More Football Daydreaming: Breaking Down the NFL Schedule, Part Two

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I’m geeking out so hard about the 2015 NFL season that I had to turn my simple NFL schedule review into a two-part column. Here is the link to part one, where I went through weeks 1-8 and identified the games I’m most excited for and the matchup that I feel is going to be the most overhyped each week.

Now I’ll continue with weeks 9-17. And if for some reason you can’t bring yourself to read all this, I suggest skipping down to the end where I tallied up which teams had the most appearances in the “most excited for” category and which had the most “overhyped games” on its schedule. Enjoy.

Week 9

Overall Excitement Level: Extra Low

  • It looks like one of those weeks where all the good teams are facing all the bad teams. Those are the worst weeks.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Denver at Indianapolis – The Colts are actually 2-1 against Denver since Peyton went West and Andrew Luck took over at quarterback. Obviously this is a huge game if both teams continue to be the class of their respective divisions. And you know the Broncos have a horrible taste in their mouths from their 2014 season ending at the hands of Indy. It’s a little surprising this is a Sunday afternoon game and not the Monday night game.
  2. Philadelphia at Dallas – Here we go again with the NFC East and a primetime game. This Sunday nighter will have DeMarco Murray playing in front of the Dallas fans for the first time since the Cowboys let him walk in free agency. And by this point of the season, we will know if Chip Kelly is smart, dumb or simply trolling us.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Chicago at San Diego – This is your Monday Night Football matchup. If Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers are still the starting QBs of these two teams, we’ll be hearing an awful lot about their futures with potentially different teams leading up to this. The problem is neither of these two guys has ever won anything of significance with their current teams so the talk about them is always overblown.

Week 10

Overall Excitement Level: A Solid Medium

  • A handful of divisional games and some matchups of teams that are supposed to be good heading into the season. And as a bonus, this week features a preview of the Super Bowl 50 matchup, most likely.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Miami at Philadelphia – This is a sneaky intriguing game. Both teams have shown promise the last couple years without any real results to show for it. Both teams made huge offseason moves in hopes of getting over that hump that separates the playoff teams from the 9-7 teams. This might be an extremely important out of conference tilt for both of them.
  2. New England at Giants – And here’s your Super Bowl 50 matchup! I’m joking, but not entirely. In 2007 these two teams faced each other in the regular season before the Giants ended New England’s perfect season in the Super Bowl. In 2011, the same thing happened, minus the perfect season being on the line. The Patriots have now lost three straight to Eli Manning, Tom Coughlin and this confusing franchise. I know people think I’m crazy, but every four years history seems to be repeating itself. And the Giants are currently 25/1 to win the Super Bowl. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Houston at Cincinnati – Oh, you don’t think this will be hyped? Well this is going to be Andy Dalton’s second primetime game of the season. His first is the week before against Cleveland. This man is known to be a wreck under the spotlight. What if he loses to the Browns the previous week? How much pressure will there be about replacing him if he fails to rise to the occasion once again? And we might be talking about two playoff teams here.

Week 11

Overall Excitement Level: There is no excitement

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Denver at Chicago – OK, if the Bears bottom out this year, I really won’t be excited for this one. But we are seeing John Fox against his former Broncos team. We are seeing Jay Cutler against his former Broncos team. (What? That storyline is like six years old? OK, fine.) It’s really all about Fox trying to get some revenge for being ousted after having an awesome four-year run that almost any team would have appreciated. Except, apparently, for a team run by Peyton Manning.
  2. Dallas at Miami – Similar to the Miami/Philly game, this is an interconference game late in the season that could have a ton of meaning if both teams perform similar to last year.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Buffalo at New England – For the second time, Rex vs the Patriots earns this award. Rex is obsessed with New England, and the media is obsessed with Rex. This is an easy pick.

Week 12

Overall Excitement Level: A High Medium

  • The real reason there’s some true excitement on my part for week 12 is because it’s Thanksgiving weekend. Not only do we get three games spread out across the Fattest Day of the Year, but the Sunday of this weekend only features 12 games, making it much easier to view the important stuff.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. New Orleans at Houston – What can I say? I’m high on this Texans team. And watching J.J. Watt against an error-prone Drew Brees should be plenty entertaining.
  2. Pittsburgh at Seattle – Last year the Cowboys went into Seattle with the league’s best rushing attack, a solid quarterback and an all-world receiver and beat the Seahawks. The Steelers could have those very same offensive components this year. Not saying it’ll happen, but they could be a team to escape the Northwest with a victory. Also, is Seattle still bitching about the officiating from the 2006 Super Bowl?
  3. New England at Denver – This is either going to be the 17th installment of Brady vs Manning or the first installment of Brady vs Osweiler. It’s strange. With Manning’s rapid aging and the escalated hatred by Pats fans for teams like Indy, Baltimore and the Jets, this just doesn’t feel like the rivalry it was a few years back. Still must-see TV on Sunday night.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Chicago at Green Bay – Thanksgiving Night! NFC North Rivalry! Brett Favre’s Jersey Retirement! Ignore the fact that the Bears are 4-7!

Week 13

Overall Excitement Level: A Solid Medium

  • Believe it or not, there are eight games this week where both teams either made the playoffs in 2014 or nearly did. That’s good enough for me.

