Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/13/16


Last week was a bland week for Mythical Picking.  I made 13 selections and the record for the week was 6-6-1.  That is about as exciting as a tofu on white-bread sandwich.  The season record for NFL Mythical Picks now stands at 81-50-4.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol had a less-than-successful week.  There were 2 Coin Flip Games and the record was 0-1-1.  About halfway through the NFL season, the coins’ record stands at 8-8-1.  That is about what one ought to expect from flipping a coin…

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Lions +6 against Vikes.  Lions won straight up by 6 points.
  • Cowboys -7 against Browns.  Cowboys covered easily.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Packers – 7.5 against Colts.  Colts won the game outright.
  • Broncos “pick ’em” against Raiders.  Raiders won handily.

Notwithstanding the positive season record for NFL Mythical Picks, no one should think of using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NL game this weekend involving real money.  You would have to be this stupid to do something like that:

You think pasteurize means out of sight.

General Comments:

The Miami Dolphins look to be on a roll having won 3 games in a row.  Their record now stands at 4-4 which may not look like an outstanding record, but it is sufficient to put the Dolphins in second place in the AFC East a half-game ahead of the Buffalo Bills who have now lost 3 games in a row.  If the playoffs were to start today, they would be in the playoffs as the #2 wild-card team in the AFC; their win over the Steelers a couple of weeks ago would be the tiebreaker that put them there.

In case you did not know, the last time the Dolphins were in the playoffs was all the way back in 2008.  Last week, the Dolphins beat the Jets 27-23.  The Jets are now 3-6 for the season and I know that it is not de rigueur for an NFL team to toss in the towel in November, but it is pretty much over for the Jets as of this moment.  Yes, they might win out and wind up 10-6 and sneak into the playoffs; yes, they might also plant some magic beans that grow into a beanstalk and …  What the Jets need to do is to start one of their raw rookie QBs to find out if he can even pretend to be an NFL QB somewhere down the line.  The current offensive “system” for the Jets is not working; they got into the red zone 5 times last week and scored only 1 TD; note they lost by only 4 points …

Oh, one more thing about the Jets …  It may be time for them to think about moving Darelle Revis from CB to Safety.  “Revis Island” is no longer inaccessible; someone has built a four-lane causeway out to the island.

Last week, Jay Ajayi ran for 111 yards against the Jets’ defense.  If there is any good news for the Jets in that number, it is that the Jets’ defense held Ajayi under 200 yards – a mark he surpassed in his previous 2 games.

The Bills were the other AFC East team in action last week and they lost to the Seahawks 31-25.  There were some “controversial calls” by the officials in the game and there were some totally botched calls by the official in the game.  In several of Dan Jenkins’ novels about football and the NFL, he has as characters in the books NFL referees who have bet on the games on the side and use their calls to assure that they cash their bets.  That is fiction and I doubt that any NFL official does anything close to that.  But if you wanted to make a made-for-TV-movie with that sort of thing as a plot element, there is NFL game footage from this year that can be used in the made-for-TV-movie to lend full credibility to the plot element.

The Seahawks’ OL continues to “struggle” – to put it politely.  Against the Bills the Seahawks ran the ball 12 times for 33 yards.  Their leading “rusher” was WR, Tyler Lockett who ran for 13 yards on a reverse; the second leading rusher was Russell Wilson who gained 10 yards on 3 carries.  Notwithstanding this sort of OL play, the Seahawks lead the NFC West by 2 full games as of today.

In other NFC West action, the Panthers beat the Rams 13-10. Which of these two situations obtained in this game:

  • The Panthers ‘defense got back on track and played the way they did last year
  • This was the Rams’ offense showing that it is – well – offensive.

You make the call…

Like the Seahawks, the Panthers’ OL needs to step up its game significantly.  The Rams sacked Cam Newton 5 times in this game and most of those sacks came in situations where the Panthers’ OL was overrun.

The Rams’ fans were not happy with the performance of Case Keenum at QB; after all, the Rams were still scoreless at the end of the 3rd quarter.  The fans began chanting for rookie, Jared Goff, to come into the game; after those chants went unanswered some of the fans began chanting for Tim Tebow.


Memo for Rams’ Fans:  Just be aware that both Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin are not available to enter a game at QB because they are both – – dead.


By the way, the recipe for beating the Rams now seems pretty apparent.  If you can put the squeeze on RB, Todd Gurley, and make the Rams try to beat you through the air, you stand a good chance of winning the game.  The Panthers did just that and came away with the win – in the week after Cam Newton went to talk to the Commish about him not getting calls for roughing the passer.  Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this to say about that meeting:

Cam Newton going to the NFL commissioner to plead for more protection — isn’t that odd for a guy who claims to be Superman?”

The Saints beat the Niners 41-23.  So, just how bad is the Niners’ defense?  The Saints – a team known for its dominant passing attack – ran the ball for 248 yards (Mark Ingram had 158 of those yards by himself.).  Lest you think that running game put Drew Brees on ice for the week, it did not.  Brees threw for 323 yards and 3 TDs.

The Chargers beat the Titans 45-33. Titans’ QB, Marcus Mariota, handed the Chargers 2 TDs in the game losing a fumble that turned into a Scoop-and-Score and then throwing a Pick Six.  There you have 14 points for the Chargers and the margin of victory was 12 points.  The Chargers rode RB, Melvyn Gordon’s, big day; Gordon ran for 196 yards and a TD on 32 carries.

The Raiders beat the Broncos in a nationally televised game 30-20.  Latavius Murray was dominant in this game rushing for 114 yards and a TD.  It is not often that the Broncos allow an opponent running back to gain 100 yards in a game.  On the flip side, the Raiders’ defense came to play shutting down the Broncos’ run game.  The Broncos tried to run the ball 12 times and gained a total of 33 yards.  The Raiders had the ball for 41:28 in the game.  The Raiders are in first place in the AFC West by half-a-game over the KC Chiefs.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs beat the Jags 19-14 last week.  Chiefs’ TE, Travis Kelce, was ejected from the game after getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from the official for his objection to a non-call in the end zone.  That is no big deal; every pass receiver worth his salt in the league does something like that on a weekly basis.  Kelce’s protest was a bit more melodramatic than usual and he got a flag.  What he did next was pure meatheadedness:


He reached into the pocket of his pants and took out a towel that was there and threw it at the official.  At that point the official gave Kelce a foreign language lesson by bidding him Sayonara!


The Jags outgained the Chiefs in this game 449 yards to 231 yards and they gained more than 200 yards on the ground.  Normally, those stats result in a victory; not here.  The Jags also turned the ball over 4 times leading to 13 of the Chiefs’ 19 points.  In another statistical anomaly, the Chiefs were 1 for 13 on third down – – and still won the game.

The Falcons beat the Bucs 43-28 last Thursday night to get the week off to an interesting start.  This was an entertaining game – not something that you could say about most of the Thursday Night Games that have preceded it this year.  Matt Ryan threw for 344 yards and 4 TDs while Jameis Winston threw for 261 yards and 3 TDs.

The Cowboys beat the Browns 35-10.  The Dak Prescott/Ezekiel Elliott Show carried on.  Prescott was 21 for 27 for 247 yards and 3 TDs; Elliott averaged just over 5 yards per carry and scored 2 TDs.  The Browns trailed 21-10 at the half which means that the Browns were within hailing distance of the lead.  Then in the second half the Browns amassed a total of 28 yards offense.  YIKES!

With a record standing at 0-9, the Browns are now just a bit more than halfway to a winless season.  Here is the rest of their schedule:

At Ravens (tonight):  Browns are a double-digit underdog

Vs Steelers:  Browns will be a big underdog here

Vs Giants:  Giants will be in the middle of a playoff race

BYE Week:  Browns will not lose here…

Vs Bengals:  Bengals have won the last 4 meetings

At Bills:  Bills might be vulnerable this late in the season – but it is in Buffalo

Vs Chargers:  May be a meaningless game for the Chargers.

At Steelers:  Last win for Browns at Heinz Field was in October 2003.

The Ravens beat the Steelers 21-14 to take the lead in the AFC North after the Ravens had lost 4 games in a row.  Basically, the Ravens’ defense dominated the game; a meaningless score in “garbage time” makes the game look a lot closer than it was.  Consider:

  • Steelers did not score a point in the first 3 quarters of the game
  • Steelers had a total of 68 yards offense in the first half.
  • Steelers were penalized 70, yards in the first half.
  • Steelers’ RB, LeVeon Bell was held to 32 yards on 14 carries.

The AFC North looks as if it is going to be an interesting race down to the wire on Jan 1 2017…

The Giants beat the Eagles 28-23.  Note the difference here is 5 points and realize that the Eagles eschewed 2 very makeable field goals to go for it on 4th down – unsuccessfully both times – in the game.  Eli Manning threw for 257 yards and 4 TDS to win the game in the Meadowlands.  The Giants lost WR Victor Cruz and OG Justin Pugh to injuries in that game.  If both are out for an extended period of time, that could be problematic for the Giants.

The Colts beat the Packers 31-26.  Andrew Luck played like a $100M QB in this game; the Colts went into the red zone 4 times and got 3 TDs on those ventures.  The Colts also scored a TD on a kickoff return.  After the game, Aaron Rodgers called out teammates with regard to “insufficient effort”.  That is never a good sign…  The Packers are in third place in the NFC North a game behind the Vikes and half a game behind the Lions.

The Lions beat the Vikes last week 22-16 in OT.  That is the 3rd straight loss for the Vikes whose offense continues to “sputter” – to be polite about it.    Let me be clear about something here; the Vikes were never going to ride their offense into the playoffs; if they were to get there this year, it was going to be defense and special teams that carried the day.  Well the defense was good-but-not-great here; there were special teams’ hiccoughs and the offense stunk.

  • Since their BYE Week, the Vikes offense has averaged 292 yards per game.
  • Last week, the defense allowed the Lions to get in field goal position to force OT.
  • Then the defense allowed the Lions to drive 87 yards for a winning TD in OT.
  • Place kicker, Blair Walsh missed a PAT and had a field goal blocked in the game.

The NFC North race sees the Packers on the ropes and the Vikes stalled while the Lions are en fuego.  The Lions are 5-4 and in every win, they trailed in the final 2 minutes of regulation time.  Might the Lions be a “Team of Destiny” in 2016?


The Games:


There are 4 teams on their BYE Week this week:

  • Buffalo needs to regroup; they have lost 3 games in a row.
  • Detroit gets a week off to prepare for Jax next week and then the Vikes on Thanksgiving.
  • Indy gets a week off hoping for a Houston loss on Sunday.
  • Oakland gets a week off basking in the glory of first place in the AFC West.

One more thing before I get to the games and the lines for the week…  There are a couple of games that may be important in terms of the standings and the playoffs and that sort of thing this week.  However, there are no lines that jump out at me as luscious wagering options.  Sometimes, you get a week like that.  Hi-Ho!


(Thurs Nite) Cleveland at Baltimore – 10 (45):  This spread has wandered during the week.  It opened at 9.5 points; it went up to 10 points and stayed there for a day or so; then it came down to 9 points and is sitting at 8.5 points this morning with one sportsbook quoting8 points.  The Ravens beat the Browns by 5 points in Week 2 in Cleveland.  At this moment, the Ravens lead the AFC North and the Browns are winless.  I think this will be a low scoring game so I am torn between taking the Browns plus the points or taking the game to stay UNDER.  Decision made; I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Houston – 1.5 at Jax (42):  This game was a strong contender for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week even though the Texans are in first place in the AFC South.  The Texans have yet to win a game on the road this season but the Jags are hardly fearsome at home going 1-3 in their own playpen.  Both QBs in this game have shown a propensity to turn the ball over – usually at the worst possible times.  I am going to predict that Blake Bortles will be the more egregious turnover machine here.  I’ll take the Texans to win and cover even on the road.  Here is a meaningless trend that supports the pick I just made:

  • Road team is 7-2-1 ATS in the last 10 games between these teams.


KC at Carolina – 3 (44):  The Chiefs are on a roll – and they are on the road.  The Panthers have their backs to the wall in terms of making the playoffs this year – and they are at home.  Purely a venue call here, I like the Panthers to win and cover.


Denver at New Orleans – 2.5 (49):  That line is not a typo; Denver is a road underdog here.  Last week against the Raiders, the Broncos showed that their defensive backfield injuries leave that part of the defense vulnerable and the Broncos also showed that opponents can run on their D-Line this year.  [The loss of Derek Wolfe last week to a stress fracture of the elbow will not help with run defense at all.]  The Saints are not a running team – – but last week they ran the ball really well – albeit against the Niners – so this game could hinge on the ability of the Saints to run the ball a bit in order to make Drew Brees even more difficult to defend.  The Saints’ defense is not a good unit by any means, but the Broncos’ offense with injuries at RB and no long passing game to speak of will not test that unit much.  Hunch call here; I like the Saints to win and cover.


LA at Jets – 2 (40):  This game just missed out on the label “Dog-Breath Game of the Week”.  The Rams are not interesting nor are they any good; the Jets are not interesting nor are they any good.  Imagine the excitement leading up to kickoff for this showdown between Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick.  My body is breaking out in hives just thinking about that one.  Venue call here; I’ll take the Jets at home and lay the points.


Atlanta at Philly “pick ‘em”  (50):  Let me be concise; the Falcons are the better team here and they are 4-1 on the road.  I’ll take the Falcons to win the game here.


Minnesota at Washington – 2.5 (42):  The Skins will be without Pro Bowl LT, Trent Williams for 4 games starting here.  If the Vikes DL can exploit that absence and pummel Skins’ QB, Kirk Cousins, this could be a big win for the Vikes.  The problem is that the Vikes offense is the worst in the NFL by a decent margin.  If the Vikes’ defense does not score, turning the ball over and assuring good field position may not be sufficient.  I will call this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Skins to win and cover at home.  This call by the coin flies in the face of the following trend:

  • Vikes are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 road games.

Green Bay – 3 at Tennessee (49.5):  The Titans like to run the ball; the Packers only allow 75.8 yards per game running.  The Packers might be able to show some balance on offense if they had an actual RB on the roster who was healthy enough to play.  Maybe James Starks can return there?  I like the Titans’ defense in this game and I like the fact that they are at home.  I’ll take the Titans plus the points.


Chicago at Tampa “pick ‘em” (46): Here we have the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Bears are 0-4 on the road this year; meanwhile the Bucs are 0-4 at home this year.  The oddsmaker wants me to “pick” the winner.  Even though I’d rather pick my nose, I’ll take the Bears to win the game.


Miami at San Diego – 3.5 (48.5):  Are the Dolphins for real?  They are riding a 3-game win streak and the running of Jay Ajayi to second place in the AFC East.  The Chargers are 4-5 but in the AFC West, that is nowhere near what the team record needs to be to command “relevancy”.  The Chargers’ defense is strongest against the run so this game will be very interesting.  I am calling this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Dolphins plus the points.  This time, there is a meaningless trend that agrees with the coin’s selection:

  • Dolphins are 7-3 ATS in the last 10 games between these two teams.


SF at Arizona – 13 (48):  The Cards should be able to run the ball at will against the Niners’ defense.  In their last 3 games, the Niners have lost by 18 points, 17 points and 29 points.  I hate laying double-digit points in NFL games, but the Niners lose by those margins frequently.  I’ll take the Cards and lay the points – reluctantly.


Dallas at Pittsburgh – 2.5 (49.5):  This would have been the Game of the Week had not the Sunday Night matchup been on the card.  The way to beat the Cowboys is to stop the run and force Dak Prescott to beat you when he does not have that running game to collapse the defense inside.  I do not think that the Steelers have that sort of defense.  I think Dallas has a legitimate shot to win the game outright so I’ll take them plus the points here.


(Sun Nite) Seattle at New England – 7.5 (48.5):  Here we have the Game of the Week – – and it just might be a Super Bowl foreshadowing.  We do know that these two teams met in the Super Bowl recently in the famous game where Malcom Butler intercepted a pass on the 1 yardline to preserve a win for the Pats.  I think there will be plenty of scoring in this game so I’ll take the game to go OVER.


(Mon Nite) Cincy at Giants – 1.5 (47):  Neither team can afford a loss here but the odds are that one of them will wake up Tuesday morning with another game in the loss column; remember, it is possible for the game to end in a tie  The Bengals are 1-3 on the road this year; the Giants are 3-1 at home this year.  Venue call’ I’ll take the Giants to win and cover.


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

“NFL TV ratings are down. I pondered why on Thursday night as I switched from something like the 25th televised football game of the week to a rerun of ‘Hogan’s Heroes.’”

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



Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/6/16

Last week was a mythically profitable week for NFL Mythical Picks. I made 13 selections and the record for the week was 7-5-1. The season record remains solidly in the mythically profitable zone at 75-44-3.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol did precisely what you would expect from a coin flip. There were two games delegated to the coin and the coin’s record was 1-1-0. For the year, the coin’s record stands at 8-7-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

    Saints +2.5 against Seahawks. Saints won straight up by 5 points.
    Pats – 6 against Bills. Pats won by 16; it wasn’t that close.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

    Vikes – 4.5 against Bears. Vikes lost straight up by 10 points.
    Lions/Texans OVER 45. Total score was only 33.

Here is an important reminder. No one should mistake anything written here as authoritative or insightful when it comes to wagering on NFL games this weekend or any other weekend. Notwithstanding successful results for the first 8 weeks of this NFL season, you would have to be very dumb to allow any information here be part of any decision you might make regarding any real wager on a real NFL game involving real money. Here is how dumb you would have to be:

    You probably think a waxing moon has something to do with hair removal.

General Comments:

I mentioned in a rant earlier this week that Terrell Owens declared himself “available” to the Philly Eagles as an answer to their shortcomings at the WR position. As if on cue, the Eagles’ WR corps took a hit about 36 hours after Owens’ declaration when Josh Huff was pulled over for speeding on the Walt Whitman Bridge heading to New Jersey. That traffic stop escalated quickly as officers arrested Huff on charges of:

    Driving with improperly tinted windows
    Marijuana possession
    Carrying an improperly registered handgun
    Carrying hollow point bullets – not permitted in NJ.

Huff is more of a returner for the Eagles than a WR but when pressed into action on offense that is where he plays. Earlier this year during the Eagles’ BYE Week a linebacker was arrested for carrying a loaded gun in Miami Airport causing defensive coordinator to say that if you do enough dumbass things people will label you a dumbass.

As I look at the list of charges above – and recognizing the presumption of innocence – I lean toward the conclusion that Josh Huff is a dumbass. He is not a sufficiently big dumbass nor a sufficiently important cog in the Eagles’ offensive machinery for them to consider “The T.O. Option” for even a millisecond. But I really suspect that Josh Huff is a dumbass…

In mid-week, Norv Turner resigned as the offensive coordinator of the Vikes. He said this was his decision alone; head coach Mike Zimmer said that he did not know about this until someone informed him of the move. The story is that Turner was not fired; my skepticism gene tells me that the story here does not ring true, but I will go along with it for now.

The Vikings’ offense has not been good all year long; the loss of starting QB, Teddy Bridgewater the week before the season started and the loss of RB Adrian Peterson meant that the offense was going to have some rough patches through the year. The inept play of the Vikes’ OL was probably not expected but it has been on display for much of the season to date. Let me say this clearly:

    None of those circumstances/shortcomings are the fault of Norv Turner or any other coach on the Vikes’ staff.

The offense was supposed to have Adrian Peterson as the centerpiece of an offense that would make defenses play the run thereby setting up a series of gambits in the passing game for the team to exploit. The plainly evident fact for the Vikes is that handing the ball off to a healthy Adrian Peterson is significantly different from handing the ball off to a healthy Matt Asiata. Defensive coaches on opposing teams get paid to notice that difference – and they have.

The Vikings’ running game – supposedly a foundation piece for the Vikings’ offense – has produced only 71.9 yards per game for the first 7 games. That is next-to-last in the NFL; only the Giants’ run game is less productive at 70.3 yards per game. With no serious run threat, teams have come after QB Sam Bradford. The OL – as mentioned above – has been sub-standard to be polite and Bradford is certainly not an escape artist at the QB position. That is why the Vikes have scored only 10 points in each of their last 2 games. Only defenses that are truly great – like the Steel Curtain defenses or the Ravens’ defenses in the early part of this millennium – can win games by holding opponents to single digits on a regular basis.

The Vikes’ fortunes for this year will be determined by the ability of the OL to elevate its performance level. Norv Turner was not holding the OL back nor was he in a position to make it better.

Last week, the Vikes lost on MNF to the Bears 20-10. As was the case the week before when the Vikes lost to the Eagles 21-10, a late and meaningless TD made the score look better than it really was. In this game, the lack of offensive production might cause folks to overlook the fact that the defense did not play all that well either. The Bears gained 402 yards on offense for the game including 158 yards rushing and a 50% conversion rate on third-down situations.

The Vikings have 5 wins so far. Looking at their schedule, there are plenty of winnable games ahead of them; they have a path to the playoffs if they can find a way to run the ball a bit so that they can protect Sam Bradford. That – and a solid defense – is the key to their future success.

Don’t look now but the best record in the NFC belongs to the Dallas Cowboys at 6-1. The Cowboys beat the Eagles in OT last Sunday night in a game that was worth staying up to watch. I watched the World Series game live and then went to see this game on DVR – sans commercial interruptions – until the wee hours of Monday morning. Before the game and to a small extent during the game, there mentions that Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz were establishing a rivalry that could potentially be the successor to the Tom Brady/Peyton Manning rivalry games. Let me say this about that:

    Pump the brakes just a little bit here.

    These two rookies are playing VERY well and both teams should be ecstatic about their performances. Nonetheless, we are only talking about half a season here. If such a rivalry develops, it will be very obvious. If such a rivalry is manufactured, that too will be very obvious.

The week began with a Thursday night game between the Titans and the Jags. The game was a blowout and it featured two teams that aspire to mediocrity. Some people went out of their way to criticize the NFL schedule mavens for putting this game on a national telecast and linked that “scheduling blunder” to the declining ratings for NFL games this year. Ignoring the obvious logical flaw that putting this game on national TV in Week 8 was related in any way to declining ratings in Weeks 1-7, please consider that the NFL scheduling mavens did a very smart thing putting this game where they did.

    Every team in the NFL must be on at least 1 “national telecast” every year. It is part of the league rules and the TV contracts.

    National telecasts include Thursday night, Sunday night, Monday night and late Sunday afternoon games.

    Even if the Jags and the Titans were good teams – which they are not – they would not command a large national following.

    Ergo, having the Titans/Jags play one another on a national telecast means that the TV scheduling obligation is satisfied in one game instead of two games where these teams will compete with two other opponents.

