Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 12/8/13

I guess I have to review last week’s Mythical Picks here…

    I liked Packers +6 against Lions. Are you kidding me? No!

    I liked Cowboys -9 over Raiders. Cowboys won by only 7. No!

    I liked Steelers +3 against Ravens. Ravens won by only 2. Yes!

    I liked Titans/Colts OVER 44. Total score was 36. No!

    I liked Broncos -4.5 over Chiefs. Broncos won by 7. Yes!

    I liked Jags +7 against Browns. Jags won outright. Yes!

    I liked Bucs +9 against Panthers. Not nearly enough points. No!

    I liked Bears -1 over Vikes. Vikes won in OT. No!

    I liked Cards/Eagles OVER 48.5. Total score was 45. No!

    I liked Jets -1 over Dolphins. Are you kidding me? No!

    I liked Bills -3 over Falcons. Falcons won in OT. No!

    I liked Rams +9 against Niners. Niners won by 10. No!

    I liked Pats -7.5 over Texans. Pats won by 3. No!

    I liked Bengals +2 against Chargers. Bengals won outright. Yes!

    I liked Giants -1 over Skins. Giants won by 7. Yes!

    I liked Saints +6 against Seahawks. Not even close. No!

The nasty numbers for last week came out to be 5 – 11. That leaves the cumulative record for the year standing at 78-122-5. The abject awfulness of that record makes me pause and think about whether I was put on the Earth for a purpose – and if that purpose was to make anyone who makes predictions regarding NFL games look like a blinking genius. Notwithstanding such a “Debbie Downer” view of my existence, I shall press on…

Look at those numbers above. Clearly, no one who reads this week’s picks would think of using this week’s picks and comments as the basis for making a real wager involving actual money on a real NFL game this weekend. Anyone dumb enough to do that probably thinks that Johnny Cash is a pay toilet.

General Comments:

Remember when some folks in NY were complaining that the Jets would win one week, then lose the next week, and then win another… Well, the Jets have now lost 3 games in a row and have looked awful in doing so. That win/lose/win/lose sequence ought to be looking very good about now.

Back in August, the NYC tabloids harped on the fact that the Rex Ryan was a lame-duck coach and that he was a holdover from the “old GM” of the Jets. Then the Jets overachieved for a bit and some folks began to think Rex might have a playoff contender there; talk of his departure quieted down a lot. Now the team is stinking out the joint and his lame-duck status is front and center again. I am hardly a Rex Ryan apologist; I have said more than a few times that he is a bombastic buffoon who did a whole lot of crowing before he ever accomplished anything as a head coach. Nevertheless, this Jets team is not a winning bunch.

Maybe I missed one, but by my count, the Jets have had 6 QBs on the roster and/or in training camp this year:

    David Garrard
    Greg McElroy
    Mark Sanchez
    Matt Simms
    Geno Smith
    Tim Tebow

Look carefully at that list. Mark Sanchez is the best QB on that list. Think about that and ask yourself how this team is supposed to be a winner…

Oh, it gets worse when you look at the “playmakers” who are at WR, TE or RB on the team. I know that “defense wins championships” is the mantra of the NFL, but if you cannot score, you cannot win. End of message…

So, who put this team together? That would be the “former GM” and the “current GM”. There are plenty of examples of teams that underachieve and a significant measure of that blame needs to rest in the lap of the coaching staff. However, I do not think that is the case with the Jets.

In last week’s mortification against the Dolphins, Geno Smith was horrid in the first half and then Matt Simms was just an inch short of horrid in the second half. The color commentator for the game – I was not watching that game as my primary game so I did not see the announcers at the beginning of the game but it sounded like Rich Gannon to me – said at one point in the second half that he did not think that the Jets’ starting QB for 2014 was currently on the roster. I do not read minds so I have no idea what is the sentiment in the Jets’ front office regarding their QBs. Here is my opinion:

    Geno Smith is no better as a rookie than Mark Sanchez was as a rookie. It has been 5 games since Geno Smith threw a TD pass. Excuse me. The NFL is a passing league…

    Mark Sanchez only improved a small amount between his rookie season and this summer when he was injured.

    I have no reason to believe that Geno Smith will turn out to be a far better QB than Mark Sanchez turns out to be.

