NFL Week 14 Recap: AFCmageddon Fallout, NFC Seedings and Both Grudens

patriots defense

It takes a mammoth story to knock the NFL out of the lead spot on Monday morning news cycles, but that’s exactly what the college football playoff standings did yesterday. So I guess in a sense the new playoff format has already paid off because of the headlines and attention it’s grabbing. But I feel like any debate over which is the better brand of football, college or the pros, is over. Say what you want about this year’s NFC South tragedy or any other year when a 7-9 or 8-8 team makes the playoffs, but at least we all know the rules and parameters for getting into the postseason ahead of time (and we know it’s 100% based on the actual game results). You just can’t have a legitimate sports league and champion when you make rules up as you go along (and possibly reward schools with playoff berths because of things other than their on-field performance).

The college football selection show was one of only two things that took my attention ever-so-slightly off of football on Sunday. The other was “Eaten Alive.”

A TV show that promised a live human would be consumed by an anaconda, “Eaten Alive” probably should have been called “If, after days of wandering through the Amazon to find the perfect snake to eat me alive, I do in fact find that perfect snake (that might not even exist in the first place), then I will indeed be Eaten Alive…but only if the snake follows my arbitrary rules of not breaking my arms & legs, which could have been better protected if I didn’t refuse the armor that my team wanted to put on me…THEN I WILL BE EATEN ALIVE…for all of six minutes out of a 2-hour TV show.”

Needless to say, I’ll probably pass on the next show that promises a man will be eaten by a dangerous predator.

On the AFC

While AFCmageddon didn’t totally disappoint this past weekend, the results for many of the AFC teams precluded next week from having very many exciting matchups. For example:

  • The Dolphins at Patriots is no longer interesting because Miami lost to Baltimore, dropping them three games behind New England.
  • The Texans at Colts is no longer interesting because Indy pulled out a ridiculous comeback in Cleveland that kept them two games ahead of Houston.
  • And with Cleveland blowing that home game, it makes their game against Cincy in week 15 much less interesting, as the Browns would need some miracles over the final three weeks to win the North.
  • In the West, the Broncos’ win combined with San Diego’s loss allows Denver to lose their upcoming matchup without any repercussion in the division standings.

In all my gambling losses over these first 14 weeks of the season, I’ve learned only one thing: Stay the F away from the AFC North. It’s probably been a detriment to gamblers that this division got to face the entire NFC South this year because those games have artificially inflated how decent the North looks.

The AFC North has a .821 win percentage against the NFC South (everyone’s favorite sacrificial lamb). Against everyone else? It drops to a .526 win percentage. Not great unless you can play the trash of the NFC every game.

Also consider: Cincy had won five of its last six games, including three on the road. They had gotten some key guys healthy in the last few weeks. On Sunday they couldn’t stay within 20 points of Pittsburgh, a team that really hasn’t played well on the road this year and lost to New Orleans AT HOME just a week earlier. Baltimore lost at home to San Diego in week 13 and lost more defensive starters before their road game in Miami on Sunday. Of course they held Miami to 13 points. What I’m saying is…the AFC North is the definition of stayaway. It’s the least predictable division in the NFL.

On the NFC

What people are most excited about after week 13 is the race for the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs, specifically who will have home field if the dream matchup of Seattle vs Green Bay happens. If Arizona fades like many are expecting, we’d basically have three teams vying for the top spot: Green Bay (10-3), Seattle (9-4), and the winner of the NFC East. Philadelphia (9-4) or Dallas (9-4).

For argument’s sake, let’s say the Eagles win the East (since they’re hosting the game against Dallas this coming weekend). If the season were to end with a three-way tie, the Seahawks would win the tiebreaker because they beat both Green Bay and Philadelphia. And even if it’s a two-way tie between Seattle and the Packers, the ‘Hawks would still take the #1 seed. But here’s why you can R-E-L-A-X again, Packer fans: Your team already has a one-game lead over Seattle and their final three games are at Buffalo, at Tampa Bay and home against Detroit. They should win all three of those games.

