NFL Week 17 Recap: For All Whose Families Ruined the Final Week

black monday

Tough week, right?

I’m not necessarily talking about San Diego & Kansas City’s playoff hopes, Ndamukong Suh’s chances of playing in the postseason, or the Mike Smith era in Atlanta—though all those things certainly suffered a knockout blow in week 17.

I’m talking about a tough week for so many football fans who had to change up their Sunday routines (or worse, had to abandon football altogether) because of the ongoing holiday weekend celebrations and family get-togethers. It’s the final week of a great regular season, and there was plenty on the line. Why can’t our families just leave us alone for these final 11 hours?

I was luckier than most. Even though my Mom was visiting LA and doesn’t have much interest in football, she and my fiancee spent most of the day planning our wedding (and quite possibly five others based on the amount of discussion & online purchases that took place).

It was pretty great until the end of the morning games when they suddenly forgot the lengthy warning I gave them months ago that I would not be adjusting my usual football over-saturation on this particular Sunday. The next few hours were full of complaining and guilt trips. But I persevered.

For those of you who weren’t so lucky, please take this stroll through the week 17 fallout with me via a series of random thoughts.

Any playoff talk that I gloss over here will be covered ad nauseum later this week. Don’t you worry about that.

  • The Sunday morning reports that were essentially confirmed by Cleveland’s owner stating Johnny Manziel threw a party on Friday night that several players attended is a level above mind-boggling. If these guys waited just 48 more hours, they could have gone on a six-week bender without anyone noticing. Saying “that’s just common sense” would be understating it.
  • And the poor Browns could be in as desperate of a situation at quarterback going into the offseason as about 14 other teams are. It’s too small of a sample to rule Manziel a bust for his on-field talent, but the off-field bullshit is already too much.Their other rookie QB Connor Shaw showed nothing yesterday, and a Brian Hoyer resigning wouldn’t inspire any confidence at this point anyway. What a change from late September when people were concerned with how Cleveland would ever get Manziel in the lineup with Hoyer playing so well and possibly getting a contract extension.
  • I couldn’t help myself and I took a flier on the prop bet of a Kansas City wide receiver catching a touchdown pass on Sunday (+160 odds). They were on the verge of joining an exclusive club of teams that went an entire season without having such a touchdown catch. With Chase Daniel replacing regular starter Alex Smith, it seemed like the perfect time for something cute and unlikely to happen.
  • But the joke was on me because when Dwayne Bowe stretched across the goal line after an 11 yard catch, the referee ruled it a fumble that Travis Kelce recovered for the touchdown…by a tight end instead of a receiver.
  • I almost had the Tampa Bay / New Orleans game nailed. I said last week that it would be just like the Bucs to blow the 1st overall pick. Remember that even in a year where there seems to be two can’t-miss quarterback prospects, having the 1st pick instead of the 2nd is huge. Just ask Indianapolis and Washington.
  • More interesting in that otherwise meaningless game was Drew Brees throwing three more interceptions and ending the season with 17 of them. Brees now has six seasons with at least 16 interceptions. By comparison, neither Tom Brady nor Aaron Rodgers have ever had even one season with that many picks. I worry that Brees at this point is turning into a less-criticized Brett Favre. It’s worth keeping an eye on.
  • I’ll just say that if certain coaches (*cough* Bill Belichick *cough cough*) called games the way Jason Garrett has the last two weeks, there’d be an emergency Senate Hearing on the unfairness and lack of sportsmanship. Two weeks ago Garrett kept starters in the game—INJURED STARTERS—during a 42-7 blowout win over the Colts (not to mention when he finally inserted the backups, he had Brandon Weeden throwing 40-yard bombs to the receivers). This week Garrett attempted trick plays, including a surprise onside kick, while leading Washington by two touchdowns.
  • I never root for injuries, but when I noticed Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray still in the game late in the 4th quarter, I decided it wouldn’t be the worst if one of those guys hurt himself and had to miss a few games.
  • Just an absolute no-show by what was the 10th best passing defense as the Dolphins gave up 358 yards through the air to Geno Smith. That should make it fair game for Stephen Ross to take back his statement last week that Joe Philbin was definitely returning in 2015.
  • As I was watching all of the afternoon games yesterday, I thought about this constant week 17 issue of resting players, playing starters just a little bit, etc. I felt like most years there’s at least one significant injury in the final week of the season, and then I thought about how it was looking like we might avoid that this year. One hour later Aaron Rodgers had a big scare with his aggravated calf injury. A few hours after that, Le’Veon Bell left the Steelers / Bengals game with a knee injury that looked pretty bad. Please do not let me convince myself that Pittsburgh will be OK if Bell is out for any playoff games. Too often I try to ignore a monstrous injury when making picks because I fall in love with certain teams regardless of who’s playing.
  • Seeing it in real time I didn’t know if Ndamukong Suh stepping on Rodgers was dirty, but on replay I’m sure. His first foot stepped on Rodgers lightly. At that time Suh obviously knows there’s a body behind him. At that point he takes another step back, plants his foot on Rodgers, and puts all his weight on that foot. C’mon with that “accidental” bullshit.
  • Fun with numbers:
    • The AFC went 33-30-1 vs the NFC this year.
    • Six teams from each conference finished with double digit wins.
    • Like I’ve been saying all year, I think we’ve reached a nice balance between the two conferences after years of the NFC being much better.
    • Favorites and underdogs were dead even over the course of the regular season, with both covering 123 games (10 games that had a PICK for a line or resulted in a push didn’t factor into those numbers).
    • All that means is that this sport is impossible to bet on, and this is why Vegas can afford such nice things.
    • And just like almost every year in recent memory, five teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year qualified for the playoffs this year (Dallas, Arizona, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Baltimore).
  • Speaking of the playoffs, here were my picks from the preseason: NFC 1-New Orleans, 2-Seattle, 3-Philadelphia, 4-Chicago, 5-Green Bay, 6-Tampa Bay. AFC 1-New England, 2-San Diego, 3-Pittsburgh, 4-Indianapolis, 5-Denver, 6-Miami.
  • Only six of 12 correct for me. Not very good at all. At least in the AFC I nailed three of them exactly (the #1, #3 and #4 seeds).
  • As I finish writing this at 7:30am Pacific Time on Monday morning, it appears as though Mike Smith, Rex Ryan and Marc Trestman have all been fired. The GMs of the Jets and Bears have also been let go. Jim Harbaugh, of course, has parted ways with the 49ers and will take over at Michigan.
  • There was a prop bet yesterday where the over/under on the number of coaches fired between last night and the 1st playoff game was six. So far we have three (I don’t think Harbaugh counts towards that number). Will we have at least three more? You can on the Raiders firing interim head coach Tony Sparano, but other than that there are no definites (Jay Gruden and Ken Whisenhunt should probably be worried though). Once again, Vegas seems to know what it’s doing by setting a perfectly intriguing line.

