This will be a joint entry of NCAA Mythical Picks (for the CFP games this weekend) and of NFL Mythical Picks for the games scheduled for Week 17 of this regular season. Notwithstanding the fact that this will be a “joint entry” my calendar requires that this will be an abbreviated entry. Let me set the stage for these selections with nominally relevant data.
NCAA Mythical Picks ended the season back at the start of December with a cumulative record of 109-93-0. If I had wagered the same amount on each of the 202 picks here, I would have come away with a profit for the season. If I had wagered on each of the 202 picks here, I should have been put in restraints and not allowed anywhere near the betting windows.
[Apropos of nothing, the favorites did not fare well in Ponderosa Games this year. The final record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games was 46-51-1.]
NFL Mythical Picks last week was about as inane as they could be. I made 17 selections in the 16 NFL games and the week’s record was 8-8-1. Meanwhile, the season record for NFL Mythical Picks now stands at 135-88-6. While that record is comfortably in the “profitable zone”, it still would have been ridiculous for me to have considered for even a millisecond making those 229 wagers over the course of the season.
The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol was 1-2-0 last week. Nonetheless, the coin flipping has been “hot” this year with a cumulative record to date of 18-13-2.
The Best Picks from last week were:
- Dolphins +4 against Bills. Dolphins won outright.
- Niners +4 against Rams. Niners won outright.
The Worst Picks from last week were:
- Titans – 4.5 against Jags. Titans lost by 14 points.
- Panthers +3 against Falcons. Panthers lost by 17 points.
With all that data on hand, no one should take anything written here as sufficiently informative or insightful so as to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real football game (NCAA or NFL) this weekend. Anyone dumb enough to do that also thinks:
You can never become addicted to brake fluid because you can – obviously – stop anytime you want.
My only comment this week about NCAA football is short and simple; I should have included it in one of the earlier iterations of NCAA Mythical Picks.
- The Arkansas State Red Wolves have a player on their roster named Dee Liner.
- You guessed it; he plays defensive line… How perfect is that?
Last week in the NFL was Underachievement Week. Bad teams surprisingly won games; good or better-than-average teams lost games they should have won even though a loss would be devastating to their season. One such underachievement got another coach fired with a game left to play. Rex Ryan is out in Buffalo – and his brother Rob is out as defensive coordinator too. So, let me start with that game from last week…
The Bills lost to the Dolphins 34-31 in OT. That is not such an embarrassing loss that you would think that it would end a coaching tenure with one week left to play in a season where the Bills will be out of the playoffs for the 17th consecutive time. What this says to me is that the Bills’ ownership had made up their mind to fire Ryan as soon as the season was over and this home loss was just a bit more than they needed to bear.
Basically, the Bills found ways to lose this game – and that has not been an unknown set of circumstances for the team over the past 2 seasons with Rex Ryan at the helm. The Bills trailed 28-24 in this game and fought their way back to lead the game 31-28 with less than 2 minutes to go in the game. Then the defense allowed the Dolphins to get into a position to kick a tying field goal with 6 seconds on the clock. Then in OT, the defense allowed RB. Jay Ajayi to rumble for 57 yards to set up a chip shot field goal by the Dolphins to win the game. The Bills missed 2 field goals in regulation time that would have won the game. It was a sh*tshow of a game in front of the home fans and the Bills’ ownership decided that it had seen enough.
Cry no crocodile tears for Rex Ryan. If my calculations are correct, the Bills owe him a tad over $16M over the next 3 years for him to stay home and not coach NFL football…
The Chargers lost a game last week; since the Chargers have only won 5 times this year, you might wonder why I put them in the conversation about teams that should not have lost last weekend. The answer is simple:
The Chargers lost to the Browns 20-17.
That embarrassing loss ought to make it a bit easier for fans in San Diego to let go of their team as the Chargers opt to move to LA soon after the regular season ends this weekend. Making this loss even more hard to swallow, the Chargers recorded a total of 9 sacks in the game – – and still found a way to lose. That does not happen very often.
Chargers’ coach Mike McCoy was on a hot seat before this game. Now I would suspect that he is sitting on a pool of lava…
The Titans lost to the Jags 38-17 eliminating the Titans from the playoffs. Making matters worse, QB, Marcus Mariota, broke his fibula in the game and is expected to be out of action for about 4 months. That injury, however is NOT the reason the Titans took gas last week; they trailed 24-10 in the game when Mariota was injured. Look, the Titans were 2-14 last year and they have already won 8 games this year. That is a MAJOR improvement and it needs to be acknowledged and applauded. Having said that, the Titans lost a hugely important game last week to a bad football team.
The Bucs lost to the Saints 31-24 in a game the Bucs had to have to stay “playoff relevant”. The Saints led in time of possession and ran for 129 yards on a nominally maturing Bucs’ defense. The only way to deal with this game is to label it as a game where the Bucs laid an egg.
In the context of these underachieving/shocking games, there were other surprises on the card for last week. As noted above, the Brown and Jags won games outright last week. Well, so did the Niners; they beat the Rams 22-21. All three of those carrion-feeders won on the same weekend; my guess is that no one in Las Vegas had a parlay on the money line for Browns, Niners and Jags all to win last week.
