Monthly Archives: December 2019

Phew!

Both for the end of rolling out 16 NFL picks every week…and also for the New England Patriots’ win over the Buffalo Bills a week ago.

Although the Pats were down late, did anyone feel like they were going to lose that game?

I just never did.

Listen, the Bills have had a great year.  Sean McDermott seems to be a pretty good coach.  But I just haven’t been sold on them all year.

In the first Patriots/Bills game, if Tom Brady doesn’t throw that horrendous interception in the end zone mid-second quarter or so and they score a TD themselves, the game is 20-0 Pats at that early point.  (Or 19-0 anyway, as they weren’t exactly hitting a ton of extra points those days).  That game would have been OVER, sorry.

The interception gave the Bills life.  Defensive lapses on the first drive of the second half by the Bills made the score 13-10 at that point and it was a totally different ballgame.

Fast forward to last Saturday’s game.  The Pats offense finally showed up against a defense that supposedly had some ability.  Yet a Rex Burkhead fumble set a bad tone early.  Then a couple of bad big plays given up by the Pats defense led to two Bills touchdowns.

The Pats really should have smoked the Bills in both games.

Now, give some credit to the Bills of course.  Which I will begrudgingly do.  But neither of those games should have been close.

So is the Patriots’ offense “back”?  After all, the Bills defense was second in the NFL in points allowed (to the Pats), right?

You know how the Patriots get bashed for their pathetic schedule?  Welp, take a look at the Bills schedule.  Seem a little familiar?  Yup, their slate sucked too.

So can we really say the Pats O is rounding back to form?

Sure, they looked better.  Brady, in particular, looked a whole lot better.  I’m not ready to say that everything is all rosy nowadays, however.

I will say I feel a tad more positive about things, but that is all.

Let’s just get to the playoffs already and let the chips fall where they may.

As for this weeks’ games, I do love how the NFL schedules all the teams fighting for the same thing in the same time slots on the last week of the season.  That’s kinda cool.  But since most of the playoff spots are sewn up, teams are resting starters and Week Seventeen is primarily for seeding purposes…oh, and we are still trying to enjoy the holiday season ourselves…let’s just blow through these picks as fast as humanly possible.  Thank you very much for your understanding.

New York Jets at Buffalo (-1.5)

The Bills are locked into the #5 seed, could they be looking for a little momentum heading into Wild Card Weekend?  I initially thought “yes”.  But McDermott is being a little coy on how long he will actually play his starters.  So that tells me…not much.

New York Jets 17, Buffalo 13.  

Chicago at Minnesota (-1.5)

Not sure if the Vikings have a shot at the #5 seed if they win and Seattle loses.  But…that momentum thing…especially since they were wretched last Monday night against the Packers.  Wait…I just found out the Vikes are starting Sean Mannion at QB today.  Plus, Dalvin Cook is still out.  Nevermind the momentum thing…

Chicago 20, Minnesota 17.  

Cleveland (-2.5) at Cincinnati

I hope they give Freddie Kitchens one more chance next year, just for the comedic element.  We may have to worry about the Bengals playing hard again this week, as they did in their near colossal comeback against the Dolphins last week.  And…they already have locked up the #1 pick so they may play even faster and looser.  Maybe I should change my pick…after all, I just changed the first two…

Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 20.  

Atlanta at Tampa Bay (-0.5)

Coach Dan Quinn pulled off a miracle and kept his job.  I guess GM Thomas Dimitroff was under the gun too and he also stays.  Tampa has been feisty lately as well.  Toss up here…what a surprise, based on what the spread is.

Atlanta 34, Tampa Bay 31.  

New Orleans at Carolina (-13.5)

Saints need this for a chance at the #1 seed.  The Panthers are still going with Will Grier.  And apparently will just give the ball to Christian McCaffrey so he can try to set some records, according to their offensive coordinator this week.  Nice to set the Saints up with your game plan so early!  The only thing that can prevent New Orleans from a romp is…Antonio Brown??

New Orleans 42, Carolina 20.  

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City (-8.5)

The Chiefs sure as hell are giving themselves a chance at the #2 seed.  Playing at the same time as the Pats, they will come out fast and furious at least.

Kansas City 34, Los Angeles Chargers 23.  Lock of the week.

Green Bay (-13.5) at Detroit

The Pack is still fighting for the first seed.  The Lions are terrible.

Green Bay 31, Detroit 10.  

