Let me now sugar-coat this; last week’s Mythical Picks were horrible. The record for the week was 4-8-2 taking the season record below .500 to 59-63-5.
The “Best Pick” last week was taking the Raiders and getting points; the Raiders won the game against the Jets handily.
The “Worst Pick” last week was the Steelers/Bengals game. I took the Steelers and gave a point; they lost outright. I took the game OVER 48; it never came close to that. And to add insult to injury, the Steelers wore those damnable “bumblebee throwback uniforms”; watching that game was objectionable.
Obviously, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a wager on an NFL game if that wager involved real money or anything of real or personal value. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do that:
You think someone who is outstanding in his field is an expert farmer.
The Indianapolis Colts continue on the track destined to arrive at Dysfunction Junction. After three playoff seasons in a row – and a place in the AFC Championship Game last year – there were rumblings before this season began that chuck Pagano was on the hot seat because he and the GM, Ryan Grigson, were at odds. There were also rumblings that owner Jim Irsay was involved in that imbroglio and that Irsay was siding with Grigson. Given that no games had been played at that point and that the Colts’ had dominated their division in recent times, that seemed more than a tad strange.
The on-field debacle that has been the Colts this year only added fuel to the fire. After losing on Monday night to the undefeated Panthers, the Colts proceeded to fire offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton. Blaming Hamilton for the ineptitude of the Colts’ OL and the Colts’ soft defense is sort of like blaming Mayor Bloomberg for the 9/11 attack on New York City. Yes, Hizzonner was in charge of the city when it happened, but somehow that does not attach any significant responsibility for the disaster to him.
As a sidebar to the Colts’ poor record, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported last week that Andrew Luck was playing after sitting out two games because he had a shoulder injury and some broken ribs. That is newsworthy because the Colts never reported any rib injuries and the NFL rules require them to do so. The league office has been mighty quiet about that.
Imagine for just a millisecond if this report had been about the Patriots “hiding” an injury to Tom Brady. Had that been the case, Roger Goodell would be foaming at the mouth about now and there would be another Investigation Committee at work – probably under the guidance of Ted Wells.
The Colts enter the week tied for the lead in the miserable AFC South Division with a record of 3-5. To give you a perspective as to why I call is the “miserable AFC South Division” the Colts and co-leader Texans have exactly a 0.5 game lead on the Jags and a 1.5 game lead over the Titans. In a good division, the Jags would not be able to see the top of the division anytime in November.
The Rams beat the Niners last week 27-6. The Rams’ defense is really good and it held the Niners to 189 yards of total offense. At least some of the blame for that poor offensive showing has to go to the Niners themselves; after all, this is the 4th time this year (in 8 games) that the Niners have failed to put up 200 yards of total offense. Here is a stat from last week’s game to demonstrate how poorly the Niners played:
The Niners had more penalties (13) than they had first downs (11).
Going into last week’s game, the Niners were last in the NFL in scoring (14.6 points per game) and last in total offense (295 yards per game). They did not match either stat last week and to shake things up, the Niners’ braintrust has chosen to bench Colin Kaepernick and start Blaine Gabbert. Yes, that is the same Blaine Gabbert who was declared excess baggage by the Jaguars. Before you ask, Gabbert and Kaepernick are the only 2 QBs on the Niners’ roster…
The Rams recorded a safety in last week’s game against the Niners but it was not the typical way that safeties happen – holding in the end zone or sacking the QB in the end zone. Here is how it happened according to the play chart:
Niners had the ball at their own 3 yardline.
Niners ran the ball into the middle 3 times.
Each play lost a yard.
Ergo, a safety…
By the way, neither the Rams nor the Niners were sharp on offense last week. The Niners were 3-17 on third down; that is awful. However, the Rams were worse; the Rams were 1-12 on third down. Todd Gurley continued to show well for the Rams; he carried the ball 20 times for 133 yards last week.
The Vikings beat the Bears last week and are second in the NFC North and have an eye on a playoff slot with a 5-2 record so far this year. One of those losses was to the sorry-assed Niners in Week 1; since then, the only loss has come at the hands of the undefeated Broncos. The Vikings are playing well. However, the Vikes’ upcoming schedule over the next 6 games is not exactly a tea party:
Oh, by the way, the Vikes also have another game against the Packers in Green Bay in the final week of the season after two softer games against the Bears and Giants. It would appear that 9 wins will give an NFC team a real shot at the playoffs this year; a split over the next 6 games and another win against the Bears would put the Vikes at 9 wins…
The Seahawks beat the Cowboys handing the Cowboys their 5th loss in a row since Tony Romo broke his collarbone. First Jerry Jones proclaimed that Brandon Weeden would play QB for the Cowboys and there would be no diminution in proficiency; then he went out and signed Matt Cassel to do the job. Things started out bleakly for the Cowboys and nothing has gotten brighter in the past few weeks. Last week Matt Cassel produced a total of 97 yards passing. At times, he looked as if he had never played QB before.