Games I’m Most Excited For: 

  1. Baltimore at Miami – The Ravens have gone into Miami two straight years and won. Last year it was in week 14 and it was a key game because the Ravens went to 8-5 and the Dolphins fell to 7-6. That was kind of the end of the line for Miami. This year could be exactly the same with both teams desperately needing this game.
  2. Seattle at Minnesota – Intriguing because Minnesota is absolutely going to be a major sleeper going into this season. Actually, they won’t be because everyone will talk about how they’re a sleeper and then they’ll quickly be overrated. But if they happen to play up to expectations, this could be a huge test for them. Teddy Bridgewater will have almost two seasons of games under his belt at this point so we’ll all be looking at this as a benchmark game for him too.
  3. Indianapolis at Pittsburgh – Last year these teams combined for 85 points in a game Pittsburgh won 51-34. No reason to think this year will be much different in terms of two fantastic offenses and two horrific defenses. And I can’t imagine a scenario where this week 13 game isn’t important for both teams.

Overhyped Game of the Week: 

  • Jets at Giants: Because it’s New York. Because Eli will either be having a great season or an awful season. Because Geno Smith/Ryan Fitzpatrick/Marcus Mariota(?) will be struggling big time for the Jets. Because Tom Coughlin will probably be on the annual hot seat.

Week 14

Overall Excitement Level: It’s not a full erection, but definitely a chubby.

  • Some possibly good games like Minnesota/Arizona, Pittsburgh/Cincy and New England/Houston don’t even crack my top three. There’s also a good possibility of seeing a lot of anger at MetLife Stadium when Marcus Mariota and the Titans go there to play the Jets and the home fans get to see what their team didn’t trade up for.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. San Diego at Kansas City – The Philip Rivers AFC West Farewell Tour kicks off with a game in Arrowhead. He plays all three AFC West rivals on the road between week 14 and week 17. Of course there’s a chance this game is actually meaningful. It could either have wildcard implications, or if Denver falls flat, this could be for the division.
  2. Dallas at Green Bay – You think the Cowboys are looking forward to this one? Maybe Dez Bryant will make a catch or two and over-exaggerate showing the ball to the refs to make sure they see he has actually caught it? The Cowboys return to the scene of the crime from the NFC Divisional Round this past January. High expectations for this one.
  3. Seattle at Baltimore – A Sunday night game between what should be one of the best teams from each conference. If the AFC North is especially tight at this point, Baltimore knows going into this week that either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati have to get a win since they face each other. The pressure will be on to beat the two-time defending NFC Champs.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Buffalo at Philadelphia – Depending on what’s happening with these two teams at this point in the season, we’re going to hear one of two things over and over and over leading up to this game: 1) Chip Kelly was stupid to get rid of LeSean McCoy and the Eagles’ offense just isn’t the same without him, or 2) Buffalo screwed up by trading for and then extending the contract of a running back who came off a bad year and is getting to that age where running backs’ performances seem to fall off a cliff.

Week 15

Overall Excitement Level: Moderate

  • The schedule really blows in week 15, but we’re talking about the third-to-last week of the regular season. How can it not be somewhat exciting? And this is probably a good time to mention that the second half of this column feels especially futile because the exciting games are going to be largely determined by each team’s record since unlikely playoff contenders always emerge. Maybe the most interesting aspect of week 15 will be trying to figure out whether the Browns lose in Seattle by 50 points or just 40 points.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Houston at Indianapolis – If things go how I’m expecting, this game is going to effectively determine the AFC South Champion. For me it’s very easy to root for Vince Wilfork, Bill O’Brien and of course J.J. Watt (and it’s ridiculously easy to root against the sore loser Colts).
  2. Denver at Pittsburgh – One of the few true bright spots on this week’s schedule. This probably could have been the overhyped game considering we’ll hear 48 straight hours during the week of Peyton Manning vs the cold weather. But both teams should have winning record and be fighting for either a spot in the playoffs or specific seeding.
  3. Detroit at New Orleans – This is either a game with major playoff implications or a game where we get to laugh at both teams for letting their most important player go in the offseason (Ndamukong Suh for Detroit, Jimmy Graham for New Orleans).

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Tampa Bay at St. Louis – This won’t be overhyped at all, but I did want to take a moment to recognize what will be the final home game for this current installment of the St. Louis Rams. And the NFL went ahead and put it in the terrible Thursday night slot against Tampa Bay. I’ve never seen so much disrespect.

Week 16

Overall Excitement Level: High

  • It’s week 16 for crying out loud! Get excited!

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Cleveland at Kansas City – Because we’ll probably be watching a game between two teams who have yet to throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver on the season. And for the Chiefs, that would make it a 31 game streak of no TD passes to receivers coming into this one if my prediction is right. Who wouldn’t want to watch a game that’s intriguing for all the wrong reasons?
  2. Indianapolis at Miami – The schedule makers do not like the Dolphins apparently. Their final five games go like this: vs Baltimore, vs the Giants, at San Diego, vs Indianapolis, vs New England. Sure, four of those games are at home, but I don’t see an easy opponent in there. Anyway, here’s another game that can determine some key AFC playoff spots.
  3. Pittsburgh at Baltimore – This second meeting between these AFC North teams will probably be as nasty as the first.

Overhyped Game of the Week: 

  • Cincinnati at Denver – A game featuring Peyton Manning and primetime Andy Dalton will get talked up a ton. This is the final Monday night game of the season. And possibly Dalton’s final primetime start as a Bengal.

Week 17

Overall Excitement Level: Through the Effing Roof!

  • It’s the final week of the season. The final time we get the RedZone Channel in 2015 (technically all these games take place in 2016, but you get my point). And every game is a divisional matchup. Even the NFL can’t mess this up.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  • All of them – Seriously, who knows? We could be in a situation where 11 of 12 playoff spots are locked up. Or it could be the exact opposite. Maybe six of eight divisions will still be up for grabs on the final day. I’m not going to bother giving any sort of excitement or overhyped list because the entire day is going to be exciting and overhyped!