Miami at New England (-15.5)

I’m not expecting the Patriots to take this game lightly, as they have been probably ridden by coach Bill Belichick all week on the importance of this game with getting the bye and all.  The Dolphins have won 4 games this year, about 3-4 more than most people expected.  They’ve shown some fight, led by their veteran QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick.  I’m sure coach Brian Flores and his guys would love to knock the Pats out of the bye.  But the thinking here is that the Pats come out firing and build up a huge lead before gradually inserting backups.  I hope that is how it goes anyway.  I hope to God that they don’t plan on running Stephen Jackson right into the line 40 consecutive times or something like that…

New England 34, Miami 16.  

Arizona at Los Angeles Rams (-7.5)

Kyler Murray is a game time decision and that is kind of important here.  The Cards may just shut him down.  But my understanding is that the Rams will be playing backups.  Ssssssssssooooo…your guess is as good as mine here.

Arizona 24, Los Angeles Rams 20.  

Philadelphia (-4.5) at New York Giants

Something keeps trying to tell me the Giants win this and I need to pick them here.  Philly All-Pro tight end Zach Ertz is out.  The Eagles have all sorts of injuries.  They have been a frustrating team all season.  But…I just cannot do it.

Philadelphia 23, New York Giants 20.  

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Baltimore

Can Robert Griffin III and the other Raven backups still beat a Steeler team helmed by the immortal Duck Hodges?  They sure can!  BUT, we think the Ravens will just try to get the hell out of there without any injuries and the Steeler defense will do what they need to.  With the playoffs on the line, we think Duck (or more specifically, the running game) will do just enough here to keep them in the mix.

Pittsburgh 13, Baltimore 10.  

Washington at Dallas (-10.5)

Talk about frustrating…HOW ‘BOUT THEM COWBOYS?!!  But I just read somewhere that the entire starting Redskin secondary is out.  Dallas needs to win.  That’s enough for me to offset the “Jason Garrett factor”.  Maybe that’s stupid, I don’t know.

Dallas 31, Washington 17.  

Oakland at Denver (-3.5)

Miraculously, the Raiders have a shot at the playoffs.  The Broncos have shown some life upon rookie QB Drew Lock’s insertion into the lineup.  Feel like Oakland will show up, despite RB Josh Jacobs already being ruled out.

Oakland 27, Denver 24.  

Tennessee (-4.5) at Houston

Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are questionable.  Will Fuller is out.  It’s unlikely the Texans will get a better seed or if even that better seed matters.  Sounds like they are going backups too.  The Titans also need this one.

Tennessee 24, Houston 17.  

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Jacksonville

Dougie Marrone may be coaching his final game for the Jags.  Does anyone care?

Indianapolis 20, Jacksonville 14.  

San Francisco (-3.5) at Seattle

The Seahawks were embarrassed at home by the Cardinals last week, even after Kyler Murray exited the game.  They signed a couple of corpses to round out their running back room this week, including Beast Mode.  The Niners won a thriller against the Rams last week.  You know what all of this means.

Seattle 38, San Francisco 34.

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  11-5

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  9-7

Season (against the spread):  121-119

Season (straight up):  155-85

Closer Than We Thought?

The Boston Celtics have had a nice start to the 2019-2020 season.  Most fans of the team were ecstatic to be rid of that cancer, Kyrie Irving, and didn’t even care how they came out of the gates this year.  If we all went back to the underdog teams that coach Brad Stevens seemed to have a great deal of success with (IT!!), but didn’t win anything, I think after last season most of us would have taken that.  Not forever, mind you.  But this season for sure.

The players publicly continue to deny that Kyrie was a problem.  Yeah, they were there and lived through the experience.  Perhaps we should believe them when they say they have no ill will towards Irving.

Based on what seemingly everyone not connected with the team sees, it’s hard to really take the players’ words at face value.

I mean, the play on the court seems improved, even while key players such as Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart miss chunks of games.

Even the guys at the far end of the bench seem involved this season.  Everyone seems invested.  And happy for others’ success.  Seems to be a lot of camaraderie.  Something one rarely saw last season.  I know, everyone rooting for Tacko Fall hasn’t hurt.

A better example?  Celtic rookie Grant Williams has apparently been encouraged by the coaching staff to shoot three-pointers.  Big surprise, as Brad wants everyone shooting threes in general.  Don’t get me started on this philosophy though.  In any event, Grant started the year by missing his first twenty-five threes.  And he supposedly got a new nickname with every miss.  Then he finally hit one and the bench went berserk.  For a guy that plays like 15 minutes a game and shoots about 26% overall.

