Even before getting to the results from last week, let me explain why these picks are so early this week. I will be going off the air later this week for about 2 weeks. I said back at the beginning of the season that I knew I would not be around to pick every game every weekend. I will definitely not be able to make picks for the final week of the regular season but I did want to try to get in a set of picks for this week before pulling the plug. The fate of Mythical Picks for the first week of the playoffs remains up in the air. If I can get to them, I shall.
Now, as to last week’s results:
I liked Falcons -7 over Skins. Falcons won by only 1 point. No!
I liked Falcons/Skins OVER 50. The game went Over. Yes!
I liked Bucs +5.5 against Niners. Not nearly enough points. No!
I liked Cards -2.5 over Titans. Cards won by 3 points. Yes!
I liked Saints – 6 over Rams. Saints lost the game. No!
I liked Saints/Rams OVER 47. Total score was 43. Double No!
I liked Seahawks -6.5 over Giants. Seahawks covered easily. Yes!
I liked Seahawks/Giants OVER 41.5. Not even close. No!
I liked Bears/Browns OVER 44. Total score was 69. Yes!
I liked Colts -5.5 over Texans. Colts covered easily. Yes!
I liked Colts/Texans OVER 45.5. Total score was 28. No!
I liked Jags +2 against Bills. Jags lost by 7. No!
I liked Dolphins +1.5 over Pats. Dolphins won outright. Yes!
I liked Eagles -5 over Vikes. Eagles lost by 18. No!
I liked Jets/Panthers UNDER 41. Total score was 50. No!
I liked Jets +11 against Panthers. Jests lost by only 10. Yes!
I liked Chiefs -4.5 over Raiders. Chiefs covered easily. Yes!
I liked Packers/Cowboys UNDER 49.5. Game went Over. No!
I liked Steelers +3 against Bengals. Steelers won outright. Yes!
I liked Ravens +6 against Lions. The Ravens won outright. Yes!
In a good year, I would decry a record of 10-10-0 as being less exciting than an oatmeal hoagie. Given how bad this season has gone, that record stands as a shining beacon of competency.
So far this year, the cumulative record for Mythical Picks stands at 96-143-7. Let me try to sugar coat that and say it is not a record that anyone would be proud to own. Without the sugar coating, that is a record that sucks like a Hoover…
No one in their right mind – or their left mind either for that matter – should use any information here as the basis for making a decision with regard to wagering on a real NFL game this weekend if that wager might involve real money. You would have to be pretty stupid to do anything like that – - stupid enough to believe that reincarnation is coming back to life as a Lexus.
Last weekend was not kind to NFL Division leaders. Of the eight, five lost outright – the Bengals, Broncos, Eagles, Saints and Patriots. In addition, each and every team in the NFC East managed to lose last weekend. Cue the Church Lady:
“Isn’t that special…?”
The Eagles’ defense which had held 5 straight opponents to 21 points or less must have missed the flight to Minneapolis because the Vikings managed to score 48 points. Nonetheless, the Eagles remain in first place in the NFC East because the Cowboys also lost and the Eagles can clinch a playoff slot this week with a win over the Bears along with a loss by the Cowboys when they visit Washington.
Speaking of the Skins, they probably had the best week of any team in the NFC East. Yes, they lost too, but they lost by only 1 point when they decided to go for a 2-point conversion to win or lose the game with less than 10 seconds left to play. Mike Shanahan deserves the “Sportsman of the Year Award” for that decision because it prevented having to watch those two wretched teams play even one more minute of woeful football.
The Skins scored 4 TDs on Sunday and backup QB, Kirk Cousins was 29-45 for 381 yards. That was the good news; here is some of the bad news:
The Skins turned the ball over 7 times in the game. Four consecutive drives for the Falcons in the first half began with a recovered fumble or the recovery of a muffed punt.
At one point in the first half there were fumbles lost by the offensive team on 3 consecutive plays – and then the offense jumped offside on the 4th play in that sequence.
The Falcons only gained an average of 3.9 yards per play in the game and they still won.
You probably have gotten the idea that the Falcons/Skins game was about as “artistic” as a finger-painting by a mule. Nonetheless, that game was not nearly as bad as what happened to the Cowboys last weekend. They led the Packers 26-3 at halftime and were running the ball down the Packers’ collective throat. Then in the second half, a couple of things happened:
The Cowboys stopped relying on the running game for reasons that will never be understood.