Now that we’ve gotten through that way-too-early look at the schedule, let’s tally up the counts and see what sticks out.

Here are the teams with the most “most excited” games on my list:

  1. Dallas (9 times)
  2. Indianapolis (8)
  3. Baltimore (6), Denver (6), Pittsburgh (6)
  4. Miami (5), New England (5), Seattle (5)
  5. New Orleans (4)

This tells me I’m a lot more excited about AFC teams than NFC teams. It also makes me feel so very dirty. I’m most excited about watching the Cowboys and then four of the Patriots’ biggest rivals in the AFC? Just terrible. But sadly this proves out why the suits at the broadcasting companies are always putting Dallas on national TV.

Here are the teams that didn’t get a single “most excited” on my list:

  • Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina, Oakland, St. Louis, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Tennessee

Not too surprising there. I think all those teams are either going to be terrible (Arizona, Oakland, Tennessee, etc) or mediocre without any true star power (Atlanta, Carolina, San Francisco). And the poor NFC West has three of its four teams on this unexcited designation. Seattle can probably start planning for at least one home playoff game.

As for the winners of the “overhyped” games, here’s who had the most of those:

  1. Chicago (4), New England (4)
  2. Buffalo (3), Jets (3), Philadelphia (3)
  3. Cincinnati (2), Detroit (2), Green Bay (2)

Interestingly enough, teams can be in an overhyped game either because they’re the good team who is going to destroy a talked-up team that isn’t very good (like New England and Green Bay will be doing to several opponents). Or they can be on the other end, receiving the punishment from the good teams (like Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo and the Jets will be doing).

There wasn’t a single team that got on the overhyped list but had no “most excited” games. I have no idea of that stat’s meaning.

Thanks for reading. I think you can tell that I desperately wish the NFL season wasn’t still so far away. I’m not an NFL Draft overreactor so you probably won’t see a football post from me for a couple months. Be sure to get your fill of all the other sports before September rolls around!

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NFL Week 10 Recap: Turning the Page to a Very Important Weekend in the NFC

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals

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.”
    • Yup.
  • [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.”
    • Whoops.
  • “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.

NFL Week 7 Picks: De-Emphasizing the Gambling Obsession (maybe)

dalton luck

Six weeks of football seems like enough of a sample size to start drawing some legitimate conclusions. Every team has played at least a third of their season. Standings are important, but not necessarily the most important metric at this time. FootballOutsiders.com developed an advanced metric (DVOA is its acronym, and you can get an understanding of it HERE) that’s a much truer indicator of how a team’s performing rather than just looking at traditional things like points per game, yards per game, yards allowed, etc. I love looking at all the nuances involved in their many stats.

Let’s kick this column off by running through some things that jumped out at me when scouring the team DVOA stats on their website this week. Some things will surprise you, and some won’t:

  • Denver is the #1 overall team by DVOA, but more alarmingly for the rest of the league is the fact that they’re #2 in Defense DVOA. The Broncos finished last year as the #15 team on defense, and that was still good enough to get them to the Super Bowl.
  • The #2 overall team according to FootballOutsiders.com is….the Baltimore Ravens. Seriously. Somehow, someway, they rate out as the second best team in football.
  • The Seahawks, with their 3-2 record, are the third best team in football, ranking higher than Philly (6th) and Dallas (10th), both of whom are 5-1.
  • Detroit has the #1 defense in the NFL, but they check in at only 22nd on offense (other teams who similarly have top 10 defenses but bottom-half of the league offenses: San Francisco, Miami, Buffalo and Arizona).
  • Cleveland has the league’s #2 offense! The Browns! (Their 29th-ranked defense will eventually hold them back you’d have to think.)
  • San Francisco, despite our best efforts to discredit their defense before the season, has the #3 rated D unit.
  • The Saints, once again, have the worst defense in football.

After last week’s pooptacular picks by me, I started thinking deeply and in a philosophical way about football. I realized that getting caught up in my bets, the point spreads, fantasy leagues, my Suicide Pool and Pick ‘Em Leagues is causing me to lose focus of what used to be the true intrigue of football. During those weeks when all my shenanigans are working out, I’m happy as can be, but god forbid something like last week happens because then I’m swearing off football, wondering why I even watch. If I had stepped back from all that bullshit in week 5, here’s what I would have noticed:

  • The Dallas freakin’ Cowboys went into Seattle and marched up & down the field on the Seahawks. They turned Seattle’s home field advantage into the equivalent of Jacksonville’s home field advantage when it plays in London.
  • The Panthers and Bengals played an incredibly entertaining game where the two teams combined to tie up the game six different times. There were 74 total points scored in 75 minutes of football, and it was so good that neither team felt like winning it.
  • The Browns staked their claim as a legitimate threat in the AFC North, not by narrowly eking out a victory against the Steelers, but by kicking the Steelers’ asses right out of Cleveland.

I know there was more to love about week 5, but that’s what jumped out. So let’s all make a deal. We’ll keep making bets, making picks and playing fantasy football, but we’ll try our damnedest to remind ourselves what’s truly awesome about football.

