Last week: 3-5
Year to date: 20-18
Recap of miserable week 7:
Picked Redskins (they won the game by only a point);
Browns (staying loyal to preseason prediction of Bills making playoffs, while not staying loyal to Rams preseason prediction of making playoffs: both backfired, as the Rams trounced the Browns, and Bills lost at the end);
Eagles, buying into the “they’re starting out slow but have just turned it around” idea for some reason, with, really no evidence (some luck and a bad performance by the Giants in week 6 isn’t turning it around), other than the lame fact that when first taking over what was for him a brand new team, Chip Kelly had started out 1-3;
And, again, the Bills, staying with the sinking ship of that prediction and worsening an already bad ATS record. (Yeah, I know above 500 is “good.” Whatever, but not really.)
In the game on the road in London (the once and future London Jaguars “home” stadium for the contest), the Bills fell behind 27-3. Then were up 31-27 late.
Then, on 3rd and 15 with 3:04 left from their own 47 yard line, a Blake Bortles pass fell incomplete.
But as is often the case in the National Football Penalty Flag League (charmingly often referred to as the National Football League), a questionable pass interference penalty was called, where to make matters worse, cornerback Nickell Robey was going for the ball as well.
This penalty wasn’t nearly as game changing as many. The reality is that while it was for 17 yards and a 1st down at the Buffalo 36 yard line rather than a 4th and 15 for Jacksonville from their own 47, the Bills still gave up what was the winning touchdown. And did so on the next two plays alone.
In fact they gave up a touchdown so fast that, along with their three timeouts still remaining, at 2:16 they had more than enough time for a strong two minute drill winning touchdown drive.
Not only did they botch it, they were slow on the drive and quickly burned their timeouts, which – in case they got stopped quickly (which they did) – they should have saved; that way they stood a good chance of getting the ball back again and if so could have had a 30 – 45 second shot at getting into long field goal range for the tie. But they didn’t do that either, and the Jaguars kneeled a few times, and that was that.
So, bad penalty or not, the Bills lost legitimately. And bad penalties are a part of football.
So to make up for last week’s miserable week, this week will sweep the table. Making this easier will be the fact, that (for now, at least, maybe some will be added before Sunday game time), the “table” will only be two picks. (Update: 3 picks)
Both could easily be big upsets. And one of the two is tonight, in what has quickly become a time honored tradition that some players apparently dislike, but the league itself, commercial telecast networks, and many fans, like a lot: Thursday Night Football.
1. Miami Dolphins (+9) at New England Patriots
The Pariots rampage continues. Plus, they remember what an at the time 0-2 Miami Dolphins team (coming off a 1-15 year) did to them in September, 2008, ending their 21 game regular season win streak in the process. This:
Never mind that Matt Cassel was the quarterback in that game, Cassel still piloted them to an 11-5 record. And the Patriots don’t make excuses.
Heath Evans, who played for Bill Belichick, and was also on that 2008 Patriots squad, had this to say about the Dolphins game tonight:
“By Thursday afternoon around 1:00pm, Belichick will have his Patriots team convinced that the Miami Dolphins:”
But the Patriots are somewhat playing that way anyway; and if the Dolphins are now for real under new interim head coach Dan Campbell, this is the game they would play as hard as any,
It’s by no means a lock. The Dolphins might now think they are good and simply assume they can do it rather than play with maximum intensity and focus at all moments, or simply make mistakes against a formidable team; a team that almost never loses at home, and a team that is laser beam focused, and that Belichick not only has the recent scary Dolphins buzz to use as well as the still motivating offseason marring Deflategate “scandal,” but that 2008 dismantlement of the Patriots by the Dolphins in Foxboro, as further motivation.
But this should be a tightly fought division matchup. And for the Dolphins, it’s their closest thing to a Super Bowl in quite a while.
2. Seattle Seahawks (-6) at Dallas Cowboys
It’s hard to pick the Cowboys to win outright here – Russell Wilson’s record at pulling out close games, and games in general, is just too good. (Often he carries that team a lot more than stats indicate, creating plays where none exist, and turning losses into key yardage and first downs with well timed scrambles.)
The Seahawks remember that the Cowboys beat them last year in Seattle (one of the only two teams to do so in Russell Wilson’s first three years in the league, until the Panthers did so two weeks ago.)
And this Seahawks team has been championship caliber for a few years now, and need to win this game.
While the Cowboys, in falling apart after losing their star quarterback Tony Romo and receiver Dez Bryant, have shown that despite what they confidently said pre season, they are not.
The Cowboys will at least try to play like it this game, and in terms of caliber of players, they aren’t outmatched. And while they haven’t been a particularly good home team, Seattle is a much better home team than on the road
This one should be a close Dallas loss, or an outright win.