The Titans led this game 27-0 at halftime and that score reflected the state of play in the game. On his way to the locker room at halftime, Jags’ coach, Gus Bradley, said that the team needed to make adjustments and to correct mistakes. I am sure glad the sideline reporter got that information for me; I would never have guessed. In actuality, here is what the Jags needed to do at halftime:

    Find a wizard who could concoct a “Competency Potion” for everyone on the team to drink so that they could play like an actual NFL team in the second half.

    Or … would that violate the NFL’s restrictions on PEDs? Hmmm…

Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times about the Titans/Jags game being available only on NFL Network:

“This is an outrage, said absolutely nobody.”

The Bengals and the Skins played to a 27-27 tie in London last week. I said that the NFL owed the fans in the UK a decent game given the two stinkers that preceded this one for the 2016 season. The fans did get a good game here. Lots of folks in the US complained about the tie game and – since there was a tie game the week before last – some took that opportunity to cry for a change of the rules. There is a three-legged stool that needs to be adjusted here; for those who want the rule changed, I want to hear a proposal that does ALL THREE of these things while assuring a winner in every game:

    1. No extension of play. The players are exhausted after OT games and their late play shows that exhaustion. Player safety is a key issue; the NFLPA ought not to agree to anything that smacks of “play until there is a winner”. That is fine for playoff games and the Super Bowl but not for regular season games.

    2. Do not change the rules and determine a winner by something other than “football”. Soccer and hockey determine winners with penalty kicks/shots which are rare occurrences in real games. Do not turn an NFL game tied at the end of regulation time into a 50-yard field goal contest. That is the stuff of Punt, Pass and Kick not an NFL game. [Aside: That is a shortcoming of the college OT rules. In college, the kickoff and the punt are removed from the game in OT.]

    3. Be sure each team gets the ball at least once so that a coin toss does not have an inordinate weight in the outcome of the game.

I have yet to hear an idea that encompasses all three of those principles. I am sure there is such a proposal out there and when I hear it, I may then support it as a potential agenda item for the NFL Rules Committee. Until then, the current rules are just fine and tie games are not the end of Western Civilization as we know it.

I do have to comment about the final play in the Bengals/Skins game. The Skins had the ball with only a couple of seconds on the clock and only a Hail Mary pass would do anything for them; a winning field goal was out of the question unless there is a little-known provision in the rules that would have allowed a football-shooting cannon on the field. The Skins executed a sacrilegious Hail Mary pass; every Catholic praying the rosary at the time felt a twinge in the shoulder as that pass was in the air. It had two major deficiencies:

    1. It only reached the 15-yardline.

    2. It was 3 yards out of bounds when it got to the 15-yardline.

The Raiders beat the Bucs 30-24 in a third OT game last week. David Carr threw for 513 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs in the game. Looking at those stats one might wonder how the Raiders only managed to score 30 points and keep the game close. Here is the answer:

    The Raiders set an NFL record by having 23 penalties enforced against them in the game for a total of 200 yards.

    Actually, the Raiders committed 27 penalties in the game but three were declined and the fourth was an “offsetting penalties” situation.

Let me put that record of 23 penalties in perspective here. Three times in NFL history, a team has committed 22 penalties in a game. One was a Niners/Bills game in 1998. The other two games both took place in 1944 (Brooklyn/Green Bay in September 1944 and Chicago/Philly in October 1944). That record has been there for a LONG time.

Also, consider:

    Two teams in NFL history committed fewer than 23 penalties for an entire season.

    Granted, these were both “only” 12-game seasons but the 1937 Detroit Lions only committed 19 penalties in those 12 games and the 1935 Boston Skins only committed 21 penalties in 12 games.

The Panthers beat the Cards 30-20. On the Cards’ first possession, the officials ruled that Carson Palmer fumbled a ball that was picked up by the Panthers and returned for a TD. Looking at the replay, it sure looked to me as if that was an incomplete pass but the officials let the call stand. At that moment, the air went out of the Cards’ balloon; they trailed 24-0 in the second half; they tried to rally but it was way too little and way too late. Carson Palmer was sacked 8 times in the game.

The Saints beat the Seahawks 25-20. The Seahawks ran for only 74 yards in this game and the Saints had been giving up 117 yards per game at kick off time. The Seahawks share a “problem” with the Vikes as mentioned above. Both offensive lines are playing poorly and it shows. Like the Vikes’ the Seahawks have an excellent defense and rely on it to win games. Last week Drew Brees sliced and diced the Seahawks’ defense and the Saints scored on 6 consecutive possessions.

The Texans beat the Lions 20-13. The Lions held the Texans to only 269 yards on offense and that usually indicates that the Lions should win the game. However, last week, the Lions’ offense slept through the alarm and never got the hotel wake-up call. Brock Osweiler led the Texans to a win with a ho-hum stat line – – 20 for 29 for 186 yards and 1 TD. The Texans are 5-0 at home and 0-3 on the road so far this year.

The Chiefs beat the Colts 30-14. When Alex Smith had to leave the game with what may or may not have been a concussion, the Chiefs turned to Nick Foles. By the way, Chiefs’ RB, Spencer Ware, also left the game with a concussion. The Colts’ less-than-mediocre defense proved no problem for the backup QB; Foles threw for 223 yards and 2 TDs while completing 73% of his passes. Colts’ QB, Andrew Luck, was sacked 6 times in the game and spent a lot of time on other plays running for his life. Luck has been sacked 31 times in 8 games this year.

The Pats beat the Bills 41-25. Once again a late and meaningless TD made this game appear closer than it was. Tom Brady had a ho-hum game – – for Tom Brady that is. He threw for 315 yards and 4 TDs; just another day at the office. The Bills played without LeSean McCoy and that hampered their run game significantly. However, that problem does not explain the simple fact that the Bills’ DBs could not cover the Pats’ WRs all day long. In terms of offensive efficiency, consider this:

    The Pats have not thrown an INT for the year to date (7 games)

    I did not say Tom Brady has not thrown an INT; I said that the team – they have played 3 QBs this year – has not thrown an INT so far.

At one point in the game, a fan threw a dildo onto the field. The camera immediately focused elsewhere as the “offending member” was removed from view. LeGarrette Blount explained the removal process after the game:

“They got that thing kicked off the field quick. Nobody was touching that. You don’t know where that’s been.”

I have a question about this incident. The NFL has a search policy and requires fans to have things in clear plastic bags for a thorough inspection as fans enter the stadium. So, how did this “foreign object” get past the eagle-eyes on inspection watch? Perhaps LeGarrette Blount was correct in his assessment that you don’t know where it had been …

The Jets beat the Browns 31-28 and looking at the Browns’ schedule from here on out it may be time to consider that the Browns may not win a game this year. The Browns led in the second half but allowed the Jets to score on their first 3 possessions of the second half to seal the defeat. Compare these two halves of play for Ryan Fitzpatrick:

    1st half: 3 for 14 for 30 yards

    2nd half: 13 for 20 for 198 yards

I mentioned the Browns’ schedule for the rest of the year; here it is:

    Vs. Cowboys this week. Solid underdog at home
    At Ravens. Thurs Nite – the Browns’ turn on national TV. Best shot at a win.
    Vs. Steelers.
    Vs. Giants.
    BYE Week
    Vs. Bengals. Third home game in a row home for about a month.
    At Bills.
    Vs. Chargers.
    At Steelers.

The Browns will be underdogs in all of these games; if they win a game it will be an upset.

The Falcons beat the Packers 33-32. The Packers played without Clay Matthews on defense and without enough players on offense to play a basketball game. To give you an idea of the Packers’ offensive problems, Aaron Rodgers was the leading rusher for the team in this game. The fact that the Packers could score 32 points here is an indictment of the Falcons’ defense. Matt Ryan had a great day – 28 for 35 for 288 yards and 3 TDs.

The Broncos beat the Chargers 27-19. Melvyn Gordon had a solid game (111 yards on 23 carries) but in the 4th quarter when the Chargers had the ball on the Broncos’ 2-yardline trailing 27-19, the Chargers did not give him the ball even one time and turned the ball over on downs. I am sure there is a reason for that but I doubt it is a good reason. The stat sheet says that Philip Rivers threw 3 INTs; in fact, two of the three were tipped by Chargers receivers into the hands of a defender.

The Games:

There are six teams on a Bye Week:

    Arizona could fall behind LA if the Rams win this week.

    Chicago can bask in the glory of its win over Minnesota last week.

    Cincy can readjust it body clock to Eastern Time after a London visit.

    Houston will still lead the AFC South next week.

    New England can get some R&R with a comfortable lead in the AFC East

    Washington will figure out what to do without Trent Williams for 4 games.

(Thurs Nite) Atlanta – 3.5 at Tampa (51): In the game against the Packers last week, All-World WR, Julio Jones suffered an ankle injury. I understand the “next man up” mentality of NFL teams, but the Falcons do not have anyone who will stand up and even offer a reasonable facsimile of Julio Jones if he cannot play at anything close to his normal level. The Bucs are 0-3 at home this year and 3-1 on the road this year. I like the Falcons here to win and cover.

Jax at KC – 7 (44): I was ever so wrong about the Jags prospects coming into this season. I have seen parts of their games this year and then saw them stink out the joint against the Titans last week. That team is a mess and will have trouble against a solid KC defense. The Chiefs are undefeated at home this year. Here are a couple of trends that are headed in opposite directions:

    Jags are 9-1-1 to go OVER in their last 11 games in Week 9
    Chiefs are 8-2 to go UNDER in their last 10 games on grass.

    This is Week 9 and this game is on grass.

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

Detroit at Minnesota – 6 (41): The Lions have the 12th ranked defense in the NFC; it is not a great unit despite its showing last week (see above). However, the Vikes’ offense is sputtering for the reasons outlined above; in the NFC, only the Niners put up less total offense per game than the Vikes. Matthew Stafford and his Lions’ offensive buddies laid a giant egg last week and ought to do better this week even though they are up against a better defense here. The Vikes have shown that their new home field provides them a nice home-field advantage and the Lions are generally not a great road team. However, purely on a hunch, I’ll take the Lions with the points here.

Philly at Giants – 2.5 (43): Very simple here … I think this will be a low scoring game and I prefer to take points in low scoring games. Ergo, I’ll take the Eagles plus the points here.

Dallas – 7 at Cleveland (48.5): The Cowboys have the best record in the NFC and have won 6 games in a row – the longest extant win streak in the NFL. I do not believe the Browns can keep the Cowboys’ running game in check and that makes the Cowboys’ passing attack all the better. I like the Cowboys to win and cover even on the road. There are two trends that give me a warm feeling about that Mythical Pick:

    Cowboys are 12-2 against the spread (ATS) in their last 14 games on grass.
    Browns are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games on grass.

    This game is on grass.

Jets at Miami – 4 (44): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. If the Jets’ defense can keep Jay Ajayi from running wild this week, that will force the Dolphins to put the ball in Ryan Tannehill’s hands. That would be a successful outcome for the Jets’ defense. On the other side of the ball, the Jets had a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance on offense last week against the Browns. If the offense plays as poorly as it played for half the game last week, the Jets are toast; if the offense plays as efficiently as did for half the game last week, the Jets will be OK. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol game and the coin says to take the Jets plus the points. Why not? Remember, these are mythical picks …

Pittsburgh at Baltimore – 2.5 (43.5): The Ravens had last week off. Presumably they sent out a search party to try and find a running game. The Steelers also had last week off. What they need most to find is a way for Ben Roethlisberger’s knee to heal very quickly in order to minimize the number of games they have to play with Landry Jones at QB. The Ravens have lost 4 games in a row’ but with a win here, they will be tied for first in the AFC North. The Ravens and Steelers usually play close games; the Ravens have only played close games this season with every one being decided by a margin of a single score. I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Steelers plus the points.

New Orleans – 3.5 at SF (52): The Niners had last week off but somehow I doubt they were able to teach either Blaine Gabbert of Colin Kaepernick how to play QB in that period of time. The Saints have won 2 of their last 3 games against the Panthers, Chiefs and Seahawks. This is a much softer opponent. These are the two worst defensive units in the NFC. However, the main separation is on the offensive side of the ball. The Saints gain 415 yards per game; the Niners gain 290 yards per game. The Saints are not a good road team or a good outdoors team but they have the advantage here. I’ll take the Saints and lay the points. History is on my side here over the last decade or so:

    Saints are 9-4-1 ATS in their last 14 games on Week 9
    Niners are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games on Week 9.

Carolina – 3 at LA (45.5): I see this game as a defensive/field position game. The Panthers have not own on the road yet this year but the Rams are a meager 1-2 at home. I like this game to stay UNDER.

Indy at Green Bay – 7.5 (54): The Packers need a decent RB desperately. Two weeks ago, they traded to acquire Knile Davis from the Chiefs. After a week, the Packers cut Davis.

    [Aside: The Jets, who also need a RB, then signed Davis this week and reportedly cut him only hours after the signing. Strange business here …]

Somehow, the Packers scored 32 points last week with the offense resembling a M*A*S*H unit. If they do that again, they will win this game easily. I like the Packers to win and cover at home.

Tennessee at San Diego – 4 (47): This will be an interesting matchup. The Titans live to run the ball with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Meanwhile the Chargers defense only allows 86 yards per game rushing – one of only 4 teams in the AFC to allow fewer than 100 yards per game. Tennessee also has a stout run defense so this game will probably be decided in the passing game. That being the case, I have to side with Philip Rivers over Marcus Mariota. I’ll take the Chargers and lay the points.

(Sun Nite) Denver at Oakland “pick ‘em” (44): The spread opened the week with the Broncos as a 2.5-point favorite but has been at this level for the last couple of days. This is probably the Game of the Week; the winner will be in first place in the AFC West by a game and will hold – for now – the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Raiders spent 10 days in Florida choosing not to fly there on consecutive weeks to play the Jags and the Bucs. The Raiders are back home – – but that is where both of their losses for the year happened. I think the Broncos’ offense gets well against a not-good-at-all Raiders’ defense this week. I’ll take the Broncos to win this game.

(Mon Nite) Buffalo at Seattle – 7 (44): The schedule mavens did the Bills no favors here. Last week they had to fact the Pats in a “revenge game” for the Pats. This week, they take a long flight to Seattle to take on a Seahawks team that needs this game to maintain some distance atop the NFC West after a loss to the Saints last week. The Bills list LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee as “questionable” for this game; it neither can go, that leaves the running game up to Reggie Bush and Jonathan Williams. That won’t cut it against a Seahawks defense that ranks 6th in the NFL in yards allowed per game and has allowed on 109 points in 7 games this year. I’ll take the Seahawks at home and lay the points.

Finally, I know that it is early to do Christmas shopping but Dwight Perry ran across this item and wrote about it in the Seattle Times. Just in case you are looking for shopping ideas …

“Stumped to find a holiday gift for that hard-to-please football fanatic?

“Neiman Marcus is offering a one-day QB clinic for four with 49ers Hall of Famer Joe Montana. They’ll even throw in an autographed football and have your picture taken with him.

“And it’s all yours — for just $65,000.”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 10/30/16

For the second week in a row, I can say it was a great week of Mythical Picking for NFL games. I made 15 selections and the record for the week was 11-4-0. That stretches the season record to 68-39-2.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol was also on fire last week. I flipped the coins three times and the record was 3-0-0. That means that the coins are 7-6-0 for the season which is pretty much what you should expect from coin flipping.

The Best Picks of the week were:

    Chargers +6.5 against Falcons. Chargers won outright.
    Eagles +3 against Vikes. Eagles won by 11 points.

The Worst Picks of the week were:

    Packers/Bears OVER 45.5. Total score was 36 points.
    Titans -3 against Colts. Colts won straight up.

As they say in the ads for mutual funds and financial advisors, past performance is not guarantee of future performance. Therefore, notwithstanding two consecutive weeks of profitable picking, no one should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this weekend. Here is how stupid you would need to be to do something like that:

    You think resisting arrest means refusing to take a nap.

General Comments:

Don’t look now, but there is only one NFL Division where all four teams carry winning records as of this week. That would be:

    The NFC East.

This division was a joke last year; none of the teams were good; two of the teams were less than mediocre; two coaches lost jobs there. As of this morning, the team in last place would be the NY Giants with a 4-3 record.

The Bears and Packers opened last week’s games on Thursday night with a snooze-fest that ended 26-10 in favor of the Packers. Brian Hoyer broke his arm and Matt Barkley had to play QB for the Bears for more than half the game. He threw for 81 yards and 2 INTs. Meanwhile, the Packers had to play various WRs at RB because the only healthy one they had was a guy they got in a trade about 48 hours before game time.

The Giants beat the Rams 17-10 in London. This too was an unexciting event. If you woke up early just to see the game and came away happy, I have to think one of these two things apply:

    You are a lifelong NY Giants fan
    You bet the UNDER in the game.

The winning offense here saw Eli Manning throw for 196 yards in the game; also, the Giants’ leading rusher, Rashad Jennings, carried the ball 13 times for 25 yards. The losing offense was the result of a game plan that had Case Keenum drop back and throw the ball 53 times even though the Rams were never in “catch-up mode”. The people on the Rams’ offensive coaching staff who came up with that idea need to be demoted – now. And it is not as if Keenum was having a hot day; he threw 4 INTs in the game.

I mentioned Rashad Jennings’ meager rushing output above. It was not nearly the worst rushing performance of the day. That would come in the Ravens/Jets game – – won by the Jets 24-16. Ravens’ RB, Terrence West was the leading rusher for the Ravens; he carried the ball 8 times for a total of 10 yards. Indeed, he was the leading rusher for the Ravens because while he gained only 10 yards on the ground, the Ravens total rushing offense as a team was only 6 yards; everyone else ran for a combined minus-4 yards. The Ravens get this week off to figure out how to correct that. Also, please recall that the Ravens fired their offensive coordinator, Marc Tressman, and several people said it was because Tressman was too “pass-happy”. Maybe there was a reason he was “pass-happy”.

The Ravens led in this game 10-0 but they were shut out in the second half. After the BYE Week, they return to action against the Steelers, Browns, Cowboys and Bengals in that order. If they do not get things right, they could flush their season in those next 4 games.

Geno Smith did indeed start the game for the Jets and the stat sheet says he threw a long TD pass in the first half. Actually, he threw a short hook pass over the middle and the receiver avoided one tackle and then outran the defense for the rest of the play. That was Smith’s highlight for the day; soon after that he injured his knee and it turns out to be an ACL injury that will probably require surgery and the end to Smith’s season. He is a free-agent at the end of this year; my guess is that his agent will be making more calls on Smith’s behalf than he will be taking…

I mentioned last week that the Jets were right to start Geno Smith to see what they had on their roster in terms of quarterbacks for the future. Well, that issue continues to confront the Jets’ braintrust. I have no idea how either of their completely untested QBs looks in practice, but if neither sees the field this year, you can conclude that they are both as green as the Jets’ jerseys.

Speaking of a team with QB “issues”, the Niners lost badly again last week – – this time to the Bucs 34-17. The Niners led 14-0 in this game and then watched the Bucs score 27 points in a row. Colin Kaepernick has not done anything in his two starts that would lead anyone to conclude that he is any better than Blaine Gabbert was in this offensive system – – and Blaine Gabbert was simply bad. The “other QB” on the Niners’ roster is Christian Ponder; that is like taking the bridge to nowhere…

Having said all of that, the Niners’ problem is not their poor QB play – notwithstanding the fact that I am being kind in calling it merely “poor”. The Niners’ defense is a disaster. Consider:

    The Bucs gained 513 yards of offense last week.
    The Bucs ran for 249 yards last week
    The Bills ran for 313 yards two weeks ago

    The Niners give up an astounding 185.3 yards per game rushing
    The next worst rush defense so far this year gives up “only” 139.9 ypg.

    The Niners are giving up just over 31 points per game
    The Niners have given up 33+ points in 5 of their 7 games this year.

The Niners’ defense is putrid; interestingly, their “partners” in the Bay Area – the Raiders – have a defense that gives up even more yardage. The Niners yield 407.6 yards per game; the Raiders give up 430.4 yards per game. Are they conducting an informal “Race to the Bottom” in Northern California this year?

The Raiders won last week – easily – over the Jags by a score of 33-16. It may not have been that close. Jags’ QB, Blake Bortles threw 2 more INTs in this game and one of them was a pass intercepted in the end-zone when he threw into TRIPLE coverage. That may have been the worst decision made by any human since Shelley Long decided to leave Cheers.

Some are calling for Bortles to be benched. Here is the problem with that idea at this moment:

    Jags have a short week; they play Thursday Night this week.
    Jags’ backup is Chad Henne.
    “Bad Blake” Bortles is not that different from Chad Henne.

From the “When it rains it pours” file:

    Jags force a punt with a 4th and 24 situation.

    There is a bad snap from center so things are really looking up for the Jags

    Raiders’ punter retrieves the ball and runs for 29 yards and a first down.

Not only was the outcome of this game decided by halftime, it was a sloppy game. A total of 24 penalties were enforced in the game. To give you some perspective, the Jags were penalized for a total of 112 yards; the Jags gained a total of 105 yards rushing for the game.

The Raiders have 4 road games after long trips. They have won in Tennessee, New Orleans, Jax and Baltimore. They are staying in Florida this week to prepare to play the Bucs rather than taking two transcontinental flights before kickoff. We will see how that works out…

The Chiefs beat the Saints 27-21. Drew Brees was 37 for 48 for 367 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT – which turned into a Pick Six. That was fine and dandy; but, as usual, the Saints defense was a no-show. Alex Smith was a workmanlike 17 for 24 for 214 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs and Spencer Ware ran for 77 yards on 17 carries – – and he added another 54 yards plus a TD receiving. When the Saints looked as if they came to play, that seems to be the time when penalties hit the team; the Saints were penalized 10 times in the game and all of them were harmful.

The Chargers rallied in Atlanta to beat the Falcons in OT 33-30. The Falcons have lost 2 in a row and the Chargers have won 2 in a row. I said that the Chargers rallied in this game; they were down 17 points in the first half and were still down 10 points with about 7 minutes to play in regulation time. RB, Melvyn Gordon had a very good day carrying the ball for 68 yards and catching the ball for an additional 58 yards while he scored 3 TDs. Falcons’ coach Dan Quinn made a controversial decision in OT. With 4th and 1 at his own 45, he chose to go for it – and the Falcons did not make it. That set up the Chargers with a very short field to be in position to hit the winning field goal.

Quinn was in a “damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t” situation there. Had he punted and watched the defense allow the Chargers to score a winning field goal, there would have been cries that he should have been more aggressive. He took a chance and he missed. Sometimes, it just is not your day …

The Colts beat the Titans 34-26. The Colts built an 11-point lead in the 2nd quarter; then the Colts’ defense went to sleep and the Titans led by 3 with 6 minutes to go in the game. Fortunately, Andrew Luck was not asleep; he drove the Colts to a go-ahead TD which must have produced enough noise to wake up the defense because they got a Scoop-and-Score for an insurance TD immediately after and put the game on ice.