Let’s get it started this week by previewing the games that could be extremely entertaining regardless of which way we’re betting:

  • Cincinnati at Indianapolis: Two teams that could fall anywhere between the #1 seed and the #6 seed in the AFC playoffs (well, the Colts will at worst be the #4 seed). Indy is surging, Cincy is reeling. Both cities are able to shorten their name by putting a “y” on the first syllable. This is a legitimately good AFC matchup.
  • San Francisco at Denver: A couple four-win teams, both of whom could be fighting for their respective division title all year against some tough competition, amidst the backdrop of Peyton Manning’s opportunity to break the all-time touchdown record. Two marquee franchises that absolutely need this win.
  • …and that’s it? Jesus Christ, I’m gonna have to ratchet up the amount of gambling a lot this week. I honestly can’t find any other compelling games on the schedule.

Screw the appreciation crap, let’s catch up with the bye teams and then jump into the picks:

  • Philadelphia: It’s a good thing the Eagles have started out 5-1 because the first six weeks was the easier part of their schedule. While they’ll be getting some key offensive linemen back after the bye, they might be without Darren Sproles for a bit. If they can continue beating up on the Houstons and Tennessees of the NFL, they should be positioned for a divisional showdown with the Cowboys in weeks 13 & 15. Throw in upcoming games against Green Bay and Seattle, and you can imagine the Eagles still having to fight to get to 10 wins.
  • Tampa Bay: 

Here are the week 7 picks.

NY Jets @ New England (-10)

  • The Pick: New England
  • The Score: New England 38, NY Jets 11

First of all, I’m terrified of spreads this large. Second, I’m terrified of backing MY team with a spread this large. Third, I happen to remember a rain-soaked meeting between these two teams last year that ended in a 13-10 win for the Patriots, and it just so happens that rain is in the forecast for Thursday night. And finally, as I mentioned last week, Rex Ryan may still be able to walk away from these back-to-back games between Denver and New England saying, “We went toe-to-toe with the best in our conference.”

But because the Patriots are one of my “can’t get a read on them” teams of 2014, I’m going against all instincts and picking them to add to the Thursday night blowout legacy of 2014.

Atlanta @ Baltimore (-7)

  • The Pick: Baltimore
  • The Score: Baltimore 34, Atlanta 20

Both teams have won big against Tampa Bay, and both have lost to Cincinnati. But that’s where the similarities seem to end. Atlanta is a complete disaster right now, as evidenced by their two-touchdown loss at home against the Bears last week. They were supposed to be unstoppable at home. Meanwhile, the Ravens seem to have found some offense for once, a scary proposition for the 31st-ranked Falcons defense heading into Baltimore.

If this isn’t at least a seven-point win by Baltimore, then football makes no sense and what are we even doing here?

Tennessee @ Washington (-5.5)

  • The Pick: Tennessee
  • The Score: Tennessee 31, Washington 30

Classic Washington luck: They face Arizona in week 6 just in time for Carson Palmer to return and then get the Titans in week 7 right as Jake Locker seems poised to come back. I’m not saying either of those QBs is a Pro Bowler, but it’s just typical PotatoSkins to not even get the benefit of the backup QB that’s been playing for the last couple weeks.

Anyway, Tennessee is bad, but they aren’t a touchdown worse than Washington. The poor ‘Skins get to play in Dallas on Monday Night Football in week 8. I’m sure their fans are looking forward to hearing all about Dallas’ amazing 6-1 start.

Seattle (-7) @ St. Louis

  • The Pick: St. Louis
  • The Score: Seattle 26, St. Louis 23

The Seahawks return to the site of last year’s rousing 14-9 win over the Rams, a game in which the great Kellen Clemens completed less than 50% of his passes, threw for no touchdowns and was intercepted twice. The Rams somehow stayed in the game because they were able to run for over 200 yards on the Seahawks. This time around Austin Davis gets to play the role of Clemens, and I see things playing out almost exactly the same.

Normally I’d think about taking Seattle here since they’re coming off a loss and probably pretty angry. But they lost Byron Maxwell (the 2nd best cornerback on the team) and Bobby Wagner (starting linebacker who happens to be their leading tackler) for the foreseeable future.

Cleveland (-6) @ Jacksonville

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Cleveland 23, Jacksonville 19

This line feels inflated by at least a few points because the Browns are turning into the darlings of the NFL. The truth is Cleveland has barely won any road games over the past five years, let alone by a margin of six points or more. Did you know the last time the Browns won a road game by more than four points was September 18th, 2011?

I just don’t appreciate Vegas insulting me by adding an extra 2.5 points because the public suddenly loves the Browns. The crazy thing is this team may not get a true test until week 10. If they go into their road game at Cincy that week with a 6-2 record, please remember that they’ve beaten the following teams: New Orleans (can’t win on the road), Tennessee (can’t win anywhere), Pittsburgh (might not get to 8-8), Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay (three of the five worst teams in football).

Cincinnati @ Indianapolis (-3)

  • The Pick: Indianapolis
  • The Score: Indianapolis 31, Cincinnati 27

As I mentioned above, this is one of the only truly compelling games this weekend. It pits two teams that expect to win their division and are also hoping to finally leapfrog the Broncos & Patriots to get one of the 1st round byes.

Where I messed up last week in picking the Bengals to easily cover a seven-point spread over Carolina was not thinking the absence of A.J. Green would have any effect. Sure, they put up 37 points in that tie, but you can’t just expect a team to lose its best player and not skip a beat.

Also, their defense has looked horrific the last couple weeks. This is a game that should absolutely end in a three-point win for the home team. I’m just hoping Andrew Luck can give me a little more than that.

Minnesota @ Buffalo (-6)

  • The Pick: Buffalo
  • The Score: Buffalo 27, Minnesota 9

Hmm, this line was -4 for Buffalo as of Tuesday. When I saw on Wednesday night that it had jumped to its current line, I furiously searched for significant injury news (or news that Adrian Peterson briefly returned to the Vikings to give Teddy Bridgewater a good spanking for last week’s performance). Nothing. Neither team seems to be losing a key player or getting a key player back. What gives?