And if these two teams do matchup in a key January game, regardless of where it’s played, I think Seattle wins because Green Bay has never shown any sign of beating this Seattle team when its defense is at full strength.

And Back to the AFC

I know I’m jumping around a lot here, but one more note on this past week’s Indianapolis over Cleveland game. Has any game this season been more responsible for some very important implications? With that loss by Cleveland, the Johnny Manziel Era starts, Brian Hoyer will be on a different team in 2015, the Browns are effectively out of the playoffs and the Texans are more or less in that same boat (due to Indy winning and remaining two games up on them with three to play). A lot was decided when Cleveland blew that game.

The Grudens

I’m reading more and more that Jay Gruden could be one-and-done in Washington as the head coach. Let me go on record as saying that should absolutely NOT happen. I loved the way he called out RG3 to the media a couple weeks ago because it needed to happen. It seemed to me like a last-ditch effort to get through to a player who doesn’t want to listen. I gained a lot of respect for Gruden after that press conference. RG3 should be the one leaving the team after the season. But I do wonder if the amount of dysfunction across the board on this team will lead to a deep cleaning of the roster and the coaching staff. They might decide to remove anyone associated with the stink of 2014…coach, quarterbacks (all of them), coordinators…it’s almost like they should do a full reset, you know? Maybe change their branding even?

As for my favorite announcer quote of the week, it was all the glowing things that Jon Gruden said about Steven Jackson on Monday night. I can’t pick just one. It wasn’t like he said semi-logical things like, “Jackson’s been struggling for a little while now, but he’s had some nice games lately.” Instead he said outlandish things like, “In this Atlanta offense, if you can get good blocking from your offensive line, Steven Jackson will take care of the rest.” If you only listened to Gruden’s comments about Jackson and didn’t pay attention to football otherwise, you’d assume Jackson’s leading the league in rushing and might be the greatest runner in football history.

Why the Patriots are Finally Different

As a big time New England homer, I typically predict the Patriots to win the Super Bowl every year based on the logic of Tom Brady & Bill Belichick, and not much more. This year’s different. In their past five games, they’ve limited offenses led by Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers to 16.6 points per game. For the season, those teams are averaging 27.3 points per game. And this run for the Pats’ defense coincided with two significant personnel losses, Jerod Mayo and Chandler Jones. Mayo’s out for the year, but Jones may be back as soon as this week. For the first time in many years, this New England defense might just carry the team to the promised land (assuming the referees allow Brandon Browner to make clean hits without throwing a flag, which is still to be determined).

Week 15 picks coming on Thursday.

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Week 14 NFL Picks: My Girlfriend Takes Over As I Pull A Stevan Ridley

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When my weekly picks dipped to nearly 20 games below .500 back in mid-October, I didn’t panic or throw in the towel. I didn’t walk away from my commitment to posting my picks every Thursday. I didn’t even make excuses.

Because I just knew my year was mirroring the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Tampa Bay Bucs…not nearly as pathetic as my record seemed, destined to turn it around and at least end up with a season that could be classified slightly above “hot garbage.”

But after a November with only one winning week, including a putrid 6-9-1 record in week 13, I’m starting to think my season will end up mirroring the Atlanta Falcons, or worse, the Houston Texans. I started off OK, nosedived almost immediately, tanked even worse at the halfway point, and have now apparently hit rock bottom. My only concern is that this might not be rock bottom. What if I have an 0-16 week on the horizon? Holy shit. That would potentially be the worst moment in my lifetime of following sports. If that happens, I’d maybe think about offing myself and leaving my life savings to my loyal readers as an attempt at reparations. Let’s not spend another second considering that possibility.

For week 14 I’ll be watching the majority of the games in my brother’s man cave in San Francisco. Does the change of scenery perhaps help snap me out of this funk? Doubtful, considering last time I visited San Francisco was week 9 and I put up a gaudy record of 4-9 against the spread.

