Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 9/18/16

The opening week of the 2016 Mythical Picks for NFL games was a roaring success. I made 17 picks and the record for the week was 13-4-0. That record was aided by the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol; the coin was asked to make 1 pick and its record was 1-0-0. If I were smart, I would stop here and come back next August claiming a documented 76.5% success rate for the 2016 season. No one ever figured that I would be smart…

The Best Pick from last week was:

    Eagles – 4 over Browns. Eagles won by 19; game was never in doubt.

The Worst Pick from last week was:

    Cards – 6 over Pats. Cards lost outright.

No one should be tempted to use any info here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game this weekend involving real money. Nothing here is authoritative; there is not inside information here. You would have to be really stupid to do anything like this. In fact, you would be dumb enough …

    … to design a shirt with a back pocket on it.

General Comments:

The Texans beat the Bears last weekend and there was plenty of focus on the play of Brock Osweiler and Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has been a “disappointment” since being the overall #1 pick in the draft in 2014 but the disappointment centers around his inability to avoid injuries. They have a saying in the NFL that the most important “ability” is “availability”; Clowney has not been “available” all that much of the time. The focus on Osweiler is different; he is the $72M QB who does not have a huge body of work to demonstrate that he is a quality starter in the NFL.

I think that the yardstick by which people will determine if Brock Osweiler is a “success” or a “failure” in Houston is clouded to a large degree by that contract. For example, he could have an average year and people could complain that he underperformed his contract. However, even if that were to happen consider this:

    1. That contract is the doing of the Front Office. I believe that Osweiler made $800K last year; the Texans’ Front Office put an offer in front of him with a total value of $72M; that kind of a raise is the stuff of dreams; what was he supposed to do? Not take it …?

    2. Brock Osweiler is replacing Brian Hoyer as the starting QB for the Texans. The first comparisons ought to be Osweiler vis a vis Hoyer because that is the position the Texans sought to upgrade. Secondarily, one can then assess if the Front Office made a proper decision with regard to acquiring a new QB.

The NFL season is young and the new NFL Pre-Game crew on ESPN made a splash right out of the gate. Charles Woodson said that he thinks Terrelle Pryor will have 1800 yards receiving this year. Let me give you the list of NFL receivers who have achieved that mark:

    Jerry Rice – – 1995 – – 1848 yards.

That’s it; that’s the list.

This prediction by Woodson is bold indeed. Pryor will need to average 112.5 yards per game to hit that mark. In Week 1 against the Eagles, he caught 3 passes for 68 yards. Wow…

The Kansas City Business Journal had a report recently indicating that NFL teams may be looking to emulate MLB teams at the concession stands in their stadia. In Arrowhead Stadium this year, Chiefs’ fans can avail themselves of:

    Chocolate Bacon Blitz Pizza.

This concoction features peanut butter, chocolate fudge, Reeses peanut butter cups and bacon. What more is there to say?

The Panthers lost to the Broncos in Denver last week and the storyline after the game was the head-hunting done by the Broncos’ defenders against Cam Newton. Last Friday, more than one writer and commentator on radio/TV said that the NFL had failed to protect Newton and that the concussion protocol – newly enhanced if you believe the pronouncements from the NFL and the NFLPA – had not been followed properly. The second half of that argument is probably correct; after one particularly bad hit late in the game, Newton was clearly wobbly but no one came onto the field to chick him out nor did he go to the sidelines for an “examination” but the unaffiliated neurological guru assigned to the game. Obviously, I cannot tell if he had been concussed on the previous play; I can also tell you that his condition reminded me of the one that obtained when Case Keenum was slammed on his head last year and was allowed to stay in the game. That was the incident that nominally led to the consideration of and the changes made to “enhance the concussion protocols”.

If that is “enhancement”, I am surely glad they did not relax the criteria for examinations…

I do not agree, however, that the league let Cam Newton down. I believe the fault here lies with the officials who just did not do what is supposed to be done when a defender launches himself and leads with his helmet for a head-shot. There is no policy or pronouncement from the NFL that can assure that officials call penalties for those sorts of hits. It is fun to blame Roger Goodell for him ham-handedness on lots of issues but this is not one of them. If you feel compelled to say that someone or someones let Cam Newton down last week, assign that onus to Gene Steratore’s officiating crew.

