Last week’s Mythical Picks did quite well. The record for the week was 10-5-0 which was good enough to get the season record all the way back to .500 at 82-82-5. The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip games were also en fuego last week going 4-0-0. That performance actually put the coin back over .500 for the year at 12-11-1.
The “Best Pick” of the week was taking Indy + 6 points. The Colts won the game straight up.
The “Worst Pick” of the week was taking the Jets and laying 2.5 points. The Jets lost the game straight up.
Do not allow the success of the last two weeks’ worth of Mythical Picks to dull your senses. The fact that it took two weeks with a combined record of 19-11-0 to get back to .500 – which is not profitable should you be playing with a vig – should be sufficiently cautionary to prevent you from using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real game involving real money. You would have to be mighty dumb to make such a mistake; in fact, here is what I would say to someone so dumb:
Enjoy your day job – alphabetizing that bag of M&Ms.
Last Thursday night, the Jags beat the Titans 17-13 in a game that was hard to watch. It was so full of mistakes and bungled plays it made my teeth itch. I actually found myself tuning into the Texas State/La-Monroe game on another channel during the timeouts/commercial breaks. That game was even more miserable – but at least those guys are not drawing down NFL level salaries to go out there and play football poorly. Let me give you a couple of “highlights” from the Jags/Titans event:
Blake Bortles fumbled on a QB sneak.
Delanie Walker caught 8 passes for 109 yards. On some of the patterns over the middle he was so open that it looked as if he had not showered for a month and the defenders were trying to stay away from him.
The Titans got 5 first downs on pass interference/defensive holding calls.
The Bucs went into Philly and simply torched the Eagles last week. Jameis Winston threw 5 TD passes in the game without throwing an INT. In so doing, he became only the second rookie QB in the history of the NFL to do that. If you refrain from a Google search, you will never guess the other QB to do that so I’ll share that tidbit with you. It was Ray Buivid of the Chicago Bears back in 1937.
Buivid had a 2-year career in the NFL (1937 and 38).
In his career, he threw a total of 11 TD passes; 5 of them came in a single game.
Winston was not the only Buc to have a monster day on offense. Doug Martin ran the ball 27 times for 235 yards. In case the batteries in your calculator are dead, that is just a tad shy of 9 yards per carry. The Bucs generated 521 yards of offense for the day – a franchise record.
Those Eagles’ fans who had clamored for the team to bench Sam Bradford since about the third week of the season got a taste of what it is like to have Mark Sanchez under center for your squad. This was one of his “bad days”; he threw 2 TDs – – but he also threw 3 INTs. Look, when your defense gives up 521 yards and 45 points, the odds are that you are going to lose no matter what your QB does; no one can put the blame for this loss on the offense or the QB or the special teams or… This was simply a bad day for the Eagles’ defense.
In another rout, the Panthers extended their record to 10-0 with a 44-16 spanking of the Skins. Two weeks ago, the Skins and Saints were tied at 14 early in the second quarter; then the Skins ran off 33 straight points to win 47-14. Last week the Panthers and the Skins were tied at 14 as the second quarter began. This time, it was the Panthers who ran off 30 straight points before conceding a safety in the final seconds of the game.
Cam Newton threw 5 TD passes to 5 different receivers; Jonathan Stewart ran for 102 yards and the Panthers’ defense shut down the Skins’ offense like the lid on a coffin. Let me give you just a few numbers from the game:
Total rushing yardage for the Skins was 14 yards
Kirk Cousins was sacked 5 times
Skins lost 4 fumbles
Skins were 2-9 on 3rd down conversions
Skins’ time of possession was under 22 minutes
Skins’ total offense was 186 yards
Notwithstanding any of the data above, Skins’ DL, Jason Hatcher, said after the game that the league officials are against the Skins because of the team name. One penalty call that nullified a Skins’ TD seemingly engendered this eruption of stupidity. The charge of bias in officialdom here would seem also to be contradicted by the fact that 5 of the penalties called on the Skins last week were for having a defensive lineman jump offsides. Oh, and none of those calls was even remotely “borderline”.