Dez Bryant was back on the field for the Cowboys and Richard Sherman took Bryant out of the game. Bryant caught 2 passes for 12 yards – – and one of those catches was for 15 yards so you can see that the other catch was less than productive. Some Cowboys’ fanboys have said that Bryant was far less than 100% for the game and he was only out there as a decoy. Really? Then explain to me the value of that “decoy” when the offense only got 97 yards passing.
The Cowboys’ defense kept them in the game; for the most part, the Seahawks offense was pretty meek for most of the game. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Seahawks led 10-9; when the Cowboys got a field goal soon after the 4th quarter began, it seemed as if the Seahawks were going to lose another game where they led in the 4th quarter. However, the Seahawks’ offense came alive sufficiently to drive the ball 79 yards to get a field goal to take the lead at 13-12 with about a minute left to play. Here is the Dallas offense in the final minute of the game down one point and starting at their own 20 yardline:
1. Long pass incomplete – but roughing the passer so first down at the 35.
2. Strip-sack and fumble recovery – but reversed by replay official to incomplete pass.
3. Short pass incomplete.
4. Sack for 6-yard loss.
5. False start for 5-yard loss.
6. Long pass incomplete – turnover on downs.
The Texans beat the Titans 20-6 giving the Texans a 3-5 record for the year and equaling the Colts record in the AFC South. Zach Mettenberger played QB for the Titans and generated a total of 171 yards in the air. If you wondered why the Titans used the #2 pick in the draft to take another young QB when they had Mettenberger on the roster, here is the answer to your question.
The Texans are an enigma; they are not a good team but they are not a horrible team either. They get a week off now to prepare for a visit to Cincy a week from Monday night. It would appear they are over-matched for that game so put them at 3-6 after that game. Here is what follows:
If the Texans can split those two home games against the Jets and Saints and win in Buffalo, that would give then 5 wins going into the final 3 weeks of the season where all their games are in the division. On the other hand, they could lose those first 4 games and go into their divisional games with a 3-10 record. Like I said, they are an enigma…
The Chargers lost to the Ravens on a last second field goal. With that result, both the Chargers and the Ravens are 2-6 for the season, both are in last place in their division and both are looking up at an undefeated 7-0 team atop their division. Neither team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, however…
The Ravens have lost Steve Smith for the rest of the year to an Achilles tendon injury. They have a week off to regroup and they do have some winnable games ahead of them (Jags, Browns, Chiefs) and they get to play the Bengals in the final game of the season when the Bengals could well be in the mode of resting starters to get ready for the playoffs. Having said all of that, I think Justin Tucker may have experienced “irrational exuberance” [ /Alan Greenspan] with this comment after kicking the game-winning field goal:
“As soon as we’re done enjoying it, we’ve got to give ourselves the best opportunity to go 8-0 the last half of the season. I think we’ve got just the men for the job.”
Meanwhile, the Chargers are just a mess on offense, defense and special teams. Consider that after 8 games, here are the punt return stats for the Chargers:
Keenan Allan – 3 returns for 5 yards
Jacoby Jones – 5 returns for minus-4 yards
That’s it; that’s the list. In 8 games they have only had the opportunity to try to return 8 punts and the net return yardage is 1 yard. On, and the “better of the two” returners, Keenan Allen is on IR with a kidney injury.
The Steelers lost to the Bengals in the last minutes of the game last week and the Steelers lost RB, LeVeon Bell for the rest of the year. In the AFC North, the Steelers are 3.5 games behind the Bengals and are 2 full game ahead of both the Browns and the Ravens. It is going to take some seismic events there to keep the Bengals from winning the division. The Bengals won last week despite Andy Dalton throwing two INTs – one of them deep in the red zone. The Bengals’ cause was aided and abetted by the fact that Ben Roethlisberger threw 3 INTs in the second half of the game to assure that the Steelers never got a really comfortable lead in the game. The Steelers are still in playoff contention for a wild card slot with their 4-4 record because the only non-division leaders in the AFC with better records are the Raiders and the Jets (both at 4-3).