Is there a hex-breaking dance I can invoke to end this awful year of picks?

Should I try a new strategy? The last two weeks was my trial run of “don’t think, just pick,” and while my cumulative record over that time was a non-disastrous 14-15-1, it’s still not good enough.

Should I go the opposite way and use no instincts? Instead relying purely on Football Outsider’s current DVOA rankings as if there’s no human element whatsoever in picking NFL winners.

In dire times like these, I always fall back on one mantra: What Would Belichick Do?

You may think I’m about to say, “He wouldn’t give up. He’d play til the final whistle. So that’s what I’m going to do.” But actually I’m going another way with this. After Belichick gave Stevan Ridley chance after chance to become a reliable (read: NON-FUMBLING) featured back in the Patriots offense, he was finally left with no choice but to distance Ridley from any situation that could allow him to impact the game. And it came to a climax last week when Ridley was mercifully deactivated against the Texans.

So you know what I’m doing for my week 14 picks? I’m benching myself. And just as Ridley spent that entire game at Houston on the sidelines carrying around a football while in street, I’ll be carrying around a printed out copy of the week 14 lines and will be studying them as I watch each game (in street clothes). Maybe I’ll learn the proper way to evaluate football teams.

But have no fear because I’m replacing myself in the starting lineup with someone who would have most definitely outpicked me had I given her a chance to do so over the course of the year. My girlfriend Julie will be making a pick for each game and providing the logic behind each pick.

(But you don’t think I can skip a week of picks entirely, right? After all, I still need to make picks against the spread for my Pick ‘Em Leagues. So my picks will be included below Julie’s, but I’ll warn you again…if choosing which picks to rely on, go with my girlfriend’s 100 times out of 100.)

Let’s get to the debut of “Julie Outpicks Her Degenerate Boyfriend Even Though She Hasn’t Watched More than 11 Minutes Of Football Since 2007.”

(Note: My comments/explanations on Julie’s picks are in parentheses. And many of her comments read as if she’s having a conversation with me more so than talking to the readers.)

(Note #2: When Julie says things like “I always pick [TEAM X],” she means she picks them in the giant $1 parlay that I let her do on my betting website every week. And since she’s never won any of those bets, you’d think maybe she’d change it up from the teams she always picks. But no.)

Houston (-3) @ Jacksonville

Julie’s Pick: “I’ll go Jacksonville based on the home team advantage. Maybe Uncle Mo will be in the house.” (That’s short for momentum, by the way…I should also note that she repeatedly referred to Houston as “Texas.”)

Ross’s Pick: Never seen a line make less sense than this one. Jacksonville should be favored by 3.5. Jags cover and win outright 36-27.

Kansas City (-3) @ Washington

Julie’ Pick: “Oh, Washington because it’s Werner’s team.” (Our college friend who’s a big Washington fan who probably suspects Julie’s just as big of a jinx as I am. At least now he can blame their 10th loss of the season on her instead of me.)

Ross’s Pick: Best news for Washington players in a long time: After this week, they only have one more home game for the rest of the season. That means only one more opportunity to disappoint their fans. Kansas City covers with a 27-17 win.

Minnesota @ Baltimore (-7)

Julie’s Pick: (She lets out a huge sigh at the mention of this game.) “Baltimore… Maryland… Hmm…I’m gonna go Minnesota because they both have the cold weather advantage and always an underdog wins, at least one, maybe more.” (I honestly have no clue what this means.)

Ross’s Pick: I guess technically Baltimore’s “on a roll” right now. And Matt Cassel’s starting for the Vikings. You know what? Wouldn’t it be just like the annoying Ravens to round into form in December and make people think they have another out-of-nowhere Super Bowl run in them? Disgusting, but I’m taking Baltimore to cover with a 28-17 win.

