Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 1/22/17


This is the penultimate edition of Mythical Picks for the 2016/2017 football season.  Last week’s Mythical Picks were boring – neither disastrous nor exciting.  I made 4 selections and the record for the week was 2-2-0.  That brings the season total to 139-93-5.

The “Best Picks” from last week were:

  • Pats – 15.5 against Texans.  Pats won by 18 points.
  • Steelers +1.5 against Chiefs.  Steelers won the game straight up.

The “Worst Picks” from last week were:

  • Seahawks +5 against Falcons.  Seahawks lost by 16 points.
  • Packers/Cowboys UNDER 52.5.  Total score was 65 points.

As is always the case, no one should take anything here seriously enough to use it as the basis for making a decision as to which side to back in a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend.  Here is how dumb you would have to be to do anything close to that:


You would employ Dr. Victor Frankenstein as your personal trainer because of his experience and success in body building.


General Comments:


The NFL’s rendition of the “Final Four” presents us with 4 worthy teams.  It would be very difficult to argue that one or two of these teams do not belong here; the regular season and the first two weekends of the playoffs have left us with 4 good teams – – and more importantly 4 teams that are hard to root against.  Curmudgeons are supposed to find the chinks in the armor of Final Four groupings but in this case, it is very difficult.


Atlanta Falcons:  All they did this year was to score 540 points in the 16 regular season games and then score 36 points against a much better than average Seattle Seahawks’ defense last week.  They are the “new kid on the block” with regard to Super Bowl championships – and even Super Bowl participation.  They have only been to the big game once in franchise history and they were smoked by John Elway and the Denver Broncos in that appearance.  On a personal note, Matt Ryan went to high school about 15 miles as the crow flies from where my parents lived at that particular time.  It will surely not offend me to see the Falcons win this weekend and then go on to win the Super Bowl.


Green Bay Packers: After starting the season at 4-6, Aaron Rodgers said that the team could/would “run the table” and get into the playoffs.  Based on his play for the most part, the Packers did just that despite injuries approximating the carnage at the Battle of Verdun.  Then, in two playoff games, the Packers offense beat two worthy opponents and last week’s win over the Cowboys had a “signature play” in NFL history leading to the winning field goal.  Rodgers said the Packers would “run the table”; well, now there are only two balls left on the table.  It will surely not offend me to see the Packers win this weekend and then go on to win the Super Bowl.


New England Patriots:  If you like sustained excellence, you have to like the New England Patriots.  In the Belichick/Brady Era, they have been in the AFC Championship Game so many times that I am tempted to call that game the “New England Patriots’ Invitational”.  There is a “Curmudgeon Angle” here; in fact, it is the reason that if you made me pick my favorite team in this Final Four, I would pick the Patriots.  I would love to see the look on the face of Roger Goodell if he has to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft and Tom Brady after the game.  Even more, I want to pay enough attention to the moment to do the best lip-reading that I can to see what Brady might say to the Commish in sotto voce.  It will surely not offend me to see the Patriots win this weekend and then go on to win the Super Bowl.


Pittsburgh Steelers:  The Steelers represent franchise stability over a LONG period of time.  They have had 3 head coaches since January 1969 when they hired Chuck Noll to be their coach.  By comparison, the Niners will be hiring their 3rd head coach since January 2014 sometime soon.  The Steelers are a small-market team with a “team philosophy” that is different from most other teams.  And it works…  The Steelers’ offense this year has relied on the “Three Killer Bees” – Big Ben, Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell.  After last week, they need to admit a 4th “Killer Bee” to the table.  That would be Chris Boswell whose 6 field goals provided all 18 points that were enough to beat the KC Chiefs and thereby led the Steelers to this week’s game.  It will surely not offend me to see the Steelers win this weekend and then go on to the win the Super Bowl.


With regard to last week’s games specifically, I really expected the Falcons/Seahawks game to go down to the final possession.  That is not even close to what happened.  The Falcons scored a lot of points on a good Seahawks’ defense and the Falcons’ defense played much better than I thought they could play against the Seahawks offense.  Two weeks ago, Seahawks’ RB, Thomas Rawls ran for 161 yards; last week, the Seahawks’ leading rusher was QB, Russell Wilson with 49 yards.

The Pats/Texans game last week was not exciting – to say the least.  The Pats played poorly; at the half, it was a 4-point game.  Nonetheless, I never had a shred of doubt that the Pats would come out as the winner of the game; I was not sanguine about them covering a 15.5-point spread, but I never thought they might lose the game.  When a team intercepts Tom Brady 2 times in a game, they must find a way to win.  Remember, he only threw 2 INTs in 12 regular season games in 2016.  The Texans got 2 INTs but Brock Osweiler managed to throw 3 INTs of his own to negate that defensive accomplishment.

On the other hand, the Packers/Cowboys game was one for the ages.  The Packers dominated early; the Cowboys made an excellent comeback; there were great plays in the final minutes involving a multitude of field goals from 50+ yards and there was “the third-and-20- pass-completion” with 3 seconds left to set up the winning field goal.  If that game did not get your blood pumping, stop wasting time watching NFL football games.

The Steelers/Chiefs game was also a great game to watch for a completely different reason than the Packers/Cowboys game.  This was a defensive game that was always one play away from changing the fortune in the game.  The Steelers won 18-16 because of 6 field goals.  You have heard of the “Pick Six”: well, the Steelers introduced us all to the “Kick Six”.

There are two things that I am looking forward to watching in this week’s Conference Championship Games.  I do not mean to say that this is all that I want to see but I think these will be interesting “sub-plots” within the games:

  1. The Packers had more than a little trouble covering Dez Bryant last week; he had 9 receptions for 132 yards and 2 TDs.  This week, they need to figure out how to cover Julio Jones.  Meaning not a shred of disrespect for Dez Bryant, Julio Jones is a better WR and I have no idea how the Packers are going to cope with that.
  2. Antonio Brown versus Malcom Butler – their pizza commercial notwithstanding – will be an interesting match-up.  It might just be the fulcrum of the game because if the Pats can keep Brown in check using only one defender, they may be able to commit more of the defense to stopping LeVeon Bell.


The Games:


(Sunday 3:05 PM EST) Green Bay at Atlanta – 5.5 (60):  Yes, I know; the Total Line here looks like one for a Big 12 game and not an NFL game.  However, the Falcons averaged almost 34 points a game in the regular season and put 36 on the board last week against the Seahawks.  Meanwhile, the Packers have been on an 8-game tear and in those 8 games have scored 30 or more in each of their last 6 outings.  The Total Line opened at 58 and was up over 60 in about 2 hours last weekend.  I do not recall seeing an NFL Total Line at this level before.  The spread on this game has gyrated too.  It opened at 4.5 points and shot up to 5.5 points very quickly.  Then it dropped to 4 points in the early part of the week until more falcons’ money showed up and pushed it back up to 5.5 points just about everywhere this morning.

These teams met earlier this year in this same Georgia Dome and the Falcons won by 33-32.  That was back in late October – 3 weeks before Aaron Rodgers suggested that the packers would “run the table”.  I do not think either defense is going to throttle the opposing offense and I do think that this game can easily come down to the final possession in the final minute of the game.  Because there are only 3 games left to pick in this season, I will make two selections for this game:

I like the Packers plus the points.

I like the game to go OVER.

I am tempted by the Packers on the Money Line at +190 but will resist that temptation.


(Sunday 6:40 PM EST) Pittsburgh at New England – 6 (50):  This spread opened at 4.5 points but it jumped to 5.5 point in no time flat.  Since then, it has hovered between 5.5 and 6 points and the clear majority of the sportsbooks have the spread at 6 points this morning.  As much as I would love to see Roger Goodell having to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady (see above) in Houston two weeks from now, I think the Steelers have a very good chance to win this game outright.  I think LeVeon Bell will gain his yards and the Steelers can control the tempo that way.  I’ll take the Steelers plus the points here.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald related to the Packers/Vikings game on Christmas Eve 2016:

“The Minnesota Vikings team plane skidded off the runway in Green Bay. There is probably nothing more frightening than spotting rescue workers in cheeseheads.”

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



Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 1/15/17


Last week was the final week for NCAA Mythical Picking and I went out on a low note.  I took Alabama – 6.5 points against Clemson and Clemson won the game outright.  The week’s record was 0-1; the final record for Mythical Picks for NCAA games this year was 110-95-0.  That makes two seasons in a row where NCAA Mythical Picks came out over .500 for the year and this year the picks would have been mythically profitable given a wager of the same mount on all 205 games.  Trust me; that does not happen very often…

Last week’s NFL Mythical Picks were mythically profitable.  There were 4 games and I made 5 picks in those games.  The record was 3-2-0; that makes the season record for NFL Mythical Picks 137-91-5.

The “Good Picks” from last week were:

  • Texans – 3.5 against Raiders.  Texans won by 13 points.
  • Seahawks/Lions UNDER 44.  Total score was 32 points.
  • Steelers – 10 against Dolphins.  Steelers won by 18 points.

The “Bad Picks” from last week were:

  • Steelers/Dolphins OVER 45.5.  Total score was only 42 points.
  • Giants +4.5 against Packers.  Giants lost by 25 points.

By now, any regular reader here knows that he/she would have to be might stupid to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this weekend.  How stupid?  Well …


He/She would probably think that jumping to a conclusion meant jumping off a cliff.


General Comments:


One comment about the Alabama/Clemson game in the CFP Final Game…  In the first half, I said to myself that Deshaun Watson was playing poorly enough to convince the Cleveland Browns not to take him first in the NFL Draft in April and I thought that was a good career move on his part.  By the end of the game, I said to myself, I hope the kid likes living on Lake Erie…

In last week’s NFL playoff games, each of the 4 home teams was favored and each of them won and covered handily; the chalk players did very well in the Wild Card round.  Jadeveon Clowney played a dominating game on defense for the Texans in their win over the Raiders.  Clowney’s stats are pedestrian, but if you watched the game you saw that he was a disruptive force for the whole game.  Candidly, the most impressive part of the Texans’ game for the weekend was that Brock Osweiler played totally error-free.  I wonder if the coaching staff went to him after the game and asked him where that kind of quarterbacking had been all year long?  Or maybe the Houston coaches realized that they were playing the Raiders’ defense out there and not a reincarnation of the Steel Curtain…

With a rookie, third-string QB under center, the Raiders went into the offensive analog to the fetal position for just about the entire game.  As they were playing from behind, the Raiders did throw the ball; Connor cook put it in the air 45 times – but rarely did the ball go more than 5 yards downfield until the very end when the game was no longer in doubt.  The Raiders averaged only 2.9 yards per pass attempt in the game; high school teams do better than that.  Making the Raiders job much more difficult than it had to be – and it was going to be very difficult in the best of circumstances – the team was undisciplined and the penalties showed that.

The Raiders were 12-4 this year and finished a strong second in the AFC West.  They may have difficulty matching that record next year because they will draw a more difficult schedule.  Raider fans have to realize that the team pulled a couple of wins out of their ear this year and if a ball bounces the wrong way in any of those “miracle games” the team could have been 10-6.  Here is the off-season mnemonic for Raider fans – – D&D.  The team needs to upgrade significantly:

  1. Defense – and –
  2. Discipline

The Seahawks beat the Lions 26-6; the winner was never really in doubt; only the margin of victory was in doubt.  I do want to pose a rhetorical question here:


Did the Seahawks win this game because they have gotten their act together and are commencing a “playoff run” – – or – – did the Seahawks win this game because the Lions are only marginally a playoff team?


The Lions have now lost 4 games in a row; all 4 game were against teams in the playoffs and only 1 of the 4 losses was by single-digits.  I realize that Matthew Stafford injured a finger on his throwing hand and has been battling that injury for a month but still …  With an injured QB, you would think that the Lions would have found ways to run the football but in fact their leading runner gained a total of 34 yards last week on 11 carries.

During the regular season, the Lions won 9 games and had to stage a 4th quarter comeback to achieve 8 of those 9 wins.  Congratulations to them for those performances.  At the same time, it is not all that surprising to see that a team who had to do that saw limited success playing against a team good enough to be in the playoffs – a team that has now won 11 games for the season.  Fourth quarter comebacks over teams like the Bears and the Jags are one thing; falling behind and catching up with the Seahawks is another.

Meanwhile, Seahawks’ RB, Thomas Rawls ran 27 times for 161 and a TD in the game.  Added to that dominating performance was the play of WR, Paul Richardson, who made a couple of circus catches in the game.  Where has he been hiding all season long?

The Steelers were the most impressive team last week; they obliterated the Dolphins 30-12 and dominated the game from the opening kickoff.  In addition to getting 167 yards and 2 TDs from LeVeon Bell, the Steelers gobbled up 3 Dolphins’ turnovers to maintain full control of the situation.  That win was the Steelers’ 8th victory in a row; it avenged an earlier loss to the Dolphins in Miami where Jay Ajayi ran for 200+ yards; last week Ajayi was held to 33 yards on 16 carries.  LeVeon Bell’s 167-yard performance was the 6th time in the last 7 games that he went north of the 100-yard mark in a game; by the way, in that “other game”, he gained 93 yards so it is not exactly that someone “held him down”.

This week, the Steelers go to Kansas City to take on a Chiefs’ defense that ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing defense.  I suspect that the Steelers’ game-plan for this week involves a large helping of LeVeon Bell carrying the ball…

And since I was just talking about a player’s top-shelf performance last weekend, that is a perfect lead-in to a mention of Aaron Rodgers who threw another on of those sorts of things out there for everyone to see against the Giants.  For the first 25 minutes of the game, Rodgers and the Packers did nothing on offense; at the end of the first quarter, the Packers had a total of 7 yards passing; with 3 minutes to play in the second quarter, the Packers had a total of 38 yards passing.  And then, Rodgers & Co. got things rolling…

From that point on – in 32 minutes of football – Rodgers generated 328 yards passing and threw 4 TDs; the Packers had more than 400 yards total offense and did that against a Giants’ defense that had carried the team to the playoffs.  The Giants’ defense had only given up a total of 47 points in the final 4 games of the regular season.

That game was the Packers’ 7th win in a row but it may have been very costly because Jordy Nelson suffered “two cracked ribs” in the game.  His availability – or his absence – will be an important factor in the game this week in Dallas.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Giants’ receivers had a horrible showing last week dropping passes that hit them in both hands – two of them in the end zone – I do not draw a bright line between that performance and the trip that the WRs took to Miami Beach on the Monday before the game to party on a boat.  Odell Beckham, Jr. did not forget how to catch a football on that boat; what happened is that he took that trip on his day off and then he had a terrible game 6 days later.

I would caution you not to fall into the trap of post hoc, propter hoc – which is Latin for “after that, because of that”.  A brief example of why this is not necessarily solid grounds for reasoning:


Imagine that I go out into the street in front of my house and stomp my feet, clap my hands and sing The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy from Company C.  More than likely, one of my neighbors would come out and ask me what I am doing.

My reply would be that I was scaring off all of the elephants.

My neighbor would likely then point out that there are no elephants roaming the streets of Northern Virginia.

To which my response would be:  “See, it works!”


I am perfectly willing to accept that Odell Beckham, Jr. displays “less than mature behavior” on more than a few occasions and that it would be to his benefit and the Giant’s benefit if he would just “grow up”.  But the Giants did not lose that football game because he and his buds took a day off in South Florida instead of watching film in East Rutherford NJ.  Pile on Beckham all you want for being “childish” but then tell me how that caused Sterling Shepard to drop a TD pass or how it turned Victor Cruz into the invisible man last week.

Rather than take the time here to talk about the Chargers’ impending move to LA and/or the Rams’ hiring of the youngest head coach in NFL history, I will defer that until next week and get down to the meat of the weekend.


The Games:


All four of the games this weekend are rematches from the regular season.  So, that should make for easy picks, no?  Would that it were so simple…


(Sat Late Afternoon) Seattle at Atlanta – 5 (51.5):  The spread opened the week at 3.5 points and has been at this level for much of the week.  The Total Line opened at 49.5 and you can find it as high as 52 at one sportsbook this morning.  This game is offense versus defense.  The Falcons scored 540 points in 16 games this season; that was the highest in the NFL by a wide margin; the second highest scoring team (Saints) scored 469 points.  In terms of scoring defense, the Seahawks ranked 3rd in the NFL allowing only 292 points in 16 games.  When these teams met in October, the Falcons scoring was below their game average for the season and the Seahawks defense gave up more points in that game than they did on average.  The previous meeting was in Seattle so the home field has flipped for this game.  I will not be surprised to see the Falcons score here – so long as the Falcons’ defense can get off the field.  The falcons’ defense ranks 25th in the NFL in yards per game and they are tied with the Niners’ defense (ugh!) for 29th in the NFL in third-down defense; the Falcons have allowed opponents to convert 41.8% of third down tries.  I smell a large dose of Thomas Rawls running the ball in this game.  I’ll take the Seahawks plus the points even on the road.  By the way, here are 2 facts for the game you can keep in mind as you are watching:

  1. Matt Ryan has only won 1 playoff game in his career; that win came against the Seahawks.
  2. Only Dan Marino and Bret Favre have beaten the Seahawks more than once in a playoff game.


(Sat Evening) Houston at New England – 15.5 (44.5):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  The spread here opened at 14.5 points and went up to 16.5 points early in the week; then it settled back to this level but you can find it as high as 16 points at 2 sportsbooks this morning.  The Total Line opened at 45.5 and has been at this level most of the week.  In case you are wondering, you can get the Texans at +1,000 on the money line but the books are seriously discouraging bets on the Pats on the money line.  If you want to bet the Pats on the money line, you may be looking at a line that is as high as minus-2,600.  Forget stats here; use the “eyeball test” from games you have watched this season.  Unless someone laces the Gatorade on the Pats’ sideline with Quaaludes, the Pats are going to win this game.  I think they will win big so for purely mythical purposes, I will take the Pats and lay the points.  After all, the Pats beat the Texans 27-0 earlier this year with Jacoby Brissett at QB.  Meaning not the slightest bit of disregard for Jacoby Brissett, Tom Brady will be playing this Saturday evening…


(Sun Early Afternoon) Pittsburgh at KC – 1.5 (43.5):  The spread here opened with the Steelers as a 1-point favorite and then flipped as the week went on.  The Total Line opened at 46.5 points; dropped quickly to 44.5 points and has been edging down during the week.  Given the way the Steelers manhandled the Chiefs earlier this year – a 43-14 shellacking in Pittsburgh in early October – bettors must be entranced by Andy Reid’s 16-2 record after a BYE Week.  At one point in that October game the Steelers led 36-0; Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell (first game back from his suspension) had really big days.  I think this game comes down to two words:

Ben … Roethlisberger

He suffered a foot injury very late in the game against the Dolphins last week.  He will play this week and when QBs play with leg injuries, people worry about “limited mobility”.  Roethlisberger plays every game with “limited mobility”; that will not be a problem for him.  However, if he cannot push off his leg/foot to deliver the ball, that could be a significant problem against a ball-hawking Chiefs’ defense.  Two other points about Roethlisberger:

  1. He (and his teammates) are significantly better playing at home as opposed to playing on the road.
  2. He has not been nearly as accurate in his passing as one would normally expect from him as of late.  In December, he threw 6 TDs and 6 INTs; that is far worse than his normal ratio.

I think this game will be close but I do think the Steelers are the better team.  I’ll take the Steelers plus the points here.