Maybe Vegas decided the Vikings’ 31st-ranked offense might get shutout against a very good Buffalo defense, and if that’s the case, a single touchdown by the Bills would cover the six points?

In the Vikings’ four losses this year, here’s how many points they’ve scored: 7, 9, 10 and 3.

They’re also coming off a loss to a physical team in Detroit that literally beat them up for 60 minutes.

I hate backing such a mediocre team by a touchdown, but I could see this going very badly once again for Minnesota.

Miami @ Chicago (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Chicago
  • The Score: Chicago 27, Miami 14

In terms of advanced metrics like DVOA, these two teams are somewhat evenly matched. But the Dolphins have only played one true road game this year, and they got crushed 29-10 by the Bills in that one (they played a “road game” against Oakland in London as well).

The Bears haven’t won a home game yet this year. I think they’ll fix this just fine on Sunday, and it shouldn’t be too difficult of a game.

New Orleans @ Detroit (-3)

  • The Pick: Detroit
  • The Score: Detroit 17, New Orleans 10

Why didn’t I include this in the matchups I’m looking forward to this week? Because it might be a battle of two bad offenses. Both these teams are likely to be missing their best weapons (Jimmy Graham for the Saints, Calvin Johnson for the Lions), and we all know the Saints struggle in general away from Louisiana.

I’m taking Detroit because at least they have the #1 defense in the league to fall back on. Over the past couple years, this is the type of game where Drew Brees throws three interceptions while trying to make too much happen. Even with a neutered offense, I’m still expecting the Lions to roar!

Yes, that last line was extremely corny. But I wrote it so I could quickly transition to reminding you that Katy Perry (who sings a song called “Roar”) is playing the Super Bowl halftime show in February. That means on top of the football, the food, the beer and the Super Bowl Squares, we get this on February 1st

Carolina @ Green Bay (-7)

  • The Pick: Carolina
  • The Score: Green Bay 28, Carolina 27

In last week’s picks column, I talked a lot about my confidence picks and how you’ll know it when I’m extremely confident or supremely unconfident on certain games. Well just know that I’ve never stared at the computer screen without writing something longer than I just did for this game. I’m clueless.

By the way, FootballOutsiders.com also ranks every player by DVOA metrics, and currently Aaron Rodgers is the 5th best QB while Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are the top two wide receivers in all of football. Remember this as you watch the Packers continue to struggle. If I was a Green Bay fan, I would be writing weekly letters to try to get Mike McCarthy fired before Rodgers’ career ends with only the one Super Bowl appearance.

Better yet, pull a “Celtic Pride” and get Mike McCarthy drunk, lure him to your home, and then decide to “hold him” until Aaron Rodgers’ career is over.

Kansas City @ San Diego (-4)

  • The Pick: Kansas City
  • The Score: San Diego 27, Kansas City 24

I did a last second reversal on this pick. If you read my Power Rankings on Wednesday, you know how I feel about the Chargers. But a few things made me pause when I was about to pick them.

First, there’s the opponent. The Chiefs are coming off a bye and happen to have a pretty good pass rush. The Chargers are on something like their 12th center for the year. That worries me.

Also, as good as I think the Chargers are, I can’t help but notice their last four opponents were Buffalo, Jacksonville, the Jets and Oakland. I’m a little nervous they haven’t been tested in a bit.

And finally, they have a HUGE game at Denver just four days after this matchup with Kansas City. Can they be blamed if they’re looking slightly ahead and maybe don’t bring their best effort to week 7?

Arizona (-3.5) @ Oakland

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: Oakland 26, Arizona 23

I know, crazy upset pick, right? You can make the case that the coaching change from Dennis Allen to Tony Sparano during Oakland’s bye week was just what the doctor ordered. After all, they did almost beat San Diego last week. Of course, you could make the case that it was a one-game aberration.

I’d entertain the Cardinals as my pick a bit more if it were only three points. I’m just expecting some sort of crazy upset this week and this is my pick. Deal with it.

On the flip side, CARSON PALMER REVENGE GAME! After all, he had so many years, so many memories, so many successes in Oakland and they just unceremoniously cut ties with him after he gave his blood, sweat and tears for all that time.

NY Giants @ Dallas (-6.5)

  • The Pick: Dallas
  • The Score: Dallas 29, NY Giants 20

I was torn on this one because I don’t think Dallas is truly as good as their record. But the problem is the Giants really don’t match up well with the Cowboys. Their biggest weakness is their run defense, as evidenced by the torching LeSean McCoy and the Eagles gave them last week. The Cowboys, you may have heard, have the best running back in football.

This whole “Dallas being good” thing really bothers me, but I’m not going to ignore the evidence that’s right in front of my face. They look good.

San Francisco @ Denver (-6.5)

  • The Pick: San Francisco
  • The Score: Denver 26, San Francisco 21

Do they even play the game? Or do they simply have a three-hour ceremony to honor the record that Peyton Manning hasn’t broken yet?

Guys, I’m going to let you in on a little trick I use that will be particularly beneficial for this Sunday night game. I typically DVR “Football Night in America” and the night game and often watch them later on. Sometimes I have to actually live a life beyond football at the conclusion of the Sunday afternoon games. Other times I’ll choose to watch some TV shows with my fiancée, and then when she goes to bed I’ll turn the game on. What’s nice about this strategy is that I get to skip all the puff pieces on “Football Night in America” entirely. I watch Dan Patrick do the highlights of all the earlier games, and then I skip all the bullshit that Bob Costas, Hines Ward and the rest of the crew spews about whoever’s involved in the upcoming game. This Sunday night’s pregame show is going to be beyond intolerable. Please do yourself a favor and watch it on tape delay.

