It is time to review the bidding on last week’s Mythical Picks:
I liked Saints -9 over Falcons. Saints won by only 4. No!
I liked Lions -9 over Bucs. Lions lost the game. No!
I liked Lions/Bucs OVER 48. The game stayed Under. Double No!
I liked Jags +10 against Texans. Jags won outright. Yes!
I liked Vikes/Packers Under 45. Total was 52. No!
I liked Chargers +5 against Chiefs. Chargers won outright. Yes!
I liked Panthers -4 over Dolphins. The game was a Push.
I liked Steelers +2.5 against Browns. Steelers won handily. Yes!
I liked Bears/Rams UNDER 46. Not even close. No!
I liked Ravens -3.5 over Jets. Ravens dominated here. Yes!
I liked Raiders -1 over Titans. Titans won the game. No!
I liked Colts/Cards OVER 44.5. Total score was 51. Yes!
I liked Giants -2.5 over Cowboys. Giants lost the game. No!
I liked Broncos/Pats OVER 54. Total score was 65. Yes!
I liked Pats +2.5 against Broncos. Pats won straight up. Double Yes!
I liked Niners -5 over Redskins. Niners covered easily. Yes!
I liked Niners/Redskins OVER 47. Total score was only 33. No!
The final tally for last week is a mediocre 8 – 8 – 1, which is what you might expect if all I did was to flip a coin on the games. Nevertheless, it is an improvement over the craptacular record I have amassed in prior weeks. The overall record for NFL Mythical Picks for the season stands at 73 – 111 – 5.
Clearly, one would need to be monumentally stupid to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on an actual NFL football game this weekend. Since no one who reads these rants is monumentally stupid I should not have to use this disclaimer but just in case an interloper wanders by, here is what I would think of anyone who might do that:
You, sir or madam, are as sharp as a sack of sand.
These picks – and the comments that accompany the picks – are much earlier than usual this week in order to accommodate a Thanksgiving Week schedule. I will not be surprised to see several of the lines used here move a bit between now and game time as it becomes more clear which players are likely to play or not to play. Nevertheless…
In the AFC, the wild card race has 6 teams bunched together with 5-6 records and some of those teams still have to play one another. Looking at the schedules, it is conceivable that a team with an 8-8 record could make the AFC playoffs based on tiebreakers. Here are the 6 teams with 5-6 records and their remaining schedules:
Chargers: Cincy, Giants, at Denver, Oakland, Kansas City
Dolphins: at Jets, at Steelers, New England, at Buffalo, Jets
Jets: Miami, Oakland, at Carolina, Cleveland, at Miami
Ravens: Steelers, Minnesota, at Detroit, New England, at Cincy
Steelers: at Baltimore, Miami, Cincy, at Green Bay, Cleveland
Titans: at Indy, at Denver, Arizona, at Jacksonville, Houston
Just looking at the opponents for those 6 teams, I would suggest that the Jets have the easiest schedule. Looking a bit more closely, the Titans have two “soft” games to finish out the schedule after three tough games starting this week. If the Titans get past Indy, Denver and Arizona with at least 1 win, they are in position to finish 8-8. If either the Jets or the Dolphins can sweep the other guy, either team looks to have a good shot at an 8-8 record. The Chargers have some tough opponents, but 4 of their remaining 5 games are at home. The Steelers and the Ravens would seem to have the most difficult road to travel here given the combination of the opponents and where they have to play said opponents.
If the playoffs were to begin today, the Titans would be in as the AFC second wildcard team based on tiebreakers. They beat the Raiders last week in Oakland despite another creditable performance from Matt McGloin for the Raiders. He went 19 for 32 for 260 yards and 1 TD and 1 INT. The problem was that the Raiders’ defense allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to go 30 for 42 for 320 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs. The Raiders’ defense also allowed the Titans to convert 10 of 18 third down situations.
Going into last weekend’s game against the Redskins, Colin Kaepernick had passed for less than 200 yards in 8 of the Niners’ 10 games. As might be expected against a woeful Skins’ defense, he went over that mark on Monday night. The score of the game was Niners 27 and Skins 6 – but it was not nearly that close. Here are 2 telling stats from the game:
In the second half – after teams have had the opportunity to see what the other guy is doing and to make “adjustments” – the Skins’ total offense was 30 yards.
The Skins had 6 possessions in the second half; their longest “drive” was 9 yards. Basically, they could not run the ball nor could they throw the ball effectively.