The Bengals beat the Browns 31-17. The Browns lost Cody Kessler to a concussion early in the game and Kevin Hogan – rookie from Stanford – came in to play QB. He played about the way you would expect a rookie who has not been taking many practice snaps to play. He threw for 100 yards and he threw 2 INTs. He did score a rushing TD and led the Browns in rushing (104 yards and 1 TD). Rookie QBs who run like that often do not evolve to be seasoned veteran QBs because rookie QBs who run like that often become injury victims.

The Lions beat the Skins 20-17 last week. With about a minute to play in the game, Kirk Cousins ran the read option, kept the ball and ran for a TD from 19 yards out. That put the Skins up 17-13 and all the Skins’ defense had to do was to keep the Lions out of the end zone for the final 1 minute and 5 seconds. Matthew Stafford drove the field – including a long scramble for a first down and finally hit Anquan Boldin for an 18-yard TD with 16 seconds on the clock. The final drive was 75 yards in 49 seconds; not a good showing by the Skins’ defense.

The Dolphins beat the Bills 28-25. That makes two wins in a row for the Dolphins as home underdogs; they beat the Steelers in Miami two weeks ago. Jay Ajayi ran for 200+ yards in a second consecutive game; only 4 RBs since the merger have done that and it is an impressive list:

    OJ Simpson
    Earl Campbell
    Ricky Williams

For a RB that was picked in the 5th round of the draft out of Boise St., that is a nice list to be on … LeSean McCoy had to leave the game in the second half due to a hamstring strain and that left the offense in the hands of Tyrod Taylor without a top-shelf run threat.

The Pats beat the Steelers 27-16. The biggest surprise for me was that Landry Jones did not stink out the joint. The Pats controlled most of the game but the potential for a major blowout never materialized.

The Broncos beat the Texans 27-9. This was a total domination by the Broncos’ defense. They only recorded 1 sack on Texans’’ QB, Brock Osweiler, but that is not the stat that tells the tale. Here is Osweiler’s stat line:

    22 for 41 for 131 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs

    That is 3.2 yards per pass attempt!

Meanwhile, CJ Anderson and Devontae Booker combined for 190 yards on the ground and each of them scored a TD.

I began this compilation of comments on last week’s games by citing the Bears/Packers and the Giants/Rams games as boring events. As a bookend, there are two other games from last weekend that could be categorized as sloppy/bad/off-putting – – or they could be praised as defensive gems. You can take your pick; I like defense…

The Eagles beat the previously unbeaten Vikes 21-10. A late TD by the Vikes in the final minute of the game makes the score look closer than it was. The Vikes had not thrown an INT in the first 5 games of the year and had only lost 1 fumble; last week they turned the ball over 4 times. Not to worry, though; the Eagles also turned the ball over 4 times. In fact, there were 5 turnovers by the two teams in the first quarter of the game. Some of that is sloppy football; some of that was very good defense. The Eagles’ front seven dominated the Vikes’ OL for most of the day; the Vikes only averaged 3.8 yards per offensive play. After the Vikes kicked a field goal to open the scoring, the Eagles returned the ensuing kickoff for a TD and never trailed after that.

In the Sunday night game, the Cards and the Seahawks played to a 6-6 tie after a fifth quarter of OT; it is the lowest scoring OT game in NFL history. Both teams saw their kickers miss easy field goals that would have won the game. The miss by the Seahawks’ kicker was so far left that even Elizabeth Warren criticized it. Because of the 8 turnovers in the Eagles/Vikes game, some might say the game was dominated by bad offense; in the Cards/Seahawks game, neither team turned the ball over even once in five quarters.

The Cards had the ball 18 minutes longer than the Seahawks in the game and ran up 186 more yards on offense; but when the Seahawks needed a big defensive stop, they got it. Neither team’s offensive line distinguished itself in this game.

The Seahawks now sit comfortably atop the NFC West with a 4-1-1 record; the Cards are in second place at 3-3-1. Both teams have identical division and conference records so the rematch between these squads in Seattle on Christmas Eve should have great bearing on which team will be the division champions.

The Games:

Six teams have this week off:

    Baltimore will try to find its offense – particularly its running game.

    LA will continue to play Where’s Waldo/ Where’s Jared Goff?

    Miami will give Jay Ajayi a well-deserved break.

    NY Giants will join Baltimore in looking for its running game.

    Pittsburgh will light candles in church for Ben Roethlisberger’ knee.

    SF will stink in silence.

(Thurs Nite) Jax at Tennessee – 3 (43.5): No suspense this week. The first game on the card is indeed the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. I have little to no interest here so I’ll turn this over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says take the Titans to win and cover at home. Who cares?

(Sun Morning) Washington vs. Cincy – 2.5 (47.5) [Game played in London]: The suits at the NFL have got to be hoping that these two teams put on a good show on Sunday. The first two of this year’s “London Games” were Jags/Colts (a brutally bad game) followed by the Giants/Rams last week (a snooze-o-rama). If the league is to continue to play to enthusiastic sell-out crowds there, they need to put on a decent game to watch at least once in a while… Both teams need a win here; the Bengals are one game behind the Steelers in the AFC North; the Skins have 2 more losses than the Cowboys in the NFC East. The Skins have 3 starting players who are dealing with injuries/concussion protocols; if none of them can play, the Skins will have a tough time matching up with the Bengals. In any event, these three Skins’ starters should not be at peak efficiency, so I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points.

Green Bay at Atlanta – 3 (52): This was a contender for Game of the Week but did not make the final cut. The Falcons started off as world-beaters and have now lost 2 in a row; the Packers have been up and down all season long. The Packers trail the Vikes by a game in the NFC North while the Falcons are a half-game ahead of the Bucs in the NFC South. Each team can use a win; neither will see their season go up in flames with a loss. If you are a trend bettor, decipher these:

    Packers are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 road games.
    Falcons are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 home games.

    Packers are on the road; Falcons are at home…

Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Falcons and lay the points.

Detroit at Houston – 2.5 (45): I am not a fan of the Lions on the road as a favorite. I am not a fan of the Texans’ offense. Coin Flip time !! The coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Seattle – 2.5 at New Orleans (48): The spread here opened at 3.5 points. Sportsbooks really do not like to take spreads across 3 points or 7 points because those are common margins of victory – – and that allows bettors to set up a middle which can drain the books’ profits. In this case, they took the spread across the 3-point mark very quickly meaning to me that a lot of the money went originally to the Saints at +3.5 points. Don’t look now; but if the Saints win here and the Falcons lose to the Packers (could happen) and the Bucs lose to the Raiders (could happen) all three teams would have 4 losses in the NFC South. I do not like the Saints’ defense even a little bit; in the NFC, only the Niners’ defense is worse. However, I am not in awe of the Seahawks’ offense either so I do not like the Seahawks in a shoot-out. Make this a venue call again; I’ll take the Saints plus the points.

New England – 6 at Buffalo (46.5): This is not the Game of the Week – – but it is the Revenge Game of the Week. The Bills beat the Pats in Foxboro a few weeks ago just before Tom Brady came back from suspension. I doubt that anyone would need to be convinced that Tom Brady at QB is significantly different from Jacoby Brisset at QB and that is the situation at hand here. Here is a particularly meaningless trend for this game:

    UNDER is 9-3 in Buffalo in the last 12 games in Week 8.

I’ll take the Pats and lay the points even on the road.

Jets – 3 at Cleveland (43): This spread opened at 4.5 points and has been moving steadily down all week long. The winless Browns might not be this short as an underdog again this year; as I look at their upcoming schedule, I am virtually certain they will never be favored in a game for the rest of the season. I agree with the oddsmakers here; this will be a low-scoring game so I will revert to my preference in such games and take the Browns plus the points. I do wish I had written these picks when the line was still at 4.5 points but there is no looking back…

Oakland at Tampa – 1.5 (49): The Raiders and the Broncos are tied for the lead in the AFC West and those two teams will meet next week for the first time. This game is important to the Raiders. The Bucs are “in the mix” in the NFC South simply because the Falcons have lost two in a row and because the Panthers have already lost 5 games. This game is important to the Bucs too. The Bucs’ offense should have a good showing against the porous – and that is a generous adjective here – defense put out by the Raiders. On the flip side, it is not clear how the Bucs will deal with a pair of wideouts of the caliber of Crabtree and Cooper at the same time. I think Oakland has at least an even chance to win outright, so I’ll take the Raiders plus the points.

KC – 2.5 at Indy (50.5): I like the Chiefs run offense against the Colts run defense here and I am confident that the Chiefs overall defense is better than the Colts’ defense. Andrew Luck will be the better QB on the field, but I think Alex Smith will be more than adequate against the Colts’ defense. I’ll take the Chiefs to win and cover here.

San Diego at Denver – 5.5 (45.5): This is not the Game of the Week nor is it the Revenge Game of the Week – – but it is a revenge game. The Chargers beat the Broncos two weeks ago in San Diego. The Broncos will be without CJ Anderson here putting the onus for the run game in the lap of rookie Devontae Booker. The Broncos are only giving up 175 yards per game passing so far this year; I doubt they will hold Philip Rivers to that number. The Chargers have held opponents to 90.1 yards per game rushing; with CJ Anderson on the shelf, they might do that here. Check out these contradictory trends for this game:

    Chargers are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 games on grass
    Broncos are 6-2-1 ATS in their last 9 games on grass

    This game is on grass …

Purely a hunch, I’ll take the Chargers plus the points here.

Arizona at Carolina – 2.5 (47): These teams met in the NFC Championship Game last year on this field and the Panthers won in a laugher. Both teams have failed to perform in 2016 to the standard they set for themselves in 2015. The Panthers’ record is a dismal 1-5; yet, they are favorites here because the Cards no longer score points by the bushel; in fact, the Panthers have scored more points in 6 games than the Cards have scored in 7 games. The Panthers had last week off to figure out how to get back on a more positive heading for the rest of 2016; they should realize that a playoff berth means they need to go 9-1 for the rest of this year. With that realization, they do not want to “spend” that 1 remaining loss here. I’ll take the Panthers – in their desperation mode – to win and cover here.

(Sun Nite) Philly at Dallas – 4 (43): This is the Game of the Week; it has great significance to the standings in the NFC East; it has the great storyline involving rookie Carson Wentz vis a vis the two rookie sensations, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Here is the nub for the game:

    If the Eagles’ defense can keep Elliott from running wild, they are opportunistic enough on defense to force turnovers and that could win the game for the Eagles.

I do not think that is going to happen. I’ll take the Cowboys and lay the points here.

(Mon Nite) Minnesota – 4.5 at Chicago (40.5): The spread here opened at 6 points and dropped to this level quickly. Jay Cutler will be back at QB for the Bears after several weeks off with an injured thumb in his throwing hand. Jay Cutler may not be a likeable person and he is certainly not a “cerebral QB” by any stretch of the imagination. Having said all of that, he is a huge step up from Matt Barkley at QB. [Aside: I wonder if Charles Barkley would be a step up from Matt Barkley at QB. Hmm…] I think folks are over-reacting to the Vikes’ loss to the Eagles last week. They only gave up 21 points and 8 of them came on a kickoff return plus a 2-point conversion. The Vikes’ defense forced 4 turnovers. Yes, the Vikes lost last week and were not really in the game for all of the second half, but that is because the Eagles’ defense forced turnovers from the Vikes’ offense. That should not happen again here. I like the Vikes to win and cover here.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 10/23/16

To appropriate the Dan Patrick/Keith Olbermann line from SportsCenter many years ago, last week’s NFL Mythical Picks were en fuego. I made 16 picks; the record for the week was 12-3-1. That brings the season record for NFL Mythical Picks to 57-35-2.

I was not assisted in the least last week by the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin went 0-2-0 dropping the coin below the 50% mark for the season at 4-6-0.

The Best Picks of the week were:

    Dolphins +8.5 against Steelers. Dolphins won outright by 15 points.
    Cowboys +4 against Packers. Cowboys won outright by 14 points.

The Worst Picks of the week were:

    Jags/Bears OVER 46.5. Total Score was 33 points.
    Panthers/Saints UNDER 53. Total Score was 79 points.

Notwithstanding the success from last week, no one should take anything written here as sufficiently insightful or authoritative as to be worthy of being the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do that:

    You think jumping to conclusions and pushing your luck is a great aerobic workout.

General Comments:

Last week was not a good week to be a fan of AFC North teams. Every one of them lost and two of the four teams – Steelers and Bengals – lost by 2 TDs or more. The division as a whole has a losing record and for those fans who say that the feckless Cleveland Browns are the reason for that bad division record, take a look at the standings. The Bengals, Ravens and Steelers are a combined 9-9 for the season.

The Steelers got some really bad news last Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger had to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus in his knee. Reports say he will be out 4-6 weeks. That seems like an awfully short rehab period based on what I have seen after various friends of mine underwent the same sort of surgery. Then again, those friends are not in their 30s and are not professional athletes…

In any event, even if Roethlisberger can be back to play at something near his normal level of proficiency in 4 weeks, that will leave the Steelers to face this schedule with Landry Jones and/or Zach Mettenberger at the wheel:

    Oct 23: Patriots in Pittsburgh
    Oct 30: BYE Week
    Nov 6: Ravens at Baltimore
    Nov 13: Cowboys in Pittsburgh

Remember, that assumes Roethlisberger is back at the early end of the estimate …

Another team with a “Quarterback Situation” – a team that seems always to have a “Quarterback Situation” – is the NY Jets. Just after last week’s embarrassing loss to the Cards, coach Todd Bowles said that Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the starter this week even though he had been pulled from the game in favor of Geno Smith in the late stages of that debacle. About 24 hours later he waffled on that statement and less than 48 hours later, the word is that Geno Smith will be the QB for the Jets this weekend at home against the Ravens.

Let me say 2 things about that change of heart with regard to the Jets’ “Quarterback Situation”:

    1. This is not going to set the Jets on a path to go 9-1 for the rest of the season and put them in the playoff picture.

    2. Notwithstanding that outlook, this is something the Jets have to do now.

Let me explain … The Jets’ 1-5 record is only partially due to poor play from Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB. His play has gotten the preponderance of attention and commentary because of the protracted negotiations that it took to get him back on the Jets’ roster this year and because his game with 6 INTs produced an eye-popping statistic. Trust me; I am not going to try to concoct a case that Fitzpatrick has played anywhere near “well” in 2016; he has been bad. Consider these offensive stats for the Jets as a team:

    Jets averaging just under 16 points per game. As a benchmark, the Jags – not an offensive powerhouse by any measure – are averaging just over 20 points per game.

    Jets are 13th in the AFC in total offense. As a benchmark, the Browns – not an offensive juggernaut by any measure – rank 9th in the AFC.

Ryan Fitzpatrick had a “career year” in 2015 and has regressed to the mean. He is not the resolution of the Jets’ longstanding “Quarterback Situation”; that does not make him a bad person. However, it does present the Jets with a problem because Geno Smith – not a man with an impressive NFL résumé to be sure – is currently playing out his rookie contract. Soon after the Super Bowl is contested – without the Jets’ participation let me say – the team has to make a couple of decisions with regard to its “Quarterback Situation” looking ahead:

    If they even deign to make Ryan Fitzpatrick a contract offer, it will be for the kind of money teams pay for backups.

    They need to decide if they want to make Geno Smith any kind of an offer. The only way to make that decision with any degree of confidence greater than having a seer read the entrails of a goat is to play him this year and find out if there is any hope of him playing at a journeyman level or higher in the near future.

That is why Geno Smith has to be the Jets’ QB for at least a month unless he is so abjectly awful that the next question for the Jets’ braintrust is this one:

    Do you dare go into the 2017 season with either Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg as your starting QB?

The only way to answer that question – absent sacrificing another goat to read its entrails – is to play whichever one looks better in practice in 2016. If they start Smith as of now, they can – if they have to – make an early decision that Geno Smith is not in their long-range plans and still have time to get a look at one of the QBs on the roster who has never seen the field in an NFL game.

I cannot construct in my mind the thought processes that got the Jets into this situation but that is where they are. And because of where they are, they really have little choice but to sit Ryan Fitzpatrick starting now and getting a good look at Geno Smith in real-game situations. Unless he can show the Jets that he is “the guy” for them at QB in the near future, look for the Jets’ “Quarterback Situation” to continue for a while…

I said earlier that the Jets 1-5 record is only partially due to poor play at QB so far this year. In case you had not noticed, the Jets’ defense has not lived up to its billing as an elite unit.

    Jets’ defense gives up 375.5 yards per game – 23rd in the NFL
    Jets’ defense gives up 290 yards per game
    Jets’ defense allows 27.3 points per game.

There are 4 teams in the league with 1-5 records as of now. The Niners and the Bears figured to be bottom-feeders this year; their standing here is not very surprising. The other two teams are the Panthers and the Jets. Both of them were seen as “playoff contenders”; their standing here is a monument to underachievement.

Last week, the Chargers beat the Broncos 21-13 making it two losses in a row for the defending Super Bowl champs. The Chargers won the game because they found ways to keep the Broncos out of the end-zone. The Chargers only had 265 yards on offense for the game; they had to hold down the Broncos’ scoring just to have a chance to win. The Chargers’ game plan seemed to be one that other teams will adopt facing the Broncos – – attack and stop the Broncos’ run game and make Trevor Siemian beat them with his arm. The Broncos had only 84 yards rushing in this game. I understand that QBs can be very successful with a “dink-and-dunk passing attack” but usually there is at least a hint that he might try a deep ball more than once a month. In Trevor Siemian’s case, he seems to be on a “once a month regimen”. The Broncos only got to the Red Zone twice in this game. The Chargers got there 5 times scoring 1 TD and 4 field goals.

The Texans beat the Colts 26-23 in OT. The Colts led all the way in this game until the 4th quarter when one of two things happened:

    Brock Osweiler returned to a conscious state in the 4th quarter. He had only thrown for 102 yards (and 1 INT) in the first 55 minutes of that game.

    The Colts’ defense returned to a conscious state and saw that it had been holding down an opponent and that shocked them back to their normal state of incompetence.

Or perhaps these two things happened simultaneously…

In any event, the Colts led by 14 points with about 3 minutes to go in the game and then the team coughed it up and gave up 2 TDs in the final 3 minutes to send the game to OT. A field goal in OT by the Texans won the game. The only bright spot for the Colts is that Frank Gore ran for more than 100 yards in this game and that was the first time since 2012 that any Colts’ RB had passed that milestone in a single game; it had been 55 games since Vic Ballard ran for 100+ in a game for the Colts. The Texans are 4-2 so far this year despite having been outscored 127-107 for the year.

    I know that the typical format here is for me to do a short capsule summary of each game from last week but I have to deviate slightly here to give you a strong entry in the contest for “Self-Delusional Moment of the Year”. And no; I am not talking about Bobby Jindal thinking he could be President of the United States.

    According to a report on this week, Colts’ owner, Jim Irsay, said that the Colts could be 6-0 at this point of this season had it not been for a few balls bouncing the wrong way. This guy goes to every game and he has a really good seat at every game. So, I have to wonder what he is doing up there in that skybox because no one else on Planet Earth – or any other planet in this solar system – thinks the Colts are a couple of unlucky bounces away from being undefeated thorough the first 6 games.

      The Colts’ offense gains 364.2 yards per game – 19th in the NFL
      The Colts’ defense gives up 411.2 yards per game – 30th in the NFL

    Someone will need to explain how those performances on either side of the ball lead to the conclusion that the Colts might have a .500 record at this point in the season let alone be undefeated.

The Cowboys beat the Packers 30-16 last week. Yes, the Cowboys were that much better in the game. Dak Prescott threw for 247 yards and 3 TDs in the game; he also lost a fumble and threw the first INT in his career but he was the better QB on the field on Sunday. Ezekiel Elliott continued his great play running the ball 28 times for 157 yards against what is the best run defense in the NFL. The Packers fumbled 5 times in the game and lost 3 of them.

The Seahawks beat the Falcons 26-24. In the 3rd quarter, the Falcons were dominant; they won that quarter 21-0; Matt Ryan was 13 for 17 for 220 yards and 3 TDEs in the 3rd quarter; for the rest of the game, the Falcons were “Meh!” Nonetheless, they had a TD lead as the 4th quarter began but then Russell Wilson took over. He engineered a TD drive that would have tied the game had the Seahawks prevented a blocked PAT. Not to worry, though; the Seahawks got the ball back on an INT with a little under 4 minutes to play and turned that into a field goal. At that point the game took one of two paths depending on your point of view:

    Path A: The Seahawks defense came up large and held the Falcons to 4 consecutive incomplete passes to ice the win 26-24.

    Path B: The zebras hosed the Falcons on a non-call with regard to defensive pass interference by Richard Sherman on Julio Jones that would have put the Falcons in position to try a game winning field goal of their own.

Recently, I wrote here that I do not understand the difference between pass interference, offensive pass interference and no-call on a pass play where there is contact between the receiver and the defender. The play in question here surely looks like pass interference to me…

The Chiefs beat the Raiders 26-10 meaning that Andy Reid’s teams are 16-2 in the week after their BYE Weeks. Let me interrupt the narrative here to give you the gist of a “conversation” I had with some guy in the Westgate Sportsbook last Sunday waiting in line to make a wager at the window:

    Guy: How can the Chiefs be favored over the Raiders? The Raiders are in first place and the Chiefs aren’t. These guys [meaning the guys who run the sportsbook] must hate the Raiders.

    Me: Well, people may be betting the Chiefs because Andy Reid’s teams are 15-2 after their BYE weeks and the Chiefs were off last week.

    Guy: Really, how do you know that?

    Me: I read it in a couple of places.

    Guy: Wow. None of the guys I heard on the radio this morning making picks said anything about that.

    Me: Well, they have time constraints; they can’t say everything about every game.

    Guy: Uh … do you know who the teams are that beat the Chiefs after Bye Weeks.

    Me: Not even close – – and by the way Andy Reid used to coach the Eagles and most of that record comes from his 14 years in Philly.

    Guy: Really? … Boy you know a lot about football.

This guy has probably already procreated and will probably vote on November 8th. How is that for a downer of a thought…

Alex Smith had a typical Alex Smith day but the porous Raiders’ defense enhanced it a bit. Smith was 19 for 22 for 224 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs. Smith always has a good completion percentage but on Sunday he completed an astronomic 86.4% of his throws. The Chiefs also ran the ball for 189 yards in the game including 9 carries for 33 yards and 1 TD from Jamaal Charles who saw his most significant action since his ACL injury and surgery last year.

