Well, last week’s Mythical Picks were more than just a little bad; they stunk. The record for last week was 5-9-1 bringing the cumulative record for the year to 40-38-2. Even the coin used for Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games had a bad week. The coin went 0-2-0 taking that record down to 4-5-0 for the season.
The “Best Pick” from last week was taking Philly and giving 4.5 points to New Orleans and seeing the Eagles win by 3 TDs.
The “Worst Pick” from last week – other than my choice to make Mythical Picks in the first place – was taking Washington/Atlanta to go OVER 47.5 and seeing the game go to OT with no prayer of that happening.
I shall, however press on… As I do that, I must remind everyone that nothing herein should be taken as information of value should you be contemplating a real wager on a real NFL game this weekend involving real money. These are Mythical Picks and nothing more. Here is how stupid you would have to be to rely on information here as the basis for a real wager:
You might hurt yourself watching the move, The Exorcist, because you might mistake it for a workout video.
Something very unusual happened in the Cowboys/Patriots game last week; if you recorded the game on your DVR, go back and watch for this in the first half. There were two consecutive punts in the game on which there were no flags thrown. Two in a row… If you subscribe to the theory that one element of “news” is the reporting on things that are out of the ordinary, that pair of plays ought to be part of the headline for the gamers written about that contest.
Speaking obliquely of the Cowboys, does anyone besides me recall all of the Jerry Jones bluster and bravado 3 weeks ago when he lavished praise and confidence on Brandon Weeden right after he learned that Tony Romo had a broken clavicle and would be out for 2 months or so. He said basically that Weeden was an outstanding QB with one of the best arms in the NFL and that the Cowboys would not miss a beat with Weeden at the controls. I wish someone at ESPN had the cajones to sit Jerry Jones down and play that tape back to him. Here is reality:
The Cowboys are 0-3 with Weeden as the starting QB. Weeden himself has lost 11 straight NFL games as a starter.
The play-callers for the Cowboys cannot have much faith in his very strong arm because they rarely if ever call a play that calls for him to throw the ball more than 10 yards downfield.
Weeden led the Cowboys to a loss against the Saints where the Cowboys scored 20 points in an OT game. That is the lowest number of points allowed by a miserable Saints’ defense so far this year.
Last week, the Cowboys never found the end zone against the Patriots. That was not a fluke; the Cowboys’ offense was inept. At one point in the first half, the Cowboys had four consecutive 3-and-out possessions… This week, the Cowboys have a Bye Week and the announcement has already come that they will be going to Matt Cassel as the starter next week when they return to action.
A year ago, the Pats struggled in their first several games and some folks began to express the opinion that Tom Brady was over the hill and that perhaps the Pats ought to think about a demotion for him. All Brady did then was to lead the Pats to a Super Bowl win – aided and augmented to be sure by Pete Carroll’s boneheaded play-calling near the goal line in the final 2 minutes of that game. This year, the “nominally washed-up” Brady is doing this:
Completing 72.5% of his throws
Passing for 374 yards per game
Scoring 37.25 points per game.
Every QB in the league would wish to have those stats when they are considered “washed-up”…
And that story brings me to comment on a question posed to Broncos’ coach Gary Kubiak in a news conference earlier this week. Peyton Manning is not having a year that anyone has come to expect from him based on past performances; he has not looked good while he has been underperforming expectations. Nonetheless, someone asked Coach Kubiak if he had thought of benching Peyton Manning in favor of Brock Osweiler. Even ignoring the data presented just above, just let the thought process that produced that question wash over your existence. Kubiak had the perfect answer; he said:
I am not suggesting that Peyton Manning will get to a point where he starts putting up stats like the ones we came to expect from him 5 years ago; I think he is indeed on the downside of his career. Nonetheless, he is on the downside from a peak that is well beyond what is reasonable to expect from a QB whose only meaningful action has been in exhibition games or in mop-up situations.