Memo to Jason Hatcher: Even if the call that infuriated you and potentially some of your teammates was incorrect, that is not evidence of a conspiracy against you and the team. Moreover, if you are going to level such a charge, you need to find a more credible context for it. Try doing that in the hours after you just beat a team by 33 points – as you did the week before. In that event, people might listen to your charge and not feel embarrassed for you immediately after they process what you said.
In San Diego, there was another rout last week. The Chiefs traveled west and beat the Chargers 33-3. Other than for dedicated fans of the KC Chiefs, this was a difficult game to watch; the outcome was not in doubt for very long despite the fact that the score was only 12-3 at halftime. The Chiefs have won 4 straight games putting their record at 5-5 for the season and putting them squarely in the morass of teams seeking a wild-card slot in the AFC playoffs. Meanwhile, if the Chargers continue to play like this, there will not be a tsunami of tears shed in San Diego should the team get to move to LA.
The Packers beat the Vikes handily last week 30-13 and the game featured the reappearance of Eddie Lacy as an effective running back. The Packers gained 124 yards on the ground and Lacy had 100 of them. Aaron Rodgers did not have to throw the ball 61 times as he did the week before; in this game the Packers ran the ball 34 times and threw the ball 34 times. Defensively, the Packers recorded 5 sacks and held Adrian Peterson to 45 yards on 13 carries.
The Seahawks beat the Niners handily 29-13. Russell Wilson threw 3 TD passes and RB, Thomas Rawls, subbing for Marshawn Lynch ran for 209 yards; the Seahawks offense generated 505 yards of offense for the day. If there was a point of light for the Niners in the game it was this:
Blaine Gabbert played QB and he did not stink out the joint. He was 22-34 for 264 yards and 1 TD.
With Colin Kaepernick gone for the year on IR – and perhaps gone for good from SF – the fact that Gabbert did not stink in spades has to be a plus.
The rest of the games last week were much closer contests to the ones above. The Cowboys beat the Dolphins 24-14 with Tony Romo back at QB. That was not the only change in the script for the Cowboys last week. In this game they took a lead into the 4th quarter of the game and did not cough it up. They had seemingly turned that sort of game behavior into an art form this year. The Dolphins totaled 210 yards of offense for the game. The week after Dan Campbell debuted on the sidelines with his gung-ho team message I said it would be a challenge for him to keep that up with his team. I think we can say that the emotional hype has pretty much dissipated by now and that it is safe for the wives of the players on the 4-6 Dolphins (0-4 in the division and 2-5 in the conference) to book warm weather cruises for January 2016.
The Lions beat the Raiders 18-13. The Raiders had a meaningful playoff run on their racket and will likely look back on this loss as the game that killed off that goal. The Raiders are not out of the playoff chase but they do have 6 teams ahead of them in the AFC vying for 2 wild-card slots and they have now lost 3 games in a row. The Raiders forgot to pack their offensive playbook for their trip to Detroit; they only gained 214 yards in the game. The Lions have now won 2 in a row; not to worry, they too will miss the playoffs this year.
The Ravens beat the Rams 16-13 on a last second field goal after trailing 13-3 with about 10 minutes left in the game. You have seen the video of Case Keenum getting tossed to the ground and suffering a concussion a play or two before fumbling to set up that last second field goal try. It has to be clear from those events that the NFL’s “concussion protocols” and “player safety initiatives” still need work. The Rams are now 4-6 for the season and have lost 3 games in a row – just like the Raiders. The difference here is that the Rams are not looking up at 6 teams ahead of them in the playoff chase. The Rams’ problem is that even with a healthy Nick Foles and a healthy Case Keenum, they do not have a good QB.
Meanwhile, it is apparent that someone in the Ravens’ organization has pissed off the football gods. I have no idea what that someone did or said, but this year the Ravens have not only lost a lot of players to injuries but they have lost their best players at various positions to season ending injuries.
Terrell Suggs – out for the year week 1
Steve Smith Sr. – out for the year a couple of weeks ago
Justin Forsett – out for the year last week
Joe Flacco – out for the year last week.
