After all these years I still fail to understand why, when the Bengals were shocking the Browns, when the Bears were stunning the Pack, when the Bills and Giants were going at it tooth and nail, when the Jags were romping and Warren Sapp was auditioning for a professional wresting gig, I was, by accident of geography, stuck watching the ineptitudes known as the Lions and Chiefs. That game was truly nauseating. The play was amateurish, the officiating was pathetic, the announcers were blind and ignorant, and the production crew did not catch a decent angle on any of the close plays. It was unwatchable. I found myself spending my time refreshing the score update page on FoxSports.com.
If I want more game choice I have two options, one of which I don’t have. I could get Direct TV and buy the Sunday Ticket package. But since I own a condo that does not have the needed open line of sight for the dish antenna, I would have to sell my place and move somewhere that does. That’s going a little far, especially in the current real estate market.
The option I do have open is to find a sports bar that has all the games playing, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I hate sports bars. They are disgusting. I am not the guy with the throwback jersey half-covering his beer gut, looking to avoid yard work on a Sunday. My body is not structurally capable of sitting comfortably on a wooden barstool for six hours straight. Microbrews have sufficiently spoiled my palette to the point where Bud Light triggers my gag reflex. And, at my age, the only time I should eat a plate of nachos or potato skins is if it is served with a side of Lipitor.
It’s an on-demand world. I can get any songs I want from iTunes in about thirty seconds. I can watch hundreds, maybe thousands, of movies or TV shows instantly on a whim using nothing more than the magic wand called a “remote.” Amazon can even get me books instantly from the comfort of my home. But I can’t get the football game I want to see without putting my physical or financial health at risk. Get my congressman on the line!
Examining DVOA, specifically weighted DVOA which put more emphasis on recent games, the second tier of the AFC (below the Pats) is now a jumble. Note that both the Jags and Chargers have surpassed the Colts in weighted DVOA (and all four are above the NFC’s best, Dallas). Part of that may be that the Colts have been on cruise control for a couple of weeks, but it certainly means that the flaky Steelers and the yet-to-be-determined sixth seed are already on shaky ground.
Let me reiterate that at the moment the Jaguars (or Jag-wires, if you are Terry Bradshaw) are the second best team in football, and the fourth seeded division champ will have to play them in the first round. If Pittsburgh loses they are stuck with the Jags. If Pittsburgh wins and San Diego loses, the Chargers are stuck with the Jags. Advice to both Pittsburgh and San Diego: You really, really, really don’t want to lose this week if you plan on winning a playoff game.
As for the sixth seed, my how things changed. Last week the Browns were sitting pretty for the last wild card and even had dreams of snatching the AFC North out from under the Steelers. The Titans were just kind of hanging around. Suddenly we find the Titans in the driver’s seat for sixth seed and Cleveland with crossed fingers to be in the post season. Not what I expected at all.
I really came to be rooting for the Browns over the course of the season, primarily because they were startling proof of the Fool’s First Law: The offensive line is the most important part of your team. The markedly excellent play of the O-line is what made Derek Anderson look good and Braylon Edwards excel and Jamal Lewis revive. Put me on record as supporting Joe Thomas for Rookie of the Year (yes, even over Adrian Peterson). Of course, the line can give the QB all the time in the world but if he chooses to throw passes directly to the opposition, you’re going down — I’m talking to you, Derek Anderson.
Strangely, because of the vagaries of tie-breakers, it doesn’t matter if the Browns win or lose this week. It all depends on the Titans (tie games aside). If Tennessee loses the Browns are in. If Tennessee wins the Browns are out. So the Browns can rest their starters and we should see Brady Quinn, right? That’d be fun, but no. In the astronomically unlikely event that the Titans tie the Colts, a Browns win does matter. And the Titans don’t play until Sunday night so the Browns can’t take that chance.
