Notables: On the one hand, this blog declared “If there is going to be an upset pick, this is it. And the Saints, so dominant at home, lose their 2nd straight here.” Despite being favored by 7-8 points over the Bengals. Who thrashed the now 4-6 Saints, 27-10.
Not only that, someone finally got a real NFL football to the Bengals jersey wearing fan that Bengals Tight End Jermaine Gresham initially tried to give one to during the game, only to have it snatched away by another greedy fan.
Backup Drew Stanton in at quarterback of not, this blog also questioned why the Arizona Cardinals, at 8-1, weren’t at least getting the benefit of the doubt facing a Detroit Lions team that had to come back at the very end each game to win its last three in a row.
Arizona was at home for this game. And didn’t need to come back at the very end of its last three games to win. And while the Cardinals haven’t been dominant, they’ve been solid. (Except, again, this come from behind win against the Chargers in week 1 that, though nice, the Chargers enabled a little bit, as the link helps show.)
Arizona is the ultimate “team” right now: Probably not the best in the NFL, but they play together as a group of guys that really play together, as a team, and with passion as a team. Get any team in the NFL to do that, and they’ll immediately be better. (Even Oakland.)
On the other hand, week 11 picks here also suggested the Eagles seemed almost as good as the Packers, and might be as good. Clearly, week 11 appeared to offer up some solid info to the contrary.
And, true to form, this blog was wrong on the Panthers once again: Picking them against the Saints a few Thursday nights ago, and, in one of the worst mistakes made on here, suggesting back in Week 7 – NFL Football Strategy’s Inaugural week of picks (which at least, if somewhat spuriously, did outright call the upset of the Jacksonville Jaguars over the Browns) – that the Panthers would play the Packers tough in week 7:
While they didn’t lose quite as badly as the Eagles last week, or the Bears the week before (finishing off the second half of a nice stretch where they were the first NFL team since the clearly now defunct 1923 Rochester Jeffersons to give up 50 or more points in successive games), it wasn’t close, either. (This blog did pick them against the spread in week 8 against the Seahawks; but the Panthers lost both the lead and the game late in a low scoring close game at home to the very same Seattle Seahawks, for the third year in a row now.)
Okay, to be technical, the call last week on the Panthers wasn’t “wrong.” They were at +2, and lost by 2, 19-17; so it was a tie or push And their normally fairly reliable kicker Graham Gano did miss a 46 yard field goal near the end that would put them ahead 20-19, with 1:22 remaining.
But 46 yard field goals are missed somewhere near a quarter of the time. The miss didn’t come at the “real” or practical end of the game either. \
Along with why it was still a fairly long field goal attempt, this might have been in part because the Panthers played that game to lose near the end. Clearly they wanted to win; but their unnecessary turtling up play near the end lessened, rather than increased, their chances.
And had the Panthers made that field goal, Atlanta, trailing by 1 point, would have had the ball last, with time for a hurried but reasonable field goal drive; which under quarterback Matt Ryan, they’ve been successful at multiple times.
The Panthers also got the ball back for a few seconds again just a minute later, at the very end of the game: And in 21 seconds managed to go from their own 16 yard line to the Panthers 45.
Then, with one second left on the clock, the Panthers managed to line up and try a 63 yard field goal attempt for the wild win as time expired. A successful field goal would have tied the old record and been a yard shy of the new for the longest ever – set just under a year ago by Matt Prater of the Broncos (in Denver, where in the thinner air the ball does travel farther). Wild, huh?
But long field goal drives usually have a lower arc and are easier to block. And this one was blocked.
So, yeah, the game was a push. And though sketchy on taking the Panthers (as expressed last week) even if was a “pick ’em” game this blog probably would have taken them anyway (blogs make picks, remember that). So it feels like a loss even if it officially goes down here as a tie.
The interesting thing is that with the 7.5 point favorite Saints playing a fired up Bengals team and losing, a share of the NFC South division lead was up for grabs between the winner of this wild 3-6 Falcons and 3-6 Panthers contest. And the Falcons grabbed it. The Panthers did not.
And now at 3-6 those big Cats sit one game back of first place. (Stranger things have happened, but one can imagine that neither of the two wild card spots is coming out of the NFC South this season.) Meanwhile, in the NFC West, the San Francisco 49ers, and defending Super Bowl Champ Seattle Seahawks both sit at 6-4; with both 3 full games behind the now 9-1 Cardinals.
While at the same time, the 4-6 Rams, who as 10 point underdogs flat out upset the Denver Broncos last week (this blog’s proprietor is feeling might upset at not picking the Rams in that game on here), sit in last place that division.
Hopefully there’s no grumbling at the end of the season about this: That’s the way sports goes. To be the champion beat everybody else anyway. All other opportunities are gifts.
Also, the NFL structure seems fair and sensible. And, no matter how the NFL did it, there’d always be grumbling. So something “not working out fairly” (as almost happened last season to an unprecedented degree” in a wild NFC West finish) is going to be ever present. And though it is often argued, really isn’t a good argument to change the set up if it otherwise makes good sense, as the current one does. (Roger Goodell, are you listening? Please don’t expand the playoff format, lose the key value of earning byes and late field playoff position battles, and further dilute the value of making the playoffs.)