I am not sure that happens at any point last season.  Hard to fathom.

I know Grant plays hard when he is in there.  Despite what seems to be many limitations in his game at the professional level after being the SEC Player of the Year his last two years at Tennessee.  So maybe this makes him easy to root for.

But maybe they all just get along better as a whole?

Once again, I will tell you that I haven’t watched every minute of every game.  But you already knew that.

But from the action I have seen, the team is just looser overall.  Looser on the court, in interviews and everything that goes along with it.

Listen, Kyrie wasn’t the only guy subtracted from last years’ team.  Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Al Horford and Aron Baynes were also notable departures.  Guerschon Yabusele too!!  The Dancing Bear!!

Ok, forget Yabusele.  But also, does anyone really think the other 4 guys were a problem?  Morris can be a handful we’ve heard over the years and Rozier already has carved his own bust for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  But I’m not sure we can pin a ton of blame on them.  Horford was supposedly a “team leader”…though it makes you wonder why he apparently couldn’t help with any locker room sh%tshows.  Baynes is irrelevant, in my eyes anyway.

Just a different feel to this years’ squad.  HAS to be Kyrie, right?

That’s what I am going with.  Despite the fact that everyone from Danny Ainge to Stevens, to any of the players this year or last year continue to deny it.  I’m simply not buying it.

Now, the record this season, is this a mirage?  Can the team actually be a TRUE contender for the NBA Championship?

Let’s hold off on that for a second.

The record is nice and puts them in second place in the Eastern Conference as I write this.  But they are a loss or two away from sixth….with two-thirds of the season still remaining.

Playoff team?  No doubt?

Champion?  Ummmmm…

Similar to what we wrote about the Boston Bruins after a two month writing gap, I feel the exact same about the Celtics’ chances this season as I did before the season started.  Wouldn’t shock me if they got to the Eastern Conference Finals.  But I’d be hard pressed to think they can win a championship.

I will say there have been a few developments during this season within the team that has surprised me a bit.  For one, Brad Wanamaker has actually been useful.  If you recall, I said I would have kept Max Strus over Wanamaker.  Who?  Oops.

I’m a little surprised that the quartet in the middle has seemingly held their own as well.  I guess it is only three since we really can’t count Vincent Poirier because he never plays.  Regardless, Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter and Robert Williams have seemed to get the job done in the middle.  Though I’d honestly like to see Williams play more.

That being said, “big man” can certainly be upgraded if the C’s truly think they can compete for a title.  More on this later.

I’ve also been very surprised at Smarts’ shot selection.  Oh wait, that’s false…no need to rehash this over and over.  But we’ve said it all along.  In addition to many others.  Smart is a valuable part of this team.  But for the love of God, PLEASE stop firing up shots at will.

I’m also not surprised that Stevens still tries to force feed us Semi Ojeleye.  Every once in a while that guy plays a good game and everyone lauds him as if he has turned a corner and can contribute regularly.  Then he goes out the next time and plays 20 plus minutes and looks terrible.  Please Brad, enough already.

I thought Carsen Edwards would make more of an impact.  No, I didn’t expect him to average 15 points a game off the bench.  But I expected him to be able to hit a few shots here and there, especially the open ones.  He really hasn’t even done that.  And that is why we find him down in Maine at this juncture.

But all in all, the team is probably about where I expected them to be.  And my long term expectations remain the same.

What can they do to actually make a real bid?

I’m not sure that’s realistically in the cards.  Will an established “Big Man” guarantee a championship?  Not so sure about that.  Depends on who that guy is.  We obviously know they don’t grow on trees…the studs anyway.

If the Celtics determined that was the proverbial “last piece of the puzzle”, they would have to give up something to get something.

Meaning…Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown.

Are we ready to sign off on that?

I am not.

Kemba Walker isn’t going anywhere.  Smart and any of the kids (or current centers) do not have the value.  Picks?  Maybe.

Gordon Hayward?  Hmmmmmmm…methinks he would not be enough.  But an interesting conversation could take place here.

Gordo is once again hurt.  He honestly seems a little snakebitten with the whole injury thing while he wears a Celtic uniform.  Now he has some sort of foot issue that has been lingering for weeks.  And they don’t know what it is.

Now, Hayward has been very good this year when he has been on the floor.  Early on, it appeared he was back to what he was before that gruesome injury a couple of years ago.