(Sun Late Afternoon) Green Bay at Dallas – 4.5 (52.5):  The spread opened at 4 points but has been steady at 4.5 points for most of the week.  Stats and the “eyeball test” both say that the Cowboys ought to be able to run the ball and control the clock against the Packers’ run defense.  Stats and the “eyeball test” both say that Aaron Rodgers should have plenty of time to pick out his receivers as he carves up a decent-but-hardly-great Cowboys pass defense.  I think the Cowboys’ will indeed control the clock to the point where the number of possessions will be lower than normal in this game – absent turnovers.  That allows for fewer opportunities to score and so I will take this game to stay UNDER.


Finally, let me close this out with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Automobile:  An individual land transport vehicle used mainly to provoke the extension of the human middle finger.”

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



Mythical Picks – NFL And NCAA CFP – Weekend Of 1/8/17


Last week was a boring week of mythical picking.  For the semi-finals of the CFP, the two Mythical Picks were 1-1-0. Not very exciting to say the least.  That took the season record for NCAA Mythical Picks to 110-94-0 with one game left to play where I might make as many as two picks.  It is going to be a “mythically profitable year” for NCAA Mythical Picks.

In the NFL, the mythical picks were just a tad less wonderful.  I made 16 selections and the record for the week was 7-9-0.  Certainly, that is not laudable; but it takes the NFL Mythical picks into the playoffs with a season record standing at a most comfortable 134-89-5.

The Coin Flip Protocol continued to be hot, Hot, HOT last week.  I used the coin flip to make 3 selections and the coin went 2-1-0 for the week bringing the coin’s record for the year to a surprisingly positive 19-12-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Vikes -5 against Bears.  Vikes won by 18 points.
  • Clemson +3 against Ohio St.  Clemson won the game outright 31-0.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Texans – 3 against Titans.  Texans lost the game outright.
  • Skins – 7 against Giants.  Skins lost the game outright.
  • Rams +6.5 against Cards.  Rams lost by 38 points.

Notwithstanding the fact that both the NCAA and NFL Mythical Picks will end the season in “Mythically Profitable Territory”, one would need to be extraordinarily dumb to conclude that there is any great insight or expertise that went into these selections.  No one – and I mean NOBODY – should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real football game this weekend.  Here is how extraordinarily dumb one would need to be to do that:


You probably think that a person without common sense (scents) is a woman who wears $2000 per ounce perfume.


General Comments:


Regarding NCAA football, I think that the Selection Committee for the CFP this year demonstrated that their votes/selections had as much to do with football pedigree as it had to do with selecting the teams that were playing the best football at the end of the season.  Let me try to explain what I mean without weasel-wording any of it:

  • Ohio St. was in the playoffs only because it was Ohio St. and Ohio St. has a long tradition of being an elite football team.  They did not win their division within their conference; they were not eligible to play for their conference championship; their “signature wins” included one that happened in September.  They were not the team in the Big 10 playing the best football in November/December.  That team would be Penn State.
  • Washington should not have been in the CFP based on the fact that USC dominated them late in the season.  Yes, USC lost 3 games last year but those were early in the year and by the end of the season the “eyeball test” would have told almost anyone that USC was the best team in the PAC-12.  But the Selection Committee did not apply the “eyeball test” and gave us Washington.

Do NOT infer here that I think Ohio St and/or Washington is a bad football team; they are not.  However, they are not as good in December/January of this season as are Penn St/USC and the CFP Selection Committee just plain blew it.  Washington lost to Alabama 24-7.  I took Washington +14 points in last week’s Mythical Picks; but at halftime with the Huskies trailing by only 10 points, I knew that Alabama would have to be shut out in the second half for me to “cash in” that mythical pick.  Washington was simply outclassed and it was painfully obvious for all of the second half.

Yes, I know that Alabama dominated USC back in September; the thing is that was in September and this is December/January.  USC is a significantly better team now that it was then.  If the Selection Committee had bothered to pay attention to games on the field, I would have expected them to see that clear and present status.  They simply did not.

Ohio St. was depantsed by Clemson.  Even a rabid Ohio St. fan or alum had to recognize somewhere in the second quarter that this was going to be an embarrassing time for the Buckeyes. They did not belong in that game on that big a stage.  If the Big 10 team with Ohio St’s résumé had been Indiana – only one loss but not the division winner in the conference – there is no way on Planet Earth that Indiana would have been in the CFP semi-finals.

One last thing…  I am NOT implying that either USC or Penn St. would have beaten Alabama or Clemson.  I am not implying – I am saying it directly – that USC and Penn St. would have put on a better show than Washington or Clemson put on.

On to NFL commentary …

I have grown tired of NFL coaches and commentators saying that a team underachieved because they suffered an injury to their starting QB.  Sure, that is a big deal; no team wants that to happen.  Nevertheless, such a happenstance is not a one-way ticket to the NFL boneyard.  It is not uncommon for a team to have to fill in for a starting QB for 4 games in a season and in that circumstance, let me point out how one team managed to muddle through such a situation this year:

  • The New England Patriots started 3 – not 2 but 3 – different QBs this year; two of those starters had never started an NFL game in the past.  The Pats managed to survive to the tune of a regular season record of 14-2.  They will not play this week as they sit at home and get ready to host the lowest-seeded team to survive the AFC wild card round this weekend.

Oh, let me give you another example…  There is a team that lost its starter in one of the meaningless exhibition games back in the summer and had to start a rookie QB who was taken in the 4th round of last year’s draft.  That team was surely doomed … except that the Dallas Cowboys finished the regular season with a 13-3 record and will have home-field advantage in every NFC playoff game that they play in this year.

Quarterbacks are extremely important; bad quarterbacking can – and usually does – relegate a team to second-rate or even third-rate status.  However, it is not a certainty and commentators should stop giving teams that “easy way out” to explain underachievement…

Oh, while I am at it, can we agree for at least a moment to stop calling it “underachievement” and call it – more accurately – “failure to perform”?

The last week of the regular season should have been designated as “Backup QB Matt Week”.  Consider these starting QBs who were backups for their teams:

  • Matt Barkley – Bears
  • Matt Cassel – Titans
  • Matt McGloin – Raiders
  • Matt Moore – Dolphins

The Bills started a backup QB (EJ Manuel) too last week – and then sat him down to let their third-string guy (Cardale Jones) get some time on the field.  The Bills lost handily to the Jets 30-10 and the play of that QB tandem must bear some of the responsibility for the loss.  Combined, that duo produced this stat line:

  • 15 for 31 for 182 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

No one would mistake that sort of production with the descriptor “a key ingredient for winning football”.  However, I want to describe one play in the game here simply to suggest that the rest of the Bills’ team may not have been ”fully engaged” in the game.

  • Leading 23-3, the Jets lined up to kick off to the Bills.  The kick bounced along into the end zone where the Bills just stood over it and watched it come to rest in their end zone.  They watched as Jets’ special teamer, Doug Middleton, fell on the ball for a Jets’ TD making the score 30-3.
  • You can file this event under “bad coaching” or under “lack of concentration” or even under “not giving a rat’s ass about the game”.  You cannot, however, pin this blunder on “bad quarterbacking”.

That meaningless Bills/Jets game also leads to the observation that Darrelle Revis can no longer play cornerback.  It is not that he is no longer a “shut-down corner” or that receivers on his side of the field are out on “Revis Island”; Darrelle Revis cannot play the position anymore; Father Time has caught up with him.  He is probably smart enough to make a transition to safety and play there if he wants to, but if he insists on being a cornerback and being paid like a top-flight cornerback, his career may be over.

When Niners’ owner/operator, Jed York, addressed the media to announce/explain/justify the firings of Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly, he said:

“I just think it’s time for us to re-establish a championship culture…”

Would that it were as simple to do that as it is to say that…  As the Niners proceed in their coaching/GM search, here is an interesting view from the outside.  The Niners won 2 games all last year – both against the Rams who are also sniffing around and looking for a new coach.  The inescapable conclusion here is that the Niners were 0-14 against the rest of the league and it is 100% certain that the Niners will have to play 14 games against the “rest of the league” next year and the year after that and …

The Raiders lost more than their final game of the season last week.  Their backup QB, Matt McGloin, had to leave the game with an injury to his left shoulder – his non-throwing shoulder – and did not fully participate in practice on Wednesday this week.  His availability for this week’s playoff game is up in the air.  The Raiders needed this game to keep alive the hope of getting the #1 seed in the AFC and they needed this game to assure that they would hold onto the #2 seed in the AFC.  They lost out on both of those positionings too.  And one way that they lost those seedings was because they lost any connection they may have had to “Pride and Poise”.  In a game they needed to win and playing with a backup QB, consider this:

  • Total offense in the first half = 50 yards
  • Penalty yards assessed in the first half = 90 yards

Granted, the Raiders’ QBs did not cover themselves in glory last week, but the Raiders lost as a team in Denver…

Amid the uncertainty regarding QB availability for the Raiders in their upcoming playoff game this week, the team went out and signed Garrett Gilbert.  He was a 6th round pick by the Rams in 2014 and has never thrown a pass in the NFL.  However, he does have a Super Bowl ring; he was on the Pats’ practice squad in 2014 when the Pats beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.  Gilbert was on the Raiders’ practice squad in 2015 so he, presumably, has some familiarity with the offense.  Other than that, I have no rays of sunshine to pump up the butts of Raiders’ fans for this weekend…


The Games:




(Mon Nite) Clemson vs. Alabama – 6.5 (51):  Last week, I said that this year’s Clemson team plays up to or down to the level of its opponent and that is why I took them with 3 points against Ohio State.  The Tigers won the game in a walk.  Once again, Clemson will face a very good opponent and I fully expect Clemson to play well and to play hard.  I just think, however, that Alabama is the better team on the field and I do not think that the absence of Lane Kiffin calling plays for Bama is such a big deal.  I’ll take Alabama to win and cover.




(Sat Afternoon) Oakland at Houston – 3.5 (37):  The oddsmakers are looking at this game as if it will be a 3-yards-and-a-cloud -of-dust throwback to the old Woody Hayes/Bo Schembechler college games.  Indeed, no matter how you might do a mix-and-match of the possible QBs in this game, you come up with a faceoff between “Who’s He?” and “Who’s That?”  These teams met earlier this year in Mexico City and the Raiders won by a TD then.  That was before Derek Carr’s leg broke…  Let me be very clear here:

  1. I have no faith in either Brock Osweiler or Tom Savage as dominant players.
  2. I have no faith in any of the 3 available Raiders’ QBs as dominant players.
  3. I have no faith in the Raiders’ defense – other than the Texans’ offensive ineptitude.
  4. I have minimal faith in the Texans’ defense – given the likely Raiders’ offensive ineptitude.

With exactly no conviction, I will take the Texans and lay the points here simply because they are less likely to go through a team meltdown as the Raiders have done a couple of times this year.


(Sat Evening) Detroit at Seattle – 8 (44):  The spread here opened at 4 points and shot up to this level very quickly.  The Lions come roaring into this game on a 3-game losing streak.  Now, they have to play outdoors – something they do not do well – and they have to play in Seattle – where opponents tend to struggle.  The Seahawks are not exactly on a roll here either.  In their last 3 games, they have beaten the Rams (Whoop-di-damned-do!), lost to the Cards (ugh) and then beat the Niners by 2 points (ugh, again).  Everyone talks about the injury to Earl Thomas and its effect on the defense.  I think the injury to Tyler Lockett is also important because it affects the Seahawks’ return game and the passing offense.  I see a defense dominated game here so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


(Sun Early Afternoon) Miami at Pittsburgh – 10 (45.5):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  With that out of the way, these teams played each other earlier this year (in Miami) and the Dolphins won that game in a walk.  Ben Roethlisberger limped his way through about half the game and that had something to do with the outcome to be sure; last I saw, he is no longer limping.  The Steelers rested Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown last week so they should be ready to welcome the warm-weather Dolphins to January-in-Pittsburgh-weather.  Saturday night the low is forecast to be 11 degrees and on Sunday it will warm up all the way to 18 degrees with 15 mph winds.  The Dolphins are a much improved team this year and had a 9-game win streak at one point in the season.  However, the Dolphins schedule was not exactly a killer.  I think the Steelers are much the better team here.  I like the Steelers to win and cover at home and I like the game to go OVER.


(Sun Late Afternoon) Giants at Green Bay – 4.5 (44.5):  This is the best NFL game of the weekend.  When the Packers were 4-6, Aaron Rodgers said that the team would “run the table” and make the playoffs – – and then the Packers did exactly that.  The Giants fielded a defense this year that kept them in games even when the offense – how to put this politely? – sputtered.  The last two times the Giants had a playoff date in Lambeau Field, the Giants not only won the game there, they went on to win the Super Bowl later in the playoffs.  The Packers’ secondary has so many injuries that the players on the field may be calling each other by number instead of by name.  Meanwhile, the Giants’ secondary – as a unit – is probably the best defensive backfield in the league this year.  This looks like a balanced game:

  • Red hot QB playing really well against a top-shelf defensive unit.
  • “Sputtering” offense against a significantly depleted defense.

Not surprisingly, it will be cold in the late afternoon in Green Bay with temps dropping into the single digits as the game proceeds.  I think this will be a low-scoring game so I’ll take the Giants plus the points.


Finally, here is how The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm defines Spam:

“Spam:  Pork shoulder meat, ham, and gelatinous ooze in a can.  Is America a great country or what?

“Spam:  Unsolicited e-mail.  Proof of the existence of something even more heinous than the product it is named after.”

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



Mythical Picks – CFP & NFL Combined – Weekend Of 1/1/17


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.


General Comments:


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………


Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 12/25/16


Last week was not a particularly interesting week of mythical picking.  I made a selection in all 16 NFL games and the record for the week was 8-7-1.  That is certainly better than a losing record for the week – – but not by much.  As of this morning the record for the season for NFL Mythical Picks is a healthy 127-80-5.

Last week, there were 2 games consigned to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin continued its winning ways going 2-0-0 for the week.  For the season the coin is in a happy place standing at 17-11-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Lions/Giants UNDER 41.  Total score was only 23.
  • Colts +4 against Vikes.  Colts won straight up by 4 TDs.
  • Panthers +6.5 against Skins.  Panthers won straight up.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Jets +2.5 against Dolphins.  Jets lost by 21 points.
  • Cards – 2.5 against Saints.  Cards lost straight up.
  • Raiders/Chargers OVER 49.  Total score was only 35.

Let me take a moment here for the weekly admonition not to take anything here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this week – or any week.  Here is how dumb you would need to be to do something like that:


You probably think that the Indians were in North America before the Europeans arrived because the Indians had reservations.


General Comments:


According to, the Carolina Panthers with their 6-8 record can still make the playoffs in the NFC if a bunch of teams cooperate.  Here is all that needs to happen:

  1. Panthers win out naturally AND
  2. Bucs lose out AND
  3. Packers lose out AND
  4. Saints beat the Bucs and then lose to the Falcons AND
  5. Skins win one of their final two games AND tie the other one.

I am not even going to try to verify the calculations made by here; that would be far more effort than it is worth.  Someone on the staff there has an abundance of spare time.  Oh, and another reason not to verify it is that it is not happening…

The Packers beat the Bears last week 30-27.  The Packers had a comfortable 27-10 lead in the game and looked to be coasting to a win until a Bears’ rally forged a 27-27 tie and forced Aaron Rodgers to need some of his final minute magic to get the winning field goal.  On a bitterly cold Chicago day with the wind blowing (reported wind-chill was minus-15 degrees), Rodgers ignored a calf injury to one leg and a hamstring injury to the other leg and hit Jordy Nelson on a 60-yard bomb.  That set up Mason Crosby to hit the game-winner as the clock hit zero.  Wide-receiver-turned -running-back, Ty Montgomery ran for 162 yards in the game and 2 TDs and the Packers ran for a total of 227 yards in the game.

Meanwhile, the Colts simply dominated the Vikes 34-6.  Does anyone recall when the Vikes were 5-0 and looked as if they would just mosey their way into the playoffs without Adrian Peterson on the strength of their defense?  I suspect the Vikes’ coaches do not.  Last week, the Vikes got Peterson back from his injury rehab and faced the very porous Colts’ defense; it looked like a scripted win for the Vikes – until they teed the ball up for the opening kickoff.  Here is the drive chart for the Vikes’ offense in the first half:

  • 3-and-out
  • 3-and-out
  • 4-and-out
  • Fumble lost
  • INT
  • Fumble lost

Not surprisingly, the Vikes total offensive output for the first half was a miserable 69 yards and zero points.  Meanwhile the Colts took a 27-0 lead to the locker room at halftime and put the game on cruise control for the second half.

Staying with events last week that had impact in the NFC North, the Lions also lost to the Giants by a score of 17-6.  The story of this game was very simple; the Giants’ defense dominated the game again.  The Lions only managed 56 yards rushing for the game and the Giants forced 2 turnovers in the red zone.

The Lions are 9-5 and continue to lead the NFC North.  However, that race just got much more interesting because the Packers are now 8-6 and the Lions and Packers play each other in the final game of the season on New Year’s Day.  If the Packers win and both teams have the same record, the Packers would own the tiebreaker because a win on New Year’s Day would give them a season-sweep of the Lions.

The Colts win over the Vikes kept their playoff hopes alive albeit not in the best of health.  Elsewhere in the AFC South, the Texans beat the Jags 21-20.  The Jags had the game in the bag – – and then the Jags proceeded to barf in the bag.  The Jags led 13-0 despite generating a total of 150 yards on offense for the day thanks to two consecutive INTs thrown by starting QB, Brock Osweiler.  Then backup-QB, Tom Savage, led a comeback.  The Texans trailed by 9 at the start of the 4th quarter.  The Texans got a field goal and then a game-winning TD on a drive that featured 2 pass interference penalties against the Jags’ defense; neither call was arguable.  In the final two minutes, the Jags had the ball with a chance to win the game but Blake Bortles threw an INT to avoid the victory.  On the day, here is Bortles’ stat line:

  • 12 for 28 for 92 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT (the one that ended the game)

This loss was the motivating force for the Jags’ to fire Gus Bradley as the head coach.  His record in almost 4 years in Jax was a miserable 14-48; there is absolutely no reason for the Jags even to consider that he might be their coach for 2017.  But I do have to ask these questions:

  1. What will this firing after the 15th week of the season accomplish?
  2. What happened in the Texans game that was any worse than what happened in the weeks before?

Gus Bradley did not throw the INT that ended the game; he is not responsible for the Jags turning the ball over on downs after a 4th and 1 play in the 4th quarter.  Looking from a more distant perspective, he is not the guy who signed a bunch of defensive free agents last year leading the Jags to put a defense on the field that ranks 28th in the league in points allowed.  I just do not understand what harm might have befallen this feeble franchise had he been on the sidelines for the next two meaningless games.

There was turmoil on the other sideline in that game also.  Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien must have channeled Popeye the Sailor in the first half after Brock Osweiler threw two INTs on consecutive possessions.  The thought bubble over his head probably read:

“I’ve had all I can stands; I can’t stands no more!”

Then he chowed down on the spinach; sent Osweiler and his $72M contract to the pine and put Tom Savage into the game.  In addition to guiding the comeback, Savage put up a much more impressive stat line for the game than did Osweiler.  Here, you make the call:

  • Osweiler:  6 for 11 for 48 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Savage:  23 for 36 for 260 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs

In the other AFC South game that mattered last week, the Titans beat the Chiefs 19-17.  The Chiefs led 14-0 in the first half and led 17-7 at the start of the 4th quarter when Andy Reid decided it was time to put the game on ice.  [Actually, the game had been on ice since the kickoff with a temperature of 1 degree and a wind chill of minus-19 degrees at Arrowhead Stadium.]  Reid’s conservatism did not pay dividends here as the Titans scored a field goal, then a TD with a blown 2-point conversion and then another field goal as time expired to win the game.  The game had playoff implications for both teams.  For the Titans, it gave them an 8-6 record putting them in a tie for the moment with the Texans atop the AFC South – with the Colts lurking at 7-7.  The Titans will host the Texans on New Year’s Day in what should be a winner-take-all game.

