Are We Going To Blame The Refs?

Welp, that’s what everyone wants to do of course.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times:  You simply could not pay me enough to be an official in any sport.  Any place on the field.  At any time.  Etc.

These guys all have to make a split second decision on just about every play.  While we as fans get to see roughly 8,000 angles in instant replay in…well, an instant.

Most of the time, these guys actually do a pretty good job.  I often find myself amazed that they are able to see as many things as they are able to see.

I will say, some of these officials look like they are older than Jesus himself.  So maybe it is time for them to retire.  Some of the baseball umpires look like they can’t fit through many regular-sized doors either.  So maybe it’s time to introduce them to a treadmill, at the very least.

But they normally do a better job than we give them credit for.

Now, Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium was not one of those days.

But were they really to blame for the New England Patriots’ loss?

Unlikely.

Sure, there were some horrible calls against the Pats:  The N’Keal Harry non-TD.  The Stephon Gilmore non-scoop and score.  The non-defensive pass interference on Phillip Dorsett.  Something coming out of the Gilmore/Sammy Watkins “scuffle”.  The failed first challenge where even if the Chiefs were determined to get the first down, the spot was still a yard further down the field than it should have been.  The 5 yard penalty mark off instead of 10.

But we’ve already heard about all of those ad nauseam.

The Chiefs had some bogus calls too.  But we don’t hear the specifics about them.  Especially around here.

There were also several flags dropped and then picked up.  The one I remember most clearly is when Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes was dropped after the pass by Pats DE Chase Winovich.  First, it was going to be roughing the passer.  But the zebras decided to pick the flag up because “the defensive player went off to the side…”  Or something like that.  Then TV showed the replay and it showed Winovich landing right on top of Mahomes.

Yada, yada, yada as someone in Seinfeld would say.

The refs simply did not cost anyone the game, however horrible they were.

Was Gilmore truly going to score on that fumble pickup?  How do we know that?  Furthermore, that same drive was the Harry play.  Two plays after that missed call, Jakobi Meyers dropped a touchdown pass.

So they still should have gotten the seven either way.  If Meyers makes that catch.

They lost some time, sure.  But only 4 points (since they kicked a field goal).  Not 14, like some people want to think.  That’s how I’ve been hearing it anyway.

And for the people that are encouraged about the defensive play in the second half…we may have to pump the brakes on that as well.  We all could see Mahomes did something to his hand in the first half.  Apparently, it was causing him problems as the game went on.  So that tempers things a bit, I would say.

This all comes back to the offense…and in large part, the offensive line…again.  A week after giving Tom Brady seemingly plenty of time to throw against Houston, the same could not be said against KC.

Don’t get me wrong, Brady was not great in this game.  But the OL was atrocious.  The receivers other than Julian Edelman apparently could not get open.  When Meyers was open, he dropped a slew of passes.  Where is Mohamed Sanu, by the way?  The Dorsett early season hype train has jumped the tracks.  Harry played 2 plays.  Sony Michel was abysmal and would have been with or without a good line performance.  KC penalties and 2 trick plays helped the NE offense move the ball.  Not ideal.

You know who else we can blame even more than the offense?  COACHING!

Not one of Bill Belichick’s best games.  Or Josh McDaniels’ either.  Or whoever calls the defensive plays.

To wit:

*Questionable challenging the aforementioned spot.  Or offensive pass interference on that same play.  The odds of those getting overturned are low.  Not to mention it cost them when they didn’t have a challenge left on the Harry “TD”.  I know it’s hard to predict the future, but…

*Eschewing a 45 yard field goal on 4th and 7, presumably because kicker Nick Folk had his previous attempt blocked.  The 4th down play was unsuccessful.

*Going for a two-point conversion earlier than they needed to.  The try was unsuccessful.

*Attempting a punt block early in the fourth quarter and leaving no one back to return the punt.  The punt was not blocked and it ended up becoming like a 57 yard punt because it rolled quite a bit.

*Someone not telling Harry to get back on the field after the non-TD call.  We all could see Brady gesturing for him to get back on the field.  The next play was rushed and was a 5 yard loss on a run by James White.  Sure, the play we believe was also rushed because the officials apparently never reset the play clock after everyone ran off the field thinking it was a TD.  Maybe Brady was gesturing wildly for a play to be called.  Either way…

*Couple of conversions by the Chiefs on 2nd and 3rd and really long.

That’s more second guessing of Bill and his boys than I can ever remember doing.  Well, other than why didn’t Malcolm Butler play against the Eagles in the Super Bowl.  But at least that was only one move.

There were many reasons why the Patriots lost to the Chiefs.  The officials were just one of those reasons.

Some other brief thoughts on the game…and future:

*Part of me thinks Brady could have scored on his late run.  Now, there was a guy lined up to hit him for sure.  But it looked to me like he was laying up a bit.  And I didn’t see any other Chief defender in the picture.  I could be 100% wrong on both.  But I can dream, right?

