We’re turning the page quickly on this past week of football, not because I once again got more picks wrong than right, but because week 11 LOOMS LARGE in terms of the season-defining games on the schedule.
If week 10 was the foreplay—the “jockeying for position” week—then week 11 is the NFCpocalypse.
Week 10 didn’t really have any make or break games, and there weren’t many surprising results. For example, the Cardinals, Lions, Packers, Eagles and Cowboys were all clogged up at the top of the NFC standings coming into the weekend. All five teams won, solving absolutely nothing.
Likewise, the Saints’ overtime loss at home did nothing to damage their likelihood of winning the NFC South.
On the AFC side, Cleveland took sole possession of first place in the North, but you don’t really expect that to hold, do you? The only other item of note is both the Bills and Dolphins took a big step back in their hopes of a wildcard berth, but neither are completely out of it.
Week 11 looks a lot more interesting, especially in the NFC:
- Arizona (#1 seed ) vs Detroit (#2)
- Philadelphia (#3) @ Green Bay (currently out of playoffs, but 6-3 record)
- New Orleans (#4) vs Cincinnati (#6 seed in AFC)
- Seattle (#6) @ Kansas City (#5 seed in AFC)
- And while the AFC can’t provide nearly as much hype-able games in week 11, the main event of Sunday may very well come out of that conference: New England (#1) at Indianapolis (#3) on Sunday Night Football.
- If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 10 of the league’s best 13 teams facing off across five games, all on Sunday.
I’d like to put all my thoughts and attention on this upcoming week so first we will very quickly empty out the week 10 notebook, and then we’ll finish up by getting into round two of my midseason progress report. That’s where I dive into my archives to find preseason predictions and hold myself accountable based on how things played out during these first 10 weeks.
Final Thoughts on Week 10:
- A lot of insults (disguised as stats) were thrown at Andy Dalton after Thursday night’s “performance”, but here were my two favorites:
- Dalton’s passer rating was 2. If he had spiked the ball on every pass attempt, his passer rating would have been 39.
- Dalton’s completion percentage of 30.3 (10/33) was the lowest of any QB in a game with at least 30 attempts since 1992.
- Think about that second stat. Not even the worst efforts by Blaine Gabbert, Mark Sanchez, Chris Weinke, Tim Couch, JaMarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf were as bad as what Andy Dalton just pulled off in a key divisional game.
- The boos rained down on Dalton and the Cincy offense just seven minutes and 32 seconds into the 1st quarter. I’m guessing that’s the earliest this year any fan base has booed its team, but that record will only hold until Sunday at 1:05pm Eastern when Chicago tries to boo Jay Cutler into retirement.
- Calvin Johnson made his return known early, catching a 50+ yard touchdown in the 1st quarter of Detroit’s win over Miami. A huge catch on 4th & 6 in the 3rd quarter made me realize that Megatron is to Detroit’s chances of being a legit Super Bowl contender as Gronk is to the Patriots’ chances of seriously contending. Both teams could make the playoffs without their best receivers, but wouldn’t have a very high ceiling in the playoffs.
- Speaking of New England, did you know that if the Patriots earn a playoff bye, it will be the fifth consecutive year that they’ve been a top two seed in the AFC? I’m way too lazy to look this up, but I’d venture to guess not many, if any, teams have ever done that.
- Obviously the giddiness of realizing the NFC’s best teams are all playing each other in week 11 was short-lived when Arizona announced Carson Palmer’s injury was officially a torn ACL. That blows for a team that was on a roll, playing inexplicable football and seemed to have some sort of intangible momentum that would have carried them far.
- In the NFC, we have backup QBs leading the #1 and #3 seeds for the rest of the year, and we have Tony Romo’s back hanging over the #5 seed. Needless to say there may be a lot more shuffling going on in this conference before all is said and done.
- My favorite announcer quote of the week: John Lynch, who was the color guy for the Saints/49ers game, after New Orleans gains five yards in overtime: “You can’t go broke taking a profit.”
- In case you haven’t realized why something feels missing on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights lately, I think I can help you out with that: It’s football. Mildly competitive football. Only once in the past nine primetime games (spanning three weeks) has a game been decided by less than 11 points. That would be Washington over Dallas in week 8.