In the NFC, the Packers last hope for a home field advantage fell flat against the irresistible force that is Kyle Orton’s neck beard. Seriously, as Kyle himself explains, “Certainly with the wind, it was cold, but I have a beard so that helps out a little bit. It’s kind of warm in this area.” How much you wanna bet all quarterbacks have neck beards by next week? Players respect the natural turf.
So the only open question in the NFC is the sixth seed. The Redskins, out of the blue, are in the driver’s seat and playing pretty well behind Todd Collins. If they win, they’re in. If they lose and the Vikings win, the Vikes are in. If the ‘Skins and Vikes lose and the Saints win, the Saints are in. If the Saints beat the Bears at 1:00 they get to chew their nails as the 4:00 games play out.
But to many, the biggest news of the week is that the League has opened up the telecast of the Pats/Giants game to both CBS and NBC. Now, those of us who have NFL Network access will be able to see it on three different channels while the rest of you poor saps only get it on two. Meanwhile every non-football fan in the country is going to go ballistic about their shows getting pre-empted. I can’t help think this is an underhanded attempt by the league to get everyone to shut up about the NFL Network. “You want game coverage, we’ll give you game coverage! We’ll give you nothin’ but game coverage!”
I really don’t find this to be a big deal. The game itself doesn’t matter as far as the post season is concerned and, like everyone else, I have been annoyed by the Pats for the better part of the season. Even if they win, the title still belongs to the ’72 Dolphins until they go all the way. At one point I thought the Giants posed a threat to the Pats, but I don’t anymore. The Pats will probably load up a big halftime lead then start sitting people. It’ll likely be a pretty boring game. Halfway through, viewership will fall off and CBS and NBC will be left to deal with the angry non-NFL fans while the NFL Network bigwigs will be giggling and sending out press releases about how magnanimous they are.
Let’s see Adrian Peterson is known to be about the only serious threat the Vikes have, and Tarvaris Jackson is, well, Tarvaris Jackson. Gregg Williams, defensive coordinator of the Redskins, had the brilliant idea to stop Adrian Peterson at all costs and force Tarvaris Jackson to find a way to win. I understand he also has a theory that gaining 7 yards on 3rd-and-ten doesn’t do you any good, but he’s only the defensive coordinator so that hasn’t been tested yet.
Meanwhile, everyone in Cleveland has to have that ugly feeling the pit of their stomachs that maybe, just maybe, that was the real Derek Anderson.
You know, the Bills really seem to have trouble playing in bad weather. Hello, you’re in Buffalo. Did you design your team with global warming in mind? The Bills pooch-screwing cost me on both the money line and point spread. On the spread I still came out okay.
4-2 versus the spread making the season record 33-20-2, or $7130 returned from a $6050 layout for a profit of $1080, assuring us of an up year in the point spread. Yea for me!
The money line, however, fell to pieces, as expected. For a layout of $500 we got back $230 for $270 loss bringing our annual profit to $761.99. With the Week of Shame upon us and the havoc it reeks on the formula…Ward, I’m worried about the money line.
Fins lose! Fins lose! Fins lose! And secure first pick in the draft. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. It means you are either going to drop 30 million on some untested kid or you are going to have to convince another team to give you some combination of personnel & picks for the right to drop 30 million on some untested kid. How Parcells handles this mess will be the drama of the off-season. The Dolphins need help at just about every position, with the exception of running back which is probably the least important, so who knows? I’m just hoping we get regular post-game interviews with the Vice-president of Football Operations. I’m sick and tired of bland coaches. We didn’t have one serious press conference meltdown all year. All we can do is watch those inane Coors Light commercials and reminisce.
And finally, let me say that I was glad Troy Smith got a decent game in for the Ravens — not good, but decent for a first start, by which I mean he didn’t throw an interception or make a fool of himself. He performed much better than the first overall pick JaMarcus “the Giant” Russell. If Billick is smart we’ll get to see Troy Smith again this week, so we probably won’t get to see Troy Smith again.