The Chiefs entered last week on top of the AFC West based on the previous week’s win over the Raiders.  Now they are a game behind the Raiders – but comfortably situated in the wild card race.  They laid an egg last week and now trail the Raiders by one game with two games left.  The “good news” for the Chiefs is that they own the tiebreaker with the Raiders should both teams finish with the same record.  The schedule for both the Chiefs and the Raiders is about the same in terms of difficulty:

  • Raiders host Indy and then go to Denver
  • Chiefs host Denver and then go to San Diego

Meanwhile, last week the Raiders pulled a victory out of their ears last week beating the Chargers 19-16.  The win assured the Raiders as a participant in the AFC playoffs leaving open only where they might be seeded.  The last time the Raiders made the playoffs was in 2002 and they made it all the way to the Super Bowl in that year.  What I think is important here regarding the Raiders is that their defense seemed to come to life two weeks ago; and then last week, they held the Chargers’ offense to 16 points and 265 yards on offense.

The Chargers are the “anti-Lions” for 2016.

  • The Lions have come from behind in the 4th quarter in 8 of their 9 wins this year.
  • The Chargers have led in the 4th quarter 6 times and then lost the game – as they did last week.

The Broncos lost to the Pats at home last week 16-3.  The defense did its job holding the Pats to 16 points (Other than a shutout loss earlier this season with an injured 3rd string QB at the helm, that is a TD less than the Pats have scored in any game.).  However, the Broncos’ offense was a no-show – – or perhaps what we saw was the start of the blossoming of the Pats’ “Playoff Defense” for 2016.  Here is a stat to give you an idea what I mean here:

  • For the first 5 Broncos’ possessions of the second half, the Pats’ defense held the Broncos to a total of 9 yards.

On the other side of the ball, this is the third consecutive game where the Broncos’ defense has held the opponent to 16 points or less; and yet, the team record in those three games is 1-2.  There were reports of some locker-room discord between the offense and the defense after last week’s game; that may not be camaraderie at the highest level, but it may not be all that unjustified…

Trevor Siemian threw for 94 more yards than Tom Brady did and still the Pats won the game comfortably because the Pats ran the ball against the Broncos’ defense (135 yards) and the Pats throttled the Broncos run game (59 yards).  The loss puts the Broncos record at 8-6 meaning they no longer dominate the second wild card slot in the AFC playoffs.  In fact, they find themselves with the most difficult schedule among the teams in the AFC that aspire to that slot.

As I said earlier, the Panthers are alive in the NFC playoff race but are not going to make it.  If the Broncos also miss the playoffs this year, it will be the first time since the 2002 Super Bowl (Bucs over Raiders) where both teams missed the playoffs in the next year.

The Pats’ win guaranteed that the Pats are the AFC East champions for the 8th year in a row and it also assured that the Pats will have a BYE in the first week of the playoffs for the 7th consecutive year.  Moreover, the Pats have now assured that they have won 12 or more games in each season since 2010.  Somebody must be doing something right in Foxboro…

Elsewhere in the AFC East, the Dolphins held a meager 13-10 lead at halftime over the Jets and then ran away in the second half to win the game 34-13.  The Jets had more offense in the game but it did not matter; a blocked punt that resulted in a Dolphins’ TD early in the 3rd quarter opened the flood gates and the Jets had no way to stop the flow.  The Dolphins started Matt Moore at QB for the injured Ryan Tannehill; all he did was to throw 4 TD passes (first time in his career he ever did that in a single game) and 1 INT.  The last time Matt Moore started a game was in January 2012; it was against the Jets; the Dolphins won that game too.

The Dolphins’ defense simply pummeled Bryce Petty who eventually had to leave the game with an injury leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick to come into the game to administer “last rites” to the Jets’ effort for the day.  I use the term “last rites” purposely here.  Once again, it sure looked to me as if the Jets as a team – and their OL in particular – were just going through the motions in the second half of this game.  If other folks see what I saw and interpret it in the same way, then maybe there is a coaching problem with the Jets.  When a team gets beat because the opponent is a better team, one should accept that as “inevitable”.  When a team comes out and gets behind and “tosses in the towel”, that is whole different situation.

The Bills beat the Browns 33-13 in a humongously meaningless game – save for the fact that it might have been the Browns’ first win of the year.  The problem was that the outcome was never really in doubt save for a fleeting moment or so in the first half when the Browns managed to tie the score at 3-3.  LeSean McCoy led the way for the Bills gaining 153 yards rushing in the game to go along with 2 TDs.  RG3 came close to getting 200 yards passing despite being sacked 5 times in the game; but the game was completely uninteresting from about the 4-minute mark of the first quarter when the Bills took a 10-3 lead.

The Steelers beat the Bengals 24-20 last week to stay in charge of the AFC North race.  The Bengals had a comfy lead in this game and the Steelers could not get into the end zone for the first half of the game.  In fact, they only got 1 TD all day long – and missed a 2-point conversion on that occasion.  Not to worry though; the Bengals resorted to self-immolation in the style that the Bengals have perfected over the past couple of years.  On the drive that led to the only TD of the day for the Steelers, the Bengals committed penalties on 4 consecutive plays each of which resulted in a first down:

  1. Jumped offside to give the Steelers a first down (5 yards)
  2. Defensive holding (5 yards)
  3. Defensive holding – same defender (5 yards)
  4. Unnecessary roughness (15 yards)

Ten years ago, if I told you a team had that sort of defensive sequence, you would have guessed it was the Raiders.  Today, it could only be the Bengals…

The Bengals’ offense was AWOL in the second half.  After scoring 20 points in the first half, the Bengals total offense in the second half was 38 yards.  Please note that on that penalty-laden Steelers’ drive for a TD, the Bengals amassed 30 yards in penalties.  Just to be clear, that is not a winning strategy…

This game was telecast into the DC area last week and I want to say that the Bengals’ fans stayed away in droves.  As the teams were setting up for the 2nd half kickoff, the TV shots had half of the stands in view for an extended period of time.  My estimate is that 75% of the seats were empty in those camera shots…

The Ravens kept the pressure on the Steelers beating the Eagles 27-26 last week.  This game was also telecast into the DC area and I was very surprised to see the Eagles’ offense do business against a very good Ravens’ defense.  In fact, the Ravens entered the game with the #1 run defense in the NFL allowing only 76 yards per game.  Last week the Eagles ran the ball for 169 yards averaging 4.5 yards per carry.  This week, the Ravens (8-6) take on the Steelers (9-5) on Christmas Day.  If the Ravens win here, they will lead the AFC North based on tiebreakers.

In other NFC East action, the Cowboys maintained their lead in the division getting back on the winning track over the Bucs 26-20.  This win belongs to the Cowboys’ defense after holding the Bucs to 276 yards on offense and generating 4 turnovers in the game.  In the 4th quarter, the Bucs had 5 possessions and those possessions produced a total of 14 yards of offense.  I want to present to you Dak Prescott’s stat line and then ask a question:

  • 32 for 36 for 279 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs and 1 TD rushing

Question:  What do the folks who were clamoring for Tony Romo to start this game after the Cowboys’ loss two weeks ago, have to say now?

On Monday night, the Panthers beat the Skins 26-15.  To call the Skins’ performance a bed-wetting would not be nearly strong enough.  They soiled their bedding through every orifice of the human anatomy.  The Skins managed 29 yards rushing on 13 carries and that included an 11-yard run by Kirk Cousins that was not designed as a running play and they were a miserable 2 for 12 on 3rd down conversions.  Making this even worse, the Panthers had their star middle linebacker on the sidelines in street clothes for the game.  On defense the Skins had three problems:

  1. They could not stop the run.
  2. They did not cover receivers well.
  3. They did not tackle well.

Other than that, the defense was just fine…

The Skins are now 7-6-1; they are still in the playoff race but they need teams ahead of them to lose a game while the Skins win out.

The Falcons beat the Niners 41-13.  The game was as uninteresting as the score indicates.  Here is all you have to know about this game.  The Falcons ran the ball for 248 yards on their way to amassing 550 yards of total offense on a patently inept Niners’ defense.

The Saints beat the Cards 48-41 last week.  Both coaches must have decided to give the defensive starters the day off because the Saints had 488 yards on offense and the Cards had 425 yards on offense. The Saints were 9 for 14 on 3rd down conversions.   Both teams ran for more than 100 yards in the game; Drew Brees threw 4 TD passes and Carson Palmer threw 2.  I hope the fans had an entertaining time watching this game because it had exactly no meaning unto itself.

The first game of last week was the Seahawks clobbering of the Rams 24-3.  The Seahawks won the NFC West with this victory and the game showed pretty clearly that the Rams’ poor showing in the past few weeks had less to do with Jeff Fisher as the head coach than it had to do with the talent on the field.  The Rams were sleepwalking through most of the game; it sure looked to me as if the Rams’ players figured the optimal outcome would be not to get injured and to be early in line to cash their paycheck for the game.  The Rams’ total offense for the game was 183 yards which is not good; however, going into the 4th quarter trailing 17-3, the Rams’ total offense to that point was 90 yards.  That is way less than “not good”; 30 yards per quarter is abysmal.

There is an example from this game of why you should look at stats a bit more carefully than just the total numbers sometimes.  Todd Gurley was clearly the focus of the Seahawks’ defense last week; they were out to stop him cold.  He carried the ball 14 times for 38 yards; and if you look at those numbers, you would say that the Seahawks’ defense achieved their objective (2.7 yards per carry).  But they did an even better job than that.  Gurley had 1 run of 22 yards in the game.  That means the Seahawks’ defense held him to 16 yards on his other 13 carries.  Todd Gurley is a very good RB; stifling him to that extent is most praiseworthy for the Seahawks’ defense.


The Games:


Of the 16 games this week, only 4 of them involve teams that have no real Playoff pressure on them.  You can drop that number to 3 games if you allow that the Pats have pressure on them to beat the Jets to maintain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Picking the worst game of the week is not hard on this menu; picking the Game of the Week was much more difficult.


(Thurs Nite) Giants – 2.5 at Philly (42):  The Giants have not clinched a playoff spot in the NFC despite their 10-4 record; the Eagles have lost 5 games in a row but their home record is still 4-2 for the season.  Given that peek into the standings, one might think the spread here should be bigger but Eagles/Giants games tend to be close games and this one shapes up to be a defensive game.  I like this game to stay UNDER.


(Sat Afternoon) Washington – 3 at Chicago (46.5):  The Skins must win to remain “playoff relevant” and the Bears have been out of playoff contention since the start of October.  This season the bears lost 3 games then won a game; after that, they lost 3 games then won a game; after that, they lost 3 games then won a game.  In this cycle, they have lost 2 games so the trend says they are due to lose this one.  What the Skins must realize is that their defense is not nearly good enough to carry the team for 60 minutes.  That means the offense has to be in gear and playing efficiently from the start of the game – something the team has not done consistently of late.  I think the coaches will have the team ready to play from the start; I like the Skins to win and cover on the road.  Having made that selection, I went looking for a trend that would make it look as if I had been shrewd; I found two such trends:

  • Skins are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 road games.
  • Road team is 6-2 ATS in the last 8 games between these 2 teams.


(Sat Afternoon) Miami at Buffalo – 4 (41):  The Dolphins have the 6th seed in the AFC playoffs as of this morning but they cannot afford a loss; the Bills trail 7 other AFC teams who aspire to that 6th playoff slot.  Translation:  The Bills ain’t gonna make it. is calling for rain with temps in the 30s and 18 mph winds; I do not need a degree in meteorology or climatology to recognize that is not Miami weather.  The Dolphins are the better team and they need this game; yet, the Bills are favored at home without blizzard conditions in the forecast.  I do not understand this line.  I’ll take the Dolphins plus the points.


(Sat Afternoon) Tampa at New Orleans – 3 (52.5):  The Bucs need this game to stay “playoff relevant” and perhaps even to catch the Falcons in the NFC South if the Falcons were to lose in Seattle this week.  The Saints can make vacation plans for January.  The problem for the improving Bucs’ defense is that Drew Brees came to life last week after two straight bed-wetting performances; when Drew Brees is hot, the Saints can score points by the bushel and keep up with opponents despite the Saints’ defense which allows 28 points per game ranking 30th in the NFL ahead of only the sorry-assed Niners and Browns.  I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Bucs plus the points.


(Sat Afternoon) Atlanta – 3 at Carolina (52):  The spread opened the week at 1 point and has climbed slowly all week long.  The Panthers appeared to come to life on Monday night beating the Skins on the road; in particular, the Panthers ran the ball well and controlled the clock and the game.  The Falcons’ defense is not the team strength so if the Panthers can maintain that sort of offensive play, they can control the clock here and keep the very potent Falcons’ offense on the bench.  It worked for the Panthers on Monday; can they do it again on a short week?  I think they can; I’ll take the Panthers plus the points.  Here is a pair of opposing trends for this game:

  • Falcons are 7-1 to go OVER in their last 8 games on a Saturday.
  • Panthers are 7-3 to go UNDER in their last 10 Games in December.
  • This game is on a Saturday in December …


(Sat Afternoon) Minnesota at Green Bay – 7 (43):  The Packers are the 6th seed in the NFC playoff picture as of this morning.  If they win out, they will win the NFC North; if they lose a game, they will be in a huge jumble to make the playoffs.  A win for the Vikes here would put them ahead of the Packers in the NFC North standings based on a tiebreaker.  The Packers are playing well and their defense is improving over the past several weeks.  The Vikes’ offense has been downright awful for a while now.  In their last 9 games, the Vikes have scored more than 20 points exactly twice – and one of those times was against the Jags so maybe that doesn’t even count.  I’ll go with the hot team here – even though there will not be frigid weather conditions on Saturday – and take the Packers to win and cover at home.


(Sat Afternoon) Jets at New England – 16.5 (44):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  This spread opened the week at 14 points and is ascending to nosebleed levels.  I found the spread at 17 points at two Internet sportsbooks this morning.  The Pats’ motivation here is to maintain home-field advantage in the playoffs; as of this morning, the Pats have a 1-game lead over the Raiders for that position but in the case of a tie between the Pats and the Raiders, the nod will go to the Raiders.  The Jets’ motivation here is that this game brings them one game closer to the end of this miserable season which started with some lofty expectations. predicts a 100% chance of rain with temperatures in the 30s and 11 mph winds.  The Jets’ offense does not need adverse weather conditions to hold it down.  I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.


(Sat Afternoon) Tennessee – 4.5 at Jax (44):  The Titans are in the playoff picture; they are tied with the Texans in the AFC South and could win the division; their 8-6 record puts them in a position to get a wildcard slot if the Dolphins take gas in the last two games.  The Titans are relevant and that has not been something one could say in late December for several years not.  The Jags on the other hand are just miserable.  Consider that the Jags rank 7th in the NFL in total defense (sounds good) but they also rank 28th in the NFL in points allowed per game (not so good).  On offense, the Jags are far more balanced; they are 28th in the NFL in total offense and 27th in the NFL in points per game.  Tennessee is the better team and they should have plenty of motivation here.  The Hollywood ending for the Jags would be for their new coach to give them a “Knute Rockne speech” that kicks their performance into high gear and they win this game.  The problem is that this game is being played in Jax and not Hollywood.  I like the Titans to win and cover on the road.


(Sat Afternoon) San Diego – 5.5 at Cleveland (43.5):  Here is a game where neither team has anything to play for other than pride.  The Browns need a win – any sort of a win; the Chargers do not want to be “that team” – the one that loses to the team that sure-as-heck looks like an 0-16 team.  In case you are wondering why this is not the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, be patient…  Since I do not care about the outcome here one way or the other, I will turn this over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.  For the record, the coin is bucking a couple of meaningless trends:

  • Chargers are 12-3-1 to go UNDER in their last 16 games in December.
  • Browns are 13-3 to go UNDER in their last 16 games in Week 16.
  • So, there…


(Sat Afternoon) Indy at Oakland – 3 (52.5):  Both of these teams win on offense.  Both defenses are mediocre at best but both have been improving over the last several weeks.  Neither has improved to the degree that I would call them “good” but they are improved.  Nevertheless, I see a shootout happening here.  I’ll take the game to go OVER.


(Sat Afternoon) SF at LA – 4 (40):  Your patience has been rewarded.  This is clearly and unequivocally The Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  This is the first year of the Rams’ return to LA and this is the game on the docket for Christmas Eve.  That is the NFL’s “War on Christmas”.  These teams stink and nothing that happens this weekend is going to change that.  The Niners won the first meeting between these two teams in the opening weekend of the NFL season; since then the Niners have lost 13 straight games.  The Rams “recovered” from that shellacking to the point that they won 4 games but they also managed to get their coach fired based on their sparking play.  The “new coach” showed how valuable his insights are last week putting all of 3 points on the scoreboard against the Seahawks.  Do not watch this game – unless you tune in momentarily to see if the stands in LA are more than 40% full.  Do not wager on this game under any circumstances.  Only because I said I would make a pick in every game, I’ll take the Niners plus the points.  I am really going against the trends with this pick:

  • Niners are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 games against the NFC.
  • Niners are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games on grass.
  • Niners are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games on the road.
  • Here they are on the road, playing on grass against an NFC opponent…


(Sat Afternoon) Arizona at Seattle – 7.5 (43):  As of this morning, the Seahawks are the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs meaning they get a home game and a BYE week.  Holding onto that position should be sufficient motivation for the team.  The “home game” would seem to be important to the Seahawks; they are 7-0 at home (the only NFL team undefeated at home) and they are only 2-4-1 on the road. The Cards began the season with Super Bowl aspirations but now see the final two games from the perspective that they are going to finish below .500.  I do not like that half-point hook on top of the TD spread, but I do not like the Cards even more.  I’ll take the Seahawks at home and lay the points.


(Sat Nite) Cincy at Houston – 1 (41.5):  This line opened the week at 3 points and it has dropped to this level at most of the sportsbooks this morning.  There is one sportsbook that has this as a “pick ‘em” game.  The money is obviously going the Bengals’ way but I have no idea why.  The Bengals have nothing to play for and this is a team that needs no incentive to “lose focus”.  The Texans need the win to stay on top of the AFC South and will know the outcome of the Titans/Jags game well before kickoff (likely a Titans’ win).  I really do not like either team here but I will go with the home team and the team that has a reason to play hard for 60 minutes.  I’ll take the Texans and lay the point.


(Sun Afternoon) Baltimore at Pittsburgh – 5 (44.5):  This is the Game of the Week.  As Keith Jackson was wont to say:

This game comes down to the big uglies in the trenches.

The stakes are simple.  The Ravens are a game behind the Steelers but a Ravens’ win would put them in first place in the AFC North on tiebreakers.  The Steelers are at home and are on a 5-game win streak.  Since their loss to the Ravens in early November where they scored only 14 points, the Steelers have gone 5-1 and have scored 24 points or more in each game.  Having LeVeon Bell in game condition for all those games surely contributed to the improved offensive output.  Weather should not be a factor here but I do think that both defenses will be primed to stifle the opposing offenses.  I like this game to stay UNDER.