So, if the Jets want to make a change at QB for next year, they have two choices. They can spend another high draft pick on a kid coming out of college. If they are using the same scouts and talent evaluators this year as they have in recent years, why should the Jets’ fans expect a major upgrade at the position if they use the draft? The other option is free agency and unless I am missing someone, the QBs likely to be available are not exactly “elite”:

    Jay Cutler: How might he flourish under the microscope of the NYC tabloids?

    Josh Freeman: He is third-string behind Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel for Heaven’s sake. (Add Ponder and/or Cassel to this list and it does not get any better.) Since his one disastrous start, he has been seen less frequently than Sasquatch.

    Matt Schaub: His days in Houston are over; his career may or may not be over. However, remember he could not get his job back from Case “Bleeping” Keenum.

    Michael Vick: Sorry, but the dance is over. Vick is now a serviceable backup QB who may come in and win you a game or two while the starter heals from an injury. There are no more “full seasons as a starter” left in his body.

Jets’ fans would do well to go to church and light a candle…

I promise this is the last Jets’ related comment…

    Does anyone remember how the common wisdom was that what the Jets really needed was to fire Brian Schottenheimer as the offensive coordinator because he was hampering the development of Mark Sanchez as a QB?

There is something else in the NFL that is as screwed up as the Jets’ QB mess is and that thing is the officiating. The confusion created in the SNF game at the end about whether it was first down or third down did NOT determine the outcome of the game. It was, however, a blunder by the officiating crew that would be considered outrageous if it happened in a high school game. This comes on the heels of other tenuous calls and the walk-off “pick up the flag in the end zone” situation in the Pats/Panthers game.

Bill Belichick told ESPN that he thinks coaches should be able to challenge any call in the game anytime they want to. After all, they only have 2 challenges so they have to do a “cost/benefit analysis” in order to decide if they want to throw the challenge flag or not. Currently, here is what can be challenged:

    Calls involving the sideline, goal line or end line.
    Calls involving passes. Compelte? Intercepted? Forward or backward?
    Calls involving fumbles. Down by contact?
    Calls involving spotting of the ball.
    Calls involving more than 11 players on the field at the snap.
    Calls involving field goals good or not good.

Here are some things that cannot be reviewed:

    Field goals if the ball is higher than the uprights.
    Inadvertent whistles.
    Fumble recoveries in the field of play.
    Down by contact calls if there is no fumble on the play.
    Time left on the clock – except at the end of the half or the game.
    Penalty calls for interference, roughing the passer, holding, etc.

Part of what is behind what can and cannot be challenged is the idea that officials make judgment calls and those calls should be on the “no-challenge list”. Why? Is it impossible for an official – working at peak efficiency and in exactly the proper position to make a call – to botch that call and get it wrong? As a former basketball official, let me assure everyone that is not only possible; it happens.

    [Aside: When you look at replays can you determine what is and what is not pass interference (offensive or defensive) and/or illegal contact more than 5 yards downfield? I often cannot.]

I would strongly favor an expansion of the “can be challenged” list by the NFL Competition Committee.

Another idea suggested in the wake of the outrageous situation last Sunday night is that the NFL needs to hire full time officials and get rid of these “part-timers”. I am much less inclined to think that will solve the officiating problems. My reasoning here is that the problems with the officiating this year have not come from a misunderstanding of the rules or an improper interpretation of the rules. The problems come with on-field mechanics and on-field decisions. Hiring the referees full time will give them lots more time to study the rules and watch game film to show proper and improper mechanics. What it will not do is give them NFL on-field experience for a fundamental reason:

    From the time the whistle blows to end the Super Bowl until kickoff time in the Hall of Fame Game in August, there are NO NFL GAMES for them to officiate.

Until an advocate for full-time NFL officials comes up with a way to alter that situation, I will remain skeptical about the positive effect such a move would have on the on-field performance of NFL officials.

Let me go around the league from last week briefly:

    The Jags beat the Browns. Jags have won 3 of their last 4 games.

    The Bears lost in OT to the Vikings and Bears’ coach, Marc Trestman made a strange decision to go for a 47-yard field goal on second down in that OT period. Da Bears now yield 153.6 yards per game rushing.

    The Giants beat the Skins. Justin Tuck had 2.5 sacks for the season going into the game; he had 4 sacks in that one game. He gets to play against that OL one more time this year…

    The Broncos beat the Chiefs. Peyton Manning threw for 405 yards and the Broncos’ WRs abused the secondary for the Chiefs.