The game was 13-10 at the half but the Raiders did nothing in the second half. When they were not punting, they were losing fumbles or giving the ball over on downs. The weather was ugly in Oakland and the Raiders were even uglier.

I called the Raiders’ defense porous; that might be a generous description. In 6 games:

    Raiders give up 27.2 points per game
    Raiders give up 444.8 yards per game
    Raiders allow 132.2 yards per game rushing.

The Dolphins beat the Steelers 30-15. Somehow the 2016 iteration of the Steelers can find a way to:

    Beat the Skins by 22 points
    Beat the Chiefs by 29 points
    Lost to the Eagles by 28 points
    Lose to the Dolphins by 15 points

Really? I said here last week that the Steelers generally do not play well on the road and they have had difficulties in Miami in the past. Boy, was all of that on display last week… I realize the Ben Roethlisberger played part of the game on a knee that required surgery soon after the game; nevertheless, passing for 189 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs is a pretty miserable performance. The bright light for the Dolphins here was RB, Jay Ajayi who ran 25 times for 204 yards and 2 TDs.

The Jags beat the Bears 17-16. The Bears led 13-0 at the start of the 4th quarter and blew the game to Blake Bortles and the Jags. The Bears dominated the Jags for the first half holding the Jags to only 98 yards of offense for the first 2 quarters. Brian Hoyer became the first QB in the history of the Chicago Bears – a team that was a charter member of the NFL back in 1920 – to throw for 300+ yards in 4 consecutive games. Considering that the Bears have played about 1500 games since then, that is an amazing statistic. The bad news for the Bears last week was that they got into the Red Zone 4 times and only came away with 1 TD.

The Lions beat the Rams 31-28. Case Keenum was 27 for 32 for 321 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT for the Rams. If he continues to do that, Jared Goff may never see the field this season. Unfortunately for Keenum, that INT came in the final minute with the Rams in possession of the ball down a field goal. That interception ended the game…

The Pats beat the Bengals 35-17. They were clearly the better team on the field; the Bengals are in disarray. The old Bengals’ tendency to go off the rails was evident once again late in the game when Vontaze Burfict – – SURPRISE – – went after Rob Gronkowski with a cheap shot that got the two of them going at one another and then Burfict went after Martellus Bennett when Bennett was nowhere near the play and then he stomped on LeGarrette Blount’s leg. Blount has his own history of a short fuse so that was a situation that could well have gotten out of hand. Thankfully, it did not. The league has fined Burfict $75K for this nonsense but that is not going to change his dirty play. Call it what it really is; Burfict is a dirty player and has been ever since his time in college. If the NFL waits to suspend him indefinitely, they will wait to do so after he takes out an opposing player for a year or more. Vontaze Burfict is not a “hard-hitter”; he is a “dirty player” and a “hot-head”.

Tom Brady threw for a mere 376 yards and 3 TDs against the Bengals’ defense; Rob Gronkowski caught 7 of Brady’s passes for 162 yards and 1 TD; the Pats’ offense was firing on all cylinders.

The Bengals are now 2-4 and they have the Browns coming to Cincy this week. That is a division game and a rivalry game; it is also a critical game for the Bengals to win.

The Giants beat the Ravens 27-23. Both teams are 3-3; this win snapped a 3-game losing streak for the Giants; this loss extended a Ravens’ losing streak to 3 games. Odell Beckham, Jr. had 8 catches for 222 yards (204 of them in the second half) and 2 TDs. There was another “pass interference call” in this game that was mystifying on replay. This call in the 4th quarter went against Dominque Rogers-Cromartie and it sure looked like perfect defense to me each time I saw the replay – at least four times.

For the most part, this was an ugly game. Consider:

    Ravens had 1st and goal at the 3 yardline and turned the ball over on downs
    Ravens failed to stop the Giants on three different 4th-down conversions
    Ravens were penalized 15 times for 111 yards
    Giants turned the ball over 3 times
    Giants were penalized 7 times for 119 yards
    Giants were in the Red Zone twice and never got in the end-zone.

The bright spots in the game belonged mainly to Eli Manning:

    Manning threw for 403 yards in the game.
    Manning threw his 300th TD pass in his career
    Manning won his 100th game as a starting QB.

In a freak scheduling happenstance, the Ravens played an away game in MetLife stadium last week and will go to the same place to play another road game this week when they take on the Jets.

The Saints beat the Panthers 41-38. I want to be clear here; I have pointed out defensive insufficiencies for various teams above; please do not let any of those comments make you think that either of these two defenses earned their paychecks last weekend.

    The Saints led 21-0 early in the 2nd quarter; they were on pace to score 75 points and the Panthers’ defense gave no indication that was out of the question.

    The Saints defense showed its true nature when the score was 24-10 at the half and then was cut to 31-30 (thanks to a missed PAT by the Panthers). That 1-point lead happened with about 10 minutes left to play in the game. At that point the Saints’ defense had given up 30 points in about 30 minutes of football. Oh swell …

    The Saints went up 38-30 with 6 minutes to play. When the Panthers really needed a stop, they could not produce one.

    The Saints now needed a stop but they could not get one either. They gave up a TD AND a 2-point conversion at about the 3-minute mark to tie the score at 38-38.

    Now the Panthers’ defense needed to hold – and of course it did not. The Saints maneuvered into field goal range and hit the game winner.

    The Saints gave up 406 yards to the Panthers; the Panthers gave up 523 yards to the Saints.

    The Saints were 8-16 on third down conversions.

Are you convinced that both defenses stunk out the joint last Sunday?

The Titans beat the Browns 28-26. The only positive thing to say about this insignificantly trivial game is that it was a close game. The Browns ran the ball 15 times in the game for a total of 40 yards. If that sounds bad, it is. Here is another bad rushing stat:

    Isiah Crowell ran the ball 9 times for 16 yards. That is not good but a quick glance at the stat sheet says it is even worse than it looks …

    One of his runs was for 11 yards.

    That means he ran the other 8 times and gained a total of 5 yards. YUCK!

The Skins beat the Eagles 27-20 extending the Skins’ win streak to 4 games. The Skins ran the ball here for 231 yards including a 57-yard run by Matt Jones and a 45-yard gallop by Robert Kelly. Carson Wentz had an off day; he was 11 for 22 for 179 yards. Eagles’ RB, Wendell Smallwood returned a kickoff for a TD in the game. That is noteworthy because it was the first kickoff return for a TD in the NFL for the season and last week was Week 6.

The Bills simply shellacked the Niners 45-16 and the score reflects the lopsided nature of that game. Starting Colin Kaepernick at QB did nothing to make the Niners competitive here. I do not mean to say that he was the reason the Niners were humiliated the way they were, but his stat line was pretty bleak:

    13 for 29 for 187 yards and 1 TD with 0 INTs.

After the game, Chip Kelly said that Kaepernick was “OK”. Does that mean that Kelly has already given up on this season because that stat line is anything but “OK”? Given the way the Niners have played for most of the season – and the way that Kaepernick played last week, I certainly hope that Kaepernick has been genuflecting during the anthem as a sincere form of protest and not as a way to execute the “Victory Formation” – – because he is not going to get to do that in very many real NFL games for the rest of the 2016 season.

The Niners’ defense allowed 312 yards rushing last week. That is the most yards rushing given up by any Niners’ team since 1958. I went and looked up the roster for that 1958 Niners’ squad and I recognized plenty of offensive names such as YA Tittle, John Brodie, Hugh McElhenney, R.C. Owens, Joe Perry and Bob St, Clair. As to the defense, I recognized exactly one name, Leo Nomellini. No wonder they gave up 312+ yards rushing in a game…

The Cards beat the Jets 28-3. Given the way that game unfolded, I really think that Bruce Arians took it easy on his former defensive coordinator and friend Todd Bowles. As the first half progressed I wrote a note to myself saying that the Cards could win by whatever margin they wanted so long as it fit into the time constraints of an NFL game. Let us look momentarily at just how bad this game was:

    Jets gained only 230 yards total offense
    Jets gained only 33 yards rushing
    Jets were 2 for 13 on third down.

This game broke an amazing losing streak. The last time the Cardinals beat the Jets was in 1975 – – 41 years ago.

The Games:

Two teams have BYE Weeks this week:

    The Cowboys get to relax in first place in the NFC East and prepare to play the Eagles next week.

    The Panthers will hopefully not relax given their 1-5 record; they need to get their act together. They are officially mired in the “Super Bowl Loser’s slump”. They probably need to go 9-1 from here out to make the playoffs; and with a defense giving up 29.3 points per game, that has about as much chance of happening as Bernie Sanders getting an invitation to be on the Board of Directors of Citicorp.

(Thurs Nite) Chicago at Green Bay – 7.5 (45.5): The spread opened at 9 points and has edged its way down to this level as the week progressed. The Bears are a hot mess of a team; the Packers are not doing nearly as well as most people – me included – thought they would do as the season began. The Packers have tons of injuries in their defensive backfield; their 3 top DBs will miss this game and, if last weekend’s game against the Cowboys is any indicator, the replacement DBs are replacements for a good reason. Meanwhile, the Bears present a prognosticator with some very conflicting evidence:

    The Bears rank 8th in the NFL in total offense (375.2 yards per game)
    The Bears rank 31st in the NFL in scoring (16.8 points per game)

The Packers’ offense – like their defense – is running on fumes. RB, Eddie Lacy, has a sore ankle that might take a couple of weeks to “get right; RB, James Starks, underwent knee surgery last week. In order to have someone in at RB for some of the plays this week, the Packers traded for Knile Davis (from the Chiefs) and could promote Jon Crockett from the practice squad to spell Davis. Aaron Rodgers has not played like the Aaron Rodgers I have come to expect when I turn on my TV set but I think he can put up points on this defense. I also think that the Bears will score on the Packers’ depleted defense. I like this game to go OVER.

(Early Sun Morning) Giants – 3 at LA (44) Game is in London: Allow me to get two rather conflicting trends out of the way at the beginning:

    Giants are 10-4 to go OVER in their last 14 games on fieldturf
    Rams are 10-4 to go UNDER in their last 14 games against NFC teams.

This game is on fieldturf and the Rams are playing an NFC opponent. Oh my…! These teams are up one week and down the next and the venue for this game may or may not be an advantage for either team. I shall turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER. Given the performance of “the coin” over the past two weeks (0-4-0), maybe I ought to go exactly the other way …? No, I’ll stick to the protocol.

Minnesota – 3 at Philly (40): I think the oddsmakers have this game pegged correctly; it should be a low-scoring affair. That being the case, I prefer to take the points – particularly when I get the points with the home team. I’ll take the Eagles plus the points at home.

New Orleans at KC – 6.5 (50.5): The Total Line for this game opened the week at 49 and has been inching up as the week advanced. Each team comes to this game off a win last week. The Saints bring their typical offensive firepower to this game – 413.4 yards per game – 2nd in the NFL. The Chiefs’ offense is good – – but not nearly that good at 352 yards per game. On the other side of the ball the advantage is reversed. Chiefs only give up 353.2 yards per game but the Saints yield 419.4 yards per game. That line looks fat to me; I’ll take the Saints plus the points.

Washington at Detroit – 1 (50): Let me make this one short. I think the Skins are the better team here and I think they will win this game outright. Therefore, I’ll take the Skins plus the point.

Cleveland at Cincy – 10 (45.5): OK, I get it. This is a divisional game and this is a rivalry game (sort of). Other than that, I am not sure why anyone might give a fig about this game; I surely do not. I know that the Browns stink but the Bengals are not an awe inspiring squad either. Purely a hunch, but I’ll take the Browns plus the points here. After I have made my pick here, I went looking for a trend to boost my confidence in that pick. I found two such trends:

    In the last 18 game between these teams, the underdog is 13-4-1.
    Browns are 7-3 in their last 10 games as an underdog against the spread

Trends may not have much of a predictive value, but they provide me with a bit of comfort here – – until the game kicks off and then everything is new again.

Buffalo – 3 at Miami (44): The Bills take their 4-game win streak south this week – to the venue where the Steelers laid an egg last week. If you believe in trends, making a pick in this game is not even a challenge:

    Favorite in the last 10 Bills/Dolphins games is 8-2
    Dolphins are 1-9 against the spread in their last 10 games against the AFC East.

I, however, am not a trend bettor. I wonder if the Bills can maintain their edge; after all they have won 4 in a row and that is heady territory for this squad. I think there is a greater chance that the Dolphins’ big home win over the Steelers last week (see above) will have a carryover effect to this game. I like the Dolphins at home plus the points.

Oakland at Jax – 1 (48.5): The Total Line here opened at 50 points; it dropped to this level quickly and has stabilized here. The Raiders are the visiting team for the 4th time this year; they ought not to mind that since the Raiders have yet to lose a game on the road. The Raiders’ defense is the worst in the NFL and it gives up 25 yards per game more than does the next-to-worst defense in the league. This is another long flight for the Raiders to take just to be at the right spot when the referee whistles and signals for the kickoff. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Raiders plus the point.

Indy at Tennessee -3 (48): The Titans are one game ahead of the Colts in the AFC South and the Titans are riding a 2-game win streak. Last year the Titans won 3 games; here we are in October of this year and the Titans have already won 3 games. The Colts have a good young QB; the Titans have a good younger QB. The Colts’ division record stands at 0-2; a loss here would mean that they would have to win the division based on record alone because division record is an early tie-breaker. Presumably, the team and the coach are not buying into the self-delusional tomfoolery spouted by the club owner about being a 6-0 team that got a few bad bounces (see above). The Titans bring the 4th best run defense in the AFC to a game against a team that does not run the ball well; they could make the Colts’ one-dimensional here. The real problem for the Colts however is their defense; they give up 411.2 yards per game (30th in the NFL) and they are vulnerable to the run – which is what the Titans do preferentially. I think the game sets up right for the home team. I’ll take the Titans to win and cover.

Baltimore at Jets – 1 (40.5): The Jets made the right move at the right time inserting Geno Smith into the starting QB role (see above). Joe Flacco has a sore shoulder and did not practice on Wednesday but expects to play on Sunday. If Flacco cannot play, the Ravens will turn to Ryan Mallett and if that happens you can look for a major line move leading up to kickoff. The Ravens have the 3rd best defense in the NFL – behind only Seattle and Minnesota – and their run defense is the best in the NFL. They should be able to make Geno Smith try to beat them through the air which is good news for the Jets’ braintrust because the next few games are really an extended audition for Smith to see if the Jets want him back next year. I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Jets to win and cover.

San Diego at Atlanta – 6.5 (53.5): The Total Line opened at 51.5 and jumped to this level almost immediately and you can find the line at 54 at a couple of sportsbooks this morning. The “character” of the Falcons will be on display here; they feel they were robbed by a bad officiating call at the end of last week’s game in Seattle (see above). The fact is that whatever anyone thinks of that call – I think it was pass interference by the way – the Falcons are no longer an undefeated team. So the “character test” for this week is how they show up to play. The Falcons have the best offense in the NFL – a full 28 yards per game better than the Saints in 2nd place there. At the same time, the Falcons have a “lower-tier defense” and the Chargers have a QB capable of exploiting it. Purely a hunch, I’ll take the Chargers plus the points here.

Tampa – 2.5 at SF (46.5): The dogs, they are a-barking. This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. The Bucs are winless at home and are 2-1 on the road. If you can explain how a bad team does something like that, please do; I cannot. The Niners just stink; their defense gives up 389.8 yards per game and an astonishing 174.3 yards per game rushing. The next worst run defense in the league – Miami – gives up 27 fewer yards per game. It is simple here; I cannot take the Niners without a basketful of points and the spread here is more like a snack-bag full of points. I like the Bucs to win and cover on the road.

New England – 7 at Pittsburgh (46): This was going to be the Game of the Week. I was anticipating a great shootout between Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown and Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski. That is not going to happen now that Roethlisberger had knee surgery early in the week (see above). I was anticipating a Total Line for the shootout to be in the mid-50s; you can see that the oddsmakers also recognize that we will see a different game this Sunday. I like the Patriots to win and cover here.

(Sun Nite) Seattle at Arizona – 2 (43.5): Since the Pats/Steelers game had to be “downgraded” due to injury, this game becomes the Game of the Week. The Cards beat the Seahawks in Seattle already this year; that puts the onus on the Seahawks to win here to avoid giving the Cards the head-to-head tiebreaker at the end of the season. Each team has 1 loss in the division; a win here for the Seahawks would give them a tiebreaker lead halfway through the season. I think the Seahawks are starting to put the pieces together for a late run. I like the Seahawks plus the points on the road.

(Mon Nite) Houston at Denver – 7.5 (40.5): The spread opened at 6 points but it did not stay there long. You can find the spread as high as 9 points at one sportsbook this morning – and I do not have any explanation as to why. Brock Osweiler’s late game heroics last week (see above) came at the expense of the Colts’ defense; this week Brock Osweiler will see a defense that is several levels above the level of the Colts’ defense; do not expect miracles. In fact, I think Texans’ fans should expect a debacle; the Broncos present the stingiest pass defense in the NFL (182.3 yards per game). I do not like that half-point hook on top of the full TDs worth of points but I smell the potential for the Broncos to hold the Texans to 10-12 points here. I’ll take the Broncos and lay the points – and hope that Trevor Siemian makes the Texans’ defense play back just a little bit.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 10/16/16

I realize that these picks are a day earlier than has been the schedule so far this year. The reason is simple. This weekend is my Annual Autumnal Pilgrimage to Las Vegas and I will need to leave at zero-dark-thirty on Friday morning necessitating an early bedtime on Thursday night.

A few – and I do mean A FEW – of these Mythical Picks will morph themselves into actual wagers on actual NFL games depending on line movements and vibrations that I get from the world ether once I am in the sportsbook itself.

Last week was a positive week for NFL Mythical Picks. I made 13 selections and the record for the week was 7-5-1. That brings the record for the season to 45-32-1.

The Best Picks of the Week were:

    Falcons +6 against Broncos. Falcons won straight up by a TD.
    Cowboys +1.5 against Bengals. Cowboys won straight up by 2 TDs.

The Worst Picks of the Week were:

    Rams -2 against Bills. Bills won by 11 points.
    Cards/Niners UNDER 43. Total score was 55 points.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol did not have a productive week. Last week, the coin went 0-2-0 making its cumulative record 4-4-0. That is pretty much what one ought to expect from flipping a coin…

Notwithstanding the positive results from last week, no one should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this weekend. Here is how stupid you would have to be to do something like that:

    You think a Milk Dud is a cow that gives no milk.

General Comments:

Last week, Frank Gore passed Jim Brown on the list of all-time rushers in the NFL. Gore has had a career that is very unusual. While he was at the University of Miami, he had to sit out two full seasons as he had reconstructive surgery on both knees. Running backs get injured in the NFL and it surely appeared as if he were coming to the league “pre-injured” and so he fell in the draft to the 3rd round of the 2005 NFL Draft; the Niners were the team that took him then. During his pro career, he has “had work done” on both of his shoulders; but his knees have held up just fine.

In his 11 seasons, here are some of Frank Gore’s stats:

    2780 rushing attempts
    12,368 yards gained
    41 fumbles

Gore is now in 9th place on the list of all-time NFL rushers; in the last year he has passed the likes of Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James and Marcus Allen on that list. At the moment he stands 372 yards behind Tony Dorsett for 8th place on the list; his career average is 73.2 yards per game meaning we can expect him to reach that milestone early in the Colts’ game against the Steelers on 24 November.

One other thing I like about Frank Gore is his nickname. Notwithstanding the obvious fact that he is not former Vice President, Al Gore’s sibling, Frank Gore’s nickname is:

    The Inconvenient Truth.

The NFL week began with a Thursday Night game that was painful to watch. The Cards beat the Niners 33-21; but as I watched the game, it never really crossed my mind as to which team would be the winner. To a large extent, the Niners could hang this loss on the play of QB, Blaine Gabbert; he threw 2 INTs and both gave the Cards a very short field to work with. Gabbert’s stat line was:

    18 for 31 for 164 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

Let me be clear here; those INTs were an important part of this game because the Cards’ offense with Drew Stanton in the pilot’s seat was not exactly fearsome. What Stanton did was to avoid the big mistake. That was what he needed to do and his stat line got the job done despite not being eye-popping:

    11 for 28 for 124 yards

[Aside: Gabbert was not the only cause for defeat however. The Niners “pass-catchers” morphed into “pass-droppers” on more than a couple of occasions in the game.]

I mention this situation and those stats because the Niners are going to switch QBs this week and put Colin Kaepernick in the game against the Bills in Buffalo. A lot of fans think it is high time this change was made and conspiracy theorists have come up with their own “explanation” for why Kaepernick has yet to see the field. No, it has nothing to do with his “anthem protest” …

Evidently, there is a clause in Kaepernick’s contract (total value = $114M) that guarantees his 2017 salary at $14.3M if he sustains an injury this year that carries on past April 1, 2017. This is similar to the situation the Skins faced last year with RG3 where an injury would have put them on the hook to play RG3 something north of $16M this year had he been injured last year. To assure that he did not get injured, he only dressed for 1 game last year and did not come close to playing in that game.

Those conspiracy theorists will have their concept bolstered by reports early this week that Colin Kaepernick has agreed to “restructure” his contract and subsequent to those reports came the announcement that he would start on Sunday. Who knows? The conspiracy theorists might be right…

I think there are two very pragmatic – and less nefarious – ways to view the confluence of events that led to Chip Kelly’s decision this week given the sub-standard performance(s) of Blaine Gabbert in the past couple of games:

    1. Lots of people think Kaepernick is the sort of player who would be a great fit for Kelly’s helter-skelter offense. Perhaps Kelly thinks he might be “the guy” for “the system” but is not sufficiently convinced that he wants to take a $14.3M gamble on him. So the conversion of some of that guaranteed money into readily attainable incentives might be a part of the decision. Injuries are a fact of life for NFL QBs. In Kelly’s system, they are a clear and present danger.

    2. Perhaps Kelly is convinced that Kaepernick is NOT “the guy” for “the system”; perhaps he has seen enough to have made that decision. Naturally, he would not broadcast that because he would prefer to trade Kaepernick and get something in return in lieu of just releasing him. However, that “injury clause” might be making Kaepernick “untradeable” so the removal of that clause does two things for Kelly:

      a. He can play Kaepernick and “showcase him” to the league

      b. He can play Kaepernick and let Kaepernick try to prove that he can really be “the guy” for “the system” – – without that Sword of Damocles hanging over the team’s salary cap.