(Sun Nite) Denver at KC – 3 (37):  The Chiefs lost a game last week that they should not have lost (see above).  The Broncos lost a game last week that accentuated their offensive weaknesses.  The Chiefs have the first AFC wildcard slot in the playoffs as of this morning.  The Broncos are not in the playoffs as of this morning and find themselves in a pack of teams hoping that the dolphins implode so one of the pack can sneak into that 6th seed position.  A loss for the Broncos would be far more severe than a loss for the Chiefs.  The Broncos’ offensive woes begin with the fact that they do not run the ball well (27th in the NFL in yards per game).  That puts the offensive burden on the passing game and while Trevor Siemian is not a stiff, he is not a top-shelf QB that can go out and throw for 375 yards in any given game.  The ray of hope for the Broncos in this game is that the Chiefs’ run defense is not all that good; it ranks 28th in the league in terms of yards per game allowed.  If Denver can run the ball effectively, they can win this game; if not, I think they are doomed.  I am turning the game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Chiefs and lay the points.


(Mon Nite) Detroit at Dallas – 7.5 (44):  The Total Line opened the week at 41 points and has been climbing all week.  I think the folks who got down on the OVER early this week had it right; I see both teams capable of getting 24 points or more on the board.  I like the way the Lions manage to stay close in almost every game; last week’s loss by 11 points is their only loss by more than a TD; in fact, 4 of their 5 losses have been by a total of 18 points.  I will make two picks in this game.  I like the Lions plus the points – particularly with that half-point hook.  In addition, I like this game to go OVER.


Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Wikipedia:  An online adventure in higher learning where the entry for the Second World War is likely to be several paragraphs shorter than the one on “The Brady Bunch”.”

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



Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 12/18/16


Last week was not a successful one for mythical picking.  I made 15 selections – you will recall there were no lines for the Titans/Broncos game at the time I made my picks – and the record for the week was 7-8-0.  The season record now stands at 119-73-4.

There were 2 Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games last week and the coin went 1-1-0.  For the season the coin is performing slightly better than one might expect from a coin flip; overall the coin is now 15-11-2.

There weren’t any really good picks from last week but the “Best Picks” from last week’s sorry lot were:

  • Cards/Dolphins OVER 43.5.  Total score was 49.
  • Bengals -5 over Browns.  Bengals won by 13.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Saints/Bucs OVER 51.  Total score was only 27.
  • Cowboys -3 against Giants.  Cowboys lost straight up.
  • Colts -6 against Texans.  Colts lost straight up.

Naturally, no one should even think about using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money; these are – after all – Mythical Picks.  Only a dummy would do anything like that; in fact, that dummy would probably also try to kill a mockingbird by throwing it off a cliff.


General Comments:


The NFL’s TV ratings have gone back up; last Sunday night’s game was the highest rated game this year and was the highest rated program on TV in the last 3 weeks according to the folks who do TV ratings.  Two months ago, there were analyses and prognostications that blamed the decline in ratings on concern over concussions and too much “league parity”; other folks thought that the Presidential campaigns had brought on a degree of “TV fatigue” for viewers.  Given the rebound in NFL ratings after the election, my guess is that the “TV fatigue factor” was more important than the concern over concussions or quality of play.  Not that it really matters which was more correct …

Last week, the Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13.  The Raiders were the top team in the AFC when the game kicked off; they had the same record as the Pats but would have a better tie-breaker than the Pats had it come down to those two teams angling for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  This loss takes the Raiders out of the lead in the AFC West and puts them in the position as the lead dog in the race for the AFC wild card slots.  That is a big drop for a single loss.

Tyreek Hill had a punt return for a TD and a 36-yard TD reception in the span of a couple of minutes in the second quarter to give the Chiefs a 21-10 lead at halftime.  The second half was a defensive game all the way; the Chiefs made life miserable for Derek Carr (117 yards passing for the game); that was the worst game I have seen him play.  On the flip side of the coin for Raiders’ fans, that was the best performance I have seen from the Raiders D-line in several years; they held the Chiefs to only 65 yards on the ground.

The Chiefs are on top of the AFC West as of this morning but they did lose LB, Derrick Johnson to an Achilles’ tendon injury in the game.  That could be a significant loss for the Chiefs over the rest of this regular season and into the playoffs.

The Titans beat the Broncos 13-10 in a game that had significance in the AFC South and the AFC West races.  The Titans win puts them above .500 at 7-6 which is the same record that the Texans have.  For now, the Texans lead the division based on tie-breakers but the two teams will meet head-to-head in the final week of the season (Jan 1, 2017).  The Titans won this game despite a dreary performance by QB Marcus Mariota against the Broncos’ defense; here is his stat line:

  • 6 for 20 for 88 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs

Remember, that was the WINNING QB’s stat line…

The Broncos’ OL continued to be a weak link allowing the run game to amass the grand total of 18 yards on 9 carries.  That is why the team called 51 pass attempts by Trevor Siemian; that sort of offensive imbalance with that sort of offensive firepower is not a successful strategy.

This loss puts the Broncos in a bad situation.  They trail both the Raiders and the Chiefs by 2 games in the AFC West with only 3 games left to play.  That is a bad situation all by itself, but if you check the schedule, the Broncos have the most difficult schedule over the final 3 games of any team in the NFL:

  • This week:  Vs. Pats who are 11-2 at the moment
  • Next week:  At Chiefs who are 10-3 at the moment
  • Final week:  Vs. Raiders who are 10-3 at the moment

Combined record for the final 3 opponents is 31-8.  OUCH!

The Texans beat the Colts last week by a score of 22-17.  This puts the Texans on top of the AFC South and leaves the Colts a game behind the Texans and the Titans in that divisional race.  The keys for the Texans victory here were Lamar Miller running for 107 yards and the defense forcing 3 turnovers in the game.  Once again, the Texans won despite an uninspiring performance by Brock Osweiler (14 for 24 for 147 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT).

The AFC South is not a good division; there are surely no “great teams” there and it would be generous to say that the teams at or near the top are anything better than “decent” but the AFC South does have something going for it.  The Texans, Titans and Colts are within a game of each other and only one of the three teams is likely to make the playoffs.  That means the games involving those teams should be interesting because they matter.

The Steelers beat the Bills 27-20.  The game was not really as close as the score might indicate; the Bills got two late TDs when it really did not matter.  LeVeon Bell ran for 236 yards on the Bills’ defense; that is not something one might expect from a defense under the tutelage of the Ryan brothers.  Bell’s dominance overcame a bad game from Ben Roethlisberger who – uncharacteristically – threw 3 INTs in that game.  The Steelers’ defense pitched in too sacking Tyrod Taylor 5 times.

Even before the game began, there were reports based on rumors that Rex Ryan would be fired in Buffalo.  I have no inside info on any of that but I do know that he is still the coach of the Bills as of this morning.  However, since these rumors were put out there, let me give you an overview of some of the realities that underpin Ryan’s position:

  1. He is in the second year of a 5-year contract worth $27M.  If he is fired at the end of the 2016 season, the Bills will still owe him about $16M.  His record so far in Buffalo has been 14-15.
  2. As noted above, the defense is not what you would expect from a Rex Ryan team.  The Bills rank 18th in total defense; 17th in points allowed and 28th in rushing yards allowed.
  3. The Bills’ offense is not good enough to do much better than “break even” with those sorts of defensive stats.  Tyrod Taylor is not a franchise QB; the team needs an upgrade at QB more than it needs an upgrade at head coach.
  4. The other 2 QBs on the Bills’ depth chart this morning are EJ Manuel and Cardale Jones.  Both look like a downgrade compared to Tyrod Taylor to me…

The Bengals beat the Browns 23-10.  RG3 was the starting QB for the Browns and various game reports said that the Browns were trying to run a “high school offense” dominated by “gadget plays” in the game.  Well, if that was the case, it surely did not work.  Here is RG3’s stat line:

  • 12 for 28 for 104 yards with) TDs and 1 INT

At halftime, the Bengals led 20-0 and RG3’s stats were 2 for 10 for 20 yards and 1 INT.  I know; he has not played since the first game of the season; it would be unreasonable to expect him to “light it up” in his first game back.  Nevertheless, what he did was stink out the joint on a team that has specialized in stinking out every joint they have played in all year long.

The Browns are 3-31 since the end of the 2014 season; they have 3 games left to avoid an 0-16 season in 2016.  Here are those games:

  • This week: At Buffalo.  If the Bills lose, Rex Ryan may need a flak jacket.
  • Next week: Vs. San Diego.  Chargers’ coach is in trouble already …
  • Final Week: At Pitts.  It would be a “Hollywood ending” if the Browns win here.

Before the Bengal/Browns game, Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot.  He may be on to something here:

“Begin countdown: Now that Robert Griffin III has recovered from his shoulder injury and will start Sunday for the Browns against the Bengals, what’s the over-under on how many games he’ll play before getting banged up again? Or are we wagering by the quarter now?”

The Pats beat the Ravens 30-23 last week.  The win puts the Pats in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the loss drops the Ravens a game behind the Steelers in the AFC North race.  Joe Flacco threw for 324 yards and 2 TDs in this game and was overshadowed significantly by Tom Brady’s performance of 406 yards and 3 TDs.  The Ravens trailed 23-3 about half way through the 3rd quarter and it looked as if the Pats would coast home until …

  1. The Pats had a punt hit the returner’s leg and it was recovered inside the Pats’ 5 yardline.  The Ravens got a quick TD here.
  2. On the ensuing kickoff, the returner fumbled the ball and the Ravens recovered in the red zone.  That produced another quick TD and closed the scoring gap to 23-17.

The Ravens’ defense ranked 1st in the NFL in yards allowed per game (296.1 yards per game) at kickoff.  The Pats’ offense last week was a whopping 496 yards against a very good defense …

The Lions beat the Bears 20-17.  The Lions “returned to form this week”; they won after trailing in the 4th quarter of the game; that is their 8th comeback in the 4th quarter in their 9 wins this year.  The Bears got the lead with a Pick Six on Lions’ QB, Matthew Stafford but they could not hold that lead.  The Bears are now 3-9 and will be drafting early next April.

The Vikes beat the Jags 25-16.  Sam Bradford was 24 for 34 for 292 yards and 1 TD in the game.  The score could have been a whole lot worse:

  • Vikes had the ball at the Jags’ 1 yardline but could not get a TD and turned the ball over on downs.
  • Vikes had the ball at the Jags’ 1 yardline once again but turned the ball over on a fumble.

The Jags are now 0-6 at home this year.  In this game, they led 16-12 at the start of the 4th quarter but managed to invent ways to lose another home game…

The Packers beat the Seahawks 38-10.  Yes, it was that much of a shellacking; the Packers intercepted 5 passes in the game.  Aaron Rodgers played with a limp for the game with a “calf injury” but it sure did not affect his throwing arm or his accuracy.  He threw for 3 TDs and 246 yards in the game.  I could not tell if Rodgers’ passing effectiveness was due to the absence of Earl Thomas in the secondary or not; if it was, the Seahawks are in big trouble unless they “coach-up” a substitute very quickly.  Here is an interesting stat:

  • Aaron Rodgers has won his last 15 games at home in the month of December.

The Lions have a 2-game lead on both the Vikes and the Packers in the NFC North this morning.  The remaining schedule for those teams is interesting:

  • The Lions have to play the Giants and the Cowboys before meeting the Packers head-to-head in the final game of the season.
  • The Packers and Vikes play each other next week.
  • The Vikes play a desperate Colts’ team this week.

The Bucs beat the Saints 16-11.  I thought this game would be a shoot-out; that was not even close to correct.  Two weeks ago, Drew Brees threw 3 INTs in a game and did not throw a TD pass.  Last week in Mythical Picks, I said directly that would not happen again.  Well, in the game against the Bucs, Brees threw 3 INTs and 0 TDs.  Once again, I was abjectly incorrect…

The Dolphins beat the Cards 26-23.  The Cards managed to find a way to throw this game away:

  • The Cards missed a field goal.
  • The Cards missed 2 PAT attempts.
  • One of the missed PATs was returned for 2 points on the Dolphins’ ledger.
  • The Cards threw 2 INTs
  • The Cards lost a fumble.

Dolphins’ QB, Ryan Tannehill had to leave the game with an injured knee.  It turns out not to be as bad as it looked; he did not tear any ligaments in his knee; he only suffered a “bad sprain”; no timetable for his return is out there but reports are that he will not play this week.

The Panthers beat the Chargers 28-16.  The Chargers turned the ball over 5 times in the game and allowed Philip rivers to be sacked 5 times in the game.  Melvyn Gordon and Joey Bosa both had to leave the game for the Chargers.  It is amazing the score was this close…

The Skins beat the Eagles 27-22.  On the stat sheet, Carson Wentz got the better of Kirk Cousins throwing for 314 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.  However, that INT came with the ball on the Skins’ 3 yardline and if the Eagles score a TD there, the complexion of the game would have changed significantly.  The win keeps the Skins in the wild card race in the NFC, but things are complicated there.

The Giants beat the Cowboys 10-7.  As the score indicates, this game was dominated by defense from start to finish.  Back in my pre-season analysis, I said that I was unimpressed with the way the Giants had spent lots of money to shore up its defense in free agency.  Well those free agents have been playing really well recently and they were outstanding against the Cowboys here.  The Giants’ defense held the Cowboys to 1 for 15 on third down conversions.  The Giants’ defense was good enough to overcome a poor performance from Eli Manning who threw 2 INTs and lost a fumble in the game.

The Giants’ defense also shut down Dez Bryant.  He did not catch a pass until very late in the 4th quarter and then he promptly fumbled that ball and lost it to the Giants.  That allowed the Giants to run the clock out and preserve a 3-point win.

The Cowboys have secured a slot in the NFC playoffs; the Giants lead the NFC wild card race as of this morning.  These teams might see each other for a 3rd time this season sometime in January…

The Falcons beat the Rams 42-14.  The Falcons led 42-0 at the start of the 4th quarter and pumped the brakes for the final 15 minutes.  The game had an inauspicious start for the Rams.  On the opening kickoff, the ball hit the returner in the facemask and the Falcons recovered the ball at the Rams’ 3 yardline.  With only 10 seconds expired in the game, the team kicking off had a 7-0 lead.  Then things got worse…

  • Over the course of the game, the Rams turned the ball over 5 times – one of which was a Pick Six and another of which was a Scoop and Score.

In the stinker of the week, the Jets rallied to beat the Niners 23-17 in OT.  Making fans sit through OT in this game comes close to being a human rights violation.  The Niners led the game 14-0 after 1 quarter and held a 17-3 lead with 5 minutes left in the game.  Then they invented a way to forge a tie with the Jets at the end of regulation play and a way to lose in OT.  The Niners recorded 6 sacks on Bryce Petty and still managed to lose the game.

Petty started at QB for the Jets and was OK.  He threw for 265 yards and only 1 INT.  Colin Kaepernick was the Niners’ QB and he was awful (15 for 26 for 116 yards).  The Niners entered the game with the worst run defense in the NFL; the Jets ran the ball 40 times for 188 yards.  If I were a conspiracy theorist – which I am not – I would wonder about this:

  • Are the Niners actually trying to be the worst team in the NFL just in case the Browns accidently win a game?
  • This is the 3rd game this year that the Niners have led by 14 points and then coughed it up.


The Games:


(Thurs Nite) LA at Seattle – 15.5 (39):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  Somehow, the Rams have beaten the Seahawks the last 3 times these teams have met including a 9-3 win back in September of this year.  I do not see the Rams doing much on offense in this game; if they are going to keep it close, it will be the play of the Rams’ DL (team’s best unit) dominating the Seahawks’ OL (team’s worst unit).  Only because I said would make a pick in every game, I’ll take the Seahawks to win and cover at home.  Looking for some solace in that pick, here are some meaningless trends that support my choice:

  • Rams are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games against teams win a winning record
  • Rams are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games in Seattle.

So there…


(Sat Nite) Miami – 2.5 at Jets (37.5):  Even if the starting QBs were Ryan Tannehill and Ryan Fitzpatrick, this game would not be at the top of my list of interesting contests.  Neither Ryan will start here; this will be a “showdown” between Matt Moore and Bryce Petty.  I will try to maintain composure…  Since neither QB projects to be dominant here, it behooves me to look at the run defenses because both teams will probably try to run the ball until the defense forces them to do something else:

  • Jets are 17th in the NFL giving up 102.5 yards per game
  • Dolphins are 28th in the NFL giving up 133.8 yards per game.

Neither team is a scoring machine; the Dolphins score 21.6 points per game which does not sound like much until you realize that the Jets score 17.6 points per game. says it will rain on Saturday with perhaps 1-3 inches of snow.  That is not “Miami weather”.  I’ll take the Jets plus the points at home.


(Sun Nite) Tampa at Dallas – 7 (47):  The Cowboys are on a nationally televised game again; Jerry Jones loves it.  This is a big game for the Bucs; right now, they are tied with the Falcons for the NFC South lead.  The Bucs are riding a 5-game win streak and it has been their defense that has made that happen.  Over the last 5 games, the Bucs have allowed only 64 points.  Conversely, this game is less important to the Cowboys who hold a 2-game lead over the Giants in the NFC East and own the best record in the conference.  Moreover, the Cowboys’ high performance offense has sputtered in its last two games scoring a total of only 24 points.  Is this because defensive coordinators have gotten more data on Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott?  If so, the Tampa defensive braintrust probably has access to and a sound analysis of that same data…  Purely a hunch; I think the Bucs will keep this game close so I’ll take them plus the points here.


Detroit at Giants – 4 (41):  This game was a contender for the Game of the Week because this game is important to both sides.  The Giants will not guarantee themselves a playoff slot with a win here but it would put them in a very comfortable position.  The same thing goes for the Lions regarding their NFC North division championship.  I expect both teams to put it on the line here.  Matthew Stafford injured a finger on his throwing hand in last week’s win over the Bears and the weather in New Jersey on Sunday will be a carryover from the messy weather the Jets will play in on Saturday night.  I think this will be a low scoring affair so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Philly at Baltimore – 5.5 (41):  I really do not like the Eagles’ offense against the Ravens’ defense; I think that is a mismatch.  I’ll take the Ravens to win and cover.


Green Bay – 5.5 at Chicago (39):  The spread opened at 6.5 points and settled in here pretty quickly.  The Total Line opened at 44 and has been dropping all week; check the weather forecast at the end of this selection.  Even though he limped through the game last week, Aaron Rodgers will be the better QB on the field in this game.  The Packers need to win out to have a good chance at the playoffs and I just do not see them coughing up this game against a 3-9 Bears team that just isn’t very good.  I’ll take the Packers to win and cover.   Oh, by the way, says that it will be sunny on Sunday in Chicago with a high temperature of zero followed by minus-15 degrees over Sunday night with 15 mph winds.  Can you spell frostbite…?


Indy at Minnesota – 4 (45.5):  Here is another game where both teams need a win badly.  Neither offense here is scary; the Colts OL is mediocre on its best days and should be dominated by the Vikes’ front-7; the Vikes’ offense ranks 31st in the NFL – ahead of only the LA Rams.  I see a low scoring game here and I like to take points in those situations.  Therefore, I’ll take the Colts plus the points on the road.  There are two “disturbing trends” at work in opposition to my selection here:

  • Vikes are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 games against teams with a losing record.
  • Vikes are 21-6 ATS in their last 27 games at home.


Cleveland at Buffalo – 10 (41.5):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games and I do believe that this is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The game is pretty much meaningless for both teams – unless you think the question of actually winning a game this year is meaningful for the Browns.  The weather is going to be awful. says it will snow and rain from Thursday through Saturday in Buffalo and then be cloudy with temps in the 20s and winds at 20 mph around game time.  Such a joy …  I shall turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Bills and lay the points.  Oy vey!