*Time to give up on Michel?  Looks like he needs a better than average line and perhaps a better fullback than linebacker Elandon Roberts to do ANYTHING.  Everyone agrees he looked completely soft Sunday.  Playing Rex Burkhead more I would love.  But then he would just hurt sooner.  Can we finally get a real look at Damien Harris please?

*I’ve supported Meyers all year and I do believe there is something there.  And just last week, I said maybe it’s time to put Harry on ice.  This week, I’m thinking to scale back Meyers.  And force feed Harry against the next three opponents to see if he can be anything in the playoffs.  The Bengals, Bills and Dolphins should provide ample opportunity for that.  And maybe his confidence (and Brady’s in him) can skyrocket.

*I’m almost at the point where I want replay gone in all sports.  It seems to be more trouble than it’s worth.  But on the Gilmore and Harry plays, it is inexplicable that the refs did not let replay make their decision for them.  Heard something yesterday where the NFL is “going to look into things in the offseason”.  That kind of scares me a little bit though.

*Video scandal.  Here we go again.  I am not sure I have much to say until more stuff comes out.  But it would be extremely hard for me to believe that Belichick and anyone running “the project” would allow themselves to be put into this position after what they went through during Spygate.  It’s just inconceivable.  Belichick thinks he is smarter than everyone else and he very well may be.  But to act this smug.  Right in plain sight?  Taping the 1-12 Bungles?  I just don’t see it.  But the rest of the nation most assuredly has already made their judgment.  Let’s see what happens when all the info comes out.  But it’s not a good look, I will allow for that.

*One thing that can maybe help bury this video thing is if the team re-signed receiver Antonio Brown, like, right now.  Just think about how fast at least the local press will turn.  Perhaps the national press too.  Perfect timing, no?  Actually, I lifted this particular note from a comment I heard yesterday afternoon.  I never even considered it and even if I don’t really want Brown back on the team, it would be a typical shady move by a professional team.  Do it in the middle of the night when most people are sleeping or something.  Anyway, thanks for putting this thought in my head Craig F!!

On to the Thursday game:

New York Jets at Baltimore (-14.5)

The Buffalo Bills gave the Ravens a game last week.  Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson apparently has a quad injury.  Short week, anything can happen.  Especially if Le’Veon Bell plays, instead of going bowling like he did the night before he skipped last Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with the flu.  But hey, he bowled a 251, so the weekend was not all lost.  That all being said, I don’t expect “anything can happen” to happen here.  Although the Pats loss to KC may allow Baltimore to ease off the pedal a smidge in the race for the #1 seed, I doubt the Ravens will overlook the Jets with two potentially competitive divisional games next on the schedule.  Jackson may get some rest late, but that will be because the game will be well out of hand by then.

Baltimore 38, New York Jets 17.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  11-5

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  7-7

Season (against the spread):  103-105

Season (straight up):  134-74

 

Useless…

…no, not the Dallas Cowboys.  But they are close.

My picks are what’s useless.

But like every “also-ran” in every sport, we have to finish out the season.

For better or for worse.

Indianapolis at Tampa Bay (-2.5)

The Buc rush defense is tops in the league?  Learn something new every day.  No matter how unbelievable it sounds when you say it out loud.

Indianapolis 34, Tampa Bay 30.  

Baltimore (-5.5) at Buffalo

God, wouldn’t it be great if the Bills could win this one.  But alas…

Baltimore 34, Buffalo 17.  Lock of the week (“reverse psychology”??).

San Francisco at New Orleans (-2.5)

I think the Saints are a good team.  I just don’t think they are as good as people think they are.

San Francisco 31, New Orleans 24.

Miami at New York Jets (-5.5)

Just as everyone jumped on the J-E-T-S bandwagon with three straight wins, they lose to the previously winless Bengals.  The Dolphins are all of a sudden a feisty team.  Not sure any of the above means anything, however.

New York Jets 31, Miami 27.  

Cincinnati at Cleveland (-8.5)

Freddie Kitchens is another dude that should be out of a job soon.

Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 17.  

Washington at Green Bay (-12.5)

The ‘Skins have won two in a row.  I’d be surprised if it became three.

Green Bay 34, Washington 16.  

Detroit at Minnesota (-14.5)

This is a huge spread for a divisional matchup.  With the Vikes coming off a Monday Night loss and needing this win to keep pace for the division title and at least a playoff berth, combined with the Lions on to their third quarterback, losing 5 in a row and generally being pathetic, well, the spread fits.

Minnesota 38, Detroit 17.  

Denver at Houston (-9.5)

Just a gut feeling about a slight Texan letdown this week.

Houston 24, Denver 20.  

Carolina at Atlanta (-2.5)

These teams both stink.  But the Panthers just fired their coach.  RIVERBOAT RON!!  We will miss you…ummmm, not really.  It was more than time for that.  Like with Jason Garrett.  In any event, maybe the Panthers respond.  Maybe they don’t.

Carolina 24, Atlanta 20.

Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) at Jacksonville

This one should be scintillating.  At least Uncle Rico is back!

Jacksonville 17, Los Angeles Chargers 13.  