As of this morning, the Skins have 3 wins. Four teams have only 2 wins and the Bucs also have 3 wins. That means the Skins are on track to have something like a “Top 5 pick” in next year’s NFL Draft – except for the fact that they traded that pick away to the Rams to move up to draft RG3. Oh well, at least their 2nd round pick will be early in the round…
The Cards beat the Colts 40-11. This game was a stone-cold, straight-up blowout. Both teams sport 7-4 records this morning but the Colts are a significantly worse team today than they were when Reggie Wayne was on the field. The Cards’ defense is for real; they held the Colts passing game to 163 yards in this game. That extends the Cards’ win streak to 4 games and they have the playoffs well within sight.
The Rams dismantled the Bears 42-21; the score reflects what the game really was. The Bears’ defense could not stop a nosebleed; Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham (is he Richie Cunningham’s little brother?) simply ran through that defense as if it were practice. The Rams rushing total was 258 yards for the day. There was a strange strategic decision made by the Bears’ braintrust in this game:
The score was Rams 24 and Bears 14 with a little under 9 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter. The Bears had the ball 4th and goal at the Rams 1-yardline.
Rather than kick the field goal to make it a “one-score game”, the Bears went for it; ran Michael Bush to the left side for a loss of 4 yards.
Meanwhile the Bucs won their 3rd straight game beating the Lions 24-21 in Detroit. What is that all about? There should have been a major league ass-kicking in the Lions’ locker room after that game. Matthew Stafford threw 4 INTs in this game; one of them was such an easy play for the defense that my mother would have made the interception – and she has been dead for a little over ten years now.
And to make sure that the NFC North teams did not win last Sunday, the Packers and the Vikings played to a 26-26 overtime tie. Dan Daly, formerly of the Washington Times, reports via Facebook that this is the first game in NFL history to end in a 26-26 tie. Well, at least there is something marginally interesting related to the outcome of that game…
The Jags beat the Texans 13-6 scoring their 2nd win of the year. In addition to the humiliation of losing to the Jags at home, here are a few other shameful situations facing the Texans this week:
That was their 9th loss in a row.
It came on the heels of losing to the Raiders at home.
They scored 6 points against a defense that was giving up 31.8 points per game prior to kickoff.
At some point back in August, there were plenty of folks who had the Texans as a playoff team and some had them as the AFC Champions. Right now, they are most in contention for the overall #1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
The other team with similar expectations going into the season in terms of playoffs and a possible Super Bowl appearance that has fallen from grace is the Atlanta Falcons. Like the Texans, they have 2 wins for the season and they have lost 5 games in a row. Last week, they played the Saints tough but came out on the short end of a 17-13 score.
The Ravens dominated the Jets 19-3. Were it not for a valiant effort from the Jets’ defense, this game could have been 33-3. Geno Smith was simply awful in this game; about the best thing you can say for his performance last week was that he did not throw up on his shoes. It seemed to me as if the Jets’ coaching staff lost confidence in Smith’s capabilities on that afternoon somewhere in the 2dn quarter and from that point on they called lots of running plays and wildcat sets and things that would prevent him from having to go back and make a play from the pocket. That put the Jets in a lot of “third-and-an-acre” situations which meant when a less-than-confident Geno Smith went back to pass, the Ravens were after him like a pit bull after a pork chop. For the day, the Jets converted exactly 1 of 12 third-down situations.
The Chargers beat the Chiefs 41-38. Philip Rivers was “in the zone” last Sunday. Here is his stat line:
27 for 39 for 392 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.
The Panthers beat the Dolphins 20-16 in what was a boring game until the final drive when the Panthers scored with 43 seconds to play to win the game. Dolphins’ WR, Mike Wallace, had a TD pass on his hands in the final seconds and did not make the catch. Big time free agent WRs who sign for something north of $50M are supposed to make plays like that.
The Steelers beat the Browns 27-11 despite the Browns’ Josh Gordon amassing a total of 237 yards receiving. The Steelers started out the season 0-4 and they are now 5-6 and in the playoff picture. Yes, I am surprised; they were playing like road kill a month ago.
The Cowboys beat the Giants 24-21. In simple terms, the Giants lost because they could not find ways to exploit a defense that was the worst in the NFL coming into the game. It really is as simple as that…
The Bye Weeks are over. From here on out, all 32 teams will play every week. If the NFL regular season were a horse race, this would be the point where Dave Johnson would utter his signature call:
“… and down the stretch they come.”
(Thurs Early PM Game) Green Bay at Detroit – 6 (49.5): A mere half-game separates these two teams in the NFC North; neither team is playing particularly well at this particular time, but the game has significance in the playoff picture. That makes it watchable. With Aaron Rodgers wearing a headset instead of a helmet, the Lions are the better team here. Having said that, the Lions are also the dumber and the more mistake-prone team here. I realize that the guys available to play QB for the Packers are a far cry from Rodgers, but the Lions secondary is just not very good. That line looks fat to me. I’ll take the Packers plus the points.