On a personal note, I finished week 17 with a 9-7 against the spread record. It’s been a decent run for me over the past two months, not dipping below .500 more than a couple times. But honestly, it was such a rough season that I stopped keeping track and don’t have the desire to go recount.

A chance at retribution awaits me in the playoffs. My sports bucketlist includes going 11-0 against the spread during one NFL postseason. Will 2015 be the year for me?

Find out later this week when I post my Wildcard Round picks column. Happy New Year to all my readers!

Advertisements

Week 6 NFL Picks: Michael Vick’s Final Game of 2012, the Kyle Williams Suicide Watch and Much More

Last week I made the same mistake that I’ve made so many times in my years of football gambling. I took 10 favorites out of 14 games. Even worse, seven of those 10 favorites were “big favorites,” which to me means six points or greater. How could a football guru like myself fall into that trap? Really? All seven overwhelming favorites are gonna do exactly what the majority of people thinks they’re gonna do? Not possible. It wouldn’t be an NFL Sunday if some wacky shit didn’t go down in multiple games. But with seven games in question, how the hell was I supposed to know which ones wouldn’t follow the plan? Green Bay being up 21-3 at halftime in Indianapolis and somehow blowing it? Baltimore, averaging 30 points per game prior to last Sunday, going to Kansas City and facing a Chiefs team that was allowing 34 points per game, and somehow the Ravens only squeeze out nine points? Ridiculous.

Lucky for you, I’ve re-calibrated. Unlike in past seasons, I’m not gonna let last week send me into a tailspin of bad picking. And compared to last week, this week’s lines are much closer—only three “big favorites” and six games that have a 3.5 point or smaller spread. Does that mean I’m automatically gonna make better picks? Well, you be the judge (home teams underlined):

Tennessee (+6.5) over Pittsburgh: Here are some stats for you regarding the Thursday night (and one Wednesday night) games through five weeks: My picks are 2-3 against the spread; Road teams are 3-2; Underdogs are 4-1. So does that mean we should blindly select the underdog for these Thursday games? Maybe. Maybe the short week is a bit of an equalizer where the favorites have less time to prepare as well as they usually do. I don’t know. I’m grasping at straws here. As painful as it is to pick what is likely a bottom-five team, I just don’t know about this Steelers team still. Troy Polamalu is out again. Larmarr Woodley’s the newest “Steeler who’s too injured to play.” A team that’s just barely starting to get healthy has to go on the road with a three-day turnaround? I don’t like it. My final hope is that maybe Tennessee plays some inspired football because they’re on national TV and this is their Super Bowl?