Tennessee (-2.5) at Oakland

An addendum to last week’s piece…Ryan Tannehill IS Jesus!!!

Tennessee 31, Oakland 17.  

Kansas City at New England (-3.5) 

This is the type of game the Pats of the Belichick era win.  You know, where everyone counting them out for a variety of reasons.  It’s hard to pick them in this one though.

Kansas City 27, New England 23.  

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Arizona

People are actually lauding Steeler coach Mike Tomlin for his…coaching?!  Hard to fathom.  But, amazingly enough, maybe there is something there.  This year anyway.

Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 17.  

Seattle (-1.5) at Los Angeles Rams

Where did that Rams performance come from last week?  Two words:  Arizona Cardinals.  But you know what?  Maybe it’s more?

Los Angeles Rams 27, Seattle 24.  

New York Giants at Philadelphia (-8.5)

Last week, we saw the return of the Bengals’ Andy Dalton from a brief benching.  This week, we get to see the return of…ELI!  Dalton helped Cincy win its first game of the year.  Does Eli provide a spark for his team or does he show rust from his quite a bit longer layoff against a Philly team that can remarkably still win the division?  My guess is the latter.

Philadelphia 31, New York Giants 20.  

Week (against the spread):  0-1

Week (straight up):  0-1

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  6-7

Season (against the spread):  94-99

Season (straight up):  123-70

Not My Year…

…and is it not the New England Patriots’ year either?

Entirely possible.

But…let’s hold off a second on that.

I mean, who cares about my picks?  I hope no one is actually placing real bets based on them.  Even in my “good” years, I think with the vig, the Blowhard would still have lost money in the end.  “I think” because I know nothing about gambling.  That’s why we don’t do it in real life.

Then again, if we were placing real bets, we wouldn’t force ourselves to pick all 16 games each week.

So there’s that…but I digress.  Let’s just say if one was to take gambling advice from these columns, we hope that the best games are cherrypicked and therefore money has been made.

Thank you.

As far as it not being the Pats’ year though, this year is starting to feel a little like 2015.  They started 10-0, everyone was handing them the Super Bowl trophy and then they finished 12-4 and eventually lost in the AFC Championship.

Remember Nate Ebners’ mortar kick against the Eagles and a whole lot of Stephen Jackson in the finale against the Dolphins?

Ugh, sorry I had to remind you.

This season has that sort of a feel, no?

BUT…the reason I say “let’s hold off a second on that” is because of last year.  Do we already forget?

The Pats had dropped to 9-5 after an ugly loss to the Steelers in mid-December, which of course followed the “Miami Miracle” (no need to revisit those specifics, I am sure).

Then they went on to win the Super Bowl, which included a visit to Arrowhead Stadium, and a victory over a seemingly unbeatable Kansas City Chiefs team.

Who saw that coming?  No one.

Can that happen again?  Sure can, as invincible as Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens look thus far this season.  And I’m not ruling out the Chiefs this season either.

I’m not counting on it.  But it can happen.

Listen, the Houston loss was probably a long time coming.  First time the Texans beat the Pats in a decade.  Many Patriot players had the flu, blah, blah, blah.  May have just been the Texans time.

And I’m not excited about how the team defended Deshaun Watson.  The Pats have always had problems with running quarterbacks and this season is no different.

Even though the offense is, of course, having serious problems, I feel like they can still turn it around.  No idea why.  But I still feel it.

Julian Edelman is still Julian Edelman.  James White resurfaced against the Texans, though a lot of garbage yards, I admit.  Mohamed Sanu should get healthier and play more.  Jakobi Meyers seems to be gaining more of Tom Brady’s trust…even if he still makes a ton of mistakes.  Maybe they can get a little something from Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse as well.

Not sure why Rex Burkhead played so little.  And N’Keal Harry seems to be a lost cause…though that may be a little unfair.  But a redshirt year shouldn’t be out of the question at this point.

Sony Michel has looked better.  And that brings me to…why did they go away from him early?

I thought coaching and play calling left a lot to be desired in this game.  A lot of head-scratchers by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Sure, the receivers still had some issues.  Tom Brady missed some open guys.  The defense wasn’t as stout.  But Brady had more time to throw in this game than I can remember.  Since sometime last season probably.  And that was done partly with journeyman James Ferentz taking over for Ted Karras at center after Karras’ injury.

Because of this, I feel like maybe they can finally figure it out still.  4 games to go, starting with a tough one against the aforementioned Chiefs.  There is time.

“Because of this”?  Yes.  Because I feel like the crux of the problem has been with the offensive line all season.  And if they start giving Brady time to throw, I am feeling that all bets are off.

But maybe I’m just an idiot.

Dallas (-2.5) at Chicago

Two mediocre, underachieving, 6-6 teams that I don’t really feel like talking about much.  We know what I think is not really going to matter anyway.  But I think the Cowboys have more talent.  We will see if that actually means anything this Thursday night.

Dallas 27, Chicago 20.  

Week (against the spread):  7-9

Week (straight up):  9-7

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  6-7

Season (against the spread):  94-98

Season (straight up):  123-69

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