Spread Picks (spreadsheet)
We now enter the Week of Shame. The week when the causal link between quality and victory is turned on its head. The week when the mighty paragons of honorable competition happily mail it in. It’s even worse this year since so much is already decided. The hated Titans are favored over the Colts, the Redskins are favored over the Cowboys, Carolina is favored over Tampa Bay, Houston over Jacksonville, even Atlanta is favored over Seattle. All this on the assumption that the superior teams are just going to roll over to get their stomachs tickled instead of risk and injury. Interestingly, Green Bay is still favored over Detroit. I’m not entirely sure how to read that, but I suspect it’s just another swipe at Matt Millen.
So we have five instances of a vastly superior team getting points because it is expected they will lie down. That is quite a shameful week. But what are we to make of it? Let’s start with the Titans and the Redskins since they are both “win and in.”
We know we are going to get a heavy dose of Sorgi time in Indy. In all honesty I have not seen much of Sorgi — has anyone? — but he has seemed like a serviceable QB. But who else on Indy gets to mail it in? What about Jeff Saturday? Whether Sorgi is good or bad, Albert “Riverdance” Haynesworth against a second string center is asking for trouble. On the other hand, by week 17 the Colts usually have nothing to play for and they are 4-1 in the last five years. I guess when you can get the Colts and points, you gotta take it. Pick: Indianapolis +6.5
The Cowboys are getting 9.5 points from the highly-motivated Redskins in DC. There will be no Romo and no T.O. in this game, but much is being made of the possible return of Terry Glenn and Brad Johnson will be Romo’s replacement and he is known to harbor a grudge against the ‘Skins for dropping him in 2000 after a pro bowl year in favor of Jeff George. There’s also a rivalry factor at play here. As with the Colts, I just can’t pass up the points here. I don’t expect the Cowboys to win, but even their scrubs will want to make it close. Pick: Dallas +9.5
I hate making picks like this, but the Week of Shame leaves us no alternative. What we’re doing here is not solid analysis based on stats. We’re playing the game of trying to read emotions and everyone in Miami is playing for their job. And they know it. The Tuna effect begins. Pick: Miami +3
One of the most telling spreads is in the Seattle/Atlanta game. Seattle has nothing to play for and that means Seneca Wallace. But does Atlanta have anything to play for? Not really. So apparently the thinking is if both teams have nothing to play for, you take the talent differential out of the equation, thus Atlanta gives the standard 3 points as the home team. Except even if it’s not in the equation, the talent differential is still there. Weird. Pick: Seattle +3
Both the Chargers and the Steelers need wins to avoid Jacksonville in round one. The Steelers play in Baltimore, giving the moribund Ravens a mere 3.5 points. The choice is clear. Pick: Pittsburgh -3.5
San Diego is in Oakland and not only motivated to win, but LaDainian Tomlinson has publicly stated he wants the rushing title. I’m looking forward to the trash talk battle between Warren Sapp and Phillip Rivers. Maybe we can get Jerry Springer in as a special guest referee. Pick: San Diego -8
Money Line Picks (spreadsheet)
I gotta put a big disclaimer on the Week of Shame money line picks. The formula does not take into account teams not playing their best. In fact, the money line formula is based on the assumption that teams will always play their best personnel with the intent of winning the game. So naturally, it sees all these great teams as underdogs and thinks it’s an embarrassment of riches. Yikes. There are 11 money line bets and I’m currently sitting on about a $700 dollar cushion. I’m going to need some of these to come through. Then I am going to rethink the money line process and maybe eliminate the week 17 picks altogether.
Beyond that, the only notable thing is that for the first time this season the formula thinks the return on the Pats opponent is worth the risk. This is surely because the Pats last few performances have been merely great instead of herculean and weighted DVOA is taking this into account heavily. Yes, that’s right. I have money on the Giants.
San Diego -8
New York Giants $900
Tampa Bay $140
Green Bay $52.63
At 9-to-1, a Giants victory on any of the three networks would make my year. If I merely survive the Week of Shame I’ll be happy. Next week: season wrap-up and playoff preview.Powered by Sidelines