Lost in the furor created by that controversy is the fact that Trevor Siemian played well – and was very poised – against a very good and a highly motivated Panthers’ defense. It would be a huge over-reaction to take that one game and project from it that Trevor Siemian is a fully competent NFL QB. It was a very promising start to his career; nonetheless, his body of work needs expansion.

In another game last week featuring a QB starting his first NFL game, Jimmy Garoppolo played excellently. The Pats were more than 2000 miles from home; they did not have either Brady or Gronkowski available for the game; they were missing both starting offensive tackles. And, they won the game. Give credit to the coaching staff; also give credit to Garoppolo for executing efficiently and effectively. His stat line for his first game as a starter was 24-33 for 264 yards and 1 TD. Lest anyone misinterpret anything here let me say clearly:

    When Tom Brady is available to play, Jimmy Garoppolo will – and should – go to the bench.

In yet another game last week featuring a QB starting his first NFL game, Carson Wentz made the leap from Division 1-AA football to the NFL in Game 1 of his rookie year. Wentz was clearly the better QB on the field last week; he simply outplayed RG3. The Eagles won 29-10 and it was about as lopsided as the score looks. Wentz threw 2 TD passes and amassed 278 yards in the air. Not bad for a guy from North Dakota State who locked himself in a public restroom this summer…

One other QB started his first game ever last week. That would be Dak Prescott in Dallas and he did not win that game. I am not sure it was all his fault, however. The Cowboys chose not to stretch the field more than once or twice for the whole game. That allowed the Giants’ defense to stack the line of scrimmage and shut down Ezekiel Elliott late in the game; Prescott had far too many 2nd and long/3rd and long situations in his face. Elliott wound up the day with 51 yards on 20 carries; that is not impressive for someone considered the leader in the clubhouse for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Even so, it all came down to the final play where a Cowboys’ receiver should have gone out of bounds to give the Cowboys’ kicker a shot at a LONG field goal to win the game. That did not happen and time expired…

    By the way, Dez Bryant played the whole game and had 1 catch for all of 8 yards. That did not help Prescott to succeed.

The winning TD in the Giants/Cowboys game was a short pass pulled in by Victor Cruz who was playing in his first game in 23 months. If he is back to his old form, the Giants will have a potent passing game with Odell Beckham, Jr. on one side and Cruz on the other.

As mentioned above, the Texans beat the Bears 23-14. From the outside, it would seem that the Texans strategy in the off-season was to get themselves a QB (Brock Osweiler), a new running back (Lamarr Miller) and a speed receiver (draftee Wil Fuller). They focused on upgrading the offense because they figured that with Jadeveon Clowney on the mend and on the assumption that JJ Watt would play at his normal level of effectiveness, they could roll into the playoffs from the AFC South. Well, the offense looked better than it did last year. More importantly, even with JJ Watt not playing, the defense looked very good and Clowney looked very good.

The Bears have to be worried about one stat in particular from last week’s game. Jay Cutler was sacked 5 times in the game. The Bears’ offense is not going to be able to cope with that sort of thing every week. The protection has to get better.

The Bengals beat the Jets 23-22. There were two unusual things that came from this game:

    1. The Jets recorded 7 sacks in the game and still lost. Let me just say that does not happen often…

    2. AJ Green roasted and toasted Darrelle Revis. Green caught 12 passes for 180 yards and 1 TD. Perhaps someone has built a causeway to get from the mainland to Revis Island?

The Ravens beat the Bills 13-7. That looks as if the game was a titanic defensive struggle. The Ravens defense did hold the Bills to 160 yards of offense and a measly 4.2 yards per pass but the Ravens offense just did not score points. At least the game was close…

In another low scoring contest, the Seahawks needed a very late TD to come from behind and beat the Dolphins 12-10. I saw some of the replay of this game on NFL Network and the OL for the Seahawks looked very bad. The Seattle running game only averaged 3.5 yards per attempt and Russell Wilson threw the ball 43 times in the game – very un-Seattle-like. Wilson was sacked 3 times and hurried much of the day; on the final drive for the winning score, he had to convert two 4th down situations to keep things alive. There is work to do in the Great Northwest…

Meanwhile the Dolphins were supposed to be invigorated on offense with the arrival of Adam Gaze – the certified QB Whisperer – who was to energize Ryan Tannehill. Yes, it is only Week 1, but consider:

    Dolphins’ total offense was 222 yards
    Dolphins had 11 first downs
    Dolphins passing game was less than 5 yards per attempt
    Dolphins OL surrendered 4 sacks.