The Texans beat the Jets 24-17. It sure looks as if the Jets are imploding; they have lost 4 of their last 5 games. Not to put too fine a point on it, they lost this game to a team with a QB that was not on an NFL roster a month ago who threw for 229 yards and 2 TDs. The Texans recorded 3 sacks in the game and this is their third win in a row.
Brock Osweiler “led” the Broncos to a 17-15 win over the Bears last week. I use the quotation marks there because:
Osweiler did not make any costly mistakes in the game – no turnovers
That performance combined with the Broncos’ defense returning to form (5 sacks of Jay Cutler in the game) produced this win.
The Colts beat the Falcons 24-21 in a game that was anything but artistic. The Colts were outgained by 99 yards in the game AND the Colts turned the ball over 3 times AND they won despite all of that. The Falcons led 21-7 in the 3rd quarter and then coughed up a giant hairball; this is their 4th loss in 5 games like the Jets. The fact that the Falcons lost Devonta Freeman to a concussion did not help in this game and will not help them this week if he cannot play then. The Texans and the Colts are both at 5-5 and sit atop the AFC South. The Colts and Texans meet on December 20 in Indy; that could well be a play-in game for the AFC playoffs.
The Cards beat the Bengals 34-31 on Sunday night. This was NOT a case of Andy Dalton choking in prime time; ignore anyone who tries to sell you that nonsense. These are two good teams and when they meet, one of them is going to lose. If you must assess blame here, lay it on the Bengals defense that gave up 282 yards passing in the second half of the game.
On Monday night, the Pats continued their mastery over the Bills despite Rex Ryan’s best emotional efforts. The Patriots injury situation is different from the one befalling the Ravens. The Patriots seem to have a propensity to have WRs get hurt this year:
Nonetheless, the Pats are 10-0 and if they win this week, either the Jets or the Bills will have to win out to tie the Pats for the AFC East lead. Not only is it a real longshot that either team can win out, the likelihood that the Pats will win only one more game this season is also slim. There are not a ton of tough games left for the Pats:
The Bye Weeks are over. It is time to separate the sheep from the goats…
Due to the compressed time this week to get this and the NCAA Mythical Picks written, these picks will tend to be short and sweet.
(Thurs Early Afternoon) Philly at Detroit “pick ‘em” (45): The Total Line here opened the week at 47 and dropped to this level almost immediately. Statistically, the Eagles are the better team (offense, defense, scoring, scoring defense). Nevertheless, they have played some bad football in recent weeks. This is purely a hunch. I am going to try to exploit “The Mark Sanchez Factor” here. I have no idea if he will go nuts and throw 4 TDs in this game of if he will turn the ball over 3 times and give the Lions a short field. Either way, I’ll take the game to go OVER figuring that scores can be at either end of the field and that is a plus.
(Thurs Late Afternoon) Carolina at Dallas “pick ‘em” (46): One of the people on sports Radio here in Washington said there are three undefeated teams left in the NFL:
The Cowboys with Tony Romo at QB.
One of the three will cease to be undefeated when the clock hits zero at the end of the fourth quarter here. I think the Panthers will prevail; I’ll take them to win the game.
(Thurs Nite) Chicago at Green Bay – 9 (46.5): The Packers will retire Brett Favre’s #4 at halftime of this game and Bart Starr will be in attendance too. That means that all 3 QBs who won Super Bowls for the Packers will be in the same stadium at the same time. That is a feelgood fact that has nothing to do with the game on the field. The Total Line here opened at 48 and has been dropping slowly. The last time these teams met, the total score was 54. I see no reason why it should drop by almost 10 points here. I like the game to go OVER.
New Orleans at Houston – 3 (48): The Saints had two weeks to try to mend their woeful defense and turn it into a unit that is merely sub-standard. The Saints have given up an average of 31.5 points per game; that is the worst in the NFL; moreover, it is 3.3 points per game worse than the Chargers who rank 31st in the league on that scale. The Texans are not an offensive juggernaut so there may be a “defensive mirage” after this game. This game means a whole lot more to the Texans than it does to the Saints. The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip protocol is in effect here and the coin says to take the Saints plus the points.
