings and will surely emphasize the narrowness of the Pats’ lead. The Broncos are tied with the Chiefs in the AFC West and get to face the Chiefs again in KC next week. I see the ball moving up and down the field a whole lot in this game. I like the game to go OVER and I like the Pats at home plus the points.

(Mon Nite) SF – 5 at Washington (47): Let us get one thing on the table quickly. The Redskins’ pass defense is putrid; they do not cover well and they do not tackle well once the receivers catch the passes. As noted above, the Niners pass offense has been more than a tad anemic for most of this year; the Niners offense is dead last in the NFC averaging 309 yards per game. This is their litmus test; if they cannot get almost 300 yards passing against this defense, they should all be docked a week’s pay. The Skins offense averages over 5 yards per rush (best in the NFL) which sounds like a good way for them to win this game – except the Niners defense only gives up 3.9 yards per rush. If the Skins fall behind early, watch for the bandwagon Washington fans to turn on them harshly. I like the Niners here to win and cover because I think they are the better team with better coaching. I also like this game to go OVER.

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

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Comments

  • Doug  On November 21, 2013 at 8:10 am

    “Floundering Falcons?” Well, I always thought floundering meant something different than the ineptitude with which the Falcons have played this year. Defensively, they are playing with about half their starting eleven. On offense, they are down three top receivers. While I am not pleased with what I see, they do have a decent excuse this year.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On November 21, 2013 at 10:32 am

      Doug:

      They have more than a decent excuse this year; no question about that. Nonetheless, the expectations for the Falcons this year were for NFC Conference Championship Game participation and possibly a Super Bowl appearance. From that perspective – and acknowledging the rash of injuries the team suffered – their current state is a significant “fall from Grace”.

      The Falcons will be fine next year – assuming the football gods consider this season sufficient penance for the Falcons and then send the “injury bug” to another team…

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