The Niners had the worst run defense in the NFL going into last week’s game; the Rams have a very good running back; you might expect the Rams to pound the ball down the Niners’ collective throats.
Not so fast my friend … [/Lee Corso]
- Todd Gurley gained 67 yards and averaged only 2.9 yards per carry.
- Rams gained 99 yards rushing – which sounds good until you realize that the Niners have given up 200+ yards rushing in previous games this year.
The Rams have already fired their coach and have nominally begun their coaching search. I suspect that this miserable showing will assure that interim coach John Fassel will get only a cursory call/interview once the season is over – – unless of course he and all the rest of the coaching staff is fired within 24 hours of the final whistle in the final Rams’ game this weekend.
The Texans beat the Bengals last week to secure the AFC South division title and a spot in the playoffs. The score here was 12-10 and the offensive prowess on display by both teams was perfectly indicated by the score. To say it was uninspired would be to say that Pavarotti could carry a tune. The Bengals averaged a measly 6.5 yards per pass attempt in the game but even that meager accomplishment is distorted. One short pass went to Brandon LaFell who turned it into an 86-yard TD catch-and-run. Absent that one play, the Bengals averaged 3.95 yards per pass attempt. Yowza!
I said this would be an abbreviated version of Mythical Picks due to Holiday festivities and social commitments. Therefore, even though some of the other games from last weekend would normally have merited some comment, they will be anonymous here – with one exception.
The Raiders won last week beating the Colts 33-25 but they lost QB Derek Carr to a broken fibula. Carr has had his surgery and instead of projecting a 4-month R&R schedule, some are holding out hope that he could be back in time for the Super Bowl just 5 weeks after the injury and the surgery. I do not think the Raiders will make it that far without Derek Carr under center but if they do, I surely hope that any decision on his part or on the part of the Raiders’ braintrust to put him in that game does not do long-term detriment to Derek Carr’s career. I think he has the potential to be a special player…
The NCAA CFP Semi-Final Games:
(Sat Afternoon) Washington vs. Alabama – 14 (54): The Total Line opened at 58 for this game several weeks ago, but it has seemed to settle in at this number for more than a week now. These teams have a common quality opponent in USC and the temptation is to look at those two games and to conclude that Washington is simply overmatched here. However, from the games I saw this year, USC was a far better team late in the season when they beat Washington than they were in September when Alabama waxed them. I do not think Washington will win this game; if I did, I would take the Huskies on the Money Line at +475. However, I do think Washington is good enough to stay within 2 TDs of Alabama on the assumption that Jake Browning does not throw a bunch of INTs to give Bama short fields to work with. I’ll take Washington plus the points.
(Sat Evening) Ohio St. – 3 vs. Clemson (59): My observation about Clemson is very simple:
- They play up to or down to the level of their competition.
Their opposition here plays at a high level and so I expect Clemson to do the same. Ohio St coaches and players have certainly heard some of the commentary that they are only in this playoff due to their institutional reputation since they did not even win their division within their conference this year. That should give them a small shot of adrenaline. I agree this will be a close game but I think Clemson is the better team. I’ll take Clemson here plus the points.
The NFL Games:
Houston at Tennessee – 3 (40): This game would have been meaningful had the Titans not imploded last week. In the current state of affairs, this game is as meaningless as a forest fire in the Gobi Desert. Presumably, the Texans will use the game to get new QB, Tom Savage, some expanded familiarity with their playbook. Perhaps the Titans will play to attain the team’s first winning season since 2011. The game is not a big deal. I do not want to imply that I think Tom Savage is a polished NFL QB because he is not but I do wish to imply that I do not want to pick a team with little reason to play hard with Matt Cassel as the QB. I’ll take the Texans and lay the points.
Buffalo – 3.5 at Jets (42): The spread here opened at 5 points and dropped immediately to this level and has stayed there all week. In a week of meaningless games, this one is the worst of the lot in my opinion and so it gets the Final Dog-Breath Game of the Week designation for the 2016 season. No matter the outcome here, this has been a season of misery for both teams. The Jets have looked to me like quitters for the past several games; and if my conclusion is even half correct, I see no reason for them to get excited about this final game. I like the Bills to win and cover here – even on the road.
Baltimore at Cincy – 2 (41.5): Back in August/September, this looked like it might be a critical game in the AFC playoff picture. In reality, it is as meaningless as dust. The Ravens lost out on playoff contention on a late TD by Antonio Brown last week; Cincy lost out on playoff contention about month ago on boneheadedness on the field. I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.
Giants at Washington – 7 (44): The spread here opened the week at 5 points and has risen steadily to this level; in fact, you can find it at 8 points at one sportsbook this morning. The Skins have something to play for; if they lose, they are out of the playoffs; if they win, they are in barring a tie in the Lions/Packers game. The Giants are assured of a wild-card slot no matter what happens. I like the Skins to win and cover here.