I mentioned Justin Tucker’s “irrational exuberance” above and it seems to be something that is going around in the AFC North. Steelers CB, Antwon Blake had this to say after last week’s loss:
“I can’t see why we can’t go undefeated the rest of the way out.”
Putting Justin Tucker’s statement in juxtaposition with Antwon Blake’s statement creates an interesting situation. On 27 December, the Ravens and the Steelers will play one another in Baltimore. For both players to be correct, that game would have to end in a tie. So if you put any credence in these projections, you need to find a sportsbook that has an advance line on the game and take the underdog plus the points.
The Patriots did not merely beat the Dolphins; they dominated them. Instead of bumping his players and stalking the sidelines like a caged cat, Dolphins’ coach Dan Campbell spent much of the time bent over with his hands on his knees staring at what was happening on the field in front of him. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald summed up the situation succinctly:
“Good seats at reduced rates are newly available on the Dan Campbell Bandwagon.”
The Cardinals turned the ball over 4 times last week and fell behind the Browns 20-7 in the first half. They rallied to win the game 34-20 so the question is this:
Should they be praised for the comeback or kicked in the posterior for falling behind to the Browns?
The Browns ran the ball for a grand total of 39 yards in that game. So, obviously, that is the quarterback’s fault and the Browns will be starting Johnny Manziel this week against the Bengals. Look, I understand that the Browns do need to figure out if Manziel can play QB in the NFL so that they might then make a rational assessment as to whether he is worth the baggage he brings to the party. But anyone who thinks that the Browns lost last week’s game because of quarterback play when they could not run the ball even a whit does not understand the game. The leading rusher last week was QB Josh McCown (5 carries for 18 yards). The next best runner was Isaiah Crowell (10 carries for 14 yards). Really now…
The Falcons lost to the Bucs last week by a score of 23-20. The Falcons turned the ball over 4 times and that gave the Bucs 20 of their 23 points. After starting out the season with a bang at 5-0, the Falcons are disappearing like the Wicked Witch of the West in a thunderstorm.
The Lions went to London and lost badly to the Chiefs. The Lions had fired their offensive coordinator a week before this game putting Jim Bob Cooter in the position; other than having the announcers proclaim his lyrical name, he seemed to have exactly no effect on the game. Not to worry, though; the Lions’ defense was as toothless as the offense. The Lions just plain stink. The Chiefs forced 2 turnovers and sacked Matthew Stafford 6 times last week.
The Chiefs have won 2 in a row and are now 3-5 for the season but without Jamaal Charles, I think their prospects for a winning season are dim indeed.
During the week, Lions’ coach Jim Caldwell decried the “persistent negativity” of the Detroit media with respect to the Lions. I think he is being a bit thin-skinned here; Detroit is no different from other cities with bad teams. If he doubts that statement, he should take an hour to read what the San Francisco papers are saying about Jed York, Trent Baalke and Jim Tomsula.
Caldwell needs to realize that there is a special dimension to criticizing the Lions. It is called “History”. Consider these historical facts:
Lions last won the NFL Championship in 1957.
Since then, the Lions have had 35 losing seasons, 18 winning seasons and 4 break-even seasons.
Since 2000, the Lions’ record is 81-167-0.
No Lions’ coach since the merger has ever coached another NFL game after the Lions got rid of him. The last Lions’ head coach to get a job elsewhere was Buddy Parker who left in 1956 with 2 NFL Championships under his belt.
Memo to Jim Caldwell: That kind of history tends to make people think negatively…
The Raiders beat the Jets last week 34-20 behind Derek Carr’s 4 TDs and 333 yards passing against a good Jets’ defense and RB, Latavius Murray’s 113 yards rushing. The Jets have lost 2 games in a row now and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has an injury to the thumb on his non-throwing hand; he will play this week but only time will tell if that injury will affect his play significantly. If he cannot go, the Jets will have to put Geno Smith on the field and that cannot be good news for Jets’ fans. Behind Smith is rookie Bryce Petty. For a team that has playoff aspirations and decent position at this point in the season, that is not an uplifting QB situation.
The Raiders limited Chris Ivory to 1.1 yards per carry last week; that clearly has to improve if the Jets are going to be serious playoff contenders. The other thing the Raiders did last week that the Jets have to correct is this:
The Raiders gained 451 yards on offense. Until last week – including a game against the high-powered Patriots – the Jets’ defense had not allowed more than 353 yards in a game this year.