But he is significantly older than Brown and Tatum.  Two players who ideally will be cornerstones of the Celtic franchise for years to come.  With Kemba also in tow for the next few years anyway.  AND Hayward has a player option for next season that he could decline in search of a multi-year commitment.

Does Gordo have value?  Would Brad Stevens consider dealing “his guy”?  I know, that’s Ainge’s department.  But you don’t think Stevens has any say?

I don’t think Hayward is going anywhere.  Nor Brown, nor Tatum, nor Kemba either of course.  None of the rest of the roster has enough value to deal for a big fish, even if combined with picks.  So I actually don’t think Ainge messes with the roster this season at all, to be honest.  Unless somehow something falls out of the sky.  I think they stay the course with who they have, hope the recent draft picks develop enough to be reliable bench options and then see what path they can take next summer to take the next step during the 2020-21 season.

It’s worth keeping an eye on, however.

If this Romeo Langford kid can stay healthy and shows he can play, then that may change some minds.  Those are big “ifs” from where we are now though.  He’s had about ten injuries this year himself.

But if we get to a point where everyone is healthy and the roster shakes out where they have Hayward, Brown, Tatum, Smart & Langford as reliable wing-type players along with Kemba playing main minutes at the point, there’s a chance one of the wings can be sacrificed to acquire a big.

If Hayward didn’t have such a tight connection to Stevens, wouldn’t he be the obvious choice to dangle here?  Along with other sweeteners?

Either way, enjoy the stress-free, non-Kyrie ride, along with the not so lofty playoff expectations that we all seem to have as we head into winter.  But stay tuned for sure.  It COULD get interesting as the trade deadline approaches sometime at the end of winter.

Don’t bet on it though.

I Take It Back?

In recent weeks I have been saying that I feel like the New England Patriots have enough pieces on offense to make the whole thing work.  That they were still trying to integrate guys like Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry into the mix.  That they still had Julian Edelman and James White.  That the running backs have enough talent to be better.  That the tight ends are decent enough.  Etc.

But…I may have been wrong.  And I could be finally ready to admit it.

Now, I don’t have access to the coach’s film like some people that cover the team.  And some of them saw progress against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.

I didn’t see it from my angle.

The Pats should have pummeled these pathetic Bengals, similar to how they pummeled all those bad teams at the beginning of the year.  Especially with the 5 turnovers.  Especially when they had some tape of the Bengals’ sideline to work with…oops…sorry, was that out loud?!

But they found themselves down by the end of the first quarter and barely up at the half.  And looked fairly brutal for most of the game.

Tom Brady missed open guys.  Receivers were dropping passes.  A bunch of punts.  All that.

Never really looked good to me.

Of course, it appears that Edelman is extremely banged up.  And Brady may have a bum elbow to boot.  Factors that have to be considered for sure.

To that I say, if Jules can’t go, that’s a wrap.  Even if Brady ends up being completely healthy.

It would be hard for me to believe the offense could move the ball at all without a somewhat healthy Edelman.  Since James White apparently has been defended more by someone in the defensive secondary instead of a plodding linebacker and isn’t as open as he used to be, Jules has been really been Brady’s only reliable target.  Even if, with all the drops this year, he hasn’t been as reliable as he usually is.

I just don’t think we can really count on the rest of the corps right now.  For a variety of reasons that we have been through before.  I just wasn’t ready to face those facts.  I am kind of ready to now.

UNLESS they get the running game going.  But I’m not counting on that with this offensive line.  Sure, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead looked pretty good Sunday.  But…the Bengals.

Big test this week against a top defense in the Buffalo Bills.  Being at Foxborough should definitely help.  And I do expect the Pats to win the game.  But I am also not counting on any offensive fireworks, that’s for sure.  Hope I am wrong.

Speaking of Edelman, despite the drops, we were really hoping he would make the Pro Bowl this year.

PRO BOWL?!!  WHO CARES??!

True.  Normally I don’t care.  Especially since we know it’s a popularity contest.  Same guys go every year it seems.  Not to mention we hope that no Patriots CAN even go, meaning they would be in the Super Bowl again.  Not to mention that like a quarter of the team usually backs out, so Jules may still get there if the Pats lose early in the playoffs.

My only thing with Edelman is that somehow he has never made one.  People actually put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame conversation.  And he hasn’t even made one single Pro Bowl?

Just would have been nice to see, that’s all.

But we know the Pats don’t care, so why should we?