(Sun Nite) Green Bay – 3 at Detroit (49): This is the Game of the Week not because these are the two best teams playing each other but because one of these teams is going to be the NFC North champion and the other will be at loose ends for the month of January. NBC recognizes that this is the game of the week because they flexed it to the Sunday Nite time slot instead of putting the Cowboys in a national TV game yet again. I like the Packers to win and cover here.
Jax at Indy – 4.5 (47): The spread opened at 7 points and dropped to this level rather quickly. I have no idea why anyone would be betting enough money on this game to move the line even a little bit. This game is as meaningless as a political candidate’s promises. Because I said I’d make a pick in all the games, I’ll take this game to go OVER.
Dallas at Philly – 3.5 (43): The Cowboys are in the playoffs with the #1 seed in the NFC bracket; the Eagles are out. The line favoring the Eagles by more than a field goal says that the oddsmakers – and the bettors to some extent – believe that the Cowboys will be resting some of their key players for at least part of this game. I will make this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.
Chicago at Minnesota – 5 (41): This is a game to ignore. The Bears aren’t any good; the Vikes folded their cards for the season at least a month ago. I prefer the talent level of the Vikes and I like the fact that this game is in Minnesota so I’ll take them to win and cover here. However, do not infer from that comment that I will pay much attention to the game other than the score.
Carolina at Tampa – 5 (46): The spread opened at 3.5 points and has expanded all week long; you can find it at 6 points at one sportsbook this morning. Neither team can be in the playoffs making this game as meaningless as the face of a corpse [hat tip to Joseph Conrad]. Either or both of these teams could show up at kickoff merely to go through the motions. Purely a venue call, I’ll take the Bucs and lay the points.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh – 7 (43): This spread opened at 12.5 points and plummeted when the Steelers let it be known that Ben Roethlisberger would have the day off. Say hello to a quarterback face-off between Landry Jones and Cody Kessler. Whoo-Hoo! The Total Line opened at 45.5 and also dropped with that same announcement. The Steelers will be dealing with playoff opponents down the line and the Browns are not of that caliber. However, the Browns are coming off their first win of the Hue Jackson Era in Cleveland and might just show up with a smidgen of enthusiasm. Again, only because I said I would make a pick in every game, I’ll take the Browns plus the points.
New Orleans at Atlanta – 7 (56): The Falcons are the AFC South champs and the Saints are out of the playoffs. There is a small measure of meaning in this game because the Falcons might get a first round bye in the playoffs or not depending on what happens here and in SF this week. Big deal… The most interesting thing about this game is the Total Line; the oddsmaker obviously sees this as a final game offensive showdown between two potent offenses and two less than potent defenses. For no good reason, whatsoever, I’ll take the Saints plus that generous helping of points.
New England – 10 at Miami (44.5): I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games. This spread opened at 6 points and expanded to this level quickly. It is at 10.5 points at one sportsbook this morning. The Pats have incentive in this game; a win assures them home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The dolphins are locked into a wild card slot no matter what. I shall invoke the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol for this inscrutable game and the coin says to take the Pats and lay the points. The coin has spoken…
Arizona – 6.5 at LA (41): I gave serious consideration to this game as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week but ceded that dubious honor elsewhere. The Cards have been huge disappointments this year; the Rams have been just plain bad for most of the year. This game is so meaningless that it nudges up to the boundary between meaninglessness and absurdity. Venue call; I’ll take the Rams plus the points.
KC – 5.5 at San Diego (44.5): The game means nothing to the Chargers; they could have packed their bags and taken a Caribbean cruise about a month ago. For the Chiefs, this game has meaning. Depending on the outcome here and the outcomes in Denver and in Miami, the Chiefs could be either the #2 seed (meaning a BYE week) or the #5 seed or the #6 seed in the AFC playoff bracket. Trust me; it is not worth the keystrokes to go thru all the possibilities. I like the Chiefs’ roster better than the Chargers’ roster and I prefer their motivation here. I’ll take the Chiefs and lay the points – even on the road.
Seattle – 10 at SF (43): I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games. I’m sorry, but the Niners are a bad team at home as well as on the road. I can’t even make this a venue call. I know that the Seahawks’ offense in road games has tended to go dormant this year but the Niners’ defense is flat out awful – despite their win last week over the Rams. I’ll take the Seahawks and lay the points.
Oakland at Denver – 1 (40): The reason this is not the Game of the Week is that the Lions/Packers game can be fateful for both teams; in this game, only the Raiders can benefit or lose based on the outcome. Nevertheless, this game should be “contentious”. The Broncos’ defense ought to have sued the Broncos’ offense for non-support and/or nonfeasance about a month ago. The Raiders’ offense needs to turn to the Raiders’ defense and say – ever so politely but firmly – that the offense has carried the load for the first 15 games this year and now it is time for the Raiders’ defense to double-clutch their collective asses into gear. Remember, the Raiders can still be the #1 seed in the AFC playoff bracket if they win here and the Pats lose in Miami. The Raiders can also lose the AFC West championship with a loss here and a Chiefs’ win in San Diego. I think the tangible benefits for the Raiders are the better motivators here. I like the Raiders plus the point.
Happy New Year to everyone. Next week’s writing schedule remains up in the air but Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, there will be Mythical Picks late next week.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………