    The Bengals beat the Chargers. That was a nice road win for the Bengals who now have a 2-game cushion on the Ravens in the AFC North. The Chargers are not eliminated from the playoffs but their chances of getting in are mighty slim.

    The Panthers beat the Bucs. So much for that 3-game win streak the Bucs had going on…

    The Lions beat the Packers. Despite getting 4 turnovers in the game, the Packers were spit-roasted.

    The Ravens beat the Steelers. I think that does in the Steelers’ playoff hopes. The Ravens still cannot run the football.

    The Eagles beat the Cardinals. The Eagles’ defense has improved by orders of magnitude between September and December. Cards’ OL is not an elite unit.

    The Pats beat the Texans. Even with a win, the Pats’ run defense was gashed by the Texans who had 4 rushing TDs in the game.

    The Falcons beat the Bills in OT. The return of Roddy White and Steven Jackson sure did help the Falcons’ offense…

One final point… The Falcons/Bills game was in Toronto last week and the announced attendance was 39,969. At some point, the Bills’ execs need to realize that they do not have a huge fanbase in Toronto and the fact that they play one game a year in Toronto has not built even a respectable fanbase.

The Games:

There are two really good games on the card this week. The Thursday night game is abysmal. Some of the games have serious playoff implications. Nonetheless, on balance this week’s slate of games is about as attractive as booing the competitors at the Special Olympics.

(Thurs Nite) Houston – 3 at Jax (43.5): These are two bad teams. For that reason, I will call this a “Toss Up Game”. If you watch it, you are likely to toss up your dinner. If you want a reason to risk gastric effluvia and watch this mess, let me try to help:

    1. You can admire the tarps on the upper deck of the stadium covering up the seats that the Jags could not fill if they handed out free tix with a $100 bill stapled to them.

    2. You can watch Case Keenum play QB to see what all the gushing praise for him is all about. After all, he has yet to win a single game that he played in. Not even one…

    3. The Texans are 1st in total defense in the NFC; the Jags are 16th in total offense in the AFC. If the Texans are going to screw up that advantage, it ought to be entertaining at least.

Two weeks ago, these teams met in a Titanic struggle – meaning that the game should have been played beneath 2000 feet of seawater – and the Jags emerged victorious by a score of 13-6. If they reprise that performance here in a night game, this will be the NFL’s version of a Sominex pill. The Jags have won 3 of their last 4 games over the Titans, Texans and Browns; the Texans have lost 10 in a row. As I stifle my gag reflex here, I’ll take the Jags plus the points.

KC – 3 at Washington (44.5): The Skins have lost 4 games in a row; the Chiefs have lost 3 games in a row and have given up 103 points in those 3 losses. However, those Chiefs’ losses have come at the hands of the Chargers and the Broncos twice; no one should confuse the Skins’ offense with either the Chargers’ or the Broncos’ offense. The Skins’ defense remains porous and the next big play they make on special teams will be the first one of the season. The only reason I can think of for the Skins to give a damn about this game is that they would not like to see the Rams have the first overall pick in next year’s draft. As of this morning, the Skins are clearly in contention for that “honor”. I like the Chiefs to win and cover on the road here. I also like this game to go OVER.

Minnesota at Baltimore – 6.5 (42.5): This game matters to Baltimore in terms of a playoff berth; such is not the case with regard to the Vikes. Matt Cassel threw for 280 yards and 2 TDs last week against the Bears; maybe he should have been the Vikes’ starter all along? Baltimore is a significantly better team at home than they are on the road (5-1 at home and 1-5 on the road). I like the Ravens to win and cover here.

Cleveland at New England – 11.5 (44.5): Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell are both dealing with the after-effects of a concussion. The Browns’ other QBs for the moment are:

    Caleb Hanie (last appearance in an NFL game was 2011 and record as a starting QB is 0-4)

    Alex Tanney (has never taken the field in an NFL game)

Josh Gordon has been outstanding this season (and particularly in the last two games) but he does have to have someone throw him the damned ball. If neither Campbell nor Weeden can play, this game could become a 30-point blowout; if Campbell or Weeden can play, the game should remain in doubt for a while. I’ll take the Pats to win and cover – even with the double-digit spread. If I knew that either Campbell or Weeden would play the whole game, I would take the game to go OVER too, but with either of the other guys under center, that would be a most improvident wager.