Moving on…

So the Thursday Night Football slate is done for the season.  The feeling here was that the picks were brutal on this night over the course of the season.  But they weren’t as bad as I thought.  9-8 against the spread and 11-6 straight up.  Not too bad!!

We will separate the Saturday games out from the rest in this case.  Actually, let’s just do them all…

Houston (-3.5) at Tampa Bay

Big win at Tennessee last week put the Texans in the driver’s seat for the AFC South.  Another matchup with the Titans next week to end the regular season and that is sure to be a big one too.  Let down for Houston this week?  Well, we saw it against the Broncos the previous Sunday.  But I’m betting it doesn’t happen again.

Houston 30, Tampa Bay 24.  

Buffalo at New England (-6.5)

The Bills are trying to prove they are ready for Prime Time.  But…Josh Allen still stinks.  There is just no way to sugarcoat this.

New England 20, Buffalo 17.  

Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco (-6.5)

What a bad loss for the Niners last week.  The Falcons.  The way it went down.  They would have been better off getting smoked like the Rams did.  Guess LA was not back on track.

San Francisco 38, Los Angeles Rams 23.  

Carolina at Indianapolis (-6.5)

The Colts were brutal on Monday Night Football.  But the Panthers are down to their third string QB.

Indianapolis 27, Carolina 16.  

New York Giants at Washington (-2.5)

Wake me up when this one is over.

Washington 17, New York Giants 13.  

New Orleans (-3.5) at Tennessee

Good for Drew Brees last week.  But have a gut feeling the Titans show up this week.

Tennessee 31, New Orleans 27.

Baltimore (-10.5) at Cleveland

The Browns beat the Ravens in Week 4, Baltimore’s last loss.  Can’t see that happening again.  Lamar Jackson and company can wrap up home field advantage with a win.  Give some players Week 17 off in the process.  Even though some of the Browns players are denying they want out, where there is smoke, there is fire.

Baltimore 35, Cleveland 17.  

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at New York Jets

Duck Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Paxton Lynch, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs, Dennis Dixon, Mike Tomczak, Mark Malone, Cliff Stoudt, Bubby Brister…does it matter?  And yes…I am saying this when they are playing the J-E-T-S!

New York Jets 24, Pittsburgh 20.  

Cincinnati at Miami (-1.5)

Wake me up when this is over, part II

Miami 17, Cincinnati 14.  

Jacksonville at Atlanta (-7.5)

Tom Coughlin just got fired.  Imagine that.

Atlanta 31, Jacksonville 17.  

Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)

Horrid loss for the Raiders last week.  Same for the Chargers.  When am I getting to a game that matters on this list?

Oakland 27, Los Angeles Chargers 24.  

Detroit at Denver (-6.5)

Nope, this one doesn’t matter either.  Glad to see Matty Patricia getting another shot next year.  Not sold on Patricia.  But I can’t imagine you can win many games with Jeff Driskel and David Blough.

Denver 34, Detroit 23.  Lock of the week (yup!).

Dallas (-2.5) at Philadelphia

Here’s one that matters!!  I imagine the winner of this one will win the NFC East.  Though it wouldn’t shock me if either lost their Week 17 game against the Redskins or the Giants, respectively.  Dak Prescott has been limited in practice, but I would doubt he sits this one out.  The ‘Boys have a more talented team.  The Eagles have been hammered by injury.  But your guess is as good as mine on this one either way.

Dallas 34, Philadelphia 31.  

Arizona at Seattle (-9.5)

The Seahawks should roll.  But they always seem to play close games.  9.5 is a lot of points.  Sorry to hear about Josh Gordon.  Looks like his last chance in the NFL.  Maybe he cares, maybe he doesn’t.  But still a sad story.

Seattle 33, Arizona 24.  

Kansas City (-4.5) at Chicago

Here’s hoping the Pats beat the Bills and the Bears win here so the Pats that are banged up can take Week 17 off after wrapping up the second seed and therefore a first round bye.  Wishful thinking on the second half of that though.

Kansas City 34, Chicago 17.  

Green Bay at Minnesota (-4.5)

The final Monday Night Football game of the year should be a doozy.  The Vikings may have clinched a playoff spot by this time and they still may not win the tiebreaker for the division in the end, even with a win here.  And the Pack have seemed to sleepwalk through their last couple of games so maybe they awaken as well.  Sticking with the home team regardless.

Minnesota 30, Green Bay 24.

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  10-6

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  8-7

Season (against the spread):  112-112

Season (straight up):  144-80

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