There is also work to do in the Great Southeast…

The Bucs beat the Falcons 31-24 and Jameis Winston had a big day. Let me be clear; the Falcons defense is not good; they do not tackle in the open field and they surely do not put the fear of God in QBs with their pass rush. Nevertheless, Winston threw 4 TDs – and 1 INT in the game. The Falcons’ running attack was rather anemic also averaging less than 2.5 yards per rush.

The Lions beat the Colts 39-36 and the score indicates the major storylines for the game:

    1. Andrew Luck is back; here is his stat line:

      31 for 47 with 4 TDs and 0 INTs.

    The Colts converted 9 of 16 third-down attempts and amassed 450 yards of offense; but still, they lost.

    2. The Colts’ defense still stinks. That ought not be a huge surprise since there were no major upgrades made to that unit in the offseason – – and it surely stunk last year. The Lions amassed 448 yards on offense, completed 79.5% of their pass attempts, and averaged 4.8 yards per rush. By the way, the Lions’ final drive that set up the winning field goal in the final seconds of the game covered 50 yards in 25 seconds.

The Vikes rallied from behind to beat the Titans 25-16. Shaun Hill’s stats were not grizzly but the Vikes scored precisely zero TDs on offense. The Vikes’ 2 TDs came on a 77-yard Pick Six and on a 24-yard Scoop and Score. The Titans actually gained 15 yards more offense for the day than did the Vikes. Look, the Vikes’ defense is very good but there is no way they are good enough to get through a season if the offense does not score TDs.

There is one other potential issue for the Vikings coming out of this game:

    Recall that kicker Blair Walsh missed that chip shot field goal at the end of the playoff game against Seattle last year. That would have won the game for the Vikings and had them advance to the next round of the playoffs.

    In this game, he missed 2 FGs and 1 PAT. Indeed, he did make 4 FGs and 1 PAT, but the question of some sort of “hangover” from last year’s final kick is out there…

The Raiders beat the Saints 35-34. Two years ago, Panthers’ coach, Ron Rivera, acquired the nickname, “Riverboat Ron”, for some of the risky calls he made in game situations. It might appear as if Raiders’ coach, Jack Del Rio, has been studying at the “Riverboat Ron School of Risk Taking.” On a late drive in the 4th quarter, the Raiders scored to make the score 34-33; instead of “playing for the tie on the road”, Del Rio called for a 2-point conversion that was successful and the Raiders won the game. Call him “BlackJack Del Rio”?

Other than the unusual ending, this game followed a normal script for the Saints. They scored 34 points; they had 507 yards of offense; they only punted twice in the game – – and still, they lost. The Raiders were rather typical too being penalized 14 times for 141 yards in the game.

The Packers beat the Jags 27-23. Let me be brief here:

    The Packers are for real.
    The Jags are for real too.

The Chiefs beat the Chargers 33-27 in OT. The Chargers led the game 21-3 but the Chiefs came back to dominate the second half of the game sending it to OT tied at 27-27. The Chargers lost WR, Keenan Allen, for the year and they do not have a comparable replacement for him. After he left the game, the Chargers pass offense totaled 60 yards; while he was there, he caught 63 yards of passes all by himself.

The MNF double-header produced two of the least interesting games of the weekend. The Steelers went to Washington and brought seemingly 15-20% of the audience with them from Pittsburgh. There were lots of Terrible Towels in every section of the stadium. The Steelers also dominated the Skins winning 38-16. Last week, I wrote that it would be interesting to watch Josh Norman (he of the $75M free agent contract) go up against Antonio Brown (possibly the best WR in the NFL at the moment). Well, that happened only rarely…

Norman lined up as the CB on the right side of the Steelers formation on every play; when the Steelers put Brown on the left side he matched up with Bashaud Breeland who – to be polite about it – was totally overmatched. After the game, the explanation for this was that this was the defensive game plan the coaches came up with and it would have been too complex to flip Norman around to go wherever Brown went. Let me assume for a moment that is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is time for a new defensive game plan because:

    This week the Skins play the Cowboys and Breeland will be overmatched against Dez Bryant if he has to cover him for an entire game.