The Dallas defense stopped covering WRs and very definitely demonstrated an aversion to tackling the guy with the ball.
Matt Flynn – yes THAT Matt Flynn – threw 4 TD passes in the second half.
The Packers had 6 possessions in the 2nd half. They scored TDs on the first 5 possessions and then knelt down to kill the clock on the 6th one.
Tony Romo threw a key INT in the final 4 minutes leading to the go-ahead TD and then threw a 2nd INT in the final minute-or-so to seal the defeat.
Dez Bryant walked off the sidelines and into the locker room with 1:21 left to play in the game and the Cowboys trailing by a single point.
With the final score Green Bay 37 and Dallas 36, this game has to be one of the biggest chokes of the decade. The Cowboys could not have choked more if they swallowed an avocado pit.
When I was in high school – soon after folks began to use clocks in place of sundials – we used to say that the only things that are certain in life were death, taxes and taking English every year in high school. I do not know if they still require English every year in high school but I do believe that you can add to the list of certainties:
Tony Romo throwing a 4th quarter INT in a close game.
After the game in Jason Garrett’s press conference, someone asked him one of the dumbest questions of the year. I can only paraphrase it here:
How disappointed are you to lose this game?
Seriously now…what answer might one get to that question that was not self-evident the minute the words were out of one’s mouth? Did you expect him to tell the world he was contemplating self-mutilation after the game? Perhaps he might say something like, “It’s no big deal; we work on throwing games away every week.” This is the mirror image of the stupid questions that folks ask Super Bowl winning players, “How does it feel?”
The most dismal performance of the week for NFC East teams had to be that of the NY Giants who lost to the Seahawks 23-0. That is correct; the Giants were shut out at home; that does not happen very often. According to ESPN, the last time the Giants were shut out at home was on Opening Day of the 1995 season when they lost to the Cowboys 35-0.
Eli Manning threw for only 156 yards on Sunday and he threw 5 INTs. There is no way to spin what kind of a performance that was. While the Falcons won even though they gained a meager 3.9 yards per play, the Giants were even less productive on offense gaining only 3.4 yards per play. Here is what Tom Coughlin had to say after the game per the Newark Star-Ledger:
“There’s no way to sugar coat it, it was a pathetic offensive performance. We didn’t block anybody, we didn’t make any plays, we didn’t create any opportunities for ourselves. I told the players who prepared and gave great effort that I appreciate what they did; I told those that were obvious they had not that I felt sorry for them, because they’re missing the whole point.”
I think Coughlin deserves a lot of credit for keeping epithets out of that statement because it sure seems clear to me that he had a few in the back of his mind…
It was not a good day for New York’s other starting QB last week either. The Jets lost to the Panthers 30-20, Geno Smith only had 140 yards passing, and he threw an INT. Some folks in the NY media are saying that the Jets’ offensive woes are the result of Rex Ryan playing Mark Sanchez in that meaningless exhibition game in August leading t Sanchez’ injury and shoulder surgery. Talk about revisionist history… Some folks in NY now think that Mark Sanchez would have been the savior for the Jets’ offense. How soon they forget the Buttfumble.
The Saints lost again on the road – but this time the game was still in a dome so the conditions were not so “unusual” from their perspective. The Rams used 2 INTs and a fumble recovery to cruise along to a 27-16 victory. The Saints and the Panthers are now tied atop the NFC South with 10-4 records. They play each other in Carolina this weekend…
Jamaal Charles scored 5 TDs against the Raiders last weekend. He caught 4 TD passes, ran for another TD and amassed 215 yards of offense on 16 touches. That is not a bad day at the office… Raiders’ QB, Matt McGloin contributed to the Raiders 56-31 loss by throwing 4 INTs in that game.
Well, that change of coaches from Gary Kubiak to Wade Phillips did not amount to much more than a dollop of donkey dreck. The Texans – using Case Keenum at QB as pronounced by Texans’ owner Bob McNair last week – achieved the following:
Total offense of 239 yards
Total yards passing of 132 yards
1 safety yielded
12 first downs
The Browns scored 2 defensive TDs and still managed to lose to the Bears 38-31. They had a 24-17 lead at the end of the 3rd quarter but could not stop the Bears in the 4th quarter.
The reported attendance for the Bills/Jags game in Jax was 60,085. I only saw highlight plays but if there were really 60,000 folks in that stadium, I do not know where they were hiding.