As for the game, did you know the Broncos have won two games by seven points, a third game by 14 only because of a late pick-six that made it seem more like a blowout than it really was, and their fourth win was a 21-point pasting against the Logan Thomas-led Cardinals. I’m just trying to say they haven’t been the dominators you’d expect them to be yet.

Also, remember how much Russell Wilson tortured Denver with all his 3rd down scrambling late in the Broncos matchup with Seattle in week 3? Well, Colin Kaepernick also knows how to run a little bit too.

Houston @ Pittsburgh (-3.5)

  • The Pick: Houston
  • The Score: Houston 27, Pittsburgh 21

I have no confidence in the Steelers whatsoever. They seem so old on defense that I dread the thought of Houston’s skill players getting loose after catches or breaking off long runs.

Even though both teams are 3-3, if you compare the two schedules, you’ll be much more impressed with what Houston’s done. Even their losses the last two weeks have been extremely close.

This is a big game for two teams that want to get into the AFC wildcard mix.

And if you’re already looking forward to next week, I’ve got good news! In week 8 there are six potentially awesome matchups. In the meantime, try to enjoy week 7.

NFL WildCard Weekend In Review: About As Much Fun As Week 4 of the Preseason

I had such high hopes for this weekend, and it really couldn’t have started off much better for me. On Friday afternoon, the only friend I’ve made in LA (who promptly moved to San Antonio three weeks after we met) was back in town and took me flying in this plane:

photo (2)

I was expecting a leisurely tour of the Malibu coast and the Hollywood hills, but I forgot this guy was in the Air Force and he totally pulled out some Blue Angels shit on me. I’m talking flipping the plane and flying upside down, doing full vertical loops, stalling the engine and free-falling for a few seconds. And according to him, we hit 5g’s at one point. I’m not sure what that means except that 5g’s is apparently when your chest starts to feel like it’s caving in on itself. I guess I should have suspected something more intense than “leisurely siteseeing” when he made me put a parachute on before we got in the plane.

So yeah, coolest thing I’ve done so far in LA. Great way to start the weekend. Thought it would continue to go up from there.

Fast forward 54 hours later and I’m sitting here trying to make sense of a shitty weekend of football. After a regular season where it seemed like underdogs were always covering and even winning outright more than they ever have, we had a Wildcard Round that saw exactly 0 underdogs cover the spread. The “closest” game of the weekend was Houston’s 19-13 win over Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon, a game in which neither team looked like they belonged in the playoffs. As a matter of fact, out of the eight teams that played this weekend, I’d say three-and-a-half of them actually looked like playoff-caliber teams: Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle and kind of Washington (they get half credit because with a hobbled or non-existent RGIII, they would never look like a playoff team). That’s what made this first round so bad…it wasn’t just that three of four games were decided by double digits. It’s that the majority of the teams didn’t bother showing up.

In my playoff preview blog, I noted that usually two or three games in the first round were blowouts…I shoulda known to stick with the formula. But this year was different! This was the year of the underdog! Ugh.

I also wrote that all of this weekend’s favorites had “flaws and warning signs that make picking the underdogs attractive.” What I didn’t take into account, apparently, is that the underdogs had even more flaws than their counterparts. You can accuse me of being bitter all you want, but I’m telling you I’m still not impressed with any of the teams that won this weekend.

In terms of how I viewed the games, I decided to camp out at a local bar for both games on Saturday, and then I spent Sunday at home. I thought it would be interesting to watch one set of games around dozens of drunk football fans and the other two games at home staying sober and responsible. I’ll let you decide which venue fostered more insightful and hilarious analysis. Let’s recap the weekend in chronological order:

Houston 19, Cincinnati 13: “Ross Regrets His New Theory Only 15 Minutes After Forming It”

-Julie and I got to the bar at 1:10 PT, and we were seated next to three guys who were debating which player on Minnesota was the best….Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson or Christian Ponder. Unfortunately we were not able to get our seats moved.

-Stealing the spotlight from this first game was a text I got from Nkilla saying “Whoa! Supposedly Joe Webb starting for Minny tonight.” You should know that Julie doesn’t give a shit about football. She only agreed to come with me to this bar because she has an iPad and can Pinterest the shit out of things while I watch the games. But every week, I let her make one crazy bet for me. It’s always a 10-12 team parlay where she bets $1 to win something like $2,500. Of course she’s never hit one of these bets and she knows it’s a super-longshot, but that doesn’t stop her from going into every Sunday morning thinkin she’s gonna finally win. Anyway, when I told her there was a chance Minnesota’s backup QB was playing, she decided it was unfair if my gambling website doesn’t give us our money back on the bet she made. If they won’t give it back, they should at least let her take the updated odds because it’s totally unfair she took Minnesota and didn’t know this Joe Webb guy was playing. I felt like I was giving my child a “sometimes life’s not fair” talking-to when I explained that her bet couldn’t be changed.

-Right on cue at kickoff, Julie forgot all about the screw job on her bet because she was deep into an article she found on google titled “Jennier Hundson’s Lasagna Recipe.” Thank god for that iPad + WiFi.

-Seven minutes into the game and my first bet pays off…A $4 win for predicting the first score of the game would be a field goal, not a touchdown. Things were really looking up for me at this point.