Last week, the Broncos beat the Raiders 16-10 despite scoring no offensive TDs; a Pick Six late in the game set them up for the win. In that same game, the Raiders’ kicker, Sebastian Janikowski, had a field goal blocked and also missed what for him is basically a chip shot (40 yards). I hope no one would look at that poor game and begin to suggest that Janikowski is washed-up…
If you want to believe in conspiracy theories, think about the cabal that must be going on in NFL Headquarters to humiliate and frustrate the pro football fans in the State of Florida. There are three teams in the state – no state has more than that – and all three of those teams are bad. Moreover, the Bucs and the Jags have been bad for an extended period of time; the Dolphins on the other hand have been bland and mediocre for an extended period of time which is almost as bad because apathy is almost as bad as depression for the fanbase. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel composed a short song on this topic to be sung to the tune of Three Blind Mice:
Three bad teams; three bad teams;
See how they lose; see how they lose;
They fire their coaches; they miss their kicks;
Jameis Winston just threw four picks.
They’re a football version of the New York Knicks;
Three bad teams…
The Dolphins did not have the opportunity to soil themselves last week because they had a Bye Week and were busy doing the old Oklahoma drill for their new interim-coach Dan Campbell. Moreover, one of the other of the “Three bad teams” had to win last week because the Jags and Bucs played each other. The Bucs won the game 38-31 despite the fact that Jags’ QB, Blake Bortles, threw 4 TD passes in the game. If the Jags are going to lose games where Bortles performs like that, they may be consigning themselves to a record in the vicinity of 2-14. By the way, this was Lovie Smith’s first home win since taking over the Bucs last year; as of now, his home record stands at 1-10.
It is Quick Quiz time… Which team has been the most disappointing this year based on what they did last year?
A. The Ravens
B. The Lions
C. The Seahawks
Last year, the Seahawks were about one yard away from winning a second consecutive Super Bowl game. This year they start off 2-3 and they have lost 4th quarter leads in all three losses. Last week, they sacked Andy Dalton 4 times (he had only been sacked twice in the first four games) and created a defensive TD. However, in the 4th quarter, with the Seahawks leading by 14 points, the Bengals rolled over the Seahawks as if they were a middling college team. In addition, the Seattle offense went dormant at the end of the game too. On the Seahawks last 6 possessions of the game, they were forced to punt. The Seahawks have been disappointing but they are not the worst offenders on my list…
[Aside: In their last 20 home games, the Bengals are 17-2-1 straight up.]
Last year, the Ravens were 10-6 and a wild card team in the AFC Playoffs; they advanced in the playoffs beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh and then losing to the Patriots by 4 points. This year, they start off 1-4 losing their first two home games; what is even worse is that in all 4 losses this year, the Ravens have led in the 4th quarter. Last week, they allowed a team they have dominated for a long time – the Browns – to come into Baltimore and take an OT win home. The Ravens’ defense gave up 457 passing yards to Josh McCown. John Harbaugh had been 13-1 against the Browns going into that game. The Ravens have been more disappointing than the Seahawks, but they are still not at the top/bottom of my list…
Last year, the Lions were 11-5 and were the first wild-card team in the NFC Playoffs; they lost to the Cowboys by 4 points in the opening round. This year, the Lions start out 0-5 – they are the only winless team in the NFL by the way – and they found it reasonable to bench Matthew Stafford last weekend in favor of Dan Orlovsky. Seriously, they did that… The Lions’ average margin of losing this year is 11 points; since Week 1, they have not scored more than 17 points in any game. On defense last week, Carson Palmer torched the Lions’ defense going 11-14 for 161 yards and 3 TDs. Meanwhile, on the ground the Lions’ defense allowed 187 yards on only 25 carries. This level of noisomeness is a team-wide phenomenon; they stink in all phases of the game. It is too early to contemplate the Lions equaling their 0-16 showing from 2008 but if they start to look as if they are just going through the motions, they do not necessarily have the reserves of confidence to change that vector heading. To this point in 2015, the Lions are the most disappointing team in the league.