Tennessee at KC – 5.5 (42):  Yet again, both teams need this game.  The Titans are tied atop the AFC South; the Chiefs are tied atop the AFC West.   Absent major turnovers leading to scores by either or both sides, this will be a low scoring game.  I’ll take the Titans plus the points in that scenario.


Jax at Houston – 6 (39): The Texans need to win this game; the Jags would get the #3 overall pick in the draft were it to be held tonight.  This too looks to be a low-scoring/defense dominated game but I cannot bring myself to do what I prefer to do in those situations.  I just do not like the Jags on the road when the Texans are 5-1 at home and undefeated in the division.   I’ll take the Texans to win and cover here.  Please note that I took the home team and the favorite here; now take note of two ominous trends:

  • Road team is 8-2-1 ATS in the last 11 games between these two teams
  • Underdog is 6-2 ATS in the last 8 games between these two teams.


New Orleans at Arizona – 2.5 (50.5):  The Saints have the #1 offense in the NFL at 418.3 yards per game and the Saints’ record is 5-8.  The Cards offense has sputtered this year as compared to last year; it ranks 10th in the NFL at 363.8 yards per game and the Cards’ record is 5-7-1.  Despite the two losing records here, both teams have outscored their opponents for the season.  That tells me something about the defenses here…  Drew Brees has been in a 2-game funk throwing 6 INT and 0 TDs in those games.  Carson Palmer has been underwhelming all year long.  Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Cards at home where they are 4-2-1 for the season and lay the points.


SF at Atlanta – 14 (51.5):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  Atlanta needs a win here and they are going to get one.  The Falcons lead the NFL in scoring at 32.9 points per game.  The Niners have never scored more than 28 points in any game and the only time they got that high was on opening day when they shut out the Rams for their only win of the year.  Compounding the agony here, the Niners give up the most points of any team in the NFL at 30.9 points per game.  I think this game sets up as a rout.  I’ll take the Falcons and lay the points.


New England – 3 at Denver (44):  This is the Game of the Week.  The Pats hold home-field advantage in the playoffs today; they surely want to keep it that way.  The Broncos are not a cinch even to make the playoffs given their record and their remaining opponents (see above).  This is a top-shelf defense against a top-shelf offense when the Pats have the ball.  This is a good defense against a marginal offense when the Broncos have the ball.  The bugaboo here is that the Pats rarely play well at Denver.  In fact, in the last 10 games between these teams – going back to 2008 – the home team has won 9 of the 10 times.  I am going to go with the desperation factor here and take the Broncos at home plus the points.  However, I realize that if the Pats get off to a good start and get a 10-point lead on the Broncos, it might be all over at that point…


Oakland – 3 at San Diego (49):  Before I make my selection for this game, I should tell you about something I do not ever recall seeing on a game like this.  Virtually every sportsbook has this game at 3 points or at 3.5 points.  However, one Internet sportsbook has it listed as a “pick ‘em game” but you have to lay minus-145 with your pick.  [That means you need to wager 145 dollars to win 100 dollars.]  An interesting proposition to draw attention – and possibly action – to one sportsbook…  Regarding the more mundane way to make a pick for this game, I think this will be a scoring-fest and so I’ll take the game to go OVER.  Here are 2 contradictory trends – if you are into that sort of thing:

  • Chargers are 5-14 ATS in their last 19 home games
  • Underdog is 14-2 ATS in the last 16 games between these two teams


Pittsburgh – 3 at Cincy (44):  The Steelers lead the AC North; the Bengals are not mathematically eliminated from that race – but in fact they are not going to win the division.  The Steelers are 4-3 on the road this year and the Bengals are only 3-2-1 at home.  I think this will be a low-scoring game – – as most of the games between these teams are – – so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


(Mon Nite) Carolina at Washington – 6.5 (51):  The spread opened at 4.5 and has climbed steadily all week long.  Frankly, this game is a total mystery to me.  I can see either team winning handily and I have no idea what factors will prevail.  Obviously, the betting public is putting their money on the Skins; that is what has driven the spread up 2 points in the past several days.  I am turning this over the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Panthers plus the points.

Finally, here is an NFL comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“In September, a TV meteorologist in Cleveland vowed not to shave again until the Browns win a game. For residents of Cleveland, it looks like the ZZ Top bassist is doing the weather.”

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



Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 12/11/16


Last week was another mythically profitable weekend for the NFL picks.  I made 15 selections and the record for the week was a tidy 10-5-0.  The record for the season now stands at 112-65-4.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol made 2 selections last week and did exactly what one would expect from a coin flip.  The week’ record was 1-1-0; that makes the coin’s season record 14-10-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Lions +6 against Saints.  Lions won outright by 15 points.
  • Seahawks -7 against Panthers.  Seahawks won by 33 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Jets “pick’em” against Colts.  Colts won 41-10
  • Dolphins +3 against Ravens.  Ravens won by 32 points.
  • Niners +1 against Bears.  Bears won by 20 points.

Lest anyone take the wrong message from the success of Mythical Picks last week or from the record for the season, there is nothing authoritative or insightful that goes into these selections.  Only a very stupid person would use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend or any other weekend for that matter.  Here is how dumb you would have to be to do something like that:


You think Baba Ghanoush is some guy who cuts hair in Boston.


General Comments:


I am a planner; my long-suffering wife has come to think that I would plan for Armageddon if given the opportunity; I recognize that it is not an endearing quality, but as Popeye the Sailor often said:

“I yam what I yam.”

Given my bent for planning ahead, I am pleased tip my hat to a devoted Cleveland Browns’ fan for his efforts to organize a parade for the Browns’ team to celebrate the team going 0-16 for the NFL season.  According to a report in USA Today, a Browns’ fan named Chris McNeil has sent a letter to the city fathers in Cleveland to hold a “peaceful parade” on Jan 7 2017 that “will be a celebration of our Cleveland Browns’ historic 0-16 season.”

You can find all the info you need about this event – should you want to venture off to Cleveland next month to participate in this celebratory affair – at this link.

With all the BYE Weeks in the rear-view mirror, the NFL season heads into the final quarter of the season.  Four of the 8 divisions would appear to have interesting races to see who will be the division winner and automatically get to the playoffs.  A fifth division could get interesting; the other three divisions are pretty much decided.

Here are the “decided divisions”:


AFC East:  Pats have a 3-game lead over the Dolphins with 4 games left.

NFC East:  Cowboys have a 3-game lead over the Giants with 4 games left.

NFC West:  Seahawks have a 3-game lead over the Cards with 4 games left.


Here are the divisions with “interesting races”:


AFC North:  The Steelers and the Ravens have the same record (7-5) and both are playing good football lately.  The Ravens have a tougher schedule ahead with 3 of their 4 remaining games on the road but there is a head-to-head showdown between these teams in Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve.

AFC South:  The Texans, Colts and Titans all have a 6-6 record this morning.  The Texans have 3 division games left to play in their 4 remaining games; the Colts and Titans each have 2 division games on tap.

AFC West:  The Raiders hold a 1-game lead on the Chiefs and those two teams play tonite; the Broncos are 2 games out of the lead but are not out of the race because they still have head-to-head games with both the Raiders and the Chiefs on the schedule.

NFC South:  The Falcons and Bucs are tied atop the division at 7-5 and the Bucs have won 4 games in a row.  The Falcons’ schedule is a bit easier given that the Bucs have to play a game on the road against the Cowboys.


Here is division where the race “might get interesting”:


NFC North:  The Lions lead the Vikes and the Packers by 2 games with 4 left to play.  The Lions are hot; they have won 4 in a row.  On the other hand, if you look at historical precedent; these are the Lions after all and they have often found ways to go south at the least advantageous moment…

Last week, the Cowboys beat the Vikes 17-15 on Thursday night.  The Vikes’ defense kept the Cowboys’ offense in check for most of the game but the Vikes’ offense was too limited to take advantage of that strong defensive effort.  Yes, the Vikes were hosed on the final 2-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game; there is no question about that.  Replay showed clearly that the officials missed 2 calls on the same play:

  1. First, there was a false start by the Vikes’ offensive right tackle which should have blown the play dead before it started and the Vikes should have been forced to try the conversion attempt once again but from the 12 yardline and not the 7 yardline.
  2. Second, if the officials did not blow the play dead as they should have, then there was a clear penalty on the Cowboys for a “blow to the head” of the QB which was also a shot to his facemask.

It is not correct to say that those officiating blunders “cost” the Vikes the game; even a successful 2-point conversion – not a certainty to be sure – would only have created an overtime situation where the Vikes may or may not have prevailed.  However, it is correct to say that once again the officials botched an important play in a game.

Here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald about the officiating in the Cowboys/Vikings game:

“To give you an idea how many calls referees supposedly missed during Thursday Night Football, the opening coin toss that the refs said was heads was actually tails.”

The Pats beat the Rams 26-10.  Tom Brady got his 201st win as a starting QB in this game; it was never in doubt that would be the outcome.  Jeff Fisher got a 2-year contract extension late last week and then the Rams went out and dropped a stinkbomb on the field in Foxboro.  At halftime, the Rams had amassed a total of 25 yards on offense and made exactly 1 first down.  It got better in the second half but not all that much better.  The Rams managed only 162 yards’ offense for the entire game.

Here is what I do not understand.  The Rams are competent when it comes to signing/drafting/developing defensive players.  On offense, the opposite is true.  Forget coaching; the players on the offensive units for the Rams in recent years have been mediocre players and the Rams have gotten mediocre offensive results.  How can that situation continue to obtain?

The Chiefs beat the Falcons 29-28.  Talk about inventing a way to lose a game…  Eric Berry had a Pick Six to put the Chiefs in position to make this a game to go down to the wire.  Then the Falcons get a TD to go up 28-27 and Berry gets a “Pick Two” intercepting the 2-point conversion and taking it back 100 yards for a 2-point score by the Chiefs.  The only way Berry would not be named Defensive Player of the Week would be if Godzilla were playing defensive line for some team last Sunday.  In addition, the normally buttoned-up Andy Reid ran a fake punt that went for a TD in the second half of this game.

There was an interesting coaching decision by the Falcons in the third quarter that impacted the way the game ended.  The Falcons trailed by 11 points with about 8 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter and had a 4th and 1 at the Chiefs’ 10 yardline.  The Falcons went for it and failed; instead of possibly trailing by 8 points, they still trailed by 11.  Ergo, when the Falcons scored a TD in the 4th quarter to bring the score to 27-22, they had to go for a 2-point PAT which failed.  Ergo, when the Falcons scored again to take the lead 28-27 with about 4 minutes left in the game, they again had to go for a 2-point PAT to try to extend the lead to 3 points.  That was the point at which Eric Berry executed the “Pick Two” …

The Bengals beat the Eagles 32-14.  That may look like a shellacking to you but you need to realize that the score was 29-0 at one point.  The final score represents a “rally” from the Eagles…  For reasons known only to the offensive braintrust of the Eagles, they had Carson Wentz throw the ball 60 times in this game.  When rookie QBs throw that often, good things tend to happen for the other team.

The Steelers beat the Giants 24-14.  The Steelers’ defense has not been the dominant unit this year but they throttled the Giants on Sunday holding the Giants to less than 100 yards’ offense in the first half.  The Steelers cruised to a win.  LeVeon Bell ran for 118 yards in the game to control the clock and field position.  Steelers had to sign a new kicker on Friday when Chris Boswell suffered an abdominal injury; Randy Bullock was 3-for-3 on field goal tries here and 1 for 1 on PATs in this game.

The Cards beat the Skins 31-21.  Carson Palmer drank from the Fountain of Youth last week.  He threw for 300 yards and 3 TDs (30 for 46) and 0 INTs.  The Cards converted on 10 of 16 third down attempts.  The Skins had a chance to tie in the final 2 minutes down 8 points with the ball on the Cards’ 29 yardline.  An untimely INT put an end to that comeback.  This loss puts Skins at 6-5-1 and looking up at 2 wildcard teams in the NFC (Giants and Bucs).  Cards are 5-6-1 and probably need to win the NFC West to get to the playoffs.  With the Seahawks sitting at 8-3-1 with 4 games left, that looks like a real longshot.

The Bucs beat the Chargers 28-21.  The Bucs are now the #2 wildcard team in the NFC.  They intercepted Philip Rivers twice in the second half to overcome a 14-10 deficit at halftime.  The Bucs have won 4 in a row and the last 3 have come over the Chiefs, Seahawks and Chargers – three good teams.

The Raiders beat the Bills 38-24.  The Bills led the game 24-9 at one point and then their world turned upside down.  Tyrod Taylor turned the ball over twice in the 4th quarter and the Raiders came from behind to win the game convincingly.

The Lions beat the Saints 28-13.  For the first time this season, the Lions won without having to come from behind in the 4th quarter.  Drew Brees did not throw a TD pass in a home game and it has been a while since that happened (61 games ago since 2009).  Brees did throw 3 INTs though.  The Lions lead the NFC North but have a difficult schedule ahead of them (versus the Bears, then at Giants, at Cowboys, versus the Packers).  The Saints are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs; but in reality, the Saints are gonzo.

The Packers beat the Texans 21-13.  This loss drops the Texans into a tie with the Titans who had the week off.; it is the third loss in a row for the Texans.  The win puts the Packers back in the wildcard race in the NFC.  The game was not really this close; the Texans scored a TD with less than 2 minutes to play in the game.

The Broncos beat the Jags 20-10.  Paxton Lynch played QB for the Broncos in this game; the coaches must have figured that if the Denver defense could not hold the Jags down to a manageable number, that defense must be a mirage.  Lynch was – to be polite – awful (12 for 24 for 102 yards) and the team generated only 206 yards’ offense.  The fundamental question about this game is this:

  • Did the Denver defense dominate Blake Bortles to win this game or did Bortles just stink out the joint has he has done at multiple venues in the past?

Bortles was 19 of 42 for 182 yards and 2 INTs.  That is only a 45% completion rate…  Oh, and he lost a fumble too.  Oh, and one of his INTs was a Pick Six…

You should have noticed by now that there were more than a few games from last week that were decided by more than one score.  However, I have saved the three biggest mismatches from last week for now…

The Seahawks beat the Panthers 40-7.  Watching the game, it looked like a 40-7 game; it felt like a 40-7 game.  The Panthers appeared to be going through the motions and not much else.  They only managed to throw for 182 yards despite being well behind for much of the game and needing to catch up.  The Seahawks lost safety Earl Thomas in the game to a broken bone in his leg.  That is a big loss.  The Seahawks offense came to life – against a not-so-inspired Panthers’ defense to the tune of 534 yards’ total offense.

The Colts beat the Jets 41-10.  A late Jets’ TD narrowed the margin of victory here.  Like the Panthers, the Jets did not seem to be giving maximum effort for much of the game particularly on defense.  The Jets went with Bryce Petty at QB in 2nd half; reports say Petty will start in the last 4 games this year.   Here is my assessment of Bryce Petty based on watching him for half of this game:

  • Oh my; he does indeed have a lot to learn if “NFL QB” is the career path he has chosen for himself.

And what does that say about Christian Hackenberg who has not shown enough in practice to be considered a “development project” to the point where it is time to expose him to “the real thing”…?  But it is OK to throw Bryce Petty out there to see what he can do?  The Jets are not in a good place…

The Bears beat the Niners 24-6.  That score may not seem as lopsided as some others but the Niners’ performance was laughable.  Two weeks ago, Colin Kaepernick looked like he might be a good fit in an evolving Chip Kelly offense in SF.  Last week, Kaepernick got benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert – who pretty much has shown that he is not going to be a good fit in an evolving Chip Kelly offense in SF.  Total passing offense for Niners was this:

  • 5 for 15 for 39 yards.  That is the gross passing yardage.  When you account for yards lost on six sacks, the net passing yardage for the Niners was 6 yards.

The Niners’ total offense for the day was 147 yards.

All reports are that the new stadium for the Niners in Santa Clara is heartily disliked by fans; I don’t know all the ins and outs as to why that is the case, but there are sufficient reports to believe it is so.  So, if the fans hate the stadium and the Niners are the team that will play there 8 times next year, what would make the Niners’ Front Office think they are going to keep up whatever season ticket base they now have?    Here is a link to excellent column by Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle regarding the Niners’ ownership and GM:


The Games:


(Thurs Nite) Oakland at KC – 3.5 (46):  This is the Game of the Week and it is on Thursday Night Football.  Let me just say that those two things tend not to go together – sort of like mustard and vanilla ice cream.  The Chiefs need this game to tie the Raiders in the AFC West race; a win for the Raiders would put them up 2 games on the Chiefs with only 3 game left to play.  It is a “revenge game” for the Raiders since one of their losses this year was to the Chiefs with the game in Oakland.  I think the Raiders will get their revenge here so I will take the Raiders plus the points.


Denver at Tennessee (no lines):  I guess folks are waiting to see which Denver QB will start this game.  I do not know of any other significant variable related to the game.  Since I have nothing to say about this game, let me provide you with a meaningless trend:

  • Titans are 12-37-3 against the spread in their last 52 games.


San Diego at Carolina – 1.5 (48):  Short and sweet here …  After watching the Panthers not give a damn last week, I wonder if they can summon up any emotion here.  Last week, they were taking on a top-shelf opponent and they were flatter than Kansas.  Here they take on a team from the other conference that is sub-.500 just like the Panthers are.  I sense another sleepwalking effort so I’ll take the Chargers plus the point-and-a-half.


Houston at Indy – 6 (46.5):  The winner here will – at worst – be tied for the lead in the AFC South.  There are some conflicting trends at work here:

  • Texans are 7-0-1 against the spread in their last 8 against the AFC South
  • Colts are 19-6-2 against the spread in their last 27 against the AFC South

The Colts are at home and the Colts have the significantly better QB under center.  The Colts’ defense looked very good last week – – but calm down here; that showing was against a listless and uninterested Jets’ team (see above).  The Texans are 1-5 on the road this year and I just do not trust them in this situation.  I’ll take the Colts to win and cover.


Cincy – 5 at Cleveland (43):  About the only good news with regard to the Browns in this spot would be:

  • They had last week off to game plan and recuperate.
  • The Bengals have lost AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard to injury.

The Bengals are highly disappointing this year – despite last week’s spanking of the Eagles (see above) – but they are simply a better team than the Browns.  Unless the Bengals play with no emotion at all, they should cruise here.  I like the Bengals on the road to win and cover.


Pittsburgh – 2 at Buffalo (46.5):  This game means a lot to the Steelers; the Bills are pretty much out of the playoff chase and so this game is about “pride” and “heart” and all that stuff for them.  Call this a “Pedigree Pick”.  The Steelers are habitually in the playoffs and the Bills are not.  The Steelers’ coach has won a Super bowl; the Bills’ coach swears his team will win one every year.  The Steelers’ QB has been the MVP in the Super Bowl; the Bills’ QB is a ham-and-egger.  I like the Steelers to win and cover here.


Arizona at Miami – 1 (43.5):  The Dolphins saw their 6-game win streak go down the drain last week while the Cards surprised me and beat the Skins.  (I liked the Skins straight up to win the game.)  Neither team excites me at all; both QBs are up one week and down the next; both teams have – and rely on – an excellent running back; neither defense is great; neither defense is atrocious.  This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.


