am… an idiot.
start this one off simply.
Sunday morning, and I’m driving home at about 8am after dropping
Terry off at her annual craft fair. I’ve got the radio on, and
I’m listening to some people talk about the day’s games. As they
make their way along the schedule, eventually they come to the
Cleveland Browns and the Carolina Panthers.
McCoy isn’t playing.
the heck did I miss that?
here’s the thing. Between the craft fair, the holiday, three early
games and all sorts of other excuses… I know exactly
how I missed that. No deep research on the game. But as I heard
the announcer toss that little piece of information out there…
and just sort of casually, almost as if it were an insignificant
aside toss it out there… I began to wonder about things. Like…
maybe I should look over my picks and send a quick e-mail around
updating them. After all… still five hours to the start of the
early games… I could adjust it. But I didn’t. I went with it.
And with the games on in the background, I cringed at all of the
stuff I missed…)
started with the Browns hosting the Panthers. What the hell? A
10-point spread and I pick them? This wasn’t Carolina traveling
to New Orleans… Atlanta… Pittsburgh… Baltimore… or some other
tough defense, or good offense, or division leading opponent.
It was Cleveland. A club that could win by 10 or more…
because any team really can win by 10 or more… but had no right
being favored by it.
how about Atlanta? Literally, my last words to you last week before
hitting the schedule: “And that usually means you shouldn’t get
too fancy and elaborate in considering things.” And I go out and
pick against a quarterback that has won 95% of his home games
as a professional. Whatever you think about Matt Ryan, this much
is simple… until teams start winning over the Falcons in Atlanta,
don’t pick against the home team there. That should have been
a “you shouldn’t get too fancy and elaborate” make the pick and
move on game for me.
there’s two that I got wrong that I should have had right. It
gets worse. Not with things I should have known… but with things
and how they played out.
only does Chad Henne eventually wind up in the game, he casually
tosses for over 300-yards as Miami stomps Oakland. You know, only
continuing what may be the greatest road show of the year.
Cincinnati Bungals? Oh… my… god! On the kick returned for the
touchdown, I got to watch an absolute comedy. Not only was it
taken all the way, but around midfield the return went between
two Cincinnati players. One of them… untouched… not blocked… overran
the pursuit, was facing the wrong way, and missed the runner by
about five yards.
me to repeat that.
Smith is returning a kick. Around the time he hit the 50-yard
line, there are two Bungals with a shot at him. He makes a very
quick cut. It wasn’t an amazing cut. It was a quick cut to move
between the two Cincy players. This cut allows one of the Bungals
to get picked up by what I recall as a fairly soft block… just
enough to keep him out of the play. But the second one… untouched…
ends up yards out of it with his back to Smith.
want to pause here for a moment.
I want you to think about this.
one thing to be facing the wrong way on a play. Things happen.
A player is covering a wide receiver, the ball carrier is going
in a different direction. Perhaps an interception. The idea is,
misdirection is part of the game.
on a kick return, when the focus on a single player has been well
established, this was just a simply amazing thing to see. He was
facing the wrong way. The runner he was chasing was behind him.
what should I expect from a club that gets a turnover and a blocked
punt… a New York punt that was partially blocked by a New York
player no less… and from great field position both times turns
it into 3 whole points?
sucks. Absolute disaster and the worst team in the NFL.
on top of that… one of the games I got right… Minnesota over a
blah Washington… has everyone writing about how Favre won’t be
leaving without a fight. Oh yeah… he;s back. (Hello. People. This
was the Redskins that the Vikings played. Let’s not get all happy.
Ok? You tried that with him before.)
our picks, Mike sailed past me with a huge week. Even more interesting
to me… Gus and Molly are back. Gus trimmed another game off the
lead and now trails by 8. Molly is 9 out and making a move on
an even record overall. Mike gets a huge congratulations on a
stellar week. Five weeks left to go folks.
need to stay with Star Wars theme after what just happened.
I need a comedy. And it’s Christmas. Yup… Bad Santa.