Moving on … The Falcons beat the Broncos 23-16 in Denver. The Falcons are 4-1 and have now beaten the two teams that played in the Super Bowl last February on successive weekends. Two weeks ago, Matt Ryan threw for 500+ yards in a game and Julio Jones caught and ran for 300 of those passing yards. Last week, Jones and Ryan connected only twice in the game for a total of 29 yards; last week, it was the Falcons’ RBs that put the hurt on the Broncos:

    Devonta Freeman ran for 88 yards (and a TD) and added another 35 yards receiving.

    Tevin Colman ran for 31 yards and added another 132 yards (and a TD) receiving.

Given the way the Falcons have played in the last two weeks, I have to wonder how they possibly lost to the Bucs in Week 1 of the year… The Broncos started rookie Paxton Lynch in this game and the Falcons’ defensive game plan was to shut down the Broncos’ run game and make Lynch beat them. The Broncos only gained 84 yards rushing (18 of which were from Lynch himself) and Lynch could not generate anything near enough in the passing game to make up for the lack of a rushing attack. The Broncos had a total of 78 yards of offense in the first half and only 267 yards on offense for the game.

The Packers beat the Giants by the same 23-16 score last week. The Giants total offense in this game was only 219 yards. Please recall that when the Giants parted company with Tom Coughlin last year, they promoted their offensive coordinator – Ben McAdoo – to the head chair to keep continuity on offense while the team sought to reinforce the defense in the offseason. Imagine if they had promoted the defensive coordinator… Aaron Rodgers was not his other-worldly self in this game; he threw 2 INTs and missed open receivers on about 3 occasions. But his performance was enough to win the game given a strong defensive showing by the Packers.

The Vikings dominated the Texans 31-13. The Vikings are the only remaining undefeated team in the league and their recipe for success is simple and straightforward:

    Field a smothering defense
    Do not turn the ball over. (Vikes have lost 1 fumble in 5 games and have thrown 0 INTs!)

Last week, the Vikes held Brock Osweiler to 19-42 for 184 yards. Osweiler did throw a TD pass but it came in “garbage time” when the Vikes led 31-6. A key stat for the game was that the Texans were 1 for 13 on 3rd down conversions.

The Texans sit atop the AFC South but all is not well in Houston. In 5 games, the Texans have scored 81 points. That may look bad on the surface, but here is how bad it really is:

    Only the Seahawks have scored fewer points this year. The Seahawks have scored 79 points – – but they did that if 4 games not 5 games.

    The Jags – hardly an offensive juggernaut – have scored 84 points in 4 games.

    The sorry-assed Browns have scored 87 points in 5 games.

With JJ Watt on the shelf, the Texans’ defense is not the dominant force it was last year. So this anemic offense is not a good omen for Houston fans.

Another game last week had the same 31-13 outcome. The Steelers trounced the Jets 31-13. The return of Le’Veon Bell over the last two games had been a big deal for the team. His running and his ability to catch short passes has opened up even more the downfield game for Ben Roethlisberger and the WRs. Roethlisberger’s stat line was 34 for 47 for 380 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs. Rookie Sammy Coates dropped 3 long bombs in this game; all of them hit him in both hands. Nevertheless, the Steelers coasted to a win.

Ryan Fitzpatrick played really well for the Jets in 2015; he has regressed to the mean so far this year. Is that because he and the Jets could not reach a contract agreement until late in the offseason or is that because he is merely a journeyman who had a career year in 2015 or perhaps – – both? The Jets need to find a way to figure out what they are going to do at the QB position in the future. They have 4 QBs on their roster. The question they need to answer is simple:

    Can any of them lead the Jets’ team to a playoff slot sometime in the near future?

    Geno Smith has never been very good.

    Can either Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg play at a level even close to “NFL journeyman”?

The Pats beat the Browns 33-13 in the “Tom Brady Comeback Game”. Yes, it was an ass-kicking just as the score would indicate. In fact, the Browns were just as effective in this ass-kicking contest as a one-legged man. Tom Brady said he felt “rusty” out there; nonsense! Here was his stat line and I’ll just leave it at that:

    28 for 40 for 408 yards and 3 TDs with 0 INTs

By the way, this was the 227th career win for Bill Belichick as a head coach and that win allowed him to pass Curly Lambeau – yes THAT Lambeau – and puts Belichick in 4th place on the all-time win list for coaches.

The Browns started 3rd string QB, Cody Kessler in the game but he got hurt so Charlie Whitehurst took over. Then Whitehurst got hurt later in the game to the point that the Browns have released him and paid him an “injury settlement”. Perhaps Kessler can play this week, but if he cannot the Browns have elevated Kevin Hogan from their practice squad to the main roster. Hogan was a 5th round pick in the NFL Draft this year; he was the QB at Stanford last year.

The Titans spanked the Dolphins 30-17 last week – but it really wasn’t that close. The Titans focus their offense on running the ball; they have run the ball 148 times in 5 games. Moreover, they average 5 yards per rushing attempt. Meanwhile, the Dolphins rank 32nd in the NFL in rushing defense. The Dolphins give up 150.8 yards per game and 754 total yards rushing. Added to the obvious ability to control the game and the pace of the game, Titans’ QB Marcus Mariota threw for 3 TDs last week. The Dolphins scored 17 points, but one TD came on a punt return so their offense was nothing to crow about. One reason the offense was stifled is that Ryan Tannehill was sacked 6 times…

The Skins beat the Ravens in Baltimore 16-10. The last time the Skins won a game in Baltimore was a win over the Baltimore Colts in 1955. Skins’ QB, Eddie LeBaron, had 2 TD runs of 1 yard each in that game. George Shaw was the QB for the Colts then – John Unitas had not yet arrived in Baltimore – and two of the RBs for the Colts then were Alan Ameche and Buddy Young. It had been a while …

Last week was the second week in a row where the Skins were the beneficiaries of “strangeness”. Two weeks ago against the Browns, the Skins allegedly recovered aa fumble despite the fact that a Cleveland Brown’s player was standing up and holding the ball as the referees sorted out the pile up to find who in the pile had the ball that wasn’t there. Last week, Kirk Cousins threw an INT from his own 3 yardline but the Raven defender seeking to reach the ball over the pylon fumbled it out of the end zone giving the ball back to the Skins on a touchback at their 20 yardline. In essence, the Skins gained 17 yards by throwing an INT and not recovering the ensuing fumble. If the Skins continue to get those sorts of breaks for the rest of the year, they are going to the Super Bowl.

The Ravens fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman this week and elevated Marty Morninwheg to the job. Joe Flacco was 30 for 46 in this game – – but for only 210 yards. That is not typical; Flacco normally throws the ball down the field.

There was one other goofy play in the game. The Ravens decided to try a fake field goal. That is not goofy; teams try that on more than one occasion. However, this play was designed such that the Ravens right-footed kicker, Justin Tucker, had to line up in a left-footed stance. That sort of took the “element of surprise” out of the equation…

The Lions beat the Eagles 24-23 despite the fact that the Eagles held the Lions to less than 250 yards offense in the game. The problem for the Eagles is that they turned the ball over twice in the final 3 minutes and you do not win games playing that way…

The Cowboys beat the Bengals 28-14 and it was a thrashing. The Bengals’ defensive line and linebackers were pushed around for most of the day. Ezekiel Elliott ran wild (15 attempts for 134 yards and 2 TDs) and the Cowboys’ defense – not the team’s long suit to be sure – held the Bengals scoreless for 3 quarters.

The Bills beat the Rams 30-19. LeSean McCoy ran for 150 yards on 18 carries against a good Rams’ defensive line. The fact that Rams’ QB, Case Keenum threw 2 INTs helped seal the deal here…

The Raiders beat the Chargers 34-31 last week. Before mentioning anything about this game specifically, please consider this unusual stat regarding the Chargers:

    The Chargers have outscored their opponents in their 5 games 152-142 and yet, their record is 1-4.

    No other team in the league with a 1-4 record is even close to breaking even on “points for” versus “points allowed.”

Once again last week, the Chargers had a chance to tie the game with a late field goal but the snap sailed through the holder’s hands and … oh well. The Raiders are winning close games with positive plays late in games this year; the Chargers are losing close games with dismal plays late in games this year. It is as simple as that… Philip Rivers had 359 yards passing and 4 TDs here – – but he also threw 2 INTs. Add to those turnovers, two lost fumbles – one from Antonio Gates and another from Melvyn Gordon – and you see how the Chargers’ season has been unfolding.

[Aside: After the game, Melvyn Gordon attributed his lost fumble to “lack of focus”. In a close game, I wonder how a player “loses focus”. After all, an NFL offensive player is on the field for less than 30 minutes per week. It would seem to me that “maintaining focus” for that amount of time should be a piece of cake.]

The Colts beat the Bears 29-23 last week. I know I have been harping on how bad the Colts’ defense is but last week they almost outdid themselves. They allowed Brian Hoyer to throw for 397 yards and 2 TDs and they gave up a total of 552 yards of total offense. We are talking about Brian Hoyer here and not Dan Marino. The Colts survived that no-show by the defense with 2 TDs from Andrew Luck and 5 FGs by Adam Vinitieri who may have learned how to kick from Pete Gogolak.

In an abjectly horrid MNF game, the Bucs beat the Panthers 17-14. Normally, close games are interesting because each possession can represent a lead change. Not this one; each possession portended a new way for the offense to find a way to do nothing meaningful or interesting with the possession. The Panthers turned the ball over 4 times; Bucs’ kicker Roberto Aguayo missed 2 easy FGs – before making the game winner as time expired. The Panthers’ defensive line looked dominant for most of last season; on Monday night they looked extremely ordinary.

There was no line on this game when I posted last week’s Mythical Picks so I could not make a selection; however, I did say that I thought Derek Anderson would start at QB for the Panthers and that it would be a low-scoring game. That does not count as a successful Mythical Pick, but I do believe I had this game pegged.

Before getting to this week’s games, let me point out that both NFL teams from NYC have lost 3 games in a row. Forget for a moment the angst and the frustration of the fans. Put yourself in the position of the guys at the two NYC tabloids who have to decide which team to insult on the back page of those tabloids. That has to be a tough call …

The Games:

There are 2 teams with BYE Weeks:

    The Vikes get a week off and will be toasts of the town in the Twin Cities.

    The Bucs get a week off and a few folks in Tampa may even notice.

(Thurs Nite) Denver – 3 at San Diego (45): We know one thing for sure about this game:

    Gary Kubiak will not be the head coach for the game; he is suffering from a “migraine condition” and will miss this game. The Broncos’ special teams’ coordinator will act as the head coach on Thursday night.

Here is a key thing we do not yet know about this game:

    Can Trevor Siemian play here or is this another start for Paxton Lynch?

My interpretation of the 3-point spread here is that the oddsmakers believe that Siemian will not be ready to go in the game and/or if he can go in the game he will not be anywhere near peak efficiency. I do not think that the Chargers can shut down the Broncos’ running game the way the Falcons did last week; therefore, no matter who the QB for the Broncos may be, the team will not be one-dimensional on offense. I like the Broncos to rebound here. I’ll take the Broncos to win and cover – even on the road.

Cincy at New England – 8.5 (47): When I looked at the list of games, I thought this might be the Game of the Week. It should be a good one, but not the best one. The Bengals are up against it; they are 2-3 for the season putting them in 3rd place in the AFC North. Moreover, they have lost their only division game and that record is an early tie-breaker; they need this game badly. The Pats are in first place in the AFC East and seem to be making do with a “rusty” Tom Brady at QB (see above). Last week, Brady had some “extra motivation” coming off his suspension; this week the entire Pats’ squad should have some “extra motivation” because their last game at home was a loss to the Bills in a shutout. I think the Bengals are overmatched and in a bad spot here. I’ll take the Pats and lay the points.

Baltimore at Giants – 3 (43.5): Purely a hunch, but I think both offenses can wake up here against these defenses. I like this game to go OVER.

Carolina – 3 at New Orleans (53): Speaking of waking up, if the Panthers’ offense cannot wake up against this defense, they will return to their status in these rants as the “Pantloads”. Given that I have no idea who will play QB for the Panthers in this game, I will turn the proceedings over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the game to stay UNDER. Why not?

Pittsburgh – 8.5 at Miami (47): At first glance, this looks like an easy pick. The Steelers with Le’Veon Bell should run the ball down the throat of the Dolphins bad run defense (see above). Add Ben Roethlisberger versus Ryan Tannehill to the equation and the matchup looks even more lopsided. So, how come the spread is only 8.5 points? The reason the line started at 7.5 points and has only inched up a tad is this:

    The Steelers are much better at home than they are on the road.

This is a trap game for the Steelers; next week they can prepare to host the Patriots in Heinz Field. I think the line is fat; I’ll take the Dolphins plus the points.

Jax at Chicago – 2.5 (46.5): Such a bad game – – but still not the Dog-Breath Game of the Week… There is a whiff of a QB controversy in Chicago between Brian Hoyer and Jay Cutler. The Bears are not a good enough team to deal with controversy and an opposing team. Unless, of course, that opposing team is the erratic Jags. Key question for the Jags’ offense:

    How many times will Blake Bortles throw the ball to a guy in the wrong colored jersey?

Do not watch this game and do not bet on this game. I am turning it over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol, and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

SF at Buffalo – 8 (44): The Ryan Brothers can be counted on to do one thing in every game they coach and that is to get after the opposing QB. Colin Kaepernick will be the target this week; he had better be in good sprinting shape and prepared to get the ball out of his hands quickly because the Bills will be coming after him. I think he will make a couple of big plays in the game meaning that the Niners will score a few points. That makes me uncomfortable taking the Bills with the spread so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

LA at Detroit – 3 (43): The Rams’ strength is their defense – particularly the front 7. The Rams have some injuries this week in the front 7. Therefore, how reliable can the Rams be on the road even against a team that is mediocre. Make this a venue call; I like the Lions to win and cover.

Cleveland at Tennessee – 7 (43.5): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the YEAR. I will be in a sportsbook in Las Vegas this weekend and I still will pay no attention to this howler. The Browns’ run defense is better than the Dolphins’ run defense – – but it is still not good. There is no way I want to take the Browns here but I also do not want to lay a full TD with a Titans’ team that will not be favored by this much again this year unless they schedule a Sun Belt team during their BYE Week. I’ll take the game to go OVER only because I said I would make a pick in every game.

Philly – 2.5 at Washington (44.5): The spread opened with the Skins as 1.5-point favorites; it flipped to the Eagles’ side almost immediately and as of now you can actually find the Eagles as 3-point favorites at one Internet sportsbook. In addition, the Total Line opened at 46.6 and dropped to this level very quickly. The absence of Lane Johnson on the Eagles’ OL is important; he is suspended until Week 16 this year. I like the Skins at home plus the points here. I also like this game to go OVER.

KC at Oakland “pick ‘em” (47): The Chiefs and the Raiders as a “pick ‘em game” harkens back to the 1970s. I like the Chiefs – under Andy Reid – after a BYE Week; I also like the Raiders this year and the way they are winning close games with big plays. I cannot use the Coin Flip Protocol in a “pick ‘em game” so I’ll take the Chiefs to win on the road coming off a BYE Week.

Atlanta at Seattle – 6 (46): Here we have the Best Game of the Week. The Falcons have to cross the country to get to this venue after a satisfying – but hard-fought – win in Denver last week. Meanwhile Seattle had a BYE Week which can’t do anything but help Russell Wilson’s recuperating knee and ankle. Here is a stat about Russell Wilson and the Seahawks at home:

    Since his rookie year, Wilson and the Seahawks are 29-5 at home in the regular season.

I think both teams will score in this game. I like the game to go OVER.

Dallas at Green Bay – 4 (47.5): The spread opened at 7 points and dropped quickly to this level. The Cowboys can and do run the football; Green Bay has the top run defense in the NFL as of the moment. Who wins that confrontation? I think it is the Cowboys because the Green Bay run defense has not faced a top running team with its top personnel. Adrian Peterson went out in the first half; Ameer Abdullah did not play; the Giants had to go with both of their top runners on the sidelines. The Cowboys have not enjoyed much success in Cheese Country over the past few years, but I think they have a shot here. I like the Cowboys plus the points.

(Sun Nite) Indy at Houston – 3 (46): If Brock Osweiler cannot light up the Colts’ defense, then the Texans’ braintrust should commence a multi-year feeling of buyer’s remorse at a pro-rated $18M per year. Give the kid a pass for failing against the Vikes last week, but now we are more than a quarter of the way through the season and he gets a divisional foe at home who cannot play defense. That is his wake-up call. I will be watching this game simultaneously with the NLCS game on Sunday night from Wrigley Field. I think Osweiler plays well and I think Andrew Luck plays well so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

(Mon Nite) Jets at Arizona – 7.5 (46.5): The Cards are 2-3 but have outscored opponents by 24 points so far this year. I assume Carson Palmer will be back for this game meaning that the Cards’ OL will have to be on its best performance behavior to keep him from taking any more shots from a good Jets’ DL. However, the Jets’ DL is the only thing on the team that is any good this year. I like the Cards to win big here. I’ll take the Cards at home to win and cover.

Finally, former NFL aspiring QB, Tim Tebow, was the subject of a comment by Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald recently:

“Tim Tebow hit a home run on the first pitch of his pro baseball career. He thanked his offensive line for making it possible.”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 10/9/16

Last week was slightly “profitable” for Mythical Picks; I made 16 picks and the record for the week was 9-7-0. That makes the cumulative season record 38-27-0. That is certainly a better outcome for the first four weeks than many of the NFL teams have experienced.

There were 2 Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games on the card last weekend and the coin did what you would expect a coin to do. The record for the week was 1-1-0 making the season record for the coin 4-2-0.

The Best Picks of the Week were:

    Panthers/Falcons OVER 50. Total Score was 81.
    Bears +3 against Lions. Bears won the game straight up.

The Worst Picks of the Week were:

    Pats – 4.5 against Bills. Bills won and pitched a shutout.
    Cards – 8 against Rams. Rams won the game straight up.

As I get myself psyched to present another menu of potentially awesome Mythical Picks, I must remind everyone that no one should use anything contained herein as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this weekend – or any other weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do so something like that:

    You think “13 Shades of Grey” is the edited-for-TV version of the movie.

General Comments:

To start with, I want to pose a couple of general/philosophical questions here:

    1. Exactly what is pass interference in the NFL in 2016? As I look at isolated replays, I cannot tell what is offensive pass interference, what is defensive pass interference and what is a “no-call” on at least two-thirds of the plays I watch. It seems as if this is almost a random call these days.

    2. At what point do Giants’ fans – and the coaches in NY – start to worry about Odell Beckham’s ability to focus on football as opposed to whatever it is that gets under his skin during a game? Beckham lost his focus – and his self-control – once again on Monday nite against the Vikings. It does not help the Giants when the defensive coordinator for the other team cobbles together a defensive strategy that minimizes Beckham’s impact on the game. It is a whole other thing when Beckham minimizes his potential impact on the game all by himself.

The San Diego Chargers are 1-3 this year. In all of their losses, they have had the lead in the 4th quarter and then have coughed up a hairball. Twice that 4th quarter lead was 13 points – as it was last week against the Saints. Here is how they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in that game in a home game in San Diego:

    Leading 34-21 with 6:39 remaining in the game, Melvin Gordon fumbled on the Chargers’ own 13 and the Saints recovered the ball on the first play of a Chargers’ drive. That took no time off the clock and gave the Saints a very short field from which they scored a TD.

    Now leading 34-28 points with 4:50 remaining in the game, after a five-yard gain, wideout Travis Benjamin fumbled on the Chargers’ own 31 and the Saints recovered once again. The Saints scored another TD to take the lead 35-34

    San Diego never reclaimed any momentum and lost the game 35-34.

I guess you can find a way to attribute fumbling to poor coaching if you want to do so. In the case of Mike McCoy whose record in San Diego now stands at 23-29 coming off a season of 4-12, my guess is that lots of folks will be amenable to that sort of reasoning and “accountability”.

There is a small bit of irony in that 35-34 final score in the Saints/Chargers game. In Week 1, the Saints lost to the Raiders by a score of 35-34; that was the game where Raiders coach, Jack Del Rio, went for 2 points instead of a tie in the final minutes of the game and the Raiders made the conversion. Then last week, the Saints came out on the winning end of a 35-34 game with a dramatic score in the final minute or so.

Last week’s game between the Broncos and the Bucs was delayed for a little more than an hour due to lightning strikes to the land surface in the vicinity of the stadium in Tampa. This is the second week in a row where there has been a “severe weather delay” in Tampa. Two weeks ago, fans returned to see a down-to-the-wire game where the Rams prevailed 37-32. Last week, fans in Tampa pretty much realized what the game outcome was going to be and the vast majority took the opportunity of the “weather-delay” to find their cars in the parking areas and hightail it on home. The Broncos beat the Bucs 27-7; the game was not in doubt as the players, officials and fans waited out the lightning bolts…

Let me add a third general/philosophical question here:

    3. Am I the only one who does not understand what is “taunting” and what is “unsportsmanlike conduct” for “excessive celebration” in 2016? Look, I am not a fan of any sort of celebration on the field by players for doing what they are paid to do – such as score TDs or tackle an opposing player for a loss. I would not care if the league outlawed them with ultra-severe penalties to include suspensions and the like. That will not happen and so we have the situation that obtains today. I believe that if I showed you the “excessive celebrations” that have drawn flags this year intermingled with the “acceptable celebrations” that have not drawn penalties, you would be hard-pressed to identify each celebration in its proper category.

Here are data I ran across related to taunting/excessive celebration/unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in 2016:

    Taunting penalties are up 220% this year compared to the first 4 weeks in 2015.
    Unsportsmanlike penalties not related to taunting are up 56%.

Dean Blandino – director for the NFL officials – had this explanation with regard to the interpretation of these sorts of rules in 2016:

“ … the key is that if it’s a gesture that either mimics a violent act – that’s something with a firearm or a bow-and-arrow – or a sexually suggestive act, those are unsportsmanlike conduct. That’s … something officials will flag. That’s direct from the Competition Committee and something we are going to try to be as consistent as possible.”

The Bengals beat the Dolphins 22-7 last week. The game was not really that close; the Bengals defense was dominant. The Dolphins gained a total of 222 yards on offense; the Dolphins were 2-11 on third down conversions; the Dolphins amassed a measly 8 first downs in the game; the Dolphins surrendered 5 QB sacks in the game; the Dolphins possessed the ball for just under 22 minutes in the game. The Dolphins’ lone score came on a first quarter pass that covered 73 yards; after that, their total offense was 149 yards. Here is the Dolphins drive chart for this game:

    TD (73-yard pass)
    Loss of ball on downs

Bengals’ QB, Andy Dalton, was efficient but not spectacular in the game going 22-31 for 296 yards and 1 TD with O INTs. The fact that the Bengals had to settle for 5 field goals in the game was not a huge plus for the Bengals’ offense…

The Jags beat the Colts in the first NFL London Game last week; that win allows Jags’ coach, Gus Bradley, to keep his job at least for now. A glance at the AFC South standings will give you a clue as to how bad that division is.