-Here’s the brilliant theory I came up with during the first quarter when they showed Andy Dalton’s regular season stats: Dalton had a 62% completion rate and 27 touchdowns, good for third most in the AFC. People must be criticizing him unnecessarily. I bet he’s a much better QB than people give him credit for.”

-The very next note in my notebook says, “1:30 left in 2nd quarter…We may be seeing the two worst QBs in the playoffs right now—both missing throw after throw to wide open guys.”

-You gotta hand it to Dalton. He knows how to disprove a misguided football theory like he’s been doing it for years.

-It’s always frustrating to have bet on a team that has negative total passing yards at the end of the first half. It really felt like Cincy was doing its best Jets impersonation on Saturday.

-I really didn’t have too many other insightful notes from the rest of this game. For some reason I called J.J. Watt “J.J. Twat” at one point and either Julie really loved it or was just extremely bored because she picked up that nickname and ran with it.

-So Houston won 19-13. The best description for how it went down is to say that Houston escaped with a win. They escaped with a victory at home against a quarterback who threw 30 times for 127 yards. Just try to remember how ugly of a win it was when you’re talking yourself into Houston +9.5 over New England this week.

Green Bay 24, Minnesota 10: “Happy Hour Makes Joe Webb’s Passes Even Funnier Than They Already Are”

-I won’t quote her word for word, but let’s just say when Julie found out Joe Webb wasn’t white she was a lot more confident in her original “Minnesota to win” bet.

-Now because this game didn’t start until 5pm and Rocco’s Tavern starts their happy hour at 3pm, there are some notes I wrote down that either don’t make sense or can’t really be defended as necessary, but I’ll share some anyway. Whenever you see a quote with no other comment alongside it, you’ll know I’m just quoting what I wrote in my notebook.

-“Julie doesn’t like farts.”

-Before Minnesota’s first drive was even over, Julie was referring to Webb as “Junior” in the most condescending way possible. As in, “If fuckin’ Junior knew how to complete a four-yard pass, we’d have a chance to score at some point.”

-Not quite as funny or replay-worthy as Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble against New England but equally pathetic was when Joe Webb stepped back onto a lying-on-the-ground Clay Matthews and essentially sacked himself. Self-safeties were patented in 2006 by Dan Orlovsky (Detroit QB who more than once stepped out of the back of the endzone while trying to complete a pass). I think Sanchez and Webb will have to battle it out over the next couple years to see who ultimately gets credit for creating the self-sack.

-Speaking of the soon-to-be highest-paid backup QB in the NFL, I actually wrote in the second quarter, “If only the Vikings had Mark Sanchez tonight…”

-Last March in Vegas, my friend Ted started rooting hard against VCU during their first round game against Wichita State in the NCAA tournament and initially I had no idea why. He had no affiliation with either school, he hadn’t placed a bet on either team, and it was a meaningless game lost in the shuffle of the more than 40 games we’d be seeing in a three-day span. But then I realized he was rooting against them because there were a few douchebags standing near us who were going a little too crazy with every VCU basket. And one of the guys was wearing a VCU cape. If people annoy you enough, you’re bound to start hoping the worst for them. And that’s what happened when the Packer fans got a little too obnoxious at Rocco’s on Saturday night. I had picked and bet on Green Bay, I knew they were a 100% lock to win, but I started cheering for Minnesota like I was Adrian Peterson’s nephew.

-Not sure if I was drunk or just lonely and bored (Julie had left the bar at this point), but I must have watched this clip on my phone about 37 times during the commercials: http://fauxjohnmadden.lockerdome.com/media/104485898

-I know Green Bay took care of business and won by 14, but with one minute remaining in the 2nd quarter, they were only up 10-3. Isn’t that embarrassing when you’re going up against a team being led by Joe “Junior” Webb?

-And by the way, there were so many whispers throughout the season as Christian Ponder struggled that Webb should get a chance to start. Would the people who were planting that seed please own up to it and explain yourself? Ponder seems to be about 30 times better than Webb, right?

-At halftime I started to think about the Bears, Cowboys and Giants, and I got sad for them. Any one of those teams could have done better against Green Bay. Considering the Vikings had six total passing yards in the first half, I’m pretty sure Oakland, Jacksonville and Kansas City all could have done better than Minnesota too.

-At this point in the night, I’m drunk, bored and easily distracted. So I start writing my website name “will-blog-for-food.com” on every coaster at the bar. I seriously grabbed a stack of at least 90 coasters and started giving myself free advertising. One guy called me out on it and asked what my blog was all about. Here was my big chance to sell a stranger on the concept of my blog. And I responded, “Oh, it’s about sports and other stuff.” Boom! Concept sold! I will say that I had a ton of page views today (Sunday), a weekend day where I didn’t post a blog…maybe the bartender didn’t throw all those coasters out. Maybe, just maybe, my blog is the buzz all over town.

-“24-3 wth 9:25 left in 3rd quarter…I farted, and everyone is looking at me suspiciously.” (I wonder if that’s because people could see over my shoulder as I wrote “I farted” in my notebook.)

-“Joe Webb is like me throwing a football right now, minus 40 yards.” (What does that mean? That he’s so bad a drunk-Ross could throw the ball as good as him but 40 yards farther down field? Or that I could throw the ball like him in my drunken state, but my passes would be 40 yards shorter? Don’t know, but it must have been the basis for a good joke in my head at the time.)

-I decided to leave the bar with 10:55 to go in the 4th quarter…a completely unprecedented move, but I was motivated by the fact that Julie was at home making lasagna for dinner.

