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NFL Week 16 – Jockeying for Position

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When there’s a lack of drama, all there is to write about is the lack drama. The biggest issue of the year, spygate, was put to rest by a brief handshake and a “Good game, Eric!” He could have at least given us, “It was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.” We’re still scraping around for some action.

Already begun is the annual coaching carousel. Bobby Petrino left the Falcons shamefully. Cam Cameron, Mike Nolan, Herm Edwards, John Fox and Marvin Lewis have all been rumored to be getting the boot (figure on a couple of them actually going down). Andy Reid and Joe Gibbs are thought to be looking at retirement. Candidates include Rex Ryan, who has to feel like John Nash stuck in a remedial math class; Jason Garrett, who’d probably suck on Tony Romo’s thumb if it would help; and Bill Cowher who’s playing coy and counting the zeros on all his offers. (By the way: Bobby Petrino, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier — can we finally bury the idea that a stellar college career is not a qualification to coach in the NFL?)

At some point in the near future the Reggie Bush/USC Booster scandal is going to hit, not that the NFL needs to do anything about it. As a matter a fact, if Reggie continues to follow his current career trajectory, no one will much care. So scratch that one.

With the off season a couple weeks away for most teams, it’s nearly busy season for pole dancers and traffic cops with breathalyzers.

That’s about it; not much to get worked up about, unless a serious steroids scandal comes along. If it does, I nominate Bill Clinton to head the NFL’s commission for two reasons: 1) It one-ups the MLB who could only get an ex-senator and, 2) I see no reason why cheerleaders should be immune to a thorough investigation.

On the field, the only big open question is whether the Browns can catch the Steelers for 4th seed in the AFC (leaving the other as the 6th seed). You could make an argument for the Browns and you might be right, but both these teams should win out. Here’s the thing though, it might just be better to be 6th seed. As it stands right now, 4th seed hosts the Jaguars, 6th seed visits the Chargers. Last week the Chargers demolished the Lions in San Diego. No big deal. Meanwhile the Jags went up into Pittsburgh and put a beating on the Steelers. Big deal. The Jags team I saw looked masterful. They have even passed the Colts to be the second best team in the AFC by weighted DVOA.

The 6th seed has to play the Chargers, including the bonus of a highly probable Norv Turner playoff meltdown, then goes on to a have a puncher’s chance the following week in Indianapolis. The 4th seed has to play a superior Jags team only to go on to certain death in New England. The Browns are fine right where they are.

There’s still a three-way scrap going on for the last wild card in the NFC. If the Skins beat the Vikes Sunday night they will be take the driver’s seat unless the Saints also beat the Eagles in which case they will all have 8-7 records but the Saints take the driver’s seat because of a superior conference record. If the Vikes win and the Saints win the Vikes are still not safe since the Saints have the conference record tie-breaker. Confusing enough? Basically, a loss for any of these teams is deadly at this point.

The whole thing is actually closer to a four-way scrap for two spots, because the Giants (currently the first wild card) are not especially likely to beat Buffalo this weekend, then they have a loss scheduled in New England on the final week. Hey, I know it’s just the wild card, but it’s the only excitement we have.

The Packers now have a shot at 1st seed if they can win out and Dallas drops another dookie. That would be huge. Forcing the rest of the NFC to march through the frozen tundra in January has got to be every cheesehead’s wet dream.

Speaking of wet dreams, if the Pats play the Cowboys in the Super Bowl, can we get a “tastes great/less filling” cat-fight commercial between Giselle and Jessica Simpson?

Last Week

Things started bad. On Thursday night, the good-fer-nuthin Denver Broncos made themselves a mortal lock for next year’s team I will irrationally hate. I believe I have picked them twice this year and both times they have served me like a hillbilly serves a greased-up Ned Beatty.