    The Jags, Titans and Colts are all 1-3
    The Texans lead the division at 3-1 but have been outscored for the season.

The Jags sacked Andrew Luck 5 times in the game and were in his face on the vast majority of pass plays; the Colts’ OL is awful.

    Memo to Colts’ Front Office: Hold an open tryout camp for underemployed piano movers in the Indy area. You might find a starting offensive lineman under those circumstances.

If Colts’ owner, Jim Irsay, were fully sentient and engaged at this point, he might start to wonder how it can be that his $140M investment in a franchise QB can be left alone out there to be pummeled around like a speed bag. Too bad the Colts’ Front Office still seems to be patting itself on the back for hanging deflated footballs around Tom Brady’s neck…

The crowd in Wembley Stadium for the Colts/Jags game was a sellout of more than 83,000 souls. Since the NFL can sell out games of this caliber, there is no need for the league to consider sending two good teams to London to play – or to send a major rivalry game there.

The Bills beat the Pats 16-0. It is impossible to find a phase of the game where the Pats played well; they played as if they were sleepwalking. Just as it was an over-reaction after 2 opening season losses to think that Rex Ryan should be fired at that point of the season, it is also an over-reaction to think that he and the Bills have turned the corner now and are on their way to Super Bowl contention if not outright victory.

The Seahawks beat the Jets 27-17 last week. Russell Wilson played on a bad ankle and on a sprained MCL and he played very well indeed. At the end of the first half he was 10 for 11 for 192 yards and 2 TDs. That is a good half of football on two good appendages below the waist. Jets’ QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, struggled again last week finding the opponents with his passes on 3 occasions – all in the second half of the game. Over the last two games, Fitzpatrick has thrown 9 INTs; the Jets are 1-3 including 2 losses at home and the Jets are in danger of falling into oblivion when you look at their upcoming schedule:

    Oct 9 at Steelers
    Oct 16 at Cardinals
    Oct 23 vs Ravens

I am not saying they are going to do this, but the Jets could be 1-6 as of October 24 with two games against the Patriots still on the schedule. Ouch!

The Falcons beat the Panthers 48-33 last week. With one-quarter of the season behind them, the Falcons are 3-1 and the Panthers are 1-3. Raise your hand if you predicted that back in August; I did not! Matt Ryan is coming off a passing game for 504 yards (300 of them to Julio Jones) and if you extrapolate from these 4 games through 16 games, Ryan will pass for just under 5900 yards this season. As a point of reference, that would break the all-time NFL record for passing yards in a season by about 500 yards.

Here is why I doubt that such an extrapolation is a good idea:

    5900 yards passing for a season is about 370 yards per game.
    Ryan has done that against the Saints and Raiders in 2 of his first 4 games
    His next two games are on the road against the Broncos and the Seahawks.
    I doubt he will keep up that pace against those defenses…

I am not throwing shade on Matt Ryan here. After all, he went to high school about 10 miles as the crow flies from where my parents once lived. I just think it is a tad early to make such projections…

Julio Jones had 300 yards receiving in that game. Only 6 players in the history of the NFL have reached that milestone and only 4 have done it since the merger. Here is a Trivia Question:

    Q: What receiver holds the record for most yards receiving in single game?

    A: Flipper Anderson with the LA Rams in the 1980s with 336 yards.

In the game against the Panthers, Jones had catches of 32, 43, 53 and 75 yards. I wonder if the Panthers’ braintrust wished they still had Josh Norman playing DB for them? Even more concerning to the Panthers’ braintrust has to be the fact that Cam Newton is in the NFL’s concussion protocol and that LB Thomas Davis left the game with the Falcons with a “hamstring injury” and could not return to the field. The Panthers cannot afford to lose those two guys for any significant period of time.

The Rams beat the Cards 17-13 last week dropping the Cards to 1-3 – the same record as the Panthers; those were the two teams that faced each other last year in the NFC Championship Game. The Rams improved to 3-1 for the season after a Week 1 loss to the Niners that can best be described as throwing up on their shoes. Unlike the Panthers who have lost only 1 home game, this loss was the second for the Cards at home. For the season, Carson Palmer now has thrown 6 TDs and 5 INTs; that is not the way the Cards’ vertical offense succeeds. The Cards’ offense is not hitting the deep ball at all this year; for the last 2 seasons, that has been the explosive element of the entire offense. Carson Palmer is in the NFL’s concussion protocol as a result of a hit in the second half of this game; the Cards cannot afford to have him out of action or performing at 70% of capacity for very long this year if they intend to play meaningful games in January 2017.

The Rams won this game despite the fact that the Cards’ defense held Todd Gurley to a pedestrian 33 yards rushing. Clearly, the Cards’ game plan was to make the Rams throw the ball to win the game; were I devising a game plan against the Rams, I would probably do the same thing. The problem for the Cards is that Case Keenum threw for 2 TDs – one late in the 4th quarter – and that was enough to win the game.

The Rams have not been a factor in the NFC West for a while now. However, it is interesting to note that the Rams have been competitive within their division in the Jeff Fisher Era. Since Fisher took over the Rams – in St. Louis – the team has gone 13-13-1 against NFC West opponents. The Rams do not do nearly as well outside the division…

The Texans beat the Titans 27-20. Brock Osweiler threw 2 TDs and 2 INTs for the Texans in this game. The 2 TD passes were things of beauty; the 2 INTs were head-slapping, what-in-the -world-were-you-thinking throws. The other young QB on the field in this game, Marcus Mariota, was an unimpressive 13 for 29 for 202 yards and 1 INT. Pretty soon, I may be forced to conclude that Mike Mularkey’s “exotic smashmouth offense” is not compatible with the development of a young NFL QB…

The Broncos beat the Bucs 27-7 last week. For the second week in a row, the game in Tampa was delayed for an extended period of time due to air-to-ground lightning strikes in the stadium area. Not surprisingly, the Broncos won on defense:

    Bucs had only 215 yards offense
    Bucs 17-35 passing for 143 yards passing (3.6 yards per attempt)
    Bucs intercepted 2 times
    Bucs lost 1 fumble

Broncos’ QB Trevor Siemian had to leave the game with an injured shoulder in the first half. Paxton Lynch came in and played error-free football to seal the victory. Perhaps the fans in Tampa have learned already what to do in weather-delays. Looking at the replays, I would guess that only about 10,000 fans waited it out and came back to watch the end of this game. The vast majority used the delay to go and find their cars in the parking lots and headed on home.

There was an “interesting” coaching decision in the fourth quarter of this game. Trailing 27-7 with 7:30 to go in the game, the Bucs had the ball 4th and 5 at the Broncos’ 45 yardline. They were down three TDs at that point – – and they punted the football. Seemed to me as I watched the replay that this decision was tantamount to “throwing in the towel”. Even if the Bucs could have forced a 3-and-out, what they could look forward to was to get the ball back with about 6:00 left to play. That would have meant they would have had to score a TD and then get the ball back two more times in order to have a chance to win the game. At 4th and 5 on the other guys’ side of the field with that score, I am going for the first down. If I don’t get it, I will lose the game; if I make it, I will still probably lose the game. But, I am not punting…

The Bears beat the Lions 17-14. This was the 3rd loss in a row for the Lions; this was the Bears’ first win of the year. Neither team is any good. Brian Hoyer threw for 302 yards and 2 TDs; that speaks to the Lions’ defense. All of the Lions’ points here came on special teams (2 field goals, a punt return and a 2-point conversion); that speaks to the Lions’ offense.

The Skins beat the Browns 31-20. Surely, you have seen the “phantom fumble recovery” awarded to the Skins in the second half of this game. It was the officiating blunder of the year and here is how the NFL sought to explain it to Mary Kay Cabot of

“The on-field ruling was a fumble, recovered by Washington. It was confirmed as a fumble in instant replay without the need to stop the game. As to the recovery, several different angles were looked at, but with nothing definitive shown, there was no need to stop the game because the on-field ruling that awarded possession to Washington would have stood.”

The fact that a Cleveland Brown was holding the ball aloft in his hand as the officials peered into the pile – where there was no football – and decided that it was “Washington ball” had no impact or standing in the decision on the field or in the decision to describe how such a blunder might have occurred. Let me summarize it for you without any spin-doctoring:

    The officials blew this call. They should all be named “Monica” after this game.

[Aside: I am not positive about this, but I believe that the referee in charge of this crew is the same one who got the coin toss call wrong in an overtime game involving the Steelers 6 or 7 years ago.]

The NFL – protecting the integrity of the game no doubt – chose not to censure those officials because the game relative to the spread was still well in doubt at the time of the botched call.

The Skins took a 14-0 lead here. The Browns rallied and led 20-17 in the second half and then the Browns morphed into THE BROWNS. They turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions in the second half leading to 14 points and the 11-point margin of defeat.

The Raiders traveled across 3 time zones and beat the Ravens 28-27 in Baltimore. The game was sort of slow early on; at the end of 3 quarters the score was 14-12 in favor of the Raiders. Then the 4th quarter exploded. Michael Crabtree and Derek Carr hooked up for 3 TDs in the game including the game winner. Here are some observations from that game:

    Ravens were undefeated going into the game but they are not a great team.
    Raiders’ defense played well in this game as opposed to previous games.
    Kahlil Mack (DE/OLB for the Ravens) is a certified monster.
    Raiders are 3-1 and all of their wins are on the road.
    Joe Flacco threw the ball 52 times here; that is not a good game plan.

The Cowboys beat the Niners 24-17; it really wasn’t that close. The Niners scored TDs on both of their first two possessions; after that the offense was pretty much AWOL. The Cowboys’ rookies won this game for them. Dak Prescott threw for 245 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs while Ezekiel Elliott ran for 138 yards and another TD.

I told you how the Saints rallied to beat the Chargers 35-34 above. Moving on …

The Steelers beat the Chiefs 43-14 and it was not a game that was in doubt after the first 10 minutes of the first quarter. This was an old-fashioned butt-stomping. The Steelers did just about everything right from the start and the Chiefs did little if anything right from the start. At the end of the first quarter, the Steelers were in command 22-0. I may appear as if the Chiefs played more competitively after the first quarter if all you look at is the score; when you saw the game on TV, that was not the case. Le’Veon Bell returned from his suspension and ran for 144 yards; there was little evidence of any “rust” there.

A significant difference in the offensive philosophies of the Steelers and Chiefs was starkly evident in this game. The Chiefs run a “dink-and-dunk”/rely on run after the catch West Coast offense. That system works; I am not saying it does not. The Steelers run a vertical/throw the ball 35-yards down the field on a routine basis offense. That system also works; I am not saying it does not. On Sunday night, the Steelers’ offense was hitting on all 8 cylinders; the Chiefs’ offense was misfiring much of the time.

The Vikings dominated the Giants 24-10 on MNF last week. I mentioned above how Odell Beckham. Jr. virtually took himself out of the game with his loss of focus/poise during the game. His inability to get open had something to do with Eli Manning’s sub-standard performance of 25-43 for 261 yards in the game. Meanwhile, Sam Bradford gave a workmanlike performance and completed his 3rd full game at QB for the Vikings without committing any sort of turnover. Given the Vikes’ defense, that lack of turnovers is a huge plus for Bradford. Let me put the Vikes’ defense in 2016 in some sort of perspective here. Mike Zimmer arrived in Minnesota in 2014; he inherited a team with a defense that ranked 31st in the NFL in yards allowed and 32nd in the NFL in points allowed during the 2013 season. Just to clarify; those stats STINK. Here we are in 2016 and the Vikes’ defense is allowing 12.5 points per game and looks good enough to carry the team into the playoffs where anything can happen.

The Giants spent a lot of money on their defense in this off-season and for the first two games is certainly seemed as if those investments were going to pay off. Then the Giants gave 31 points to the Skins two weeks ago and gave 24 to the Vikes here. Perhaps, the Giants’ defense remains a work-in-progress…

The Games:

There are 4 teams on BYE Weeks this time around:

    Jax gets an extra week to celebrate beating the Colts in London.

    KC gets an extra week to forget about the drubbing they took last week.

    New Orleans gets an extra week to practice on defense.

    Seattle gets an extra week to get Russell Wilson healthy.

(Thurs Nite) Arizona – 3.5 at SF (43): Carson Palmer left Sunday’s game to enter the concussion protocol; this game will start 4 days after that event. He could not be cleared by the meidics and the team announced on Twitter that Palmer will not make the trip to SF. That means the Cards will have a QB tandem of Drew Stanton and Zac Dysert. As noted above, Palmer has not played well so far this season; nonetheless, he is the starting QB on that team for a reason and that reason is that he is a better QB in 2016 than Drew Stanton or Zac Dysert. The Niners also had a potential injury issue from last weekend. Linebacker, NaVarro Bowman, left the field with a leg injury and did not return. The line here tells me that the oddsmakers foresaw that Palmer would not play. That means a Drew Stanton/Blaine Gabbert game and that looks like a hot mess to me. I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.

Houston at Minnesota – 6 (40): Brock Osweiler is still a work-in-progress and he is still prone to throwing the ball to the other team. The Vikes defense is most adept at taking the ball away from the other side and this is potentially an Achilles’ Heel for the Texans. The Vikes are giving up 12.5 points per game; Houston’s offense is certainly not scary good. I like the Vikes to win and cover here at home.

Tennessee at Miami – 3.5 (44): It was another close call this week, but this one here is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Neither team is any good. Both teams have offenses that scare no one. Let me give you some trends that will demonstrate that these teams are not very good:

    Titans are 6-19-3 against the spread (ATS) playing a team with a losing record
    Dolphins are 2-12-0 ATS playing a team with a losing record
    Titans are 12-36-5 ATS versus AFC teams
    Dolphins are 2-10-0 ATS in their last 12 home games

I will prognosticate that neither offense will do much of anything in this game and so I will take the game to stay UNDER.

New England – 10 at Cleveland (47): I do not expect Tom Brady to be at peak form here – but I do not expect him to trip over his shoelaces either. The Pats stunk it up last week against the Bills and there are too many vets on that team to allow that sort of performance to show up 2 weeks in a row. I like the Pats to win and cover here – even on the road and laying double-digit points.

Jets at Pittsburgh – 7 (48): The Jets are up against it (see above); last week, the Steelers demonstrated that they laid an egg against the Eagles two weeks ago but that they were not going to lay eggs every week. Against the Seahawks last week, the Jets saw lots of free-running Seattle WRs in the secondary. The Seahawks’ WRs are good, but none of them are at the level of Antonio Brown. I think the Steelers will win and cover at home.

Washington at Baltimore – 3.5 (44.5): The Total Line opened at 47; it dropped quickly to 45 and has inched down from there. The Ravens are 3-1 but they are not blowing people out; their biggest margin of victory is 5 points (over the hapless Browns) and their loss last week was by a point. The Ravens played the Browns, Jags and Raiders in the last 3 games and could not demonstrate a consistent offense against that sort of opposition. The Skins’ defense is not great by any means, but it is not stumblebum awful either. I think the oddsmaker was closer to correct setting the Total Line at 47 to begin with; I like this game to go OVER.

Philly – 3 at Detroit (46): Is this the week that Carson Wentz demonstrates his “rookieness”? Is this the week that Matthew Stafford starts to play like a QB that has thrown for more than 5000 yards in a season? Is this the week the Eagles’ defense gives up more than 14 points in a game? Is this the week the Lions’ defense holds a winning opponent under 30 points? If you knew the answer to just about any one of those questions, this game would be an easy pick. The last time the Eagles played in Detroit was on a Thanksgiving Day and they simply stunk out the joint. I smell upset potential here so I’ll take the Lions plus the points.

Chicago at Indy – 4.5 (48): This game was briefly considered for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week but it finished third in that sweepstakes. The NFL Schedule Maven needs to explain why the Colts do not have a BYE week here having just played a game in London. Whatever… Neither team is any good but Andrew Luck is going to be the better QB on the field playing against a not-so-great defense. I’ll take the Colts – ignoring the jet-lag factor – to win and cover at home. Here is a trend that makes me feel comfy with that Mythical Pick:

    Colts are 26-11-1 ATS in their last 38 home games.

    So there …!

Atlanta at Denver – 6 (47): This is the best game of the week. The Falcons offense has been unreal for the last 3 games scoring 128 points in those 3 wins. Granted, two of the defenses they lit up – Raiders and Saints – are not among the elite defensive units. However, last week they torched the Panthers (see above) and the Panthers’ defense is pretty good. The Broncos’ defense is even better. In no way do I see the Falcons putting 40 points on the board here nor do I see Julio Jones catching 150 yards of passes – half of his output last week – against Aqib Talib in the secondary. However, Matt Ryan is hot and he is a veteran. The Broncos’ QB situation is in doubt until game time when we will find out if Trevor Siemian can go at all in the game. I think the line is fat; I’ll take the Falcons on the road plus the points.

Buffalo at LA – 2 (40): The key question here is a simple one:

    After an emotional win against a division rival on the road last week, can the Bills fly 2500 miles or so and play a game without a big letdown?

Last week the Bills were clearly up to play the Pats. This is a non-conference road game after a long flight. So, how will they react? I think the Bills are human and will not play nearly as hard this week. Meanwhile, the Rams won a division game too last week and as noted above, the Rams play much better inside the NFC West than they do outside the division. Will Case Keenum be an efficient game manager here or will he implode? I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Rams and lay the points. Remember, these are Mythical Picks …

San Diego at Oakland – 3.5 (50): I think the Raiders are a much-improved team this year and that the Chargers are – – the Chargers. Before the year started when I was looking at the Raiders’ schedule with 3 “Eastern Games” (Saints, Titans, Ravens) in September, I thought that a 2-2 split was a reach for the team. Well, they came out of that at 3-1 and now can go home to take on the bottom-feeder in the AFC West. Yes, the Chargers have led in the 4th quarter of every game this year – including the three losses on their schedule (see above). But this is not a heavy line for the Raiders to carry. I like the Raiders at home to win and cover. By the way, here is an interesting stat for the Raiders in 2016:

    In all 4 games despite their 3-1 record, the Raiders have been the team with less offense than their opponent. Last week for example, the Raiders won the game by 1 point but lost the “Total Offense battle” by 151 yards.

Cincy – 1.5 at Dallas (45): The spread for this game opened with Dallas as a 1-point favorite but it has flipped favorites as the week progressed. The Bengals’ defense is better than what the Cowboys have faced so far this year (Giants, Skins, Bears, Niners). By the same token, the Cowboys can run the ball and control the pace of the game better than teams the Bengals have faced so far this year – the Dolphins for example last week. I expect Ezekiel Elliott to have a good game and I expect AJ Green to give the Cowboys’ secondary fits. I’ll take the Cowboys at home plus the points.

(Sun Nite) Giants at Green Bay – 7 (48): I think the Packers are the better team. The Packers are at home. The Giants are playing on a short week (Monday to Sunday) and had to travel to this game. The Packers had their BYE Week last week. I’ll take the Packers to win and cover at home.

(Mon Nite) Tampa at Carolina (no lines): This game was the runner-up for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. There are no lines here because we do not yet know who will play QB for the Panthers or if Thomas Davis can play. Jameis Winston can be brilliant and/or he can be an interception waiting to happen. This will not be an artistic game. I obviously cannot make a pick on a game where there are no lines but here is what I think will happen:

    Derek Anderson will be the Panthers’ QB
    The game will be low-scoring.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 9/25/16

Last week’s Mythical Picks were not good and they were not bad. It was a week of “Meh!” I made 16 selections and the record for the week was 8-8-0. That makes the record for the season 21-12-0. There was one Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin was correct so its record was 1-0-0 bringing its season record to 2-0-0.

The Best Picks last week were:

    Rams +3.5 against Seahawks. Rams won outright
    Vikes +3 against Packers. Vikes won outright.

The Worst Picks last week were:

    Jax +3 against Chargers. Jags got smoked by 24 points
    Jets/Bills UNDER 41. Total was 68; game went OVER in 3rd quarter.

Paraphrasing what Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon say at the end of Pardon the Interruption, I’ll try and do better the next time.

Despite my intention to do better this week, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL football game this weekend should that wager involve real money – or anything else of value. You would have to be this dumb to do such a thing:

    You think crestfallen means that the toothpaste fell onto the floor.

General Comments:

After the Bills lost to the Jets 37-31 last Thursday night, the casualty from that game was Bills’ offensive coordinator, Greg Roman. The Bills fired their offensive coordinator despite scoring 31 points and losing. Can anyone spell “scapegoat”? The Bills’ defensive unit got lit up by Ryan Bleeping Fitzpatrick to the tune of:

    24 for 34 for 374 yards and 1 TD with 0 INTs

Bills’ DBs Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby were beaten like drums for most of the night. Give me a moment here until I try to show that the Bills’ offense was not very good either, but the REAL blame belongs with the defense. Now, if you are going to fire a coach whose players did not play well, you ought to look at the defensive side of the ball – – – except the defensive coordinator happens to be the twin brother of the head coach. This is why nepotism is a bad idea.

Now to look at the Bills’ offense. It was good-but-not-great. The Bills had 307 yards passing and total offense of 393 yards which looks good. Looking a bit deeper in the stats you will see that only amounted to 16 first downs and the offensive numbers included two long TD passes that accounted for 158 yards of that total offense. I do not mean to imply that Greg Roman is some sort of martyr here; he is not. But he was not the reason the Bills lost that game.

One more thing … Do not feel too sorry about Greg Roman’s lack of employment. I read one report that said the Bills owe him $3M until the end of the 2017 NFL season. He and his family will not be dining in soup kitchens during the Holidays this year.

The Steelers beat the Bengals 24-16 and the good news is that there were no fights or outbreaks of juvenile behaviors during the game. A lot has been made about a questionable call at the end of the game that went against the Bengals and some have attributed the loss to that call. I think there might be another issue to consider here:

    The game was played in the rain. The Bengals called 54 pass plays for Andy Dalton in the rain. Even if you count the 2 rushing attempts by Dalton as “called running plays” the Bengals only ran the ball 18 times. On 75% of their offensive snaps, the Bengals threw a wet football.

    I am not sure that is a good offensive game plan or good offensive play calling.

The Cowboys beat the Skins 27-23. That means the Skins have lost their opening two games for the season and both of them were home games. The Skins are the only team in the NFL starting out that way. Dez Bryant had 7 catches for 102 yards in this game and the Skins did spend some of the time having Josh Norman cover Bryant so that was a plus for the Skins’ defensive braintrust. There are reports of some malaise within the Skins’ locker room surrounding the play and the aura around QB Kirk Cousins – he of the franchise tag and the $20M salary for this year. With the Skins leading 23-20, the Skins had the ball on the Cowboys 6-yardline with about 10 minutes to play. On 3rd down, Cousins threw into TRIPLE coverage and the Cowboys got an INT in the end zone to keep their deficit at 3 points. The ensuing 80-yard drive give the Cowboys a TD and the win.