(And I have to keep the really good quotes out of this.)
at Philadelphia (8)
– “It won’t happen again. I can
promise you that. Willie here has low blood sugar. That’s all.”
“That’s right. I forgot to take my pill.” Everything
I see says to look for a game with a final score around 31-24,
with Philly on top. That’s not much room for error when the spread
is 8 and it’s possible you are debating whether or not Houston
could win. But I have a secret for you. Look at what I pick in
this game and bet the opposite. Here’s what I expect: At some
point in the fourth quarter… could be early, could be late… the
score will be 28-24, Philly winning. I’m figuring that as the
game moves on, there will only be one more score… a field goal
for Philly is my guess. Alas, since Houston always screws me,
Philadelphia will score a touchdown and win 35-24. Yes, the result
being winning and covering. Trouble is, in that classic I-know-you-know-I-know-but-do-you-know-I-know-you-know-I-know
comedy, Houston always seems to somehow know what I expect them
to do and manages to twist my expectations in painful ways. So,
if I take the Eagles, then the Texans will score a touchdown on
that 28-24 situation and win it, or, the Eagles will only kick
a field goal to take the game by 7. In short, it doesn’t matter
one bit who I pick in this game. Not at all. Because Houston will
figure out a way to screw me over. I guarantee it.
Mike Jr: Philadelphia
at Minnesota (6)
– “I said, ‘Next,’ goddamn it! This
is not the DMV!” We know the story lines here…
Buffalo is a scrappy team and Minnesota has underachieved. So
rather than trying to investigate stories and trends, who’s playing
and who may or may not have already retired, let’s try approaching
this from a basic viewpoint by looking at two things… Buffalo
on the road and Minnesota at home. The Bills are 1-4 when they
travel in 2010, with the lone victory coming at the expense of
the Bungals. That said, the Bills have been amazingly close in
many road games. Prior to Cincinnati they lost to Baltimore and
Kansas City… two teams at the tops of their divisions with a combined
2010 home record of 10-0… and in each game they lost by only 3
points. And while the scoring hasn’t been fluid… see 10 against
Kansas City… they did put up 30 on New England, 34 on Baltimore
and 49 on Cincinnati. The Vikings? They’re 3-2 at home, have never
scored more than 27 in a home game (which was against Arizona
and also happens to be their highest output of the season).
Mike Jr: Buffalo
at Miami (4)
– “Leave Santa alone!” “Little boy,
don’t interfere. I am doing this for all of us.”
Just for giggles… let me start with this… Miami is 1-4 at home,
and Cleveland is 1-4 on the road. So… you know… take away the
very real possibility of a tie, and one of these teams is going
to do something that hasn’t been easy for them. Now… more importantly…
let’s get to the quarterbacks. Everything points to Delhomme starting
again for Cleveland, with McCoy nursing a bad ankle. Strike one
for the Borwns. Miami was a mess under Thigpen against the Bears
(saw that coming), but then they went back to the wildcat (could
have predicted that, after not using it against Chicago) and everything
I caught from a vague look around says that Henne will play. Strike
two for Cleveland. Basically, when you tell me McCoy is out, Henne
is in, and the Dolphins figured out the offense should be in the
hands of the running game, I end up with a clear choice of the
team to win. Strike three for Cleveland.
Mike Jr: Cleveland
at Tennessee (10)
– “I’ve always had a thing for Santa
Claus. In case you didn’t notice. It’s like some deep-seeded childhood
thing.” Sorry… I got suckered in last week picking
a team that had no right being favored by this much. Since playing
in a 42-20 loss against Kansas City, the Jaguars have scored 35,
31, 24 and 20. That’s about 26 a game over the last four. That’s
a significant improvement over their season average of 22 per
game… and actually a reason for it rising. They went 3-1 over
Mike Jr: Jacksonville
at Kansas City (7½) – “I
saw you at another mall.” “Well, I’m happy for you.” “If you really
are Santa, you could do magic.” “Wanna see some magic? OK, let’s
watch you disappear!” Kansas City hasn’t lost
at home, and Denver has only won once on the road. Only one victory
for the Chiefs at home was by less than 7, and they’ve done ok
in setting up a good offense and decent defense.