(Thurs Late PM Game) Oakland at Dallas – 9 (46.5): We should all give thanks to the NFL schedule maker for putting this mediocre game on during dinner time; missing this game will not be difficult. The Cowboys need this game to put pressure on the Eagles in the NFC East race; for all practical purposes, the Raiders’ season is over; they are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs – but they are not going to make it there either. I like Dallas to win and cover at home.
(Thurs Nite) Pittsburgh at Baltimore – 3 (40): This will be a black-and-blue football game. The loser will take a step back in that wild and crazy AFC wildcard race. The Steelers arrive in Baltimore with a 3-game win streak. Both Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco are capable of having huge games in pressure situations; the question here is which one will get it done on Thursday night. I think this will be a low-scoring game and so I will take the Steelers plus the points.
Tennessee at Indy – 4 (44): Two games separate these teams in the AFC North and the Titans are squarely in the middle of the AFC wildcard picture. This game has a degree of urgency associated with it. Do not focus on the QB match-up in this game because that focus would have you miss what I think is the critical element in the outcome of the game:
Can the Colts’ defense (13th in the AFC) contain Chris Johnson running the ball and Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing the ball?
Since I cannot come to a firm conclusion on that question, I will resort to the Curmudgeon Central coin flip protocol. The coin says to take the game to go OVER. Why not?
Denver – 4.5 at KC (48.5): If you like the “revenge angle”, here is a game where it might make sense. After all, these two teams played only two weeks ago so all the players involved in Sunday’s game will actually remember the details of the game wherein the Broncos beat the Chiefs in Denver. If the Broncos win here, their lead in the AFC West will be 1.5 games because they will own the tiebreaker over the Chiefs. That means the Chiefs should recognize the importance of winning the game on Sunday. If they do not, you can rely on the KC fans to let them know all about it during the introductions. The Chiefs will be without Justin Houston for this game and if Tamba Hali is able to play there is no reason to believe he will be at peak efficiency. I like the Broncos to win and cover – even on the road.
Jax at Cleveland – 7 (40.5): This game escapes the label “Worst Game of the Week” only because there is a more worthy candidate for that label a bit later on the list. You do not want to watch this game and you do not want to wager on this game. The Browns saw Jason Campbell leave the game with a concussion last week; that would put Brandon Weeden under center for the Browns this week and that could well neutralize the statistical advantage the Browns enjoy in this game:
Jax is 16th in offense in the AFC; Cleveland is 2nd in total defense in the AFC.
However, the Browns are only 12th in total offense in the AFC and reverting to Weeden could put them down in “Jags territory” for this miserable game. This is definitely a pride game because it has no bearing on playoffs or anything of that nature. I am assuming that Jason Campbell will not play; in that case, that line looks fat to me and I’ll take the Jags plus those points.
Tampa at Carolina – 9 (41.5): The Bucs have won 3 in a row; the Panthers have won 7 in a row. The Panthers own the #1 wildcard slot in the NFC for the moment by a full game but they have their sights on the New Orleans Saints who are only one game ahead of the Panthers in the NFC South. Meanwhile the Bucs are just trying to salvage something from a season that began with 8 straight losses. This is another line that looks fat to me; I’ll take the Bucs plus the points.
Chicago at Minnesota – 1 (49): The Bears are tied for the AFC North lead as of this morning. Nevertheless, they will need a win here to stay in a leadership position in that division no matter the outcome of the packers/Lions game on Thursday. The Vikings are playing out the string. The Vikes have two things going for them:
The game is in Minnesota where the Vikings’ record is 2-3 this year.
The Vikings’ strength is their running game and the Bears’ rush defense has given up 4.9 yards per carry so far this season.
Before you fall in love with that second advantage for the Vikings, consider that the Vikes are only 14th in the NFC in total offense despite their strong running game. I like the motivation factor for the Bears here more than I fear their inability to stop the run. I’ll take the Bears plus the point – and hold my breath.
Arizona at Philly – 3.5 (48.5): This is clearly the best “early Sunday afternoon game” for NFC teams. As of this morning, the Cardinals are not one of the NFC wildcard teams but they are the top team on the list of “wildcard aspirants”. The Eagles and Cowboys are tied for the lead in the NFC East and the Eagles will know if they are playing a “keep pace game” or a “take the lead game” at kickoff time. The Eagles return to action after a bye-week with a 3-game win streak; the Cardinals arrive with a 4-game winning streak. These teams go about their business in different ways:
The Cardinals give up 100 yards per game fewer than the Eagles do.
The Eagles gain 79 more yards per game than the Cardinals do.
I think the offenses will prevail here. I like this game to go OVER.