In this second installment of my preseason in review, I’ll look at general comments I made about divisions & teams, and then I’ll go through the preseason bets I actually put money on.
Comments I made in August:
- “Neither team that plays in the Hall of Fame game in August has ever gone on to win the Super Bowl. Sorry Giants and Bills, you’re out.”
- I think this easy guess will work out fine for me. Nice half season by the Bills, but they’re a couple pieces short of getting to play some January football.
- [On the state of NFL referees and the difficulties interpreting the league’s rules] “It seems offensive pass interference no longer exists.”
- Hold on, looks like Jimmy Graham’s sending me an angry text message right this second.
- “It seems like it would take a borderline miracle for the Broncos, Patriots & Colts not to take the top three seeds in some order.”
- “The next tier down from those three just don’t stack up…San Diego and the entire AFC North, I guess is what makes up that second tier.”
- Those last two comments are bothersome because I was 100% right. The AFC has had ZERO surprises this year.
- “Call it a hunch…I think the Eagles win the Super Bowl this year and I’ve got a bet slip from Vegas in my wallet where I’m getting 12-to-1 odds on Philly winning it all.. Problem is I made that bet in March…their current odds are 25-to-1.”
- After all the hassle of carrying around this piece of paper from Vegas, I could get those exact odds on Philly to win the Super Bowl right this second. So there wasn’t any value in that March bet I made. Also, well, Mark Sanchez would need to be a huge part of this team winning a Super Bowl, and that just seems impossible.
- “If I have to pick five teams that didn’t make last year’s playoffs to make this year’s playoffs, I’d go with Chicago, Washington, Houston, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.”
- Two teams that are definitely not making the playoffs (Chicago & Washington), one team that’s probably out because they happen to be testing out a new QB starting this week (Houston), and two teams with a chance, but definitely not a lock, to make the playoffs (Pittsburgh & Baltimore).
- [On the AFC North] “Most likely to be the most boring division in all of football.”
- I’m so sorry, AFC North, for stereotyping you. Not only are all four teams at least two games above .500, but we have a team everyone wants to root for in Cleveland, a team that can display an unstoppable offense on certain weeks in Pittsburgh and a QB in Cincinnati who is providing us with endless comedy at the moment. This is one fun division!
- [On the AFC East] “Most likely to finish exactly the same as the past three years where New England wins 12+ games and the other three teams can’t crack .500.”
- [On the AFC South] “Most likely to mimic the AFC East right down to Indy winning 12+ games and no other team cracking .500.”
- Seriously, would it have killed the Jets, Dolphins, Bills, Texans, Jaguars or Titans to surprise us and at least get to Thanksgiving before handing the divisions over?
- “Will Jake Locker sustain a significant injury in week 1, week 2 or week3?”
- Ding Ding Ding!, It was week 3 (then again in week 5).
- “Will the Colts mathematically clinch the division by week 4?”
- OK, fine, it took until week 6. Indy must be disappointed in taking that major step back.
- “Here’s what I see the win totals being for the non-Colts teams in the AFC South: Tennessee 3, Jacksonville 4, Houston 5.”
- Feeling pretty locked in on this one.
- “One bet I love is Andrew Luck to win MVP at 12/1 odds.”
- Pretty smart if I do say so myself. His odds as of Tuesday morning to win MVP are 4/1. If I had to guess how MVP voting would turn out if it was done today: Luck would win it, followed closely by Aaron Rodgers. Peyton Manning and DeMarco Murray would likely get a few votes too.
- “Is it crazy for me to predict only a 10-win season out of the Broncos?”
- Yes, it would have been crazy. They’re a lock for at least 11 wins already.
- [On the NFC North] “Most likely to stop teasing us and become the offensive juggernaut it was meant to be.”
- Umm, not quite. Green Bay ranks #4 in points per game, but the rest of the North didn’t come through: Chicago (22nd), Detroit (24th) and Minnesota (26th).
- “I like small wagers on Cutler and Megatron for regular season MVP.”
- “My favorite bet of the NFC North is Chicago over 8.5 wins.”
- Never again. I think I need my friends to organize an intervention. “You’re addicted to picking the Bears and it’s turning you into something I don’t wanna be around anymore. You’re not the same when you’ve got money on the Bears.”
