These picks will need to be brief. I am preparing for the Snowmageddon heading toward the Washington DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia area. For those who live in more northerly climes, a foot of snow here is a paralyzing event; it could take three days to dig out from it. The forecast for this snow event is for two feet – or more in some spots. This is not a “hunker down event”; this is a “hibernation event”.
Last week’s Mythical Picks were blah. The record was 2-2-0 meaning that the season record now stands at 130-121-5. There were no Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games so that record remains at 17-17-1.
The “Best Pick” last week taking the Patriots minus 4.5 points and watching the Chiefs dawdle at the end in their attempt to catch up. They did not.
The “Worst Pick” of the week was taking Green Bay/Arizona to go OVER 49.5 points. Even with a TD in overtime, the game stayed UNDER.
Undaunted, I shall move ahead to the game for this week. Obviously, no one should consider using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game this weekend in the event that the real wager involves real money. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do something like that:
You probably think that former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, left that post to become the CEO at Starbucks.
The big NFL news from last week is that the Rams will move to LA perhaps to be joined there by the Chargers leaving the Raiders in a dilapidated stadium in a downscale location for the moment. There is much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth in St. Louis and in parts of the State of Missouri over this move. As a fan of the NFL who has no particular affection for or animus toward the Rams as a franchise, I think there is an ironic twist to all of this.
How did St. Louis and Missouri attract the Rams? They offered the owner of the team a brand new stadium with lots of new amenities where she (Georgia Frontiere owned the Rams at the time.) could make more money than she could playing in an outdated stadium in LA. Fast forward to 2016 and the situation is almost exactly reversed except in this case the current Rams owner will build the new modern stadium as part of a much larger development effort he has underway in LA and he will make more money by moving the team than by staying put. Plus ça change; plus ça même chose…
This should be a cautionary tale for cities and states who borrow large amounts of money against future tax receipts to build stadiums for billionaire team owners. In the case of St. Louis, the city – and probably to some extent the State too – is now on the hook to continue to pay the interest and eventually to return the principle on the municipal bonds floated to build the stadium in St. Louis. There will, however be significantly diminished revenue from that stadium leaving the officials there two less-than-wonderful choices:
They can default on the bonds leaving the bondholders in the lurch but that will affect their credit rating in a negative way meaning that future borrowings will come at higher interest rates.
They can make the interest payments and the return of principle out of taxpayer funds in the “General Treasury” – or whatever they call it in that part of the country. That means those dollars will not be available for other things that might be important to the community at large because there is a fundamental principle at work here:
In science, we talk about the Law of Conservation of Matter. In most everyday processes, matter is neither created nor destroyed; it takes a hydrogen bomb to destroy a bit of matter to turn it into a lot of energy.
In economics, there must be a name for the law that says you cannot spend the same dollar twice. In the situation at hand, if the city spends tax revenue on bond interest, those are dollars than cannot be spent on schools or road or …
There was plenty of commentary last week about Blair Walsh – the Vikes’ kicker who missed that chip-shot field goal at the end of the game allowing the Seahawks to advance to the next round. Here are two of the better comments on that event:
“Blair Walsh gets all the blame for shanking that 27-yard field-goal attempt, costing the Vikings a playoff win. But what about the holder, who failed to spin the laces away from Walsh? ‘It’s not easy being a placekick holder. A lot of odd and crazy things can happen in the heat of the moment,’ said former kick-holder Lucy van Pelt.” [Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle]
“The Minnesota Vikings lost their playoff game when their kicker missed a 27-yard field goal. The kicker is now in an undisclosed location, waiting to meet with Sean Penn.” [Jimmy Fallon, the Tonight Show]
I enjoyed the way Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts did the Patriots/Chiefs game. There were no histrionics; there was pointed commentary when they chose to mention a missed call by the game officials; in the argot of the day, they let the game come to them. Would that more announcing teams would do the same.
Tom Brady was 28-42 in the game for 302 yards and 2 TDs. Of those 28 completions, 17 were made by Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Perhaps that is a measure of the degree to which the Pats’ offense is diminished when either or both of those two players is sidelined. Speaking of Gronkowski, there reports that he had a back injury during the week and that he had to have his knee drained or shot up or whatever. He was “questionable” for the game. Looking at the way he played and ran around and hit people last weekend, I am left with only two possibilities:
That shot he took in the knee was some kind of powerful – or –
He somehow slipped off undetected on a trip to Lourdes the night before the game and got back just in time to dress for the game.
The stats from this game demonstrate two things:
The Pats’ defense was the essence of “bend but don’t break”. The Chiefs ran off 83 offensive plays in the game and 51 of those plays (61%) were in Patriots’ territory; nonetheless, the Pats only gave up 2 TDs and the last one was in the final 2 minutes of the game.
The Pats offense was extremely efficient too. They ran 56 plays for 340 yards (more than 6 yards on average per offensive snap). Part of that offensive efficiency comes from the way the OL played. The Chiefs averaged 2.9 sacks per game this year; last week they recorded exactly zero sacks.
The game was also very clean; the first penalty flag appeared at 11:36 of the second quarter (that penalty was declined) and for both teams there was a total of 11 penalties for 64 yards. The Buffalo Bills call 11 penalties for 64 yards an excellent game.