Oakland at Jets – 3 (40.5): Only the overpowering rancid odor emanating from the Thursday night game prevents this game from consideration as the least entertaining game of the week. The ignominy of it all is that the Raiders have to fly 3000 miles to and from this stinker. The Jets’ defense should be able to keep the Raiders under control; the Jets’ offense will likely keep themselves under control. I see a lot of field goal attempts in this game and not a lot of TDs. I like the Raiders plus the points in a low-scoring game and I like the game to stay UNDER.

Indy at Cincy – 6 (43.5): This game has playoff implications for both teams. Each one is in the lead in their division and neither would like to give any of their pursuers reason to think the division title is still up for grabs. Moreover, both teams have the same record coming into this game and the winner here will hold the tiebreaker over the other one when it comes to seeding in the AFC playoffs. The Colts’ shortcomings are the defense and the absence of a running game. The Bengals’ shortcoming is the up-and-down randomness of Andy Dalton’s play at QB. AJ Green has a groin injury and is listed as “probable”; if Green cannot play, the whole thinking about this game changes. I think that line is fat so I’ll take the Colts plus the points.

(Sun Nite) Carolina at New Orleans – 3 (45.5): If this is not the best game of the week, then the Seattle/SF game is. These teams are tied for the lead in the NFC South. The Panthers have won 8 games in a row while the Saints were pantsed by the Seahawks on Monday night. However, this game is in the Superdome and the Saints are a completely different team there than they are outdoors (6-0 at home; 3-3 away from home and all 3 losses were outdoors). The Panthers’ defense has been very stingy during the 8-game winning streak but to be honest, they only faced one team (the Patriots) in that string where the opposing offense was in the top third of the league. I am going to go with the home-field angle here and take the Saints to win and cover. I also think this game will produce a lot of points so I’ll take it to go OVER.

Detroit at Philly – 3 (54): The Lions lead the NFC North by a game; the Eagles are tied with the Cowboys for the NFC East lead. This game has serious playoff implications for both teams. Quick Quiz:

    Which QB leads the entire NFL in QB Rating this season?

      Peyton Manning is second (115.3), Russell Wilson is third (108.5), Aaron Rodgers is fourth (108.0) and Drew Brees is fifth (104.9)

      The leader is Nick Foles (125.2).

Statistically, the Lions are slightly more productive on offense than the Eagles; the Lions are first in total offense in the NFC while the Eagles are second in total offense in the NFC. The Lions give up 67 yards per game less than the Eagles; the Lions are 7th in total defense in the NFC and the Eagles are 15th in total defense in the NFC. Having said that, the Eagles’ defense in their last 4 games (all wins by the way) has only given up 70 points; that unit is definitely improving. Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson are listed as “probable” for this game; that means that they will play unless one or both of them drowns in the hotel bathroom the night before the game. I like the Lions plus the points here and I like this game to go OVER.

Miami at Pittsburgh – 3 (40.5): These teams are on the fringe of the last playoff slot in the AFC; one of them will be most disappointed around 5:00 PM EST on Sunday. There really is not anything compelling to recommend either team here so I’ll go with The Weather Channel. It is going to be cold with a “wintery mix” in Pittsburgh on Sunday. The only “wintry mix” they have in Miami is when bartenders use bottled margarita mix instead of fresh ingredients. I’ll take the Steelers and lay the points.

Buffalo at Tampa – 2.5 (43): The Bills are 4-8; the Bucs are 3-9. The players here are not playing for pride; they are playing in order to have jobs next season. So, do you like a bumbling Bills team on the road in a late season meaningless game? How about the Bucs’ team that has scored over 24 points exactly one time this season? It is coin flip time because this game is not worth wasting synapse firings over. The coin says to take the Bucs to win and cover. Whatever…

Tennessee at Denver – 12 (49): The Broncos need the game to continue to have the best AFC record and the Titans need the game to keep the glimmer of a playoff slot in sight. Frankly, I think the Titans’ loss to the Jags 4 weeks ago will be too much for the team to overcome in terms of making the playoffs. If you would like to see an “unbalanced team” consider the Broncos stats to this point of the season:

    Broncos are 1st in total offense in the NFL
    Broncos are 15th in total defense in the AFC.