Miami at Jets – 1 (38.5): This is an important game for AFC wildcard positioning even though both of these teams have been painful to watch over the past several games. The Jets rank 13th on total offense in the AFC; the Dolphins rank 14th in total offense in the AFC. This will be a low-scoring affair – absent defensive TDs or special teams TDs – and I will make this a pure venue call. I’ll take the Jets and lay the point.
Atlanta vs. Buffalo – 3 (46): [in Toronto] Here is the “Worst game of the Week”. The Falcons show up in Canada with a 2-9 record and 5 straight losses. Waiting to greet them are the Bills with their 4-7 record and their customary locale in the AFC East – at the bottom. Let me put it this way; if researchers did a psych experiment and forced skunks to watch this game, the skunks would pass out from the stench. This game is bad enough that it might cause a diplomatic rift between the US and Canada. Here is how I will make the selection for this game:
The Bills are 3-3 at home. This may not be a “classic” home game, but the Bills are going to be “more at home” than the Falcons.
The Falcons are 0-5 on the road.
I’ll take the Bills to win and cover only because I said I would make a pick in “every game”.
St. Louis at SF – 9 (42): The Niners hold the NFC 2nd wildcard slot as of this morning but they have the same record as the Arizona Cardinals. Regardless of the outcome of the Eagles/Cardinals game earlier in the day, the Niners need to win this game. The Rams are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but they have no room for error left. The Niners find themselves in a tricky place thanks to the NFL scheduling mavens. They have a short week of preparation for this game having played in DC last Monday night meaning they did not get home until Tuesday morning after a very long flight. Moreover, they just might be tempted to look past the last-place Rams because next on their dance card is a visit from the Seattle Seahawks. I think this could be a trap game for the Niners so that is a lot of points in the spread line. I’ll take the Rams plus those points.
New England – 7.5 at Houston (47): I confess. I do not understand this line even a little bit. The Texans have lost 9 games in a row – and most recently lost a game to Jax where they scored exactly 2 field goals. The Patriots are 8-3 and lead the AFC East by 3 full games and have their eye on a first-round bye in the playoffs or even home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I like the Pats to win and cover.
Cincy at San Diego – 2 (48.5): The Bengals had their Bye Week last week and have a 2-game lead in the AFC North as of this morning. Since the Ravens and Steelers are paired on Thursday, one of those teams is going to be 6-6 when this game kicks off; if the Bengals lose, they will have only a 1-game lead in the division. [Yes, I know. The Steelers/Ravens game could be a tie but then again so could this game.] While the game is not nearly as important to the Bengals related to their season aspirations as it is to the Chargers, I cannot see the Bengals mailing it in for the game. Here is the statistical comparison that makes my decision for me:
Bengals 4th in total offense in AFC; Chargers 2nd in total offense in AFC
Bengals 3rd in total defense in AFC; Chargers 16th in total defense in AFC
I’ll take the Bengals plus the points.
(Sun Nite) Giants – 1 at Washington (45.5): After a run of good games for SNF, a nation glutted on turkey, turkey leftovers and lots of football games caps off the weekend with this turkey of a game. The only reason this is not the “Worst Game of the Week” is that the Giants – bad as they have been this year – are only 2 games behind the Cowboys and the Eagles in the piss-pot-poor NFC East. The Skins are a bad football team that also gave signs of quitting on MNF last week. The Skins’ secondary is about as bad as there is in the NFL. If the Giants’ OL can keep Eli Manning from having to scramble – something he is not capable of doing – then he ought to pick that secondary clean. The question simply is:
Can the Skins’ defense apply constant significant pressure on Eli Manning?
The answer to that question lies in the realm of a Ouija Board – and I do not happen to have one handy here in the bowels of Curmudgeon Central. Therefore, I shall resort to the coin flip here and the coin says to take Giants and lay the point. Remember, these are Mythical Picks; I would not wager Monopoly money on this game.
(Mon Nite) New Orleans at Seattle – 6 (47): And here we have THE best game on the schedule for this week. The folks at ESPN have had some less-than-stellar games to put on the air in earlier weeks such as:
Dolphins/Bucs – and –
Not so here; these are the two teams with the best records in the NFC. They bring a combined record of 19-3 to Century Link Field. The winner of this game will likely have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Seahawks’ secondary is depleted; Brandon Browner will not play; Walter Thurmond will start a 4-game suspension for running afoul of the NFL substance abuse policies. The cornerbacks on the Seahawks roster as of this morning are:
Brandon Browner – will not play
Jeremy Lane – second year player from Northwestern State (La)
Byron Maxwell – third year player from Clemson
Richard Sherman – will play and will likely play very well
That is not the way you want to have to line up against a pass-happy team like the Saints. Here is why the Seahawks are favored:
They have – arguably – the biggest home-field advantage in the NFL
The Saints simply do not play as well outdoors on grass as they do in their dome.
I like the Saints plus the points here.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………