The Detroit News reported that only about 1000 fans stayed in the stadium to see the end of last week’s 42-17 shellacking at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. WR, Golden Tate moaned about that and the lack of energy in the stadium saying that the fans in Detroit had turned their backs on the team.
Memo to Golden Tate:
This team has been awful for an awfully long time.
In 2015, the Lions as a football team owe the fans a lot more than the fans owe the Lions. Hashtag – reality…
The last 5 times the Titans and Bills played each other, the Titans came away with the win. They led last week 10-0 in the third quarter – and then snatched defeat from the jaws of victory losing 14-13. The Bills had a measly 209 yards of offense against a mediocre defense and still managed to win the game. That stat tells you something about the Titans along with the fact that this is the second game in a row where the Titans have been at home and led by double digits in the second half and lost straight up. Not good…
No Rex Ryan team has ever been confused with one that is disciplined and business-like and methodical. However, they may have outdone themselves last week. On the opening kickoff of the game, the Bills recovered a fumble inside the Titans’ 10-yardline – – except – – the Bills were flagged for being offside on the kickoff and got to kick off one more time.
The Colts started and played Matt Hasselbeck at QB for the entire game and beat the Texans 27-20. Is it time to revise the thinking that the Texans have a dominant defense that can carry the team to contention despite a lack of quality at QB and WR? I know they have JJ Watt on defense and he is indeed an excellent player, but the rest of the unit seems awfully ordinary to me. Oh and for the record, Jadeveon Clowney still has not recorded a sack in the NFL. Last week against the Colts he was more AWOL than anything else.
With the Skins losing in OT to the Falcons in Atlanta last week, the Skins now have a record of 1-16 in their last 17 road games. In the game, the Falcons missed 2 field goal tries and the Skins missed 1. Late in the game when the Skins lined up to attempt a game-tying field goal to send the game to OT, play-by-play announcer Chris Myers said:
“It’s been hit or miss for kickers today.”
Memo for Chris Myers: It is pretty much hit or miss for kickers every day and on every kick…
Coming into the game, the Skins led the NFL in rushing yards and the Falcons’ defensive unit was not near the best in the league stopping the run. So, when the Skins gained a total of 55 yards rushing, one has to wonder how that happened. The Falcons did not “load the box”; they just beat blocks and hustled to the ball all day long. Speaking of running the football, Falcons’ RB, Devonta Freeman is really good; the Falcons gained 176 yards rushing in the game.
The Bears beat the Chiefs 18-17 with another 4th quarter comeback for 2 TDs led by Jay Cutler. The Bears are not going anywhere this year but the Chiefs’ season is done and cooked. Even with Jamaal Charles healthy and involved, the Chiefs offense was merely adequate; Charles’ knee injury puts him out for the year and the Chiefs down for the count. To date the Chiefs have played a murderous schedule losing to the Broncos, Packers and Bengals prior to last week’s loss. There is a common factor here:
The Broncos, Packers and Bengals are all undefeated teams.
This would be the part of the schedule where one might have expected the Chiefs to “get going”. Not now…
The Packers beat the Rams; that is not shocking news. What is “shocking” is that Aaron Rodgers threw not one but two INTs in a game at Lambeau Field. The last time he threw an INT at home was a little more than 3 years ago. The Packers’ defense played well here grabbing 4 INTs (one was a Pick Six) and sacking Nick Foles 3 times. The Rams defense held the Packers running game to a meager 44 yards in the game. Meanwhile Rams’ rookie RB, Todd Gurley ran the ball 30 times for 159 yards.
The Giants got a late TD to beat the Niners 30-27 and no one can blame this defeat on Colin Kaepernick. The Niners’ defense was a no-show here allowing the Giants to amass 525 yards of total offense for the day. Eli Manning was 41-54 for 441 yards and 3 TDs. Earlier in the week before the game, a reporter asked Jim Tomsula the same question put to Gary Kubiak in Denver; had he thought of benching Colin Kaepernick. Coach Tomsula showed great restraint in not laughing out loud or addressing the questioner as “You asshat…” Look at the depth chart in SF and you will see that the backup for Colin Kaepernick is Blaine Gabbert. Ladies and gentlemen, that is ALL you need to know.