I see this as a mismatch. I’ll take the Broncos to win and cover at home.

St. Louis at Arizona – 6.5 (41.5): As mentioned above, the Cardinals have problems with their OL. Carson Palmer is in danger of setting the world record for being sacked in a year; the current record holder is Paris Hilton. The Rams defense can and will pressure the QB in this game. On the other hand, I do not see Kellen Clemens lighting up a good Cardinals’ defensive unit. It is coin flip time once again. This time, the coin says to take the Rams plus the points.

Giants at San Diego – 3 (47): I guess this game has serious playoff implications in the following sense:

    The loser of this game has about as much chance of making the playoffs as Charles Manson has of being paroled the next time his case comes up.

The Giants are 2-4 on the road this year – and this is a massive road trip. Not to worry, the Chargers are only 2-3 at home this year. The Chargers’ offense is 80 yards per game better than the Giants’ offense; the Chargers’ defense is 55 yards per game better than the Giants’ defense. Those differentials indicate to me that the Chargers at home should prevail. I’ll take the Chargers and lay the points.

Seattle at SF – 2.5 (41): If this is not the best game of the week, then the Carolina/New Orleans game is. The Niners have Michael Crabtree on the field now; they did not have him in their first meeting with the Seahawks; Michael Crabtree makes a difference in the way the Niners can operate their passing game. If you like “balanced teams” consider the Niners’ stats to this point in the season:

    Offense gains 311.0 yards per game
    Defense yields 311.7 yards per game

The biggest statistical edge in this game goes in favor of the Seahawks. They average 8.3 yards per pass while the Niners average only 7.1 yards per pass. Presumably, Michael Crabtree will bring those numbers into closer alignment here. With a 3-game lead, the Seahawks do not need this game nearly as much as the Niners do; even with a loss, they would be in good standing in the NFC playoff picture and the rest of the Seahawks’ schedule is not exactly a killer. I like this game to go OVER. I also like the Niners to win and cover at home.

Atlanta at Green Bay – 1 (59): Most sportsbooks do not have any line on this game pending more news on the availability of Aaron Rodgers. What the numbers here tell me is that the oddsmaker at this sportsbook does not think Rodgers will play but that he still thinks both offenses will score almost at will against the opposing defenses. I’ll take the Packers to win and cover here purely as a venue call because there are far too many other variables to worry about.

(Mon Nite) Dallas at Chicago – 1 (49.5): Both teams need this game to maintain a push toward the NFC playoffs. Both teams can move the ball; neither team has a defense worthy of that name. This could be one of those games where the team that has the ball last wins the game. I do see a lot of points hitting the board here, so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

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

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Comments

  • Peter  On December 5, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    I must say, that was your best “you’re dumb enough to” in a while. They’re usually of a high quality, but that one was special. Do you get those from some trove of “yo mama so dumb” jokes, or do they come from the darkest recesses of your mind? If the latter, I am extremely impressed.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On December 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      Peter:

      Glad you enjoyed this week’s “dumb enough to…”

      There are two sources for the “dumb enough” lines. If I hear a good line from a stand-up comedian and remember it long enough to put it on my clipboard, it is there for the taking when I need it. Others come from – as you called it – the darkest recesses of my mind. I only need about 30 of these things per year, so obtaining and maintaining an “inventory” is not a Herculean task.

      • Rich  On December 5, 2013 at 4:12 pm

        Speaking of the late Johnny Cash, is there any truth to the story that Steeler coach Mike Tomlinson will be releasing a cover version of I Walk The Line?

        • The Sports Curmudgeon  On December 6, 2013 at 9:36 am

          Rich:

          That was outrageous. You will have to go to your room without supper… ;)

  • TenaciousP  On December 6, 2013 at 10:39 am

    There were lots of good chuckles in this NFL-prediction report. Favorite line: next big play they make on special teams will be the first one of the season. Second-favorite line: that means that they will play unless one or both of them drowns in the hotel bathroom the night before the game. Go Curmudgeon, go. Just be sure to leave the Prophet Muhammad out of it. We don’t need no stinkin’ fatwas proclaimed.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On December 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      Tenacious:

      I shall do my best to avoid any fatwas. You may be sure about that.

      Glad you enjoyed…

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