For Raiders’ fans here is a bit of news that can only be seen as positive:
As of November 1, the Raiders had won more games in 2015 than they won in all of 2014.
What looked like the best game of the week between two undefeated teams turned out to be a dud. The Broncos’ defense simply smothered the Packer’s offense holding Aaron Rodgers to a mere 77 yards passing and 140 yards of total offense. Despite the fact that the NFL has spent the last 25 years goosing the rules to favor offensive football, the Broncos’ defense is a dominant unit as were defenses like the Rams, Vikes and Steelers in the 70s, the Bears in the 80s and the Ravens in the early aughts. Those guys are really good…!
Meanwhile, it would appear as if protestations that Peyton Manning was ready for the boneyard were just a tad premature. He threw for 340 yards last week and was accurate on passes well down the field. Maybe he needed the week’s rest from the Bye Week to get his arm rested – or some injury to heal. Whatever happened, he looked like he had turned the clock back about 2 years last week. Manning was not the only offensive weapon that was working for the Broncos last week; their total offensive output was 500 yards.
The most unusual and exciting game last week had to be the Saints/Giants encounter that ended 52-49. Here are some things that happened in that game:
Drew Brees threw for 7 TDs and 511 yards. He is the only QB ever to have 2 games with 500 yards in his career.
Eli Manning threw for 6 TDs. The combined 13 TD passes in a game is an NFL record.
Giants’ defense gave up 614 yards.
17 different receivers caught passes in the game.
The last 4 times that the Giants have played in New Orleans, they have given up a total of 194 points (48.5 points per game). Are Giants’ defenders allergic to Cajun cooking?
The Saints evened their record at 4-4 even though the Saints’ defense did not shower itself in glory in the game. With the Falcons losing to the Bucs last week, might that be an indication of a Falcons’ collapse that could put the Saints in a position to make the playoffs? Stay tuned…
Here are the teams taking the week off:
Arizona gets a week off while leading their division by 1.5 games.
Baltimore gets a week off to regroup after a 2-6 start to the season.
Detroit gets a week off; at least they won’t lose this week.
Houston gets a week off and could lead the division if Indy loses.
KC gets the week off feeling good after winning 2 in a row.
Seattle gets the week off to ponder how good it is not to be SF.
(Thurs Nite): Cleveland at Cincy – 11 (45.5): Everything points to the Bengals here. They are 7-0 for the season; the Browns are 2-6. Andy Dalton has played well in all of the games save last week; the Browns will start Johnny Manziel who has more question marks than accomplishments relative to his NFL status. The Bengals are 44 yards per game better on offense and the Bengals are 37 yards per game better on defense. However, recall that these two teams played in Cincy on a Thursday night last year and the Browns won the game outright. If I thought that had a reasonable chance to happen, I would take the Browns on the Money Line at +500. Please note that I am not doing that… If you like trends, here are two for you; no matter which side you take here, one of these trends will reinforce your selection:
Bengals are 15-4-2 against the spread in their last 21 home games.
The underdog is 13-2-1 against the spread in the last 16 Bengals/Browns games.
I hate laying double digit spreads in NFL games but I cannot take the Browns here with Manziel at QB against that defense. With trepidation, I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points.
Oakland at Pittsburgh – 4.5 (47.5): The spread opened at 7 points and dropped like a rock to this number. It has been steady here for about a day so perhaps the drop is over. I think Ben Roethlisberger shook off some of the rust in last week’s game and will play much better this week against a Raiders’ defense that gives up almost 400 yards per game. I also think that the Raiders will be able to move the ball well on a Steelers’ defense that has been spotty. I like this game to go OVER.
Jax at Jets (no lines): If the Jags win here and the Colts lose, then the Jags and Texans will be tied for first in the AFC South and the Colts will be in third place. The Colts have a Bye Week next week; if they are in third place, I would not be surprised to see Chuck Pagano fired as the head coach. Maybe this is what is going on in Indy:
Jim Irsay has gotten tired of seeing Danny Boy Snyder have a stranglehold on the trophy for “Dumbest Meddlesome NFL Owner of the Year” and has decided to do something about it.
St Louis at Minnesota – 2.5 (40): If this game is available in your viewing area, I think you ought to watch it. Adrian Peterson will run against a very good Rams’ defense. Meanwhile, Todd Gurley will run against a very good Vikes’ defense. Neither QB is above average; both are capable of big games and both are capable of stinking out the joint. The game is meaningful to both teams as they jockey for position in the NFC Wild Card race. The teams are very evenly matched and I expect a low scoring game so I’ll take the Rams plus the points.