Chicago at Detroit – 7.5 (43.5):  The spread opened the week at 9.5 points and has settled down at this level for the past 36 hours.  The Bears scored 26 points last week; that was their highest point production of the season.  The last time these teams met – October 2 – the Bears won 17-14; since then the Bears are 2-6; since then the Lions are 7-1.  Here are countervailing trends for these teams:

  • Bears are 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 against the Lions
  • Lions are 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 against the NFC North.

So, there …  That line looks fat to me; I’ll take the Bears plus the points.


Minnesota – 3 at Jax (39.5):  The Vikes’ defense is for real; the Jags’ offense led by Blake Bortles is a turnover machine.  Only Santa Claus will be handing out more gifts in December than Bortles.  The Vikes also need this game to stay in the playoff picture.  I’ll take the Vikes and lay the points.


New Orleans at Tampa – 2.5 (51):  The Bucs are hot; they have won 4 in a row.  The Saints are lukewarm; they won last week but sport a 5-7 record for the season.  Drew Brees is not going to be held without a TD pass for the second week in a row and he is not likely to throw 3 INTs either.  I smell a shootout coming.  I like the game to go OVER.


Washington at Philly “pick ‘em” (46.5):  OK, I’ll “pick ‘em”…  I like the Skins to win this game notwithstanding the Eagles’ 4-1 record at home.


Jets at SF – 2.5 (44):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week – and it is the kind of dog-breath that exists just after the dog has discovered and sampled the rotting carcass of a now-unidentifiable mammal in the back yard.  Please see above for what both of these teams did to leave gigantic road apples on the field last week.  The Jets played on Monday night and get to fly about 3000 miles to this game; the Niners gained 6 yards (net) passing for an entire game last week.  Bryce Petty versus either Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert defines once and for all the phrase:

  • Must Miss TV

Only because I said I would make a pick in every possible game, will I make a pick here.  Actually, I will turn it over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol so that I can stand back from the stench.  The coin says to take the Niners and lay the points.  Remember, the coin said that; I did not say that!


Seattle – 3 at Green Bay (46.5):  This is a big game for the Packers and the fact of the matter is that the Seahawks are much better at home than they are on the road. says the temperature will be in the mid-20s around kickoff and this “late afternoon game” will start about 15 minutes after sunset.  I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Atlanta – 6.5 at LA (45):  The Falcons can score points; they lead the NFL in scoring; in fact, the Falcons have scored 41 more points than the second-highest scoring team in the league (Raiders).  The Falcons’ defense is very generous; the Falcons have allowed 331 points so far this year; that is 20 points more than any other team (the Colts) that is at or near the top of their division this week.  The question here is simple:

  • Can the Rams’ rudimentary offense find ways to score on a very porous Falcons’ defense?

I do not think soErgo, I will take the game to stay UNDER because I think the Rams’ defense can keep the Falcons from running amok.


(Sun Nite) Dallas – 3 at Giants (47):  This is the best game on Sunday.  I am convinced that the Cowboys are for real; their OL dominates games.  The Giants’ DL took a hit with the news that Jason Pierre-Paul will not play here.  I think the Cowboys will expose and exploit the Giants; I like the Cowboys to win and cover – even on the road.


(Mon NIte) Baltimore at New England – 7.5 (45):  This game was the runner up as the Game of the Week; it matches two division leaders who are both playing top-shelf football.  The spread opened the week at 8 points; this morning you can find it as low as 7 points at two Internet sportsbooks.  I think this game will be decided one way of the other by a field goal or less so I’ll take the Ravens plus the points here.

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



Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 12/4/16

Once again, this will be an abbreviated version of Mythical Picks.  Last week broke the “boring mold” that had set in for NFL Mythical Picks over the previous 3 weeks.  Instead of going right around .500 for the week, last week was a comfortable – and comforting – 11-5-0.  That makes the season record stand at 102-60-4.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Chargers +2 against Texans.  Chargers won outright by 8 points
  • Seahawks/Bucs UNDER 45.  Total score was 19 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Jags/Bills UNDER 45.5.  Total score was 49
  • Cowboys -7 against Skins.  Cowboys won by only 5 points.

The coin – acting in accordance with the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol of course – was assigned 3 games last week.  The coin went 2-1-0 for the week bringing the coin’s record for the year to 13-9-2.

Despite the gaudy results from last week and the overall mythical profitability for the season, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on an actual NFL game this weekend.  If you would be dumb enough to do that, you would also be dumb enough to believe that …

… a fibula is a little white lie.


General Comments:


The Packers beat the Eagles 27-13 on MNF putting both teams’ records at 5-6 for the season.  I suspect that is where the comparison ends.  In the NFC East, the Eagles are in last place five full games behind the division-leading Cowboys.  In the NFC North, the Packers are in 3rd place but are only 2 games behind the division-leading Lions with 5 games to play.  Historically, the Lions are not a team that inspires lots of trust so the status of the Packers is this:

  • They could be in a lot better position than they are; they will almost assuredly need to win the NFC North to make the playoffs.  Nevertheless, history over the past 25 years or so is on the side of the Packers.

We shall see …

The Falcons doubled up on the Cards 38-19.  Running back, David Johnson, was the Cards’ leading rusher (13 carries for 58 yards) and their leading receiver (8 catches for 103 yards).  As a matter of fact, Johnson was the only Cardinal to gain any yardage rushing for the entire game.  The Cards’ success in the past couple of years has relied heavily on getting the ball down the field.  It seems this year as if they no longer feel confident in doing that – perhaps because their OL has been marginal at best in pass protection and their QB, Carson Palmer, is anything but elusive back there.  When they do call a vertical play that takes time to develop, it often ends up with a sack at worst or with Palmer prostrate on the ground at best.  The Cards are 4-6-1 for the season; they are mathematically alive for the playoffs but their hopes are hanging on a gossamer thread.

The Falcons held their lead on the NFC South division teams despite the Bucs and the Saints both winning last week.  They ran for 116 yards (on 30 carries) and threw for 269 yards and 2 TDs in this game.  After this week’s game at ho0me against the Chiefs, the Falcons finish the season with 4 games against teams that are below .500 as of this morning.

The Dolphins won their 6th game in a row last week beating the Niners 31-24.  I anticipated Dolphins’ RB, Jay Ajayi having a huge game against a Niner’s defense that has had more than a bit of trouble stopping the run so far this year.  Well, the Niners managed to stifle Ajay; he only had 45 yards on 18 carries.  However, Ryan Tannehill came up big throwing for 285 yards and 3 TDs in the game.

Colin Kaepernick had a big day.  His timing with regard to his political activism last week was well off target:

  • He wore a t-shirt during the week that seemed to equate Malcom X and Fidel Castro.
  • Last week’s game was in Miami where Castro is not exactly a hero to a large segment of the population.
  • Oh, and Fidel Castro died about 48 hours before kickoff…

On the field, Kaepernick looked like a QB who might just fit into the Chip Kelly system.  He was the Niners’ leading rusher with 113 yards on 10 carries and he threw for 296 yards and 3 TDs and 1 INT.  If that sort of play is a harbinger of things to come, perhaps the Niners can win another game or two this year.  If that was just a statistical anomaly, the Niners seem doomed to pick second behind the hapless Browns next April.

The Saints beat the Rams 49-21 in a game that confounds logic.  I got the game right in Mythical Picks for all the wrong reasons.  Never did I see a way for the Saints to score 49 points on the Rams nor did I see a way for the Saints defense to hold the Rams to well under 300 yards for the game.  Jared Goff threw 3 TDs in the game; given the proclivities of many sports radio hosts, that means they will be wondering why it took the Rams so long to start Goff in real games – – despite the fact that about a month ago, they were declaring Goff a bust and a horrible pick overall at #1 in the draft.  This is why one should not evaluate the worth of draft picks for a couple of years – – even if as rookies they play like Dak Prescott and/or Ezekiel Elliott.  Remember, RG3 was the Offensive Rookie of the Year; how did that work out?

The Giants beat the Browns 27-13 and the “hero” of this game was Jason Pierre-Paul.  His defensive line play – even discounted to some degree because it was against a sub-standard offensive line – indicates that he has adjusted his play to accommodate his hand injury suffered about 15 months ago.  Oh, and just so you do not forget, the Browns are now 0-12 for the year and they stink!

The Chargers beat the Texans 21-13; Philip Rivers 3 TD passes accounted for the Chargers’ scoring.  Meanwhile, the Texans have to be suffering more than a little bit of buyer’s remorse from the free agency period of last Spring.  Their splurge signing was Brock Osweiler for an annualized $18M per year.  Last week, Osweiler threw for a mediocre 246 yards but he had 0 TDs and 3 INTs.  Here is the bottom line:

  • The Texans could have gotten that sort of performance from a career backup QB for 20% of that price.
  • For the year, Osweiler’s stats are not much better.  He is completing 59.8% of his throws; he has 12 TDs and 13 INTs (most INTs in the league as of this morning); he has averaged 209.7 yards per game.
  • There are still 3 years left on his 4-year $72M deal …

The Ravens beat the Bengals 19-14.  The Bengals are done; with injuries to AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard on offense, there is no zip left to the offense.  It may appear as if the Bengals scored 2 TDs to arrive at their 14-point total.  Not the case; they scored 3 FGs, a safety on the final play of the game and 1 TD with a missed PAT.  That was the 3rd PAT in a row missed by Mike Nugent over a 2-game stretch.  Let’s just say that does not happen all that often even with the added distance on PATs in the past couple of years.

The Bills beat the Jags 28-21.  The Bills continue to aspire to the playoffs and it could happen.  However, it is going to take a lot of things to break just perfectly for them to get in.  The “story” of this game is that the Jags’ leading rusher was QB, Blake Bortles; he carried 8 times for 81 yards.  He was also – obviously – the Jags’ leading passer but his stats there were hardly gaudy:

  • 13 for 26 for 126 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs.

The Titans held on to beat the Bears 27-21.  The Bears had 4 shots at the end zone in the final seconds of the game and did not get the TD that would have at least tied the game and sent it to OT.  The Titans’ record is 6-6 but that puts them in the middle of the AFC South race where the Texans are 6-5 and the Colts are 5-6.  The Titans have their BYE Week this week and are hoping for losses by both the Texans and the Colts.  The Bears are 2-9 and look pretty much like a team with that sort of record.

Speaking of the Colts, they lost to the Steelers last week 28-7.  It was the Thanksgiving night game and the Colts appeared to be suffering from too much turkey tryptophan.  Scott Tolzien played QB for the Colts because Andrew Luck was still in the NFL’s concussion protocol.  The Colts’ OL did not provide Tolzien with much comfort; he was hit and harassed all night long.  Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown hooked up for 3 TD passes to provide the margin of victory.

The Bucs beat the Seahawks 14-5 last week and did it by harassing Russell Wilson from start to finish.  Like Blake Bortles and Colin Kaepernick, Wilson was the Seahawks leading rusher gaining 80 yards on 8 carries.  Like Bortles, his passing stats were awful:

  • 17-33 for 151 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.

The Bucs are in second place in the NFC South only 1 game behind the Falcons.  The Bucs and Falcons split their season series this year and both teams have only 1 loss in the division.  This could be an interesting race to watch…

The Raiders beat the Panthers 35-32.  The Panthers record now stands at 4-7 which is even worse than the Cards’ 4-6-1 record the season after those two teams squared off in the NFC Championship Game.  The Raiders have won 5 games in a row; they are tied with the Pats for the best record in the AFC; they are undefeated on the road so far this year (5-0) and only the Titans in the AFC have scored more points for the season.  The Raiders have two very good teams chasing them in the AFC West, but so far the Raiders have passed every test.

The Pats beat the Jets 22-17 last week.  The Jets did not send Bryce Petty out to play QB against the Pats for his second NFL start; Ryan Fitzpatrick played QB once again.  The Jets played hard and the game was as even on the stat sheet as it was on the scoreboard.  The difference was that the Jets led in the second half 17-13 and then Tom Brady worked his “comeback magic” which he has done a time or two.  This was Brady’s 200th career win as a starting QB.

The Chiefs beat the Broncos 30-27 in OT; despite the 57 points, this was a defensive game.  Sometime in the middle of the 4th quarter, Cris Colnisworth said he wished the game could go to OT and he said he was trying to imagine the scenarios that would get it there because it was that good a game.  Well, he got his wish and then he got an ending that saw the winning field goal hit the left upright and carom just a foot or so behind the left upright.  If you get a chance to see the game on NFL Network as a replay and did not see it on Sunday Night Football, sit down with some pretzels and beer or some cheese and a glass of red wine and enjoy it…

The Lions beat the Vikes 16-13.  The Lions are 7-4 and lead the NFC North by a game over the Vikes and 2 games over the Packers.  The Lions have trailed in the 4th quarter of all 11 games this year and have come back to win 7 of them.  Can they keep that up or might they “regress to the mean”?  It almost does not pay to watch any of the Lions’ games until the start of the 4th quarter.

The Cowboys beat the Skins 31-26 despite Kirk Cousins throwing for 446 yards and 3 TDs in the game.  At 6-4-1, the Skins hold the second NFC wild card slot as of today.  Obviously, if the Skins win out, they have to be in the playoffs and all 5 of their remaining games are “winnable”:

  1. At Arizona this week
  2. At Philly
  3. Vs. Carolina
  4. At Chicago
  5. Vs Giants at home on New Year’s Day


The Games:


Two teams have their BYE Week this week – – and that will end the BYE Weeks for the rest of the regular season.  Four teams will enjoy a week off for the first round of the playoffs in January but we should not get ahead of ourselves here.

  1. The Browns have a week off to try to conjure up a spell that will get them a win.
  2. The Titans have a week off hoping for the Texans and Colts to lose.


(Thurs Nite) Dallas – 3 at Minnesota (44):  Holy Cow!  A Thursday night game featuring 2 good teams both of whom are in the thick of things regarding the playoff chase…  I am not sure I am ready for that sort of a shock.  You could convince me that this deserves to be the Game of the Week and I had it on the short list until I bestowed that title elsewhere.  I think the Vikes’ defense will play well here and I think the Cowboys’ defense will be able to stifle the less-than-potent Vikes’ offense.  I see a close game start to finish and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Denver – 4 at Jax (40):  The Total Line here opened at 43 and sagged to this level rather quickly.  The Broncos went to OT last Sunday in a night game; they have to fly 2 time zones to get to Jax and they are not bringing a great offense with them.  Normally, I would not lay points with a team in that situation.  However, these are the Jags whose 1-4 home record is hardly fearsome and whose offense should have real trouble moving the ball against the Broncos’ defense.  I like the Broncos to win and cover here – even with the “short week” and far from home.


KC at Atlanta – 4 (49):  This is my Game of the Week – not because both of these teams are better than the teams in the other games under consideration – but because this game means a ton to both teams.  The loser here is likely to be hurting a lot come Monday morning…  The Chiefs also went to OT on Sunday night and they too are on the road this week.  They are facing a much better opponent in the Falcons than the Broncos are facing.  The Falcons are the highest scoring team in the NFL but the Chiefs’ defense has given up less than 20 points per game so far this year.  The Chiefs may not light it up on offense, but I still am wary of putting too much trust in the Falcons’ defense.  Purely a hunch, I like the Chiefs plus the points here.


Houston at Green Bay – 6.5 (45.5):  Short and sweet here…  I like Aaron Rodgers being able to find ways to score here better than I do Brock Osweiler being able to find ways to score here.  I’ll take Green Bay at home and lay the points.


Philly at Cincy “pick’em” (42):  Neither team is going to the playoffs but neither team is disastrously bad.  The Bengals’ offensive woes center around injuries to Giovanni Bernard and AJ Green (see above).  The Eagles’ offensive woes center around a lack of quality wide receivers to catch passes from Carson Wentz.  I’ll make this nothing more than a venue call; I’ll take the Bengals at home to win the game.


Detroit at New Orleans – 6 (54):  The spread here opened at 3.5 points and jumped to this level very quickly.  No, I do not know why.  Here is what I do know; in 11 games this year for the Lions, only 3 of them were decided one way of the other by 7 points.  All the rest were closer than that.  The Lions are 2-3 on the road, but this is at least a dome game for them.  Given how well they have played so far this year, I am surprised to be able to get 6 points in a game against a sub-.500 team.  I’ll take the Lions plus the points.


SF at Chicago – 1 (43.5):  There was not even a ripple of discontent in the audience when I selected this as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  There was, however, a suggestion that I come up with another name that would smell worse than the worst dog-breath ever experienced by mankind since the domestication of the species.  I took that under advisement but left the name as it was…  As I alluded to above, last week may have been a spark of understanding for Colin Kaepernick in the Chip Kelly offense.  I will assume here that to be the case and take the Niners plus the point even on the road.  Remember, these are mythical picks…


LA at New England – 14 (44):  How do I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games?  Let me count the ways … (Hat tip to Elizabeth Barrett Browning) I have to believe that the Rams’ coaching staff has given the Rams’ defensive unit a swift kick in the posterior after giving up 49 points last week.  This like looks awfully fat to me so I’ll take the Rams plus 2 TD’s worth of points.


Miami at Baltimore – 3 (40.5): This game means a lot to both of these teams vis a vis the playoffs but neither team has the pizazz of other teams in similar games this week.  Hence, this is not the Game of the Week.  This is going to be a low-scoring game that will go down to the final possession. I am turning this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Dolphins plus the points.


Buffalo at Oakland – 3 (48):  The Total Line opened at 50 and has been edging slowly down all week.  I think the Bills can score on the Raiders’ defense and I think the Raiders can score on the Bills’ defense.  I like this game to go OVER.


Tampa at San Diego – 3.5 (47.5):  If Tampa harbors any hopes of making the playoffs, it needs to win here – and win a bunch of games down the stretch.  The Chargers won’t say it publicly, but they know they are not going to the playoffs.  I know that this is a long trip for a young Bucs’ team and that Philip Rivers has not given up the ghost just yet.  Nonetheless, I am impressed by the way the Bucs beat the Seahawks and manhandled them last week.  I’ll take the Bucs plus the points even on the road.


Washington at Arizona – 3 (49):  Short and sweet here … The wrong team is favored; the Skins are going to win the game outright.  I’ll take the Skins plus the points.


Giants at Pittsburgh – 6 (49):  This game means a lot to both teams in the midst of playoff runs but I think the Chiefs/Falcons game is a better one.  There are lots of countervailing trends and stats here so I’ll just turn this over to the Coin Flip Protocol.  The coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.  Why not, the coin has been right 59% of the time up to this week…


(Sun Nite) Carolina at Seattle – 7 (44):  When the NFL put this game on the Sunday Night menu back in May, I promise you that the suits thought this might be the Game of the Year.  Well, it sure is not that.  Seattle is up and down this year – – and they were indeed down last week.  Carolina has been mediocre and down all year long.  I think Seattle will return to “good” and that should beat “mediocre”.  I’ll take the Seahawks and lay the points.


(Mon Nite) Indy at Jets “pick ‘em (48):  The oddsmaker wants me to pick the winner.  Ok, I’ll take the Jets at home because I think the Jets will be the better team at controlling the line of scrimmage.


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



Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/27/16


Last week was mythically profitable for the NFL Picks.  I made 14 selections and the record for the week was 9-4-1.  Since the start of the NFL season, the combined weekly results lead to a record of 91-55-4.

Two games last week were relegated to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin’s record was 1-0-1.  So far this season, the coin has been more successful that one should expect from a flipped coin; the cumulative record is 11-8-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Bucs +7.5 against Chiefs.  Bucs won straight up.
  • Steelers – 7.5 against Browns.  Steelers won by 15 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Bills/Bengals OVER 47.  Total score was only 28 points.
  • Cards over Vikes “pick ‘em”.  Vikes won by 6 points.