Cleveland @ New England (-11.5)

Julie’s Pick: “I abstain from the game with the home team always…and by home team, I mean the team that Ross roots for because he’ll be miserable or mad at me if I pick them and they lose. And if it was any other matchup you know I’d pick Cleveland because of Romeo Crennel.” (I did inform her more than a week ago that Romeo Crennel hasn’t been associated with the Browns organization in several years. Never stops her from citing his past employment there as a reason to love them.) “If forced, I’d pick the Patriots.”

Ross’s Pick: Jacksonville just handled the Browns in Cleveland, right? And we may see Alex Tanney, he of the zero NFL regular season career snaps. Fuck it, Patriots roll to a 42-17 win. (CONFIDENCE PICK)

Oakland @ NY Jets (-3)

Julie’s Pick: (She mimed puking motions at the mention of both teams.) “I gotta go with the Jets for the cold weather factor…and I hate Oakland.” (She lived in the Bay Area for six years. I shouldn’t have to tell her that it gets pretty cold there too, right?)

Ross’s Pick: All that “will Geno get benched” talk isn’t fooling me. As bad as the Jets are, the Raiders have quietly lost four of their last five, and they’re 1-5 on the road this year. I also made a preseason bet that the Raiders would finish with less than 5.5 wins so I need this. Jets win 20-10. (CONFIDENCE PICK)

Indianapolis @ Cincinnati (-6)

Julie’s Pick: “I always pick Cincinnati, but wait, how many games in a row have they won?” (I tell her I doubt that number is significant. Then I look it up and tell her two. Two wins in a row.) “Oh, then I definitely pick the other team…Who was the other team again? Colts? Yeah, I pick them.”

Ross’s Pick: Reggie Wayne appears to be almost as important of a player to his team as Aaron Rodgers is to the Packers. Didn’t think that was the case. Bengals cover and win 24-16.

Detroit @ Philadelphia (-3)

Julie’s Pick: “Toss up. I don’t really have a preference for either team. I guess the Eagles because of home field advantage.” (I informed her of the Eagles’ amazing failure rate at home over the past two years and she says…) “Definitely then. They’re due.”

Ross’s Pick: Rare game where I don’t think the three-point favorite covers, but still wins. I have such a soft spot for Detroit this year and I’m not sure why. The Lions cover but Philly pulls it out by the slimmest of margins, 34-33.

Miami @ Pittsburgh (-3)

Julie’s Pick: “Oooh, why are these all so close? Miami won last week, right?” (looooong pause) “I hate to say this again, but I’m going Pittsburgh, cold weather factor.” (I burst into laughter telling her no one has ever put as much stock into the “cold weather factor” as she has.)

Ross’s Pick: But in this case I do agree with her. Miami on the road in the Northeast in December feels like bad news. The Mike Wallace revenge game goes poorly for Mike Wallace. Pittsburgh wins 15-9.

Buffalo @ Tampa Bay (-3)

Julie’s Pick: “I like Tampa Bay. I always pick them.” (I thought she was going to introduce the not-often-cited “warm weather factor” into this pick.)

Ross’s Pick: Flip a coin. Two teams that are evenly matched. I’ll take the points. Bills win 24-23.

Atlanta @ Green Bay (-6.5)

Julie’s Pick: “Well I had that dream about Atlanta, remember?” (I tell her there’s a good chance Aaron Rodgers doesn’t play in this game…) “That changes everything…but I’ll go Green Bay because of my Wisconsin clan.” (Her group of friends in San Francisco, several of whom are actually from Minnesota.)

Ross’s Pick: If Rodgers doesn’t play, this line is too high (Matt Flynn should be spotted somewhere between 14-35 points against any NFL team). And if a rusty, nothing-to-play-for Rodgers does play, this line might still be too high. I’ll take Atlanta to cover and win outright 31-23.

Tennessee @ Denver (-13)

Julie’s Pick: “Whoaaaaa, 13, really? And Tennessee is what, the Titans? Hmm…I gotta go Tennessee. Token upset.” (I ask her if she means the Titans are going to win outright…) “Yes, that’s what upset means.”