The Eagles’ offense came to life last week – – or perhaps it marched up and down the field efficiently and effectively because it was the Saints out there trying to play defense. Watching most of the replay of the game, it was not clear to me what the more important factor here was. The Eagles scored 39 points and had 519 yards of total offense; that is not shocking for a “Chip Kelly offense”. What was surprising was that the Eagles held the ball for just over 34 minutes in the game; that is not commonplace for a “Chip Kelly offense”. The Eagles’ defense had 5 sacks and forced 4 turnovers; Fletcher Cox had a highly productive day for a defensive end recording 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery. Yowza!
Earlier in the week before the game, Terrell Owens went on sports radio in Philly to flog his new book and told the folks tuned into that program that he could still help the Eagles’ offense and that he was definitely available. For the record, the Eagles are more likely to sign me to a contract to play WR than they are Terrell Owens and I am 72 years old and run the 40-yard dash in about 3 minutes. I wonder if Chip Kelly played that radio segment for the offense as a reminder that if they could not get the job done, there was a guy out there who might come in and “shake things up”. Were I the coach, I would probably have done that…
The Saints are on the edge of an abyss – sort of like the Lions and the Chiefs. Their defense is giving up an average of 400 yards per game and 3 of their previous opponents were:
Tampa Bay – with a rookie QB
Carolina – not an offensive juggernaut
Dallas – with Brandon Weeden at QB.
As if that were not bad enough, the Saints’ offense is no longer the bright light that it was. The biggest scoring output this year is 26 points (in the win over the Cowboys) and the Saints are only averaging 20.6 points per game. The Saints have some potentially winnable games down the road, but not if the team comes apart at the seams.
Taking a breather this week are:
Dallas – They will use the two week stretch to get Matt Cassel coached-up and ready to try to “hold the fort” until Tony Romo might be ready to return to the field.
Oakland – They will use next weekend to pull for the Packers at home to beat the Chargers because that would give the Raiders sole possession of second place in the AFC West.
St. Louis – They will use the two weeks to try to goose the offensive point production. So far this year, the Rams scoring is very close to that of the Niners, Lions and Bears in the NFC. For the record, that is not a good thing…
Tampa – They will take two weeks and bask in the comfort of a win last week and the knowledge that they are a full game ahead of the Saints in the NFC South.
Before going through the individual games, the Curmudgeon Committee of One that has the responsibility to identify the most interesting games of the week and the Dog-Breath Game of the Week had a difficult time this week. There are several interesting games and there is a plethora of bad games.
(Thurs Nite) Atlanta – 3.5 at New Orleans (52): Hey, at least it is a divisional game. Hey, if the Saints lose here, they can join a bunch of other teams who will swear that they are not going to toss in the towel for the season – but the season is over in reality. The Falcons remained undefeated last week but did not look all that good in doing so. My memory tells me that getting 3.5 points with the Saints at home is a gift from the gods but then I wonder how the Saints’ defense is going to stop Devonta Freeman and Matt Ryan. So how about a trend or two:
Falcons won in New Orleans last year. Last time Falcons won two in a row in New Orleans was in 2001/2002.
The underdog in this rivalry is 9-3 in their last 12 meetings.
This is purely a hunch. I’ll take the Saints plus the points because they are at home and because they are clearly the more desperate team.