Bob: Kansas City
Mike: Kansas City
Mike Jr: Kansas City
at New York (Giants) (7½)
– “Candy corn?” “Well they all can’t
be winners.” Here’s something you may not know…
the Redskins have a winning record when they travel. And if you
didn’t know that, you probably don’t know who they defeated on
the road… Philadelphia, Chicago, and Tennessee. They also have
a winning record in the division right now. The trouble is, they
are a team that scores less than 20 a game, and that just isn’t
going to get it done.
Bob: New York
Mike Jr: Washington
Molly: New York
Sam: New York
(3½) at Detroit
– “If I call you next December…
if I call you next December… you’re gonna be so happy
to hear from me, you’re gonna do a goddamn back flip.”
I’m taking the upset here. Even with Chicago having some success
on the road this year, I’m just feeling too much respect headed
their way in recent days. Want to know how they’re doing it? A
surging defense that is part of a team giving up just over 15
a game. As much as they deserve credit for taking care of business
and getting to 8-3, one also needs to recognize that they’ve been
fortunate (not lucky… it was earned… but definitely fortunate)
that when they only scored 19, the defense held Detroit in the
season opener to 14… when they scored 16, the defense pitched
a shutout against Miami.
Mike Jr: Chicago
Francisco at Green Bay (9½)
– “How many times I gotta tell you,
get out from behind my bar! Put the drink down right now. Put
the drink down right now!” Here we go… (1) Green
Bay has won three times since Halloween. Over the Jets (on the
road), destroying Dallas, and then traveling to slap around Minnesota.
Their loss was on the road against Atlanta. No shame there. (2)
Green Bay will score 28 or more at home (they have in 4 out of
5 home games so far). (3) San Francisco is horrible on the road…
horrible against conference opponents… and let’s face it, are
just horrible. Sure, I know you want to say they’ve won 3 of 4.
But… ahem… Denver, St. Louis (at home) and Arizona. Those were
the victories. Against a team with a winning record? Blanked 21-0
by the Bucs.
Bob: Green Bay
Terry: San Francisco
Mike: Green Bay
Mike Jr: San Francisco
Molly: San Francisco
Gus: San Francisco
Sam: San Francisco
Orleans (6½) at Cincinnati
– “Okay, 30%. That’s three of us.
30%. That’s fair.” “Half.” “I meant 33%.” “I meant half.” “And
1/3.” “Half.” “35%.” “Half.” “40%.” “Half.” “42%?” “Half.” “Um...
45%.” “Half.” “48%?” “Half.” “49%?” “Half.” Did
I mention that the Bungals suck?
Bob: New Orleans
Mike: New Orleans
Mike Jr: New Orleans
Molly: New Orleans
Gus: New Orleans
(2½) at Tampa Bay
– “Oh, my. What a darling photo.
Are you certain you only want this single? Additional photos come
in handy as gifts for grandma and grandpa, or as a wonderful remembrance
for friends.” While I could make the argument
that Atlanta’s weakness is traveling, that’s too easy giving their
record at home. So instead, let’s point out that I’m impressed
with how the offense has played at different times in recent weeks.
Under pressure… when it mattered… they were efficient and effective.
They’ve won 5 in a row and are playing well on both sides of the
ball. Tampa’s run has been nice, but in a division with Atlanta
and New Orleans, a club that is currently scoring less than their
opponents (219 scored to 223 given up), that eventually wears
Terry: Tampa Bay
Mike Jr: Atlanta
Molly: Tampa Bay
Gus: Tampa Bay
Sam: Tampa Bay
at San Diego (12½)
– “I wished for a purple elephant,
but now I want a pink elephant!” Here’s how much
fun the Raiders are to watch… they are undefeated in the division,
and yet they’ve lost every other AFC game. I grant you… the Raiders
won the last game… but over his career, Rivers has owned Oakland.