Ross’s Pick: Since I don’t feel confident about either side of this spread, I’m defaulting to Julie’s pick. The Titans won’t win, but they’ll cover. Denver takes the 33-24 victory.

St. Louis @ Arizona (-6)

Julie’s Pick: “Yes, St. Louis. I like them.” (She blurted that out before I even told her who the Rams are facing in this game…so do what you want with that info.)

Ross’s Pick: This is the first time in like 10 weeks that I don’t have a great feel for how the Arizona game will go down. After realizing the Cardinals are 5-1 at home this year with their lone loss coming against Seattle, I’m going with Arizona to cover with a 26-13 win. (CONFIDENCE PICK)

NY Giants @ San Diego (-3)

Julie’s Pick: “San Diego because I love that city and they must be happy. They’re in better spirits than people from cold weather cities.”

Ross’s Pick: A matchup 10 years in the making…Eli…Philip…The 2004 Draft…Eli’s refusal to play in San Diego…If San Diegans cared about sports they’d show up and boo Eli. You get it. Sign me up for a San Diego win, 30-23. (CONFIDENCE PICK)

Seattle @ San Francisco (-3)

Julie’s Pick: “Seattle’s been a wild card this year, huh? You just never know if they’re going to win or not. All their games are up in the air…but my gut says Seattle. Let’s go with that one.” (5 second pause) “Does Kaepernick still play?” (She reconsiders.) “No, I never really liked him for some reason. I don’t know why. Did he ever do anything bad?” (Jesus, so many comments here. Do I break the news to her that no team has been more of a lock this year than Seattle? Do I make up a fictitious “Kaepernick is a child molester” story? So many ways I could go.)

Ross’s Pick: Seattle, I hate you. But I might not pick against you until you face the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks win 27-24.

Carolina @ New Orleans (-3.5)

Julie’s Pick: “New Orleans definitely…because of Katrina.”

Ross’s Pick: The Carolina bandwagon probably shouldn’t stop at a weigh station any time soon. But I look at this matchup as the home team having a significant edge. I’ll take the Saints to cover and win 31-24, setting the stage for the rematch in Carolina in week 16. (CONFIDENCE PICK)

Dallas @ Chicago (-1)

Julie’s Pick: “I always pick the Bears. DA BEARS.” (Yep, she threw in the famous SNL quote and then looked at me like I was supposed to applaud her for her detailed knowledge of the Bears.)

Ross’s Pick: My soft spot for the Bears is almost as soft as my soft spot for the Lions. Something about those NFC North teams. Give me a Bears win by a score of 29-21.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 14 Julie’s taking:

  • 9 Favorites & 7 Underdogs
  • Of those 7 Underdogs, 2 are Home Dogs & 5 are Road Dogs

And I’m taking:

  • 10 Favorites & 6 Underdogs
  • Of those 6 Underdogs, 1 is a Home Dog & 5 are Road Dogs

We have the same pick for nine out of 16 games.

Good luck trying to make sense out of this cluster fuck. Enjoy week 14.

The Week 14 Not-Quite-A-Recap: Jinxing the Patriots (aka the Best Team in Football) & Reviewing Some Preseason Bets

There are a lot of ways a sports fan can jinx his team and look really stupid at the same time. The simplest way is to guarantee (via Twitter or your big fat stupid mouth) your team’s likely win in its upcoming game. No matter how much confidence you have, and no matter how good your team has been, it’s never a good idea to tell people that the opponent “has absolutely no chance of winning.” (This is also known as the “Great Gariepy Jinx of 2008” because on February 3rd, 2008, my brothers and I couldn’t have been more confident in the 18-0 Patriots destroying the lucky-to-be-there Giants in Super Bowl XLII…to the point where we repeatedly told our friends in the hours leading up to the game that “the Giants have absolutely no chance of winning this.”)