Saturday night I had hoped the Bengals, despite having little post-season hope, would at least man-up and play for pride. In hindsight, how stupid was it to expect the Cincinnati Bengals to behave as if they had character? The Bengals had a nasty year. They played to the level of a .500 team, but they fell short in the won-loss column. It was frustrating as hell. So what was their response? Quit. If they could’ve taken their ball and gone home, I’m sure they would have. This from the Rumormill at ProFootballTalk (Dec 17, 12:11pm):

A league source tells us that there is growing animosity in the Bengals locker room toward receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Per the source, both are yelling “all the time” at quarterback Carson Palmer, but coach Marvin Lewis doesn’t say or do anything about it. Players are also upset that the two receivers are trying to “run the team.”

Palmer’s an ace young QB. Receivers are a dime a dozen. They should ditch Ocho Sucko and Whosyermama before Palmer. But I suppose it’s better to be a pouting child than a criminal so maybe that’s progress from the Bengals.

Contrast that to the Dolphins’ Jason Taylor who said before Sunday’s game, “We’re going to turn this thing around…and we’re going to start today.” He then went out and got two sacks and blocked a field goal.

So I entered Sunday already down 0-2. Then everything changed. The Saints and Titans both covered (although the Titans win was bittersweet since I had KC on the money line) and the Eagles upset the Cowboys. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. 3-2 versus the spread bringing us to 29-18-2 for the year or $6290 back from a layout of $5390 for an even $900 profit.

With a point spread victory in the bag, I needed victories by both the Jags and the ‘Skins to push the money line into profit territory.

The Steelers generated virtually no pressure on David Garrard (who, in the post-game conference, looked like he just stepped out of the Michael Jackson Smooth Criminal video). Was it the lack of Aaron Smith? If so, things don’t look good for them. I can’t figure out what to make of the Steelers. Their coach now says they aren’t playing well enough to win. Maybe they’re just not that good after all. Or maybe they are and they’ve just gotten nailed by particularly nasty weather and a surging Jacksonville team. They remain a very scary team to have money on or against. Anyway, the Jags won, and so did I.

The Giants are another team that you simply cannot have any confidence in. We all know that Eli is right out of Robotron 2084 when it comes to throwing the ball, apparently Buster Keaton has taken over as the Giants receiving coach, because all those drops were pure slapstick. Not only that, did the Redskins not call the exact same play (pump-fake delayed draw) three times in a row and make good yardage each time? You could see the Giants thinking, “They wouldn’t dare try that again…not again…uh oh!” Hilarious. Anyway, the Skins’ won, giving me an up week on the money line too.

$525 returned from a $300 layout. Adding the $225 gain, we are now up $1031.99 for the year.

And let me just say: Fins win! Fins win! Fins win! And the ’76 Buccaneers can pop the tops on their quarts of malt liquor.

I have been anxious to see what Troy Smith could do in the NFL. He was completely written off in the draft because of his size when, in fact, he’s probably a better prospect than JaMarcus “the Giant” Russell. He played pretty well and marshaled what would have been the game winning drive to the Fins goal line before Brian Billick filled his diapers. Now Billick says he’s going to start Kyle Boller because he gives them the best chance to win. Um, Boller has lost his last five starts and the season is a write off. Why not give Smith a chance just for evaluation purposes if nothing else? As a reward for this sort of thinking, Billick has been granted another year at the helm of the Ravens. Think of him as Matt Millen lite.

As a final note, I was sadly disappointed to see Kyle Orton with a neatly trimmed neck beard. That family of four is now living on a heating grate outside Merchandise Mart. This is why the Bears lost. I am certain.

Point Spread Picks (spreadsheet)

Things start to get tough now because motivation becomes a big unknown. Remember, next week is the annual NFL Week of Shame.