Almost every victory has been by 7 or more. Jason Campbell is
back. Since the last time Oakland won in San Diego involve Rich
Gannon and Jerry Rice… I have to take it simple here and go with
the club I see winning.
Bob: San Diego
Mike: San Diego
Mike Jr: Oakland
Molly: San Diego
Sam: San Diego
at Seattle (6½)
– “I beat the s**t out of some kids
today. But it was for a purpose. It made me feel good about myself.
It was like I did something constructive with my life or something.
I dunno, like I accomplished something.” “You need many years
of therapy.” Would you believe the Panthers average
16 on the road? Considering their average per game at home is
under 10 points, that’s quite the accomplishment. Once you get
out of the NFC West, Seattle isn’t that great a team. Sure, their
losing record is leading the West… but they are 1-2 outside of
the West in NFC games. (Ok… yeah… I know… Atlanta, New Orleans
and Tampa Bay were the opponents. Still… worth noting. Because
this Seahawks team is a club getting outscored by 6 per game.)
Thing is… only the Giants and Chiefs have won in Seattle. The
other three opponents got smoke… the 49ers by 25, the Chargers
by 7, and the Cardinals by 12. And if Seattle is going to score
more than 20m, they’ll win and cover.
Mike Jr: Seattle
at Indianapolis (5)
– “Look who’s here! It’s Santa!
Tell Santa what you want for Christmas!” This
Indianapolis team just isn’t the Colts we’ve grown used to watching.
Sure… recent opponents have included New England and San Diego.
More often than not… at least when San Diego is not playing in
September… both of those clubs can make you look bad. But something
else is going on. Injuries… manning truly trying to do everything
without help… and it’s mounting. I can see Indy still winning
the division. I can see Indy winning this game with ease. But
right now, from what I have seen… and not what I could see… the
Colts are fighting for everything.
Mike Jr: Indianapolis
Louis (3) at Arizona
– “Should I fix you some sandwiches?”
The Rams are improving. The Cardinals need help.
Bob: St. Louis
Mike Jr: St. Louis
Sam: St. Louis
at Baltimore (3)
– “Good night, Santa. Good night,
Mrs. Santa’s sister.” Would you believe these
clubs are identical in virtually every way? Understanding that
they played already… Ravens winning in Pittsburgh… they have the
same record, same divisional record, and same conference record.
They both score about 23 a game and give up about 16. An interesting
twist… Ravens perfect at home, and the Steelers solid on the road.
The thing is… the Steelers haven’t looked the same since the Miami
game. Yeah… they won that one. But you may recall it was that
end of the game newsmaker finish. Since then New Orleans and New
England have defeated them, and both Buffalo and Cincinnati came
closer than they should have to scoring upsets. (The Bills especially.)
In comparison, over the past month the Ravens lost in Atlanta
(no penalties for a loss to the Falcons, especially in Atlanta),
and they’ve defeated… pretty much comfortably… Miami, Carolina
and Tampa. They also fought New England very tough and clocked
Denver if you’d like to go back a bit further. Long story short…
Ravens a playing well 8-3, and the Steelers a questionable 8-3.
Mike Jr: Baltimore
York (Jets) at New England (3)
– “You know what I see when I look
at you? America’s got a sad future ahead of it.”
I’m going to keep this analysis simple. Tom Brady wins at home.
Bob: New England
Terry: New England
Mike: New England
Mike Jr: New England
Molly: New York
Gus: New England
Sam: New York
~ ~ ~
Last week 11-4-1, currently 91-76-9
Bob: Last week 5-10-1, currently 87-80-9
Gus: Last week 10-5-1, currently 83-84-9
Molly: Last week 9-6-1, currently 82-85-9
Terry: Last week 8-7-1, currently 78-89-9
Mike Jr: Last week 9-6-1, currently 72-81-9
Sam: Last week 7-8-1, currently 64-103-9