Denver – 4 at Cleveland (42.5): The spread for this game opened at 6 points. I wonder if the drop is due to a recognition of the offensive greatness of Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns. Could be… However, Denver has the top defense in the NFL at the moment and I am not ready to believe that Browns are a top-shelf offensive team. I’ll take the Broncos and lay the points here and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
Cincy – 3 at Buffalo (42): The spread for this game opened as a “pick ‘em” game. Had it stayed there I would have had to say that I had no idea why that was the case. The Bengals are undefeated; the Bills struggle to run the football; the Bills young QB is hobbling and they may need to play EJ Manuel here. Yes, the Bills are at home but they are 1-2 at home so far this year. Here are two of the more meaningless trends I have seen in a while:
Bengals are 1-7 against the spread in their last 6 road games in Week 6.
Bengals are 18-7-1 to go OVER in their last 26 games in October.
I like the Bengals to win and cover on the road.
KC at Minnesota – 4 (44): I have a hunch this will be a most uninteresting game given the plodding Chiefs’ offense and the Vikes’ methodical mode of play. With Jamaal Charles on IR, I think the Chiefs are cooked. Their defense may keep them close in some games but if it has not yet dawned on the rest of the squad that they are “playing for pride”, it soon will. I like the Vikes at home to win and cover.
Houston at Jax “pick ‘em” (43.5): As a definite candidate for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, do I really have to pick one of these teams? The answer is that I must because I cannot declare this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game without violating the well-established and never-violated protocols for such games. The Texans are marginally better on offense and defense statistically so I’ll take the Texans here even though they are winless on the road this year.
Chicago at Detroit – 3 (43): Yes, I triple-checked this line and the winless team is indeed a field-goal favorite here. Clearly what we have here is a contender for Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Neither of these teams is remotely relevant this year. However, there is a motivational factor here for Matthew Stafford. He was benched last week in favor of Dan Orlovsky; he will be back in the starting role this week and he may feel the need to demonstrate that last week was an aberration and not an omen. (Stafford leads the NFL in INTs with 8 so far this year; continuing at that pace, he may well be riding the bench at some time later this year despite his $50M contract extension.) The Lions need Stafford to be engaged and aware because they really do not run the football very well at all; like it or not – and like Stafford or not – the Lions’ offense centers on throwing the football; the Lions are dead last in rushing yards in the NFL. I’ll take the Lions at home to win and cover here.
After making that selection, I went to find a trend that was in favor of that selection simply because taking an 0-5 team and laying points gives me a knot in my stomach. Here is what I found:
Bears are 4-12 against the spread in their last 16 games against the AFC North.
That takes care of that…
Washington at Jets – 6.5 (40.5): Kirk Cousins has a proclivity for throwing INTs; the Jets’ defense has feasted on teams by forcing turnovers. The Skins have a corps of mediocre/interchangeable receivers and this game will give Skins’ fans a hint regarding something they probably want to know:
Since the Jets like to line Darrelle Revis up on the opponent’s best WR, fans can look to see who the Jets’ defensive coaches think is their best WR – because it is surely not an obvious choice.
I think the key to this game is the Skins ability to rush the passer in order to force Ryan Fitzpatrick to make quick decisions. If they can do that, they may get a couple of turnovers to give their offense a short field to navigate. People nag Kirk Cousins about his propensity to throw INTs; he has thrown 6 of them this year as opposed to 5 TD passes; not so good. Then again, consider Ryan Fitzpatrick; he has thrown 7 INTs this year as opposed to 6 TD passes; also not so good. I see a low scoring game and a fat line. I’ll take the Skins plus the points.
Arizona – 3 at Pittsburgh (44): This is my 1-Star Game of the Week. Bruce Arians used to be the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and his departure from that town did not involve a totally positive relationship with the fans. This could be an interesting game. The Steelers have a short week coming off the Monday Nite game last week; the Cards have to fly east and start early in the day. Ben Roethlisberger practiced on Wednesday this week; if he is ready to play to an extent more than standing like a statue and throwing the football, he will make a big difference. If the Steelers have to play Michael Vick for 60 minutes, I think the Steelers are in deep yogurt. I’ll take the Cards and lay the points on the road and I also like the game to go OVER.