Notwithstanding last week’s mythical profitability, I must remind everyone that there is no inside information nor any unique insight contained in these Mythical Picks; they are not and should not be taken as authoritative.  No one should use anything written here as the basis for making a real wager on areal NFL game this weekend if the wager involves real money.  Here is how stupid you would have to be to do something like that:

If I told you that Christmas fell on Friday this year, you would hope it was not a Friday the 13th.


General Comments:


For reasons of Thanksgiving Holiday social commitments, these comments will be significantly curtailed this week.  Last week, the Cleveland Browns gave up 8 sacks in their loss to the Steelers.  As you might imagine, teams that give up 8 sacks in a game are highly likely to come out on the short end of the stick.  The Browns have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and Thanksgiving Day is not yet upon us.  That is something else that happens to teams that yield 8 sacks in a game…

That loss set the Browns record for the 2016 season at 0-11 meaning they must now be watched carefully in terms of becoming only the second team in the NFL ever to go winless in a 16-game season.  The Lions sank to those depths in 2008.

Let me project for a moment that the 2016 Browns will match that level of incompetence and fail to win a game this year.  If that is the case, you know that people will try to compare the two levels of ignominy to identify which team was more inept.  Let me offer some data here for your cogitation:

  1. In 2008, the Detroit Lions were 4-0 in the Exhibition Season and then lost every game in the regular season.  One could argue that this demonstrates the abject meaninglessness of the Exhibition Season games; or one could argue that this record demonstrated that the 2008 Lions had a small kernel of talent/competency at the core.
  2. In 2016, the Cleveland Browns were 0-4 in the Exhibition Season and – if my surmise here were to come to pass – they would then have lost every game in the regular season too.  They would have lost 20 games in the 2016 season when on the same field with professional competition.

Think about it for a while because come January 2017, I believe this will be a topic of discussion in sports commentaries…

With the Steelers win over the Browns last week and with the Ravens loss to the Cowboys, the Steelers and Ravens are tied atop the AFC North division.  The two teams have gotten there in opposite ways.  The Ravens win on defense and have prevailed in a lot of really close games; the Steelers go out and outscore opponents.  The Ravens’ defense did a good job in containing Ezekiel Elliott until a final long run from scrimmage added significantly to his yardage total for the game.  Not to worry though if you are a Cowboys’ fan; Dak Prescott stepped up and delivered 301 yards and 3 TD passes for the day to win the game comfortably.

For the past several seasons, the Bengals have joined the Steelers and Ravens in dominating the AFC North and finding ways to get more than one team from that division into the playoffs.  That is not looking to be likely this year.  As of this morning the Bengals record is 3-6-1 and the future looks grim.  In the Bengals’ loss last week to the Bills, the Bengals appear to have lost the services of AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard for the rest of the year.  That takes a big chunk out of a Bengals’ offense that has only produced 20 points per game this year.

I wonder if this downturn in success by the Bengals will put Marvin Lewis’ job in jeopardy.  Going into the season, Lewis had made the playoffs for 5 straight years and had lost in the first playoff game each time.  Some speculated that he would need to win a playoff game or wind up looking for a new gig.  At least one columnist in Cincy is turning up the heat already.  Stay tuned …

The Seahawks beat the Eagles by 11 points behind a very good game from Russell Wilson.  It was not a spectacular win but it was very workmanlike.  As of this morning, I think the Cowboys and the Seahawks are the two best teams in the NFC by a significant margin.  They do not meet in the regular season; I suspect they will meet in January 2017…

In the NFC North, the Lions and Vikes have the same 6-4 record.  The Lions own the tiebreaker here based on a win over the Vikes a couple of weeks ago.  The teams meet in the early game on Thanksgiving Day and I have to say that it has been a while since the “early game” on Thanksgiving Day had inherent significance for both participants.  Both of these teams won last week.

The Vikes cracked a 4-game losing streak with a 30-24 win over the Cards.  The Lions beat the Jags 26-19.  There was an eerie similarity in the way these two teams won:

  • Both teams had a Pick Six last week.  The Vikes was a 100-yard return.
  • The Lions returned a punt for a TD.
  • The Vikes returned a kickoff for a TD.

Could be an interesting time on Thursday afternoon …

In their loss to the Lions last week, the Jags gave up that punt return for a TD and that Pick Six and threw in yet another INT.  The Jags are 2-8 so far this year.  Are you surprised?

In the Cards’ loss to the Vikes – giving the Cards a 4-5-1 record for the year – it sure looked to me as if Carson Palmer’s career arc was on a steep downward slope.  We saw what happened last year when the team had to play backups at QB and it was not pretty.  Perhaps the Cards are in for a “tear-down/rebuild” project?

The Chiefs loss to the Bucs in KC was a surprise and it may be a loss that comes back to haunt the Chiefs somewhere down the road.  It was the Chiefs’ first loss at home this year.

The Rams led the dolphins 10-0 with 5 minutes to play in the game.  Up to then, the Rams’ defense had dominated the game; the Dolphins gained a total of 88 yards on offense in the first 55 minutes of the game.  Then the Rams gave up 2 TDs in the final 5 minutes to allow the Dolphins to win their 5th game in a row.  The first 11 possessions for the Dolphins ended as such:

  • 10 punts
  • 1 INT

Then came the deluge…  Jared Goff made his first start for the Rams; he was 17 for 31 for 134 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs.  Let me label that as “less than fully satisfactory” and leave it at that…


The Games:


All 32 teams are in action this week.  The final teams with BYE Weeks for the 2016 season will take them next week.


(Thurs Early Afternoon) Minnesota at Detroit – 2.5 (43): This game means a ton to the Lions.  If they win, they will be one game ahead of the Vikes in the NFC North standings on the basis of wins and losses and will be two games ahead in reality because they will have won both head-to-head games this season.  I know, by inversion, that means the game means a lot to the Vikes too.  I have a hunch that last week’s win – ugly as it was – over the Cards gave the Vikes a new lease on life in the NFC North and that they will carry that forward here.  I’ll take the Vikes plus the points.


(Thurs Late Afternoon) Washington at Dallas – 7 (51):  This is not the Game of the Week – – but it is indeed the Game of Thanksgiving Day.  Why the NFL scheduled the Skins to play on Sunday night last week and then had to go on the road to play on Thursday afternoon this week for their subsequent game is something known only to the folks on mahogany row in NFL HQs.  The Skins are playing very well and Kirk Cousins is playing to prove that his $20M salary this year is a baseline for this upcoming long-term contract negotiations.  Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are playing on rookie contracts that cannot see as high as $20M annually without a 100-inch telescope.  I said above that I think the Cowboys and the Seahawks are the class of the NFC; this is the time for class to show itself.  I’ll take the Cowboys and lay the points.


(Thurs Nite) Pittsburgh – 3 at Indy (54):  Short and sweet here…  I think the Steelers are the better team and I think that they are poised to make a late season run to assure themselves the AFC North title.  I like the Steelers to win and cover – even on the road.


San Diego at Houston – 2 (46.5):  The Texans hold a 1-game lead over the Colts and a 1.5 game lead over the Titans in the AFC South.  This game means a lot to them regarding the AFC playoffs.  The Chargers are not going to make even a slight noise – not even a whimper – in the AFC West but that is because the three teams above them are really good – – much better than the Texans.  I like the Chargers plus the points here because I think the Texans are nothing more than the best of a sorry lot – so far this year – in the AFC South.


Tennessee – 3 at Chicago (42.5):  I know that I took the Bears last week and that they covered last week.  Nonetheless, the Bears lost last week.  I think the Titans are the better team here and I think the Titans would love to take this opportunity to win a game on the road as a favorite just to get some of the “disbelieving media” to shut up.  I like the Titans to win and cover.


Jax at Buffalo – 7.5 (45.5):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  At 5-5, the Bills are not out of the wild-card race; they are not in good shape in that race, but they can still play to achieve that objective.  The Bills’ problem is that they are anything but consistent.  The Jags are an underachieving hot puddle of pig puke.  I am turning this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.


Cincy at Baltimore – 4 (40.5):  Both teams will know the outcome of the Steelers/Colts game from Thursday nite.  Both teams will see that outcome and recognize that a Steelers’ loss will give them a huge opportunity here and that a Steelers’ win will put the loser of this game in a disadvantageous position.  In fact, in the latter case, if the Steelers win and Bengals lose, the Bengals are probably toast.  I think the two injuries cited above (AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard) will doom the Bengals on the scoreboard.  My hesitation here is that the Ravens do not know how to put teams away; they always seem to find a way to make a game come down to the final two or three plays.  With trepidation, I’ll take the Ravens and lay the points.


Arizona at Atlanta – 4 (50):  Arizona needs this win if it is going to continue to consider the playoffs as anything more than a fairy tale.  As of this morning, the Cards trail the Seahawks in the NFC West by 3 full games; after this contest, there will be only 5 more games in the regular season.  The Falcons are still living off the huge cushion they created with their fast start to the regular season; the Falcons are a game ahead of the Bucs in the NFC South.  I think the Falcons will be able to throw the ball and score on the Cards’ defense despite the statistical advantage the Cards enjoy on defense in this game.  On the other hand, the Falcons’ secondary is nothing to write home about (28th in the NFL giving up 283 yards per game) and if the Cards cannot throw and score on it, then the Cards are finito.  I agree with the oddsmaker here; this game will be a shoot-out and will not be decided until the final few minutes of the game.  I will make this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Falcons to win and cover.


SF at Miami – 8 (45.5):  I am trying to think of some sort of “advantage” that the Niners might enjoy in this contest.  Given the venue, the distance they have to travel, the talent deficit they suffer and the motivation factor on the side of their opponents, it is hard to like anything about the Niners here.  I’ll take the Dolphins to win and cover at home giving them their 6th straight win.


LA at New Orleans – 7.5 (46):  Short and sweet here …  I was underwhelmed by Jared Goff’s opening act last week at home.  On the road in a raucous atmosphere like the Superdome, I think he will have difficulty – – even against the Saints defense (28th in the NFL in passing yards per game and 14th in the NFL in rushing yards per game).  I’ll take the Saints and lay the points.


Giants – 7 at Cleveland (44.5):  The Browns yielded 8 sacks last week; the Giants defense can rush the passer.  The Browns’ running game is meek (25th in the NFL).  I do not see the Browns lighting up the scoreboard here.  On the flip side, the Giants are primarily a passing team.  The Browns’ secondary has given up more TD passes than any other defense in the NFL – 25 so far this year.  I like the Giants to win and cover on the road.


Seattle – 6 at Tampa (45):  I do think the Seahawks are the better team here.  However, that transcontinental trip to the game does not make me anxious to lay 6 points.  I sense a defensive game here so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Carolina at Oakland – 3.5 (48):  Under normal circumstances, I would think that this is one of the less meaningful games on both team’s schedules.  It is not a division game; it is not even a conference game.  However, the Raiders are alone in first place in the AFC West and enjoy the same overall record as the Patriots.  They are motivated to hold their playoff positioning.  Meanwhile the Panthers are in last place in the NFC South but they are only 2 games out of first place there; they are actually in better shape to win their division at the moment than they are to be a wild card team.  They too are motivated for this game if they still harbor playoff dreams.  The Raiders prevailed last week over the Texans but gave up 243 yards to Brock Osweiler in the process; Cam Newton is better than that.  I like the Panthers plus the points here.


New England – 7.5 at Jets (46.5):  This spread opened at 9 points but quickly dropped to 8 points and is now at this level at most of the sportsbooks as of this morning.  I assume that the Jets will start Bryce Petty at QB again this week; I cannot see them going back to Ryan Fitzpatrick again this year absent a dire emergency circumstance and the fact that they put Petty out there instead of Christian Hackenberg tells me that they think Petty is the “more advanced student” at this time.  If I am right, then the Jets will enter the game with an over-matched QB who is not ready for the sorts of subtleties that the Pats’ defense can show him.  I think this could be a rout – even though the Jets’ defense is solid (11th in the NFL in total defense).  I’ll take the Pats and lay the points – even in the Big Apple.


(Sun Nite) KC at Denver – 3.5 (39):  This is the Game of the Week.  These teams are tied for second place – and for the two wild card slots in the AFC – each with a record of 7-3.  The loser here should find itself tied with the dolphins for the second wild card slot in the AFC while the winner would either be in the driver’s seat for the first slot or might be tied with the Raiders for the division lead.  This is a big game but it is not the only time these squads will see each other this year; they will meet again in KC on Christmas Night.  I think this will be a defense-dominated game where points will be at a premium.  In games like this, I like to take the points so I’ll take the Chiefs plus the points here.


(Mon Nite) Green Bay at Philly – 4 (47.5):  The Packers are 1-4 on the road; they have lost 4 games in a row; they have a ton of injuries; there is not much to recommend them here except that they have Aaron Rodgers at QB and even if this is indeed a down year for him compared to other seasons, he is still a great QB.  The Eagles are 4-0 at home; they lost last week to a better team but more importantly they lost 2 RBs in the game to injuries; Carson Wentz may indeed be their QB of the future, but he is not yet anything close to Aaron Rodgers.  I can make a case against both squads here so I’ll turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol.  The coin says to take the Packers plus the points.

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


Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/20/16


Last week was a “cha-cha week” for Mythical Picks – – two steps forward and then two steps back.  I made 14 picks and the record was 7-7-0.  That makes the cumulative record for the season 82-51-3.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol was far more successful.  I flipped the coin twice and the record was 2-0-0.  For the season the coin is now in positive/mythically profitable territory at 10-8-0.

The Best Picks of the week were:

  • Cowboys +2.5 against Steelers.  Cowboys won straight up.
  • Titans +3 against Packers.  Titans won by 22 points.

The Worst Picks of the week were:

  • Bears “pick ‘em” against Bucs.  Bears lost by 26 points.
  • Jets -2 against Rams.  Jets lost despite not giving up a TD in the game.

Time for the weekly reminder…  No one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money.  Only a dumbass would do that and here is how dumb that dumbass would have to be:

He thinks Velcro is nothing but a rip off.


General Comments:


In last week’s Thursday Night Football offering, you kinda knew that the game was going to suck from the get-go.  On the first play of the game, the Browns kicked off to the Ravens and nothing of import happened there.  Then, before the Ravens could run the first play of the game from scrimmage, the Browns had to call timeout because someone on the sidelines counted 12 players on defense.  Only, there weren’t 12 players on the field; there were 11.  The game went downhill from there.  As has happened several times this year, the Browns got off to a lead and actually led at halftime 7-6.  Even though rookie QB, Cody Kessler led the Browns to the TD in the first half that gave them the lead there, the Browns pulled him in the 3rd quarter in favor of Josh McCown.  I have no explanation for that decision.

The Ravens’ defense held the Browns to 144 yards’ total offense on 48 offensive plays.  That is exactly 3 yards per play; Woody Hayes was looking down on this game and wondering where the cloud of dust had gone.  The Ravens collected 3 turnovers in the game and managed 4 QB sacks.  How all of that translated to a lead for the Browns at halftime is mysterious even though I watched it unfold.  The final score was 28-7; it was not that close.

The Ravens’ record is 5-4 – which is not particularly noteworthy except for the fact that they now lead the AFC North Division by a game over the Steelers.  This week, the Ravens take on the Cowboys and if they want to be certain to maintain that lead, they are going to have to play a lot better this week than they did last week.

The Steelers lost to those same Cowboys last week 35-30 in what was an immensely entertaining game.  Ezekiel Elliott had 114 yards rushing and another 95 yards receiving and he scored 3 TDs in the game.  Other than that, he was pretty much invisible…  Fellow-rookie Dak Prescott threw for 319 yards.  Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger had one of his 400+ yards passing days in a losing effort; he also managed 3 TD passes.  Perhaps Roethlisberger’s “fake-spike/TD pass to Antonio Brown” was the best play of the year so far?

Staying in the AFC North, the Bengals lost to the Giants 21-20 on MNF.  The Giants dominated the stat sheet but only eked out a win on the scoreboard. Consider:

  • Giants 23 first downs             Bengals 12 first downs
  • Giants 351 yards’ offense       Bengals 264 yards’ offense
  • Giants 2 penalties for 15 yards           Bengals 9 penalties for 60 yards
  • Giants recorded 3 sacks         Bengals recorded 1 sack.

The Giants are now 6-3 and are in a good spot with regard to the NFC Wild Card race.  The Bengals are now 3-5-1 and need to pass both the Steelers and Ravens to get to the top of the AFC North.  While that is not impossible, it is important for the Bengals – the other teams in the AFC North to keep in mind because the way the races are shaping up, it would appear as if only one team from that division is going to make the AFC playoffs this year.

The “legend” of Andy Dalton not being able to win “night games” got another piece of supporting evidence last week.  When the kickoff is at nighttime, Dalton’s record as a starting QB is 5-10.  Last week his passing stats were 16 for 29 for 204 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.  While those stats are by no means “Hall of Fame quality” numbers, they are actually inflated and make his performance look better than it was.  In the first quarter – coming from what Jon Gruden called a “goofy formation” – Dalton connected on a 71-yard pass and run to Tyler Eifert.  Therefore, for the rest of the game here is Dalton’s stat line:

  • 15 for 25 for 133 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT

Not good…

The Oakland Raiders had their BYE Week last week but their two main rivals in the AFC West were on the card and they both won.  The Chiefs trailed the Panthers 17-0 at halftime and trailed 17-3 in the 4th quarter.  The Panthers managed to invent ways to lose and the Chiefs found ways to take advantage of every Panthers’ blunder late in the game leading to the Chiefs winning 20-17.  Cam Newton threw a very poor ball that resulted in a Pick Six for the Chiefs and then in the final minute with the score tied, WR Kelvin Benjamin caught a pass and allowed a Chiefs’ defender to steal the ball from him to set up a Chiefs’ field goal that would win the game.  The Chiefs held the ball for less than 25 minutes in the game; the Chiefs were only 2 for 12 on third down conversions; the Chiefs lost the total offense stat by 87 yards; the Chiefs only averaged 4.3 yards per pass.  Nonetheless the Chiefs won.  That puts the Chiefs in first place in the AFC West with a 7-2 record (same as the Raiders) based on a tiebreaker situation.  The Panthers are looking up at the rest of the NFC South with a 3-6 record.  The Panthers are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but unless they find a magic lamp with a genie in it, they are pretty much cooked at this point in the season.

The other AFC West contender, the Broncos, also had a miracle comeback to win last week beating the Saints in New Orleans 25-23.  The margin of victory here was a blocked PAT with about a minute-and-a-half left in the game that was recovered by the defense and returned to the end zone earning 2 points for the Broncos.  This was an “inversion game” for the Saints; their defense played well sacking Broncos’ QB, Trevor Siemian, 6 times; meanwhile, the offense lost 2 fumbles in the 4th quarter giving the Broncos the opportunity to get to the point where that blocked PAT was a difference maker.  The Broncos are 7-3 in the AFC West; their BYE Week comes up this week.  Meanwhile, the Saints at 4-5 – and tied with the Bucs – have ground to make up on the Falcons in the AFC South.