The Cardinals led the Titans by 17 points with less than 4 minutes to play and wound up needing a field goal in OT to win the game. Ryan Fitzpatrick torched the Cards’ secondary for 402 yards in that game.
Remember, these picks are made before there is any reliable information about injuries or weather conditions for the games on Sunday. Some of these lines could move a lot between now and the time they put the ball in play. Also, note there is no Thursday night game this week.
Miami – 2.5 at Buffalo (43): The Dolphins are on a 3-game win streak beating the Jets, Steelers and Patriots. The Dolphins and Ravens both have 8-6 records; one of them is likely to be the final wildcard in the AFC playoffs. Neither team can make it to the #1 wildcard slot and the Dolphins have a very slim chance of winning the AFC East. The Bills are 5-9 and going nowhere. The Weather Channel says there will be freezing drizzle, rain and snow on Saturday and Sunday; that is not exactly “Miami Dolphins weather”. I see a lot of running plays in this game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
New Orleans at Carolina – 3 (46): This is the most important game of the week and it is also the best game of the week. The Saints have lost 2 of their last 3 games and the Panthers have caught them in the NFC South race. Both teams will be favored in their final regular season game, so this game is likely to determine which team wins the division and which team has to get involved with tiebreakers and the like for a playoff slot. After last week’s game, there were reports that Cam Newton suffered a “toe injury”. Unless that injury requires amputation of the toe sometime this week, I expect Cam Newton to be under center for the Panthers on Sunday. The Saints are 3-4 on the road; there is no mystery that they are significantly better in the Superdome than they are playing anywhere else. Two weeks ago, they handled the Panthers in the Superdome easily. I do not see that happening this week. I like the Panthers to win and cover at home and I like this game to go OVER.
Dallas – 3 at Washington (52.5): Can anyone spell “train wreck”? See above for the status of these two teams as they arrive at this game. The Cowboys can still win the NFC East but will have to win out to do so; the Skins bring a 6-game losing streak and an 0-4 record in the division to the kickoff. Which Tony Romo will show up here?
A. The QB who passes for 400+ yards and 4 TDs
B. The QB who throws the “killer INT” with 4 minutes left in the game.
Here is another key question for this game:
Which of these two epically bad defensive units will perform worse than the other one?
One more important game element is:
Can the Skins make it through a game without a gigantamous blunder by their special teams?
I do not see either team “stopping” the other team here so I’ll take this game to go OVER. And because this is the Curmudgeon Christmas Season, I’ll also take the Skins plus the points here just to stir the controversy pot here in the DC area about who should be the QB for the Skins. Whatever…
Tampa Bay at St. Louis – 5.5 (42.5): This game means nothing in terms of the league standings; it probably does have meaning with regard to which players and coaches will keep their jobs after this season is over. The Rams are better at home than on the road and the Bucs are better at home than on the road. Having said that, I really do not like that spread. Ergo, I’ll take this game to go OVER.
(Sun Nite) Chicago at Philly – 3 (55.5): There are plenty of playoff implications here; that is why NBC “flexed” this game to Sunday night The Eagles lead the NFC East by a game over the Cowboys and have to visit Dallas next week to close out the season. Meanwhile the Bears lead the NFC North by half-a-game over the Packers and by a full game over the Lions. The Bears will host the Packers next week to close out the season. Both the Bears and the Eagles will move the ball here; the question is which defense will slow down – not stop by any means – the opposing offense a little more than the opposing defense. Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Eagles to win and cover and I’ll take the game to go OVER.
Cleveland at Jets – 2.5 (40.5): I guess the Jets still have a mathematical chance at the playoffs but then again, I would have a mathematical chance to win the Powerball Lottery if I bought a ticket. The Browns face no such conundrum; with a 4-10 record and 5 consecutive losses, their season is officially down the bowl. On offense, the Browns gain 5 yards per game more than the Jets; on defense, the Jets allow 22 yards per game less than the Browns. Statistically, these teams are equivalent. It is coin toss time. The coin says take the Browns plus the points.
Indy at KC – 7 (43.5): Here are two good teams playing in a late season game that has no real meaning with regard to the playoffs. The Colts have won their division; they are in the playoffs; they are not likely to be able to have a Bye in the first round. The Chiefs have clinched a playoff spot either as the AFC West champion (with a BYE in the first round) or as the first wildcard. If those kinds of things present grand motivation, so be it. The Colts are a “dome team” and KC is supposed to have real winter this weekend. According to The Weather Channel, there should be freezing rain on Saturday with snow showers and a wind-chill of 8-degrees on Sunday. I think this will be a low-scoring affair and so I will take the Colts with that full TD’s worth of points.