    Next week, the Skins play the Giants and Breeland will be overmatched against Odell Beckham, Jr. if he has to cover him for an entire game.

In the late MNF game, the Niners beat the Rams 28-0 and the Rams looked even worse than the Browns looked against the Eagles. The Rams did not run the ball well; their passing game plan was to throw 5-yard passes on just about every dropback; the defense did not dominate. Jared Goff was on the sidelines in street clothes for the game. The speculation was that the Rams did not want to have him deal with all the hoopla of a MNF opening game. That had better be the case because:

    If indeed, the coaching staff now recognizes that Goff cannot perform better on the field than Case Keenum – – and Sean Mannion behind Keenum – – then the resources they squandered to trade up to take Goff will cripple the franchise for the next 5 years.

    Goff cannot be THAT bad, can he?

Before I get to the games themselves, let me pose a rhetorical question here:

    If you watched the Rams soil themselves last Monday night, did you wonder about those fans in St. Louis that actually wanted to keep this team in that city?

The Games:

(Thurs Nite) Jets at Buffalo “pick ‘em” (41): Neither team looked good last week on offense but both defenses played well. Rather than pick the winner here in a game that will likely depend a lot on the emotional state of the winning squad, I prefer to believe that both defenses will continue to throttle the opposing offenses and so I will take the game to stay UNDER.

Tennessee at Detroit – 5.5 (47.5): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. It puts one of the worst teams in the league (Titans) on the road in a non-conference game against a team (Lions) who aspire to mediocrity. The Titans have not been all that good on the field recently and in case you did not know it, they have been bad against the spread too:

    Titans are 15-36-4 against the spread in their last 55 games.

I’ll take the Lions at home and lay the points.

KC at Houston – 3 (43.5): The spread opened at 1 point and has been expanding slowly all week. I think the Chiefs are the better team here so I’ll take them plus the points even on the road.

Miami at New England – 6.5 (41.5): The rest of Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension finds the Pats playing in Foxboro. Did the Dolphins’ defense make the Seahawks OL look bad last week (see above) or is it that the Seahawks’ OL simply needs work? We should learn more about that this week. One other thing we will learn later this week is if Rob Gronkowski can play this week or if his leg needs some more time to heal. Here is an interesting trend involving games where these two teams play one another:

    The home team is 8-0 against the spread the last 8 times these teams met.

    This game is in New England.

Having nothing to do with that trend cited above, I like the Pats to win and cover here.

Baltimore – 6.5 at Cleveland (42.5): The AFC North is playing each other this week; this is the first of the two games. Based on what I saw last week, I am not sure that the Browns are a worse team with backup QB, Josh McCown, under center than with RG3 there. The Browns’ offense consists of marginal running, a mediocre short passing game and occasional heaves down the field on a wing and a prayer. Terrelle Pryor caught one long pass last week in triple coverage! The Ravens’ offense was dormant last week as well, but Joe Flacco should be able to do some business against a secondary that has Joe Haden and a bunch of other guys. I like the Ravens to win and cover.

Cincy at Pittsburgh – 3.5 (48.5): This is the more interesting NFC North divisional game this week. The Steelers will face a much better defense – particularly a better run defense – this week than they did last week in Washington. Antonio Brown will give the Bengals’ secondary fits; AJ Green will give the Steelers’ secondary fits. I think the Bengals would love to avenge their playoff loss last year to the Steelers particularly because that loss was completely a self-inflicted wound. I’ll take the Bengals plus the points here.

Dallas at Washington – 2.5 (45): The Cowboys are playing their second division game in a row to start the season. They hung in against the Giants last week and had a chance to win at the end (see above). Nevertheless, their offensive output was only 328 yards mostly because they never threw the ball downfield. The Skins on the other hand were overmatched by the Steelers last week. Here are the variables:

    How will the Skins defend Dez Bryant?
    How will the Skins’ DL play against a superior OL?
    Will the Cowboys open the offense up a little?
    How badly will the Skins’ receivers make the Cowboys’ secondary look?
    Can/will the Skins run the ball more than a dozen times?