- [On NFC East] “Most likely to end the season with the worst combined record of all divisions.”
- The AFC South locked that up a loooong time ago.
- “If you had to wager your life on which NFC East quarterback’s career as a starter will still be intact five years from now, who would you pick? You should be absolutely stumped once you think through all four options. Eli Manning, Tony Romo, RGIII and Nick Foles. Who in that group inspires confidence to the point where you’d bet your life he’s still playing in 2018?”
- Amazingly, no clarity on this issue has been provided through the season’s first 10 weeks. It’s impossible to have confidence that any of these guys will be playing in five years.
- [On the NFC West] “Best know for being the best division in football, but most likely to fall short of that hype. This division finished 42-22 last year and that just won’t happen again.”
- Actually…their current pace is to go 39-25 this year. They may still grade out as the best without looking like such a dominant group again.
Bets I made in August:
- Indianapolis to win the Super Bowl (18/1 odds): OK, that looks more than decent. I figure the #3 seed in the AFC is their worst case scenario, and if they can handle the Patriots on Sunday night, we might be talking about a first round bye for the Colts. And their current odds are 10/1 so I certainly got some preseason value.
- Indianapolis to make the Super Bowl/win the AFC (8/1): Same as above. They are now 5/1 for this particular bet.
- Will any team go 0-16 in the regular season? (33/1): I said someone would, and god willing, the Raiders will take me to the Promised Land. It feels like there are only two games that could ruin this for me: @St. Louis, vs Buffalo. Although @Denver in week 17 could screw me if the Broncos are resting by then.
- Will any team go 16-0 in the regular season? (33/1): Parity rules this year. Never had a chance.
- San Diego to win the AFC West (5/1): Not only is this not looking good, but I can get this same bet at 20/1 odds right now.
- Pittsburgh to win the AFC north (2/1): This division is playing out exactly how we expected. All four teams are within a half-game of one another. Amazingly, the AFC North’s worst team is 1.5 games better than the NFC South’s best team.
- Will San Diego make the playoffs (+175): They’re certainly still one of the teams in the mix, but it doesn’t feel like we’re heading for January football in San Diego.
- San Diego to go to the Super Bowl (14/1): Apparently I loved the Chargers in August. Unfortunately I could get this current bet at 20/1.
- Over 8 wins for San Diego (-155): Jesus, Ross, why don’t you & San Diego get a room or something?
- Tampa Bay to make the playoffs (7/2): Every. Single. Year. I can’t quit the Bucs, which begs the question, how the hell can someone be stuck on the Bucs? It’s not like they’re thisclose to making the playoffs and putting it all together each year. They’re hopeless year in and year out.
- Chicago to make the playoffs (+135): They’re the rich man’s Tampa Bay. Tantalized by their perceived talent every offseason, they haven’t yet put it all together with this current core of players. They’ve actually morphed into the Dallas Cowboys right before our very eyes, right down to the polarizing quarterback. Actually, comparing this incarnation of the Bears to recent Dallas teams might be an insult to those Dallas teams.
- Over 7.5 wins for Miami (-115): The Dolphins check in at 5-4, meaning they only need to win three of their final seven. They still get the Jets twice and home games against Buffalo & Minnesota. It feels like everything’s gotta break right for them for this bet to pay off.
- Under 8 wins for Kansas City (-155): Calling this a loss because the Chiefs are 6-3 and still get two games against the Raiders. The sad thing is that might be their only two wins left this year. I’m going to just barely miss this one.
- Under 7.5 wins for Dallas (-175): This bet could officially be lost by the end of week 12. At 7-3, they look like a lock to lose me money. (Though they do only have two home games left, both against playoff teams, so maybe there’s a chance…)
- Under 7.5 wins for Carolina (-130): They’d need to win five of their final six for me to lose this one, so I’m going out on a limb and calling this a win!
- Russell Wilson for MVP (16/1): Sure, after the first three weeks of the season this looked like a great long shot bet, but no way this is happening now. It’s clear to me that Wilson isn’t black enough to win this award.
- Oh, and just for good measure, I pumped in a new bet on the Bucs to win their division before the week 6 games, when their updated odds were 25/1.
Someone please save me from myself.
Week 11 picks coming on Thursday.