Minnesota at Cincy – 7 (48): The Bengals lead their division and the Vikings are bringing up the rear in theirs. Interestingly, these teams are statistically very similar on offense; the Bengals average only 8 yards per game more than the Vikes do. However, on defense it is a different story where the Vikings allow 88 yards per game more than the Bengals. The Ravens are only 1 game behind the Bengals in the standings and the Ravens and Bengals close out the season against each other next week in Cincy. The Vikes will play for pride; the Bengals will play a game that has meaning for them. I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points.
Denver – 10.5 at Houston (51.5): The Broncos are in the playoffs no matter what. Like the Chiefs, they could have everything from home-field advantage throughout the playoffs to the first wildcard slot. The Texans are 2-12 and have lost their last 12 games. The Texans’ defense is not all that bad giving up only 304 yards per game. However, the Broncos’ offense has averaged 454 yards per game. I doubt that Texans’ defense is going to hold the Broncos in check for an entire game. I cannot see the Texans doing much business here. I’ll take the Broncos to win and cover on the road and I’ll take the game to go OVER.
Tennessee – 5.5 at Jax (44): Neither team involved here has any particular motivation to win this game; it is about as meaningless as a game can be – except if the Jags win, they will tie the Titans for second place in the AFC South. Statistically, the Titans are the better team except for the fact that the Titans are 0-4 within their division this year including a loss to the Jags 6 weeks ago. Purely a hunch, but I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.
Arizona at Seattle – 10 (43.5): The Seahawks are in the playoffs no matter what. The Cardinals have a 9-5 record while the Saints, Panthers and Niners all have 10-4 records. That might sound ominous until you realize that the Saints and Panthers play each other this week and the Cardinals play the Niners next week. Stranger things have happened… Standing in the way for the Cardinals is the fact that Russell Wilson has never lost a football game in Seattle and this game is in Seattle. The motivation for the Seahawks is simple. With a win here, they will play all of their NFC playoff games at home in front of their maniacal fans. Larry Fitzgerald suffered a concussion last week; if he is not cleared to play, the Cardinals’ season is over. I like this game to go OVER. I’ll also take the Seahawks and lay the points with a lot less conviction.
Giants at Lions – 9 (48.5): The Lions are still in the NFC North race but will be in big trouble if they lose here. Remember the Bears and Packers play next week so one of those teams has to win, right? The Giants are toast and last week’s effort against the Seahawks was only a bit better than half-hearted. I think both offenses can score on both defenses here. I like this game to go OVER and I like the motivated Lions at home to win and cover.
Oakland at San Diego – 10 (50.5): The Raiders are 1-6 on the road and 1-3 in their division; they have also lost 4 games in a row. They beat the Chargers back in October but as the teams arrive at the stadium this weekend, the Chargers remain alive – albeit comatose – in the AFC playoff race. Meanwhile, the Raiders season has gone “paws up”. In their last 3 games the Raiders have given up an average of 41 points per game; expecting Matt McGloin to overcome that kind of defensive performance is delusional thinking at best. I like the Chargers to win and cover and I like this game to go OVER – because the Chargers might score 45 points all by themselves.
Pittsburgh at Green Bay (no lines): The identity of the Packers’ QB for this game is a critical element with regard to what the lines for the game will be and for what selection I might have made. My guess is that we will not know that until at least Friday of this week.
New England at Baltimore – 2 (45): The Patriots held it together with spit and baling wire until Rob Gronkowski came back and now they are back to the spit and baling wire with him on IR. I do not think they have enough Pixie Dust left to win this kind of a game on the road. I’ll take the Ravens to win and cover at home.
(Mon Nite) Atlanta at SF – 11.5 (45): When ESPN got this game back in July for the next to last weekend of the season, the execs probably broke out the champagne. Back then, folks might have projected this to be a preview of the NFC Championship Game. Injuries and a pathetic defense that gives up 387 yards per game turned the Falcons into a 4-10 team that is 1-6 on the road. Making it even worse is the fact that the Falcons give up 4.6 yards per rush and the Niners just love to run the ball down opponents’ throats. I think this game gets ugly in a hurry. I like the Niners to win and cover and I like the game to go OVER.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………