Rookie RB, Ezekiel Elliott had a better day here than he did in Week 1. Against the Skins he carried 21 times for 83 yards; if he did that every game, he would be over 1300 yards by the end of the season and the Cowboys will be happy with that. The downside here is that Elliott fumbled twice in this game. If he did that in every game, he would fumble the ball 32 times and the Cowboys would be unhappy with that…

The Texans beat the Chiefs 19-12 last week. Frankly, it did not seem as if either team was all that keen on winning this one. Consider these stats:

    Chiefs gave up 4 sacks.
    Chiefs were 3 for 14 on 3rd down
    Chiefs were penalized 9 times for 77 yards
    Chiefs lost 3 fumbles

And with all that, the Texans only got 19 points – – because – –

    Texans only gained 268 yards passing
    Texans threw 2 INTs – one deep in the red zone
    Texans gave up 268 yards in returns for the game

The Giants beat the Saints 16-13. How did that happen? The last couple of times these teams met, the scores for both teams needed to be recorded in scientific notation. Here is the really bad news from this game; the Saints – for the first time in a while – got a very positive and very effective game from its defensive unit and on the same day, their normally potent offense decided to take a slide. The Saints’ offense produced 288 yards on offense; more than once in a while, Drew Brees has 288 yards passing at the end of the 3rd quarter. The Saints defense did not give up a TD all day long; the Giants’ TD came on a blocked field goal and a return.

So here is the question from that Saints/Giants game:

    The Giants handed out contracts to defensive players in the offseason that had a total face value of more than $160M. Have they really fixed their horrible defensive woes from last year in doing that?

In my pre-season analysis, I said that I did not think they had done so, but if it was the Giants defense that throttled the Saints’ offense, I was probably very wrong in that assessment. For the first two games, the Giants have only allowed 32 points. This bears watching for the next few games…

The Ravens beat the Browns 25-20 after spotting the Browns a 20-0 lead in the first quarter of the game. At the end of the first quarter, the score was Browns 20 and Ravens 2; but that was not a safety recorded by the Ravens. Those points came from a blocked extra point that was returned for a TD by the Ravens. That came with 4:34 to play in the first quarter and the Browns never scored again. As happened in the first game, the Browns had their QB suffer a shoulder injury. Josh McCown is not going to play this week; the Browns are down to their 3rd string QB, Cody Kessler, for this week’s contest against the Dolphins in Miami. Both teams threw 2 INTs in the game; neither defense distinguished itself on 3rd down the two teams combined to convert 18 of 31 3rd down situations.

There is another team who will be starting a 3rd string QB this week; that would be the New England Patriots who still have two weeks to wait until Tom Brady is allowed to come out to play and they lost Jimmy Garoppolo to a shoulder injury last week against the Dolphins. Until he had to leave the game, Garoppolo was lighting up the Dolphins’ defense. When he left the game in the second quarter, he was 18 for 27 for 234 yards and 3 TDs with 0 INTs. Not bad for a substitute QB, right?

Rookie Jacoby Brisset (out of NC State) took over last week and will start this week. The Pats emphasized the run more in the second half and held on to win 31-24. Brisset was 6 for 9 for 92 yards in a little more than half the game; he committed no turnovers; he ran the ball 4 times for 12 yards. For his first appearance – and without a week of fulltime prep with the first unit – that is an acceptable showing. This week – on a short week of preparation – he will take the field against the Houston Texans, a team that emphasizes defense as demonstrated by the comments above. At least he does not have to deal with adverse crowd noise as he would if the Pats were on the road this week.

The Titans beat the Lions last week 16-15. Titans’ coach Mike Mularkey characterized the Titans’ offense back in the exhibition season as “exotic smashmouth football”. The Titans do have a pair of big and powerful RBs in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry and they utilized both of them last week to the tune of 21 carries for 129 yards. The game was about as even as the score would imply:

    Time of Possession: Titans 30:51 Lions 29:09
    Total Offense: Titans 363 yards Lions 375 yards
    Yards Rushing: Titans 139 yards Lions 137 yards
    Yards Passing: Titans 224 yards Lions 238 yards

The biggest statistical discrepancy I could find was this one:

    Penalties: Titans 12 for 83 yards Lions 17 for 138 yards

The Rams and Seahawks played another low-scoring game last week with the Rams winning 9-3 in their first game back in Los Angeles. If you are a Seahawks’ fan, you have to be happy that the team is not peaking so early in the season. This game was ugly; the score was not suppressed because teams found ways to turn the ball over; the score was low because neither team played very well. Consider:

    There was 1 fumble lost in the game and 0 INTs.
    There were 19 penalties in the game for 192 yards
    There were 13 punts in the game
    There were only 35 return yards in the game
    Neither team could average 3 yards per rush attempt.

The Rams seem to play a whole lot better against the Seahawks than they do against everyone else in the league – – or maybe it is the opposite. Going back to the 2014 season, the Seahawks are 1-4 against the Rams and they are 22-6 against the rest of the NFL. As strange as those stats may seem, here are two more stats to think about:

    In 2016, the LA Rams have played 120 minutes of football and have yet to score a TD. In this offense-emphasis era, that is unusual.

    In fact, the last time the LA Rams scored a TD was on December 24, 1994 just before they bolted to St Louis. It was a 36-yard TD pass from Chris Miller to Jermaine Ross with the PAT by Tony Zendejas.

BTW, the Rams lost that game 24-21 to the Skins. It was a game of no importance whatsoever; the Rams wound up 4-12 and the skins wound up 3-13 in that season. That had to be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

The Cardinals manhandled the Bucs 40-7 last week. Yes, the beatdown was as bad as the score indicates. I think there is an important takeaway from this game however. You should recall that in Week 1, the Pats and first-time starter Jimmy Garoppolo went to Arizona and pretty much controlled the game against the same Cards’ defense that just put the kibosh on the Bucs here. Remember that the Pats converted 10 of 16 first down attempts in Week 1. This week, the Cards recorded 3 sacks and 4 INTs (including a Pick Six) against Jameis Winston.

The Panthers beat the Niners 46-27. This was a game of ebb and flow. The Panthers rolled out to a 31-10 lead at the end of the 3rd quarter. Then the Niners closed the gap to 34-27 with about 8 minutes to play in the game. Then the Panthers put it back in gear and scored a TD and 2 field goals in the final 4 minutes. Looking at the stats you would never have thought that this would have been a 1 score game in the middle of the 4th quarter. Consider:

    Total Offense: Panthers 529 yards Niners 302 yards
    Third Down Conversions: Panthers 7 for 15 Niners 4 for 14
    Return Yards: Panthers 175 yards Niners 66 yards
    Time of Possession: Panthers 35:56 Niners 24:04

The Broncos beat the Colts 34-20. Two defensive TDs by the Broncos provided the margin of victory here; the defense also sacked Andrew Luck 5 times in the game. The OL and the DL for the Colts continue to be sub-standard. The defense gave the Broncos an average of 4.5 yards per carry.

The Falcons beat the Raiders 35-28 and Matt Ryan had an excellent day producing this stat line:

    26 for 34 for 396 yards and 3 TDs with 1 INT

Julio Jones also had a nice day catching 5 passes – on 5 targets no less – for 106 yards and 1 TD. The Falcons amassed 528 yards on offense and a bit over 8 yards per offensive play. Like the Bills above, the Raiders need to look at their defense – and perhaps at their defensive coaches – for the reason they lost this game. The Raiders offense scored 28 points and moved the ball for 454 yards here; this is the second week in a row that the defense has allowed opponents to “north of 30 points” and that is not a winning recipe in NFL football.

The Chargers beat the Jags 38-14 last week. In last week’s Mythical Picks, I took the Jags +3 in the game and said that I expected the Jags to win outright. OK, now that everyone has stopped giggling, I will proceed. The game was not as close as the score indicates.

    After a scoreless 1st half, Jags punted on first 3 possessions of 2nd half.
    At the end of the 3rd quarter, the score was 35-0.
    The second Jags’ TD came with a minute left in the game.
    Jags converted 2 of 11 third down tries
    Jags penalized 14 times for 93 yards

In my pre-season analysis, I put Gus Bradley on the coaching hot seat because I had put him there the year before. I fully expected – and said so at the time – that he would not be in trouble because I thought the Jags would win the AFC South. They have stunk it up badly in their first two games. The Jags’ ownership has been extremely tolerant in Bradley’s tenure there. Consider:

    Gus Bradley’s record as the head coach in Jax now stands at 12-38.

Here is some perspective on that record:

    Only 1 coach in NFL history had a worse record after his first 50 games.

That “other coach” was Bert Bell who was the owner of the Eagles in the 30s and 40s. The Eagles were a doormat team then; Bell used that doormat status to plead with the other owners to adopt the NFL Draft so that the bad teams could be competitive; with great foresight, the other owners went along. Bell and the Eagles had the first pick ever in any NFL draft and the guy they picked refused to play for them because they stunk. They traded his rights to another team for someone who never played for them and then had the first pick in the next draft. You guessed it, they didn’t sign that guy either.

From 1936-1940, Bert Bell coached the team he owned and ran up a record of 10-44-2. After a complicated series of puts and takes between Bell and Art Rooney of the Steelers, Bell then coached the Steelers for 2 games in 1941. You guessed it; the Steelers lost both of those games so Bell’s total coaching record is 10-46-2.

Gus Bradley’s record is not that bad – but it is close. If the Jags’ players like him and want him to stay around, they had better start winning some games…

The Vikes introduced the world to their new stadium on Sunday night last week and did so in grand fashion beating the Packers 17-14. The Vikings rode their defense to the playoffs last year and the unit is clicking again this year. Last week, the Vikes held the Packers to 263 yards of offense and they forced Aaron Rodgers to fumble 3 times. On offense the Vikes had some good news and some bad news:

    Good news: Sam Bradford played very well
    Bad news: Adrian Peterson hurt his knee and was carried off in the 3rd quarter

The Eagles beat the Bears on MNF 29-14. The Carson Wentz Bandwagon is starting to get awfully crowded; he played well on Monday night but no one should be carried away here. Looking at the stats for the game, the Eagles won handily on the scoreboard but the stats actually look as if the Bears were the better team except for two stats:

    Total offense: Eagles 280 yards Bears 284 yards
    Yards per play: Eagles 4.1 Bears 5.7
    Yards per pass: Eagles 5.0 Bears 6.9
    Return Yards: Eagles 85 Bears 155 (and 1 TD)

The two stats that indicate how and why the Eagles won the game have little to do with Carson Wentz:

    Turnovers: Eagles 0 Bears 3
    Time of Possession: Eagles 36:05 Bears 23:55

I do not want anyone here to think I am “throwing shade” on Carson Wentz; his first two games in the NFL have been very good; and, frankly, they have been about everything that the coaching staff could have asked for from a rookie starter. But the ESPN post-game analysts were about to strew rose petals in front of him should he have come out to their set on the field. He was good – – but not that good.

Before getting to this week’s games, I want to channel Paul Harvey here and tell you The Rest Of The Story…

Recall in Week 1, some guy ran onto the field in the Niners/Rams game and took off his shirt and then outran the security guys for a while until they finally tackled him. Naturally, I – and many others – assumed that he had over-indulged in adult beverages prior to making his run. Not so. It turns out that he is a 16-year old boy and he did it because someone dared him to do it. His brain was not addled with alcohol; it was addled with testosterone. Because he is a minor, he did not serve time in jail but he has been banned from Levi’s Stadium for one full year. There is no word what came to the guy who dared this kid to do what the kid did…

The Games:

(Thurs Nite): Houston – 1.5 at New England (40.5): I am surprised by the spread here; I would have thought that it would be about 2 points higher in favor of the Texans. Given the Texans defense, I would have thought the public would be averse to backing the Pats here – – but clearly, I was over-estimating that sentiment. However, perhaps people are paying attention to this trend I ran across:

    In the last 8 games where the Pats have been underdogs, the Pats are 7-1 straight up and 7-1 against the spread.

I agree with the oddsmakers that this game will be low scoring given that Jacoby Brisset is almost assuredly going to be the Pats’ QB for the entire game. Nevertheless, I am not ready to declare that the Pats ore dead meat in this matchup. I am declaring this as a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game. The coin is out and the coin says to take the Texans and lay the points. Who am I to argue with “the coin” when “the coin” is perfect so far this season?

Denver at Cincy – 3 (41): Trevor Siemian will experience a road game against a good team for the first time in his NFL career. Last year when he watched from the sidelines in road games against good teams, he had to absorb the elements/atmosphere of those games; this year, the Broncos’ game against a top-shelf team (Panthers) was at home; now Siemian gets to see what it is like under center and on the road against a quality roster. Meanwhile, the Bengals have to regroup after a division loss last week. The matchup of AJ Green and Aquib Talib will be exciting to watch. I really have no idea how the teams will come out to play this game nor how they will structure game plans against one another. Ergo, this is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Broncos plus the points. Why not?

Oakland at Tennessee – 2 (47): This spread demonstrates that the oddsmakers have little faith in Raiders’ Nation to show up at the betting windows to play for the Raiders side of the deal. So far, the Raiders’ defense has been a no-show in 2016 (see above). In the first two games, the Raiders have given up an average of 517.5 yards per game. To put that in perspective, the next worst defense in the NFL is the Saints and they “only” give up 451.5 yards per game. By the same token, the Titans’ offense has not spread fear amongst the defensive coordinators around the NFL. I think there is a litmus test here for the Raiders’ defense:

    They have to hold the Titans under 30 points lest they look forward to allowing more than 500 points for the 2016 season.

I am going to go with the Raiders here because I think they will indeed keep the Titans’ offense in check. I’ll take the Raiders plus the points.

Arizona – 4 at Buffalo (47): Now that the Bills have fired Greg Roman (see above) all should be well in Western New York, right? After losing to the Pats, the Cardinals came right back and simply dominated the Bucs last week. I know this is a long trip for the Cards; but the simple fact is that they have more talent on the field than do the Bills. I expect the Bills to come out and play hard this week after what happened to them in a national game last week but I still prefer going with talent over emotion. Here are a couple of interesting trends:

    Cards are 19-7 against the spread against teams with losing records.
    Bills are 6-13 against the spread in Week 3.
    This is Week 3 and the Bills have a losing record.

I like the Cards to win and cover – even on this long road trip.

Baltimore at Jax “pick ‘em” (47): The Jags were competitive in Week 1 against the Packers but they did nothing constructive at all against the Chargers in Week 2. The Ravens are 2-0 having beaten two of the bottom-feeders of the league (Bills then Browns). It is difficult to call a game in Week 3 a “must-win game” but for the Jags, this one approaches that status. I cannot turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol because there is no provision in the protocol for a “pick ‘em game”. Therefore, I will make this purely a venue pick and take the Jags to win the game.

There is a trend that supports that pick – if you like trends. In the last time these teams have played, the home team is 5-2-1 against the spread. Since there is no spread here, the way for the home team to extend the trend would be to win outright.

Cleveland at Miami – 10.5 (42): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. One of these teams will get their first win of the season here only because the odds against a tie in the NFL are incredibly high. The drama level for this game is about the same as the drama level for watching bread dough rise; you know it is going to happen and all you care about is the end result. In addition to the fact that the Browns have started a jillion QBs since returning to the NFL in 1999, here are the starting QBs in their last four games plus the guy who will start this week

    Johnny Manziel – Week 16 2015
    Austin Davis – Week 17 2015
    RG3 – Week 1 2016
    Josh McCown – Week 2 2016
    Cody Kessler – Week 3 2017

That represents a level of stability approximately that of a walrus riding a unicycle. Meanwhile, the Dolphins rallied to get within a TD of the Pats last week – but that was only after Jimmy Garoppolo left the game in the 2nd quarter. I hate laying double-digits in the NFL but if I were to do it, I would want the underdog to be awful – which it is here. I hate laying double-digits in the NFL and when I think about doing it, I want the favorite to be one of the better teams – which is not the case here. Only because I said I would make a pick in every game and because these are Mythical Picks not real ones, I will take the Browns plus the points.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to go and wash my hands after typing those words…

Washington at Giants – 4.5 (46.5): This is a desperation game for the Skins. A loss here would put them at 0-3 but in addition it would be their second loss in the NFC East. The narrative in DC for the time in training camp was that the Skins had put the franchise’s typical drama scenarios behind them; this was a squad that was focused on doing its business and getting wins. Well, the team is 0-2 and there are reports of dissention in the locker room (see above). Meanwhile the Giants are playing solid if unspectacular football. Their record is 2-0; they have scored only 36 points in those 2 wins but they have only allowed 32 points in those 2 games. Even if Josh Norman can make good on his pronouncements that he can dominate Odell Beckham, Jr., that does not mean that Eli Manning will be without receivers to catch the ball for him. Here are two interesting trends:

    Skins/Giants have gone UNDER in 13 of the last 16 games in NY
    Skins/Giants have gone UNDER in 7 of their last 9 games anywhere.

I like the Giants at home to win and cover here.

Detroit at Green Bay – 7.5 (47.5): Aaron Rodgers played a very “un-Rodgers-like” game last week against a Vikings’ defense that may indeed be one of the best in the league. He will not face such a challenge this week. The Lions rallied in the second half of last season and saved Jim Caldwell’s job; then they came out in Week 1 and scored 39 points; then they laid an egg last week against the Titans. After 2 games, the Lions’ offense is averaging 411.5 yards per game; after 2 games the Lions’ defense is allowing an average of 406.5 yards per game. I smell a shoot-out here; I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Minnesota at Carolina – 7 (43): Here are two good defensive teams each having a week to prepare for the other. Here are two trends for the game; one of them will see a reversal this week:

    Vikes are 10-1 against the spread in their last 11 road games.
    Panthers are 8-2 against the spread in their last 10 games on grass.
    This game is on grass and the Vikes are on the road.

With the announcement that Adrian Peterson needs surgery and will be out for much of the rest of the season, the Vikings will need to rely more heavily on Sam Bradford and their passing attack. That may be a positive thing somewhere down the road, but it may take time for it to develop. I like the Panthers to win and cover at home.

SF at Seattle – 9 (40): Channeling Bud Collyer from the old TV game show, To Tell the Truth:

Will the real Seattle Seahawks please stand up…?

When Chip Kelly arrived in SF, the idea was that the Niners’ offense which had been moribund under Jim Tomsula would take a great leap forward while the Niners’ defense would suffer from over-exposure. Well, after 2 weeks, the Niners’ offense has been nothing to write home about averaging a mediocre 311 yards per game. The Niners’ defense has not cratered from overwork – yet – but the lack of offensive fireworks should be a bit disturbing for Niners’ fans. Lack of offense is the hallmark of the Seahawks’ season to date. They have scored 15 points (1 TD) in their 2 games. They have to wake up one of these weeks, no? I think this is the week so I’ll take the Seahawks at home and lay the points.

LA at Tampa Bay – 5 (42): How bad is the Rams’ offense? They are averaging only 234 yards per game total offense. That is dead last in the NFL by more than 35 yards per game. The Bucs’ defense has given up 395 yards per game over the first two contests. Is that sufficient to get the Rams out of their stupor? I might believe that were it not for the fact that the Rams will be making a 3 time zone trip to play this game. I’ll take the Bucs at home to win and cover.

Pittsburgh – 3.5 at Philly (46.5): Is this the best game of the week? It matches two teams that are 2-0; by the time they kick off here, one of the undefeated teams in the Texans/Pats game will not enjoy that status. The Eagles have scored 29 points in each of their first two games this year; I do not think they can score that much against the Steelers. The Eagles have allowed an average of only 12 points per game to their opponents in the first two games this year; I do not think they can hold the Steelers to anything near that number. I think Pittsburgh is one of the top teams in the AFC; the Eagles are not one of the top teams in the NFC. I know this is an old rivalry game and I know it is in Philly. Nonetheless, I’ll take the Steelers and lay the points.

Jets at KC – 3 (43): Short and sweet here… The Chiefs had trouble scoring against a tough Texans defense last week. The Jets’ defense is also tough. I’ll take the Jets on the road plus the points.

San Diego at Indy – 2.5 (52): I cannot believe the dominance shown by the Chargers last week; this is not a dominating team. I cannot believe how bad the Colts line play has been so far this year on both offense and defense; it actually takes more than a really good QB to be a winning team in the NFL. Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Colts at home to win and cover.

(Sun Nite) Chicago at Dallas – 7 (44.5): Given what I saw of the Bears on Monday night last week, this team needs to regroup very quickly. I am not ready to proclaim that the Eagles have a dominant NFL defense but they definitely dominated the Bears last Monday. If the Bears’ offense is going to play like that for the rest of the year, Chicago fans need to be prepared for double-digit losses sometime proximal to Thanksgiving. The only team in the NFL producing less offense than the Bears is the Rams; that does not say much for the Bears chances to score. Can Jay Cutler play this week with his injured thumb? If not the Bears’ offense will not get any better. Cutler may not be the most popular player in the NFL, but he is the starting QB in Chicago for the simple reason he is the best option on the roster. I do not love the Cowboys this year but I think they are the better team here. I’ll take the Cowboys at home and lay the points.

(Mon Nite) Atlanta at New Orleans – 3 (53): I know this is a division game and a rivalry game. However, let me say to the movers and shakers at ESPN and at the NFL:

    I have not cared about match-ups between these teams for at least the last 5 years and will probably not care much for the next 5 years.

These teams rank #29 and #31 on defense so far this year; so people tuning into the game are likely to see fireworks. I ‘ll just go along with that sort of thinking here and take the game to go OVER. Why not? These are only Mythical Picks.

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

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

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

The Best Pick from last week was:

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

The Worst Pick from last week was:

    Cards – 6 over Pats. Cards lost outright.

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

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

General Comments:

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

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

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

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

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

    Jerry Rice – – 1995 – – 1848 yards.

That’s it; that’s the list.

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

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

    Chocolate Bacon Blitz Pizza.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is also work to do in the Great Southeast…

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

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

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

      31 for 47 with 4 TDs and 0 INTs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Goff cannot be THAT bad, can he?

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

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

The Games:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This game is in New England.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 9/11/16

Last week, new readers got their introduction – indoctrination? – into the NCAA version of Mythical Picks. Similarly, for the rest of the football season, there will be a separate but equal presentation focused on NFL games. The format will be a bit simpler. Ultimately, the purpose will be for me to make a selection against the spread – or on the Total Line – for each of the 256 NFL regular season games. Let me make something very clear from the outset:

    I am highly unlikely to be able to make picks for every game because:

      1. There will be weeks where I cannot get to writing these things until Friday and there will have been a game on that Thursday night.