After two dry weeks we finally have a situation where a DVOA superior team is getting points. And even getting them at home. The Giants have to be one of the worst 9-win teams ever. They are completely unreliable; they often blindly stagger backwards into victories, then extol themselves for “winning ugly.” The Bills are a better team, they are at home, and they’re getting 3 points. The Giants get the motivational advantage since the Bills are out of the hunt, but that’s not enough. Pick: Buffalo +3

The Cardinals are giving 10.5 to the beaten down Falcons. Look, the Cards have hung in there all season and the Falcons have crumbled, but Arizona is just not good enough to be giving double digits to anyone. Besides, every player on the Falcons has got to believe that Bill Parcells’ eyes are on him. Pick: Atlanta +10.5

Well, let’s see. Romo’s consistency suspect? Check. Starting center injured? Check. T.O. publically cranky about his role? Check. Romo distracted by a hot babe? Check. Talk about the late season swoon revived? Check. Giving more than 10 points on the road to a team that just beat another division leader? Check. Pick: Carolina +10.5

The Vikings are giving 6.5 to the Redskins in the only game this week where both teams need victories for playoff purposes. Going into Minnesota is always tough and the ‘Skins have had to fight tooth and nail for everything they’ve got this year. The Vikes are benefitting from being everybody’s darling at the moment, but Adrian Peterson has had trouble getting going the past couple of weeks and I can’t help thinking Tavaris Jackson is only a millimeter away from from a 12-33, 4 interception performance. Even if they lose, there’s a good chance the ‘Skins stay within a touchdown. Pick: Washington +6.5

After two years of waiting we have finally seen Cincinnati implode. Cleveland, on the other hand, has improved steadily over the course of the year, and they still have Pittsburgh in their headlights (and the Titans in their rearview mirror). Picking a favorite on the road is tough, but I gotta figure the Browns are as geared up as any team could be. Pick: Cleveland -3

I’m a little surprised the Colts are not giving double digits. There is probably some expectation that they are going to slack off with nothing to play for, but Dungy has made noises about not resting his starters. Houston had a good outing last week, but I have to figure the Colts O-line holds up a little better than the good-fer-nuthin Broncos did. Pick: Indianapolis -7

Money Line Picks (spreadsheet)

This is awful. The money line formula, of course, does not take into account anything like walking dead coaches or receivers wanting to kill their QB. I think I can safely say that, with the exception of Buffalo, I expect to lose all of these. But, per policy, I must supplicate to the formula without adjustment.

Pick Recap
(note: the Seahawks/Ravens lines were not set as I wrote this.)

Point Spread
Buffalo +3
Atlanta +10.5
Carolina +10.5
Washington +6.5
Cleveland -3
Indianapolis -7

Money Line
St. Louis $290
Buffalo $125
Cincinnati $130
Kansas City $190
New York Jets $320

The money line picks are very scary. This could be the week that kills my profits this year. I’m already doing calculations in my head to figure out where I stand if I lose every game, and this isn’t even the Week of Shame. Clearly, there is an inverse relationship between drama on the field and drama in my picks.

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About David Mazzotta

  • david mazzotta

    Naturally, as soon as I figure Parcells to be a motivation for the Falcons, he up and jumps ship for Miami. Helluva year for Atlanta.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Shit. You and I wrote about the same Bengals “rumor” …

    This is like wearing the same “Fire Millen” t-shirt as the guy next to you at Ford Field. :-/

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “Fins win! Fins win! Fins win!”

    Oh, fuck:

    DOLPHINS WIN! DOLPHINS WIN!

    The only thing I can say is that great minds think alike. Because your article was published before mine, and I only steal ideas from Kissing Suzy Kolber. :-/

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “the ‘Skins have had to fight tooth and nail for everything they’ve got this year”

    How soon we forget their game against the Lions… :-/

  • david mazzotta

    It’s a sad state of affairs, RJ. The season has become so predictable we’re writing the same things.

    It’s ashame it was after Thursday when Parcells signed with Miami, Tory Holt went off on Scott Linehan, and T.O. went off on Jessica Simpson “just kidding.”

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