With regard to the Packers/Cardinals game, what was the more improbable occurrence:
A. The tipped pass to Michael Floyd that gave the Cards a TD – or –
B. Aaron Rodgers second Hail Mary completion for a TD this season?
You make the call…
The Cardinals won this game in spite of Carson Palmer and not because of him. One of his two TD passes was a tipped pass that could just as easily have been a Pick Six going the other way and the threw 2 INTs in the game. Palmer has had a great season; he should get some votes for MVP; nevertheless, this game was not nearly his finest hour.
There were more than a few “non-calls” on pass interference/illegal contact during the game. The calls were ignored for both teams so you can say that the officials were consistent in their calls – consistently incorrect that is. Then came the coin flip fiasco for overtime; you could probably use that footage as part of a Marx Brothers movie.
Two questions that came to mind from that game:
Did Jeff Janis have a breakout game or was this his 15 minutes of fame? Janis is a former 7th round draft pick in 2014 who caught 2 passes this season and only 4 passes for his entire career. In this game he caught 7 passes for 145 yards and 2 TDs.
What should I say to all of the folks who suggested that the Cards should dump Larry Fitzgerald at various times over the past 2 seasons? All he did this year was catch 109 passes in 16 regular season games and then catch 8 more for 176 yards and the winning TD here.
People often talk about “negative body clock games” for West Coast teams that have to fly to the East Coast and play a game starting at 1:00 PM. The players’ biological clocks are telling them it is only 10:00 AM and some players/teams do not adjust to that very well. Perhaps that is the explanation for the lethargic first half played by the Seahawks last week? In any event the Panthers ran away to a 31-0 halftime lead and then held on to win 31-24. People quickly pointed out that the Panthers had “blown” large early leads in other games this year – the Giants game being the prime example – and such observations as criticism. The critics seem to fail to realize a fundamental fact here:
In order to “squander” or “blow” a 31-point lead, you have to play such that you are leading by 31 points at some point in the game. Bottom-feeders and even average teams probably never led by 31 points in a game so they never had the “opportunity” to squander one.
The difference in this game was pretty simple; the Panthers were able to run the ball and the Seahawks were not. The Panthers ran the ball 41 times out of 64 offensive plays and controlled the tempo and the clock. The Seahawks only ran the ball 12 times.
Given that this was a playoff game and that the Panthers had a pretty good inkling that they would be hosting a playoff game for a while now, that field was in pretty bad condition. The Panthers should not be proud of their showing in that dimension.
Prior to the game, Bob Molinaro had this observation about Cam Newton in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Seeing the field: More evidence this season of Cam Newton’s growing maturity as a quarterback: He has 24 TD passes and zero interceptions in the red zone.”
The Broncos/Steelers game was hard fought and defense-oriented from start to finish. The Broncos had the best defense in the NFL; it was no surprise that they showed up and played well. The Steelers’ defense had not been nearly so highly regarded this year so did they play a bad game or did the Broncos’ offense play poorly? I think it was the Steelers’ defense playing well that produced what we saw last week.
Third down was not kind to either team last week. The Broncos were 3 for 15 on third down conversions; that pretty much stinks and usually will cost a team a victory. However, the Steelers were even worse; they were 2 for 12 on third down conversions last week.
Concerning Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder injury, if Rob Gronkowski possibly visited Lourdes to make his miraculous recovery, then perhaps Roethlisberger got a shot of Pixie Dust from Tinker Bell in his shoulder. Here is what I saw in that game; he threw the ball long; he threw the ball hard; he was hit and sacked on his right shoulder and continued to throw the ball long and throw the ball hard. “Nuff said…
The fumble recovery by the Broncos that led to the winning TD drive happened with 9:52 left in the game. As important as the TD was, equally important was that the drive took 6:52 seconds. When the Steelers got the ball back there were only 3 minutes left to play in the game and the Steelers were down 2 scores.
I have one final “General Comment” regarding last week’s games and it relates to the CBS studio show that accompanies the CBS games:
Am I the only one who – after a season of suspending judgment – thinks that CBS studio analyst Bart Scott is as useful as a toaster to a scuba diver? Maybe he is speaking in Klingon and my translator is not working. Other than that, CBS needs to find someone else to sit on the set and pontificate.
(Sun. 3:00 PM EST) New England -3 at Denver (44.5): Here is an interesting fact I ran across earlier this week but I did not note where I found it so I cannot cite the source:
The last time there was an AFC Championship Game that did not have either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in it was back in 2011.
Bill Belichick has lost more playoff games (9) in his coaching career than Gary Kubiak has coached in (5). Of course, Belichick has also won 23 playoff games over his coaching career. For me, this game breaks down easily; the Broncos have the better defense (about 65 yards per game better) and the Pats have the better offense (20 yards per game better and 7 points per game better). The thing is that the Pats’ defense may not be as good as the Broncos’ defense, but it is still awfully good. I think this is a defensive game; I like the game to stay UNDER.
(Sun. 6:45 PM EST) Arizona at Carolina – 3 (47.5): Both coaches bring .500 playoff records to this contest (Ron Rivera is 2-2; Bruce Arians is 1-1). Arizona is in its second NFC Championship Game; they won the last time they were here but that was a home game. Carolina has been in the NFC Championship Game 4 times but this is the first time they have been at home for one. Bottom line:
I think Carolina is the better team so I like the Panthers to win and cover.
In addition, both of these teams can score; in terms of points per game they rank #1 and #2 in the NFL this season. I like this game to go OVER.
Finally, here is an observation from last weekend by Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
“Mel Kiper’s first mock draft for ESPN has Dolphins selecting Clemson DE Shaq Lawson eighth overall. Mel will have 45 more mocks with 45 other guesses.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………