The Falcons gave the other teams in the division a bit of a breather last week when the Falcons lost to the Eagles 24-15.  What happened here is that the Eagles’ defense totally constipated the Falcons offense and shut the system down.  When they kicked off this game, the Falcons had averaged 33.9 points per game as a team; they managed only 15 points last week.  In the previous 9 games, the lowest offensive output for the Falcons had been 363 yards; they managed only 303 yards last week.  The Falcons only ran the ball for 48 yards in the game and were only 2 for 11 on third down situations.  The Eagles held the ball for just over 38 minutes in the game running the ball almost at will for big chunks of yardage.  Led by Ryan Matthews 109 yards and 2 TDs, the Eagles gained 207 yards on 38 carries (5.4 yards per carry).  That Eagles’ victory did not do much for the team regarding the NFC East standings because every team in that division won last week; I mentioned the Cowboys and Giants above so …

The Skins beat the Vikes last week 26-20.  The Vikes got all 20 of their points in the second quarter; other than that, the Vikes’ offense was dormant.  In the second half of the game – if my reading of the Gametracker is correct – the Vikes had the ball for 4 possessions and gained a total of 94 yards on those 4 possessions.  Were it not for the fact that the Vikes’ offense has been pathetic for the entire season, I would call that a dominating defensive performance by the Skins.  The Vikes won their first 5 games of the year and now have lost the next 4.  I am sure that has been done at some point in NFL history but I am far too lazy to go and see when it happened and/or how many times it has happened.  My sense is that it does not happen often…  The Vikes and Lions have the same 5-4 record in the NFC North and the Lions lead the division for the moment thanks to a tiebreaker.


INTERLUDE:  Kirk Cousins stat line last week was 22 for 33 for 262 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs.  For the 2016 season, Cousins had completed 66.9% of his throws; he is averaging 302 yards per game; he has thrown 14 TDs and 7 INTs; he has led 3 fourth quarter comebacks for wins in 9 games.  I mention this because Cousins is playing this year on a franchise tag contract worth $20M in round numbers.  At the end of last year, the Skins did not make him a long-term offer that suited him and put the franchise tag on him.  Reports say the Skins were unwilling to make any offer that was higher than an average of $16M per season over the life of the deal.

  • Memo To Skins’ Braintrust:  Be prepared to go FAR north of those numbers this February.

The Skins have 3 realistic options with Cousins for the years to come.  Underlying all of those options is a simple fact.  Kirk Cousins is their single – and maybe only – best option as a franchise QB for the foreseeable future.  By putting him on the $20M deal for this season the Skins have accomplished the following:

If they franchise him again exclusively, they have to offer him another 1-year deal with a 20% raise.  That means they have to pay him $24M for next year – guaranteed and counting fully toward the Skins salary cap in 2017 – the minute the ink is dry on the contract.

If they offer him a non-exclusive franchise tag, they can let Cousins’ agent seek a long-term deal elsewhere but it would cost the signing team 2 first round picks in addition to what they pay for Cousins. Since that is not a likely scenario, I will ignore it for the moment.

They can reach a long term-deal with Cousins who had great leverage here for two reasons:

If there is no good long-term offer, he can always play next year for $24M.  That is well above the poverty line…

The Skins really do not have a better option to go out and get.  On their roster, they have Colt McCoy who is an excellent back-up/stopgap and Nate Sudfeld who is a rookie QB from Indiana that people speak highly of – but he has never taken a snap in anger in the NFL.  Who are the veteran QBs that will become available this year?  Ryan Fitzpatrick and Colin Kaepernick probably lead the list; there are always the McNown brothers; if a team wanted to trade for Jay Cutler, the Bears might be happy to make such a deal.  If the idea is to draft a franchise QB, then the Skins’ scouts must have uncovered someone that I have not seen in any of the college football games I have watched this year.

Kirk Cousins is the Skins’ best option and he – and his agent – will be using this year’s $20M figure and next year’s default value of $24M as the starting points in the negotiations.  END OF INTERLUDE.


The Green Bay Packers are a team in trouble.  Last week they lost to the Titans 47-25 and it was a real beatdown not a fluke.  The Packers threw the ball 51 times in the game and surrendered 5 sacks; they were penalized 12 times for 107 yards in the game; they converted only 4 of 15 third down attempts and they gave up 5 passing TDs in the game (1 by Titans’ RB, Demarco Murray).  This was a stone-cold bedwetting by the Packers.  At the start of the game, the Packers had the #2 rushing defense in the NFL; the Titans ran for 162 yards in the game.  I understand that the Packers have had significant injuries all over their roster, but in this game, they fell behind 21-0 – and later trailed 35-10 – and seemingly just tossed in the jockstrap early in the game.

The Titans are 5-5 for the year and trail the Texans in the AFC South by only 1.5 games.  At the start of the year, the Titans’ offense was a mirage; in their first 5 games, they managed to score only 79 points; that was 15.8 points per game.  In their last 3 games, the Titans have scored 118 points; that is 39.3 points per game.  Big difference there …

The Bucs beat the Bears 36-10 and the game was not as close as it looks; the Bears’ TD came on Hail Mary with time expiring in the first half.  Other than that, this game was dominated by the Bucs.  The Bears turned the ball over 4 times in this game; that is a bad situation but it was actually worse than that; the Bears committed all 4 of those turnovers in the first half.  When you add 4 sacks given up plus 9 penalties and 2 for 11 on third downs, you can see how the Bears took gas last week.

There is a wagering angle to this game that should be mentioned here.  When I made this Mythical Pick on Thursday morning last week, the line was “pick ‘em” everywhere but 1 sportsbook that had the Bears as a 1-point favorite.  According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, the spread at kickoff time was Bears – 3.  That means there was a lot of money that came in late in the week – lines do not move when people bet tens or hundreds of dollars – and the clear majority of the late money was on the Bears – hence the line movement to entice people to take the Bucs and sort of balance the book.  Given the outcome, the books probably cleaned up on that game last week; all of that “Bears’ money” quickly turned into “house money” …

The Rams beat the Jets 9-6.  This was the totally awaited QB showdown between Case Keenum and Bryce Petty.  Neither QB let the fans down; neither one managed to exceed the truly low expectations anyone had for them.  Here are the stat lines; please do not get your hopes up:

  • Case Keenum: 17 for 30 for 165 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs
  • Bryce Petty:  19 for 32 for 163 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.

Be still my heart …

This is the second time this year that the Rams have won a game without scoring a TD; in Week 2, they beat the Seahawks 9-3.  I am sure that teams would win games without scoring a TD more frequently in the 30s and 40s than they do these days but I cannot recall that sort of thing happening any time recently.  The Jets did score a TD; it came on a hook-and-lateral style play from inside the 10 yardline.  That was their only productive possession of the game; other than the TD drive, the Jets had the ball 9 other times; they punted 8 of those times and had the clock expire for halftime on the other possession.  The Rams have scored 2 TDs in their last 3 games; the Rams’ defense is what has kept those games close.  In those 3 games the total scoring by BOTH teams is 65 points.

The Dolphins beat the Chargers 31-24.  Ryan Tannehill threw for 240 yards and 2 TDs in this game; those are not spectacular numbers but they do show that the Dolphins won this game without having to rely on Jay Ajayi to run for 200 yards and dominate the offense.  The Dolphins have now won 4 in a row and are alone in second place in the AFC East.  However, even with the Pats’ loss last week (to be discussed next), the Dolphins remain 2 full game behind the Pats.

Philip Rivers is having a good season but he threw up on his shoes in the fourth quarter last week.  Rivers threw 4 INTs IN THE 4th QUARTER alone.  Nevertheless, the score was tied with a minute to play with the Chargers in possession on the Dolphins side of the field when Rivers threw a Pick Six to LB, Kiko Alonzo.  Ball game…  The Chargers record now stands at 4-6 and they are pretty much out of the playoff picture.  Interestingly, the Chargers have to pay a visit to Cleveland on the next-to-last week of the season (Christmas Eve).  By then the Chargers will be “playing for pride” and they will be in a very “un-San Diego” weather situation.  Might that be where the Browns can find a win for the 2016 season?

The Seahawks beat the Pats 31-24.  The Seahawks won this game in the same way that the Pats won their Super Bowl confrontation – with a goal line stand in the final minute of the game.  The Pats had 4 plays from the 2 yardline and did not score.  The Seahawks also intercepted a pass in the game which is news only because it was the first INT thrown by any Pats’ QB this year; it came in the 9th game of the Pats’ season.  Russell Wilson threw for 348 yards and 3 TDs in the game and rookie RB, CJ Prosise contributed 153 yards from scrimmage in the game.  The Pats still control the AFC East; the Seahawks control the NFC West.  If that game is any indicator, I would not mind seeing a re-match come February in the Super Bowl…

The Texans beat the Jags 24-21.  This is the third highest scoring total for the Texans this year so you might think that this was some kind of offensive breakout.  No, it was not…  The Texans got one TD on a Pick Six; the Texans total passing offense was 92 yards.  Once again, the Jags scored a late TD – just over 2 minutes to go in the game – and made a 2-point conversion to make the score appear as if the game was in doubt for much of the 4th quarter.  It was not…

The Cards beat the Niners 23-20.  Form a wagering perspective, this is the first time since Week 1 when the Niners shut out the Rams that the Niners have covered against the spread.  The Cards were 13-point favorites when I did Mythical Picks on Thursday; they were 14-point favorites in Las Vegas and 14.5-point favorites at Internet wagering sites at kickoff.  The Niners covering tells me that the books cleaned up on that game as they did on the Bears/Bucs game (see above).  The story of the game was that the Cards kept turning the ball over (Niners got 4 turnovers) and the Cards just could not score once they got in the Red Zone (Cards were in Red Zone 5 times and got 2 TDs, 2 field goals and lost a fumble on the 5th visit there).

Chip Kelly’s offense relies on being able to run the football more than a little bit.  Last week, the Niners’ run offense was anemic; featured RB, Carlos Hyde ran the ball 13 times for 14 yards.  That stat is best expressed as:


38.77 inches per carry


Before getting to this week’s games, consider these three stats:


  1. The highest scoring team in the AFC is the San Diego Chargers (293 points in 10 games).  The Chargers are in last place in the AFC West.
  2. The second highest scoring team in the AFC is the Tennessee Titans (264 points in 10 games).  At the start of the season they went 5 games until they scored more than 20 points in a single game.
  3. The Vikings’ offense is dead last in the NFL in terms of yards gained per game.  That’s right; they rank below the Rams, Niners and Browns all of whom are certifiably awful on offense.


The Games:


The Broncos have the week off and might just be considering how short a leash Trevor Siemian needs to have.  If Paxton Lynch is showing anything positive in practice …

The Chargers have the week off and players might begin speculating where the team will play next year to get a jump on the real estate market wherever…

The Falcons have the week off and they need to relocate their running game and to get the front 7 on defense back to tackling opposing running backs…

The Jets get an extra week to look at the film and wonder what the hell they were thinking when they drafted Bryce Petty in the 4th round back in 2015…


(Thurs Nite) New Orleans at Carolina – 3.5 (52):  This has happened before; the NFL offers up the Dog-Breath Game of the Week on Thursday Night and gets that stink out of the way before the main presentation on Sunday.  Both teams come to the kickoff with records below .500; no other game this week can make that claim.  To its credit, this is a division game and that might add a smidgen of spark to the contest, but finding lots of nice things to say here is like digging through a mountain of horsesh*t looking for a pony.  Both teams lost horrible heartbreakers last week (see above); perhaps it will be interesting to see which team cones back from that situation better?  I doubt it.  If the Panthers lose this one, their division record will be 0-4 meaning they will not do well in any tiebreaker situations further meaning they will have to win the division to make the playoffs. The Saints are in a similar – but slightly less dire – situation.  Make this purely a venue call; I’ll take the Panthers to win and cover.


Tennessee at Indy – 3 (53):  The Titans are on a roll; they are scoring points by the barrel (see above).  The Colts’ defense is 30th in the NFL in yards per game allowed (402.8) and they are 29th in the NFL in points allowed per game (28.4).  So, I have to stop and take a look at that spread and wonder what other factor(s) I must be ignoring.  Well, the Colts had their BYE Week last week to recuperate a bit and to have some extra time to plan for this matchup and the game is in Indy where the Colts are historically much better than they are on the road.  A win for the Colts would give them a sweep over the Titans assuring the Colts the head-to-head tiebreaker if needed in January 2017.  Oh, and Andrew Luck sliced and diced the Titans’ defense for 353 yards in that encounter a month ago.  I have not talked myself into taking the Titans here but I have talked myself into subjecting this game to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol; the coin says to take the Titans plus the points.  That brings everything full circle because that is what I thought I wanted to do in the first place…


Jax at Detroit – 6.5 (47):  How nice was last weekend to the Lions?  They got to sit home and rest and watch the Vikes, Packers and Bears all lose their games putting the idle Lions in first place in the NFC North.  This week, they get to stay home and welcome the Jags who bring their 2-7 record to the kickoff.  I’ll take the Lions and lay the points here.  However, let me also say that I will not be shocked to see the Jags score a meaningless TD in the final 2 minutes to cover here.  The Jags have been known to do that more than occasionally.


Tampa at KC – 7.5 (45):  The Chiefs are hot; they are in first place in the AFC West (thanks to a tiebreaker); they have won 5 in a row; they are undefeated at home.  The Bucs had a big win last week albeit over the decrepit Bears; the Bucs need this game to maintain relevance in their division; the Bucs are better on the road (3-1) than they are at home this year (1-4).  I think this will be a low scoring game and I am tempted to take the UNDER here.  However, in that kind of game, I will choose to take the Bucs plus the generous helping of points.


Chicago at Giants – 7.5 (45.5):  Before I go any further, the Bears stink; let me get that out of the way.  Here is the issue at hand with the line on this game.  The Giants are 6-3 on the season.  They beat the Rams by 7 points; that was the Giants’ largest margin of victory for the season.  The Giants do not score points; they only average 20.2 points per game.  Yes, I know, the Bears do not score either (15.7 points per game) but I find it hard to take the Giants (better team to be sure) and to lay more than a TD’s worth of points.  Purely a hunch, I’ll take the Bears plus the points on the road.  I said at the beginning that the Bears stink so I am holding my nose as I make this pick…


Arizona at Minnesota “pick ‘em” (41):  If you consider the expectations for these teams back in August, you would have to say they are both “grossly underachieving”.  Cards’ WR, Larry Fitzgerald missed practice on Wednesday following a knee injury last week that required an MRI after the game; the team says he is “day-to-day” as if that were not the case for everyone on the planet.  The oddsmaker wants me to pick a winner here so I will take the Cards to win the game because I think they are in a much better place as a team than the Vikes are as of today.


Buffalo at Cincy – 2.5 (47):  With a record of 3-5-1, you would expect that this was a do-or-die game for the Bengals but it really isn’t.  In the AFC North, the Ravens are in the lead at 5-4 and the Ravens face a tough game this week.  The Bills would never say this out loud, but they are out of the AFC East race with 5 losses on the books already.  The Bills represent an interesting public misconception that is based on image and reputation instead of reality.  Folks think of the Bills as a “defensive team”.  Even though the Bills have a sub-.500 record this year at 4-5, they have outscored opponents this year 237-202; in their 9 games, the Bills have scored only 4 fewer points than the Pats have scored – and everyone knows the Pats are an “offensive team”.  I like this game to go OVER.


Baltimore at Dallas – 7 (45):  I think this is the Game of the Week.  After all, it pits two teams that are in sole possession of first place in their divisions against one another.  The Cowboys rush for 161 yards per game – best in the NFL.  Ravens allow 71.3 yards per game rushing – best in the NFL.  In terms of points per game allowed, the Ravens are slightly better allowing 1.2 fewer points per game.  The teams are very similar in passing yards per game.  The big difference is in scoring offense.  The Cowboys are 4th in the NFL scoring 28.7 points per game while the Ravens are tied for 24th in the league scoring 20.2 points per game.  I like the Cowboys at home to win and cover here.


Pittsburgh – 7.5 at Cleveland (47.5):  This spread opened the week at 10 points; it dropped to 9 points almost immediately and has been inching downward for the balance of the week.  People like to talk about “stability” in various sports franchises.  Here is a stat related to “stability” you should keep in mind regarding these teams:

  • Since 1969, the Steelers have had 3 head coaches.
  • Since 2013, the Browns have had 3 head coaches.

When you think of teams with big losing streaks this year, the Browns and Niners leap to mind.  Check carefully, and you will see that the Steelers have lost 4 in a row as have the Vikes.  The difference between the Steelers’ situation and the Vikes’ situation is that the Steelers get to play the JV squad this week.  I think the Steelers will blow up the Browns here; I’ll take the Steelers and lay the points even on the road.


Miami – 1 at LA (40):  This spread opened with the Rams as a 1-point favorite but that did not last long at all.  You can still find this game as a “pick ‘em” game at 2 sportsbooks this morning, but the rest of the books have the game at this number.  The Dolphins are hot; they are in second place in the AFC East and if/when one of the top AFC West teams trips up, the Dolphins are the team in a position to get right in the middle of a race for a wild card slot.  They are not a great road team (1-3 this season) but they are playing the Rams who are not a great home team (1-3 this season).  In terms of scoring defense, the teams are similar; Rams allow 19.2 points per game and Dolphins allow 22.9 points per game.  On offense, however, the Dolphins score 22.7 points per game while the Rams score only 15.7 points per game – lowest in the NFL.  I like the Dolphins to win and cover here.


New England – 13 at SF (51):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  Here we have a very good team (Pats) coming off a last-minute home loss last week traveling across 3 time zones to play an absolutely horrid team (Niners) that has been outscored by just over 10 points per game this season.  On paper, this is a nightmare game for the Niners, but it is also a relatively inconsequential game for the Pats.  It is not a division game; it is not a conference game; it is a road game; the Pats have a comfortable lead in the AFC East.  I will make this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Niners plus the points.  YOWZA!


Philly at Seattle – 6 (44):  This is not the Game of the Week but it is certainly one of the most interesting games of the week.  The Eagles’ rookie QB gets to play against the stingy Seahawks’ defense in Seattle against the “12th man”.  When Carson Wentz played the against the Vikes’ defense in Philly, he played well and the Eagles won the game; this is a game against a similarly stingy defense but in a far less cozy environment.  This game has layers of interest beyond the final score.  The Seahawks are undefeated at home; the Eagles are 1-4 on the road.  I like the Seahawks to win and cover here.


(Sun Nite) Green Bay at Washington – 2.5 (50):  I mentioned above Andy Dalton’s “inability” to win night games.  Well, apply that criterion to this game and here is what you find:


In the past 6 weeks, the Packers are 2-0 playing at night and 0-4 playing in the daytime.  That makes them a “Count Dracula Team”, right?

The Skins are more like Andy Dalton and the Bengals here.  In their last 12 night games, the Skins’ record is 2-10.


I have no feel for this game at all.  I can see ways for either team to wax the other one and have no idea which team will show up ready to be efficient and effective.  It is not as if either team is “reliable”.  I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol, and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.


(Mon Nite) Houston vs. Oakland – 5.5 (46) [Game is in Mexico City]:  This game is the obverse of the traditional argument about the irresistible force versus the immovable object.  This game pairs the worst passing offense in the NFL so far in 2016 (Texans at 187 yards per game) against a very porous pass defense, 30th in the NFL, so far in 2016 (Raiders at 283.2 yards per game).  Which team’s level of “suckitude” will prevail in this confrontation?  I like the Raiders’ offense to take charge here.  I’ll take the Raiders and lay the points in what is actually a road game for both squads.


Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times from earlier this week:

“And in the latest protest news, Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans took a knee during the national anthem Sunday, saying he’ll never stand as long as Donald Trump is president.  Monday, it was revealed he didn’t even vote, and Tuesday he said he’ll be back to standing again.

“In other words, this receiver didn’t go long.”

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