On the assumption that the Cowboys will play something more than their vanilla-flavored offense, I think this game will produce points. I like the game to go OVER.

New Orleans at Giants – 4.5 (52): Both teams played “1-point games” last week; the Giants won and the Saints lost by a point. The Giants won last week scoring 20 points. That output will not get it done this week against the Saints. By the same token, the Saints are unlikely to hold the Giants down to 20 points this week because I am not sure that the Saints can hold any NFL team to 20 points unless the game is played outdoors in a monsoon. I like this game to go OVER.

SF at Carolina – 13 (45): The line opened at 11.5 points and jumped to this level very quickly. I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games. I also hate what the NFL schedule mavens did here. The Niners played on Monday night; the Panthers played last Thursday night. On the short work week, the Niners now get to fly about 2500 miles to play a team with far superior talent. Oh, and that team with the superior talent also lost last week and wants to get things going in a positive direction here. The Panthers saw the Chip Kelly offense in Philly last year; it should not be a mystery to them. I will do something here that I do not like to do and take the Panthers and lay that bushel-basket full of points.

Tampa Bay at Arizona – 7 (50): Let me cut to the chase here. I was impressed by the way Jameis Winston played last week. Yes, those were the Falcons and these are the Cardinals. Nevertheless, I think Tampa has a real shot to win this game straight up – and wouldn’t that make the AFC West race interesting – so I’ll take the Bucs plus the points.

Seattle – 3.5 at LA (no Total Line): There are only a few of the sportsbooks that have spreads posted for this game but no one has a Total Line up as of this morning. The reason is – probably – because it is not certain if Russell Wilson can play nor is it certain who will be the QB for the Rams. The Seahawks need to worry that their weak unit (OL) has to go directly up against the best part of the Rams’ team (DL). The Rams need to worry that their anemic offense that could do no business against the Niners last week now has to contend with a far better Seahawks unit. I think this will be a low scoring affair absent turnovers, Pick Sixes and punt returns for TDs. In low scoring games, I like to take the points; I will do that here and take the Rams and the points.

Indy at Denver – 6 (46): The Colts ran up 450 yards on offense and scored 36 points last week; they are not going to do that to the Broncos’ defense. The Broncos’ offense gained only 307 yards and scored 21 points last week; they should eclipse both of those marks against the Colts’ defense here. I like the Broncos to win and cover at home.

Atlanta at Oakland – 5 (50): Based on last week’s performances, I do not think either defense is going to impede the opposing offense to any great degree. I like the game to go OVER.

Jax at San Diego – 3 (47): Here is another short and sweet one. I think the Jags are going to win this game outright. Therefore, I will be happy to take them plus a field-goal’s worth of points.

(Sun Nite) Green Bay – 3 at Minnesota (43.5): The Vikings open their new playpen here against a division rival they need to beat if they want to win the NFC North. Here are conflicting trends for this game:

    Packers are 8-3 to go OVER in their last 11 Week 2 games
    Vikings are 14-2 to go UNDER in their last 16 Week 2 games.
    This is Week 2 …

I think this will be a low scoring game because the Vikes have a really good defense and because the Vikes are going to play Shaun Hill at QB on offense. Therefore, I will take the Vikings plus the points.

(Mon Nite) Philly at Chicago – 3 (43): The Bears led the Texans 14-10 at halftime last week and then were shut out in the second half. The Eagles dominated a bad Browns’ team for 4 quarters last week. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Eagles plus the points. Ok, then …

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times earlier this week regarding the outcome of the Packers/Jags game last week:

“At ‘Jags fall to Packers, 27-23, earn franchise’s 100th moral victory.’”

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

2 thoughts on “Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 9/18/16”

    1. Bones:

      A long time ago there was a weekend with only 13 games and I went 11-1-1. That is the best ever. I do not recall any others that were better than 13-4-0. Let me hope this is a positive omen for the season…

Comments are closed.