Miami at Tennessee – 2 (43): This could be the Dog Breath Game of the Week – but the Dolphins are temporarily interesting because of their new coach and his “tough guy methods”. Other than that, the game does not matter a whit. The Dolphins have had two weeks under a new coaching regime that stresses “toughness” to prepare for a bland Titans team with a rookie QB. The stats say that the Titans’ offense is better than the Dolphins’ offense (by 36 yards per game) and that the Titans’ defense is better than the Dolphins defense (by a whopping 116 yards per game). I am going to go against all of that and take the Dolphins plus the points here because I think they are going to play differently this week then they did in their first 4 games.
Carolina at Seattle – 6.5 (41): In Detroit we saw the winless team installed as the favorite; here we have the undefeated team as the underdog. This is Bizarro World week in the world of NFL betting lines. The Panthers had their Bye Week last week to get ready for this game but the Seahawks loss last week clearly makes them the more desperate team here. A loss here gives the Seahawks 4 losses already and they have not played the Cardinals yet. They would greatly prefer not to have that situation obtain. The coaches do not want players looking ahead so perhaps the Seahawks players have not done so; but if they have, they probably recognize that the upcoming schedule is a lot softer than the one they faced already – having to play the Rams, Packers and Bengals on the road. Carolina is good and the Seahawks are not nearly as good as they have been for the last two years; nonetheless I like the Seahawks at home to win and cover here.
San Diego at Green Bay – 10 (50): The Chargers have a short week after playing last Monday and have to go on the road where they are not nearly as good as they are at home. I do not like laying double-digit points but I just cannot believe that Aaron Rodgers is going to throw 2 INTs again this week in Lambeau Field. I’ll take the Packers at home and lay the points.
Baltimore – 2.5 at SF (44): The Curmudgeon Central Committee of One (namely me) who decides on the Dog-Breath Game of the Week bypassed all of the candidate games cited above and bestowed the ignominy on this one. Back on Feb 3, 2013, these two teams met in the Super Bowl game; that was not ancient history; Al Gore had already invented the Internet. In the span of 32 months, these teams have devolved to this… The Ravens give away games after holding 4th quarter leads with regularity. The Niners find themselves in this situation as reported by Gregg Drinnan in his blog, Keeping Score:
“Last week, Jed York, the owner of the San Francisco 49ers, tweeted: ‘I have a few tickets left for the game Sunday. Let me know if you can make it. #FaithfulFanTix”’. . . Jake Echanove, a 49ers fan, tweeted this response: ‘I can’t give my tickets away either, Jed.’”
The Ravens are 53 yards per game better on offense here and the Ravens are 29 yards per game better on defense. I think the most important stat here is that the Ravens’ defensive vulnerability has mainly been their pass defense but the Niners’ pass offense ranks somewhere between meager and pathetic (178 yards per game). Having cited all those stats, how can I feel comfortable taking a team that has played as badly as the Ravens have on the road and laying points? The answer is that I do not want the Niners here unless I get a TD’s worth of points. Holding my nose, I’ll take the Ravens to win and cover.
(Sun Nite) New England – 7.5 at Indy (55): This is my 3-Star Game of the Week. This is the Post-Defleategate Game between these two teams and my suspicion is that the Pats will be pissed when they take the field. The Pats have won the last 6 games between these two teams and a couple of them have been rather lopsided. Tom Brady will want to leave an exclamation point on the field as punctuation for the game when he gives his calm and controlled after-game press conference. I really would prefer not to have the hook on top of the 7 point spread, but it is there. Nonetheless, I’ll take the Pats to win and cover at Indy and I’ll take the game to go OVER.
(Mon Nite) Giants at Philly – 4 (49): This is my 2-Star Game of the Week. This is a very interesting and potentially important NFC East game. The Giants lead the division but the Eagles have struggled mightily to this point in the season and only trail by a game – and they can make up that game right here at Lincoln Financial Field on MNF. I think both teams will play well here and so I will turn the game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Toss protocol. The coin says to take the Eagles to win and cover.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………