Tampa Bay (-4) over Kansas City: I just love spending 20 minutes of my day trying to decide on a game between two teams whose combined record is 2-7. Obviously this line reflects the fact that Brady Quinn is now starting for KC instead of Matt Cassel. It also reflects the fact that no one thinks much of Cassel since this line would have been the same with him starting. Hmm, Brady Quinn on the road. A couple of things about Quinn you may not have known: 1). His first name is Brayden. Why does he go by Brady and not Brayd? 2). This is his 6th season in the NFL and he’s played in exactly 13 football games. 3). The last time he played in a regular season game was December 20, 2009 (that’s nearly three years for you math-challenged people). 4). Over these six years in the NFL, he’s lost QB competitions to the likes of Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. A murderer’s row of future hall-of-famers clearly. Do you even need to know anything about the Tampa Bay Bucs to bet against the Chiefs this weekend? Fine. They have a run defense that could neutralize Jamaal Charles. Boom, done, take Tampa.

NY Jets (-3) over Indianapolis: It’s too convenient and predictable to expect the Jets to free fall from here. Sure, we’d all love to see them finish the season 2-14, and they certainly seem like they’re heading in that direction. But what’s more likely is that they’ll hover around .500, but never come close to looking like even an average team. They’ll win some games with defense and fluky plays, and that’ll keep them from getting a top five draft pick. Home against Indy (still a weak team no matter how badly you wanna believe in them after that inspired comeback last week), they can handle. Painful but the pick is New York.

Cleveland (+3) over Cincinnati: Ehh, whatever. I don’t have much of an opinion on this one so I’m taking Cleveland with the points. My hope is that Joe Haden’s return to the Cleveland secondary (primarily covering A.J. Green), and the Bengals’ loss of Bernard Scott gives the Browns the edge in this divisional “showdown.” Cincy’s unreliable at best. I wish this was a four-point spread, but I’ll still take the Cleve.

Detroit (+4) over Philadelphia: Welcome to Michael Vick’s final game of the 2012 season! No, not because he’s going to turn the ball over six times and get benched…although that’s a possibility. But because this is a matchup between the QB who gets hit most often without getting the benefit of the referees’ yellow flags and the biggest collection of dirty players on any defense. I’m predicting a season-ending injury to Vick administered by Ndamukong Suh or one of his fellow thug teammates, and, no, the refs won’t throw a flag on the play. But if the injury comes after Vick fumbles two more times, will anyone in Philly mind? Doubt it. Anyway, I’m picking Detroit for two reasons: Philly doesn’t play in games decided by more than two points, and Detroit’s had two weeks to prepare for this game.

Atlanta (-9) over Oakland: When the Falcons beat the Raiders on Sunday, they’ll head into their bye week with a spotless 6-0 record. They’ll feel awesome about that, as they should. You figure if they just go 6-4 the rest of the way, they’d still have a good shot at the #1 seed in the NFC. So you really gotta be a chronic rain-on-others’-parader to say negative things about this team right now. Turns out raining on parades is one of my favorite things…right up there with eating raw cookie dough and picking my nose. How easily could this Falcons team be 3-2 right now? Well, they narrowly escaped a loss at home to Carolina in week 4, and then they held off a RGIII-less Redskins team in the second half of week 5 to win by a touchdown. If Cam Newton doesn’t fumble in week 4 and RGIII doesn’t try to stay inbounds in week 5, I think we’re discussing all the problems that have come up for Atlanta during their two-game losing streak. Just saying. But Oakland’s terrible. Their biggest weakness is their pass defense, which plays right into Atlanta’s offensive strength. I don’t think this one is close, and I’m picking the Falcons in my suicide pool. But for future reference against good teams, it would be wise to consider Atlanta more of a one-loss or two-loss team than an undefeated team.

Even though Molly is totally fucking me with her weekly picks, I decided to give her another shot. I can’t continue to accept a below-average output from my dog picking NFL games. Sure, this is the first NFL season she’s been alive for, and I doubt she can even make sense of the images on a TV screen, but I expect her to be at least a couple games above .500 by the end of the season. But she’s gotta show me something this week. I gave her St. Louis (+3.5) at Miami for her pick. Let’s see what she came up with:

You heard the overeating puppy: St. Louis (+3.5) is the pick.