But there are more ridiculous and more complex ways to jinx the future fortunes of your team. And here’s the one I’d like to address now: The Making of Plans For Your Team’s Game That Isn’t Even Guaranteed to Happen. Here’s a perfect example: Let’s say hypothetically you were a huge Kansas Jayhawks basketball fan, and in 2010, when you saw that they were likely to get a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, you reserved a block of hotel rooms overlooking Main Street in Lawrence, Kansas, where the main campus of the school is located. And let’s say you booked those rooms for the weekend of the Final Four all because you wanted to be part of the on-campus festivities while the ‘Hawks were dancing their way into the National Championship game. Well, my friend, you shouldn’t be surprised that you jinxed the crap out of KU and they never made it past the 2nd round (losing in a HUGE upset to Northern Iowa).

Another example, similar but different, is when the 2001-02 Pittsburgh Steelers told all their family and friends to book their trips to New Orleans for the Super Bowl prior to hosting the Patriots in the AFC Championship. See, it’s not just the fans that can jinx things by planning too far ahead. Moronic athletes can do it too.

So whenever you get too high on your team early in their season and start wondering, “Gee, I wonder how much flights cost to San Antonio for the Final Four weekend,” or, “The Super Bowl is in Arizona this year. I bet if I book flights in September it’ll be a lot cheaper than waiting til the last minute,” take a deep breath, step back from your computer and realize that paying a few hundred dollars more by waiting until it’s guaranteed to happen for your team is a much better option than jinxing them and having to watch Indianapolis vs Chicago in person at the Super Bowl.

I bring this topic up because on November 25th I booked my flights for a trip to San Francisco over Super Bowl weekend. And during the 16 days since I made those plans, I’ve been telling people that “I’ll wanna watch that game with my brothers and friends who live in the Bay Area no matter who’s playing in it because that’s been my football-watching crew for the last seven years.” But secretly my thinking has been, “If the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl, I’m going to need to watch that game with my brothers because we have literally had a bottle of champagne sitting in a refrigerator since that fateful February day in 2008 where we were too ready to pop it before the game even started.” While in Boston at college, the Patriots won three Super Bowls, and yet somehow I found myself having to celebrate those wins with mostly non-Patriot fans. Since I moved to the West Coast and surrounded myself with only Patriot fans, we’ve had to witness two Super Bowl losses, a lost season because of the Tom Brady ACL and a couple of first-round playoff exits at the hands of the Jets and the Ravens. If the Patriots, make the Super Bowl, I need to be in San Francisco. So I made my plans accordingly.

The interesting thing is after last night’s win against Houston, I’m not at all nervous that my trip will be wasted on watching something like the Broncos vs the 49ers. I couldn’t feel better about the Patriots’ chances now.

(By the way, if you’re one of those people who isn’t superstitious and doesn’t believe in jinxing things, you live a way less stressful life than I do. I hate you.)

(And if you’re one of those people who thinks the Patriots are due for a letdown game against San Francisco this coming Sunday, you just don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.)

For those of you thinking that if you just got to the end of this intro, you’d be able to read a recap from all the week 14 games, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I don’t have much of a recap because this happened at a bar I went to on Sunday:

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So instead of a recap, I’m leaving you with an update on all of my preseason NFL bets. Some of them have a chance of coming through, but most of them are just hilariously ridiculous. Enjoy.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers – Under 10 wins (Even Money)

Well, they’re 7-6 right now, so unless they win their final three games, I’m golden. And actually the worst case scenario is a push and I’d get my money back. Not too upset with that. What I was thinking when I made the bet: I’d like to say that I saw a Roethlisberger injury coming when I made this bet in the preseason, but really I just thought their defense was getting old. The game that may have saved my bet was their most recent game, a complete no-show against an awful Chargers team at home. Their final three games are: at Dallas, home Cincinnati and home Cleveland. There’s a loss in there somewhere.