      2. Travel events and/or family events may preclude putting these pieces out for a given week.

    I will do the best that I can…

Each week will begin with a summary of how the picks did the week before along with a running total for the entire season. As I did with the NCAA version of Mythical Picks, let me emphasize a few important points:

    These are Mythical Picks. I am not going to make a wager on every NFL game and under no circumstances would I suggest that anyone else do anything like that.

    If you do bet on sporting events, money management is as important as making selections because there is no way that you are only going to make winning selections. Even the phony shills on the radio and TV who shriek in order to get you to buy their “service” do not claim 100% accuracy.

      [Aside: Be wary of people who claim a “documented 75% record” against the spread. There are handicapping contests in Las Vegas every year and the prize money is very significant; those contests are usually won by someone who hits a little under 60% of the picks made. If these radio/TV jokers could REALLY do 75%, they would have won the handicapping contests every year for the last decade. And none of them have or they would surely tell you that they did …]

After the review of the prior week, I will make some General Comments about the NFL about last week’s games and/or and the upcoming games and then I will get right down to the selections for the week. For the record, last year the Mythical Picks record was 134-121-5 which was ever so slightly profitable against the vig. I have been doing Mythical Picks against the spread for every game for 15 years now; this is only the second time I have had a “profitable” season.

Before I get to the General Comments, I do want to be sure that everyone understands that no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this week or any other week. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do such a thing:

    You think barium is that they do to chemists when they die.

General Comments:

There will be a few “new things” regarding the NFL this year. Some of them will be steps forward; others will be a “lateral arabesque” – – better known as The Great Leap Sideways. First of all, there will be more international games this year. There will be three “London Games” this year and in Week 11 there will be a game in Mexico City. Those games will be positive events for the NFL because they will represent high revenue events. I am not so sure that these games will be positive events for the fans of the teams involved or for the players. Clearly, fans and players are secondary matters here; this is all about the pursuit of revenue streams.

For 2016, there is a rule change that – theoretically – should lead to more players being ejected from games. Here is the new rule:

    A player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls will be disqualified. The types of fouls are:

      Throwing a punch or forearm, or kicking at an opponent, even if no contact is made

      Using abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures toward opponents, teammates, officials or league representatives

      Using baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.

Note, the player would have to be penalized twice for such conduct to be ejected. So punching, kicking and taunting will result in penalties for the first infraction and penalties plus ejection for the second. Seems like a pretty wishy-washy rule to me.

There is a point of emphasis for the officials this season which means that the rule has not been altered but the Competition Committee wants the officials to enforce the existing rule a bit more strenuously than they did last year. [Aside: When I officiated basketball, I often thought that “Points of Emphasis” had a flavor of “shifting the blame to the officials” when the Rules Mavens chose not to change the wording of their sacred rules. But, clearly, I was biased in that viewpoint…]

    Game officials will monitor and strictly enforce the rules pertaining to illegal acts committed by the defensive team while trying to block field-goal and extra-point attempts during the 2016 season, including:

      Making forcible contact below the waist of offensive blockers.

      Grabbing an offensive blocker and pulling him to the side or toward the ground to create space or a gap for a teammate to rush through.

      Using the hands or other parts of the body to push off an offensive blocker to gain leverage in an effort to block the kick.

I am not sure what the defenders for PAT tries or field goals are now allowed to do. They cannot make contact below the waist; they cannot use any part of their body to push off a blocker as they try to block the kick. Other than spouting wings and flying over the offensive blockers, I am not sure what else they might do – legally – to block a kick.

There is another point of emphasis that will likely be ignored by all parties concerned. Basically, coaches are not allowed to leave the bench area except for very proscribed circumstances.

    Despite being a point of emphasis in previous seasons, the issue of coaches leaving the bench area to gain the attention of the game officials or entering the field of play for other reasons continues to be a widespread problem. [Aside: This means that a “Point of Emphasis” in the past did not work but they are going to try to make it another Point of Emphasis again rather than change the rule.] The Committee sees no other recourse than to direct game officials to penalize coaches who do not comply with the rule.

    A head coach can leave the bench area to get the attention of a game official when the snap takes place at a yard line not within the bench area and the coach is trying to call a team timeout or challenge an on-field ruling, and during an injury timeout to check the welfare of an injured player.

    A coach cannot leave the bench area to question a game official, and at no time is a coach allowed onto the field of play. At no time can an assistant coach leave the bench area, even during breaks after scoring plays. These rules remain in effect during any timeout. Only incoming substitutes, team attendants or trainers seeing to the welfare of a player may enter the field. Violations will result in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the coach and/or the club may face additional discipline.

Please read that third paragraph above about who can and cannot leave the bench area. My guess is that just looking on TV you will see a half dozen violations of that rule and that point of emphasis in every half of every game this season.

Which head coach will be the one to get the first 15-yard penalty of the year for being improperly on the field?

    Rex Ryan?
    Bruce Arians?
    I think my money would be on Mike Tomlin…

The NFL also changed the rule on touchbacks on kickoffs. Now the ball will come out to the 25-yardline instead of the 20. The thinking here is that the extra 5 yards for “taking a knee” would result in fewer returns and therefore fewer injuries. We shall see…

If I were a special teams coach, I would look to have my kicker learn the kickoff version of a “pooch punt” which would go high in the air and come down around the opponent’s 10-yardline. Given enough hang time, that could create fair-catches for kickoffs or it could get the return guy creamed by kick cover guys. That might be the result of the Law of Unintended Consequences…

The Tampa Bay Bucs defied – – drumroll please – – conventional wisdom back in May when they used a pick in the 2nd round of the Draft to take – – gasp – – a kicker. Roberto Aguayo never missed a PAT in 3 years at Florida State and his field goal accuracy was 88.5%. Yes, I know that colleges kick the PAT from the 10 yardline and the NFL kicks the PAT from the 22 yardline. Nonetheless, Aguayo’s numbers are attractive; people just did not think a kicker should go in the 2nd round of the Draft. Then Aguayo struggled in training camp and in exhibition games. If Aguayo were to miss an extra point or a chip shot field goal that costs the Bucs a game this year, you can be sure that he will take his place in the Pantheon of Bad People.

The Games:

Note that the lines for the games on Sunday/Monday could change a lot from the ones cited here. These lines are current as of mid-morning on Wednesday.

(Thurs Nite) Carolina – 3 at Denver (42): Holy Super Bowl rematch, Batman … The spread opened as a “pick ‘em” game and has stretched out to this number. Perhaps oddsmakers thought Mark Sanchez would be the QB for Denver and bettors piled on Carolina when they learned that the starting QB for the Broncos would be a guy who has never thrown a pass in a real NFL game. Whatever, that is the situation at hand… If you would like to see some conflicting trends, consider these:

    Panthers are 7-1 against the spread in their last 8 games on grass.
    Broncos are 7-1 against the spread in their last 8 Thursday games.
    This is a Thursday game on a grass field…

I agree with the oddsmakers that this will be a low-scoring affair and in most cases, I prefer to take points in low scoring games. However, this time I think the Panthers are more than a field goal better than the Broncos. I’ll take the Panthers to win and cover on the road in the NFL season opener.

Cincy – 2.5 at Jets (41.5): This should also be a defense dominated game and this time I do like the underdog – especially at home. Please note that the game will be played on 9/11 in NYC and the home team is the Jets. If I were prone to make picks for oddball reasons, I would be taking the Jets here. Combining my slight preference for the Jets with this karmic coincidence means I will indeed take the Jets plus the points.

Cleveland at Philly – 4 (41.5): I think line movements here reflect the trade of Sam Bradford to the Vikes and the idea that the Eagles will start Carson Wentz “if he is healthy”. The line opened at Philly – 7 and the Total Line opened at 45. That is a lot of movement for NFL lines. Here you have two teams coming off bad enough seasons in 2015 that they fired their coaches. Hue Jackson takes over in Cleveland and tries to return RG3 to some semblance of his form as a rookie. Doug Pederson takes over in Philly as an offshoot of the Andy Reid coaching tree and hopes to last as long in Philly as Reid did (14 years). I think both teams will finish at the bottom their divisions but I do think the Eagles are the better overall squad. I’ll take the Eagles at home to win and cover.

Oakland at New Orleans – 1.5 (51): I know that the State of Louisiana suffered a ton of flood damage just a couple of weeks ago and that the Saints rallied that part of the world in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when it went on a run and won the Super Bowl a few years back. But I think the Raiders are the better team here and I think the Raiders are primed for a playoff berth. There are conflicting trends for this game too:

    Raiders are 6-2 against the spread in their last 8 games on field turf.
    Saints are 6-2 against the spread in their last 8 games in September.
    This game is on field turf in September.

I’ll take the Raiders plus the points.

Minnesota – 2 at Tennessee (41): Shaun Hill or Sam Bradford as the Vikings QB here? I’m not sure it makes much of a difference because I think the Vikings defense can dominate the game and Adrian Peterson can run the football. I like the Vikings to win and cover even on the road.

Tampa at Atlanta – 3 (47.5): Both teams represent mediocrity here. I am not thrilled by the prospect of taking the Falcons and laying points here; nor am I enthralled by the prospect of taking the Bucs on the road. And so I shall introduce the concept of the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game. When I do not like any of the choices for a game – but I need to make a pick – I have a coin flip protocol that goes like this:

    Coin Flip #1:

      Heads means play the spread
      Tails means play the Total Line

    Coin Flip #2

      Heads means take the favorite (spread) or the OVER (Total Line)
      Tails means take the underdog (spread) or the UNDER (Total Line)

This is the first Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game of the season and the coin says to take the Bucs plus the points. Why not?

Buffalo at Baltimore – 3 (44.5): Until and unless the injury bug visits the Ravens again this year, their defense will be improved over last year’s unit. The injury bug has already hit the Bills – particularly on the defensive side of the ball. I like the Ravens to win and cover at home.

Chicago at Houston – 6 (44): Will JJ Watt play? If so, is he really ready to play – not having played or practiced since last January? I know Brock Osweiler is going to make a ton of money this year but is he anywhere near worth it? We will not know the answers to those questions for a while but we do know this:

    The Bears are only mediocre at best.

I like this game to stay UNDER.

San Diego at KC – 7 (44.5): The Chiefs are the better team and the Chiefs are at home. But that line looks as fat as Andy Reid himself. I’ll take the Chargers plus the points.

Green Bay – 5.5 at Jax (48): This game will not get the same level of hype as some other matchups this weekend, but this could be a very good game. Might this game be the opportunity for the Jags to make a statement that they are going to be a factor in 2016? I think that is sufficiently possible that I will take the Jags at home plus the points.

Miami at Seattle – 11 (44): I hate double-digit spreads on NFL games. I cannot see the Dolphins winning this game but that line is awfully fat. I’ll take the Dolphins on the road plus the points. Notwithstanding that selection, there is a disturbing trend at work here:

    The Dolphins are 5-21 against the spread in their last 26 games.

Detroit at Indy – 4 (50.5): The return of Andrew Luck makes the Colts’ offense a lot better than it was last year. The Lions’ defense is nothing to write home about. Indeed, the Lions’ offense will miss Calvin Johnson but if there is a silver lining here it is that the Lions get to open against a defense that was not very good last year and seemingly made no major improvements. I like this game to go OVER.

Giants at Dallas “pick ’em” (46): Early in the week, these lines were all over the place. At one point on Monday evening, you could find the Cowboys as a 1-point underdog and just about every spread along the way to the Cowboys being a 3.5-point favorite. The Total Line was just as mysterious. It ranged from 45.5 to 49.5. What I have used here is where the majority of lines reside at the moment. Dak Prescott looked like a world-beater in the exhibition games – – but those were exhibition games. The real question here is this:

    Can the Giants stop/slow down the Cowboys run game?

I do not think they can do it sufficiently to keep the scoring down and so I will take the game to go OVER.

(Sun Nite) New England at Arizona – 6 (47): The Total Line opened at 51 but it has been at this level since Monday evening. I do not think that the Pats can overcome the insertion of Jimmy Garropolo for Tom Brady on the road against a team that I think will win 11 games this year. That is not a knock on the Pats or their coaching staff or Garropolo; I think the Cards are too good a team for the Pats to beat with those disadvantages in the first game out of the gate. I like the Cards at home to win and cover here.

(Early Mon Nite) Pittsburgh – 3 at Washington (50): An interesting thing to watch here will be Josh Norman in the defensive secondary for the Skins. Norman got a ton of money to sign here in the off-season and he was REALLY good last year. Some have said that he is not nearly as good as he looked last year because he played behind a fearsome front seven who gave opposing QBs little time to be comfortable in the pass game. Well, Norman is now behind a front seven that is not nearly as fearsome as the Panthers’ unit was last year. Oh, and the Steelers will bring Antonio Brown to the game … Speaking of defenses that will need to step up, the Steelers defense looks to be vulnerable again this year. I like the Skins plus the points at home and I like the game to go OVER.

(Late Mon Nite) LA – 2.5 at SF (44): The Niners’ offense is a “work in progress” to be polite and the Rams’ defense is very good. The Niners’ defense is not nearly as good but playing against Case Keenum as the opposing QB might make the Niners’ defense look better than it really is. I like this game to stay UNDER.

Finally, here is a comment from Mike Bianchi in the Orlando Sentinel. It has to do with the perversity of fantasy football:

“My first thought when Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater blew out his knee and was lost for the season earlier this week wasn’t sympathy for Bridgewater but concern about how it would affect Adrian Peterson’s production on my fantasy team. And this is why fantasy football makes you a sad, pathetic person.”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – The Super Bowl

The Mythical Picks from two weeks ago were perfecto. The record for the week of the Conference Championship games was 3-0-0 taking the season record to 133-121-5. The record for Curmudgeon Central Coin Toss games remained at 17-17-1.

The “Best Pick” from two weeks ago was taking the Panthers and laying only 3 points to the Cardinals. The Panthers led 17-0 after one quarter and it was pretty clear at that point that the Cardinals were not going to mount much of any sort of offense on that day.

Notwithstanding the perfect record from two weeks ago, no one should take anything written here and use it as the basis for making any sort of wager on the Super Bowl game this Sunday. Past performance is no assurance of future performance; moreover, I bring no inside information to this endeavor. One would have to be mightily stupid to risk one’s real money on an actual wager on the upcoming game because of something in here. How stupid?

    You probably think that “Brain Freeze” is a flavor of ice cream eaten by zombies.

General Comments:

I succeeded in making no mention of any of the Super Bowl hype for the past two weeks. I am proud to say that I did not contribute to the myriad attempts to compare and contrast the two QBs in the game nor did I allow myself to be dragged into the minutiae of the game wherein folks analyze which offensive line unit suffers from more hangnails. Here is something from Greg Cote in this morning’s Miami Herald; this sums up how I feel about coming to the end of two weeks of saturation coverage of the upcoming Super Bowl game:

“You know why America will be so excited to see Sunday’s game kick off?

“It isn’t because Panthers vs. Broncos will finally be starting.

“It’s because the two weeks of mind-numbing buildup will finally be ending.”

Messr. Cote has been “on a roll” with snarky commentary related to the Super Bowl over the past couple of weeks and I will insert some of his remarks periodically in these final Mythical Picks for the 2015 NFL season. Here is one of them:

“I saw a consumer-oriented story with the headline, ‘Where to watch the Super Bowl.’ The target demographic: Football fans who own no television, have never heard of a sports bar and have no friends.”

The NFL turned “Media Day” into “Opening Night” this year. The nonsense was not only televised; it was televised in prime time on NFL Network. As has become the custom, some of the “reporters” arrived in a variety of costumes to pose whatever stupid questions they had been working on for the last weeks and months. I do not want to give any of the “creative folks” at the NFL any ideas, but about the only twist they have not tried yet for these goat rodeos is to drive one of those circus clown cars into the venue and have 26 costumed “reporters” emerge and disperse into the throng of players and coaches who have taken up their positions.

Every year, “Media Day”/”Opening Night” produces the same stupid questions along with the same predictable minimalist answers. This year, we did ascertain that there were 7,000 people in the Bay Area whose lives are truly devoid of any interesting content. Those 7,000 Masters of Misery spent $30 each to go and sit in the stands and watch those “reporters” ask their questions and get their minimal answers. Those 7,000 souls have forever forfeited any right they may have had to proclaim that something they are doing is “boring”.

Here is one more offering from Greg Cote on the upcoming game:

“Broncos-Panthers ticket prices are falling. The cost on StubHub on Wednesday started as low as $2,950. Or, you can get a much better seat for a fraction of the cost. It’s called ‘your couch.’ ”

As I said above, I refuse to compare and contrast the two QBs in the game; there have been far too many such expositions of that type. However, I would like to suggest that Cam Newton may be a “black swan”. That is not a racial comment; a “black swan” metaphorically speaking is an unexpected event or sighting. Normally, birds with the shape of a swan swimming on a lake/pond are white; we come to expect birds of that shape and size on the water to be white; on rare occasions, swans are black and seeing one of them is shocking and surprising. Hence the term…

Back to Cam Newton here; quarterbacks in football historically are not as tall or as heavy as he is. Players who weigh 260-270 lbs. tend not be as fleet afoot as he is nor as agile. His throwing motion is not of the “classical old school”. If you just focus on him as a quarterback, he looks and plays “differently” from what we have come to expect from a quarterback.

The best analogy I can draw here is to Magic Johnson. When Magic was in college he was very unusual; there were no 6’ 9” point guards roaming the Earth back then; most fans had never even thought of a player that big even trying to play the point guard position. Why would a coach allow him to do that and keep him away from the basket? Magic was a very good college player but he was not much of an outside shooter in his early days in the NBA. But he honed his skills and significantly improved his outside shot and became a truly great player.

Cam Newton has not yet achieved in the NFL what Magic Johnson achieved in the NBA. Given Magic’s prodigious accomplishments, Newton may never attain that level of greatness. However, I think there is parallelism and comparability between the two athletes that is worth paying attention to.

I will succumb to one comment comparing Cam Newton and Peyton Manning; it comes from Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel:

“How old is Peyton Manning? While Cam likes to Dab after scoring TDs, Peyton is working on his own touchdown dance — the Charleston.”

While on the subject of Super Bowl quarterbacks, do you realize that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have been the quarterback for the AFC team in the Super Bowl for 13 of the last 15 Super Bowl games? The two “interloper AFC quarterbacks” since Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 have been Rich Gannon (Raiders in 2003) and Joe Flacco (Ravens in 2012). Over the same time span, NFC teams have had a variety of QBs on display in Super Bowl games. In fact, only Kurt Warner, Eli Manning and Russell Wilson have made repeat appearances for NFC teams.

Recently, I wrote about NFL franchises that have been out of contention for quite a while now despite the league efforts to induce parity into the system. On the other side of the coin one needs to look at the 16 teams in the AFC. Five of those teams – about one-third of the conference – have represented the AFC in 18 of the last 20 Super Bowl games; 31% of the teams make up 90% of the Super Bowl representatives. Going back to Super Bowl XXX where the Cowboys beat the Steelers (January 1996), the Broncos, Colts, Patriots, Ravens and Steelers have been the AFC representative every year except:

    Super Bowl XXXIV (Jan 2000): The Tennessee Titans lost to the St. Louis Rams.

    Super Bowl XXXVII (Jan 2003): The Oakland Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Bucs.

One more time from Greg Cote:

“OK we have officially run out of things to talk about and write and need the game to start. Evidence? This headline (I swear) on ‘Super bowl history of missed extra points.’ ”

Lest you think he is making that up, here is the link to that exposition…

Super Bowl parties are as ubiquitous as New Year’s Eve celebrations. The American Snack Food Association – of course there is one – says that Super Bowl Sunday is the “biggest snacking day of the year.” Using data from 2013, here is what they mean by “snacking”:

    1.23 billion wings will be consumed – not counting those eaten at Wing Bowl in Philly the Friday before the Super Bowl Game.

    15 million pizzas will be consumed. Sadly, many of these pizzas will be culinary concoctions that only resemble pizza. For example, Domino’s estimates that they will produce 1.3 million pies this year…

    158 million avocados will be consumed – most in the form of guacamole.

Let me convert those numbers to measures you might relate to more easily:

    1.23 billion chicken wings: Of course they come from a bit more than 600 million chickens. The US Census Bureau says the population of Santa Clara, CA – site of this year’s game – is 120,245 as of 2013. That means that every man, woman and child in Santa Clara could have just over 102 wings apiece if you could get them all to the city at one time.

    15 million pizzas: At 8 slices per pizza, that comes to 120 million slices. That is almost enough to provide one slice of pizza to every man woman and child in Japan.

    158 million avocados: Each avocado produces about 8 ounces of edible stuff so this equates to 79 million pounds of avocados. The ancillary ingredients that turn an avocado into guacamole do not weigh much so in round numbers I can estimate that 80 million pounds of guacamole are available for “snacking”. That would be 1 pound of guacamole for every man woman and child in Germany.

Oh, and please do not ignore the pretzels, chips and beer that will be consumed on Sunday. Those will not be consumed in trivial amounts…

Before we get to the Mythical Pick for the game, let me go to Greg Cote one more time:

“Pats-Seahawks last year was seen by 114.4 million viewers, the most-watched broadcast in the history of U.S. television. They say Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 could break that record despite the halftime performer being Coldplay.”

The Game:

Carolina – 5.5 vs. Denver (44.5): The spread opened at 4 points and went as high as 6 points in many places in the past two weeks. It has settled in here at this level at most of the Internet sportsbooks. Reports say that there is a heavy preponderance of “Panthers money” in Las Vegas and that the sportsbooks there are “exposed”. We will know if those reports are correct soon after the game when the Nevada Gaming Commission releases the statement of earnings or losses reported by the sportsbooks in the State. The Panthers were the highest scoring team during the regular season putting 500 points on the scoreboard (31.2 points per game); in their 2 playoff games, the Panthers have scored 80 points (40 points per game). Flip the coin here and you will see that during the regular season, the Broncos only allowed 18.5 points per game (fourth stingiest in the NFL) and in two playoff games, they have allowed 34 points (17 points per game). Therein is the focus of the game. If the Panthers get off to a big early lead as they have often done this year, I do not think the Broncos’ offense can “catch up”. However, I am not confident that the Panthers can do that to the Broncos’ defense. I like the game to stay UNDER. I think there could be a final score along the lines of 20-17.

Finally, one last good word from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

“Finally, at Palm Beach Kennel Club, a greyhound representing Carolina beat a dog representing Denver. Track officials denied speculation the race might have been a publicity stunt.”

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