Baltimore (-4) over Dallas: You’re probably reading a lot about how this Dallas defense could potentially shut down the Ravens’ offense, especially with that poor excuse of an offense we saw out of Baltimore in Kansas City last weekend. Don’t buy it. Baltimore at home seems about as safe of a bet as we can have this year. Four points is nothing, especially when you consider how epically Tony Romo usually fails at the end of games. Can’t you see a three-point Baltimore lead turning into a 10-point win when Romo gets strip-sacked in the final minute and a Ravens player returns it for a touchdown? Or even if it’s a tie game at the end, Romo will be driving the Cowboys down field and DEFINITELY throw a Pick-6. Easy money.

Arizona (-5) over Buffalo: My disdain towards the people who overrated the Cardinals has been well-documnted on this blog, and perhaps no one was happier when they finally lost at St. Louis last Thursday than me. Now they’ve had 10 days to prepare for Buffalo. Everyone puts up points on Buffalo so there’s no reason to expect the Arizona offense to play like the Arizona offense in this one. The Cardinals can cover five at home easily, especially when you factor in the 4-7 Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions.

New England (-4) over Seattle: The Patriots aren’t winning a tight game in Seattle. You know why? Because the Patriots aren’t good at winning those close games anymore. If they don’t have at least a nine-point lead in the final five minutes, I think they lose. So don’t pick Seattle thinking they’re gonna lose a close one. They either win this outright or get smoked. My biggest concern for the Patriots? Their new super-fast hurry-up offense that operates with just a couple words barked out by Brady might not work so well in what’s usually considered the loudest outdoor stadium in football. If the Pats have to use a lot more huddling on offense, can they still produce the high scores we’re used to? We’ll see. Oh, and yeah I’m taking the Pats. Don’t think I’ve picked against them yet this year.

NY Giants (+6.5) over San Francisco: There’s only one set of data I need to look at for my research on this game: Is Kyle Williams still returning punts and kickoffs for the 49ers? Because if he is, there’s no way he doesn’t botch a huge special teams play to swing the game. And, yes, he is retuning kickoffs regularly…punts, not so much. Let’s just hope for the Williams family’s sake that “Kyle Williams Suicide Watch” isn’t trending on Twitter on Sunday night. In reality I’ve gotta pick the Giants just because a touchdown seems like a lot of points to be giving to one of the other good teams in the NFC. I’m starting to think the Falcons, 49ers and Giants are all pretty equal. Even if the Giants are a little worse than the other two, they’re not a touchdown worse. And even if New York’s down 10-14 points in the 4th quarter, you know Eli has some satanic magic in his back pocket. I hate picking the Giants, but it’s the right move. (Picking both New York teams might be the lowlight of the 2012 NFL season for me.)

Washington (-1.5) over Minnesota: The second-year phenom vs the rookie phenom. Wholesome midwest vs dirty east coast. Purple people eaters vs the Hogettes. 4-1 upstart vs 2-3 upstart. Chrispon vs RGIII. Where am I going with this? I have no idea. But I do know I’m taking the Redskins. The Vikings are a great surprise and all, but they gotta lose a winnable game sooner or later. What better timing than on the road against a frisky Washington team? I just wish I had assurances from the Washington fans that if the Nationals make the NLCS, which starts on Sunday, they’ll still show up to FedEx Field for this game.

Houston (-4) over Green Bay: Even when the Packers lose to Houston this week—falling to 2-4—they still have a great shot at getting to 10 wins. The only truly difficult games after Houston are at the Giants and at Chicago. They could win the other eight games. I love the idea of Green Bay falling right into that 9 or 10 win range because that’s borderline playoffs, meaning the replacement ref debacle will be unleashed on us again. Can’t wait. But back to this game…seems like Houston would be smart to just play a ball control game where they run it upwards of 45 times to keep the Packer offense off the field. I just can’t see how the Packers could slow down the Houston offense enough to pull off the mini upset.

Denver (+1.5) over San Diego: One of those games where I wish I would have bet on it earlier in the week, when Denver was getting three points. I like Denver in this one still as I see it being a one-point game regardless of who wins. I still think the AFC West is a crapshoot with Denver and San Diego pretty evenly matched, so it wouldn’t make sense for the Chargers to win on Monday and take a two-game lead in the division. It feels right that both teams are 3-3 coming out of this one. Go Peyton!

(That’s the first and last time you’ll see me write “Go Peyton” in a blog.)