Buffalo Bills – Over 8 wins (-150)

The scenario for me on this bet is the exact opposite of the Steelers. I need Buffalo to win their final three games just to get the push and recoup my money. I can’t rule this out because their final three look like this: home vs Seattle (the Seahawks suck on the road), at Miami (a winnable game) and home vs the Jets (depending on how many of their three QBs the Jets decide to play that day, the Bills could win by either 7 or 70). But considering they only have five total wins and haven’t won three straight all year, I’m gonna count myself out on this one. What I was thinking when I made the bet: That the Bills were finally loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and that a weak schedule that included four games each against the AFC South and NFC West would help them get to the playoffs. I didn’t consider that A). Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick were leading this team still, and B). The NFC West and AFC South wouldn’t be as bad as everyone expected.

Washington Redskins – Under 6.5 wins (Even Money)

In my defense, I didn’t realize Kirk Cousins was gonna be so good that he singlehandedly got the ‘Skins’ seventh win for them last weekend. If not for him, I still feel like I’d have a good shot to win this bet. What I was thinking when I made the bet: Since I’ve already officially lost it, I’m not putting much time into explaining this one…I thought it would be a few years until RGIII made a real impact, and I was sure Washington didn’t have a lot of talent around him. I still think that second part is true, but unfortunately Bobby Griffin is already playing like an MVP.

Cincinnati Bengals – Win AFC North Division (+400)

Technically this is still in play since the Bengals are only two games behind the division-leading Ravens. But realistically it’s done. Not only would Cincinnati have to win their final three games, getting them to 10-6, but they’d need Baltimore to lose their final three. Due to tiebreakers, if the Ravens also have 10 wins, they get the division. What I was thinking when I made the bet: That both the Ravens and Steelers would be taking major steps back this year, due to age and injury. I also viewed the Bengals as an up-and-comer, and the 4-to-1 odds felt like a value bet worth taking a shot on. Obviously, you should be seeing the pattern developing that I’m not great at predicting division winners before the season starts.

St. Louis Rams – Win NFC West Division (+900)

What can I say? The 9-to-1 odds were too enticing and I thought Jeff Fisher’s presence and Sam Bradford’s health could have an immediate impact on the Rams. What I was thinking when I made the bet:

  1. The 49ers were due for a letdown season after last year’s playoff run.
  2. Arizona was going to be a two-win team because their quarterbacks were the worst in football.
  3. The Seahawks were gonna be almost as bad as the Cardinals…they’d be lucky to get to 8 wins.

At lest I was almost right with one of those three predictions…

Chicago Bears – Win NFC North Division (+350)

What does it say about all of my preseason betting that this one is by far my best chance to win? So the Bears are a game behind Green Bay right now and they’ve lost to them already, but they do play the Packers again in week 15. The math is pretty simple: The Bears need to end the season with one more win than the Packers. Even if the Bears win the rematch against Green Bay and both teams end up with 10 wins, the tiebreaker still goes to the Packers. It’s unlikely, but if the Bears can run the table and the Packers lose two of three, the Bears win the North. What I was thinking when I made the bet: That Green Bay and Chicago had relatively equal chances to win the North so the +350 was great value. If you remember back to the preseason, I said several times that I thought the Bears were going to the Super Bowl (more on that in a minute). I honestly thought they’d have a top-five offense to go along with their always-solid defense and special teams. I forgot that you need a good offensive line and competent quarterback to have a top-five offense.

Atlanta Falcons – Win the Super Bowl (25/1 Odds)

Another line that was irresistible going into the season. What I was thinking when I made the bet: I thought the Falcons would easily win the NFC South and finally breakout as the top offensive team in the NFC. And if those things were true, how could you not love 25-to-1 odds?? Here’s the thing: they did win the South easily and they are one of the top offenses in the NFC. But I couldn’t feel worse about their chances in the playoffs. They’re in a tie with the Ravens as the luckiest team in the NFL by my count, and I really can’t see them making any noise in January. It’s a really weird feeling to have such good odds on the possible #1 seed, but already have mentally ripped up the bet ticket in my head.