-So I got home, bugged her to bring me a beer as I sat on the couch watching the end of the game, and the next thing I know I wake up three hours later with an unopened beer in my hand and no lasagna in my stomach. I bet I was as confused at that moment as Joe Webb was when they told him he’d be starting a playoff game in Green Bay.

Baltimore 24, Indianapolis 9: “Where Sober Football Turned Out To Be Just As Boring As Drunk Football”

-So because of Saturday’s lackluster performances from three of the four quarterbacks, and since Aaron Rodgers really didn’t have to throw much in the 2nd half of Green Bay’s win, I went into Sunday with a great chance of winning my “Andrew Luck to throw for the most yards out of every QB this weekend” bet. Maybe Sunday would be all about redemption after a rough Saturday.

-I turn on the TV and the first thing I hear is that Bruce Arians, the Colts’ offensive coordinator and interim Head Coach for most of the season, was rushed to the hospital only a couple hours before kickoff. So Christian Ponder’s injury ruins the Vikings’ chances for an upset (or at least a cover) and now this Arians thing is gonna do the same to Indy?

-I really wish there was a way to hold announcers like Phil Simms accountable for the bullshit they actually say during games. In the first quarter, Simms said, “Joe Flacco is as dangerous of a passer as there is in the NFL.” But hasn’t it been proven over his five-year career that Flacco is actually not one of the more dangerous passers in the league? Unless I’m just being negative and we really should consider a guy who finished the year 12th in passer rating, 15th in touchdowns and 19th in completion percentage one of the more dangerous quarterbacks. I just hate how he can throw that vague comment out there and not have to provide any stats to support it.

-But I should just accept the fact that announcers are human too, and like the rest of us, they have biases and favorite teams. It should have been obvious Simms was on the Baltimore bandwagon when he was looking at a replay of a clear facemasking penalty that a Baltimore player committed on Vick Ballard and said, “I didn’t see a facemask there.” Really? Ballard’s head just did a complete 360 because he taught himself that trick and thought it was a good time to try it out?

-That replay of Roger Goodell embracing Ray Lewis with a big teary hug before the game just made me angry. Of course Goodell would go out of his way to sabotage a very likeable Saints team and then go and fondle one of the biggest douchebags in all of football. I love that he doesn’t even try to associate himself with likeable people.

-So Baltimore wins a very unexciting game (theme of the weekend!). But do Ravens fans feel good about it? Indy controlled the ball for 15 more minutes and had only 22 less total yards of offense than Baltimore. What really hurt the Colts the most today was the 27 times their wide receivers either slipped on the grass or dropped a pass that hit them in the hands. That was the #1 reason for their loss in my opinion.

-On the bright side, I would indeed end up winning my “Luck for most passing yards” bet. After three games, I was still treading water with my bets.

-Am I rooting for Baltimore next week against Denver? Of course I am…if they somehow pull it off and the Patriots beat Houston, then New England would host the Championship game. Do the Ravens have a remote shot of doing it? Nope.

Seattle 24, Washington 14: “This Time I Think Julie Has A Point, We Should Get Our Money Back”

-More specifically, I think Mike Shanahan should have to pay reparations to anyone who bet on Washington Sunday night. Sure, there’s no guarantee that three quarters of Kirk Cousins would have been enough to beat Seattle, but in hindsight wouldn’t you love to have seen Cousins get a chance?

-RGIII couldn’t have been operating at more than 50% for most of the game…every single person watching the game knew it, so why didn’t Shanahan? And it’s not like he would have had to go with Joe Webb if he pulled Griffin from the game. He has Cousins, who’s shown he’s more than capable of keeping a team in the game.

-At least this game caused me to write “2:08pm on Sunday, the first time I’ve been happy with football all weekend.” It was right after the ‘Skins took a 14-0 lead.

-Is it weird to gush about how much I love watching the Redskins offense considering they almost exclusively run the ball?

-Washington’s offensive line possibly sneaky-best line among all the playoff teams?

-It wasn’t even into the second quarter before I wrote “the refs have lost control of the game.” Good to see Seattle embracing the reputation I gave them earlier this year as a bunch of arrogant bastards.

-In my previous blog post, I said there were two factors causing me to pick Washington in this game: 1). RGIII’s specialness and 2). The Washington crowd. Well the knee injury was so bad so early in the game that RG didn’t have a chance to be special, and the crowd could never get fully into it even when the Redskins were up 14-0 because they were too busy holding their collective breath every time Griffin planted on his bad leg.

-I honestly think a healthy RGIII buries the Seahawks in that second quarter.

-Not that it takes the sting off this loss too much, but it was great to see Trent Williams shove Richard Sherman in the face after the game. I like seeing that Sherman’s peers think he’s as big of a piece of shit as I think he is. That’s some nice vindication.

-By the way, as unimpressed as I was with Seattle in this game, my initial thought is that they can handle Atlanta pretty easily next week. The things that Washington did in the first quarter to build that 14-0 lead—run the option with a mobile QB, run the ball for big chunks of yards, get great offensive line play across the board—Atlanta does almost none of that well. Looks like Seattle will luck their way through the first two rounds and into the NFC Championship game.

So there you have it…No upsets, a 1-3 record for my picks this week, and all because of injuries to Christian Ponder, Bruce Arians and RGIII. I’m convinced we would have seen three underdogs cover if those three guys had been able to fulfill their normal roles this weekend.

Feel free to comment on whether you enjoyed my Saturday analyis more (at the bar, drunk by 7pm) or my Sunday analysis (sober, at home, no pants on). You can help me determine how to “enjoy” next week’s games.