Minnesota at Atlanta – 2 (46): Very simple here. I think the Vikings are the better team and I think they are playing better football these days. I like the Vikes to win the game so I’ll take them plus the points here.
St Louis at Cincy – 9 (42): The Bengals need to win just to reverse the team momentum after two losses in a row. Who knows what level of mediocrity the Rams will get out of their QB situation? Even The Shadow doesn’t know… Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Bengals to win and cover.
Tampa at Indy – 3 (46.5): The Colts are tied with the Texans atop the AFC South. This is a game they need to win. The Bucs are 5-5 meaning they will not win their division (Carolina has that sewn up) but they are in the thick of the wild card race. They too need to win this game. I like the Bucs plus the points here.
Giants – 2.5 at Washington (47): This game opened as a “pick ‘em” game and the spread went to this number in less than 24 hours. This game is important to the NFC East standings. If the Skins win, they will be tied (essentially) with the Giants; they will have split the head-to-head games and they will have the same record. If the Giants win, their lead over the Skins will be 2.5 games because they will hold the tie-breaker having swept the head-to-head games. The Skins are a much better team at home than they are on the road; on the other hand, the Giants seem to have the Skins’ number over the past several seasons; the Giants have won and covered the last 5 times these teams have met. Statistically, the Giants have the edge in this game. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip game and the coin says to take the Skins plus the points.
Oakland – 1.5 at Tennessee (44): Here is the basic question for this game. Can the Raiders shake themselves out of the funk they have been in over recent weeks? If so, they should stomp a bad Titans’ team. It is another long trip for the Raiders to make it to kickoff; I do not like that at all. I’ll take the game to go OVER.
Buffalo at KC (no lines): Tyrod Taylor was clearly hurting in the final minutes of the Monday night game. Can he play here or will the Bills have to go to EJ Manuel? Until there is clarity around Taylor’s shoulder injury, there will be no lines here. Whenever the lines go up, do not be surprised if the Total Line is 41 or less…
Miami at Jets – 3 (42.5): It is awfully early in the season to say that the Jets face a “must win” situation. Rather what they face here is a “must wake up situation”. Venue call here; I’ll take the Jets and lay the points.
San Diego at Jax – 3.5 (46): The Committee of One that analyzes the worst games of the week could not make a unique choice this week and so this game is the co-Dog Breath Game of the Week. The Chargers are awful and out of it; the Jags are awful but are still theoretically in the running for the AFC South division lead. If you are forced to watch this game, do not focus on the players; nothing important is going to happen there. Instead, use your time and energy to try to count the house in Jax whenever there is a shot of the stands. Counting people is probably going to be easier than counting empty seats. Only because I said I would make a pick in every game where there were lines, I’ll take the Jags to win and cover.
Arizona – 10 at SF (45.5): I hate laying double-digit spreads. I also think the Cards are one of the really good teams this year and that the Niners are one of the really bad teams this year. I’ll take the Cards to win and cover even on the road.
Pittsburgh at Seattle – 4 (45): This is one of the best games on the slate for the week. Both teams need this game to stay in striking position in the wild card races in their respective conferences. I think the game will be higher scoring than the Total Line here would suggest. I like the game to go OVER.
(Sun Nite) New England – 3 at Denver (44): Lost in the discussion of the QBs for this game (Brady vs Osweiler) is the fact that the Patriots lead the NFL in scoring defense (18.1 points per game) and the Broncos are second in the NFL in that category (18.2 points per game). Assuming that the Pats do not have to resort to playing a defensive tackle at wide receiver because they have simply run out of bodies at that position, I like the Pats to win and cover here. I also like the game to stay UNDER.
(Mon Nite) Baltimore at Cleveland – 2.5 (41): The Browns demoted Johnny Manziel to 3rd string – behind Josh McCown and Austin Davis – for this game and for who knows how long. Is that a football team or a second-rate circus in Cleveland? This is the co-Dog Breath Game of the Week featuring one team wracked with injury such that it is playing its JV team against another team that has not figured out how to get out of its own way. I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip protocol and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.
Happy Thanksgiving all…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………