3. Green Bay Packers (-3) at Denver Broncos
This game could go either way. And frankly the 3 points Denver is getting probably don’t matter much: Go back and study Aaron Rodgers’ record, he has won less than his fair share of 3 point games.
He has won some close ones, of course. But also notice his record even in games won by 7 points or less – 24-22 – and compare it with his record in games won by more than 7 points – 55-15. There has to be some natural difference here, as games that are closer in score were on average more up in the air with regard to outcome and therefore more likely to be lost in the first place, but the margin here is pretty steep.
Peyton Manning acknowledged weeks ago he barely has feeling in a parts of his fingers. On his throwing hand. He’s clearly not the QB he was, or even close.
This is not news of course. But Manning is still like having an offensive coordinator who’s great at making line reads and adjustments, out there as a team’s QB.
He also demands the best of his players – at least he has, and usually gotten it, in the past.
The Packers are a better football team right now. But their road record under Aaron Rodgers barely scrapes .500
The one scary stat is that Rodgers hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record, on the road, since December of ’12.
That stat has to end; and why not now, with his team clicking on all cyclinders, against a team that really isn’t nearly as dominant as the Packers are, and could easily have several losses.
But the odds are slightly against them here. Rodgers and the Packers faced a very good defense early on in the Seahawks, and solidly outplayed them. But the game was at home. (They also did it last year in the NFC championship game on the road, in a game they should have won. Against those same Seahawks.) Can they do it again?
Interesting game, no doubt. And it’s too bad the points probably won’t matter in this one, since getting 3-3.5 extra for a home team that probably has a slight edge in the game would otherwise be an easy call.
Pick: Broncos, with a slight edge to win outright.
Upset alert: Not an official pick, and the points are also irrelevant in this possible big upset game as well. But in the second half of the Saints game last week, where through some bad luck and bad play the Colts had fallen behind 27-0, and thus with relatively “little to lose” and yet a big challenge on the table, there were suddenly some glimpses of at least a little of the old Andrew Luck. (Aka the relatively new in the league Andrew Luck, who now may be suffering a hint of the 2012 two best college QB prospects to come out in 10 years syndrome, one that after his rookie year hit RG3 like a rock): He read the field, moved his eyes, head, made quicker, better decisions and tighter throws, and played far more relaxed and natural.
He didn’t play like this in the first half, where he seemed to play somewhat poorly, as he has much of the season. With tight feet, frozen reads, some questionable decisions, and imprecise throws.
And this Colts team doesn’t know how to tackle – not that that’s all that unusual. But they are also not very good at it even when executing half correctly – which is more unusual, and harder to overcome.
And in the fourth quarter, once the Colts pulled within two touchdowns of an outright win, their comeback last week did get quickly stifled, as the Saints bore down again, and the Colts didn’t look as Colts teams of fourth quarters past.
Plus, on the flip side, the Panthers have some serious team unity going on this season, and that makes them very competitive, and hard to play against.
But Andrew Luck once had the ability to pull out almost any game in the NFL. (That is, at least unless it happened to be in a stadium now named after a razor shaving company, and with a guy taking snaps on the opposite side of the ball who’s pretty well known; though integrity of the game (never mind integrity of the process, or the higher importance of not making presumptions and conflating them with fact) aside, one does wonder how at 38 and without “deflated” footballs, Tom Brady has managed to effectively all but dominate the league.)
This game is so lopsided in favor of the Panthers that Luck may just play like he started to in the second half of the Saints game, and his team may follow suit.
That said – and it’s no doubt an “if,” not a “will” – Luck is (or at least was) easily as good as anybody in the NFL at winning close games: Including yes, the master himself, TB.
The Panthers, on the other hand have been extremely poor at it.
Though they finally managed to accomplish it in week six against the Seahawks – a team that had come from behind late to win close games, in Carolina against the Panthers, each of the last three regular seasons.
Thus they are seemingly getting better. And with such a good overall record, and now having pulled off the close game comeback to none other than the Seahawks up in their dome, will probably be more relaxed about close games now as well. Plus, they’re home, which, undefeated atop the division, can help with both energy motivation from the crowd – particularly in a non divisional game matchup – and noise control.
But in a close game – if the Colts can play well enough to keep it close – the edge, at least based on history, undoubtedly still goes to the Colts.
And out of desperation and a sort of nothing to lose at this point but one more crappy game Andrew Luck, who thus just plays yet focuses more and tries less – if he sees it that way and can find what he had before – they may just show it.
It may be what we expect; a good team at home who wants to stay atop their division and at least this year go into the playoffs with some home games and a bye, easily defeating a relatively poor team in a nationally televised game. But it may also not be.
True, one never knows with the all over the board St. Louis Rams (have they finally turned that corner they’ve been trying and at times seem to slide around now for almost three years??); but of all the seemingly lopsided games, this is the one most primed for an upset. And it’s on Monday Night.