Miami at Buffalo – 3 (44): Let me make this simple. I think the wrong team is favored here. I’ll take Miami plus the points because I expect them to win this game.
Tennessee at New Orleans – 7.5 (48): Here is another game with a simple bottom line. The Titans stink; the Saints are definitely improved on offense and the Saints’ defense will do much better against Zach Mettenberger/Marcus Mariotta than it did against Eli Manning last week. I like the Saints to win and cover at home.
Washington at New England – 15 (52): The Skins have had 2 weeks to bask in the glory of their comeback from a 24-0 deficit to win a game against the Bucs and to prepare to play the Patriots in Foxboro. In terms of the outcome of the game, you can find the Skins on the Money line anywhere between +850 and +950 as of this morning; oddsmakers do not think they are going to win – and neither do I. But I think that line is so fat that if it were a person it would leave footprints in granite rock. I’ll take the Skins plus the points here.
Green Bay – 2.5 at Carolina (46): Talk about motivational points for the two coaches here…
Ron Rivera can tell the Panthers that they are undefeated and they are at home and the oddsmakers think they are going to lose. That is the essence of the “we-get-no-respect card”.
Mike McCarthy can tell the Packers that the short line here means oddsmakers think the Panthers’ defense might do the same thing to the Packers that the Broncos’ defense did last week. Go prove that was an aberration… !
I think this game will stay UNDER and I’ll take the Panthers at home taking points.
Atlanta – 7 at SF (44.5): The spread for this game opened at 3 points and then came the announcement that Blaine Gabbert would be playing QB for the Niners this week. The spread went up almost immediately to this level giving you an idea that whatever disdain folks may have for Colin Kaepernick as an NFL QB, there is always room for deprovement. The Niners’ OL is porous and Blaine Gabbert is not mobile; I think this game might get ugly. I’ll take the Falcons and lay the points even on the road.
Giants – 2.5 at Tampa (48): The Bucs are 3-4; the Giants are 4-4. The Bucs are in last place in their division; the Giants are in first place in their division. Both teams are inconsistent from week to week except for one thing. The Giants’ pass rush has been a no-show all season long. I think there will be points-a-plenty in this game because Jameis Winston will have lots of time to do his thing and because Eli Manning will pick apart the Bucs secondary. I like this game to go OVER.
Denver – 5 at Indy (45): Peyton Manning returns to Indy… If the Broncos’ take the Colts to the woodshed, I think Chuck Pagano will be gone (see above). Any loss by the Colts will be their 4th in a row and the Broncos are indeed on a roll. I might be able to conjure up a scenario where the Colts’ defense puts forth a heroic effort here to save their beleaguered coach; it would indeed take some conjuring, but it could happen. What I cannot do is to imagine the Colts’ OL protecting Andrew Luck – or Matt Hasselbeck for that matter – from the Broncos’ pass rush. I think it will be feeding time at the zoo. I like the Broncos to win and cover here. Having made that pick, here are some “disturbing” trends I have ignored:
Broncos are 0-8 against the spread in the last 8 games against the Colts
Colts are 22-9-1 against the spread in their last 32 home games.
(Sun Nite) Philly – 2.5 at Dallas (44): The Eagles had a Bye Week last week while the Cowboys were stinking out the joint against the Seahawks. Even with the marginally productive year that Sam Bradford has had with the Eagles, he will be the better QB on the field no matter who gets under center for the Cowboys. It is unlikely that any wild card team will emerge from the NFC East so winning the division is the path to the playoffs for these teams. They both need the game. I think the Eagles are the better team; I’ll take them and lay the points.
(Mon Nite) Chicago at San Diego – 4 (49): You may have been wondering what happened to the Committee of One (Me!) that has the responsibility to identify the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Fear not; the Committee has not been disbanded; it just happens that the sure-fire worst game of the week happens to be the Monday Night Game. The teams are a combined 4-11; in quiet moments of reflection, the coaches on both teams know that their season is down the drain; it is a non-conference game. This game is a runaway winner for the Who Gives A Rat’s Ass Prize. Since my lack of enthusiasm is clear, I shall immediately turn this game over the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Chargers and lay the points.
Finally, Scott Ostler had this observation in the SF Chronicle about “coachspeak”:
“Please, coaches, stop telling us after wins and losses, ‘We’ve got some things to clean up. We’ll go to work and fix ’em.’ Just once tell us, ‘Our problems can’t be fixed. We’re canceling all further practices.’ “
Wouldn’t that be refreshing…?
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………