The following bets were made some time during the season…

Chicago Bears – Win the Super Bowl (12/1 Odds) – Bet made on October 16th

I placed this bet after week 6, and obviously I wasn’t satisfied with just having the Bears to win their division. Chicago was on a bye in week 6, and across the NFC landscape the Falcons had moved to 6-0, the Giants had pummeled the 49ers in San Francisco and the Packers had just completed their Sunday Night rape fest at Houston. Apparently none of that was enough to deter me. What I was thinking when I made the bet: That the 4-1 Bears just might be the best team in the NFC. All four of their wins at that point had come by at least 17 points. Their only blemish was a 23-10 loss at Green Bay. Again, at a time where the Packers and Falcons were probably the favorites to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC, the Bears just felt like they were with a 12-to-1 shot. At the very least I thought they were a lock to make the playoffs (suddenly not a lock at all).

Cincinnati Bengals – Win AFC North Division (+800) – Bet made on October 17th

If this looks like a repeat, it’s because apparently my preseason bet of the Bengals to win the North wasn’t enough for me??? This bet also came after week 6, a week in which Cincinnati lost by 10 to a previously-winless Cleveland Browns team. The loss dropped Cincy to 3-3. What I was thinking when I made the bet: There’s a 90% chance I was drunk, stoned or drunk and stoned when I made this bet. I don’t have any justification for it. Let’s just move on.

Cleveland Browns – Win AFC North Division (+7500) – Bet made on October 17th

I’m seriously not making this bet up just to be funny. Apparently taking a flier on the Bengals wasn’t enough for me on that fateful afternoon of October 17th. The Browns were 1-5 (but on a one-game winning streak!), the Bengals were 3-3, the Steelers had lost to Tennessee the previous Thursday to fall to 2-3, but the Ravens had won a close game over Dallas that Sunday to move to 5-1. So what stupidity popped into my head to make me think the Browns could overcome a four-game deficit to Baltimore and win the division? What I was thinking when I made the bet: Again, I was probably under the influence of something, decided that the Ravens were weaker than their record showed (I was right about that), and 75-to-1 odds were just too good to pass up. Hey, at least the Browns have a shot to go 3-3 within their division…that’s something.

Washington Redskins – Win NFC East Division (+650) – Bet made on October 17th

OK, now I’m thinking there may have been a method to my madness on this day when I clearly had too much time on my hands. The Redskins were coming off a solid home win against Minnesota, and I was high on RGIII (as well as upwards of three actual drugs). The ‘Skins were 3-3, only one game behind the division-leading Giants. What I was thinking when I made the bet: I knew Washington had the Giants looming on the schedule the following week, and I convinced myself that if they beat New York, the odds would drop drastically since they’d be in a tie for 1st place. I made the bet, Washington immediately lost three-in-a-row, and their coach said something like, “The rest of the season is for evaluating who will be on the team next year.” I called my friends who are Washington fans and apologized for jinxing their team. And now suddenly, if the ‘Skins can gain just one game on New York over the final three, they’ll win the division. It feels like a Christmas Miracle, appropriately delivered by the Black Jesus.

Indianapolis Colts – Win the Super Bowl (66/1 Odds) – Bet made on November 11th

Call me crazy, but I feel better about this bet than I do about the Bears or the Falcons winning the Super Bowl. This bet was actually placed two minutes before the early games kicked off on the Sunday of week 10. The Colts had played the Thursday game that week, and by beating Jacksonville had moved to 6-3 on the season (while also being on a four-game win streak). What I was thinking when I made the bet: Much like that Redskins bet above, I probably realized that if the Colts were to follow up that week 10 performance with a win in New England the following week, their odds would drop significantly. So this was the right time for a small bet on them. I also started believing that “playing for Chuck” might carry Indy farther than their talent should allow them to go. But mostly I just started irrationally rooting for Andrew Luck because I had him on my fantasy team and wanted another reason to quietly hope they’d go to the Super Bowl. They’re not going to make it that far, most likely, but won’t I look like a genius if they do?

So it looks like out of the 12 bets I made, I have a decent chance to win three and an outside chance to win four more. Those are the kind of numbers that would get me fired if this was a real job.